Thursday, December 31, 2009

The end of a decade

It's difficult to believe that 1999 was 10 years ago. Back then I had finished uni and I was doing a bunch of crappy jobs. I was working in Our Price records (now long gone) and on a switchboard. I was playing bass in a shitty local band. I hadn't even got a place at medical school.

In the past 10 years I've been to medical school, passed a lot of difficult post-graduate medical exams and started doing clinical research. I'm working in the medical speciality that I always wanted to work in. I've moved around the country a fair bit and I've done a lot of stuff that I'd never imagined I would do.

I've bought a posh flat in a good city. I have a decent job.

All in all it's been good and I wouldn't have done anything different. I'm looking forward to the next ten years. I hope it's just as good.

Happy new decade.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

how the internet has changed alternative music

When I say alternative music I mean stuff you don't see on MTV. I mean underground punk and stuff you might not find in HMV. When I was young you could probably find Fugazi records or Dead Kennedys records easily enough. Big Black and Shellac were harder to find. When it came to more obscure bands you could order them direct from the record label in America or from some small distro advertised in maximum rock n roll magazine. You could wait for months until a record arrived and then you could hate it.

All that has changed in the past few years.

Music fans are spoilt nowadays. Within 15 minutes it is possible to obtain music that I only dreamed may even exist. Alternative music was a bit of a secret handshake club populated with inadequate wankers who needed something to make themselves cooler-than-thou. I can say that because I was one of the most inadequate wankers out there. I wasn't the worst though.

Now if you want to hear the Steve Albini produced demos for the classic 'in on the killtaker' fugazi album you can (that album is just begging for a deluxe reissue by the way). If you want to hear the entire back catalogue of Amphetamine Reptile or the Melvins you can. If you want to check out uber-cool new indie band, Girls, just pop to youtube and listen.

The internet has given us pins to pop the balloons that cool people have instead of brains.

The internet has put the power in the hands of the consumer. You can find out if a record is shit without paying for it. You can give your money to the artists that make music you like.

The smarter bands will be able to find an audience internationally and get their music out there without a big record company. Bands will have to figure out how to make money from music but at least they won't be ripped off by some faceless corporation.

Alternative music has changed.

And fuck the arseholes who think you're not cool enough to buy a record from them

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Johnny Cash - I see a darkness. A graphic novel by Reinhard Kleist

I came across this graphic novel in a strange place. It was listed as one of the best graphic novels of the year in the free Metro newspaper that you pick up on public transport. Metro is not normally a place where I look for cultural highlights.

The book is a comic strip biography of Johnny Cash. It's slightly less saccharine than the recent biopic that was in the cinema a couple of years ago. I've read several books about Cash and I own about 20 of his albums. While this comic didn't capture every depth of his personality I did get think it was pretty good.

I bought the book for my dad (another big Johnny Cash fan) and he loved it. It's a decent enough comic book and a good present for a Johnny Cash fan.

Friday, December 25, 2009

And while we are on the subject of Steve Albini....

I found some Shellac material that I don't have. Shellac should be rich and famous even though they probably don't want to be.

Use any means necessary to hear their first couple of singles - uranus and the rude gesture:a pictorial history. I need to buy a record player so I can listen to them again.

And see them live if you can.

For more info

Classic Steve Albini Article

Been looking for this for ages

The benefits of Spotify

I'm home at my parents house on a snowy christmas day. I've not been here very much over the past year. The snow outside is fairly deep so I'm not crossing the doorstep.

I don't have much stuff here. I do have my laptop and broadband wifi internet (which I don't have at home) so I'm enjoying listening to Spotify.

I was very happy to learn that Flipper, the American sludgecore band of the early eighties, now have their entire back catalogue on Spotify. The pesonal highlight for me in their 1991 album American Grafishy which was recorded with Rick Rubin. It kicks ass. I'm looking into options for obtaining a physical copy.

Spotify is brilliant. I was able to listen to most of Public Image Limiteds back catalogue before the gig last week. I was able to track down a lot of obscure punk today, including bands like Dr Know. I've also been able to check out Vic Chesnutt (a decision sadly influenced by the news that he is in a coma).

I also managed to find a black flag b-side I hadn't heard. Happy christmas to me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Public Image Limited live at the Academy, Glasgow

John Lydon is a culturally important figure. You may hate him but he is important. I like him. The Sex Pistols were important for music and for society. It's true. You may wish that it wasn't true but it is.

This was the second time that I have see Lydon live. I last saw him with the Sex Pistols during their 1996 reunion tour at the SECC in Glasgow. That was a great show. I'm lucky that I was there.

Public Image Limited was eagerly anticipated. I managed to listen to most of their back catalogue on spotify at work before the gig. I was psyched. PIL are musically better than the Pistols. It is unlikely that bands like Massive Attack, Orbital, Nine Inch Nails, LCD Soundsystem or the Rapture would exist without PIL. They made rock music and punk different.

Growing up in East Kilbride was good for music. I was able to hear most of PILs' albums when I was about 12 by borrowing them from the public library. There was a good second hand record stall in the Village where I bought a 3 inch CD single of 'this is not a love song' and a cassette single of 'world destruction'. Music was available and beautiful.

I loved the PIL logo. I used to draw it on my bag, desks, school books and clothing beside the Black Flag bars, the Minor Threat sheep and the Dead Kennedys DK logo.

The gig wasn't sold out. It slowly filled up with balding 50 year old men who probably hadn't been to a gig in years. I bought a PIL logo tour t-shirt and we found a decent vantage point. The support band, Fangs, were fairly good.

Standing beside me was a 50 year old Polish man who told me that he had waited 30 years to see Johnny Rotten. The Polish man now lives in Crieff and he was at the gig with his daughter and her drunken boyfriend. He told me that he started to listen to the Pistols on smuggled bootleg tapes as a young man. The music of the Pistols changed his world. He learnt English so he could understand the lyrics and then the lyrics made him understand that there was hope that there might be a life outside the Communist state. Johnny Rotten meant a lot to him.

We talked about my recent visit to Poland and my intentions to go back there some time. He hadn't heard much Pil music and I assured him that while Sex Pistols songs were unlikely the show would be excellent. He would go home a happy man.

My predictions were correct.

Public Image was the opening number. The sound was slightly dodgy initially but it was quickly fixed. We got a set that lasted for more than two hours and included Careering, Poptones, Death Disco, This is not a Love Song, Rise, Warrior and Religion. We even got Open Up.

The band was tight and for most of the show the sound was perfect. A lot of people were surprised at the good quality of Lydons singing. Lydon was of course the centre of the show and one of the best frontmen that you will ever see. He was funny and charming and honest.

The Polish guy was happy at the end of the show now that his 30 year wait was over. I was fairly chuffed myself. This was a great show and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I hope they play again. I hope the music of Pil gets the recognition it deserves.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Depeche Mode live at SECC, Glasgow

When I was younger I used to think Depeche Mode were a bit of a joke. As a child, songs like Master&Servant just made me laugh. More recently I've come to appreciate some of their later work. One of my mates was keen to see them so we bought tickets when they came out.

Sadly we missed most of Soulsavers. We just caught the end of the last song that sounded like it might have been a Spacemen 3 cover. I would have liked to see more.

The crowd was fairly old. I think the average age was over 40. It's nice to feel young again. There were a few younger goth types as well as one bloke who was dressed up as a cast member from Lord of the Rings with those freaky leather wrist guard things that archers wear. Comedy.

Depeche Mode were fairly solid. The sound was good and the light show was brilliant. The set really took off later on with 'I feel you' and 'Enjoy the Silence'. We also got a few Martin Gore solo songs that were better than I would have expected. The encore included 'stripped' and finished with 'Personal Jesus'. All-in-all it was a good show.

I'm not a massive fan of Depeche Mode but i would say that they were much better than U2 at Hampden. The lights were amazing, the sound was good and the bad transvestite dress sense of Martin Gore is a winner every time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The decline of Borders

I had a walk around the Borders book shop on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The chain of bookstores has gone bust and they are closing down. It was a sad experience. Borders’ was too expensive and it didn’t have as good a range as amazon or Waterstone’s but it was an aesthetically pleasing building. It was a good place to meet people and have a coffee.

The shop was rather desolate today. I couldn’t find any books that I would want. The shop was busy but I think the good stock was long gone. There was a homeless guy asleep on a chair in the music department. It was very cold in Glasgow last night so I guess it’s good that he has somewhere warm to sleep. In most shops he would have been kicked out within minutes,

I’ll miss Borders. It was a good place even if it wasn’t a great bookshop. Society needs bookshops and I hope that Waterstone’s survives.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs live at Glasgow O2

I’ve been listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a few years but this was the first time that I’ve had a chance to see them live. The show was sold-out and the venue was packed.

I wasn’t too impressed by the support band who were just a bit too eclectic. I like Minor Threat and Daft Punk but I don’t think they work well combined in one song.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were titanic. The stage show was fairly impressive with a giant balloon eyeball floating ten feet above the stage. Glitter bombs and confetti exploded at regular intervals while Karen O wore a fairly spectacular range of outfits. She had almost as many costume changes as Axl Rose.

Musically the YYYs were explosive. A cover version of Human Fly by The Cramps was an early welcome surprise. Most of the big songs appeared and at the end of the night the academy was full of wide grins and happy sweaty people.

I hope to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs again.