Sunday Whatever

noIt’s probably about time for me to admit that I haven’ the faintest idea what I’m doing with this blog.  After over three years, one would have thought that I would have settled into some sort of happy little groove, but I haven’t really.  If anything, this is all going backwards – and much I should probably blame poor writing for this, the little graphic at the top-right of this that has appeared on the Facebook Page that accompanies this site recently should also shoulder a good chunk of it too.

This blog is tiny, and I guess I got lucky at the start of the life of whatever this is when one or two posts started to get passed around and retweeted… I even managed to garner a few comments on posts (albeit about 50% negative), and traffic was uniformly high, certainly higher than anything I could have expected from miserably scribbling away.  And then this happened on the site where most networking occurred.

Facebook is a business (even more so now it’s gone Public) and businesses need money, but in its voracious desire to hoover up every cent from everyone and by treating piddly little sites like this with the same approach as they do General Motors, Coca-Cola etc, they’ve strangled all sense of community.  Because every view is now so precious to everyone, bands and artists are now so focused on pleading with their fans to comment, like share and retweet every snippet of info, they’re not noticing so much when people do say something about them.  Especially when things can’t be soundbitten down into a meaningless arbitrary score (“This record was the soundtrack to my losing my love and my subsequent descent into drinking and drugs, so I rate this 8/10!” – and this record exists but I’m buggered if I’m going to tell you which one it is), it does sometimes feel now that everything’s getting a bit insular and territorial now, and that does nobody any good.  Word Of Mouth is just as important for blogs such as this as it is for the people that blogs such as this write happily and freely in favour of – it means that there is an outlet of positivity that they haven’t had to pay or beg their fans for, and this symbiosis also requires participation, otherwise that $10 per day to get one’s musings out there starts to look worryingly inevitable…


So why continue, if it makes me so angry and despondent at times?  Because sometimes it’s as good an outlet for my pettier, nastier side as it is for my enthusiasm and joy.  And as I don’t spend time here writing about what I think are bad records (because I don’t buy bad records as a rule, it’s kind of a waste of money to do so), I need a slightly different target to vent my spleen .  And when I hear that someone has bought something, or even just taken the time to have a bit of a listen, based on something that’s been written here, I can’t explain just how good that feels.  On the rare occasion that a conversation is begun that sends its participants off to a record store on the basis of something that someone said, it’s brilliant.  When artists take the time to pass something on or even get in touch, it’s a fantastic feeling and I am so utterly grateful for every single time that I see something of mine appearing on Facebook or Twitter or on other people’s sites and messageboards.  Hopefully I can keep bungling away here until the pendulum swings back towards a relationship that’s much closer to “us” than “them”.


Sunday Whatever

Two weeks of awfulness over, now it’s back to mere drudgery.  And now I have a bit of time to myself, I’ve got a small pile to navigate that will start getting bigger after tomorrow plus I’m going to force myself to do the thing I keep saying that I’m going to do and delve back into the 80s and 90s once more to bring back a “From The Past” section that is getting too close for comfort to requiring the services of a professional necromancer.

And I’ll also take this opportunity to once more mention the startling debut from Keaton Henson that I made time to mention last week – an incredible record, and a post about it that sadly (and, slightly ironically given the subject’s own reticence) went largely unread…


Anyways, on with what’s been keeping me awake this week.  And as a bit of a treat to Spotify types who follow either my Facebook or Twitter doingses and get the playlists that accompany these Whatevers, someone’s finally pointed out to this technological halfwit that the songs on my list that are in grey can’t be seen by people who aren’t me.  So I’ve picked a whole list of things that can actually be heard for a change.


And yes, I forgot to post this yesterday.


The Twilight Singers – Live in New York

A bit of a slight revisit this one, as thanks to the joys of preordering I’d been enjoying the downloaded tracks for a short while beforehand (and enjoying to the extent that I’d included this among my favourites of 2011). Thanks to the arrival of the 2xCD package that arrived yesterday as well as the arrival of a posh new pair of headphones (which comes with a free bottle-opener for reasons I’m not party to, nicely combining two of my favourite hobbies in one go nonetheless), I can ditch the digitals and pipe through something a bit more expansive.

Live albums are weird beasts at the best of times: even the most impressive and immersive recordings are just that – recordings. Strip away the physicality involved in actually being at a show, and it’s nigh-on impossible to replicate the experience, because almost all good and great shows are only partially about the performance itself. The portents were always going to be good for this particular one though – Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli knows exactly how to bring a performance to life, and his skills as bandleader, raconteur and general bon viveur are well suited to not just bridging the gap between stage and audience (every Twilight Singers show I’ve been to has felt like they’ve just turned up in your living room), but also concert hall to stereo. When Greg is facing his crowd, he’s doing this with the confidence of someone who knows exactly where he is (his local knowledge displayed at shows can be side-splittingly accurate) and what he’s doing; dipping in and out of a vast repertoire of cover version snippets and conversational asides safe in the knowledge that if he’s entertaining himself, then the rest of us will be having an absolute ball.

I’ll attempt to do something slightly different with this, as it’s certainly a slightly different release and as I’m pretty well-versed in the original recorded material (read here and here for a couple of examples) it feels a bit odd writing about them all over again, albeit in a different context. So, as context is king and all that, I’ll just knock up a list of what I think makes for any great live album based on a seemingly resolute criteria that has been passed down from generation to generation. Or, to put it another way, one that I seem to have arbitrarily knocked together for the sake of narrative.

Rule 1: The Cover Must Be Exciting

Rule 2: Bring Your Songs To Life

Rule 3: Involve Your Audience

Rule 4: Make The People At Home Sick With Jealousy

Rule 5: Leave Nothing Out

Best of 2011, 20-11

Last one for this bit, with the remaining ten(ish…) getting a page to themselves.  And thank the stars for that, as it’s such a bugger to go on about ten things at the same time whilst trying (and probably failing) to remember which adverbs I’ve already used.  What I’ve found interesting so far whilst doing this and looking at the many emerging lists from other sites and proper media (and confirmed during a brief conversation with a friend on Twitter earlier today) is that while there’s been a lot of good, very good and great albums out this year, nobody seems to be agreeing on pretty much anything – the standard this year is of a very high average, with little common ground as to what is considered essential.  This may sound as if this state of affairs is anything but a very good thing indeed, but the opposite is true; musically-independent artists have been coming up with their own visions without consideration to what anyone else is up to and largely without interference from marketing, in a direct inverse to what is going on in a mainstream seemingly happy to strangle itself with its own banality.  There seems to be more and more little labels springing up all over the place, and there are more and more cheap/free ways for artists to reach an audience than ever before.  It’s like 1976 and 1987 all over again…


Best of 2011, 40-31

And now for the next bit.  This is a good one to expose the utter unfairness in doing these things, as there’s one in this section that I have had for a few days that would probably have placed much higher if I had more time to listen to it, and another that has had more time than most to sink in as it had been knocking about for two years before its commercial release.  Ah well, I’m an unfair sort of a person.  Oddly though, the next segment will contain one album that should have been out in 2010 but is still without a release to date, yet remains a 2011 favourite despite its recent purchase.  This probably proves somehow that I have no idea what I’m doing.

This is taking me ages to do, as I keep getting distracted by trying to listen to snippets of each one in order to get a better idea, followed by ending up listening to the whole thing and then cursing as I then want to move each one further up the list, with the end result tending to be that everything gets moved up with each listen so that by the time I’m done they’re all back in the same place again.  Still, it’s getting me listening to records, so that’s sort of the whole point of the exercise apparently.  The next couple of these should be done a bit quicker, as thankfully there are less things to shuffle about and disagree upon.  Probably.


Half-term Musings, Random Favourites So Far

Well, everyone else has done one.   I guess it’s the immediacy of the internet nowadays that lists simply can’t wait until the year end.  I did try to do this properly, but trying to whittle down about 40 or so absolute corkers so far this year I soon realised that it’s all far too much work, especially as I’ll be doing it all again in December.  So the following fifteen albums (no singles or EPs, will be saving those for year-end also) are in no order and their selection has been completely arbitrary in a daily mood-matching way.  Some of those will be high up my (and most others’) list in the deep midwinter, some may well have dropped off a bit and others replaced by whatever is going to pop up between now and the end of the year.   What I’m trying to say is that it’s all a bit random.  As is the accompanying text; I copy/pasted it from my Facebook entries over the past fortnight and the tenses are all over the place.



Twilight Singers – Manchester Moho Live, 20/03/2011

It was very hot.  It was incredibly loud.  The audience were stood on some sort of lovely patio.


These are special nights when Greg Dulli brings his Twilight Singers into town.  Not just because of longterm comedy injuries sustained by this scribbler whilst drunkenly walking a very long way home in the wrong direction and pouring rain whilst drunk after an especially brilliant set, and in this case not just because of the quality stone floorwork.

The reason that these nights are special is because they are uniformly excellent shows.  A Twilight Singers show involves everyone present to the extent that it is impossible not to feel part of the performance, and of the songs themselves.  Whether one is right at the front or loitering about at the back, everyone plays a part and our reward is a head full of stars to brighten up those dark little corners of the soul.


The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps

One day, all online record sales will be conducted using Sub Pop’s excellent business model.  Encouraging vinyl sales by including free mp3 download codes and generally being really friendly and easy to deal with is reason enough to fling disposable income at them, but they should also be singled out for special praise for providing streams of your order when they send you your purchase confirmation.  This also extends to pre-orders, so that rather than wait until the middle of February (when I’ll be in London seeing Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell) for this, it’s available to listen to right now.

And, if I had paid attention to my emails properly, I could have listened to this yesterday as well.  Ah well, better late than never, and certainly better than hanging about for another couple of weeks (plus time added on for awful postal service at the mo)…



Sunday Whatever

Been neglecting these of late – partly because I’ve been working more Sundays recently (I have a South Coast Beano in December to pay for), partly because when I am in of a Sunday, I’m listening to too much stuff to bother listening to it; but mostly because these things are for one reason or another an absolute sod to format.  Then again, it’s probably just a case of getting more practice in.

So anyway, loads more new stuff from old favourites and new acquaintances alike at the mo which is always a good thing, although all these new records are getting in the way of the main reason why I started this blog which was to remind myself of why certain albums and artists left such indelible impressions at such memorable times so that I could put things in a certain order and remind myself why certain times (and their respective soundtracks) were all important for whatever reasons.  I guess then that it’s been more of a purging exercise that I thought it would be, and the wealth of new artists and albums in the short while this has been running so far is as good an indication as any that looking back is in part fun and tortuous and serves an important purpose in both respects, but looking at the now and ahead has its own rewards also.

Or something, anyway.  I’m having fun, and that’s the main thing.


The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle

I must admit that, although having been quite the Afghan Whigs fan, Greg Dulli’s first foray outside the comfort zone of his own band (the now departed Afghan Whigs) with Twilight as Played by The Twilight Singers seemed to have passed by under my radar (something that was resolved within three days of listening to the follow-up).  So it was this second album that was my first exposure to this new direction and new approach.  The result is a recording that is one of those few occasions where someone can take a step away from one stage and start up on a new one with such success, exploring new directions and indeed causing me to explore interesting directions of my own that has resulted in a knee that still squeaks if weather conditions are right…