Song, by Toad

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Toadcast #293 – Adam Stafford Toad Session

Adam Stafford Toad Session from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Video – Vimeo – YouTube
Photos – Flickr
Session tracks Soundcloud – zip download (right click – save as)
Interview podcast – mp3 – iTunes – Mixcloud (playlist at bottom of page)

Adam Stafford released his fantastic album Imaginary Walls Collapse on Song, by Toad Records early in 2013. You can buy a copy on vinyl here if you like, but it won’t tell you quite as much about Adam as I am hoping this session might.

Adam is a film-maker as well, and has a genuinely eclectic taste in music, of the sort that makes me feel really rather ashamed by my own tunnel vision. He made a rather fantastic mixtape for the excellent Gold Flake Paint a while back called Magnatory Baws Prolapse which (despite its rather rotten name) reminded me all too strongly of everything that is wrong with my own taste in music – as well as being brilliant to listen to, dammit!

This session was recorded by myself, with photos by the ever-awesome Nic Rue, with the filming done by Gavin White and Ian Greenhill and the videos all edited by Gavin.

 

Full interview podcast:

Toadcast #293 – Adam Stafford Toad Session by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Session tracks:

Session track videos

Podcast playlist:

01. Adam Stafford – Imaginary Walls Collapse (Toad Session) (00.22)
02. Y’all is Fantasy Island – High Hopes, Lost Love & Ruined Lives (15.07)
03. Colin Stetson – Judges (19.16)
04. Adam Stafford – Cold Seas (Toad Session) (29.11)
05. Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo – The Solitary Rabbit (39.27)
06. Siobhan Wilson – Te Petite Minette (42.43)
07. Adam Stafford – His Acres (Toad Session) (53.02)
08. PAWS – Violent Vicki Violet (1.08.20)
09. Toulemani Diabaté – Eylan Road (1.11.01)
10. Adam Stafford – Shot Down You Summer Wannabes (Toad Session) (1.28.32)

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Blood of the Bull – Bend Over EP

bend Which is Scotland’s finest indie label? Us? Chemikal Underground? Lost Map? Why it’s us of cou… actually, whisper it, but the answer might be d) None of the above. It might, over the last couple of years, have been Soft Power Records.

Located in the highly unpromising commuter town of Livingston, I don’t know if they would actually win in a nose-to-nose with release schedules which boast, say, the RM Hubbert or Pictish Trail albums but they’d certainly be (in awful football parlance) right in the mix at the end of the season. They certainly have me casting envious eyes at a lot of the things they put out.

The Bend Over EP by Glasgow-based Blood of the Bull is four songs of bright and breezy retro-tinged garage guitar pop with a gorgeous, clear, high vocal. A very zeitgeisty mix of Britpoppy and more rough and ready garage sound from the late sixties, this actually embraces elements of psychedelic folk in the vocal delivery of tunes like Hold Your Head Up High and Go Fuck Yourself, with shades of late Fairport-era Sandy Denny in there, to my ears at least.

Like a few of the Soft Power releases, this may be garage pop, but it’s not all that lo-fi. Where other corners of this particular landscape may be distorted and aggressive, this has a a cleanliness to the sound to match the vocal. It’s still kinda retro and may be very DIY, but that doesn’t pull the music anywhere it doesn’t want to go. There’s some rougher stuff on the band’s Soundcloud page, and I have to confess I rather like that too.

In fact, in some ways this reminds me of the sort of woman I’ve seen a lot of in places where there are many tattoos to be seen. There seems to be a very specific look at the moment which embraces polka-dot dresses and glamorous hair, and yet includes being covered in ink. The combination of such prettiness with dense tattoos, which still retain something of a hard-edged, rebellious feel to them, always struck me as a little incongruous. In fashion terms it’s a style I have to confess that I really like, and there are elements of that in this EP. It can be very pretty, with a deliberate girlish innocence at times, and then at others there are some noticeably rougher edges. It’s a fascinating combination and a really good record.

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Los Angeles Police Department

lapd A lot of the bedroom pop acts knocking about these days deliberately overplay the lo-fi nature of their recording, or sometimes the hesitance of the performance. Sometimes this is endearing, sometimes glisteningly fragile, and sometimes contrived and annoying.

I have to confess I don’t know if Los Angeles Police Department strictly counts as ‘bedroom’ pop but it certainly sounds like it. It embraces the buzz and hum of that stuff, and the vocals are fragile and just a little bit otherworldly. Far from playing up a lack of confidence, however, this music feels solid and even during it’s airier, borderline twee moments you never get the impression that there is any attempt to avoid your gaze.

Quite the opposite, in fact. For music which does flirt with Glasgow-style twee pop, this stuff nevertheless has the feel of something certain and confident. Maybe it’s the way the voice drifts and dances, but never actually falters. And maybe the fact that the guitars buzz, but never too much. It embraces a lot of the classic bedroom pop aesthetic touchstones, but never overplays any of them, or feels like it is allowing itself to be led by aspirations to a certain style.

Waste, above, is their new single, following on from Enough is Enough and The Only One, both of which I featured on Toadcasts towards the end of last year. The band have been embraced by Gold Flake Paint as well, who recently relocated to Edinburgh and will hopefully add a little much-needed  impetus to the local music scene. For starters they’ve started a digital singles club, which will feature Toad favourites The Yawns, as well as these folks later in the year.

It’s hard to tell where Los Angeles Police Department are going, of course, with only three songs to go on. The Only One definitely leans more in the direction of twee, which I quite like but am not entirely convinced by, but the more hazy, guitary sound of the two more recent songs hints at something a little darker and nastier.  Needless to say, it is the latter direction which I think would be most likely to please me but as we are slowly seeing, being my cup of tea often increases in inverse proportion to commercial success so maybe paying any attention to my preferences ain’t necessarily the wisest thing.

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Toadcast #292 – The Epicast

tag Epicast because this is indeed epic. A double-length podcast – well, almost – and all for the reason that I simply have to clear the decks a little. Next week I go away to the States for SXSW and after that I shall be driving Meursault on their first US tour.

With next week’s podcast being the Adam Stafford Toad Session, the week after that being our traditional SXSW one in Peej’s back yard, and fuck knows what I’ll manage whilst on tour, this means that anything not played this week will be both woefully out of date and quite possibly (shamefully) forgotten by the time I get back. Besides, my inbox will build up so much after a month in the States that I’ll be overwhelmed with new things by that point and barely able to process anything else.

So yes, an epic podcast, almost two hours long, but if you have the patience for both the length and my drunken rambling, then one which will reward you with some truly excellent new music. This really takes me back to the early days of the podcasts, back when I would get utterly obliterated and play songs for hours until I could barely speak.  Awful for the listener, I imagine, but kind of nostalgic for me.

Toadcast #292 – The Epicast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #292 – The Epicast

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01. Panda Kid – A Long Long Summer (00.26)
02. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams (06.47)
03. David Thomas Broughton – Problems (17.44)
04. Tissø Lake – Carnival (20.56)
05. The B-52s – Rock Lobster (27.44)
06. alansmithee – Half Measured Man (38.22)
07. Passion Pusher – Life in Transit (44.12)
08. iLLshORE – All Night (45.54)
09. Benjamin Shaw – Goodbye, Kagoul World (52.32)
10. Keel Her – Go (1.01.24)
11. Fear of Men – Luna (1.03.50)
12. Jargon Party – Lucy Melanie (1.10.32)
13. Miserable – Bell Jar (1.14.56)
14. Le Thug – Paints (1.22.17)
15. Magic Eye – Bollywood (1.26.55)
16. Sean Armstrong – Bright Review (1.33.03)
17. Glaciers – Cryptomeria (1.36.02)
18. Passenger Peru – Dirt Nap (1.45.31)

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Meursault – Dearly Distracted

Meursault – Dearly Distracted from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

This is the video of Dearly Distracted from The Organ Grinder’s Monkey by Meursault, which you can buy here.  It is, you have to admit, rather different from the Something For the Weakened version. We have christened the genre gloom-pah, which is a progression from epic lo-fi (All Creatures Will Make Merry) and orchestral garage (Weakened) and a very long way from folktronica indeed. Or at least I’d like to fucking think so.

We’ve had three launch nights so far, all at small Edinburgh venues, but the last one will be a full band affair and your last chance to see the album performed in full, tomorrow night at Penicuik Town Hall. It’s BYOB, the 37 and 47 buses go all day and night from central Edinburgh, and you can get tickets here. After this is done I will be getting utterly shitfaced, and spending Sunday sleeping everything off, before dedicating the entire next week to doing all of March’s PR work in the space of five days, before I fly out on Friday.

We’ll be making a video diary of the tour while we’re out there so you can see what we’re spending your generously donated money on, and I promise you it won’t be coke, hookers and massive hipster tattoos. Promise. Well, mostly not, anyway.

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Passion Pusher – Again!

pp Since I last mentioned Edinburgh shambles Passion Pusher I think a couple of months have gone by, so naturally if you’ve taken your eye off the ball you’ve missed something like a dozen releases since then. Seriously, the boy’s fucking mental. [Edit: he's actually released two new things, just since I started typing this.]

With this incredible volume of releases, listening to Passion Pusher becomes a bit weird. Most of these are half-thought-out demos, a bit of an idea here, some shit he did when he was bored there, and they all just tumble out onto Bandcamp in such a haphazard torrent that I confess I find it a challenge to keep up.

Because they’re almost all short songs, and the EPs released generally no more than five or six songs long, it can be weird hopping from one sarcastically-named release to the next. You never know if you’re going to get garage rock, mumbled acoustic fuzz, or just drifting, incoherent soundscapes.

If these guys wrote 69 Love Songs, which they probably could easily do by now, it might not exceed the length of a single record. But there’s something compelling about this. They seem like they barely have any idea what they’re doing and are just stumbling along, mostly drunk, spraffing out recordings here and there. Often bands who seem a bit like these know what they are doing more than they let on, but I wouldn’t bet on that being the case here.

The thing is, in amongst the chaos, a lot of this is really good. There are guitar sproings all over the place, songs which peter out into nothing, slurred, inaudible vocals and all sorts. But it’s good. The guitar tone they get can be absolutely gorgeous, the slower songs have a lovely, genuinely touching melancholy to them a lot of the time, and in amongst some of the messier tunes you get these brief moments of clarity where suddenly it’s a pop song for a moment and then fuck it, everything returns to haze once more.

I’d love to hear them do a more disciplined release at some point – or even just a more formal one – but I am also slightly nervous that might knock some of the magic out of it. The joy here is in the chaos, and god knows what would happen if you got these guys into a studio and asked them to rattle out the hits. I don’t know. But I do know that this is good stuff and I want to hear more. Fortunately, I probably won’t have to wait more than a day or two for the next release.

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Tisso Lake – Carnival/Canter 7″

tl If you head over to the Tissø Lake Bandcamp page you can pick up a copy of a new 7″ they’ve just released, and umm, by the fact that I here posting about it I suppose you’ve already realised that I recommend that you do.

That you probably don’t know too much about Tissø Lake is probably more down to Ian Humberstone himself – the man behind the project – than anything else. Not that he’s not a lovely guy, because he is, and not that he’s one of these artists who deliberately sabotages their own success either, because he doesn’t. In Ian’s case he just doesn’t play all that much, although I don’t know if that’s a deliberate decision or not, and he really doesn’t release that much either.

As a label who has released at least one thing by Ian, albeit under his own name, I’ve tried to encourage him to record and release more stuff as subtly as I can. Artists can be funny when you are trying to encourage them to do things though, and when you don’t know someone all that well genuine enthusiasm can come across as bungling harassment, so for someone not generally known for tact or sensitivity, I’ve tried to tread as carefully as I can.

Anyhow, apparently Ian is just someone who likes to work at his own pace and in his own way and won’t really be pushed into stuff until he’s good and ready, but the pace of new releases seems to have increased recently and there is talk of an album happening in the relatively near future, which is most exciting news.

Before that, however, there is this. It’s less glacial than some of his previous things, which can either have a late-evening sense of gentle comfort to them or a reassuring twinkle. In this case there’s more of a clip to the songs, with Carnival dancing around to the tune of a disciplined violin which sounds really quite traditional most of the time. This song and Canter work in much the same way, with that lovely violin playing over a rolling, plucked acoustic guitar.

I think it’s probably Canter which most obviously embodies why I like Humberstone’s work so much. I might just prefer Carnival (that’s not a value judgement, it’s primarily because it’s not an instrumental and he has a gorgeous voice) but towards the end of Canter the violin and guitar rise to increasingly bitey* little squawks, not too abrasive, but just enough to make this weird and interesting. And that, I think, is the essence of what makes Tissø Lake such a rewarding listen: in amongst a wash of warm, gorgeous, reassuring music there are these constant moments of surprise to stop you getting complacent and lazy as a listener.

*Yes, it’s a word. Because I said so.

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So What Have We Learned From Kickstarter, Then?

kickstarter-funded-badge It’s been an interesting few weeks, this. Apart from the visa panics and the whirlwind of trying to get an album learned, recorded and made in three weeks, this has been my first use of Kickstarter (or indeed any such crowd-funding model beyond, y’know, just selling stuff to people) for funding a record release, and it has been fascinating and educational. Although I will admit I am still trying to figure out what all of the lessons are.

For those who don’t follow the blog or the label, we put together a Kickstarter project for Meursault, to help fund their trip to the US to play the SXSW festival followed by an East Coast tour. The idea was that people would chip in to support the project, and vote for five songs – Meursault songs or covers – that we would then record for an album and then play at a series of shows around Edinburgh. There were the usual extra bonus bits and pieces, but that was the basic premise of it.

The reason for this post is that in three weeks we ended up with an album which was already four grand in the black (we raised about £5k and the whole record was manufactured for about £1k), when most of our records take a year to chug through the release process, cost way more, and are still a few hundred in the red even a year or two after release. I found myself looking at the project again and again thinking ‘what the fuck are we doing wrong the rest of the time?’

The hard part is figuring which elements of this project are comparable to a regular release and which are not. There’s a part of me that would quite like to build a whole label around Kickstarter actually. You could basically release a couple of free singles, and then put the album project up as a Kickstarter, and that way you’d only really be putting stuff out if your audience liked it. The problem would be that, for all I assume the blog and the sessions would keep the audience in the region of ‘people I mostly agree with about music’, it still sounds just a little like an indie X-Factor and leaves little room for me insisting that you all like a band because goddammit I said so!

There are obvious reasons, though, why this project isn’t really comparable to a regular album release. A first US tour is a unique and landmark event for bands who have to do something as expensive as cross an ocean to get there. Europe we have managed by ourselves, more or less, but the huge extra costs for flights and equipment make this significantly more challenging. I am assuming this makes committed fans of the band more likely to feel generous, be they Americans wanting their first chance to see them or long-time local fans who want to see them spread the word abroad.

Also, because we were asking for extra commitment and generosity from our fans we tried to get them more involved, which we achieved by inviting them to vote on the songs. Personally I think this was a fantastic touch for an album like this, but obviously wouldn’t work with a normal record. ‘Hey, which of these ten songs you’ve never heard before and two you might half-remember from when you were drunk at that gig the other night would like to chose for the record?’

Nevertheless, I think we need to take a bit of a look at how we work and try and learn some stuff from this, because it went really well and was a world away from how we normally work.

1. Speed of recording. Considering most of the band didn’t even know most of these songs before we started, the recording process was amazingly quick. We spent five days at it, recording pretty much everything live. I am a huge fan of live recording, and that is only partially because it’s the only kind of recording I have the technical knowledge, equipment or experience to do with any real confidence. Obviously different projects suit different approaches, but I can’t help but feel that by far the best way to get an awesome-sounding record is by coaxing the best performances out of the band. I’m not sure any amount of crisp capture or post-production will make up for stilted, lacklustre playing.

With live recording everything is more informal and friendly, which relaxes people.  Also, there may be plenty of mistakes on this record, but because it was done as a band the musicians didn’t question them, they questioned whether or not it was a good take by the whole band. Put someone in a booth with a pair of headphones, however, and a mistake is no longer a minor whoops in an otherwise awesome take, it becomes a MISTAKE which must be fixed.  And of course when people are too focussed on what they themselves are doing rather than playing as a band, which is how most pop musicians are most comfortable, then mistakes are far more frequent anyway. And seriously, sitting in a studio by yourself, adding violin bits to something recorded three months ago… well that just doesn’t sound like much fun to me. And I don’t want to listen to ‘not much fun’, thanks.

2. Packaging. CDs are cheap, and we released this in card sleeves which we hand-printed in our living room, pretty much how we recorded the album. The unit cost ended up being pretty much the same as getting them mass-manufactured, but with vinyl, printing your own sleeves ends up being slightly cheaper (see our box set). This is even more evident if you’re talking about smaller runs of, say, a hundred records. It also brings a really nice personal touch to the release, and gets the band involved and makes them feel more attached to their own record. On the downside, if you basically just keep screen-printing onto blank card sleeves it can leave everything looking a little samey – is that boring, or just a consistent brand image, I dunno!

3. Zero PR spend. This is one of the big ones. If your record is well in the black before it’s even released, why the fuck bother with advance PR? Or indeed any PR? PR is actually very costly, between the postage, the CDs and the sheer amount of time it takes.  It also causes huge delays to the release process – a three month lead time for the glossy magazines, for example. And yet and yet and yet… would we really have been as successful with this project without the money we’ve invested in PR in the past? I very much doubt it. And can you do a lot of PR at basically no cost, with streams, download links and a lot of emails? Yes you most certainly can.

The big problem is radio. I could happily write off physical promo if it were just print press. We get so little out of print media that we wouldn’t lose much, and a lot of the places which do take an interest in our releases are happy to operate on a digital-only basis anyway. However, we do get an awful lot of traction (comparatively) on radio, particularly the BBC, and they just don’t work with digital. One or two people I have a decent relationship with will respond to emails, but in general you can’t get through to people there with email promo. Well, I can’t anyway. So if we ditch physical promo, we lose radio, and mostly we can’t afford to do that. Still, given the cost physical PR adds to our releases, and looking at the sums for this album, I really, really think we need to re-evaluate how we promote our records.

4. Journalists can be total cunts. This went out to journalists on the day of the first release show and by the next day was on every fucking illegal download site on the fucking planet. We have a lot of pals who are journos and a lot of very good relationships with the press, but every single fucking time something leaks it is when it is sent to press. Now, if you write about music the pay is so shit that presumably you only do it because you care so much about music itself. In which case I can’t see how this would happen. Even if you’re just a hack trying to wring a living out of writing about what-the-fuck-ever-who-cares, then if you love something you hear, I can’t see how you would do this. But equally, if you hate something why would you even go to the trouble, and what are you trying to do – teach us a lesson by behaving like an absolute cunt?

Whoever the fuck it is who does this, I cannot express the amount of contempt I have for you. Honestly, it’s utterly pathetic, pointless, and makes you just seem a bit like Salacious Crumb: hanging around the more important people cackling away sadly to yourself but without any real hope of participating and without any real point to make. For those of us actually trying to make a contribution, it’s like treading in chewing gum: annoying and a little bit disgusting, but not even enough of a nuisance to really bother yourself with. You’re pathetic. Piss off.

5. Maintaining the energy. How easy will it be to re-enthuse the musicians from Bastard Mountain when it comes time to release their album in May, given it was recorded over a year and a half before that? I don’t know, but I do know this: absolutely everyone involved in this album has been hopping with excitement since day one. That means excited chatter on social media to everyone’s pals, rather than the more dutiful ‘check out the second single from my band’s last record’ stuff you tend to get. It means more energy at the gigs. The semi-improvised nature of the arrangements and playing has been a huge challenge, but the musicians involved are talented enough to find that fun rather than terrifying.  The excitement has also been constant, too – from the start of recording to release – and with a longer process that would have dissipated.

6. Audience excitement and commitment. Okay, the commitment has been helped by the voting, but the number of incredibly kind and excited messages I’ve received in the Kickstarter inbox has been really quite touching, I have to say, even for a cynical old fucker like me. I think the condensed process has had a huge impact here too, as well as the fact that we’ve consistently put out small bits and pieces from the process itself, even before we had finished audio – Matthew Swan’s amazing photos, that silly video of the recording process, and the Soundcloud stream of Tugboat, which didn’t make it onto the record in the end. I think we’ve managed to make people feel more involved in this record than almost any other, and I think that’s a really good thing.

So I don’t know. I many ways this was a one-off event which can’t really be replicated, and in all honesty maybe we shouldn’t even try. But it’s got me thinking about what we do an awful lot, and I think there must be some really important lessons to be learned from The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, if I could just tease out exactly what they are.

The Organ Grinder’s Trailer from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Toadcast #291 – The Botchcast

MP3TAG God we’re shit at this. Even the most romantic thing Mrs. Toad and I can usually bring ourselves to do on Valentine’s Day – i.e. get pished and do a ranty podcast together about how we hate Valentine’s Day – didn’t work out this year for, erm, somewhat predictable reasons: we got a bit too jolly before recording it and it was a bunch of rambling, tedious nonsense.

So a week too late you get me by myself instead, recording a podcast stone cold sober in the middle of the afternoon. Romantic, isn’t it. Ah well, never mind, I never did much like Valentine’s Day anyway.

Anyhow, Mrs. Toad is off in the States at the moment, being all important and financey, and in actual fact by the time she returns I won’t have seen her for about ten days, which is loads. It’ll be worse when I go to SXSW with Meursault though, because that will involve us being apart for three fucking weeks, which is the most we have ever managed since the time when I lived in London and she lived in Edinburgh. Sigh.

Toadcast #291 – The Botchcast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #291 – The Botchcast

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01. The Divine Comedy – Geronimo (00.07)
02. The Magnetic Fields – Love is Lighter Than Air (06.15)
03. Blur – To The End (La Comedie) (with Françoise Hardy) (11.46)
04. Pet Shop Boys – Left to My Own Devices (20.33)
05. Meursault – No Children (Mountain Goats cover) (25.36)
06. Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger Medley (35.31)
07. Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good (51.10)
08. The Ronettes – Be My Baby (57.56)
09. The Cure – Pictures of You (1.00.45)
10. Tom Waits – All the World is Green (1.12.59)

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Ivor Cutler. On Virgin?

Almost nothing at all highlights how much the music industry has changed over the last thirty years than what happened when I was listening to Ivor Cutler the other day. I remember thinking (as I think a lot of people think when they first sit down and properly listen to Ivor Cutler for the first time) ‘fuck me this is weird’ and then ‘fuck me, but it’s good‘ and then ‘but fuck me it really, really is weird’.

As I run a label now, and have on occasion had people express their incredulity at the obvious commercial risks we take from time to time, I do find myself wondering when I listen to such obviously strange stuff as this: who the fuck released this? And why? Maybe they just have a deliberately contrarian streak, such as myself, or maybe (also a little like myself) they have a naive hope that at some point the rest of the world will hear the genius within the madness and suddenly we’ll all float off to some mental magical musical Eden together.

It’s one of the reasons small independent labels are so important, actually. We make no money, so in a sense we are free. We can take chances on things because we don’t have a dozen people’s jobs to protect, and if we lose out then we aren’t depending on the label for our income anyway, so it may not represent successful business, but it is indeed a kind of freedom. So what kind of inspired maverick took a leap of faith on Ivor Cutler – something strange and completely idiosyncratic, and which nevertheless has proven to be enduring and, in a small way, quite legendary.

Virgin Records.

What the ever-loving fuck? Virgin? A major label released this? How the blazing blue balls did that happen?

There are reasons, of course. Virgin with Richard Branson at the helm were pretty aggressively innovative back then. And to be fair, Cutler didn’t start out making quite such weird music. And to be fair, this wasn’t the era of the focus-grouped, X-Factor deluxe karaoke album. But whatever way you cut it, it just feels like a different fucking universe.

For someone as idiosyncratic as Cutler to end up on a major these days… well, it just wouldn’t happen, would it. They’d have to either be so very commercially successful on a small label that they felt there was serious potential there to be exploited, or some inspired/deranged A&R scout would have to think ‘fuck me – THAT’S the one!” I honestly can’t imagine it, can you?

I mean, was music more important back then, that you could take a risk like this and trust enough people would buy it? Did people use music as a means of expanding their cultural life more than they do now? Nowadays music on even the big indies is released for commercial reasons, and it really doesn’t feel like they are even in the business of thinking about music in this way.

I know the teen and tween-orientated Children’s-BBC-pop the majors are looking for these days, like Hannah Montana or Olly Murs, existed back in the seventies too, but it seems like music as culture – or as anything with even the slightest nod towards intellectual validity or artistic ambition – simply has ceased to exist as far as the ‘music industry’ is concerned.

I put that in scare quotes because I really do mean just the industry part. I see music pushing at these boundaries and attempting to be more than just entertainment fluff all the time, but absolutely none of it seems to be of the remotest interest to the industry. The link between Olly Murs and whatever Ivor Cutler’s modern equivalent might be seems to be to be utterly broken now. They seem to exist on two different planets, whereas back then they may have been at opposite ends, but they were at least on the same spectrum.

Is it just the reduction in people paying for music that ends up hurting anything apart from the seriously big sellers? Is it that the music industry is now simply more mature and knows what will sell and what is, in the long term, not really worth taking a risk on? Is it that people in general simply don’t look to music to challenge them as much as they used to? I don’t know – of course I don’t – but it’s been a bit like boiling a frog, for me, in that the industry today feels a lot like the industry yesterday, but add enough of those incremental changes together and holy shit, you get back to a time when Ivor Cutler was on a major fucking record label. Ivor fucking Cutler!

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