Music Opinion Blog

Opinions and occasional rants about the state of the music scene. The views expressed are entirely my own, and do not represent those of any artists or publications with whom I may be connected.

Should have gone to Cambridge?


Meryl Hamilton of Voodoo Vegas at the Cambridge Rock Festival

It’s Reading Festival weekend again. The streets are filled with extremely young people in wellies, and every supermarket has a Canary Wharf of cheap booze.

I used to go to the festival back in the early 1980s, when the bill included such headliners as Rory Gallagher, UFO, Girlschool, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy. But even though some recent bills have included bands I wouldn’t mind seeing, it’s not for me. Now as back then, it’s a teenage rite of passage.

While The Guardian ackowleges this in its headline, most of their article is an extended moan about the bill being too male. Perhaps they should have gone to the Cambridge Rock Festival instead?

There is discussion to be had on gender and music festivals, but as is predictable with their gender or race-baiting articles, The Guardian has disabled comments.  In previous years Guardian has repeatedly demanded festivals include more women by reducing the amount of rock on the bills, usually written by people who didn’t actually like rock.

But surely there are other ways? What about one or two European symphonic metal bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation or Delain?  Or perhaps Babymetal? Or maybe even put acts like Panic Room or Mostly Autumn early on the bill?

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Violet Hour

A couple of songs, “The River” and the single “Could Have Been” from The Violet Hour’s album “The Fire Sermon”. The album had been out of print for many years, but is now available again via former singer Doris Brendel’s website.

Doris and her band played the  Cambridge Rock Festival and were one of the highlight. They didn’t play any Violet Hour songs, but after finding out Violet Hour were an early influence on Mostly Autumn made the album worth getting hold of.

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Prog goes Nigel Tufnel

Prog Magazine has attempted to compile a list of The 10 Sexiest Prog Songs. You can argue whether or not the songs chosen fit the theme or no, but this throwaway line did rather stick in the throat.

These days, of course, prog has got well sexed up with the proliferation of scantily clad females fronting acts such as Touchstone, Mostly Autumn, The Reasoning, Panic Room and beyond.

It’s hard to read that line without it coming over as gross, sexist and a little bit creepy. The implication is to reduce talented musicians and songwriters to eye-candy for male audiences. The frontwomen of the bands mentioned above deserve better.

It does make you wonder if the author of that article has ever seen the likes of Touchstone or Panic Room live. Checking the byline, it’s by someone who’s definitely been seen at their gigs, and really ought to know better.

As one regular commenter to this blog said on another forum:

If he thinks those people are scantily clad, he clearly doesn’t get out enough. He should come and walk round Newcastle on a Friday night.

Quite.

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Overpriced boxed sets from legacy acts who don’t need the money harm grassroots music far, far more that YouTube or Spotify could ever do. Just think how many smaller prog bands could have sustainable careers from the money spent on the latest £378 Pink Floyd one.

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Zero-Sum Fanboys?

Why do some many people put so much energy into hating things that simply aren’t for them rather then in celebrating the things they love?

Do they believe everything is a zero-sum game?

You see this in metal fandom every time Babymetal get mentioned. They’ve not to everyone’s taste, true, but the whole concept can be enjoyed as something entertainingly silly. But some metal fans seem offended by their very existence. You’d have thought the metal world was big and diverse enough to have room for Babymetals as well as Dimmu Borgirs and Napalm Deaths and Nightwishes and Opeths. But no, it seems one person’s entertainingly silly fun represents an existential threat to everything they hold dear. Why? It’s not as if they’re receiving massive and undeserved media hype that might otherwise have gone to Pig Destroyer.

There are parallels with the culture wars over the new Ghostbusters remake. But do we really want to go there?

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Haze – The Final Battle

You want some folk-prog featuring a twin-neck guitar and a Northern Rail Pacer?

Haze will be headlining the Classic Rock Stage on Friday at this year’s Cambridge Rock Festival

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What happens when you don’t pay your writers?

Flume SkinEither I’m an old man yelling at clouds, and this is a “Kids get off my lawn” moment, or The Independent’s review of Flume’s ‘Skin’ is deep in Poe’s Law land

Let’s first talk about what kind of music this is. If you don’t like electronic beats and you’re coming into this with a closed mind, leave now, take your fake Fender clutching-ass back to the campfire so you can sing Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews to your beloved. Now let’s get into this review.

It goes on like that, at great, great length.

Twitter seems divided over this review is actually for real, or it’s a very clever parody of a certain immature and narcissistic style of music writing many of us both recognise and loathe. If it’s a troll, are the Independent trolling their readership, or is the writer trolling whatever passes for a music editor at the site?

One or two Guardian critics I won’t name have suggested this sort of thing is what happens when you don’t pay your writers.

Now, Flume’s Skin might be a great record, even if it’s not quite as good as Panic Room’s album of the same name. But it’s almost impossible to tell from that review.

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Christina Grimmie

It’s been overshadowed by the terrible nightclub massacre in the same city just a few hours later, the enormity of which is still hard to take in. But the murder of singer Christina Grimmie while she chatted with fans and signed autographs after a gig struck terribly close to home. Especially when I read that there were about a hundred people at the gig, which makes it the sort of gig I’m very familiar with, and there are many, many times I’ve chatted with band members after a such a show. As a female games journalist said to me on Twitter, the fear of this sort of thing lurks in the back of the mind of anyone with any kind of public profile.

I am fortunate to live in a country that isn’t awash with guns.

At the moment we know next to nothing about the killer or his motivation, but the probability that he was some kind of obsessive stalker is quite high. It’s why you don’t make tasteless jokes about the subject; because stalking is really no laughing matter. It’s also why can’t dismiss online threats out of hand either.

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The Great Musical Divide

Iron Maiden Book of SoulsA couple of tweets from an acquaintance about the ubiquity of Iron Maiden and other classic rock and metal bands as background music in bars in Romania shows how mainland Europe has a quite different relationship with rock and metal compared to indie-dominated Britain. An equivalent bar in Britain would be playing Oasis or Ed Sheeran.

Especially in Eastern Europe, how much is this down to former Communist countries first encountering the music in a completely different context, such that it doesn’t carry the same cultural baggage as it does in Britain?

I know this is a recurring theme for me, but a big problem with British music is a critical establishment that defines every kind of popular music in terms of its relationship towards punk. A handful of snotty three-chord bands, or rather the pseudo-intellectual scribblers who worshipped them ended up casting a long shadow over everything that happened not only after 1977, but the years before. A lot of the narrative is revisionist nonsense, but it’s become the orthodoxy, endlessly repeated by those two young to have been there at the time. Anything that doesn’t fit the narrative risks being written out of history.

Eastern Europe experienced none of that. The fall of the Berlin Wall bought a flood of Western music, such that the cheesiest hair-metal of that time is revered in the same way the 1960s British Invasion is revered in America. Songs like Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and The Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” have a status that’s hard for people in Britain to imagine.

Although this doesn’t explain the huge popularity of metal in Scandinavia. So perhaps there’s another explanation?

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On Springsteen, Mostly Autumn and Panic Room

Good piece by The Guardian’s Michael Hann on the appeal of a Bruce Springsteen show

I can understand people who just don’t like Springsteen. I was well into my 30s before I could even tolerate much of his music, let alone adore it. And for a first-time attender, a Springsteen show can be a little like attending a meeting of some religious sect – intriguing at first, then slightly terrifying as you realise quite how long it’s going to last. But once the rhythms of the night seep into your soul – as you understand how you are going to be swept up, then brought down, then lifted again; as you come to understand your part in the liturgy – it becomes hard to resist.

I’m not a Springsteen fan myself, but that paragraph somehow sums up what’s so great for me about seeing bands like Mostly Autumn and Panic Room live. Some people wonder exactly why I’ll travel considerable distances and stay in sometimes dodgy B&Bs to see a band they’ve never heard of play before a couple of hundred people.

The comparison with religion is spot-on.

There have been times when I’ve seen Mostly Autumn and been on a high for the rest of the week, to the extent that work colleagues have noticed. It’s not quite the same as Springsteen’s universality, of course. Sometimes it’s knowing more about the backstories of deeply personal songs about love, loss and bereavement than has ever been put in the public domain that gives the music such a powerful emotional punch. And the dynamics of a small intimate club gig where you frequently get to meet the band after the show is different from the electric atmosphere of an arena show. But the parallels are still strong.

What about you? Who is your Sprngsteen, or your Mostly Autumn or Panic Room?

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