Archive for February, 2008

February 22, 2008

The Biz Awards

The Brit Awards.  Love it or loathe it, it always causes a stir.  And how the music industry needs publicity at the moment.   

In this current climate of diminishing sales and industry change the Brit awards seem more relevant than they were before…or do they? It is easy to pour scorn on what is essentially an industry event to promote the unit shifters, showcasing radio-friendly bands in a sterile environment.  It is after all light entertainment for the masses.  Although this maybe the case it is frequently watched by the very people that denounce it.  

Britain is a society that is proud of its musical heritage.  From the trailblazers of the 6o’s to the current crop of Indie scenesters the British music fan has always regarded British music in high esteem and self worth.  The Brits awards are the biggest and most celebrated of all the awards, with the most publicity and the largest international audience.  With this in mind the Brits organisers tend to go for extravagant showcases which are often garish without class.

This though is what we have come to expect from The Brits.  Do not expect to find alternative, cutting edge performers or awards.  However herein lies a strange dichotomy that infuriates and bemuses many.   While it doesn’t hide its obvious agenda of promoting  pop entertainers for the consumption of a mass market audience     it does flirt with the indie/rock world and this gives the show its slightly schizophrenic disposition.  All of the memorable moments have come due to the shenanigans and high class lunacy of the drunk or mischievous rock star.

  • Oasis have enriched the spectacle many times especially in 1996 when the rivalry with Blur was at its ugliest.
  • Jarvis cocker as highlighted at the beginning with his infamous Jackson escapade, also in 1996.
  • Brandon Block with his drunken spat with Ronnie Wood in 2000.
  • Chumbawamba in 1998 when they poured a bucket of cold water over John Prescotts head, remaining true to their punk roots.

The list is endless of unforgettable moments that have livened up what is mainly a turgid event.

Not so in the last few years.  Now ITV have incorporated a 10 second delay to extinguish any unexpected fun.  Added to that the increasingly careerist and sterile attitude of many performers and our love/hate relationship with the Brits could be coming to an end.  Same time next year?

February 11, 2008

Creative youth

It struck me during a conversation the other day that rock musicians are kinda like footballers, they peak during the twenty’s.  This does seem at odds with the rest of the artistic world, in film, art, writing & theatre age is appreciated and like a fine wine maturation often enhances the performance.  While having a discussion on music, my brother pointed out that hardly any bands or artists flourish – producing their best body of work – barely after they’ve entered their thirties.  All the creative genius is distilled in a few short years during their youth, he said.  I found this statement to be both bold and foolhardy, though when thinking of a quick riposte I struggled to think of any major artist to disprove his theory.  So I decided to look into it……………………..,,2253660,00.html

Starting from the 60’s pioneers and vanguards – The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Neil Young, etc, etc.  With the exception of The Beatles these bands have continued to furrow their own particular musical path. However when analysing their perceived classics not many of them delivered masterpieces at a later age. 

  • Bowie produced ‘Scary Monsters’ at 33, while not his best album it can certainly feel worthy in such distinguished company. 
  • Bob Dylan is another who many critics feel produced some of his seminal work during his thirties, ‘Blood on the Tracks’ & ‘Desire’.  Even in his late 6o’s his productivity hasn’t dimmed, although his greatest period was undoubtedly before he reached 40.
  • Pink Floyd produced ‘The Wall’ in their mid thirties, selling millions of albums on a global scale, but never quite matching the transcendental brilliance of some of their earlier albums.
  • Neil Young still manages to defy age and vitality by producing some wonderful songs, but when asking someone their favourite Young album they will nearly always mention a 70’s composition.    
  • Fleetwood Mac are one of the only representatives of  the 1970’s  to create something of genius at a mature age.  ‘Rumours’ was released when they were all approaching their mid thirties.

Not much inspiration from the 80’s, though the 90 ‘s throws up a few artists that created – maybe not their defining piece de resistance – but works that inspired, challenged and brought critical acclaim.  

  • Beastie Boys – ‘Hello Nasty’/mid thirties
  • Madonna – ‘Ray of Light’/late 30’s
  • Moby – ‘Play’/mid 30’s
  • REM – ‘Automatic for the people’/mid 30’s
  • Paul Weller – ‘Wild Wood’ /mid 30’s

So to the current decade…..There are a few intriguing anomalies here that suggest the theory of youthful genius isn’t completely water tight.  Most notably………

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, who arguably produced their masterpieces well into their 40’s, ‘Californication’ and ‘By the way’ were beautiful examples of a band maturing and displaying a new found creativity for melody & harmony.  This allied with the bands hard edged experience and wisdom of the mind contrived to produce works of harnessed brilliance.
  • Often dubbed by the media as ‘Mr renaissance man’, Damon Albarn certainly bucks the trend.  His latest work with, first Gorillaz and now The Good, The Bad and The Queen easily outshines his previous work with Blur and disproves the theory of mid life burnout.  Now in his 40th year Mr Albarn is becoming more inspired with age.
  • Radiohead are often confounding critics.  Constantly pushing the envelope, they have no bounds to their collective talent and imagination.  Having just released the album of 2007 with ‘In rainbows’ while all approaching 40.  It will surely go down as a classic and who’s to say there isn’t more to come?
  • Flaming Lips are another band who just improve with experience.  While clearly not producing work that is quite as radical as there earlier form, they are now enjoying the fruits of their labour with highly skilled journeys of psychedelic rock.
  • U2 did release ‘All that you can’t leave behind’ recently, which is considered by many to be one of their best albums.  Like Bjork though – who still manages to surprise and entertain – they will probably both be defined by their earlier work. 

 There are many artists I haven’t even considered, Soul & Blues singers are exempt from this particular study.   I wanted to focus on rock/pop music as these genres are often feted with the roman candle tag of burning bright and short.   There are many incidences where artists relive some of their old magic: ie, Bruce Springsteen.  Though in all of these cases there is no doubting that their most captivating pieces of work were  written during their formative years.  There are very few artists that actually buck this trend,  if you look at any top 50 album-of-all-time-list in any of the music press you will discover that all of those great albums were written by musicians in their youth.

February 1, 2008

Mud Slinging…..

It’s February and time to register for Glastonbury tickets again.  Or maybe not!  Michael Eavis seems hell bent on completely sabotaging the once great legacy that he seek-ed to establish.   His constant rhetoric about under 25’s is tiresome.  Today he announced the Saturday headliner as Jay Z – in the hope that it’ll attract the youth.

Why is he so keen on alienating all of the demographic that supported his festival when it was less publicised.  His constant tirade about making things better is starting to resemble a certain Mr Brown – the more he meddles – the worse things get.   Increased sponsorship, larger crowds and blanket TV rights have turned the festival into a middle class/social event anyway.  Gone is the counter-cultural edginess that once made it so unique and inspiring.

Many of the younger generation are probably disinterested anyway.  Glastonbury was a creation of the 70s, wobbled through the 80s and really came to prominence in the 90s.  It’s with this generation that it has its most historical significance.  Since then it rather feels like it has out grown itself.   The last few years have evidently been tarnished by the elements but there are factors to suggest it doesn’t quite have the same pulling power for the youth that it would’ve had 10 years ago.  

  • Congested festival calender – so many competitors with some offering edgier line-ups like Reading or Bestival.
  • Cheap flights to visit European festivals.
  • Blanket TV coverage – why not relax and watch it at home/ Not such a fabled mystery when you can watch it on BBC 2.
  • Huge crowds – lots of queuing!
  • June Monsoons
  • Expense – 150 pounds+ a ticket isn’t very appealing for a cash-strapped student.

The announcement of Neil Diamond headlining the Sunday night is hardly going to start a teenage stampede for tickets!

Last years crowds where too unmanageable and left a bad taste in the mouth.  If Eavis wants to replicate the glory days he needs to reign in the festival and take it back to its core values.   The trouble is he’s tampered  with the format so much he’s forgotten what made it great in the first place!