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.

No, Guardian, “anti-riffs” are not a thing.

This week’s Guardian Music Blog clickbait is “What are the best anti-riffs in rock”, a piece bemoaning the fact that a Radio 2 poll on greatest riffs is full of classic rock rather than the sort of music the writer likes.

It’s true that the original list is so predictably dull it deserves to be mocked mercilessly. If it was any more musically conservative it would be called “Noel Gallagher”. It feels like it was voted by people who’s knowledge of rock is limited to a compilation “The Best Classic Rock Anthems.. Ever” bought at a service station on the M1. As other commenters have noticed, The Rolling Stones seem glaringly absent, and aside from Slash there no guitarist there who isn’t white; No Hendrix, no Chuck Berry. And they’ve clearly never heard Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe“. Or realise Deep Purple’s “Burn” is infinitely better than the lumpen meat-and-potatoes of “Smoke on the Water”.

But the suggestion for “Anti-riffs” is no better. It does make me feel that the author hasn’t got over ending up on the losing side of the punk wars, and resents the fact that 60s/70s classic rock has stood the test of time while the scratchy C86 style stuff John Peel used to play late at night hasn’t, and means little to people who weren’t in their late teens at the time.

No, an “anti-riff” is not a thing. But here are a some great pieces of guitar work that don’t fit the conventional blues-derived classic rock formula.

  • Opeth’s “Windowpane“. The evocative rippling guitars are a thing of beauty. It took some nerve to open with this when Opeth played the Metal Hammer stage at High Voltage in 2010, but that’s exactly what they did.
  • Chic’s “Le Freak”. I’d rate Nile Rogers as one of the greatest rhythm guitarists of all time, and rock fans who ignore his music are missing out. This one’s the Whole Lotta Love of funk.
  • A lot of the Alex Lifeson’s playing on Rush’s classic “Grace Under Pressure”. It feels like he was constantly thinking “What would a classic rock guitarist play here?”, and played something altogether different and better instead.

What are your suggestions?

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A great post on Echies and Dust by Dave Cooper a.k.a. HippyDave: Coming home to Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights tells how Kate Bush’s first single changed a five year old’s life.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Leave a comment

Listening to “Lovehunter” and “Ready an’ Willing”, I’d forgotten just how crass some 80s Whitesnake lyrics were. Probably the only thing that saved Whitesnake from Robin Thicke-style student disco bans was that the worst stuff was never put out as singles.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 3 Comments

Alt-Fest – The collapse of a Kickstarted festival?

We’ve already seen kickstarter-funded board games fail to deliver. Now it looks like the same has happened to a festival.

As reported by Metal Hammer:

The inaugural event in Kettering, Northampton, was to take place in just over two weeks – on the weekend of August 15-17. Headliners included Fields Of The Nephilim, Marilyn Manson and The Cult. Also lined up were Gary Numan, Killing Joke and over 170 others.

Manson tonight updated the gig listings on his official website and on Facebook, with Alt-Fest now marked as “cancelled”. Other acts due to play, including Cradle Of Filth, have also reported that they have been told the event is off.

While there has been no confirmation by the organisers, this slow-motion collapse seems very reminiscent of Memories of Woodstock back in 2009, when an over-ambitious promoter bit off more than he could chew, booked a lot of big-name bands and then failed to sell enough tickets to cover their fees.

With the way news is leaking out via the bands while the organisers have merely promised some sort of announcement on Monday, I’m seeing a lot of recriminations flying online. It’s very difficult to imagine the festival actually taking place.

In retrospect, the whole thing looks ridiculously over-ambitious, with 170 bands across seven stages in an already saturated UK festival scene.

Update: Altfest have posted on Facebook confirming the festival is cancelled. As suspected, lack of ticket sales is the reason, and reading between the lines it looks as though poor financial planning played a part. It does look as though the organisers lacked the necessary experience to put on a festival of that size.

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Dream Theater T-shirts in the news

It has not been a good day for Dream Theater t-shirts. First there is this story of dodgy vet struck off for knowing animals in the (ahem) Biblical sense, with the BBC News story showing the guy wearing a Dream Theater shirt. (And if you click on that link, don’t say I ddn’t warn you).

Then there is this ridiculous story about Mike Portnoy.

You know how it’s a faux pas to wear a band’s shirt to see them live? It seems like it’s an even bigger faux pas to wear a Dream Theater shirt that was printed in the last four years to a Mike Portnoy signing.

Portnoy is of course the former drummer for DT, and left with a bit of drama behind it. So, when a fan showed up to a signing this weekend wearing a Dream Theater shirt with the artwork for Dramatic Turn Of Events on it, Portnoy was none too pleased.

Rather than letting it go, he decided to hop onto social media and rant…

Now, knowing a few members or former members of bands that went through acrimonous splits or worse, and I own quite a few t-shirts that I would never wear to some other band’s gigs, especially if I’m going to be anywhere near the front.

But I’d still expect musicians to behave professionally should they meet any fan wearing the “wrong” shirt at a gig.

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So a bunch of gamers are celebrating the release of the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons by burning their 4th Edition books. It seems the D&D Edition Warriors now make Yes lineup purists look like rank amateurs. Accusing me of being the president of their record company for writing a three-star review of their new album just can’t compete.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 3 Comments

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