Sunday, April 27, 2008
Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and...Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #14
All of the tracks on this mix are upbeat and have a festive momentum to them. From the airy melodies of Apples in Stereo and Blink to the romping propulsion of The New Pornographers and Patrick Wolf to the expansive anthems of Big Country and Arcade Fire to the funky fun of David Bowie, Kate Bush and Luke Haines, this compilation definitely makes me smile. I'm going to call this mix Escape.
Energy - The Apples in Stereo
Happy Day - Blink
Sing Me Spanish Techno - The New Pornographers
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
The Magic Position - Patrick Wolf
In a Big Country - Big Country
Waterfall - The Stone Roses
Regret - New Order
Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
Fighting Fit - Gene
Kiss of Life - Supergrass
Invincible - OK Go
Pick Me Up Uppercut - Pop Levi
Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz
Going Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop - Luke Haines
Golden Years - David Bowie
Kite - Kate Bush
Johnny Boy Theme - Johnny Boy
Somewhere Across Forever - stellastarr*
Aurelien's high voice alternately quivers and rasps, sometimes sounding like The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele, as he expresses jubilation, pain, and anger. Album opener, No Directions, is a sunny ode to being happily directionless. Hey Darling, the only single officially released from The Fortune Teller Said, is a catchy, breezy song that pumps along to fast guitars and then expands into a chorus that feels like breathing in so deeply your lungs hurt. Reining in the energy of Hey Darling, Little Things shambles along to Aurelien's lazy vocals. Picking up once again, the following track I Suppose is a raucous number that emulates a frustrated relationship, but then the music comes down to showcase a beautiful blend of Aurelien and Laura's voices as they insist they don't want to start a fight. Berlin is a pretty little interlude under two minutes that imitates an old French record crackling away on a grammophone as Aurelien plays a ukelele (it reminds me a bit of the song Guilty from the Amelie soundrack) One of my favourite tracks is Will You Follow Me Out, which takes you on a moodier turn with its thrumming bassline and Aurelien's voice comes down to a near-whisper. Another quieter song is Together, in which Aurelien is accompanied only by an acoustic guitar for the first two thirds of the song, and I Still Think of You is a tender ballad of regret. Overall, The Fortune Teller Said is a youthful, exuberant record perfect for a summer day or a road trip.
I soon discovered that Aurelien had his own solo project under the name Lian Ray in which he self-releases EPs every few months. I purchased the latest one entitled, We Are the Fox and the Pony, and I was charmed by the low-key, lo-fi music, enchanting lyrics and homemade artwork (apparently created by a very talented Mary Oh). As Lian Ray, Aurelien explores the slower, acoustic side of Rhesus more fully while also creating more magical, personal narratives than in Rhesus. In many ways, this EP recalls the sound of the title track off Sad Disco, a slightly folkier number. The EP includes three versions of the The Fox and the Pony - an instrumental theme, the original demo, and a piano version - and all of them are beautiful, though I think I like the instrumental the best with its plinking xylophone-like sounds. The other two versions with their vocals spin a sweet, quirky story where "Your name sounds like a Japanese candy and I'm standing there being a clown." Our Correspondence is melodic and filled with fantastic, strange vignettes like "You're singing lullabies to babies on a boat." Ink & Paper Twin could have been a Fionn Regan song, and Kings Street is a mournful ballad interspersed with accordion sounds and a European airport announcement. Give Me a Call, a song available for free download from Lian Ray's MySpace, is a brief, bouncy tune of loyalty, and the final track of the EP, Mystery's Never Home is hazy and dreamy as Aurelien croons over soft guitars and piano. While The Fortune Teller Said is an album of perpetual motion down a motorway in summer, We Are the Fox and the Pony EP is a blissed out lounge in dappled sunlight.
Hey Darling - Rhesus
Will You Follow Me Out - Rhesus
Ink & Paper Twin - Lian Ray
Friday, April 25, 2008
I just received my copy of The Indelicates' debut album, American Demo, in the mail (it was released in the UK on April 14), and I'm hugely impressed. I wrote about them earlier in my SXSW post, and I shall continue to rave about them. This English duo manages to combine elements from many of my favourite bands and artists - the satirical observations of Pulp, the voices of Luke Haines and Kate Bush, the melodies of The Auteurs. The two Indelicates (a moniker they each use as a surname), Simon and Julia, met at a Poetry Slam, hence, their lyrics are some of the best ones I've ever heard - they often take you by surprise and dwell in the shadows cast by the sunny music. And for someone who did their Honours BA in English Literature, lyrics are often a huge issue for me. Others have already appropriately compared The Indelicates with The Auteurs and Art Brut, but I would say that they go beyond wit for its own sake and make political statements about the state of the world today. At the same time, their politics feel like they're wrapped up in a big pink bow of narrative. Personal losses and disappointments extend to a universal malaise, frustration and apathy.
The first two Indelicates tracks I ever heard were the contagious tongue-in-cheek ode to youth, Sixteen, and the up-tempo but bittersweet, Julia, We Don't Live in the '60's, and both are included on this album. American Demo begins with New Art For the People Theme, a sweet orchestral piece led by a violin, which is an instrumental re-working of the later track, New Art for the People, a deliciously depressing dialogue between Simon and Julia about fighting for art's sake in a fatuous environment and failing - in many ways, with its sense of broken dreams and misguided hopes, it feels like an updated version of Fairytale of New York. With a similar theme of disillusionment and loss, The Last Significant Statement to Be Made in Rock 'n Roll, a song with driving guitars and Simon on lead vocals, sounds like The Auteurs meets Springsteen's Born to Run. It also includes fantastic lyrics like "Once, in a corridor in Memphis/Was a singer took a breath/And wrote the birth of the teenager/Now we come to write his death," which is one of the best lines about Elvis that I've come across. Our Daughters Will Never Be Free is a playful breakneck number complete with handclaps and Julia taking over breathless lead vocals while the lyrics lambast feminism and its many failures. Stars sounds like a tinkling music box as Julia sweetly croons, "I'm in love with the boy next door/He treats me like a filthy whore/I give him everything he wants for nothing in return." Unsettling and twee at the same time...kind of like a song in a Tim Burton stop-motion animation.
One of my favourite tracks is ...If Jeff Buckley Had Lived, a song that goes against the typical music fan's reaction to his untimely death - rather than pity the waste of such talent and wonder how genius Buckley could have been if he had lived, The Indelicates predict that Buckley would have fallen flat by never being able to live up to his brilliant first and only album, and without his death, he wouldn't have become the mythological figure he is now. The music itself in this song is beautifully melancholy and expansive with a pulsing rhythm, light piano, and gently whining guitars. Another song that I find fascinating is America, a stately tune with frenetic guitar arpeggios and a rather provocative take on America, taking the conservative stance and deriding England with its "weak-chinned snarls and red guitars." The track Heroin once again reminds me of Bruce Springsteen with its passionate overwrought guitars and raspy vocals, and even though I don't really like Springsteen, I enjoy it - perhaps because The Indelicates have hit upon an alchemical mixture of American bombast and English irony.
I'm going to include a couple of tracks from the album and then one particularly fabulous demo song, Waiting for Pete Doherty to Die, that was available for free download on their Web site. They say everything in this song that I would want to say about the state of the media, music industry and pretentious fans, and they do it much more eloquently than I could. In many ways, it's a companion piece to the song We Hate the Kids on American Demo, a song which states: "And no one discusses what they don't understand/And no one does anything to harm the brand/And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard:/Absolutely anyone can play fucking guitar/Oh yeah, we mean it/We hate the kids/Useless children genuflecting/To the idols who exploit them." Despite the cynicism, The Indelicates do, indeed, make intelligent new art for the people. And I'm thankful for it.
New Art For the People - The Indelicates
...If Jeff Buckley Had Lived - The Indelicates
Waiting For Pete Doherty to Die - The Indelicates
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and...Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #13
So, lucky weekly mix number thirteen...and it's the inevitable C86 mix. Many others have written about the legendary C86 cassette from NME (after all, there's even an excellent blog called Indie MP3 - Keeping C86 Alive), and I doubt I have anything particularly new to add to the discussion. However, it continues to amaze me how one mail-order cassette spawned a genre, a scene, and an attitude toward music. Though NME had released a cassette five years earlier in conjunction with Rough Trade, appropriately titled C81, it never gained the same mythical status despite the fact that the artists featured on it, including Scritti Politti, Orange Juice, The Specials and Buzzcocks, were far more successful. In contrast, C86 included the likes of The Shrubs, Close Lobsters, and The Servants - not exactly well-known or long-lived. In fact, the only bands on C86 that really seem to have achieved longevity were Primal Scream, The Wedding Present and Half Man Half Biscuit.
Whether you call it jangle pop or twee or just plain shambolic, these artists came to represent the ultimate DIY aesthetic. Although the term C86 has come to mean almost exclusively twee, the actual original compilation featured many bands with an edgier sound. What is perhaps more important than whether these bands all fit into the same genre of sound is the way they came to define what it meant to be truly indie when indie still felt like a pure concept. Indie has become a completely irrelevant and bastardized term with the majority of those classified as indie actually on major labels and mainstream radio. However, with the advent of music blogs, there has been an increase in exposure for truly independent bands and even unsigned bands. In my perfect world, every band would be able to produce, distribute and promote their own music without overblown intervention from businesspeople. So while bands like Belle and Sebastian may owe their sound to C86, countless other bands owe their philosophy to it. Philosophically, C86 was like punk for the '80's.
The original tracklisting for C86 was:
Primal Scream - "Velocity Girl"
The Mighty Lemon Drops - "Happy Head"
The Soup Dragons - "Pleasantly Surprised"
The Wolfhounds - "Feeling So Strange Again"
The Bodines - "Therese"
Mighty Mighty - "Law"
Stump - "Buffalo"
Bogshed - "Run to the Temple"
A Witness - "Sharpened Sticks"
The Pastels - "Breaking Lines"
Age of Chance - "From Now On, This Will Be Your God"
The Shop Assistants - "It's Up to You"
Close Lobsters - "Firestation Towers"
Miaow - "Sport Most Royal"
Half Man Half Biscuit - "I Hate Nerys Hughes (From The Heart)"
The Servants - "Transparent"
The Mackenzies - "Big Jim (There's no pubs in Heaven)"
Big Flame - "New Way (Quick Wash And Brush Up With Liberation Theology)"
Fuzzbox - "Console Me"
McCarthy - "Celestial City"
The Shrubs - "Bullfighter's Bones"
The Wedding Present - "This Boy Can Wait"
Twenty years after the original C86, a double-disc CD, compiled by Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley, was released as CD86. Rather than a re-release of the original compilation, it celebrated many of the artists that weren't originally on the C86 tape, but that nevertheless were considered part of the C86 scene. While it still included the odd track from the original (Primal Scream's Velocity Girl, The Wedding Present's This Boy Can Wait) and alternative tracks from most of the original bands, it also included the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pooh Sticks, Talulah Gosh, The June Brides, and The Darling Buds. Keeping with this idea, but expanding yet further to include other British indie bands of the '80's, I made my mix with some original C86 tracks, some tracks by original C86 artists (both the cassette ones and the CD ones), and then some other bands like Felt, Bubblegum Splash, and the superbly named Dalek Beach Party. Many of them are a little rough around the edges and quirky, but that's their charm. I'm going to call this mix I Don't Need Anyone, No Not Anyone At All. Perhaps C86 has become myth because it represents an ideal and and an innocence that seems pretty much impossible in the realm of the music industry.
Velocity Girl - Primal Scream
Plastic Smile - Bubblegum Splash
Close My Eyes - Strawberry Story
Penelope Tree - Felt
Wee Timorous Cowering Beastie - Dalek Beach Party
Charlton Heston - Stump
This Boy Can Wait - The Wedding Present
Disdain - Kind
He's Frank (Slight Return) - The Monochrome Set
This Town - The June Brides
I'm On the Side of Mankind As Much As the Next Man - McCarthy
Nothing to Be Done - The Pastels
Hit the Ground - The Darling Buds
Stop Killing Me - The Primitives
Happy Head - The Mighty Lemon Drops
Whole Wide World - The Soup Dragons
Safety Net - Shop Assistants
Transparent - The Servants
The Revolutionary Spirit - The Wild Swans
You're Kidding Aren't You - The Field Mice
Apple Orchard - Bouquet
It's a Fine Day - Jane
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Of all the new tracks, Tonight and Dinosaurs seem to be the closest to the older sound of choppier and jagged guitars used on With Love and Squalor. The weakest track, in my opinion, is Spoken For, a ballad that feels bland despite its build to passionate bursts halfway through. The lyrics, which seem to be largely based on relationship doubts, may be the one area that I'm not as impressed with this time round. The cheeky, often self-deprecating, wit of songs like The Great Escape, This Scene is Dead, and Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt from With Love and Squalor isn't as prominent this time. For an example of the potential of their weird and wonderful musings, see their Web site where they have an advice column (Example: "Question: What is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake? Answer: A muffin has a fish center. A cupcake has icing on top, and has a center of pork or boar. Muffins originated in France and are still considered a top-shelf delicacy in that country; meanwhile, Italians, who invented cupcakes, regard them as acceptable nourishment only for prisoners and cattle.").
Chick Lit - We Are Scientists
Lethal Enforcer - We Are Scientists
That's What Counts - We Are Scientists
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In most of the reviews I've read about Do It!, the album is described as psychedelic and perfect for summer, which makes it sound like the record is a Super Furry Animals album - a completely errant assumption to make. I would say that it is less frantic and whirling, less of a dark hoedown, than Visitations - perhaps as sunny as Clinic can get. While their sound has tended to be quite dense in previous albums, Do It! has many lighter moments like the plinking Tomorrow and dreamy Corpus Christi. As usual, Ade Blackburn's vocals sneer, sputter and slur over oscillating rhythms and unexpected arrangements and time signatures, but it's like their sound has been aerated. In some ways, I suppose they have returned to some of the lighter sounds from Internal Wrangler.
Album opener, Memories, begins with chimes reminiscent of Eastern sitar music, but then shifts into fuzzy, romping guitars only to move again during the vocals into a milder psychedelic waltz with organs and cymbals. The Witch (Made to Measure) bumps along like a ride in an apple truck without the vicious, brutal drive of some of Clinic's earlier material. Free Not Free ticks along lazily like a finger trailing alongside a boat with some woodwind sounds, but is interspersed with quick guitar parts that erupt in surprising places. Shopping Bag seems to imitate what a person going mad might hear in their head as dissonant squeals compete with fast guitars and Blackburn's vocals hit falsetto heights. The following track, Emotions, returns once again to a 3/4 time signature, lazily spinning to guitar arpeggios until more fuzzed-out guitars clamour in - it's almost like Johnny Rotten crooning to an old standard. High Coins brings some of the militant rhythms found on Visitations back, but still keeps them at a more restrained level, more likely to hypnotize than to give you auditory vertigo. Mary & Eddie sounds like a Mediterranean song with subdued guitar and simple percussion, but whizzing sound effects and a trembling guitar that sounds like an accordion add more complexity. The final track, the appropriately titled Coda, begins with staccato organ, but as more instruments, including peals of bells, join in, and the spoken vocals begin, the song unwinds into a psychedelic cacophony.
So Do It! does end up being a good summer album with its sunnier sounds and lighter melodies, but it remains a signature Clinic album in its constant disruption of norms and moods, never complacent, never completely relaxed. While Gruff Rhys and Co frolick like puppies with benevolent vocals and spaced out happiness, Clinic always has an underlying current of strange darkness. They may lull you as you sway in a hammock. Only to come up behind you and tip you out of it.
The Witch (Made to Measure) - Clinic
Shopping Bag - Clinic
Emotions - Clinic
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and...Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #12
It's usually agreed that the transformation of Marc Bolan's band Tyrannosaurus Rex into T. Rex was the beginning of glam. Bolan left his psychedelic folk days and bongo player Steve Peregrine Took behind and started wearing glitter on his face on television. Thus, glam rock was born. David Bowie, who had been finding moderate success with his first few albums and who had also come from a folk background, watched and learned, and subsequently created the alien messiah, Ziggy Stardust, launching himself into the stratosphere. Once the art school band Roxy Music entered the fray, glam officially became a critical point in music history. While there wasn't necessarily a definite common sound between all these glam artists, there was a common aesthetic of outrageous fashion often extending to gender-bending androgyny. In many ways, especially in the more commercial bandwagon jumpers like Slade and Sweet, glam took the classic rock 'n roll of the 1950's and updated it with a shiny, glittery new look, while still remaining very masculine beneath the glamour. Of course artists like David Bowie and Roxy Music had a much larger impact on music innovation and continue to influence, and in many ways, they are the ones that legitimize the glam rock era. Roxy Music managed to incorporate the oboe into popular music, no small feat. Even T.Rex, who may not have been quite as innovative musically, created hugely memorable tunes, which continue to influence others - I think songs like Children of the Revolution, 20th Century Boy, and The Slider are brilliant. And T.Rex continues to be a popular choice for many film soundtracks.
Notably, Suzi Quatro was the only female artist to be included in the glam scene, showing how glam was still unfortunately very much a male-dominated scene; however, Quatro did get to bend gender back the opposite direction and provided her own androgynous look and style, often looking like Mick Ronson. My personal favourites are David Bowie, T.Rex, and Roxy Music (before the departure of Brian Eno), but I also love those who straddled garage, punk and glam simultaneously, including Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and New York Dolls. And while many seem to consider Jobriath to be a poor man's David Bowie, I appreciate his songs and his image, and in a brave move, rather than just flirting with homosexuality, he blatantly declared it. He continues to garner respect from artists ranging from Morrissey to Siouxsie to Gary Numan, and T.Rex's song Cosmic Dancer is supposedly a tribute to Jobriath. In the early '90's, Morrissey even wanted Jobriath to open for him on tour, unfortunately not realizing that Jobriath died in 1983.
While primarily a British phenomenon, glam rock did spread to the US in various ways, including Sparks, Suzi Quatro, Jobriath, and both Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, who were greatly influenced and produced by David Bowie. Glam eventually gave birth to many other movements, including the New Romantics, goth, glam hair-metal, and despite its seeming reaction against artificiality, punk (many of the kids who got into punk bands were glitter kids only a few years earlier). Any band who pushes gender boundaries and glams up their image, any band that is proudly preening and flaunting their own artificiality owes their existence to glam. The influence of glam can be traced through a variety of interesting places. For example, Johnny Marr admitted that The Smiths' Panic owes a debt to T.Rex's Metal Guru, possibly leading to Smiths fanatics Oasis stealing Bang a Gong wholesale for Cigarettes and Alcohol. Who knows, that's just my theory.
NOTE: This mix should be played at maximum volume.
Moonage Daydream - David Bowie
Metal Guru - T.Rex
Wigwam Bam - Sweet
Daytona Demon - Suzi Quatro
Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me - Slade
Trash - New York Dolls
TV Eye - Iggy Pop and the Stooges
School's Out - Alice Cooper
Baby's on Fire - Brian Eno
Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) - Cockney Rebel
This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us - Sparks
All the Young Dudes - Mott the Hoople
Beauty Queen - Roxy Music
Make Up - Lou Reed
I Love a Good Fight - Jobriath
Hot One - Shudder to Think
2HB - The Venus in Furs
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The Medium is the Music
Seth Mnookin’s article about Doug Morris, the CEO of Universal Music Group, reveals how the music industry’s major, and costly, mistake was its inability to understand the nature of digital media in relation to traditional analog media. This error extends to the music industry’s misunderstanding of the Internet as a medium as well. Mnookin demonstrates how not only did Morris err in failing to recognize the changes that digital music and peer-to-peer sharing would pose, but he also initially responded in a way that attempted to control a medium - through lawsuits against Yahoo, YouTube, and MySpace for using Universal music videos without paying for them, and through charging Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace for using the Universal back catalogue - that cannot be controlled by traditional means, and perhaps not at all. As Mnookin notes, “the more restrictions you put on your files, the more you encourage customers to turn to illegal services to get songs the way they want them.”
Mark Poster views the potential of the Internet and peer-to-peer music downloading as having two possibilities: “an Orwellian extension of governmental and corporate controls or a serious deepening of the democratization of culture” (193). In Mnookin’s article, it appears that Morris and Universal Music tends to favour the former more than the latter. Because Universal’s goal is to increase profit, and because its primary way of achieving this goal is through selling music, Morris ostensibly still sees peer-to-peer downloading of music as theft. Poster argues that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who also view MP3 sharing as theft, was making errors in their understanding of media differences: “In their suit of September 2003, the RIAA acted as if downloading music files is the same thing as taking a music CD from a retail store without paying for it. This claim of equivalence is a political move that ignores the specificity and differences of each media – CDs and digital files. When the CD is taken from the store, the store no longer has it; when the file is downloaded, the person sharing the file still has it” (189). Morris’s “blasting MP3 players as merely ‘repositories for stolen music’” makes the same assumption as the RIAA, an assumption which does not make sense in that digital objects like MP3s are copied, not actually stolen in the traditional sense of theft. This issue also complicates and evades traditional copyright law. Poster states: “Copyright law covered the medium in which inventions or acts of genius were embedded for reproduction” (197). However, now that the medium has changed from traditional ones like printing presses and CD manufacturers to the Internet and its attendant programs, the nature of how production and reproduction function has changed drastically.
In explaining these fundamental shifts, Poster writes: “Digital cultural objects do not fall under the laws of scarcity and the market because they require almost no cost to produce, copy, and distribute, and like ideas they do not diminish when they are given away” (195). In this way, digital cultural objects threaten the capitalist market and those, like Morris, who gain most from it. If music is no longer viewed as a commodity, but instead a public possession that does not require economic power to exist or be distributed, then corporations like Universal seem to be obsolete under this new system: “In short, digitization changes the nature of the producer and the consumer, blurring the boundary between them” (Poster 195-96), and “Digitization threatens the media corporations because one no longer requires great amounts of capital to produce, reproduce, modify, and distribute cultural objects” (198). Mnookin writes that Morris and Universal’s “current moves – DRM-free songs and the Total Music subscription service – aren’t about serving consumers, at least not principally. They’re aimed at taking on Steve Jobs and, specifically, limiting the power of iTunes,” meaning that it appears that Morris has still not completely understood the nature of the new media and how it is changing the capitalist market for cultural products.
Morris insists on continuing to think about competition within the traditional capitalist system, and his long-term competition is not other corporations, but those who understand the new media better than he does – the consumers themselves. Not only is there a serious threat to the cultural corporations of America, but there is a further political link in that, for the US, cultural objects are “second only to defense in export value” (208). If the national economy can no longer support itself through cultural exports like music, the entire country will be affected, and the government may be more likely to try to step in and control media sharing; however, as demonstrated by the control problems experienced by the music industry, there would be great difficulty policing the Internet for media sharing, especially under current laws. The global networked nature of the Internet also poses a dilemma because every country would have to adopt the same laws regarding media sharing, a daunting task, and it would not necessarily safeguard against constant innovation in technology finding ways around these laws.
The constant innovation in the sharing of digital music creates an interesting paradox in which the very foundations of the capitalist system are the cause of its problems. Despite Morris’s acquiescence with giving music away through Total Music, Mnookin points out: “The irony is that if he decides to base his plans around DRM, Morris will be missing the larger truth that has propelled his business for the past 30 years. Ultimately, it’s convenience and ease of use that drive new media formats.” Morris’s attitude demonstrates this paradox in that “If the music industry wins its case against Internet technology, capitalism loses its legitimacy as the bearer of progress” (Poster 190). With the advent of digital media and file sharing networks over the Internet, the progress narrative of capitalism is halted because the advances that appear to be in the processes change the nature of the product; in a McLuhan-like way, the medium becomes the message.
Furthermore, this aspect of the Digital Age has been overlooked by the music industry, and it ensures that process exceeds content in its importance and dominance. Neil Postman argues that “Because of what computers commonly do, they place an inordinate emphasis on the technical processes of communication and offer very little in the way of substance [...] The computer is almost all process” (118). By looking at the issue of digital music sharing in this light, it seems that the computer and the Internet value speed and reach of communication over what is actually being communicated between users; this is not to say that people do not care about the music they listen to, but that they feel entitled to it because of the very process and medium that makes it available to them.
In Mnookin’s article, Rio Caraeff, executive VP of Universal’s digital strategy, says “the company will eventually need to transition from running a product-based business to running a service-based one,” including ringtones, subscription services, and deals with mobile providers. This shift in strategy shows how the attempted control over the products, which are arguably the content of the medium, has been shifted to control over the form of the medium; in effect, Universal realizes that music and many other cultural products are no longer physical, tangible commodities, and their existence is both fluid and public. This issue also raises the question of what happens when something becomes part of the public domain, and with the Internet, what is actually public? As Poster demonstrates with his discussion of internet identity theft, everything tends to become externalized through the medium of the Internet, radically changing the perceptions of privacy and the public domain.
Besides the loss of profit for the corporation, the music industry’s main argument against peer-to-peer file sharing is that it is also violating artists’ royalty benefits. Poster gives three reasons to refute this argument: it is not necessarily true that artists receive compensation for the reproduction of their work, file sharing does not mean the sale of commodities, and the artists themselves have “borrowed” from others in the creation of their art (201-02). He also argues that most of the royalty money an artist earns is taken by production costs, and that distribution of an artists’ music has not been a fair process before file-sharing in that radio stations and DJs were often bribed to play certain artists on heavy rotation (205). The “unfairness” of file-sharing is unfair to the industry only because it negatively affects the industry itself and has nothing to do with popularity being an indication of music’s status as an art form.
The recent tactic employed by Radiohead in allowing their fans to choose the monetary value of their latest album poses an interesting alternative to current music download practices and raises particular issues about the capitalist market and the value of cultural objects. Since Radiohead was no longer attached to a contract with a major label when they released their latest album, they chose to release their album as a download and those who wanted it could pay any amount they deemed worthy of the album, including paying nothing. The average price chosen by those who purchased the album turned out to be £5 (approximately $10 US), which perhaps places the album at a slightly lower price than it would have sold at conventionally; however, considering the record company was not involved, thus not making money from it, the band likely made more profit per album than by selling it through a major label, which would have taken a higher percentage of each total, thus increasing the price presented to consumers. Also, there may have been a higher percentage of people who paid a considerably lesser price than the average, but would have illegally downloaded it for free elsewhere otherwise. A tactic like this may not have worked as successfully without a high-profile band with an established, strong fanbase, but it does change the way in which people think about music and other cultural products. By allowing consumers to assign their own worth to a cultural product, Radiohead relinquished the control that Morris and Universal refuse to.
There also many bands with profiles on MySpace, who are either unsigned or are signed to a truly independent label or distributer rather than an “independent” branch of a major label. In these bands’ cases, they remove the middleman of a major label and sell their music directly to their fans. Because music production technology has also become more available and relatively cost-efficient to use, many artists no longer need a major label to pay for studio time or producers. The role of major labels as having promotional clout is also waning with the amount of buzz being generated by either the artists themselves or independent music bloggers. Most recently, an independent act named IAMX (www.iamx.co.uk), which is based in Europe, managed to tour successfully throughout North America without any promotion outside of their Internet networks and “street teams” composed of fans. In effect, they have cut out the need for a major label for production, distribution, and promotion. While Morris and Universal have chosen to attempt “an Orwellian extension of governmental and corporate controls,” artists as diverse as IAMX and Radiohead are embracing “a serious deepening of the democratization of culture.” The difference lies in the recognition and understanding of the new media and its inevitable effect on capitalism and culture.
Nude - Radiohead
House of Cards - Radiohead
We're in the Music Biz - Robots in Disguise
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Lead-off track Century, which the band also made available for a free download, begins with a sound akin to an old computer monitor turning on, and then Kate Jackson's vocals kick in, sounding like Debbie Harry. The track moves on in a predictable fashion like a sub-par Blondie track. The following song Guilt has a shuffling guitar part reminiscent of a bad soundtrack to a tropical holiday - Club Tropicana anyone? Then comes Here Comes the Serious Bit, a rather shouty, dance-punk track, which somehow also conjures up visions of 80's girl groups without making me feel nostalgic for any of it. Round the Hairpin is a droning affair with nearly monotonous vocals from Jackson in which I prefer listening to the instrumental interlude over her actually singing on it - without her voice, I can pretend it's a post-punk track. Erin O'Connor is a bland electro-disco track that somehow manages to be completely unmemorable. Erin O'Connor is followed by Nostalgia, a plodder that starts out sounding like a slowed down version of Tainted Love, but then drags along to a repetitive piano line. My favourite track is the last one on the album: I'm Going to Hell. I think it's my favourite because it is most in line both musically and lyrically with the style of Someone to Drive You Home. It's a bit sad when you would rather have a band stay where they are and refrain from experimentation than grow and change.
At the end of the track I Liked the Boys, a newscaster voice comes on and states "not the most original sentiment I ever heard, so what's new?" Sadly, nothing worth mentioning from The Long Blondes.
Century - The Long Blondes
Round the Hairpin - The Long Blondes
I'm Going to Hell - The Long Blondes
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and...Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #11
I fully intend to go to the Stay Beautiful club night in Camden, London one day. Rather than an elitist club full of people that have to know the latest cutting-edge music of some obscure genre, Stay Beautiful plays music for fun and for the benefit of anyone who comes - a mixture of sleazy glam, new wave, punk, electro, and alternative anthems - and the people who go get dressed up as outrageously as they can, a 21st century-take on the patrons of Blitz. Of all clubs and club nights, it would probably be one of the most perfect ones for someone like me (ie: someone whose music tastes don't match one particular subculture and someone who enjoys the fun in glamming up). I managed to miss it three times the last time I was over in the UK - because it only runs on the first Saturday of every month, it never fell within the parameters of my trip plans. I'm going to call this mix How to Survive in the Nightlife.
I'm not going to include a zip file of the mixes anymore because it seems I often don't have enough time to get them up on time, and I don't think there are too many people who will miss them. If anyone has any objections, let me know.
24 Hour Party People (Jon Carter Mix) - Happy Mondays
Nightlife - IAMX
The Girls - Calvin Harris
Night on Fire - VHS or Beta
Fancy Footwork - Chromeo
It's the Beat - Simian Mobile Disco
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger - Daft Punk
Pleasure From the Bass - Tiga
Love + Pain - Clor
Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip
I Wanna Be Your Slave - The Knock
Wake Up - The Sunshine Underground
I Need Your Love - The Rapture
Swastika Eyes - Primal Scream
Movement - LCD Soundsystem
Mandarine Girl - Booka Shade
Alala - CSS
Ooh La La - Goldfrapp
Tombstone - Midnight Juggernauts
Life After Sundown - Glass Candy
Friday, April 4, 2008
Sick - Sneaker Pimps
My Iron Lung - Radiohead
Sleep Deprivation - Simian Mobile Disco
Can't Get Out of Bed - Charlatans
Death At One's Elbow - The Smiths