Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lennon musical plans coagulate together

Could there be any idea worse than a musical based on multimillionaire ascetic John Lennon's life?

Apparently, yes:

Cast frontman John Power is to portray John Lennon in a new musical
Contactmusic looks on the bright side:
Power is a great choice to play the rock legend - he went to the same Liverpool schools as Lennon.
David Cameron went to the same school as George Orwell. Not entirely sure this means Cameron would be the obvious person to play Orwell in a dramatisation of Down And Out In Paris And London.

My Chemical Romance: Going the Gerard Way of all flesh

My Chemical Romance have split up, as part of an austerity drive. The music business decided it no longer needed to keep an emergency Green Day on hand.

Here's their official statement:

"Being in this band for the past 12 years has been a true blessing. We've gotten to go places we never knew we would. We've been able to see and experience things we never imagined possible. We've shared the stage with people we admire, people we look up to, and best of all, our friends. And now, like all great things, it has come time for it to end. Thanks for all of your support, and for being part of the adventure."
It's not clear what they have experienced that they couldn't have imagined. Maybe they've had their insides replaced by space squid.

The main difference in the post My Chemical Romance world is that a large number of early middle-aged men have just called their mother's homes to say alright, they can take down the poster now. "But leave the Korn one up, ma. Leave the Korn one up."

Twittergem: James Blunt

To be fair to James Blunt, this is a pretty deft and measured response:

[Thanks to Michael M]

Bookmarks: Madonna

Oh, here's some sweet joy: Malcriada has uncovered Madonna's first clothing line:

What's really interesting here is how, back in the 80s, there was no pretence that the star name attached to the line was actually doing the designing. Wouldn't get that now, would you?

There's the whole of the spread at Malcriada's Tumblr.

Robbie Williams: Now Menswear wade in

After Robbie Williams' attack on second-string indie bands has lead to a major skirmish.

Contactmusic is reporting from the frontline:

Menswear? Star? That's a bit of a stretch, surely?

It's the drummer, Matt Everitt, who has at least had a post-Menswe@r career in radio - he's the only one of the band who has his own Wikipedia page. On this basis, the Times have handed him an op-ed slot to start the fightback:

"I find it amusing that Robbie Williams... can let one comment from Brett Anderson... get his back up... It's quite endearing, but also slightly worrying...

"Menswear weren't manufactured, but I can see why people went on about the whole style over substance thing with us... We actually used to go on stage to Back For Good by Take That, a staggeringly great pop single. In the mid-nineties there wasn't really any rivalry between pop groups and the guitar bands...

"Traditionally your big pop acts allow record labels to invest in guitar bands, because they take longer to develop. Some rock bands take a few albums before they start making money and those tend to be the bands, like U2 and Radiohead, that in the longterm become important and fund everything. It's always been like that."
And that's an important point. It's worth remembering that even when Take That came off the production line, it took them four goes before they managed a hit; some of the bands slated by Williams didn't get given the same space to develop a following before the label pulled the plug.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Also apologising: Robbie Williams

Brett Anderson said something relatively uncontroversial about how in the 1990s, record labels were churning out boybands:

"There has always been cr*p 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."
I think you'd see the point - A1, Blue, 5ive. You could do a list.

Obviously, not everything that came from the conveyor belt was bad - in the same way that some things on sale in Tesco are actually quite toothsome. And it was twenty years ago, so who could possibly get upset?

Step forward the biggest battery hen of them all, Robbie Williams to speak up for the factory farming:











There's something of a major leap from Brett saying "some boybands were crap" to Williams glossing this as Brett dismissing pop in its entirety.

And I'm not even going to start pointing out that a man who cannot see the difference between, say, Kula Shaker and Adorable probably shouldn't be commenting about music at all.

Or that Williams makes a schoolboy error of actually proving Anderson's wider point - yes, more people will be excited by One Direction than by Suede, precisely because that's where the music industry shoves its investment.

Or that Williams' defeated shuffle back to Take That, tail between legs, is an example of Music Industry Attitude in sixty-foot high letters: 'why do something interesting and new when you can shake cash out of the same-old, same-old'?

Let's just skip to the damage limitation post from a short while later:


Yes, a multimillionaire really, really needed to spurt a little bile into the faces of the members of Symposium. I can see how their low-twenties chart career must have been eating away at you for the last two decades.

Mich-understood? Shocked claims hate was example

Last Sunday, Michelle Shocked managed to trash her reputation by standing on stage in San Francisco and announcing that gay marriage would bring about Armageddon (the Jesus not Willis version).

After three days of being called out, gigs being pulled and former fans back-masking The Texas Campfire Tapes to see if she'd hidden 'Jesus is Lord' messages in the songs, Shocked has finally responded with a statement.

Why, yes, of course there's a reasonable explanation - she wasn't talking about what she believes, it was just what "some folks" believe:

I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that. I believe intolerance comes from fear, and these folks are genuinely scared. When I said "Twitter that Michelle Shocked says "God hates faggots," I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. The show was all music, and the audience tweets said they enjoyed it. The commentary came about ten minutes later, in the encore.

And to those fans who are disappointed by what they've heard or think I said, I'm very sorry: I don't always express myself as clearly as I should. But don't believe everything you read on facebook or twitter. My view of homosexualty has changed not one iota. I judge not. And my statement equating repeal of Prop 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: it was a description of how some folks - not me - feel about gay marriage.
Here's the thing, though. You know that the couple of paragraphs wasn't my words, but somebody else's, because I introduced it as such (and formatted it differently).

Shocked doesn't appear to have used a framing device.

Likewise, if I decided I wanted to draw attention to people who want to punch kittens, I'd not do a post which simply said "Let's punch kittens" as I think I'd be unwise to expect readers to somehow grasp that I'd lurched unannounced into the character of a kitten-puncher.

And even if I did do that, I think I'd not need three days of 'Music blogger calls for kitten pain' response before realising that people had thought I wanted cats attacked and grudgingly released an explanation that, no, I was just pretending to be a feline fighter. For some reason.

The bigger problem with Shocked's explanation is that people were taping the gig and a transcript destroys this idea that there was some sort of third party defence:
"From their vantage point – and I really shouldn't say 'their', because it's mine too – we are nearly at the end of time," she is heard to say, "and from our vantage point, we're gonna be – I think maybe Chinese water torture is going to be the method. Once Prop 8 gets [repealed] and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the homosexuals, I'm pretty sure that that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back."

But, hey, maybe it she wasn't simply doing it in the character of a person who believed this shit, but doing it in a metacharacter of someone who believed it, but wanted to distance themselves from it slightly.

Back to the statement, then. Having opened the sluice gates of asshattery, Shocked then calls for people to forgive the asshats:
The show, and the rant, was spontaneous. As for those applauding my so-called stance that "God Hates Faggots," I say they should be met with mercy, not hate. And I hope that what remains of my audience will meet that intolerance with understanding, even of those who might hate them.
Yes, that's right. If someone hates you because of who you love, it's up to you to make the adjustments to tolerate their hatred.

On she ploughs:
Folks wonder about my sexuality, but denying being gay is like saying I never beat my husband.
I think this is meant to be a reference to the loaded 'when did you stop hitting your wife' question, but... this is meaningless, right? The model would only work if she said 'being asked if I'm still gay is like being asked if I'm still beating my husband'.
My sexuality is not at issue.
That's the first sensible thing she's said so far. This isn't about her sexuality at all. Other things it's not about are cheese, horticulture and water towers.
What is being questioned is my support for the LGBT community, and that has never wavered.
Except for a few moments ago when you suggested that it's incumbent on the LGBT community to understand and tolerate people who would see them dead, or degayed-through-prayer, or whatever.
Music and activism have always been part of my work and my journey, which I hope and intend to continue. I'd like to say this was a publicity stunt, but I'm really not that clever, and I'm definitely not that cynical.
Also, Michelle, if it had been a publicity stunt, 'reminding people I exist and then making them wish I had never made a record' would have been a pretty dreadful stunt.
But I am damn sorry. If I could repeat the evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor, and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them. I say this not because I want to look better. I have no wish to hide my faults, and - clearly - I couldn't if I tried.

With love,

How would you go about making the distinction clearer, Michelle? Perhaps by not saying "it's my vantage point too".

Or maybe the only distinction between you and a standard class asshole is the other assholes haven't just had an entire US tour axed.

There was a second statement which followed, which somehow tries to suggest that there's something "punk" about putting the doctrine of evangelical fundamentalists ahead of just letting people who love each other say so in a public forum:
I believe in a God who loves everyone, and my faith tells me to do my best to also love everyone. Everyone: gay or straight, stridently gay, self-righteously faithful; left or right, far left, far right; good, bad, or indifferent. That's the law: everyone.

I may disagree with someone's most fervently held belief, but I will not hate them. And in this controversy, that means speaking for Christians with opinions I in no way share about homosexuality. Will I endorse them? Never. Will I disavow them? Never.

I stand accused of forsaking the LGBT community for a Christianity which is – hear me now - anathema to my understanding of faith. I will no doubt take future flack for saying so. I'm accused of believing that "God hates fags" and that the repeal of Prop 8 will usher in the End Times. Well, if I caused such an absurdity, I am damn sorry. To be clear: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of any so-called faith preaching intolerance of anyone. Again, anyone: straight or gay, believers or not: that's the law.

That means upholding my punk rock values in the most evangelical enclaves and, in this case, speaking up for the most fearful of fundamentalists in, well, a San Francisco music hall full of Michelle Shocked fans.

As an artist in this time of unbearable culture wars, I understand: this means trouble, and this is neither the first nor last time trouble has come my way. And that's fine by me.

I know the fear many in the evangelical community feel about homosexual marriage, as I understand the fear many in the gay community feel toward the self-appointed faithful. I have and will continue speaking to both. Everything else – facebook, twitter, whatever – is commentary.
Let's not see this as a shabby attempt to try and salvage a career, and take it at at least one of its faces' value and ask: if Shocked really was trying to 'speak up for evangelicals', why did she feel the need?

Does she really think that people in San Francisco haven't heard the bullshit over and over again? That with Fox News, and Westboro Baptist Church, and Utah-based attempts to rig the Prop 8 vote through endless TV commercials, that people in the city might not have heard what fundamentalists think, again and again and again and a-fucking-gain.

There are many, many platforms where these groups express their views, where they wave the Holy Books they don't quite understand, and declaim.

What gap in the discourse did Shocked think she was plugging?

But even if you do buy this line - then how was merely parroting their words supposed to be of value?

You could imagine Shocked doing the ranty bit, with quote marks around it, and then - like a Culture Wars Yarwood - segueing into a 'and this is me' bit, perhaps trying to find some common ground, or saying 'look, here's the reason why these people think this...' But there was none of that.

Standing in a room and saying 'let's punch kittens' isn't moving on a debate about punching kittens.

Michelle Shocked isn't so stupid as to not understand that.

The apology?
And it's every month I tear it up and mail the damn thing back/
Did you think that would make it alright, did you think I would fall for that?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

File sharing not killing music after all, it turns out

It's not Girls Aloud coming to a graceful end; that other music industry trouper, the claim that file sharing hurts music sales, has pretty much been laid to rest as well: Extensive research from the European Union confirms what a lot of us have thought all along: unlicensed listening doesn't really take money from anywhere else:

The goal of this paper is to analyze the behavior of digital music consumers on the Internet.Using clickstream data on a panel of more than 16,000 European consumers, we estimate theeffects of illegal downloading and legal streaming on the legal purchases of digital music. Ourresults suggest that Internet users do not view illegal downloading as a substitute to legal dig-ital music. Although positive and significant, our estimated elasticities are essentially zero: a10% increase in clicks on illegal downloading websites leads to a 0.2% increase in clicks on legalpurchases websites. Online music streaming services are found to have a somewhat larger (butstill small) effect on the purchases of digital sound recordings, suggesting complementaritiesbetween these two modes of music consumption. According to our results, a 10% increase in clicks on legal streaming websites lead to up to a 0.7% increase in clicks on legal digital purchases websites. We find important cross country difference in these effects.
So - it differs a bit from country to country, but broadly speaking, there's a tiny positive effect, and - oh joy - even legal streaming leads to a small rise in actual sales.

Even if you accept that the upswings are as small as to be zero, that's still no negative effect.

You don't, of course, take down one of the RIAA-IFPI shibboleths with data and expect the music industry to admit they've been wrong. So they try a response to tear the research to shreds. It doesn't quite work:
IFPI believes the JRC study is flawed and misleading. The findings seem disconnected from commercial reality, are based on a limited view of the market and are contradicted by a large
volume of alternative third party research that confirms the negative impact of piracy on the
legitimate music business
Let's just look at that a little closer, shall we?

"Flawed and misleading" is quite a big claim - one suggesting incompetence and one duplicity. You better have something strong and convincing to follow that up.

"The findings seem disconnected from commercial reality". And, really, they don't. "This survey doesn't confirm what I believe, so it must be wrong" is just piffle.

"are based on a limited view of the market" - this seems to be the objection that the survey takes no account of legal streaming. Except it does. Look, that bit we quoted up there makes it clear that the impact of legal streaming on the download market is part of the thing they were investigating. Bit misleading to complain that research hasn't investigated the effect of legal streaming on legal streaming, isn't it?

"and are contradicted by a large volume of alternative third party research that confirms the negative impact of piracy on the legitimate music business" - nice to see the music industry calling itself a legitimate business. There's a pleasing Corleone ring to that.

I think this existence of contradictory data is upon which the IFPI are building the claim of the survey being misleading.

Trouble is, two of the three surveys are referenced by the EU survey - their findings detailed, and proper references given; the intention being that people read them alongside the EU findings.

To not have included the research which contradicts their findings would have been misleading. You know, like if the music industry issued a press release which only cherry picked research which agreed with them and ignored the research which took an opposing position. Like this one.

So what of the flaws? The IFPI details a "key example" - which apparently is so key they need no further examples:
A key example of this problem is the treatment of iTunes ‘clicks’ by Nielsen. iTunes is a major legal music service and an essential data point in establishing legal music consumption. Nielsen measures use of the iTunes application, which involves any activity around iTunes - such as a user simply plugging their iPhone into the PC (which launches the iTunes application), a user listening to music via iTunes, a user synchronising their Apple device with their PC, a user renting a film on iTunes, or downloading a game app. Each one of these instances are counted as an iTunes ‘click’ and considered as legal music behaviour by the JRC. This severely impacts the results and is not a good proxy for legitimate music consumption
Does Nielsen really count someone launching a desktop application as a click on a website? If that's true, then the methodology flaw is Nielsen's. (I've dropped an email to the IFPI to check where they're getting this definition of a click from.)

Even if we take this at its word - although people who still sync iPhones with PCs are hardly going to have much of a grasp on modern technology - there's no indication of how "severely" the impact of this is. (Really? Every time someone starts and stops a song and starts another one of their desktop iTunes player Nielsen adds a click on iTunes? That's extraordinary if true. Is it?) The IFPI might be right, this could undermine the findings. But rather than give us any data which could be set against the research, the IFPI just shrug and say they reckon it's just enough to know it could be flawed.

If they were interested in the truth, the IFPI would be pointing to a better source of the music interaction data. That they don't suggests their takedown is a panicky attempt to get everyone to look the other way.

[UPDATE: Took a while, but finally got a confirmation from Nielsen that their methodology can, indeed, include people recharging their iPhones as a visit to iTunes. I don't think that fatally undermines the EU report, but it does weaken it to the point where it's worth approaching the findings with a bit more caution. I've written more about this here.]

Girls Aloud switch off

I don't think there's much surprise here - it couldn't have been more obvious this was a farewell tour had it been called "The Farewell Tour" - but it's been confirmed Girls Aloud are no more. They announced the end through a series of tweets:

"Dear Alouders, we just want to say from the bottom of our hearts Thank you!!

"This tour has been an amazing experience and the perfect chance to say thank you for being on this journey with us through a decade.

"It has far exceeded any of our dreams and we hope we are forever your inspiration and reminder that dreams really do glitter!!

"Your love and support will stay with us forever but we have now come to the end of our incredible time together. Love you lots."
It's not a bad outcome for winning a gameshow.

Oh, go on, then:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Done Waiting abandons screen for paper

The decade-old music blog Done Waiting has closed down, or rather leaped media. It's going to be reopening soon as an annual print title.

Ha! A print title? How will they be able to keep up-to-the-second as a print magazine?

Reader's voice: Hang on a second, Done Waiting announced it was closing online at the end of February. It's taken you nearly a month to mention it here. Doesn't that rather spit in the eye of your claim that you get much more timely content online?

Shh... be quiet, now. Shhh.

Songwriterobit: Jason Molina

Jason Molina, who recorded under the name Songs:Ohia and later toured as the Magnolia Electric Co, has died.

AmericanSongwriter shared Secretly Canadian's tribute to their artist:

Jason was a world class musician, songwriter & recording artist. He was also a beloved friend,” said his first record label, Secretly Canadian, in a statement.

“This is especially hard for us to share. Jason is the cornerstone of Secretly Canadian. Without him there would be no us — plain and simple . . . We’re going to miss Jason. He was generous. He was a one of a kind. And he had a voice unlike any other.”
The Guardian carried a tribute from Steve Albini:
"I loved hearing Jason Molina sing. He was a genius at turning a phrase and making it into something more than the words in it. Jason was almost supernaturally prolific, and several times I watched him write an album's worth of songs in a weekend, recording them on the spot.
Much of his recorded output with Magnolia Electric Co is the evidence of him and the band playing his songs for the very first time.

It's amazing, really, that it was any good at all, much less so touching and fully realised. Jason was a unique talent and I will miss him. My heart goes out to all his friends and family, all of you I've met have been good people who did well by Jason."
Fans are being invited to help pay Molina's outstanding medical bills as tribute.

Molina had been struggling with illness for some time; he was 39.

Napalm Death: Collapsing old buildings

Napalm Death were going to play the Victoria & Albert Museum, through a ceramic soundsystem which was designed to decay as the set progressed. They've had to pull it, though, as the museum was afraid it could destroy the building as well:

A spokesperson for the museum told Sky News: "This was due to take place in the Europe Galleries, which are currently being refurbished, and a further safety inspection has revealed concerns that the high level of decibels generated by the concert would damage the historic fabric of the building...The V&A is committed to an exciting programme of exhibitions and events but the safety of our visitors and building remains our priority at all times."
It's believed that Extreme Noise Terror at the Cumberland Pencil Museum is in doubt for the same reasons.

Bruno Mars: singing vagina

As if Bruno Mars singing about vaginas wasn't awkward enough, he's now talking about singing about vaginas. Readers with toes which can curl are advised to look away now:

''It feels good to sing about. It It puts you in a sexy frame of mind. It feels good to project. Sex is a great party starter.

''The verses to me are what really makes that song: 'Swimming in your water is something spiritual'.

''If you think it's blasphemous, then obviously you don't know that it's poetry.''
I don't think anyone thinks of it as being a blasphemous line, Bruno. Unless there's a religion which has a Thou Shalt Not Cringe commandment.

"Swimming in your waters". Bruno talks like a man who's never got beyond splashing about in the shallow end.

Michelle Shocked: If love were a train, it'd be derailed

Disappointing to see that Michelle Shocked has gone from the ugly dismissal of her own sexuality to a blanket attack on all gay people, live from the stage at Yoshi's, San Francisco. Matt Penfield was there, and told Yahoo Music:

"She started reading some tweets from the stream and having a dialogue about people's impressions, talking about how she was feeling brave at this point and that she was doing the right thing. Then the tone of the conversation became extremely religious and she began talking about the two things most important to her being Jesus Christ and freedom. Then she talked about how she had just come from a prayer meeting the night before, and the people in her prayer meeting were really worried because these are the end times, and they’re the end times because Prop. 8 is going to lead to ministers marrying gay people with a rifle to the head. At which people got a little riled up; then there started to be some call and response from the crowd about what she meant. She started exhorting the crowd very specifically to go ahead and tweet or write and say that Michelle Shocked says God hates f--s, and some other references to the Bible denouncing homosexuality as sinful and abhorrent.

"At that point a lot of people started getting up and walking out. We didn’t understand if this was for the sake of art or an actual rant. Then she delivered the same Bible verses in Spanish. At that point personally I felt like I was an emotional hostage, and the night of entertainment had become a night for her to deliver this intense personal polemic that, in hindsight, it felt like she had been carrying around since she got on stage, while we were strapped in waiting for her to deliver it."
There's been a few vain attempts to suggest that maybe this was some sort of biting satire, but taken alongside her past description of homosexuality as being "no more of a sin than fornication" (gee, thanks) and her same-sex past either as a lie or an "inconvenient truth" it seems unlikely.

Last night Shocked was retweeting a mix of positive and negative @ messages, prompting one exasperated follower to sigh "the cryptic retweets aren't helping".

What's certain, though, is that the world is treating a former radical standing on stage shouting "god hates fags" - however ironically - like box office poison, with shows being axed all over America.

Michelle Shocked. Come a long fucking way indeed.

Gordon in the morning: I, an actor

Goodness... is this an orgy?

R-Patz’s romp with 3 women
(And he got paid £8million for it)
So, in other words: Actor does acting job.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gordon in the morning: Misunderstanding Mumford

Mumford and Sons pretty much have themselves pegged:

The group’s banjo player, WINSTON MARSHALL, reckons they’re one of the wettest bands in the business.

He said: “We’re not, like, hard men. We’re emotional. We’re not rock’n’roll.

“If AC/DC apologised, that’d be the end of their career.

“But someone doesn’t say hello to us and we’re like, ‘I cannot believe the gall!’”
I'm not quite sure that Marshall would recognise what he was describing as "wet"; I think he was going for "sensitive" or "polite".

But then Gordon seems to struggle to understand anything the band says. Take this:
[Marcus][ revealed: “Every day I use my phone and I have no idea how it works.

“Whereas I see an acoustic guitar played with gusto and I understand just how it works.”
I think that's pretty clear - the difference between advanced technology and more basic kit; the difference between knowing, say, how a guitar makes a C and how your phone knows that there's a burger bar round the corner and can give you turn-by-turn directions to get there.

The gap between having an understanding of your tools, and your tools being a mystery.

Gordon, though, doesn't appear to get it:
The group’s frontman MARCUS MUMFORD admits they haven’t even worked out how to use mobile phones.
No, he really isn't admitting that. He's not saying that at all.

Still, there's an upside:
Just as well – iPhones would be useless keeping 60,000 fans entertained at the O2.
Actually, Gordon's wrong here, too:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bad news for artists who want to sound like a bad Beatles pastiche

How does Noel Gallagher react when people ask him to write a song for them? (No, he claims it happens all the time.)

With good grace, of course:

'I must have been asked to write songs for people about 20 times, 'Hey man, we should write some songs together,' F***ing write your own songs. I spent 46 years busting my a**e to get here, slaving over a line in a song for a month.

So no, I won't f***ing write a song with you, you little prick. F**k off! It just annoys me.''
I think the most telling thing about that - apart from how he sounds more and more like Karl Pilkington - is that he's only been asked 20 times to write for anyone. That's about once a year.

The thought there are lines in Gallagher songs which took him a month to write is also a little bit boggling. "He thought he was King Creole" took as long to construct as a solid two-storey village hall would. Blimey.

Listen with No Rock: Sweet Baboo

As we're now only about a month from the Sweet Baboo album Ships, there's a single out. And sometimes 'single' can mean a stream from Soundcloud:

[Preorder Ships]

This week just gone

The things that have excited Facebook users enough to bring them over the walled garden onto No Rock in the last twelve months:

1. Neil McCormick's Kraftwerk piece bears strange resemblance to Jude Rogers' one
2. Bloc Festival collapses in chaos
3. Simon Worrall tribute album preview
4. Radiohead attempt to block touts fails
5. Rounder Records to close
6. NME's best singles of 1993
7. Liverpool council torpedoes MelloMello
8. Slowdive reunion: could happen, in at least some universes
9. What do the BBC cuts mean for music
10. The Word folds

These were this week's interesting things:

Derek Bowie - The Next Day

Download The Next Day

Devendra Banhart - Mala

Download Mala

Hurts - Exile

Download Exile