Category Archives: Article

The Short Read – Parallels

I’ve always thought of Led Zeppelin’s 1976 album Presence and …And Justice For All released by Metallica in 1988 as very similar albums.

There are feelings of anger and hurt caused by death and hardship. Guitars and drums utterly dominate the sound and song-writing. They even share white album covers. Both signaled the end of an artistic blooming and yet, for a hard-core of fans, these albums represent the best of both bands.

Up next would be commercially successful but critically divisive records (though possibly less so in the case of In Through The Out Door which has few advocates) for each act and gargantuan stadium tours. However, Zeppelin would split the year after their eight album came out while Metallica rumble on to this day with a new record Hardwired…To Self Destruct released late last year.

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Prince Billy

Smashing Pumpkins have released a new album recently – Monuments to an Elegy – and a good one too by the sounds of it too, however, this does mean that Billy Corgan has been talking to the press again.

The Guardian interview threw up the usual combination of ego and weaknesses with its “Nobody believes I made a three star record. Nobody!” headline giving you the idea. Billy the genius slighted again, right? Well, it does seem weird that a man that has made albums as memorable and ambitious as Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie… split his band while still popular and then come back with the goods many, many years later is not more widely praised. Especially when you consider the number of acts that have reformed without new music or other marquee acts that have permanently sidelined the act of making new music to keep offering up the hits.Not that the Guardian article disagrees with that but Corgan clearly feels differently.

The obvious counterpoint to this (to me anyway) is the reception Prince has received with his two new projects last year. The praise was unanimous for someone who has, frankly, been doing things like Billy has: a clearly defined artistic vision where he is the King of the Castle no matter what, a consistent aesthetic (funk, feather, females…) and a pretty big gap between those ‘classic’ releases and his modern output which, on the whole, conjures up memories of his best work if not reaching those enviable past heights.

Shouldn’t Billy Corgan get the same rub of the green for his longevity, quality of output and individuality? Well, yes and he does but not to the same extent. The reason could be very simple. Prince doesn’t give interviews and if does rarely does he engage as directly and irritably as Pumpkin #1.

 

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I’ve been away for too long…

Ahoy, hoy. Just been lazy I suppose.

My best of 2013 for Echoes and Dust is over there. Sneak peek at what is a pretty retro looking top 5:

Top 5

1. Power Trip – Manifest Decimation

2. Wolf People – Fain

3. Mount Salem – Endless

4. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control

5. True Widow – Circumambulation

 

Back soooooon…

 

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Mount Salem

How good are this lot? Very.

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Nodding Dog Doesn’t Understand The Question…

So it comes with no great surprise that HMV has finally had to call in the administrators after a number of difficult years buffeted by music’s move online and its own mistakes. I am not particularly saddened by this as the chain has long since lost relevance for me (despite it being the main destination for my teenage cash in Belfast and providing probably the first 150 or so CDs I bought); their stock was weak, too expensive and, in many cases, shoddy: broken jewel cases, ancient and heavily pawed books and dvds that have been stickered and re-stickered. Bleurgh.

It seems inconceivable that it won’t survive in some new, leaner format (as it has in Canada) but to succeed there are some things it really needs to address. Stock is one, there should be no difficulty picking up the classics of the rock, hip-hop, soul and pop canons and not having to pay £15+ for them nor should it focus on the stuff supermarkets kill them on i.e. Adele, Rihanna, the Mumfords etc. Offer some specialty and diversity. Secondly, the shops  desperately need a refit to go from looking like a unmaintained B&Q to something resembling a nice place to visit and browse in – why can’t HMV have seating, coffee or even seize the vibe for all things vintage and bring back the listening booth? The people that want to spend money on physical product always will, if they can get want they want and, if the environment is right, they can stumble upon something they’ve been searching for or, gasp, discover a new artist altogether. They could do this in an reconfigured HMV. Rough Trade East in London could be a decent template or, closer to home, FOPP – both are chains that appeal to record collector types and ordinary punters – there’s nothing intimidating about them and they sell quality without a feckin’ Mars Bar in sight. Finally, staff could be freed up from whatever it is they do now to contribute esoteric records to playlists and ordering or organise in-store appearances to provide some variation from shop-to-shop with their own tastes and engage with customers…just a thought.

It would be a shame if record shops completely disappear from the high streets and became solely the preserve of hardcore enthusiasts existing in back streets. After all, music is the most immediate and democratic artform so it would be good if the retailers of recorded music could be visible and prominent. Yes it can be cheaply sold online (in both physical and download form) and in supermarkets by the bucketload but it deserves to be celebrated. In my opinion, no amount of phone shops, identikit chain cafes and bookies can really replace the enjoyment of frittering away a morning or afternoon through racks of albums and films in your own town centre. HMV could still be the place to do it.

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