Friday, 22 March 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #10

This week: talentless arse Robbie Williams thinks it's a good idea to cluelessly insult a whole host of indie legends, so let's insult him. I despair at some of the rubbish I see on Twitter, and talk about the brilliant new LP from Steve Mason. Also, the new albums from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Strokes, plus an incredible single from The Hosts, and the lovely new record from Charlie Clark, formerly of Astrid... As well as more Bowie stuff, in the latter half of the column, I go back to late 1994 for my first proper gig with The Boys From County Hell...

I'm not in any way a "cyber bully", but every now and again I do enjoy having a dig at people on Twitter every now and again. Seeing some of the hashtags in the trending topics list on that site infuriates me to a colossal extent. So I felt that is was entirely necessary to berate useless and annoying X Factor wankers Jedward for employing another typically desperate publicity stunt to promote whatever piece of excrement they've shat out into the charts this week. 

I don't want to see you in the topics on my screen. You have no reason to be making yourselves known to me. You are worthless. "Retweet this hashtag (insert lengthy hashtag here) and this link (followed by a link that takes up more of the allowed 140 characters) plus your message and we'll guarantee to retweet it!". Fucking morons. So after calling them dicks and telling them to "piss off", I was in a pretty vitriolic yet somewhat amused mood, satisfied that I had done my bit for humanity. But I was certainly not amused when I read about attention-seeking fool Robbie Williams criticising not only the mighty Suede, but a whole host of other well loved groups from the glorious Britpop era.


It started when Suede legend Brett Anderson did nothing but tell the truth in a recent interview: "There has always been crap pop music. I remember when we had all the crap boybands in the 90s — stuff like that has always been around. The lack of money in the music industry created a crisis. Record companies don't have the resources to take a gamble, so these pop stars are created by committee.". Williams disagreed, and claimed that "any quarter decent 3 chord knobhead could get a deal in the 90's" before listing Echobelly, Shed Seven, Symposium, Menswear, Sleeper, Hurricane #1, Ride, The Bluetones, Ocean Colour Scene, Northern Uproar, Kula Shaker, Chapterhouse and others. 

A lot of guitar bands were given record deals in the 90's because for a short period of time, people realised that tacky manufactured pop had nothing of any value to offer, and because it broke through the barriers, indie music was finally allowed to be heard on mainstream radio and TV. Then the men in suits realised that real musicians care about their work too much to be manipulated like a boyband can, so they tried as hard as they could to fill the radio with garbage once again.


His list of "Britpop" groups included Curve and Ride. Yes, the same Ride whose 1991 album 'Nowhere' is often hailed as one of the all time shoegaze classics. Different era, different genre. Not only is he sickeningly arrogant and thick as shit, but the artists he's insulting are intelligent, humble people like Simon Fowler, Steve Cradock, Mark Morriss and Andy Bell. People who also have the sort of musical ability and experience in songwriting that Williams couldn't even begin to understand. It's like talent is actually an alien concept to him.


Some will probably try and make out that these groups must be really jealous of a "big" "star" like Williams.

They're not. He may have the hollow tabloid fame and he may have the money, but there's one thing his money has never been able to buy him: talent. So it's more likely that he's jealous of these bands, a lot of whom are still well-loved and fondly remembered by music lovers. Yes MUSIC lovers. Well informed enthusiasts who love music, not "average" people who buy whatever the radio makes them hear the most.


THEN he tried to claim that there are "magnificent pop bands in every generation" before saying that he "feels sorry for the people too bigoted" to appreciate them. "Bigoted"? It's called having standards. The only people who listen to manufactured pop are the people who don't get to hear anything else on their radios. 


THEN he insulted the entire world of music by saying that "the world's a lot more exciting with a One Direction in it", trying to provoke people further, "more hearts will race at a new 1D album than they ever have or will at any Suede album".


So the world is a "more exciting" place how exactly? They release bland material into a bland climate where all people are exposed to is unimaginative, squeaky clean, easily marketable, family friendly bollocks. Maybe Williams would care to explain exactly what is so "exciting" about that? Obviously he's sticking up for the world of manufactured pop, because it's the only place where talentless people like him can succeed.

It translates as "One Direction must be better than Suede because they're more popular". Yes, they are known by a lot more people and we all know why. Because a huge group of businessmen are making sure that they are seen and heard everywhere. Why did he feel the need to even try and compare the two? Suede release records because they are good at making music, and that gift needs to be shared. I know I'm glad to have 'Bloodsports' and all their other LPs in my collection. Whereas that shitty little boyband... What do they do exactly? They exist in different worlds. Suede are legends and One Direction are nothing but manufactured guff. A disposable, interchangeable laughing stock whose marketing department have managed to brainwash a load of kids and uninformed people into buying their garbage. They won't be in critic's polls in 20 years time, because they are notoriously shit.

Brett quite rightly criticised the current state of the mainstream, because it's just clogged with money making products that have no artistic value. He was right to criticise the standards of the "artists" in the singles charts, because they have nothing to offer.


Twat.
Williams is blindly slagging off a whole host of musicians to try and cause a stir to gain himself some publicity, but there's another reason why the music of the Britpop era brings back bad memories for him.

In the mid 90's, guitar bands were starting to take over the charts. Robbie Williams knew his popularity was under threat because kids were now aware of real musicians who could write songs and play instruments. He panicked and quickly tried to rebrand and associate himself with the indie  scene. So after leaving Take That, his first single was a blatant and very poor imitation of Oasis. He'd also desperately turn up at various gigs and attempt to attach himself to whatever band was playing. But these credible musicians probably didn't want to be associated with this pathetic wannabe. So understandably Williams bears a grudge against a lot of people who were in mid 90's guitar bands.

His attitude makes me sick. 

He seems to be under the impression that people don't listen to these groups anymore.

They're not in the public eye because most of them have split up and aren't making records anymore. And the ones that are still active aren't heard on the radio because they don't have the money to get there. Simple as that. The bands no longer operating still have fanbases, often ones crying out for a reunion. And the ones still making records and gigging are still well loved by their fans.

If no one remembers Ocean Colour Scene anymore, then who are these imaginary people buying all these tickets to their often sold out shows? If you read any magazine's polls of the greatest records of the 90's, Suede will be in there. That boyband won't be in those lists in 20 years time.

Northern Uproar are a bunch of hard working musicians who get a real kick out of writing great tunes and playing them live. They do what they do because they love it. They know they're not going to make loads of money. I expect they sometimes lose money doing what they do. Honest, gifted and passionate about what they do, they are the complete opposite of greedy, fame-hungry idiots like Williams.

Not only should he apologise individually to each band he has insulted, but he should be made to learn more about each one and listen to all of their music. Maybe then he'll be able to admit that they're all superior to him.

A complete and utter knob.


Steve Mason‘s career has produced an array of interesting styles, not to mention some utterly brilliant songs. The work he created with The Beta Band was thrillingly experimental yet tunefully strong, and his projects since the band’s split in 2004 have been most compelling indeed. His second solo set ‘Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time’ is named after a Buddhist term for an easily distracted brain. And in an age of mass-media induced public ignorance, there’s no better time for this creative intelligent musician to unleash his most confrontational work yet. The press release states that the LP is “shaped by the current global political climate and the lack of dissenting voices in music and popular culture in general”. But although it’s billed as his political album, it doesn’t see him standing on a soapbox and delivering a lecture. It’s FAR more subtle and cleverly done than that. It’s a record that also provides us with his most personal collection of songs yet.

At nearly an hour in length and boasting no less than 20 tracks, it’s an ambitious, sprawling effort that incorporates a wildly eclectic mixture of genres from country to hip hop. But out of the 20 tracks, 11 are mostly brief interludes that link the nine wonderful full length songs together and give the LP a fuller sense of variety. The elegantly melancholic ‘A Lot Of Love’ is without a doubt one of the finest things this artist has ever put to record, an acoustic piano-driven ballad that excels in the melody department, bringing its reflective musings to life with blissful simplicity. Another major highlight is the incredible trip-hop flavoured ‘Seen It All Before’, which combines lightly shuffling dusty beats with sparse piano and another infectious, yearning chorus. It’s both haunting and irresistibly funky in equal measures.

Sticking with the standout tracks, the single ‘Oh My Lord’' is as accessibly pop as Mason gets, bursting with enjoyably bright hooks and providing a nice contrast to the thoughtfully bewitching ‘Never Be Alone’, which delivers another earworm melody and a wonderfully understated arrangement. In fact, it’s almost like a wiser and more elegant relative of The Beta Band’s ‘Dry The Rain’The final movement of the album is where the politics take a front seat, ‘More Money More Fire’ featuring an effective and well informed rap from MC Mystro that deals with the 2011 London riots, or more importantly the factors that contributed to such an event. The following ‘Fire!’ uses the same hard hitting musical backdrop, which evokes the 1960′s funk sounds associated with the Black Power movement during the civil rights era. 

At first it may sound like a very mixed bag, but a few more listens will allow the listener to look deeper beneath the surface, where they will find a well thought-out, carefully crafted autobiographical concept record that deals with personal aspects of the author’s life as well as addressing his political stance. It’s angry, socially conscious and stimulating, but also engaging, humble and compassionate. Maybe it doesn’t need to be this long, but it’s the outstanding quality of its key moments that make ‘Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time’ a career best. Read my full album review HERE, where you can also listen to the LP via Spotify. 



'Comedown Machine', that upcoming 5th album from The Strokes is streaming online now. They seem to have taken on 80's funk pop on the opening track 'Tap Out', which does at least provide a pleasing melody. It's actually quite keyboard heavy throughout the record, except for 'All The Time' which reverts to their familiar early style. 'One Way Trigger' is a great song ruined by a bad 'Take On Me'-esque keyboard hook that incessantly burdens itself on the verses. When it disappears during the guitar solo, it's a relief. Then it comes back again. Melodically it is in fact very pleasing, and a very strong piece of songwriting can be found under its stylistic flaws. '50/50' instantly has more of an edge, a bit of danger. In a way it's quite Nirvana-like, but only during its chorus, and certainly not to the point of imitation. Best thing on the record? Yes. 

'Call It Fate, Call It Karma' is not unlike an old easy listening ballad, and also the most truly psychedelic The Strokes have ever sounded. A bizarre closer. I don't know what to think. It's definitely not the same old Strokes, and they're clearly exploring new things. Some of it is unrecognisable from the band who made that debut LP. Despite a run of disappointing albums over the last decade, they've all had their moments. 80's funk and synth pop provide the record with a flavour. Whether the songs are all great is another matter. Maybe they'll grow on me. It's a very odd record in places, and the vocal style voice fronting the group gets stranger yet again. Read my full album review HERE.

John Grant's new album 'Pale Green Ghosts' hits record shops this week. It's going to surprise a few people that's for sure. Rather than return with the familiar piano ballads and dark acoustic numbers, he's delving into electro and exploring new directions. I was due to review this LP, in fact I had half of my review written before my recent technical disaster wiped it out (see last week's column), but luckily my fellow GIITTV writer Sean BW Parker has written a piece on it that's not only better than the one I wrote, but shares my opinions on the record. Read that HERE.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have just released their seventh album 'Specter At The Feast', which recently received a rather negative review on GIITTV, which can be read HERE. So I think it's only fair to offer an alternative perspective on this record. Initially I didn't warm to the album immediately, but it requires a few plays to make its full impact, and after a week I'm finding it hard to identify that many faults. 


The brooding 'Firewalker' opens the record in a creeping, shadowy fashion. It's almost a bit "desert rock" in fact. It builds up a menacing and ominous tension with a hypnotic, slow-burning groove. The achingly tender ‘Returning’ is in fact not unlike U2's slower moments, except it's more vulnerable in character rather than big and blustery. Everything about it seems mournful, and it's quite lovely. One that takes a few plays to appreciate though. A definite highlight comes within the introspective beauty of ‘Lullaby’, a plaintive and heartfelt moment that glows amidst a blissful melancholic haze, touched with a hint of 'Meddle'-era Pink Floyd.

A more familiar side of BRMC returns for the sleazy riffs and almost Bowie-like disco groove of 'Have The Taste', a hard rocking tune with a direct, infectious chorus and fierce, distorted guitars. It can also easily be danced to. And while there is certainly something nice about the emotionally downtempo serenity of the closing ‘Lose Yourself’, it doesn't need to be anywhere near nine minutes long, and outstays its welcome. The group may not be bringing that many new ideas in to their music, but they haven't completely covered this ground before, and have never sounded quite this introspective before. All of it may take a while to sink in, but 'Specter At The Feast' isn't short of memorable songs. Maybe it's not as fresh and exciting as the first two LPs, instead it works in a different way. It's definitely something that could be termed a grower. Read my full album review HERE.


Some of you may remember late 90's Scottish indie pop types Astrid, a band who could often produce some truly fantastic tunes, sometimes joyously summery and at other times genuinely touching. They split in 2004, with all members continuing to make music. 

As co-writer and occasional vocalist, Charlie Clark was partly responsible for the band's breezy, infectious sound and has recently embarked on a solo career. His debut record is called 'Feel Something', and what a beautifully compelling piece of work it is too. It's a understated, reflective collection of songs, that sees the playful jangle and innocent naiveity of Astrid develop into a harmonious calm blessed with warm, heartfelt sincerity and world wise introspection. Charlie has been kind enough to give us folk at GIIITTV the UK exclusive of the video for 'Sunken Ships', a gorgeously haunting moment that he describes as a "psychedelic sea shanty". You can see that HERE, and listen to the EP online HERE. Watch this site over the next few days for an exclusive interview with Charlie, where he tells us about his past, his present, and what the future holds for him... By the way, I also have to say hello and a big congratulations to the other half of Astrid's songwriting force Willie Campbell, who became a proud father earlier this week. Well done, Sir.


'September Song' is the glorious debut single from The Hosts, and it's a song that will quickly find its way into your head and heart. While it has the feel of reflective sound of stuff from the late 90's post-Britpop era, it very much harks back to the romance of 60's pop, and was written on the 50th anniversary of Buddy Holly's death. With its strong melodies and heartfelt melancholy, it's a truly captivating introduction to what sounds like a massively promising group. It's produced by Richard Hawley, who himself has a great ear for this kind of marvellous sound. People NEED to hear it. And you can do so HERE, where more info about The Hosts can also be found.

If you're not a regular reader of God Is In The TV, then you may not know that March is our Bowie Month. This week saw the release of our 'Ashes To Ashes' compilation, which features a range of David Bowie covers from some fantastic artists, many of them recorded exclusively for this project. Thank you to all who contributed, and a big round of applause for our editor Bill, who has been working majorly hard to make this project a success. You can listen to the 'Ashes To Ashes' compilation HERE. We'll still be celebrating Bowie for another week or so yet, so look out for my SIX PART compilation featuring my favourite Bowie moments from each era. Not to be missed.

A 1992 Radio 1 Roadshow and watching a covers band at a rugby club bar were not things that I could really class as my first gigs. Especially after learning that my mum and dad had once been to see Slade. As well as spending most of his time behind a bar, my Dad would frequently visit other clubs and pubs, sometimes going out to seek out local musicians  that he thought might be able to attract crowds to Bentley's, the club that he managed in Corsham. One day I remember him picking us up from school and enthusiastically raving about a band that he had seen the previous night at The Bear in Melksham. Have I mentioned this in a previous column? I think I have, because it was also the moment that I became alerted to The Pogues, a group that my Dad said were similar to the one that he had seen the night before. They were a lively six piece band from Calne who went by the name of The Boys From County Hell, and rabble-rousing folk songs were their speciality. Impressed with their ability to rouse a crowd, my dad booked them to play Bentley's. They did two gigs there, and from what I can remember the first was in 1994. I'd become familiar with their songs after listening to their demo tape titled 'What'll Ya Have?', but hearing them live absolutely thrilled me.

They were more than just a Pogues tribute act though, even though on the surface there were obvious stylistic similarities. The biggest difference was the style of the lyrics, which weren't as history-tinged or politically poetic as MacGowan's punk tales. The stories that Boys sang of were more concerned with bar brawls, rowdy antics on sea ferries, sex with New York prostitutes, and their never-understated fondness for a pint. Complete with a raucous kazoo solo, 'Face Only A Mother Could Love' was about "going to bed with Pamela Anderson and waking up with Bet Lynch (from Coronation Street)", while 'The Card Game' concerned a game of pub poker that descends into drunken warfare. After a priest enters the scene, someone knocks his pint over, and "Father Flynn" grabs the culprit "by the balls". Then comes the priceless line: "So Father Flynn he jumped in to stop the fighting session, and with every punch he threw he said "I'll see you in confession..."". 'Drinking Man' was about a guy called Micky, who loved the booze so much that because alcohol wasn't allowed beyond the pearly gates, he chose to spend his afterlife in hell instead. 

Their storming rendition of the traditional 'Jesse James' was miles better than the one The Pogues did, and plenty of MacGowan and co's numbers would also be included in the set, 'Streams Of Whiskey', 'Waxie's Dargle' and 'Sally Maclennane' to name a few. In hindsight, they could have done with less cover versions and more of their own hugely enjoyable material. But I didn't care about that when I was excitedly watching them play. All the songs would often be punctuated with cries of "come on you bastards!", and there can't have been many (or in fact any) there that weren't enjoying themselves. After the gig the singer Dave Mehaffy gave me one of his old tin whistles, in fact the same one used on their recorded version of 'Jesse James'. Don't have it any more though. What I do still have is a BFCH t shirt, an excellent momento from my first proper gig. 

They played there a second time not long after, where the guitarist was wheelchair bound after falling down the stairs pissed the night before... a few years ago it was revealed to me that in return for playing the band were offered either their usual cash fee or a night of free drink. They opted for the latter, as a supposedly "cheaper" option, however by the end of the night the entertaining drunkards had consumed three times the amount in drink than was intended, working out not so profitable for the club. As Christmas 1994 arrived, East 17 were at number one with 'Stay Another Day', and some of my presents that year were cassette copies of greatest hits albums by The Beautiful South and Bon Jovi. One of those bands I absolutely cringe at now. See if you can guess which one.

Next time I'm going to be moving into 1995, an absolutely glorious year...


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