I am not doing predictions, mostly because I can’t. I have no idea what is going to be big this year and what isn’t, and even if I think a band is going to release something amazing that probably doesn’t matter, because bands I love rarely ever get all that famous anyway. But in any case, and in no particular order, here are some things I liked about last year, and some things I didn’t. Some stuff I’d like to see more of and some things I am looking forward to, and some things I am not.
“Something wicked this way comes”
(And by wicked, I mean good, I hear that’s how the kids are using the term these days)
Tape labels - I know they’re a little contrived, and that tape is in many ways a shit format to release on but… I don’t know, there’s a playful, youthful energy to this stuff which I can’t help but love.
You’re shit, and you know you are - Okay, so we may have swallowed an awful lot of guff this year, but it did make me laugh how most people’s reaction to pompous, self-important garbage like (Viva) Brother was to point and laugh.
The X-Factor - you know how you all complain about that shitey bar full of guys in Ralph Lauren shirts or stupidly tight t-shirts, or girls with ironed hair in tight jeans who seem to forget that Footballers’ Wives was over fucking years ago? Well the X-Factor is a bit like this. Yes, it’s fucking woeful, but it’s destroying the major labels, clearing the ground for the interesting indies and acting as a very helpful retard-sink for people who might otherwise be bothering us with their opinions about real music. And for this I salute it.
Recognition for our fucking bands! – King Post Kitsch proved that even if you never play a single gig, and even if you release your album really early in the year you can still get great press and end up on loads of End of Year lists. Lach got in every glossy music mag in the country – yes, that’s right, all of them. The Japanese War Effort proved that even if you get almost no press, if people like your stuff enough then social networks can be just as effective, if not more so. And Rob St. John showed rather decisively that even if your PR lady craps out on you mid-campaign, if your shit is good, when it hits the fan it will go absolutely fucking everywhere.
“I’ve only got three bullets and there’s four of Motley Crue”
(If I were the grim reaper of the music world, these would be the first for the chop)
Soft pop – Right, I know we’re all trying to be awfully grown up, but describing the sort of lifeless, limp, soulless, anaesthetic musical tapioca quicksand released by the likes of Destroyer, Iron & Wine and Bon Iver this year as ‘mature’ is pretty much saying that you don’t have the courage to admit to yourself or anyone else that it’s basically just boring shit. Just because we wanted these albums to be good doesn’t mean they were. They are the sort of detestable eighties soft pop people you hate in eighties movies use to lure away the our hero’s beloved. And they, not the time you drove your Chevy to the fucking levee, were the day the music died.
Lana Del Rey’s insufferable pouting - I’m not sure which gender her over-sexualised pouting or arch, faux-ingenue caricature insulted the most – it was like a small-child-with-explosive-diarrhoea-and-no-shorts-on-playing-on-a-roundabout scattergun of sexist cliches. Although I do find myself developing some pity when I see her dead behind the eyes, middle-distance stare which seems to be begging someone put her out of her ‘there’s not enough Vicodin in the world to take away the pain of what I have become’ misery.
The awesome pulling power of dismal ‘heritage bands’ - The Stone Roses whored for the most headlines in 2011, but they are far from the only example of what I can only describe as WHO FUCKING CARES music. Watching a bunch of ageing has-beens cover their own songs is a pretty limp excuse for an evening’s entertainment if you ask me – wouldn’t you be better off just sitting at home and playing the fucking CD? People who go to this shit don’t care at all about music, they just wish they weren’t as old as they have inevitably become. Tough shit Grandpa, accept it and fuck off to Switzerland while you still have a sliver of dignity left intact.
Ed Sheeran - I want his severed head in a box on my desk by Monday, please.
The BBC’s apparent determination to undermine new music - when they couldn’t get rid of 6Music, they turned their sights on Introducing. I thought the BBC was there to support grass roots cultural development, not pull the fucking rug out from underneath it. And if you want to encroach less on the commercial sector (and get beyond the age of fifty without succumbing to the inevitable and wholly justified urge to remove all your clothes and walk off into the Arctic wilderness alone, with nothing to keep you warm but a half-empty bottle of Famous Grouse, as a sort of mea culpa for the scorched Earth combination of cultural rape and mass lobotomy you have parasitically inflicted upon the nation) the just save the money by setting the set to Strictly Come Dancing on fire during the filming of the next series.
“Don’t Let the Record Label Take You Out to Lunch”
We all know record labels are evil. But these aren’t.
Night People - incredible hand screen printed vinyl and tape releases. A lot of it is experimental, and so sometimes a little bit too ‘challenging’ for my nice, safe pop ears, but that just makes it more fun really.
Sways Records - lovely people, and working with bands like Weird Era, Ghost Outfit and The Louche FC. And they sent a little cuddly ghost plush toy, hand made no less, with the Ghost Outfit single. A cuddly ghost. Case closed.
Empty Cellar - Discovery of the year, for me, this lot. They had something like four albums in my Best of 2011 list, and pretty much everything they release is on gorgeously-designed vinyl.
Art is Hard Records - okay, so they’re very, very new, but they’re also very promising. As well as The Black Tambourines, they’ll also be working with Yoofs and Joanna Gruesome in 2012, which is a fantastic roster.
Scottish labels - yeah, they aren’t getting mentioned here. Everyone knows I love Fence, Chemikal, Gerry Loves, etc etc so there’s no need to harp on about it again.
“Baby, You Could be Famous if You Could Just Get Out of This Town”
I don’t and won’t ‘tip bands for the top’, because bands I like rarely ever get at all famous, but I can tell you about bands whose new stuff I am very much looking forward to.
Easter - It’s hard to say what they’ll actually achieve. As they’ll be releasing their debut album on a tiny indie I doubt it will make massive waves, but it definitely deserves to. Their gig with the John Knox Sex Club and Fuzzystar was one of the highlights of last year’s Ides of Toad shows.
PAWS - After getting Scottish music audiences all excited in 2011 it feels very much like it’s time to see what PAWS really have in the locker. They’re recording an album, doing it with a very decent label indeed, and now we’ll see if they can turn a series of brilliant pop songs into a proper record, and what the rest of the country makes of their amazing live shows.
Jonnie Common - A little like Rob St. John with Song, by Toad, when someone like Jonnie does as well as he did on a small (but brilliant) record label like Red Deer Club I can’t help but wonder what he might have done had he been on someone bigger and with a little more resource. It’s all idle speculation of course, and I have absolutely no intention of insulting Red Deer Club, but Master of None did have that ‘could be massive‘ feel to it.
The Black Tambourines - With three EPs and a single to their name already, The Black Tambourines are probably at the same level as PAWS, in that it’s probably time to record and album and see what they can do. They were absolutely fucking great when they played here in December though, and more people really do need to see them.
“Maybe it’s Scotland That I Hate”
The Scottish Music Scene (TM) has been pretty thin of late, if you ask me, but there have been some promising glimmers here and there.
Evil Hand/Bottle of Evil - I am lumping these two together because they have a personnel overlap of (I think) 50%. It’s not always gripping, and because they tend to release things for free I will confess I am not sure the quality control is always what it might be, but when either of these bands actually nails it they produce some absolutely great stuff.
Spook School - It’s very retro, but not in the Surf+Stooges+Pavement way a lot of lo-fi stuff is retro these days. No, this is indie-pop retro, with a touch of the early nineties, early Britpop guitar bands about them as well. They’re quite fresh out of the box, and not quite the finished article yet in my view, but they’re cracking live and have some fine tunes.
Pet - I am not sure if these guys even exist anymore, but they have definitely had something of a staffing crisis recently. If they have packed it in it would be a most spectacular implosion for a band who went from my Twitter feed to 6Music to the NME in the space of about a month when they released their first single in the middle of last year.
PAWS - I have to thank Olaf from Born to Be Wide and Andy and Paddy from Gerry Loves Records for getting me into these guys. Unquestionably my new Scottish band of the year for 2011, and I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do with a little more resource behind them.
Palms - From one single song I can’t, and shouldn’t, draw too many conclusions, but it is such a very, very good song! And with an endorsement from Tracer Trails’ Emily Roff, I find myself very much looking forward to their Ides of Toad show on February 24th.
John Knox Sex Club - An absolute beast of a live set and a brilliant album, and suddenly a band who I don’t think wanted to do a lot of the ‘normal band stuff’ when they started out have proved themselves better at normal band stuff than most of the ‘normal’ bands out there.
Zed Penguin - Alright, Matthew Winter’s stuff might be a little rough around the edges for a lot of people, but umm… well, I just like it. It’s raw and can be really quite harsh live, but on his two EPs (one of which is yet to be released) so far he has produced some fucking great songs. I can’t see him ‘making it’ per se, but I can seem him making a lot of music that I fucking love so, er, balls to it, that’s good enough for me.
“All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit”
I might not become rich or famous in 2012, but I have a short list of modest ambitions…
To insult someone live on air - I haven’t yet had the chance to call someone out for talking absolute bollocks in a particularly public setting yet, but it would be quite fun. It’s a tricky balance this, though, because you have to deliver a definite put down without ever seeming vindictive or angry, because that makes it look like you’re trying too hard – just a simple, matter of fact, irrefutably logical smackdown.
For some retard to announce that they’ve ‘discovered’ us - By this I mean not in the incredibly generous way Andrew Collins has talked about discovering Song, by Toad stuff. No, more like someone who’s paid us no attention at all for the last five years to suddenly become a rabid fan in that creepy way people do when they seem to want some sort of ownership of something. They do it in a way that implies that their excitement is more about how amazing they are at discovering shit, and not really all that much about the hard work of the people they are discovering. Mostly I just want this so I can tell them to fuck off.
Someone somewhere to add up all the Scottishness - Specifically, I would like someone to add up the number of times Scottish music blogs refer to the Scottishness of the Scottish bands they write about in 2012. I don’t want analysis, just a number. I bet it will be a very, very big number indeed.
The NME to redesign its front cover - We all know that the NME is just Heat for music by now, don’t we? Like Grazia for try-hard, middle of the road, not-even-hipster fashion drones. So with this, it should really just fess up and redesign its logo in red and white like the rest of the weekly frotherati.
6Music to broaden its playlists a little - Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love 6Music, but I would like to see a little more variety in there, rather than just music aimed at, well, people like me I suppose. How about some really old blues stuff, or non-corporate hip-hop or stuff like that. Their daytime programming is still really quite bland. It sounds ridiculous, but I actually wish they played just a little less music that I like.
For Jools Holland and Lady Gaga to have a baby - Just to see what sort of deformed little homunculus they’d produce, really.
For Song, by Toad Records to find another thousand-seller - All but one of our bands sells albums in the hundreds. This is absolutely fine, and we don’t want to make people think that we worry about commerce before deciding to release someone’s album, but it would do our financial health a world of good to have just one more band on the books who could shift records in four figures. Until then, of course, limited edition vinyl it is! On the subject of which…
For the world of music buyers to make up its fucking mind about formats – Yes, I know, tapes are fun and we all love vinyl most of all, but honestly, it’s expensive and it sells really slowly. So if you want vinyl, make everyone else start buying it too. And if it’s just another passing retro-fetishist fad can we all just get over it quickly so I can start releasing records on formats that might actually make us some money please.
More people to come to our gigs - Just saying.
People to realise how fucking awesome the Toad Sessions are - Honestly, they shit on pretty much any other session out there a band could do. So albeit on a slightly more needy level, again, just saying!
Someone I really like and who really deserves it to really crack it and start making money - This could be anyone, honestly. Imagine how cool it would be if the next Pictish Trail or Withered Hand album went absolutely massive, for example. Or Jonnie Common. Or Sparrow and the Workshop. Or if Cloud Sounds got picked up by Radio1. Or if Gerry Loves Records were offered a massive investment from Beggars Group and told to release what they wanted. Or if Bart Owl replaced Simon Cowell on the X-Factor. Wouldn’t it be fucking fantastic, for example, to see someone we all know and love play in and fill a massive fucking venue and have all the vapid London chatterati falling all over themselves arguing about who discovered them first. Ain’t going to happen of course. But that’s what we’re all in this for isn’t it, really: unrealistically ambitious daydreaming.