Wednesday, 4 February 2009

"I want to be rich and I want lots of money ..."

Tell you what. An admission - for which I don't stand to gain anything other than ridicule - I haven't heard the current albums by:

The Killers
Kaiser Chiefs
Franz Ferdinand
Lilly Allen
Lady Gaga
White Lies
Anthony & The Johnsons
And this week's number one - the new Bruce Springsteen album

Now, maybe you haven't either, and perhaps you'd consider the quest to hear all new releases in the rock or indie genre a bit on the sad or obsessive side. But I take pride in having my own opinion about current releases, so I don't go around repeating accepted truths about the new Snow Patrol album being a bit dull. For now I'm going to estimate my opinion of these albums (rather like the Tax Office asks you, if you're self-employed, how much you expect to earn), I'll let you know at the end.

Normally I do try to buy new albums - as I documented a couple of weeks ago, I think I bought more music last year than ever before. But also, where I can, I take advantage of knowing some nice people in record companies who will occasionally slip me a promo copy. This year, however, I seem to have lost my mojo. Some of you reading this will be familiar with the Blagger's Shuffle - that distinctive linger by the record company's stock cupboard in the hope of someone from the press office finding the key- or these days the digital version thereof, involving an email starting with the line - "Hi ____, how are things?" before brutally cutting to the chase: "I hear the new album from ______ is really good - do you have a spare copy you could send me?"

I'm generally quite good at this, largely because I slip the odd request into what I hope is a much deeper and more profound relationship with my friends with record company jobs. But I have to admit that in the distant past when I worked at Warners and RCA, I was guilty of having relationships with people at other record companies based solely on their ability to furnish me with new releases. This was fine as I represented exactly the same thing to them. Now I have nothing to offer in return other than my scintillating company.

Now I write about music in other places apart from here, I have started getting the occasional thing in the post, which is lovely - I made a point of phoning Genesis' PR when I did that Phil Collins piece on Radio 4 and they sent me the fantastic box set. Hooray for them.

But as that above list testifies to, I've just not had the pluck to ask people for these releases. And why haven't I bought them? OK, OK, OK - I admit, I don't like buying albums I suspect I won't like on the off chance. I know I'll probably like the Lady Gaga, Lilly Allen and Franz albums so they are on my list, but I can't bring myself to buy Razorlight's latest despite wanting to hear it. Stupid? Or prudent?

And before you start accusing me of Limewire ignorance or that I could have checked out a number of these albums on Myspace streamed exclusives - can I point out that I am a father of two? I can't find the web hours to devote to trawling for online exclusives. OK, so I have just started using Spotify which, along with the Onion's updates on Twitter, is my new favourite thing.

And that's probably why I have single-handedly failed to hear these all-important new albums - like the rest of us, I'm spending all of my waking hours trying to make a living.

But here's a thought about time and money: on Monday - the day it snowed in Britain more than it's snowed for 18 years - an interesting report was published. The report concluded that our 'aggressive pursuit of personal success' is apparently now the greatest threat to British children. Now, I haven't read the report and by all accounts a lot of it is idealistic and/or stating the bleedin' obvious, but isn't it ironic that on the same day as it came out, all the schools closed due to the weather. And all those otherwise selfish parents were forced to spend time with their and children making snowmen, tobogganing and having fun. Did you notice how everyone just dropped their important things - largely courtesy of the UK transport network throwing a wobbly and refusing to take them to work - and for a day, and in some cases two days, the rat race was forgotten and snowball fighting was aggressively pursued. Incidentally did you know that it was Groundhog Day on Monday too?

Actually, if I'm totally honest, on Monday, my daughter went and made snowmen with her friends over the road and I stayed at home and aggressively pursued some people to give me writing jobs. Frankly, my time would have been better spent making snowmen with Maddy. Or having another bash at getting my hands on the Lady Gaga album.


Oh yes, here's my Musebin- style one line reviews of what I expect to think of those albums:

The Killers - a pleasure while its on only to quickly slip into the background, never to be played again. Incidentally, remember glam rock bands in the 70s like The Sweet who had one very androgynous member who looked good in tinfoil whilst the three other fellas posed like reluctant builders in drag? Hmm ...

Razorlight - I honestly really liked the debut album by this lot but the memory of the cheap-suited businessman sitting opposite me on a train to Leeds listening to the last Razorlight album on his laptop, haunts me to this day.

Kaiser Chiefs - I liked approximately 5 seconds of last year's single Never Miss A Beat- the bit about wanting crisps for tea.

Franz Ferdinand - this will be another FF album and I can't wait. Actually, I can wait can't I? And I still am.

Lilly Allen - the single is magnetic. Almost as good as Foundations by Kate Nash. One of those records that you love regardless of who it is but because it's her, it's even better. A pop star to be cherished. If only her dad her suggested signing her when I ran his label.

Lady Gaga - I suspect I will enjoy this like the aforementioned Killers album.

White Lies - the bits I have enjoyed are ones reminiscent of other bands. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Or just a sign that I am old?

Anthony & The Johnsons - Like music fans everywhere I will be concentrating hard on liking this whilst secretly hankering after a few more tunes.

The new Bruce Springsteen album - the expression 'a safe pair of hands' springs to mind.


  1. It's only a suggestion, but you can `do' Napster for £9.99 a month, all perfectly legal, and stream as many albums as you want to hear, when you want to hear them.

    A good way to catch up and stay caught up ?

    I'd add the new `A Camp' to your list. Proper songs. Can't beat 'em.

  2. Good tip, thank, Steve! I have to say, even though I have been using the entirely free Spotify (with only the occasional ad break) I don't like the idea of paying for streams to hear stuff. Obviously this is a nonsensical mindset since I don't mind paying for my satellite TV. I just like artwork too much!
    RE A Camp, I loved the criminally ignored first A Camp album but what I've heard of this has left me a bit cold... Will check it on Spotty

  3. Blimey, Ben, I'm still catching up with last year's music! finally got round to buying the, ahem, most recent Goldfrapp and Portishead albums - both mighty fine, as I'm sure you know.

  4. well I can help here

    Bruce on is not a patch on the last one but pretty good, and growing on me

    the Lily one is ACE but you will feel sympathy for her A&R who probly fought hard against track 1 being track 1.

    the Franz one has some very high points

    no clue re lady gaga

    the others I have all heard. Once. Can't remember much about any of them.

    I have been mainly listening to Sparks lately. I hope this helps.

  5. David said:
    "I have been mainly listening to Sparks lately. I hope this helps."

    A man after my own heart !

    Seriously the A Camp album is really a cracker. You probably heard the ones selected for radio play which are never the best tracks (!) I bought the CD.

    I think mp3 is fine for stuff you want to casually hear, but a CD is for life (at least until the coating falls off )

  6. Thanks David - I too have now heard them all (apart from Lilly Allen's) and have as predicted already forgotten the Killers and Kaisers. Now, Animal Collective, perhaps you could explain THAT to me?

  7. Of course. Mon plaisir. Right off, I should say I quite like it. They have spent 8 albums being weird artschool improv queens. The albums have been acclaimed critically but were alas unlistenable. And crap, IMHO.
    In NYC in the 00s, there has been a sustained rise in afrobeat acts being popular and, well, a bit indie in the way African bands aren't. A shift in accepted wisdom on Peter Gabriel's first four (amazing) albums and a risky flirtation with Paul Simon later and you get an unexpected New Indie Aesthetic, where the groove is the thing and it's all just a bit..Tribal. (quite an ignorant term, I'd say, but whatever).
    Anyway that gives us Yeasayser.
    And,crucially, a way of making very busy records, that sound quite good, kinda toetapping, but don't actually have many songs on them. Just some good surging, uplifting bits.
    And Animal Collective then write two such songs of similar length and then play them at the same time, and let whoever is the most stoned work the mixing desk.
    Weirdly it sorta works on this record. In places.

    And yes, I'm here all week.

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