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Friday, August 13, 2004

Edward O vs The Mp3 Promotion Revolution
(NOTE: Due to recent developments, this post has been retrospectively censored to protect the identities of those involved to stop it coming up in search engines for the label involved)

Right. This will be a rare non-musical post. More a rant. There is another, shorter, MP3-containing post below this one that you might be in danger of not seeing if you are put off by this long one posted immediately after it.

Last month, The Mae Shi did something quite audacious and interesting. They basically bulk-mailed a whole lot of bloggers and plugged their album. They even sent me a copy of their noise-pop optus (My verdict: In places, it's actually quite good for that type of thing, which is admittedly not really my bag). Quite lovely of them really, and it's been interesting to see the coverage they've been getting for a record that otherwise would have flown under a lot of people's radar.

I had thought this would be a one-off, but lately I've been getting emails from people at small independent labels. They're interesting, but since I don't really write about the sort of music that gets plugged, I'd rather it remains an occasional note of interest rather than a regular occurrence.

Perhaps I overstepped the mark when it came to this one though:

Hi My name Is ***** ***** and I help run F****** Records out of **********, ******. F******* Records is a small, independent record label interested in promoting genre-defying songwriting such as taut post-punk, woozy folk, and damaged pop from the bedroom, basement and beyond. I've heard a lot of good things about your site, and I wanted to ask whether you could put up some links to some of our free mp3 downloads on your site. I think what you're doing is exactly what indie rock needs. Anyways, here are the links:

(LINKS removed - if you do want to see the links, drop a comment and I'll post them)

Thanks a lot and I'll continue to stay in touch with your site--


oh, and if you're interested, we could surely give you more information about the above artists and their releases....all of it is available at ***********.com. Thanks

I suppose I was in a cranky mood at the time, but there was something about this email that really rubbed me the wrong way. I sort of resented the fact that my email address was clearly on some kind of list, and that this person had the temerity to send out a bulk email to all these people BUT felt the need to put sort of personal comments in. "I'll continue to stay in touch with your site" indeed. I mean, what the fuck? This guy's never even read me before, doesn't know who I am at all, and I got a little pissed off at receiving an email claiming the opposite. I don't hate all indie rock, but there are plenty of other people writing about it, I like to think that I share this pop-blog niche with a smaller but just as passionate group of people.

So, yes, I was in a bad mood, so I decided to respond. Possibly I was being a fuckhead, but anyway, I wrote this:


I have no idea where you got my address from - some list of bloggers going around independent labels perhaps? - because nobody who knows anything about me or my site would seriously consider sending me stuff to do with "taut post-punk, woozy folk, and damaged pop from the bedroom, basement and beyond" because I don't write about that stuff and have no intention of starting. I also don't really like indie rock very much.

While I wish you and your label the best with your latest marketing
endeavour, I would prefer if you left my address out of it in the
future. Further, I suggest that a more personalised approach might
yield better results than sending the same email to everyone.

Edward O.

Yeah, I'm an arsehole, but the point still stands. We bloggers are not a uniform mass. We are individuals and have vastly different opinions. If you think our opinion (and our LINKS!) is worthwhile, then the least courtesy that could be expected is that you address them personally. I write about stuff that I come across, not stuff that's just been sent to everyone because selection and scope differentiate bloggers just as much as writing style and taste. This guy hasn't engaged with me, he doesn't care about my opinion as an individual, only as part of some perceived collective.

I've got my niche and I've got my small but lovely group of readers who come here for the stuff I've chosen to restrict myself to. And if I want to keep doing that, it's my prerogative.

Am I wrong? Am I so unkind? Clearly. Here was the response. I know posting it is shallow but since I'm obviously some kind of major label shill I'm allowed to be, y'now?

Fuck you, dude. I got your address from your site. How the hell else are we to explain what we're doing at F******? That's just our jingle...if you don't like, then why not donate some money to our feeble marketing staff....wait, we dont have one. So we're trying our best. And why don't you listen to the tracks first, huh? They shoudl speak for themselves. Anyways, Im glad you got your rocks off writing me that stupid email. It'd be one thing if I worked for Sony or EMI, but I dont. Thanks for not helping--

The insulting implication is that because he's on a small independent label that his practice is more ethical than if he had been at Sony or EMI. For what it's worth, I'd be just as happy to tell Sony or EMI to go fuck themselves if they were bulk emailing with a pointless charade of personal communication.

If what ***** is doing here is so fine, WHY THE NEED TO PRETEND that he cares for individual opinions, reference in the second person singular and all. He's just after links and hits from the blogging community - which I think is fine, but the pretense annoyed me.

Anyway, the reason I posted this is not to poke fun at poor Brian, doing a largely thankless task to promote music he believes in (we can all relate to that, can't we?), doubtlessly people like him are vital - but I'd like some kind of feedback. Am I unreasonable? Is it awful for me to say I want OUT of this nascent revolution? Did I overstep the mark? Do people on here WANT me to cover this sort of thing? Anything.

As a postscript, I note that as per the first email, I actually AM doing exactly what indie rock needs by not writing about it. The last thing indie rock needs is me spitting out poorly-written verbiage about the stuff.
# 2:19 PM []
I feel a teensy bit deflated after that Girls Aloud post, you know. But since every man and his musical stoat is trying to get it off me on Soulseek, here is Mania - Money In My Pocket. Loving it more and more with every listen.
# 1:52 PM []

Thursday, August 12, 2004

GIRLS ALOUD - Love Machine
And all that I knew... the hole in my shoe was letting in water. This must be the first crack in my poptimist facade because despite the fact that this is GIRLS ALOUD, who put out one of the finest pop cum dance albums ever as their debut and who, by any reasonable yardstick, several of the most astonishingly weird but nonetheless zeitgeist-consistent singles ever, it sounds like a ball drop.

The charming portmanteau structure of The Show was a banker - two different choruses and only one verse - but while a similar trick is employed here - the second verse is clearly not the same melody as the first - I don't get it. I really suspect I'm slagging it off just so I can be revealed to be completely wrong a few months down the track (though I would prefer HOURS), but no, I've got some conviction behind this. Poptimism isn't, as a lot of people, both cheekily and ignorantly assume, an inherent chart-loving, agit-popaganda. I can giggle a bit at the arch, nearly wholesale borrowing of the hook from Hole In My Shoe for the first verse, and appreciate the swinging 60s girl group moments in the second verse and the brief section at the end shows it's not incompetent (indeed, the strut is fantastic and GA themselves hit the appropriate pop buttons) but misdirected - the chorus sounds like a hookless mess - oh they go up at the end of each line, how very. I don't normally disagree with Popjustice, who said "give it a few listens", but this reveals its treasures quickly, it doesn't wrong-foot you like the amazing No Good Advice did by metamorphosing into something else during the course of its four minutes while still being recognisably the same song. The genre hopping of Girls Aloud is a credit to their producers and the rollicking guitary sound of this is definitely suited to their vocals and their bowerbird aesthetic. This just doesn't sound like the strongest song that could have been applied to the doubtlessly focus-grouped template that was chosen. Love Xenomania as I do, I don't think for a moment that Higgins and Co. are above such machinations.

So why isn't it doing it for me? I've spent probably three hours of my life listening to it - Girls Aloud singles are EVENTS to the poptimists on par with all of your Pitchfork-covered indie zeroes - and things aren't falling into place or making sense. The Girls Aloud brand is resilient enough to survive this, but it's only a comparatively weak brace of singles in its release that'll see this keeping their run of Top 3s going, if indeed it does.

Is not the fact that this is their second single in a row to mention attire prominently in its lyrics a giveaway? The yielding of sass to sex is ominous and deeply upsetting.
# 1:49 PM []

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Another run-through of new and sort of new singles I have been listening to....
Mania - Money In My Pocket
It's probably worth noting that if the flip-of-the-flop If You Need A Good Girl had been Mania's first A-side, they would probably have done quite a bit better than Number 29. I have a feeling this second single isn't hugely likely to change their fortunes, although on first listens it packs more of a punch than Looking For A Place and, having as it does a kind of sassy chantalong chorus is probably more in keeping with the idea of what a Xenomania-associated group called Mania are supposed to do with. The best bit is the quick-step of the prechorus, the fluttering melody of the chorus is almost an afterthought, really, though the little string flourishes following it are kind of neat.

Whigfield - Was A Time
She's back! With her best single since Gimme Gimme too! That acoustic guitar and that beat - it's utterly infectious, the lot of it. The melody stops only for Whiggy to do a slightly sinister (by her standards, remember that it's Whigfield we're talking about here) spoken word bit, and when the second chorus comes, it's lighter and higher. Actually, it's a good deal more sophisticated than anything she's ever done - you certainly couldn't make the claim that the first 30 seconds is the same as the rest of the song as an uncharitable person could have claimed about Saturday Night or Sexy Eyes. The galloping rhythm reminds me of Farolfi's Subtravel a bit too. [MP3]

Vanessa Carlton - White Houses
Well this isn't the GOTH POP EXTRAVAGANZA Vanessa apparently was threatening to put out, is it? Vanessa has a way with a tune, but just because her first album being a sequence of diminishing returns after the stunning A Thousand Miles, doesn't mean the right thing to do was confine the song's attention grabbing bit to three syllables in what passes for the first chorus - blink and you'll miss it - while miring the verses in fluttering but aimless melodic lines.

The first time, it's just frustrating. When it's expanded the second time, the song momentarily soars and almost becomes perfect and beautiful, but the slower duller bits take up the majority of the running time which makes it incredibly annoying - does she really think this is the way to go, obfuscating her natural gifts for immediate hooks in an attempt to seem deeper? Or is she just unaware. Either way this isn't the right direction at all, Vanessa. It sounds unfinished and unpolished, even unconsciously self-sabotaged.

Annie - Chewing Gum
Seemingly it's been around for a while, it's relatively gettable as an MP3 now. For a song called Chewing Gum, it's appropriate that it's got a stretchy, bouncy elastic groove, but the real reason to learn to love this is Annie's bored cheerleader delivery in the verses - "I'm gonna tell you how it's done!", the helium (in weight, not pitch, people) chorus and the way she manages to extend the already rather extended metaphor all the way into a middle-eight on charisma alone.

Delgados - Everybody Come Down
Personal reasons, you know, I'm not turning indie, I promise. When the D's last album, Hate, came out, I was really unhappy and things weren't going right. I bought Hate and things started getting better. And now, just as their new album is about to come out, I've had two remarkably lucky things happen within an hour of it leaking. Coincidence? Yes? Oh well. What I really love about this is while as far as the songwriting goes this song isn't a progression, the arrangements and productions sound cognizant of a lot of broader trends in chart pop over the last two years rather than aspiring to lush instrumentation and grandeur (although it must be said that that approach certainly was a banker for Belle and Sebastian). This is a sing-a-long, no doubt, each melody being easily remembered and reproduced by the time it pops up for the second time when you listen to it, and that's the mark of a good pop song. Moreover, the way the final part of the song sounds like a second chorus a la Max Martin, accompanied by some descending (appropriately) backing vocals going "down down down", and Emma Pollock delivers the hooks perfectly. I would put an Mp3 up, but these guys are too speical and I think everyone should buy it, particularly if you're in the UK so they can get in the top 40 just once. Please?

Incidentally, my FTP server is being a bastard at the moment and won't let me delete files, so I wasn't able to delete the last one to expire, even though I've since uploaded another - as such, downloading may be unpredictable. Hopefully nobody will notice and the problem will go away by itself.
# 1:41 AM []

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Darren's new album - which sounds like it's been influenced by Mirwais, early Depeche Mode and Tears For Fears - is his Ray Of Light, and this opener is his Nothing Really Matters - if NRM were a standout track, that is.

Thematically, it's the first appearance of a recurring theme the album has of hating oneself, or at least parts of it - "The monster you are running from is the monster in you" may be delivered to a second person, but a listen to the context of the whole album suggests it's at least an abstract if not self-directed statement.

A gloomy synth motif underpins the song, sounding woozy and out-of-place mixed with another synth bit which is a bit bouncier. The lyrics fit the former, and the first three minutes, which are completely ignorant of ideas like choruses and verses, have a sublime payoff when Darren sings "It's better to hold onto love - change will come" over a pensive but optimistic spacey keyboard passage and then the song reverts back to what it sounded like immediately - downbeat and muddled and everything. Everything's as hopeless as it was and nothing has changed - Darren continuing to sing about being "covered in darkness" but there's never any suggestion of something having fundamentally altered him - it's all a bit nihilistic - nothing really matters, not even love for these five minutes. And who knew Darren did downcast and bruised so well? Even the big Savage Garden hit along these lines - To The Moon and Back - put the doubt in a third person story.

The fading close with just the spacey washes is a classic end-of-album trick, and one could be forgiven for thinking its appearance after track 1 means "Well, no more of that gloom then!" but there is plenty more where that came from and not a note of redemption resolution is to be heard. [MP3]
# 6:01 AM []
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