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.

Can’t find any good new music? You’re not trying hard enough!

Great nail-on-head post by Scott Rowley of Classic Rock. (Registration required)

Because your life didn’t stop in 1993 when you got a job or got married and stopped going to gigs. And your taste in music doesn’t have to be frozen there either. There’s plenty of great music – but if you’re looking at the charts, you’re looking in the wrong place. The good stuff is hard to find. It’s not going to ‘break through’, take over the mainstream or spearhead a new movement. It’s probably not the music your kids listen to.

People forget that back in the 1970s, the supposed heyday of classic rock, you’d never hear Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd on daytime radio or on television; it was all Boney M, Gary Glitter or worse. The best stuff was only ever broadcast late at night, or spread by word or mouth.

Today there is more great music out there than it’s possible to keep up with. Regular readers of this blog will know I champion the likes of Mostly Autumn, Panic Room, Chantel McGregor, Touchstone, Also Eden, Cloud Atlas, Morpheus Rising and many more. The media-driven “mainstream” pays them no attention. Most of your neighbours and work colleagues have no idea their music exists. If you’re not a regular reader and have stumbled across this post at random there’s a good chance you won’t have heard of them either, in which case you ought to give them a listen.

Of course, there is probably an awful lot of great music that I have yet to hear.

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Shut Up, The Band Is Playing

I’m not going to name the band in this post. I know it’s not going to be hard for regular readers of this blog to identify the gig, but I don’t think it’s fair on the band themselves to have such a negative post showing up in Google searches for their name.

I’d love to have been able to write a glowing review about their actual performance, since the band themselves were excellent, but unfortunately what should have been a wonderful night was ruined by the behaviour of a segment of the audience. I’ve had gigs spoiled by intermittent distracting talking before, but this was the worst instance I can ever remember. This wasn’t just a buzz of chatter coming from the back of the hall, but selfish idiots talking continually at the top of their voices clearly audible from the front row even during the loudest parts of the set. There was even one group of knobheads who ignored repeated requests to keep the noise down.

I very nearly walked out the gig after two or three songs in disgust.

I have never seen a worse case of disrespect for both the band and that part of the audience who was actually there for the music. It’s as if the band were nothing more than the soundtrack for a lads’ night out. Audiences for free-entry gigs by pub cover bands behave better than this.

I know from speaking to the band afterwards that it distracted them too, and it’s difficult to imagine that the behaviour of these clowns in the audience didn’t take the edge off the band’s performance. The dynamics of live music means the best gigs are those where the band feed off the energy the energy they’re getting from the crowd. This was not happening here.

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Quote of the Day

Today’s quote comes from this interview with Rachel Mann.

Monika: One of my favourite quotations of yours is ‘Christians could learn a lot about life from Heavy Metal’…

Rachel: Oh my. That got me into a lot of hot water a few years ago. A fair few conservative Christians didn’t like me saying that at all. I guess I was saying that I’d found metal, among other music sub-cultures, a place of energy and welcome. There’s a massive theatrical element to metal that appeals to me and I love its willingness to be playful with the concept of ‘darkness’. I wish more Christians would less afraid of the dark.

I guess that fundamentalist Christians have something in common with indie fans in that they just don’t understand metal.

On the other hand, I’m sure there must be Methodist property stewards in places like Cornwall who are deeply disappointed that Norwegian-style black metal never really caught on in Britain…

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How to improve the British music scene, part 117. Feed Jools Holland and everyone responsible for booking bands on “Later” to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 1 Comment

Musicians Are People Too

Another camera in my face
Another hand around my waist
Don’t even know you
– Panic Room, “Freedon to Breathe”

A very insightful post by HippyDave on when fan entitlement goes bad, specifically the backlash faced by Floor Jansen from South American fans when she dared to make some polite requests about boundaries. Some of the quoted fan posts are quite scary, and it’s notable that half of them are from women.

I’m wondering how much this is a South American thing, stemming from differing cultural expectations, and reminded of the recent story about Avril Lavigne stipulating a three-foot separation between her and fans for photos at a meet-and-greet she was charging hundreds of pounds for, because she’d been groped by a fan on a previous South American tour.

That might even explain where the ridiculous-seeming accusations of racism are coming from, but that might just be an excuse for bad behaviour that’s not confined to one part of the world.

As a gig photographer who’s photographed Floor Jansen from the pit, I completely agree about flash photography. It’s bloody annoying, and if you have a half-decent camera you don’t need it anyway.

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Greatest Difficult Second Albums

The Guardian asked which second albums are better than debuts?

Everyone knows about the sophomore slump, but some artists have managed against all the odds to produce a second album that improves on their debut. What are your suggestions?

The phrase “Sophomore album” needs to be terminated with extreme prejudice. It suggests either a frame of reference defined around American student-indie, or an ignorant writer who doesn’t know what it means.  Kill it with fire!

But the whole thing strikes me as a silly question, which speaks volumes about the music press and the sorts of acts they favour. The vast majority of bands who go on to have lengthy careers make second albums that are better than the first. They usually go on to make third and fourth albums that a better still. Quite often the first album wasn’t a hit, and the breakthrough came later.

The idea that bands decline after their debut reflects the sorts of bands who get all the media hype; often one-trick-ponies with a single unique selling point, who lack the depth of talent to become more than a so-called “firework act”. One big flash and it’s over.

It would be far more interesting to have asked “Which second albums were the best in in the artist’s career?”

What albums would you suggest?

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If Coldplay are “Alternative rock”, then words have ceased to have any meaning whatsoever. What, exactly, are they the alternative to?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 9 Comments

The much-leaked announcement that Metallica will be headlining Glastonbury has received predicably mixed reactions. There are indie kids terrified at the prospect of guitars being played loudly rather than strummed, and metal fans claiming Metallica would be wasted on Glastonbury’s audience. But while I have the greatest respect for Dom Lawson, I cannot agree with his assertion that it’s just another half-baked vanity project. If I didn’t know him better I’d have accused him of writing archetypcal Guardian clickbait.

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Quote of the Day

Quote for today comes from Trent Reznor in Rolling Stone.

“I get the sense that a lot of bands today are designing themselves to get a good review in the hip blogs, and that is probably the safest and most cowardly thing you can do as an artist,” added the Nine Inch Nails musician. “If you have something to say, then say it. Express yourself and break the rules.”

He speaks as though this is something new. But of course it’s not; this has being going on since the heyday of the “inkies” in the 1980s. How many untalented and unlistenable bands seemed to exist for the sole purpose of attracting the attention of Sounds’ Dave McCulloch, for example?

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The prog nostalgia shows have been drawing sizable crowds. The likes of Rick Wakeman reviving Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited tour, and Yes playing three classic 70s albums in full can fill venues as large as The Royal Albert Hall. But just imagine if everyone who went to one of those gigs also bought a ticket for one of the current prog bands.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments