Saturday, November 22, 2014

Billy Bragg on wrong side of history, again

Billy Bragg is having a terrible year - having backed the South Bank and its sponsors against the Undercroft skaters, he's now had to apologise to Taylor Swift.

See, when Swift pulled her music from Spotify, Bragg concluded somehow that this was because she was clambering into bed with Google:

"If Ms Swift was truly concerned about perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free, she should be removing her material from YouTube, not cosying up to it," Bragg said.

"Given that this year is the first to fail to produce a new million selling album, I can understand Taylor Swift wanting to maximise her opportunities with the new record – and it worked: she shifted 1.28m copies of 1989 in the first week of sale. But she should just be honest with her fans and say “sorry, but Sergey Brin gave me a huge amount of money to be the headline name on the marquee for the launch of You Tube Music Key and so I’ve sold my soul to Google,” Bragg continued.

"Google are going after Spotify and Taylor Swift has just chosen sides," wrote Bragg. "That’s her prerogative as a savvy businesswoman - but please don’t try to sell this corporate power play to us as some sort of altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers."
There's two problems here: the first, that Swift's pulling of music from Spotify is unconnected with her selling over a million copies of her album. How dispiriting it is that Bragg assumes her sales are simply a function of a basic supply and demand curve; that it is the scarcity of supply rather than the quality of the experience that has seen 1989 fly off shelves or down wires or whatever it is records actually do now.

The second, more important problem was Bragg's accusation that Swift was acting not out of principle but greed was... well, it was very wide of the mark. Here's his climbdown:
"I want to apologise to Taylor Swift for accusing her of selling her soul to Google," wrote Bragg on Facebook. "I have learned that her music will not now be available on the new YouTube Music Key service, which launched this week."
So, sorry about that. Bragg then launches into an explanation of how he got confused, based on how he'd read in The Observer that Google had used Swift's music at the launch, and then goes into a bit of a ramble about how music being available for free on the internet made him do it.
The time will surely come when content creators have to band together to challenge deals done between rights holders and service providers, details of which are kept from artists and their representatives. If Ms Swift is going to lead that fight for transparency, she will have my full support.
I'm sure she'll be delighted to have your full support, Billy. Perhaps not in the research department.

On the other hand, Bragg did have a good joke to end on:
I would like to add that I will be boycotting the first media outlet to use the headline ‘Bragg makes Swift apology’
It's a good gag, but perhaps having accused a person of selling their soul to Google for a large sum of money requires more than a boom-tish.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What the hell, Minneapolis Star Tribune?

We need to talk, Star Tribune:

You think that being related to someone out The Temptations in Jimmy Ruffin's main claim to fame? Seriously?

Bookmarks: Elastica & Mark E Smith

The AV Club remembers that time Elastica and Mark E Smith worked together:

It’s a corker of a tune, with Frischmann spitting some abstract fatalism about there being no way out and “last chances,” which resonate even more knowing that Elastica would break up shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, Smith barks about breaking through “glass barriers/class barriers,” which could possibly be read as commentary on Elastica being held down by a boys’ club music scene that saw it as irredeemable. Or, maybe it just sounded good.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Legendobit: Jimmy Ruffin

Jimmy Ruffin has died.

Amongst his many other musical accomplishments, let's never forget that he took on Thatcher, on the side of the miners, when he joined Weller's Council Collective to raise funds for the strikers (while putting their side of the story):

(In obituaries this morning, the BBC is coyly describing this as "a charity single" rather than a political act.)

But this... this is what he'll be best remembered for:

Daily Mail & Dave apparently believes Hear'Say still a going concern

The funniest thing about Dave Cameron's embrace of Myleene Klass and her 'how can you punish me for being rich' special pleading - and the gurgling delight the Mail has shown - is that both seem convinced that Klass is still a pop star.

Hear'Say broke up on the 13th May, 2003 - so not pop for 11 years - and hasn't troubled the top 10 since 2002. So not a pop star for a dozen years.

What's strange is, if Dave had gone with the more accurate 'woman from the Littlewoods catalogue adverts', it would probably have had more sting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back, back, back: Ride

I'm genuinely conflicted about this:

Friday 22 May Barrowland Ballroom Glasgow, UK
Saturday 23 May 2015 Albert Hall Manchester, UK
Sunday 24 May 2015 Roundhouse London, UK
Tuesday 26 May 2015 Paradiso Amsterdam, Holland
Wednesday 27 May 2015 Olympia Paris, France
Friday 29 May 2015 PrimaveraFestival Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday 2 June 2015 DanForth Music Hall Toronto, Canada
Thursday 4 June 2015 Terminal New York, US
Sunday 7 June 2015 Field Day London, UK

Ride were one of the most important bands in my life. One of the most important things in my life. Seeing Chelsea Girl on Snub TV is one of those events where my narrative changed.

But also: late-period, when Andy took over most of the duties. When they were a pre-echo of Hurricane Number One.

They changed my life.

They broke my heart.

Do I want to go back to that?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Indieobit: Jeff Fletcher

Jeff Fletcher, guitarist with Northern Uproar, has been killed in a road accident.

Fletcher was hit by a lorry in the centre of Stockport on Monday evening; suffering head injuries, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Jeff was a founder member of the group - arguably, rooted in bands he and Leon Meya started when they were just 11. Never quite Britpop, never quite Madchester, the band ran around the charts shouting between 1995 and 1997; they got back together in 2004 and are still a going concern, although Jeff left a couple of years back.

Talking to the Manchester Evening News, Leon Meya said:

“Jeff was a gentleman and my friend since the age of five, we grew up together and went through school.

“He was a genius and learned the guitar in six months. He was the principle song writer, he could make melodies, sing and was a good performer. He made the sound of Northern Uproar, we were a great team.

“Jeff was recognised as a great guitarist, his guitar work was amazing. He was such a lovely caring bloke, I will miss a proper friend.”
Here's the band featured on The Sunday Show in a none-more-90s segment involving ligging, The Astoria, and Loaded:

Jeff Fletcher was 36.

Band Aid 30: Act global, think local

The Bradford Telegraph And Argus knows what's crucial about Band Aid 30:

BRADFORD’S One Direction star Zayn Malik will feature on a new Band Aid song.
The term "ebola" doesn't appear until the penultimate word.

It's also uncomfortable the context in which is appears:
and is expected to raise millions to ease Africa’s Ebola crisis.
Most of Africa doesn't have an "Ebola crisis". So, in much the same way that the original Band Aid painted a picture of a continent entirely in the grip of famine (which wasn't the case), the new one is painting a picture of a continent raddled with disease (which isn't the case). Nice to keep those Imperialist traditions going, isn't it?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Band Aid 30: That song against Ebola isn't bad

No, not the Geldof one. This one:

The artists on this track are Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Kandia Kora, Mory Kante, Sia Tolno, Barbara Kanam and rappers Didier Awadi, Marcus (from the band Banlieuz'Arts) and Mokobe.

One of the criticisms levelled, fairly, at the original Band Aid was that Bob and Midge had failed to find any African artists to take part at all, creating a sense that this was an act of Imperialistic Paternalism.

No chance of that this time round, as Angélique Kidjo is involved. That's one African. (At a stretch, Fuse ODG was raised in Ghana and is in the chorus, but he's an English artist.) Four singles, and in all that time, she's the first African national to have got to deliver a line on the song. At this rate, by the time they get to Band Aid 50, they might manage as many as two Africans.

Late starting doesn't work in the pop industry

The i has a piece today headlined:

Women: If you are over 26, you'll probably never make it as a pop star
This is based on a data analysis of 'age at time of first number one single', and - to be honest - if you strip out Carly Rae Jepsen, who is something of an outlier, you're looking at 23 being the latest to get your career started.
But... surely the idea that the pop industry is a harsh place to late starters doesn't require a graph? Or one to show that the levels of investment in older women in the entertainment industry scuppers the chance of a launch (and we're calling 27 'older' here which shows the extent of the problem)?

In fact, given there can only be at most 520 number one artists in a ten year period, and generously, only 100 of those are liable to be debut number ones, and the population of the three countries which supply most US number ones (US, UK & Canada) is about 421 million, the headline should be:
People, you'll probably never make it as a pop star

Apparently Turkish pop stars have graduations of bad

In Turkey, there are (it appears) so many pop stars on the run from the law, there is even a "most wanted pop star":

Deniz Seki had been convicted of drug-related offences. Her response was to skedaddle:
“Instead of going to jail I prefer to be chased,” Seki was quoted as saying by the Turkish media in June.
One part Ronnie Biggs; one part Duncan Norvelle.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Band Aid 30: Uncharitable

Adele didn't take part in Band Aid 30. Which is fair enough - nobody's obliged to take part in charitable endeavours, however well-intentioned they may be; and having to get to a certain place at a certain time to record a track that seems to be happening more because of an anniversary than from a desire to help doesn't sound like much of a deal.

That's what you'd expect a grown-up attitude to be, anyway.

Instead, it's got a bit like this:

To be fair, it's not Bob Geldof who's making a fuss - he was quite fair-minded:

When asked why Adele wasn't taking part, Bob told The Sunday Mirror: "I got through to someone, not her, but she’s not doing anything at all at the moment. It’s fine, I understand it’s not for everybody and other people support in different ways.”

He insisted: "I put the call in. I didn't speak to her. I spoke to Jonathan (her manager) and he says, 'I can't speak to her. I try but she won’t pick up the phone'."
That seems understandable then - she's not doing anything at the moment, even her manager cant interest her in projects, and Bob understands that some people don't care for this sort of charity showboating and will offer their support in other ways.

Oddly, though, the Mirror headline on this isn't 'Some people opt not to take part' but...
Adele SNUBS Band Aid 30 - Sir Bob Geldof insists he tried to pin the star down for track
She doesn't just snub it. She snubs it with caps lock on.

This is one of those rare occasions where the comments on a Mail Online story are actually more measured than the article they appear under - for while the Mail goes heavily for the suggestion that Adele "ignored" Bob, the commenters - almost to an avatar - shrug and say 'yeah, she's busy, and it's not that big a deal'. The winner is CelticShady:
I love that after posting the original message, an hour later Celtic had a further thought about how Emeil Sande shouldn't have gotten involved, neither.

This week just gone

Where's your (GEOIP) head(er) at - where most readers live, in descending order, year-to-date:

1. UK
2. USA
3. South Korea
4. Norway
5. Canada
6. Germany
7. Australia
8. France
9. Ireland
10. Brazil

These were this week's interesting releases:

Tim Wheeler - Lost Domain

Download Lost Domain

Bis - The Anthology

Download The Anthology

Hookworms - The Hum

Download The Hum

Ty Segall - Singles 2

Download Singles 2

Royksopp - The Inevitable End

Download The Inevitable End