Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

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NME new noise tour

blimey. I was at that courteeners thing a couple of weeks ago and by 8:30 there wasn’t even enough room to flick your lank hair around while postulating about morrissey and pretending to be from manchester like everyone in the waterfront who knew where it was was pretending to be although when he said fallowfield and sung something about students I did have a moment of I was thereism. honestly, if you’ve been feted by morrissey you might as well hang up you guitar now and get down the longsight jobcentre. remember the primitives. if you can listen to that insipid album all the way through without spiking yourself with pointy instruments then you should be ashamed as it is possibly the worst record in your collection and you can’t imagine how you ever liked it. that’s what you’ll think about the courteeners in 10 years time even though you might rather like them now. they do mean it, but its just not worth the effort.

strueth. then I were at the air traffic shenannigans a few days later where I was quite easily the way oldest person in the waterfront by a considerable margin and conspicuously male to go with it. they did rattle out their emoplay pianotastic hits-u-like with some gusto and he is a very nice man but really if you’re going to spend all night sitting at a piano then don’t be surprised if all the 4 foot tall 15 year olds get a bit bored and start trailing out to the cloakroom to avoid the rush. as far as I could tell, it was exactly the same set they played many months before at the arts centre when I was by far the oldest person there but strangely inconspicuously male. they must have been on telly or something since then.

christ on a bike. now its the nme not-as-good-as-the-used-to-be tour which consistently broke bands on the verge of greatness like bloc party kaiser chiefs franz ferdinand arctic monkey etc but now just kind of breaks wind with a flopping rollcall of new music top 5 guardian reader list voted for by you not me ones to watch artists which will never be seen again on a bill which includes less than 4 bands. having deliberately missed the first band because I was washing up or something I arrived at the waterfront to the last few number from team waterpolo and acres of space in which to wander around like it was a pub in the 80s and your mates band were playing in the function room and nobody gave a toss. it was so empty that I was able to ask for a pint of red stripe at a decibel level normally reserved for actor in films in leather bars where the music is apparently quiet enough to hear the person sat next to you talking but loud enough for assorted 90s bad hair losers to go mad ape crazy to like, the sisters of mercy or something. anyway, team waterpolo supported air traffic last week and I didn’t really need to see them again so I read email on my phone like an arse. following an agonizingly pedestrian gap, friendly fires take the stage and I quite like them in a sideways-on sensible shirt proper alternative kind of way even if it was borderline flock of seagulls at some points but just enough this side of gang of four to be respectable and he had a lovely voice. nice man.

sadly, the evening was rounded off by crystal castles, who are, in fact, republica. they tried to pretend they weren’t by lasering out our eyes with permastrobe lighting and ultra magnesium flares, but they were. suffice to say, all I heard after the few of us left filtered out into the street was ‘oh my god, they were so, like, amaaazing’, which proves I’m right.

sacrilege

having invested as much effort as I possibly could in actually liking foals and deciding I don’t it’s that time in the afternoon where I’m hankering after something dependable to get me through to teatime which today happens to be joy division but wait there’s something not right with that its not like I’m just listening to closer which I ripped from the cd I bought to backup the album I got back in 1980 oh no its something much worse. I’m listening to ‘the best of’ on napster. now, if I were for a moment to put aside any latent musical fascist tendencies and step down from the pedestal marked ‘I was was there the first time you can’t really understand joy division like I do’ which is populated with middle-class art school envy types who now work in IT or online media and write miserable little blogs about IT and online media or worse still, listening to joy division on napster, then I might think that actually listening to ‘the best of joy division’ released in the wake of control was a perfectly acceptable way to spend an hour in your home office. but no sooner have I written that last dribblesome sentence than I’m slapping myself with the wet fish of procrastination and I’m telling myself that, really, I should know better than to defile the mighty division by not listening to the albums as they were originally released and instead getting drawn into the out-of-sequence vaguely cashing-in less-than-tactile experience of online recycled nostalgia.

but I have, so never mind. I think actually that’s what I’ve really wanted to do for ages, but being a middle-aged joy division stalwart is a bit like being a member of some insane catholic sect where you’re expecting some laconic thunderbolt to strike you down at the merest suggestion that you might be taking the piss with the back catalogue. I mean, I’ll dig out my 12″ of ideal for living later and listen to the whole miserable thing on a proper record player by way of self-flagellation, so hopefully I’ll feel better about myself tomorrow and continue stroking my chins about the relative merits of interpol or editors and whether actually its alright for the wombats to be quite so blasphemously ironic about it all when they weren’t even born, dammit (always good to finish with that chestnut).

holy fuck

there’s really no polite way of telling your children who you’re going to see at the arts centre without a calamatous verbal outage while saying night night following a group questioning regarding who exactly I was going to see at the arts centre which meant I wouldn’t be around to say night night at bedtime when it happens to be holy f**k, so I resorted to the eric morecambe school of coughing into a fist and saying something like ‘<cough>hollyfunk’ which seemed to do the trick as they lost interest immediately and headed upstairs.

but it was indeed holy f**k (nsfw kids) I’d crawled out of the hoovering to see and having only sampled the _radiohead nude remix and the myspace tracks I was curious orange too see how they would go down on a cold norwich sunday in a converted church, which sounds ironic but isn’t really. the 37 or so of us who decided to give the support act a one-hand clap were treated to a delightful brother/sister husband/wife partner/partner act apparently known as free blood (‘from new york, usa, new york, usa’), who ambled unto the stage and pressed a button, whereupon a dr rhythm backing track from 1981 exploded through a stack and rattled the inside of my chest like spanners in an empty bronchial metal mickey and they gooned about together like the reincarnation of blancmange as a brother/sister husband/wife partner/partner act from new york usa, frotting their mikes like gibbons and after about 5 minutes clasping strangers from the assemblage and manhandling them stageward. we all kind of liked them in the end and even after a few false crescendos involving bass drum 1 and some screams we offered them the dubious courtesy of clapping for a bit and then being quite quiet as they walked off stage amongst us and straight to the bar.

being the arts centre, the warm-up act between acts is actually the headline act putting their kit together and soundchecking while we all (more than 37 of us now) talk amongst ourselves or if you’re like me, pretend to be doing something important on your mobile phone which is actually something more like updating your facebook status with ‘…is at holy f**k with the people who actually have friends’. while the sound desk isn’t looking, they suddenly decide they’re ready and quietly stumble into the set as the lights dim around us and a couple of stoners (for there are always a couple of stoners at a norwich gig) amble into your field of vision where they will mildly annoy you all night by having a good time but not paying attention.

it’s easy to make comparisons for reference, but imagine you’d collected every piece of musical hardware that had passed through your hands in the 80s (after imagining you’re that old), which would be in varying amounts, casio keyboard/samplers (lots), boss effects pedals (lots), analogues mixers and switchy things (lots), the occasional 1/4 inch tape loop, cables (lots and lots), effects racks, random electronic devices that make noises like sawtooths or the clangers, and then meet some friends with real instruments (drum & bass) that can actually play them, and then daisy chain 17 4-way adaptors and then start playing everything at the same time and record the sound of you house exploding and play it backwards through a baked bean tin with a piece of string as the drugs start working.

actually, they’re unmistakably the reincarnation of the who. I mean, they’ve got all the best bits of add (n) to x, they do the triptastic glasto endofshow chemical brothers trance pieces, but are clever enough to start at the point where everyone goes ‘yeeeeah’ and then gets mental, rather than including the boring 10 minutes of intro, they stumble over the remains of numerous analogue forebears from the 70s to the 90s, check in with the fall, and even, worryingly, sound like lemonjelly at one point, but, when it comes to it, they are the new electro-mod. or something.

they did achieve the formally unachievable by way of me dancing on one leg and nodding my head without even caring what anybody else thought and mostly I was transfixed on the drummer, who was, albeit canadian, the living embodiment of keith moon’s bastard child with john cazale, but eminently intensely watchable. connecting him, the bass player, who did a grand job of playing one note over and over and over and over until your brain bled, and the crumpled shirts of satan, on fiddling duties, there was some kind of invisible lasso threaded through their ears which was held, at the other end, by a 30-foot argonaut that was constantly jerking their heads around like a stop-frame animation as waves of electropopocalypse washed over us from the effects box of the devil himself.

a good night then.

NME boredom

while I was at the NME tour in the Least Commended Room at the UEA the other night it occurred to me that I was a bit bored which I thought I might be but ended up going anyway and in a lull between the lulls of lacklustre new music I took some notes on my mobile phone. I mean. I took notes on my mobile phone. I might have well been in a conference call about product categorization and taking down things like “specifications” and “stakeholders” or “communication plans” but no in fact what I was decanting from my half-asleep brain unto a memory stick spake of the following experience:

Cribalikes, jonglers> strokes maximo 25 year cycle

I know what it means but I was so unmoved by the whole event that I can’t be bothered to expand suffice to say that being on jo whileys playlist do not make certain it might worth trouble be but who I you seemed to like it well at least the cribs the rest was rubbish but reminded me of a night in a hall somewhere watching jamie’s brother’s band in 1981 which was quite exciting but of course I hadn’t paid 15 quid or something and I also made a cover version of things keep on switching off no sorry summer days they were the golden dawn teenage alistair crowleyites or maybe just en homage to an ercol dining table nostalgia yes for a decent night out is that too much empty spaces on the dance floor lets have a fight instead nice hair

nearly cracked DRM

I mean, I’m not dvd tim, I’ve not cracked blu-ray or something, I’ve just nearly got to a point where I can arrange and rate all my music, download and purchase new tracks and transfer to multiple devices without having multiple versions of the same tracks or multiple lists or players or software or hardware or cables. I’m not entirely stupid but its taken me at least 4 years to understand why I can’t just have 1 track over here and put it over there but I’m getting close.

currently and for the past few years I’ve managed 10000+ music tracks with windows media player omg I should be shot or something because it does 3 things I want to do without breaking everytime I ask it to do it: 1. rip my cds, 2. rate and arrange the tracks, 3. transfer them to a portable device. 1 and 2 are probably no-brainers but actually the rating mechanism in WMP suits me just fine, as do the auto playlists, as do the manual playlists and sure there are other players out there which do both equally as well but you know I don’t care, because WMP is still there when I start windows and its remembered everything I did when I closed windows you can recommend something else but I’ve got bananas in my ears I can’t hear you blah blah blah. its number 3 that f**ks everything up.

I’ve always opted for sony portable audio hardware, every since the very first blue plastic walkman I had and then onto the magnificent DC2 ‘professional’ walkman in brushed metal with bass boost dolby b/c and metal gear solid quartz locked disc drive bits inside and through a growing collection of flash memory players. I buy sony because they sound like I want things to sound. but there is were the problem has been. if any of you have tried strangling yourself with a headphone cord rather that try to upload audio to a sony walkman with the lamentable sonicstage then you’ll know what I mean. first create an entire duplicate of your music collection in a stupid proprietary (but excellent compression quality) format, losing all your ratings and lists in the process, and then laboriously drag and drop stuff around watching as the sync list is updated and read from the device every time you breath in (see iTunes), and watch as the 2 instances of music libraries try to talk to each other, deleting each other in the process. this is much the same as my experience with iTunes. I also have an iPod shuffle, as does my daughter, which I bought to see what they are like and so most fridays are consumed with rebuilding an iTunes database because iTunes touched the tags on the source file when I made a playlist or something and now refuses to believe itself when it can see files in its library but they’re newer than the last time it looked so no you can’t transfer them and anyway whats with the ridiculous ordering and sorting in iTunes it makes no sense I actually want some order not designed chaos and the shuffle just sounds nasty anyway whatever you plug into it.

but I’ve not even got to DRM yet. notwithstanding the fact that I have to manage my own ripped cds with 3 types of file management, 3 formats of data and three separate libraries to use 2 different portable devices on 1 computer, I thought that I might just start buying tracks individually instead of whole cds. makes sense. I don’t the wombats, but I like moving to new york so I’ll have that thanks. but no. up to a couple of months ago, it was still sonicstage for the walkman, itunes for the ipod and windows media player for the computer. so, if I buy something via WMP, I probably won’t be able to add it to the itunes database and converting it to sony format for sonicstage will probably burn down my office or something (actually, it just won’t be authorized). what about if I buy in itunes? at least it’ll go on the ipod, shite as it is. but it’ll never get near the walkman and I’ll never get to rate it in WMP and send it back to itunes. I could buy stuff via the sony connect store, because it the walkman that I use all the time. I just won’t rate it and add it to playlists in WMP. no, dammit, I want to do that. I want to buy stuff somewhere that I can rate in WMP, add to the itunes database and transfer as often as I like to the walkman. not too much to ask, surely.

at christmas I got a lovely black 8GB sony NWZ-A818 network walkman. no change there then, I always get walkmans. however, only now have sony ditched the stupidly bad connect store and made all the latest walkmans compatible with (or the other way around) mp3 files, which mean you can use something like, say, windows media player to transfer tracks directly. you can also transfer those playlists you’ve spent 4 years building, including those auto playlists built from the ratings you’ve been giving over the last four years. you see that I’m getting somewhere now. but what about itunes? I don’t care about itunes anymore. I’ve always hated it, and so the ipods will just have to survive on tracks in the database before 2008. I might occasionally update it, but not if its going to touch all my files again and make the recently added playlist 10000 items long. so, can I start buying stuff? um, I think so. via window media player online services? HAHAHAHAHAAAHAAHAAAAAA.

no, the answer, right now, is napster. if I buy tracks, I want them to appear in my library in WMP so I can do all that stuff I like to do and then transfer directly to the walkman. that’s easy. I just set up a folder separate from my existing music folder and have WMP monitor it so that virtually, everything is in the same place. ok. lets get some tracks then. ooh, I like that british sea power track canvey island. I can download that straight away in napster. look, there it is in WMP. update the file info to get some nice artwork. there. 4 stars. add it to the indie list. ooh, and the gym list. whatever. so I can just transfer it now, right? I downloaded the full track, so I think I must have bought it – its paypal, so I’m never quite sure if I’ve bought things or not. hang on, what’s that annoying blue icon now. dammit! don’t have sync rights? what do you mean I don’t have sync rights? I just got everything how I WANTED IT . BOOHOOOHOHOOOOOO!

turns out I signed up for the regular napster service which lets me download as much stuff as a like and listen to it as much as I like, but stops short of allowing me to transfer it to a portable device – I have to actually buy it at the point. basically, napster wants me to use it as my music player instead of window media player and will, for a small fee, allow me to download everything, arrange tracks into playlists, provide recommendations and ‘stations’ and generally do most of what I rather like doing in windows media player. but it won’t do it all. it won’t let me rate stuff. so it can swivel.

so close then, but not quite lighting the fat havana. still, all I have to do is actually use napster to buy the few tracks I want and then rate and arrange the tracks however I like and upload them to the walkman, whereupon I can fiddle about with the equalizer while crossing the road and get run over by a bus.

jazz mangle

following a a referral by company girl to a referral by rolling stone that I came across while browsing a feed in google reader that I was alerted to by the gadget I was looking at in igoogle that is the aggregation of anything I look at these days I signed up to musicovery and let it loose in a kind of ‘slightly positive and quite calm’ kind of way. result: jazz!

now, if you’re just past 40 you probably have some internal switch which goes off inside you. that’s the jazz! switch. I think I’m supposed to get a hankering for art blakey and stan getz all of a sudden, but christ on a bike if it’s not just impossible to know where to start, considering that everything ever recorded ever is probably no more than a reasonably carefully crafted search away. having just ordered up a couple of tickets for supergrass at the uea and holy f**k at the arts centre, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for too much chin stroking, even if it’s up tempo kid ory or something and god forbid I end up in the back alley of easy swing or suchlike with kenny g robbing me of all my gibbering faculties with his saxophone.

so this is where musicovery comes in. without any warning, it’s recommending I listen to lou donaldson’s ode to billie joe and artie shaw’s moonglow, and they’re just about perfect. I can see from the slippery slidy and slighty odd flash interface that I’ve got a good helping of jelly roll morton coming later but I’ll make do with peter tosh and lalo schifrin until then. and when was the last time you listened to the alan parsons project anyway? even if I change my mood everso slightly to, um, DARK, you get a healthy dose of sarah vaughn, for which I’ll probably need a large gin and tonic in a minute. you only slip out of the jazz! boundaries when your mood is more, well, DARK + CALM, but I did get ornette coleman’s all my life and billie holiday’s gloomy sunday squeezed in there, but by that time I was just lying on the floor with all the lights off murmuring about funerals.

I fiddled about with the mood selector long enough to find the point where your mood approaches null. it was all radiohead.

coefficient of alrightness

you can either accept the fact that if you’re going to keep the window open, then you are a slave to shuffle and you must suffer the consequences of your actions. if you really do like all the things in your 4 and 5 star rated playlist, then what does it matter that anyone walking past the window can immediately associate you with the 5 second snippet of music wafting out across the 30 degree, slightly smoggy street-level air? I mean, you’ll never meet these people or ever talk to them, so what does it matter what they think of you at that moment? nothing. unless you’re a half-baked insecure 30-something desperate wannabe who’s constantly justifying your validity in a retro culture society that you remember the first time around when you thought you were the centre of it but you probably weren’t even then.

so, it matters to you desperately that if ryan adams is trailing off, as a bunch of 20-something ex-university students in 70’s elvis shades, just faded enough element t-shirts and fat face flip flops pass by, that it might suddenly cross-fade into wuthering heights and they’ll all be swivelling their necks around to see where that stupid wailing noise is coming from. it would be something of a social disaster if LCD soundsystem come to an abrupt end and all too quickly, natalie imbruglia pipes up, just as the heigham park massive are drifting past with their nice white airmax 95s and their evisus hanging the requisite 3 inches below the waistband of their calvins. I mean, you’d be lambasted. you’re just so culturally irrelevant. you’re just like someone’s dad. which you are, of course, but you’ve just given it all away, you idiot.

you have to develop a contingency. it’s slightly extra work, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. these are you favourite tracks. you know when they start and finish, but you can’t give up the shuffle, no matter how hard you try, so you’re caught between the freedom and gay abandon of randomness and the self-conscious straightjacket of predictability. you need broadcast control, but with the flexibility of choice. you like half man half biscuit, godammit.

the answer is the cultural self-preservation equation. it roughly states that the level of saving face is equal to the product of the coefficient of alrightness times the specific relevance capacity over the am I bovvered factor. as the level of saving face approaches 1, the requirement to mute approaches 0 and vice versa. so, for something like lilywhite lilith by genesis, on a nice sunny friday, this would probably look something like:

4 (coefficient of alrightness) * 0.2 (specific relevance capacity) / 2 (am I bovvered factor) = 0.4 (level of saving face)

so, I’d have my finger pretty close to the mute key for that one. however, if it were to be something like black and white town by doves, on a grey wednesday, it would probably look more like this:

15 (coefficient of alrightness) * 0.6 (specific relevance capacity) / 10 (am I bovvered factor) = 0.9 (level of saving face)

which is pretty darn high, so I’d be looking to the whack the volume up key for that one. it takes some practice, but you end up being able to perform this equation on the fly in no time and so within a second or so, you’re able to direct your twitchy little fingers to the correct key that will enable you to remain comfortably smug in the knowledge that the most credibility-risky tunes are screened from the passing cultural commentators. at least, it’s a bit less embarrassing when sheryl crow suddenly starts blaring out the window and you’re able to catch it just before that nice girl with the purple hair walks past. mind you, if she knew about the jo dee messina track I’d have no chance.