Saturday, September 22, 2012

Venuewatch: MelloMello

MelloMello is something of a beacon in Liverpool's nightlife: a community venture which is run as a non-profit; a genuinely creative hub employing around two dozen people; a well-run, popular and safe nightspot in a city where some bars are run by people whom you might not feel comfortable around.

So, something for the city to celebrate, right?

Not quite, it turns out: as the Tories and Lib Dems squeeze local finances, the council is squeezing MelloMello.

Up until now, the place has enjoyed an 80% discretionary waiver on council tax, an act of enabling generosity that the council is now going to pull.

Talking to SevenStreets, MelloMello's Rob Longson explains that the company couldn't afford that hike without jacking up the prices it charges to the bands and artists who use its spaces, and that it wouldn't do that:

What might happen is that MelloMello’s building will have the lease taken on by a company that can afford it. What kind of company do you think that will be? A small, independent CIC which has built a business out of nothing? No. Probably the opposite.
It wouldn't be the first time that one of the very venues which sits are the heart of the tales Liverpool City Council likes to tell about the place gets driven away. Let's not forget how much better, say, having an Australian-themed chain pub where Trading Places used to serve tea and give bands rehearsal space worked towards generating that vibrant culture LCC tries to sell on, or the dozens of other examples of similar happening in the last twenty years.

There's a petition. Let's try to get the City to change its mind.

Wendy James: Back, back, back

I know that we shouldn't be surprised at anyone who has ever released a record, ever, returning by now. But who ever foresaw a Wendy James comeback, much less one partnered by a Stooge (James Williamson) and a Bad Seed (Jim Sclavunos)?

Can you even imagine what it's going to sound like?

Actually, you don't have to imagine, as both tracks of the single are available to share through Soundcloud.

Here's one song, then, You're So Great:

That's a cover of Sonic's Rendezvous Band, although it carries a none-more-Wendy-James title.

This is the other side of the double-a sided single, It's Alright, Ma:

Yes, that's a Dylan cover in there.

You know, back during the pomp of Transvision Vamp I'd probably not have put money on being so pleased to see Wendy James turn up with a couple of covers in 2012.

[This important alert made possible thanks to a tweet from @frankosonic]

Bookmarks: Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper talks to Time in the run-up to her biography release. Could you imagine a pop star getting their breakthrough at the age of 30 today?

When “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” came out, I was 30. They were saying, “How old are you?” and even then I was like, “Why? You think I’m a car? You need to check under the hood and kick the tires?” I had a mindset to contribute to music and make an effective change that would help women in the world. When I was told “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” would be an anthem, I thought about how it really could be an anthem. And you know, I burnt my training bra, kinda-sorta, at the first women’s demonstration in Central Park. I was there.

Gordon in the morning: He should be on points

You know what's tackier than getting your birthday party sponsored by a vodka company? How about a journalist using his column to plug the vodka company under the guise of it being a news story?

Gordon even helpfully prints a large photo of the vodka bottle, just to make sure they get their money's worth. So much cheaper for them than buying advertising space, eh?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Manson drops Manson a brief note

It's right larks taking the name of a murderous loon for your stage name, right? So edgy. So daring. Why, it's cocking a snook at polite society, and no mistake.

Although what happens if the owner of the blood-spattered name decides to get in touch?

Charlie Manson has sent a postcard to Marilyn Manson:

"To Marilyn Manson, It’s taken me a long time to get there from where I could touch M. Manson. Now I got a card to play – you may look into my non-profit, ATWA, and give Manson what you think he’s got coming for Air, Trees, Water, and you. Or I will pay Manson what you think Manson got coming – the music has make Manson into Abraxas Devil, and I’m SURE you would want some of what I got from what I got. It’s a far out balance."

"Beyond good and bad, right, wrong. What you don’t do is what I will do – what you did a sing-along, and let it roll and said how you saved me a lot of steps – I don’t need, it’s not a need or a want. Couped – coup. Ghost dancers slay together and you’re just in my grave Sunstroker Corona-coronas-coronae – you seen me from under with it all standing on me. That’s 2 dump trucks – doing the same as CMF 000007. Charles Manson."
I think that's demanding money (for good works) with menaces. Lots and lots of menaces.

How thrilling it must be for young Brian to get a letter from the man who he has spent so much time trading off the back off. Exciting for him; lucrative for locksmiths and alarm manufacturers in his home town.

In other news, members of Spector are nervously checking their mailboxes and muttering about how they'd have been called something else if the Jing Jang Jong hadn't already been taken.

EU, US allow Universal and EMI to decline together

It's been a long, slow process, but today both the EU and American authorities have sighed and said it'll be fine for the two decaying bodies to merge themselves into a single, leeching exercise.

As part of the deal, some chunks of EMI will be cut off and left to flounder on their own - Parlophone will be looking for a new, different owner to manage its decline.

Experts nodded wisely at the news that the Universal-EMI merger will finally happen, noting that formal EU approval officially kick starts the long, slow process towards Universal-EMI merging with Warners.

Paris Hilton tries to salvage "career" after her Donna Summer moment

Remember Paris Hilton? There's not been any sighting of her threatened second studio album, but there are claims that it's a real thing.

She probably won't be rushing to release it any time soon, though, as she's currently trying to dig herself out of a massive homophobic hole:

"Ewww! Gay guys are the horniest people in the world," Hilton said. "They're disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS. ... I would be so scared if I were a gay guy. You'll like, die of AIDS."
First, her team of PR flunkies have attempted to explain that she was really trying to make a point about the dangers of unsafe sex.

Obviously, that was greeted with a chorus of "puh-lease", and so now Hilton herself has signed off on a personal statement that someone has written for her:
"I am so sorry and so upset that I caused pain to my gay friends, fans and their families," Hilton said in part of a lengthy apology she released to the the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD.)

"Gay people are the strongest and most inspiring people I know."
You'll note the only gay people she's actually sorry about upsetting are the ones she knows, or who buy her shit. If you're gay, never bought a bottle of Pogrom by Paris Hilton scent, and don't like being told you'll die of AIDS, tough.

But for those gay people who do qualify for an apology, what do you get? "Gay people are the strongest and most inspiring people I know." What though process led to that sentence?

'Shit, she's waved around a vapid stereotype that suggests all people who share a sexuality are united through sharing a single negative character trait. If we release a statement in which she suggests that all people who share a sexuality are united by sharing a single positive character trait, that'll cancel it out, right? Like telling someone they stink, but then telling them that they have a lovely smile. That'd be a reset, right?'

Is it really true that Hilton can't think of anyone more inspiring than every single gay man and lesbian? Doesn't she realise that some gay people are actually total douchebags, and about as inspiring as Nigel Farrage standing on a podium shouting 'follow me'? And that her real problem is not simply her Mail On Sunday circa 1985 view of AIDS, but the belief that "gay people" are a single blob sharing all their traits.

Like a Nick Clegg apology, it's worthless if you're only saying sorry to make people like you again, but don't really understand what you're sorry about.

Don't stand me down: Drunken fool at a Dexys gig

There's a lively collection of tweets from @thom_dorke who spent yesterday evening at the Brighton Dome enjoying the Dexys' gig, but not enjoying the drunk bloke behind him quite so much. You really need to read the whole thing, but here's a quick taste:

Gordon in the morning: Liam Gallagher at 40

Today, Liam Gallagher turns 40, and Gordon is in a laudatory mood:

THERE is only one man truly qualified to pass comment on Liam Gallagher. His brother Noel.
Despite Gordon kicking off with this claim, he then proceeds to pass comment, and then invites Alan McGee to do the same. Despite admitting that neither he nor McGee are actually qualified so to do.

Smart trots out the usual "one of the best frontmen in music history" line (which, if you're mostly going to see The Spice Girls and Kasabian, is probably the sort of thing you'd genuinely believe) and then shares an anecdote through which we can get the measure of the man:
Jon McClure, from band Reverend And The Makers, told me: “When we supported Oasis, Liam asked me what my favourite type of peas was. I said garden. He said, ‘Don’t you like mushy?’ I said, ‘No, I prefer garden.’ He said, ‘You’re all right, you are.’ I think that’s how he susses folk out.”
It's interesting that although Smart has met Gallagher frequently, he has to fall back on someone else's anecdote. Even if it's one that doesn't really mean anything; a profile built on a throwaway story about a throwaway line.

Gordon does offer one story about meeting Liam. The scene is him, talking with Noel:
By that point I knew Noel quite well. Liam bowled over and said: “You’re mates with arr kid, right? As far as I’m concerned, you’re a c*** in a nice coat.”
Arr kid? Arr kid? Did this happen on talk like a pirate day?

Still, we've at least established that Liam is a pretty good judge of character.

McGee's piece is actually quite sweet, sharing a story about how - after McGee's return from his drug hell - Liam was the first person to talk to him in a normal way:
Even people from my own record company, Creation, didn’t know what to say. But Liam was the one to say, “Are you all right?” For that I will always love him.
He warns us that Gallagher will be playing in a band until he dies. Happy birthday, Liam, and heaven help us all.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brian May calls for a cultural boycott

The Cameron government plan to shoot badgers to death in order to make cows healthier is, like most ideas coming from the Tories, wrong-headed, and you can't but be impressed with Brian May's tireless work against the decision.

But it slides into parody with the reports that May is calling for a cultural boycott of areas culling the mammals:

Launching the ‘Team Badger’ campaign, the RSPCA and others urged people not to visit the tourist hot spots where badgers are being killed and to boycott dairy products made in those areas.
The problem with cultural boycotts, Brian, is that sometimes high-profile acts break them, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to justify, say, ignoring a UN cultural boycott of Apartheid South Africa.

This is what the news always looks like to Mitt Romney

Gordon in the morning: The victimless crime

There are victimless crimes. There are even crimes which create more people who are better off than they would otherwise have been.

The theft of Will I Am's penisesque sports car has given us all a breathing space, it turns out:

Now it turns out a number of rough demos were stored in the motor, and the sneaky thieves have started releasing them on the internet.

Will's so determined to give fans a polished, finished product - he's postponed the album's release for a month to give him time to write new songs.

The Voice judge took to Twitter yesterday to vent his frustration and announce the delay.

In a series of posts, he wrote: "I'm trying to finish #willpower... & now because of all the leaks I have push (sic) the album back to make new songs...

"When songs are incomplete and your valuables were stolen and people leak your unfinished material... I have a right to vent.

"My car was stolen & my bag with my hard drive & music was in it... my car was found, but my bag wasn't & now they're leaking songs."
Will I Am got his car back, and we've got a breathing space without having another slew of Am songs dumped onto us. If they find the people responsible, they'll be getting five pounds from the parish box, surely?

Seriously: it must be frustrating for the Big I Am to have lost his work, although it's a bit bemusing why, if these are only rough sketches of the songs he feels he has to junk the whole lot and start all over again. It's not like when you buy a song you might not have heard another version of it before - perhaps live, or as a session track.

What makes it odder still is that apparently the car was stolen outside a listening party for the finished album a month or so ago.

So if the worry is that the demo versions might trump the finished versions, why not just get the apparently-ready-to-go album straight out there?

The other strange question is what sort of chump thinks 'I'm going to play my album to execs and friends tonight, so I should probably dig out the rough demos and leave them lying around in my car when I do that'?

A cynic might wonder if the listening party was a bit of a flop, the tracks failed to be embraced, and the missing car gave a chance to construct an elaborate story to cover junking the disappointing first attempt and Will being sent back to the studio to see if he couldn't do better.

Nah. That would never happen, would it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gordon in the morning: They left without escort

Felix Allen files for the News International shadow state this morning with a story about the football:

ROWDY Liam Gallagher got a rollocking from Spanish cops last night as he watched his beloved Manchester City lose 3-2 to Real Madrid.
From cops? Plural? A rollicking?
City were 2-1 up with minutes to go when a cop grabbed Liam’s arm as he stood up and got “vocal”.
One cop. A gentle touch. It's not exactly a call for water cannon and back-up, is it?

The story concludes:
His spokesman said: “They left without escort.”
Which is either a brilliant deadpan response, or the long sigh of a spokesperson fighting off a desperate bid to turn a nothing into a something.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where be pirates?

The BBC got quite excited by the MusicMetric Digital Music Index. Very, very excited, although it somehow neglects to mention in the BBC News report that the MusicMetric work has been done apparently as part of a BBC project. The MusicMetric page does reveal the link:

As part of the BBC BitTorrent trend visualisation we have released the largest ever public data set showing trends in music on BitTorrent around the UK.
I say "reveal", although it doesn't really explain what that might mean.

On a different page, the BBC does start to suggest there could be a link:
The data, collected independently by Musicmetric and seen exclusively by the BBC, is believed to be the biggest analysis of its kind to be conducted.
If it's a BBC project, then you'd expect the data to be seen exclusively. Although MusicMetric have published the data under a Creative Commons licence so it's not that exclusive.

If the BBC is commissioning work like this, why would it pretend it's just some stuff that happens to be out there?

Anyway, that BBC excitement. There's excitement over the sheer volume of downloads in the UK:
Globally, the research suggested that the UK is a significant player on the world stage as a country of illegal music downloaders.

The country was placed second in the world in terms of pure volume of illegal activity, with Musicmetric logging 43,263,582 downloads in the first six months of this year.

The US topped the list, with 96,681,133 downloads tracked in the same period.

Italy (33,158,943), Canada (23,959,924) and Brazil (19,724,522) made up the remainder of the top five.
However, as the reports point out elsewhere, in many countries the most-torrented artist is Billy Van, who has made a choice to share his music via BitTorrent. So these figures, clearly, don't track "illegal music downloaders" at all; they mix up licenced and unlicenced downloads. And that's before you have to swallow hard at the conflation of all "illegal" downloads and activity solely on the torrents.

If the language is vague, the figures seem suspicious, too. Really? Britain is the second best at torrenting, although outstripped only two-to-one by the US?

It might be true, but I'd be more keen to accept that data if this had come from a different place - British survey finds British people (second) most active could be down to the methodology, or a cultural bias. Would a team sat in Lahore have found identical data?

When we get down to a town and artist level, things get cloudier still:
The data suggests that Ed Sheeran - with his album + - is, so far this year, the most illegally downloaded artist in 459 of the 694 cities, towns and villages covered by the research.
No. No, it really doesn't. The data tracks the most - let's use their terms - illegally downloaded albums and, certainly in the data released, that's all.

So you can say that if you take this data, +- is the most torrented album, but you can't say anything about artists. (For example, if just over half of people downloading +- download two Pink albums, too, Pink would outstrip Sheeran as most popular artist, but that wouldn't show up on this data.

And we're talking about tiny, tiny numbers here - Sheeran "won" Bath with just 57 copies snaffled; that was 0.01% of all the Bath torrents. That's pretty slim figures to build a claim on.

That's even if you accept this town-level data at all. The internet is tolerably good at knowing what country you're in, but anyone who has seen the attempts to localise adverts for dating sites and that one about the woman with the strange old trick to look younger will know, when it comes to guessing your town, the internet has all the pinpoint accuracy of a NATO strike.

So when the BBC claims:
Unlike the most recent boat race, Oxford (8,511 downloads on average per month) and Cambridge (7,217 downloads) find themselves pretty close in the piracy stakes.
It's possible all those downloads could actually have been located in Bedford.

So, pretty much dubious claim stacked on category error set upon rather thin data. Still, it's a news story, kinda, right?

The BBC Online reporting, though, is better than that spotted on South Today by icod:

Yes, that was Sheeran being called a "naughty boy" for, erm, having been the victim of downloaders.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Professor Green is the poor man's Ricky Gervais

There's an instructive blog by ahwellnevermind on what happens when you poke a bit of gentle fun at Professor Green.

Spoilers: he has a very thin skin.

Green had posted a self-satisfied little tweet the other day about how he can make people feel better about their "shit" lives. ahwellnevermind tweeted back "says the poor man's Eminem."

Professor Green read the tweet, smiled slightly to himself, and went about his life.

Except he didn't:

He retweeted immediately quoting it with "But I'm not poor?"
For someone who makes their living using words, the inability to understand the idiom "the poor man's X" is a little surprising; the setting of his twitter acolytes on someone for a bit of gentle ribbing is incredibly disappointing.

Because, naturally, his followers piled in:
From that second on my @ mentions were full. Pages & pages of abuse. [...]
Then I saw one that said go kill yourself. Then one said I will hunt you down & kill you. After that I stopped reading them.
At which point, Professor Green saw what was happening and reacted with horror and little shame, begging his fans to behave with a little more restraint.

Except, of course, he didn't. He enjoyed what was happening, posting gurgling delight:
You don't get in a boxing ring expecting not to get punched.

Also if you choose to share an opinion without being asked for one you should be as willing to accept a response.
There's a couple of things here - first, isn't Twitter a forum for posting opinions without being asked?

And, secondly, even if your vanity is paper-thin that the merest hint that you're not all that upsets you so, is getting a million strangers to post death-threats a proportionate response?

We can usefully compare what happened the time Green made some oh-so-hilarious joke about bulimia on Twitter. Here was Green, sharing an unasked-for opinion, and drawing a slapdown. Did he shrug and say "well, I ought to be willing to accept a response"?

Did he buggery:
I'm over they heads like a bulimic on a sea-saw,' he tweeted, before adding: 'Queue all the people who start telling me how insensitive I am and how bulimia jokes aren't funny yadda yadda yadda.'
Nope. Apparently reacting to Green's opinions is bad. Perhaps you can only really say what you think if you have hundreds of thousands of proxies to do your work for you.

Black Flag: On a mission

Keith Morris out of Black Flag has a mission which keeps him going, 34 years into his career:

I'm trying to be as healthy as possible, trying to keep active, just be doing something. And there's a rash of bands that are out there. There's some really great ones, but the majority pretty much suck and need to be bulldozed off a cliff. They need to be scolded, slapped, told the way it is. I use that as fuel, part of my energy. It makes me angry, along with a lot of the political things that are going on, and watching people scamper along like cockroaches.
You can admire his commitment but still wonder: have any of the bands he's railing at ever realised he wants them to be told the way it is? I'm picturing him stood outside the stage door yelling "you don't have enough politics in your... oh, they've got in the coach" as One Direction depart.

Gordon in the morning: Caught in a frightening Labrinth

Apparently Labrinth is trying to have his mass ITV audience appearance and reject it. Gordon reports that he's upset at being forced to go on The X Factor by Simon Cowell:

He said: “I’ve been forced. A lot of people think I hate X Factor and think it’s s***. I’m just being honest about the way it works. I think artists who take their craft really seriously don’t go on it.”
Really? How principled of you, then, Mr Labrinth, to, erm, sign to a label which is subsidised entirely by the efforts of those shit artists who don't take approach their "craft" "seriously".

One might wonder how you managed to stomach this bilious distaste when you signed to Syco in the first place. Maybe the money helps.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Twenty dollars a pop: BMG chase payments for unlicensed files

Having realised the limitations of dragging everyone who might have got hold of an unlicensed mp3s into court, BMG have come up with a new wheeze. Let's be generous and call it sending a speculative invoice which invites account holders to give them twenty dollars to make the threat of more expensive legal action go away.

Twenty dollars, I guess, seems like a fair price to the RIAA, who believe that a dodgy file or two should destroy your entire life. But, as Torrentfreak points out, they're not actually telling the truth when they make their demands:

TorrentFreak discussed this BMG project with lawyer Samuel Perkins of the Brody Hardoon Perkins & Kesten lawfirm. Perkins pointed us to the FAQ page on the settlement site where it states that even when an Internet account holder is innocent, he must take responsibility for the actions of others.

“BMG acknowledges that in many cases the subscriber will not be involved in any unlawful downloading, and will not even have any knowledge of it. I represent many such innocent subscribers,” Perkins begins.

“Under current US copyright laws, they would not be liable for copyright violations that occurred using their Internet subscription. BMG misrepresents subscribers’ copyright liability by stating that ‘most Internet service provider contracts state that the contract holder is responsible for actions taken on the Internet service.’ This statement is designed to convince subscribers that they are liable for a copyright violation if a neighbor or a family member secretly downloads copyrighted material,” Perkins explains.

“The subscriber is only liable for copyright infringement if he or she intentionally induc[es] or encourag[es] direct infringement, or infringes vicariously by profiting from direct infringement while declining to exercise a right to stop or limit it.

“By deliberately obscuring the distinction between the subscriber’s contract with the ISP and the subscriber’s liability under federal copyright law, BMG’s website attempts to trick innocent subscribers into settling copyright infringement cases when they in fact have no liability,” he concludes.
A 3000% plus mark-up and a false insistence of who owes the money. The record industry is still behaving as it always has, clinging to methods that don't work.