Thursday, 28 April 2011

28th April 2011: H:B:19: How Nirvana Made Some Bands But Broke Others

Todays album was picked at random by Craig Wijckaans who you can follow on Twitter here

Craig picked the combination H:B:19 which lead me to this album.

Weezer - Weezer (Blue Album)

Major label record companies are generally idiots.

I am sure you don't need me to tell you that and you are perhaps wondering what area of idiocy I am pinpointing too exactly when it comes to Weezer's début album. The list is surely long and endless. To explain my point we need to go way back to late 1991 / early 1992. This is when Nirvana's Nevermind was released and changed the face of music for some years to come.

The release of Nevermind was a rather small affair with rather modest aspirations from both DGC Records (Geffen) and the band itself. But off the back of the success of Smells Like Teen Sprit, Nirvana found themselves knocking Michael Jackson's 'Dangerous' album off the number 1 spot in America. Alternative rock music was suddenly in the mainstream.

As soon as the major labels cottoned on, every A&R man in the country was dispatched with the instructions "find another one of those and make us some money"

Similar groups were signed at an alarming rate and many fell by the wayside. A feature on these bands in Punk Planet magazine sometime in 2000 still resonates in my mind, as bands, relationships and financial security were all destroyed by this short sighted scramble for the 'next Nirvana'

One such band was an American outfit from Berkeley, California (a hotbed of brilliant punk and rock bands of the 1990's) called Samiam. By 1994 they had already released three albums through independent label New Red Archives before Atlantic Records came knocking.

The relationship between the two bands didn't last long. Atlantic were expecting immediate success for very little financial outlay and, if memory serves me right, were trying to get involved on an artistic level, in the music being produced by the band at the time. One album later (Clumsy) and the deal was off.

Oddly if you listen to Samiam's 1997 follow up album 'You Are Freaking Me Out'  released on another major label, you will notice a passing resemblance to Foo Fighters, who were also achieving huge success at this time. Again it could be right to assume outside influences were involved.

Music history of the time is littered with these stories and there were a lot of bands who never recovered and some who were left with record company bills at the end of it.

What have Weezer got to do with this I hear you ask? Well they were one of the few success stories of the era.

Despite hailing from California, Weezer found success thanks to signing with Geffen, who had already successfully sold Nirvana to the masses. They were the pros at this and initially decided not to release a single to try and succeed initially through word of mouth alone.

The tactic was a master stroke. Firstly the reduced overheads must have created less pressure on the band to gain an instant hit and second it made the very influential Seattle DJs interested enough to check Weezer out.

Two Spike Jonze directed videos later - which were both massive hits to the new MTV generation - and Geffen had another platinum seller on their hands.

Weezer were one of the ones that made it, but sadly I find they often make me think of the bands who fell by the wayside on their way up.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Audiophiles - Fake Four

A bit of a different Audiophile post today as it is not about any particular artist, but is actually about a record label I per-chanced upon a week or so ago.

This actually came about through the Choose My Music Facebook page where it was suggested I check out the Connecticut based label Fake Four....I have been obsessed with their output ever since.

Fake Four was founded in May 2008 by brothers David and Ceschi Ramos. The label loves an strives to release full length albums in physical formats, although digital downloads are also available.

The majority of artists I am going to cover here would generally be classed as Hip Hop but that is down to my own laziness as opposed to anything else, the music here crosses so many boundaries it is very hard to pigeon hole.

Onry Ozzborn

Label Link PageHere
Spotify LinkHere

The Fake Four track I heard was 'The O.O' by Onry Ozzborn (Seattle) and it was the perfect track to get me hooked. The track is perfect old school sample based hip hop with an intelligent lyricist who is clearly not willing to join the mainstream with the usual rap clichés.

The strength of 'The O.O' lead me straight to Spotify to listen to the full length album 'Hold On For Dear Life' which is now on my shopping list and well worth checking out.


Label Link PageHere
Spotify LinkHere

Next up we have label founder Ceschi, who describes his music as Indie Folk Hip Hop, and who I am to argue with that.
As soon as I mentioned Fake Four I was very quickly informed by a wonderful music lover know as Geoff Owen, to check Ceschi out - and thanks to a free label sampler his track 'Bad Jokes' has been playing on my stereo every since.
The fact that my partner Anna took an interest in this track, despite her general dislike of anything remotely hip hop means that this is clearly an artist I need to investigate more.

Myka 9

Label PageHere
Spotify Link: Not Available

Next up we have Myka 9 - who has already provided me with a track which will forever remind me of the glorious weather we have been having here this Easter. One thing I always look for in a hip hop artist is an interesting delivery style, and Myka 9 certinly has that. It actually reminds me a little of Busdriver, which is no bad thing at all.
I have been advised that Myka 9 was also part of a collective called Freestyle Fellowship, who have now been added to my 'listen too' list.

There are so many artists I could cover in this post, but I would be here all night.

Through my Fake Four journey I have discovered a brilliant array or artists, many of whom I will no doubt cover in more detail as I get round to purchasing albums.

In the meantime I would really urge you download the free Fake Four label samplers from the Circle into Square website.

Fake Four Album Sampler Vol 1
Fake Four Album Sampler Vol 2

Fake Four has also produced a benefit EP for Japan - please support it here It is only $8.00 (approx £5)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

19th April 2011. C:B:22

I have been thinking about music A LOT lately. This is perhaps due to the fact that not only am I volunteering on a very small, very local hospital radio station, but also because in light of the new job I should be starting soon, I will eventually be responsible for managing a record label and radio station of my own.

Oddly the Choose My Music selection this week has also given me some additional food for thought. But lets start from the beginning.

This weeks Choose My Music was picked by Charlie Greenwood (or @LottieDean on Twitter). The fact that she decided to choose my music and thus appear on this blog is, I am told, rather ironic considering she spent most of yesterday morning lamenting about pointless blogs. If there is a blog as pointless as this I would love to read it.

Anyway, Charlie kindly picked the random combination of C:B:22 - which lead me to.....

Fugazi - Steady Diet of Nothing

I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive when my finger counted across to CD number 22. It was a beautiful early spring morning and I was about to take a short drive to Derby - secretly I was hoping for something a little more 'summery', but thems are the breaks when you insist that your music habits will be dictated at random by strangers....but to be fair, once I got going down the A38 I am rather quite pleased and saw fit to crank up the volume.

I was a late comer to Fugazi, which is no surprise as I was 8 years old when they formed. I knew of their existence during my latter school days, mainly thanks to a brilliant drummer by the name of Kalvin (a few years later in 1999, we did eventually start a band which was very good - I still miss them to this day) . But it wasn't until perhaps my early 20's when I really started to take notice.

Looking at the CD cover, inlay and sleeve notes (as is my love - hence why digital downloads are a struggle for me) I registered that the album was recorded in 1991,which got me thinking. If I had heard this album at 11 or 12 years old, as I would have been at the time, would I have liked it?

I am guessing the answer is likely to be NO for many reasons. First, I wouldn't have "got it" as it were. Social / Political punk was not really my thing at that age and to be honest, I have no idea how I would have even heard anything from this album in the early 90's - I can't imagine Simon Mayo cranking out Dear Justice Letter on his Monday morning breakfast show.

As much as I love the body of work produced by Fugazi, I am rather grateful that I didn't hear them until later in my life as I feel many of us music obsessives will reach a point where we stop just liking music and move on to actual appreciation. Not solely enjoying a song because it is there, but listening to the intricate details, the clever rhythm changes, a self serving bass line which doesn't just hit root notes, instruments being dropped in when you least expect them and so on.

As sad as you may think it is, I love listening to music and letting my brain pick out the individual parts which make up the whole and just appreciating the entire ensemble - this explains why The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' album is my all time favourite and perhaps why people who do not listen to music in this way do not see it as anything special. I enjoy listening to Fugazi in this way to.

I suppose I should point out for fear of pompousness, that I know I am not the only one who does this...heck, producers get paid by the bucket load for a similar, but even more proficient, listening style.

Speaking of producers. Looking at the history of this album, Fugazi wanted to employ the producer of their first album (Ted Nicely) to work on this release with them. Oddly, Nicely has gone from producing awesome records to being a Chef  so the band landed up doing it themselves.

To be fair, there isn't too much to say about this album. You ether love Fugazi or your don't. They have a very set sound, a very distinguishable style. I sometimes find it hard to distinguish from one album to the other. I suppose if this is a band someone would want to get into then I would suggest starting at the beginning with 'Repeater' or at the end with 'The Argument' and work your way back.

Prior to writing this post, I rightly assumed it would be difficult to find some tracks off this album to post here. So I am sticking on whatever I can find.

Fugazi - Waiting Room - Fugazi by SoundKreep
Fugazi - Merchandise by Rudimentor

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Audiophiles - Egyptian Hip Hop

Following on from my discovery of Pokey LaFarge a few weeks ago I thought I should share with you another band I stumbled across towards the back end of 2010.

Egyptian Hip Hop

Album: Some Reptiles Grew Wings (EP)
Released: 2010
Discovered At: Spotify
Twitter: @egypitianhiphop
MySpace: Egypitian Hip Hop

This four piece from Manchester have no connection with Egypt nor do they play Hip Hop - but the name was enough to intrigue me when it popped up on my Spotify list. Needless to say it wasn'tt quite what I expected.

The band was formed in 2008 and through playing some small shows across Manchester they started to attract attention from the mainstream music press, especially the music maligned (by me) NME, who gave away a demo version of the track Rad Pitt on a free MP3 mixtape.
I must admit my knowledge of the band is limited to the above facts and releases by the band are a little thin of the ground. So far there has been one single and an EP (which appears to be only available digitally). As yet, as far as I can tell, there is no news about an album. The most recent interview I have found suggested they have not even considered signing a record deal as they completed their college studies.

I'm not sure which out of the usual made up genres of indie music this group would come under. They certainly have an 80's electronic sound and the singer's voice at times is not too dissimilar to Robert Smith.

The available 4 track EP has some really great songs, 2 of which would make any Radio One playlist - which will no doubt mean at some stage I will go off them as the inevitable press coo-ing commences. But for now I am enjoying them for what they are - a good band that write some truly catchy songs

Monday, 11 April 2011

10th April 2011 G:B:16

Back to usual business after setting up my Audiophiles page and participating in the brilliant Masterpieces website. I figured after a couple of weeks break it was time to get back on with Choose My Music.

As always please try and share this site when are where you can. Thanks to you guys this site continues to grow and I have got in contact with some great musical obsessive types. I'd like to keep that going. So if you would be kind enough to let people know about this site then I would be most grateful.

So Choose My Music today was selected by Jeanette Leech who, amongst other things, is a published author with the book 'Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid & Psychedelic Folk'. You can follow her on twitter here

Jeanette chose the combination G:B:14 which lead me to...

The Stranglers - The Collection

Ahhh the last day of school. What a happy time, spending the last few hours with the people you have hung out with for the last 5 years. Taking the opportunity to say thanks to the Teachers who have helped you develop and grow.

Not for me.....

On the last day of school I found myself sitting in the same room as my good friend Jamie Baker.

"Have you heard who's in Birmingham at lunchtime?" he asked me. "The Stranglers are doing an in-store at HMV. Want to go?"
Birmingham was about a 40 minute direct train ride and we figured that we could hang out at school and walk out just after morning break and be there in plenty of time. And this is exactly what we did. 

It was a rather odd decision to take to be honest. I was never really a Stranglers fan. They were always lumped in with Punk music but never quite fit into what my own personal definition of punk was. To be honest, that hasn't really changed over the years.

Of course The Stranglers we met was not the original line up with Paul Roberts replacing Hugh Cornwell on vocals and I think it was fair to say that the 1990's were not a kind period for the band.

I remember distinctly Jamie and I spent the ensuing train journey home sniggering about how fat 'Jet Black' was and why a man of his age would still be signing autographs using his pseudonym - oddly it is still a topic of discussion whenever we speak 18 years later.

This is a rather unusual collection released by EMI in 1997. It contains music from 1978 through to 1982 so it misses Peaches and Something Better Change while Nice N Sleazy is a notable omission which fits into the time period. For reason I cannot understand the sleeve notes for the CD spends more time talking about the songs that are missing from this hodge podge collection as opposed to the ones that made it on to the album. 

You may be asking yourself why I even own this album. Well the truth is that my Dad turned up with it at my house sometime in 2001. I didn't ask for it and I don't think I have ever even discussed The Stranglers with him - he just said he bought it for me. It has rarely been played since.

I guess the one redeeming feature is that the album does contain the rather excellent cover of 'Walk On By' - but considering that track is first, the rest of the CD is a bit of a hard slog.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Masterpieces - My Seletions - Day 4 & 5

Following on from my previous article (here) this is part two of my Masterpieces selections.

DAY 4 - Pela - Anytown Graffiti

As far as I am aware Pela was my first internet music discovery which was made through a slightly dodgy Pandora account (thanks to the use of a made up US zip code). At the time this album had not even been recorded.

I am never quite sure how to describe Pela. I guess if you imagined what would happen if Doves were from New York and U2 didn't go up their own arses then you might be about there.

Again this is a an album which has literally lived in my car since I bought it and I everyone I have ever played it too has appeared to enjoy it - so it had to be included.

Sadly, for various reasons a 2nd album was never recorded and the band parted ways but like all good stories it does have a happy ending. Billy (vocals) and Eric (Bass / multi instrumentalist) have since commenced on a new band called We Are Augustines (link here) and to say they are absolutely fantastic is understatement of the year. I have had the great pleasure of seeing them live twice this year during a brief tour of the UK and they will be back here in June so keep your eyes and ears open for them.

There are no Pela tracks available on Mflow - so I hope they don't mind me putting some music on Soundcloud to share the wonderfulness of this hugely underrated release.
03 Drop Me Off by dominikrpaczko
04 The Trouble with River Cities by dominikrpaczko

DAY 5 - Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030

When I commented that this is the collaboration which kick started Gorrilaz, I was informed that this album has a lot to answer for.
To be fair, I understand this is where Damon Albarn made links to people who would eventually be part of Gorrilaz - such as Del The Funkee Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator. That is as far as any comparisons go
 I first heard this CD while I was working in Tower Records in Birmingham and at the time I was quite a big Kid Koala fan (who also appears, along with Albarn and Sean Lennon among others) so it was quite an easy purchase to make.
 Essentially this is a concept album based in the year 3030 and it follows Deltron Zero (Del the Funkee Homosapien) fight against the huge corporations who have taken over the universe.
This is perhaps one of my favourite hip hop albums ever made, which I know is a big claim - but it clearly is hugely underrated and one that always requires being listened to from start to finish.

All thee main artists involved in this album have, over the past 3 or 4 years, indicated that a follow up album is due (entitled Deltron: Event II). This is going to be a hugely anticipated release for me.

And that concludes my Masterpiece sections. Comments are of course most welcome, and please share this where you can.

If you would like to get involved and choose your 5 albums then please visit the Masterpieces site here

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Masterpieces - My Selections - Day 1 - 3

I know technically this site would be breaking the trade descriptions act -I haven't actually done a Choose My Music for a week or so now.

I have though raved about Pokey LaFarge and discussed how my record buying has changed over the years. Essentially there is so much I need to get out Music wise it would seem that this site is going to develop into something a little bit more varied - whether this is a good thing or not is down for you to decide I guess.

So a few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a project called Masterpieces. (link here)

The premise is easy enough. Pick 5 albums (1 a day Monday to Friday) which you feel can be listened to from start to finish without skipping any tracks. The only rule is that you cannot choose anything that has been picked before.

I made my selections two weeks ago but felt I should share them and explain why I chose each one.

DAY 1 - Television - Marquee Moon

I became interested in Television and this album especially after reading an article proclaiming the the Sex Pistols 'Never Mind The Bollocks' ruined this album.

Both were released in 1977 and both were début albums, yet they couldn't be more different. Where Rotten, Vicious et al went for the all out rawkus 3 minute blasts, Television took a slightly more composed route creating what could only be described as guitar masterpieces. The title track of this album clocks in at 10 minutes 40 seconds - that's nearly the entire first 4 tracks of Never Mind The Bollocks.

This really is a album that needs to be listened to fully to be appreciated and it would have been much much bigger if the Pistols explosion hadn't of happened which changed the face of music and diverted attention away from this much underrated band.

DAY 2 - Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth

I am really struggling to remember how I first heard Minneapolis based rapper Brother Ali - I remember the song and know that I was at home but for some reason quite peg it down. Wherever it was I was instantly hooked.

Firstly I am a sucker for good political commentary in hip hop and as soon as I heard Uncle Sam Goddamn I knew I had made a significant hip hop discovery and one that would stay with me for a very long time.

There are a lot of things that stood out when I really started to look into Brother Ali's music. First he is a devout Musilm and second he was born with albinism. These traits do make Ali stand out but it is unfair to point to any of these issues when discussing his music.

Ultimately what you have is a very talented rapper who clearly knows how to write intelligent lyrics and deliver them with skill. He can write politcal and social commentary as demonstrated on 'Truth Is" or the previously mentioned 'Uncle Sam Goddam' while also dishing out the rather heartbreaking 'Walking Away' on the same album.

This album got me back in to hip hop after a short hiatus and it is still, after 4 years, an ever present in my car.

DAY 3 - The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

The first thing I looked at when I was asked to decide on my 5 albums was whether Pet Sounds had already been picked. To my surprise it wasn't.

I didn't get into the Beach Boys until I was at least 21. It was through a friend by the name of Dan Keeble, who I worked with at Andy's Records in Ipswich.

He once told me his theory about Pet Sounds. He believed that it has the power to answer any question or quandary you could possibly have and I will admit, it has come to my rescue many a time.

The unusual thing I have found about this album is that it only appears to work when listened in its entirety. I have often found, when having one of those mp3 player shuffle moments that when an individual Pet Sounds track comes on I feel an urge to skip it. Yet when I listen to it from the brilliant opening of "Wouldn't it be Nice" to the closing street sounds of "Caroline No" the entire 35 minutes and 36 seconds fly by in a haze of absolute beauty.

And this concludes the first part of my Masterpiece selections. Days 4 & 5 will be up soon.

If you would like to purchase any of the albums featured then you can below (Amazon links)

Television - Marquee Moon Here

Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth Here

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds HERE

Please share this post - this site relies on you guys spreading the word.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Record Store Day

Influenced by my good friend Simon Jones blog post about Record Store Day I have been thinking about events that are due to take place up and down the country on April 16th and how my music consumption has changed over recent years. But first a little bit of background...

I have always had what many Radio 1 listeners might call an odd taste in music. Personally I would like to call it adventurous. Where this has come from I have no idea. As a teenager I had many friends who made significant impact on my music selections and their influence could perhaps be seen throughout my collection today. 

I still remember the exact location David Mudie (who was known as Mod) played me Sparklehorse's Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot at a house party sometime around 1996 and introducing me to Mega City Four while we were studying the Baroque era during GCSE Music. 

Jamie Baker (Jim) was the first person who played me Suede, Supergrass, Green Day, The Newcranes, Shed 7, Spiritualized and Blur among many others. 

Simon Hay introduced me to the world of Carter USM, 10,000 Maniacs and rather oddly for a 14 year old Jethro Tull and I will always remember when Mike Hartley playing me Rancid's "And Out Come The Wolves" album while driving his Dad's car round Lichfield.

All of these took place well before I had even commenced the early days of my working life.

From 1998 (a year or so after studying Music Business in Glasgow) I started working in Music retail. This started off in the rather non cool music department of WH Smith in Birmingham where I would get told off for playing Beck and Feeder - this lead me to chance upon a job at Tower Records.

Tower was perhaps one of the best jobs I have ever had, all of the staff were of similar age but with totally varied music tastes, here I was introduced to At The Drive In, Kid Koala, Television, Gram Parsons and so much Punk and Reggae I was made buyer for both departments.

I then was offered a chance to run my own record shop and moved to work for Andy's Records in Ipswich - where the rather excellent Dan Keeble got me to look beyond the surf era Beach Boys while I inflicted all kinds of Reggae into his ears

I then went and worked as a Manager for Music Zone and started to realise that the music industry was facing big problems and personally I started to realise that working in a record shop was really no different to working in Tesco - albeit with much more interesting produce. I left the industry, never to return.

During my years doing other things I have witnessed Tower, Andy's, Music Zone vanish. Most towns are now left with the option of buying from the Top 20 at their local Asda or from the hugely reduced music range now being held by HMV as their emphasis focuses more on DVD, Blu Ray, Ipod accessories and T-Shirts. In my town the only voice you hear now belongs to His Masters.

As sad as the gradual decline of Record Shops has been, looking through my collection of albums I have perhaps had more access to music than I have had before. I have always took advice from my friends and people I trust musically to help me navigate the waters. The explosion of the internet has done exactly that.

Pandora started it all for me back in 2006 when, through the use of a made up US Zip code I was opened up to a whole new world of music discovery - Pela and Micah P Hinson were just two of the artists that were induced into my collection - then along came Last Fm, Spotify, Mflow, Myspace, Amazon's recommendation service, BBC 6 Music, and of course Twitter. 

All of these help me discover music on an almost daily basis - the entire internet is now my record shop and you folks reading this are my Mod's, Jim's, Hay's and Hartley's as bands, songs and albums are shared, commented on and even purchase at quick lightning speed. Potentially I could suggest a band to you now and you could own their latest album in the time it takes you to make a cup of tea.

When I think of all the musical possibilities I feel conflicted. I love record shops - I always have done ever since I pestered my Mum at around 4 years old to buy me my first record but at the same time I also know that there isn't a record shop on earth that could supply me with the music I have discovered over the years - sure I could go into a record store an order the latest Pokey LaFarge album but I am sure that due to distribution and minimum order levels, it would take weeks to arrive and cost me twice as much as I paid for it to buy it direct online.

Don't get me wrong, I love record shops dearly. They are truly wondrous places where good things happen and Record Store Day is something we should all embrace and cherish, but due to lack of music buying options over recent years I have also grown to live without them. It makes me feel sad and a little guilty yet my music purchasing has not suffered as a result - it has grown more than I could ever imagine. 

But I do miss going into a record shop, I miss the rummaging - hours lost flicking through endless racks of CDs and glorious vinyl - the anticipation of the walk home, purchase in hand is much more satisfying than the anticipation of the Postman dropping your latest buy onto your doormat - and all of these are a millions times more wonderful than downloading what is essentially code from a website.

Support you local Record Store Day at