Friday, July 18, 2014 

Judge yr'self.

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Friday, July 11, 2014 

Hidden XS.

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Friday, July 04, 2014 

You used to hold me.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014 

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave.

Puking, shaking, sinking, I still stand for old ladies.  Can't shout, can't scream, hurt myself to get pain out.

Remember that thankfully brief period just after the turn of the millennium when nu-metal/rap-metal seemed to be all conquering?  How could anyone possibly forget?  Such was the success of perhaps the standard bearers of the ill-fated movement, Limp Bizkit, that Fred Durst's band contributed the main theme to Mission Impossible 2.  Then there was Slipknot, Papa Roach, KoRn, Puddle of Mudd, and most importantly for this piece, Linkin Park.

Ah, Linkin Park.  Crawling, In the End and all the rest are classics of the period, in they're perfect distillations of what the especially angsty side of nu-metal was all about.  Previous generations of rebellious teenagers heard music that tended to suggest they either direct their anger outward, or better still, created the conditions which enabled them to create their own new sub-culture, somewhere they could belong.  This isn't to say those into the heavier side of usually American rock didn't have their own cliques, and in my neck of the words we called those who belonged to it or dressed in the style grebos, but I digress.  Nu-metal seemed different in that it suggested the best way to deal with the loneliness and pain of being a teenager was to direct it against yourself.  At least, that's what it seemed at the time.  When the chorus of Crawling is "crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal", why would anyone think differently?

If I haven't made it clear before, I was more than a bit of a dickbag until not long after this period (who am I kidding, I still am).  What could be more enjoyable then than a spot of trolling Linkin Park fans?  Whether this was an official site or not I now can't recall; what I do is there were plenty of other teenagers the band did speak to, and they were incredibly easy to wind up/upset.  Before the banhammer came down, plenty of forum threads were duly derailed, much personal shit was mocked, and self-harm especially made light of.  Kill yourselves.  Do it properly.  Slice up and not across.

At the time I hadn't realised the sadness I felt, the self-loathing I was beginning to truly experience and the longing for things to stay the same meant I had far more in common with these kids than I would have ever admitted.  I didn't know I had been depressed, was depressed, would become more so.  It was just angst, typical hormonal stuff, nothing more; I'd get over it.

Karma doesn't exist, couldn't possibly, not least when so many of those deserving will never get their comeuppance, but all I had dished out, not just online obviously, came back and far more besides.  So it was that probably only a year and a half later I started using a knife against myself.  Irony of ironies.  Hypocrite of hypocrites.  Where I got the idea I don't know; extremely rarely does someone begin to self-harm completely of their own volition.  Perhaps it was from a friend I spoke to over the internet who had told me he had cut himself.  Maybe I thought it would give some kind of release, divert my attention from thinking about everything else to a real, physical injury.  It could have been I wanted to prove just how "4 real" I was.  As usual, probably a mixture of all three.

Except, thankfully in retrospect, I wasn't very good at it.  Not that I didn't try.  I even bought a Stanley knife from a market stall so as to keep from blunting the kitchen cutlery (jokes).  Surprisingly, cutting yourself hurts.  Who knew, right?  It didn't however have any real effect on me.  It didn't distract me.  It didn't make me feel better.  All it did was leave lines of not much more than scratches on my arm.  It was addictive though, and I kept doing it for a while.  For some people, it clearly does help.  There was controversy a while back about providing adult patients with a "safe" environment where they could self-harm, on the same principle as allowing addicts to inject.  If it's a first step in getting those with a severe problem to stop, then it's worth a go.


 
When you cut yourself, you aren't thinking of the future.  You exist only in the moment.  In my case I didn't think I had a future anyway.  I certainly didn't imagine that 11 years later the scars would still be all too visible, a constant reminder of how fucking stupid you were, you still are.  As I've made clear, I never cut too deep, with the possible exception of the mark dead centre, where I gouged as much as slashed.  Here's the warning, kids: if you think cutting will solve something, anything, know that you will bear it for a long, long time, even if you're a wuss like I was.  Sure, you could cover the marks with a tattoo (if that is the damaged skin can be covered), but it will have to be a pretty damn big one, we're talking almost a full sleeve, and they cost money, money that could definitely be spent on better things.  Besides, is a tattoo going to make the difference that matters the most, the one to you, when you know what it's hiding?  Plus trust me, while a tiny minority of people might like scars, they won't appreciate those where it's apparent how the injury happened.

See, I was wrong about Linkin Park.  Not about them being shite, natch, especially when everyone could have been listening to say, Relationship of Command instead.  Rather it's that the lyrics, regardless of what you think about them, meant something to those people at a time when it mattered.  When they needed to know someone else had gone through what they were, were thinking the same way they might have been, a popular beat combo filled the role.  Looking at the mainstream in 2014, about the only person telling teens to be themselves and not to worry about being different is, err, Lady Gaga.  How times change.

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Monday, June 30, 2014 

White people as far as the eye can see.

"We're Mogwai from Glasgow, Scotland."  You only need hear Stuart Braithwaite say those words in his distinctive lilt, the way he always introduces the band, to know that for however long they play, everything will be all right.  While the BBC were raving away about how heavy metal was taking over the Pyramid stage, agog at just how noisy and uninhibited the tossers who sued Napster were, away at the Park stage a group that know the quiet parts are just as important as the loud ones were in their element.  They might not have played Like Herod, the version they recorded for John Peel putting anything by Metallica to shame in terms of sheer aural punishment, but Mogwai Fear Satan more than made up for it.  Their thank you at the end of the set was both heartfelt and pointed, a barely veiled nod to the comments beforehand about the "shite" they were billed against.

Glastonbury was without a doubt better this year than last, in my obviously irrelevant view formed from sitting in front of a computer at home.  At least it was so long as you ignored the main stage entirely, which is increasingly the best policy.  Arcade Fire undoubtedly tried their best, but they're never festival headliners in a million years, however much I like them.  It also might have meant something if Metallica had been on the Pyramid on Saturday night over 20 years ago; in 2014 it's frankly embarrassing.  As for Kasabian, comparing them to Spinal Tap suggests a sense of humour they conspicuously lack.  I understand Elbow's appeal (I bought the new album despite being deeply underwhelmed by Build a Rocket Boys!), it just increasingly leaves me cold, One Day Like This destined to become a song so overplayed any meaning it may have once had left as sterile as a hospital ward, while Jack White's histrionics were wearying rather than seductive.  If nothing else, Lily Allen's performance conjured up a new vision of my own personal hell: forever condemned to relive a false experience of being trapped in the middle of the crowd for her set, surrounded by hipsters, trustafarians and tens of thousands of white people.

Which is something that has to be discussed: the whole weekend I saw more non-white faces among the security and on stage than I did in the crowd itself.  You can't tell me the range of music on offer doesn't appeal across the demographics, so clearly there's something else at work.  Whether it be the price, the way the tickets are sold or other factors, it ought to be something to worry the organisers and sponsors.  If those on high are going to deliver lectures about culture and values to communities that supposedly want no part of modern Britain, we can't ignore how monopolised the events regarded as the biggest of the year are by the (white) middle classes.

Following on from last year, the live streaming of all the main stages, if not the dance tents as would help complete the picture of what the festival as a whole is like, meant you could dispense with the BBC's main coverage entirely.  Not that this was wholly successful: at least my end the stream couldn't make up its mind the quality my connection could handle, constantly switching and so interrupting playback to the point of distraction (and much swearing).  Thankfully, and as should be the case, the full sets for almost every act are now available to be replayed to your heart's content, at least for a month.

You can then watch the latest great white hype (surely hope?) for British indie, Royal Blood, delight an easily pleased John Peel tent.  They're not bad, it's just I remember them from ten years ago when they were called Death from Above 1979 and they were better.  Coincidentally (or not), the actual DFA 1979 have a new album coming out in September after reforming a couple of years back.  More impressive were Wolf Alice, but you still can't see them making the breakthrough.

A further reminder of how far ahead the Americans have been of us Brits in the indie rock stakes in recent years came from Parquet Courts, whose spiky, idiosyncratic assault on the Park stage must have won them plenty of new admirers.  The Park stage in general was the place to stick around for most of the weekend: apart from Interpol, the Manics and the Horrors, all of whom were reliable on the Other stage, with the latter surprising everyone with a gorgeous rendition of Jamie Principle's Your Love, not much came close to Four Tet's Friday night mix as the sun set.  Kieran Hebden had more people dancing outside of the area dedicated to DJs than the rest of the acts combined.

The real highlight of the weekend though had to be St. Vincent. On before James Blake, who despite starting with CMYK failed to translate his stripped back sound in the same way as the xx did last year, Annie Clark stunned in absolutely every sense. Whatever drugs she was on, and she was so high she could barely stay on the ground, I could really do with some.  As fantastic as Strange Mercy was, to see her perform the same guitar heroics live was to be reminded of how exciting rock can be when sonic experimentation meets great song writing. It ought to be a rebuff to conservatism in music in general at the moment, whether it be from the garage-house revivalists or the Kodalines of this world.  Sadly, what sells matters more than ever.

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Friday, June 27, 2014 

Glastonbury can do one.

Call me a cynic, but I'm pretty doubtful John Peel would have ever played Clean fucking Bandit.

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Friday, June 20, 2014 

Routine.

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Friday, June 13, 2014 

A taste of Brazil.*


*In the same sense as KFC are currently offering "a taste of Brazil".

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Friday, June 06, 2014 

Is there a spirit that spits upon the exit of signs?

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Friday, May 30, 2014 

Expected.

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Friday, May 16, 2014 

Culture, alienation, boredom and despair.


P.S. I'm away until Friday next week. Luckily for the both of us, this means I'll be back in time for some local elections "analysis". Till then. Probably.

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Friday, May 09, 2014 

Between the blue of sea and sky.

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Friday, May 02, 2014 

Des niles.

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Friday, April 25, 2014 

Mellow magic.

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Friday, April 18, 2014 

Tailing.

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Friday, April 11, 2014 

Baby face.

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Friday, April 04, 2014 

Killa sound.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014 

So many tears: Frankie Knuckles, 1955 - 2014.


For all the deserved plaudits rock and pop stars receive, few will end up being remembered as having inspired an entirely new genre, while even fewer could plausibly be described as helping to tranform popular music as a whole. Despite this, plenty of people this morning will have responded to news of the death of Frankie Knuckles with "who?"

Not that Frankie cared the slightest about his relative anonymity. Had he wanted to he could have played the superstar DJ game, or been the David Guetta of his day. About the closest he got to mainstream fame in his home country was when he won the inaugural best remixed recording Grammy in 1998, or more recently when a certain Barack Obama recognised his contribution to Chicago, renaming the street where the Warehouse had once stood after him. Instead he kept true to the sound he and others in the city had pioneered, first adding drum breaks and loops into the mix during live DJ sets, later along with Jamie Principle and David Morales among others producing the template from which so much of contemporary dance music and indeed pop in general takes its cue. There were of course other influences, as well as offshoots from the outset, most notably Detroit techno, with house progressing into acid house, but if rave culture as we know it can be traced back to anywhere, it's to the Warehouse and Frankie Knuckles.



Proud as we are (or at least should be) of the hardcore continuum, and with how it was this country more than any other that popularised house, it didn't begin at Shoom, with MDMA or illegal raves, but with tunes like Your Love.  Your Love was in fact produced by Jamie Principle, but credited to Knuckles.  Those he did produce, often with others, are no less seminal.  Under the alias Nightwriters he released Let the Music Use You, its riff since sampled and reused countless times, while the opening to Baby Wants to Ride is one of the most recognisable in all of house music.  Alongside Promised Land by Joe Smooth and Strings of Life by Rhythim is Rhythim (aka Derrick May), two other tracks stand up as being the very pinnacle of house, almost certainly never to be bettered.  Tears, produced with Satoshi Tomiie and featuring Robert Owens on vocals is simply an incredible piece of music, while Knuckles and Morales' Classic Mix of Alison Limerick's Where Love Lives is one of the greatest club tracks of all time, appearing repeatedly in top 5 lists.




As Alexis Petridis writes, despite the apparent contradictions in being a gay man and playing to what were at first predominantly gay crowds, there is a gospel influence to be heard in Knuckles' oeuvre, and in much early house music, just as there had been in disco.  The aforementioned Promised Land made it overt, carrying both a spiritual and emancipatory message, but it's also there in Where Love Lives and Knuckles' transformation of Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart.  This came full circle in 2008 with his gorgeous remix of Hercules and Love Affair's Blind, vocalled by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.

Apart from his own music, Knuckles' ultimate gift has been house.  Without house, there wouldn't have been hardcore.  Or trance. Without hardcore, there wouldn't have been jungle.  No jungle, no UK garage, no drum and bass. No UK garage, no grime or dubstep, and arguably, considering its debt to "purple" grime and dubstep, no trap.  Naturally, without house we would also have been spared the Guetta Euro-dance sound that has dominated the past few years, yet all things considered it's been a small price to pay.  More than that, Knuckles remained consistent to the very end, never deviating, at one point stepping back from production as harder styles not to his liking took popular preference.  Fashions may change, but just as disco has seen a resurgence, so house will always come back.  Frankie, thank you.

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Friday, March 28, 2014 

Demonator.

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Friday, March 21, 2014 

Gunman.

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