Song, by Toad

Posts tagged vinyl villain

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Win Toad Stuff!

Toad stuff?  Yeah, Toad stuff!  ALL the Toad stuff.  Our entire back catalogue is available to win from The Vinyl Villain, as part of JC’s person of the year award competition festive thingy.

JC is a friend of mine and so please take the Person of the Year thing with a hefty pinch of salt. No disrespect of course, but you know what I mean.  Basically, JC’s way of saying that he really likes all the work that goes into Toad things was to offer to buy one of everything in the label’s back catalogue and to offer it as a prize to one of his lucky readers.  To win this extra-awesome prize you simply have to visit this post on The Vinyl Villain and email JC the answer to an incredibly simple question and Bob’s yer uncle.  Which in my case he actually is.

So a big thanks to JC for his extremely generous compliments, and also to the readers of Ayetunes.  The readers of Ayetunes you say?  Yes indeed, for they have concluded their readers’ vote and Song, by Toad has been named favourite blog and third favourite radio show/podcast, behind Vic Galloway (who I always thought was overrated) and Glasgow Podcart. The fact that I finished ahead of the likes of Mark Riley causes me to raise something of an eyebrow at these results, but a compliment is a compliment no matter how much you suspect you may have been overestimated!

We even got a couple of votes for our bloody living room in the Best Venue category which, whilst nice, is not something I wish to encourage lest Mrs. Toad decide to stop letting me use it for Official Fun. There were plenty more categories to be perused, and you can read the full set of results here.

And, erm, what better song could there possibly be for an self-aggrandising pile of old pablum such as this post:

The Dollyrots – Because I’m Awesome

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Scottish Internets A-Buzz With Music

Map of the Internet

There seem to be a lot of things happening on the internet in and around the Scottish music scene at the moment.  This is nice, because for a while it seemed like the only real participants in McMusic 2.0 were the old stagers like myself, 17 Seconds, The Vinyl Villain, The Pop Cop, And Before the First Kiss (RIP for now) and Manic Pop Thrills.  We can welcome a couple of new sites to the fold as well, in the form of The Steinberg Principle, Across the Kitchen Table and Scottish Friction.  There are the more venerable organs such as Is This Music? and Jock Rock as well, but it seemed like ages since we’d been fed any fresh meat.  There are a few others run by professional journalists, such as Spins ‘n’ Needles, Broon’s Tunes and Lots of Random Words, but they seem for the most part to be places to store their writings for other people, rather than sites with a focus of their own.

It’s all quite old school though: essentially the text from what would have been a magazine or a fanzine of days gone by has simply been moved to the internet which, although it’s an improvement in many ways, is hardly revolutionary.

There are two reasons I think that a lot of this isn’t quite stretching the internet to its full capability just yet.  Firstly, community.  One of the key things the internet can do which traditonal media could never do is to build a community out of the readership who actually get to participate in the project itself.

Some of the blogs mentioned above, and this one as well, go some way to achieving this sense of community.  The Vinyl Villain is probably the best I can think of, in terms of bringing disparate people together and letting them become friends simply by virtue of reading the same website.  It’s not an easy thing to do, and JC has done it very well indeed, but the undisputed kings are the Fence Collective, whose web presence has really helped cement the community of musicians and fans together.  It probably wasn’t really intended to be when it started, but their Beef Board is a masterpiece of Web 2.0 savvy.  And this from a label that doesn’t even sell mp3s.

The other thing which most of the sites mentioned so far really lack is any kind of multimedia.  I am trying, but a look at the BBC’s Homegame Sessions shows you what I mean.  Since the iPlayer they are pretty much the masters of this universe as far as I can tell, and a splendid example of how to bring together print, video and audio in one fairly seamless package.

Recently there have been some new additions to the tartan interwebs, however, which promise to help push us collectively forward a little.

Off the Beaten Tracks – with whom I have collaborated on a couple of Homegame Sessions – is offering live video sessions and band profiles, exploiting the rather amazing Edinburgh architecture to create some really distinctive videos.  The Malcolm Middleton ones from Homegame can be seen here.

Glasgow Podcart – this is more of an arts and music blog, giving it a broader scope, which I like.  They combine their visual, written and podcast material really well.  This is a bit more Web 2.0, if you ask me, although they shower this train wreck of a site with compliments in this episode, so their judgment does seem to leave just a little to be desired.

Products of a Gaseous Brain – Milo will be shocked rigid and make protestations of amateurish bumbling when he sees me put him forward as an example of what a blog can and should be.  It may be rough, but there’s video, podcasts, writing, reviews, random bollocks and everything.  Apart from one unfortunate error, where he interviews yours truly on his podcast, this is a consistently excellent site.

So there we go, things are starting to move forward in this part of the world.  It’s good too, because these new ventures should spur on those of us who have been around for a few year now to do better and more interesting things.  It’s all about ideas these days, and there are some very good ones knocking around at the moment.

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Paul Haig Day

Paul Haig

You know, it’s fucking ridiculous, but I am not sure what the overwhelming emotion of this post is for me.  It’s either warm appreciation of Paul Haig for his support and attitude towards a good friend of mine, or it’s sheer frustrated annoyance that this kind of thing is necessary in the first place.  Sadly, I think it might be the latter.

To explain, a while back my friend JC from the Vinyl Villain posted about Paul Haig, former Josef K frontman, and possibly the coolest individual from the last time Edinburgh had anything like this vibrant a music scene.  JC is a big fan, and was absolutely delighted that Paul and his management got in touch to thank him for his post.  Then, the next day, he was absolutely gutted to find that his post had been deleted by Google after three Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaints had been made against it within about five minutes.

Now, given that the only people with any right to make that complaint had already been in touch with JC to thank him for the post, who the fuck made these infringement complaints?  Over-zealous legal interns at some obscure distribution company in the States?  Someone with a personal grudge against JC filing nuisance complaints?  Of course, this is very reason why the DMCA is such comically bad law.  Which corrupt clowns drew it up and then signed it into fucking law I don’t know, but they should really be made to walk the streets of the world in nothing but a fucking frilly tutu for their craven idiocy.

Google, when they receive these complaints are obliged to remove the allegedly infringing material immediately.  They are then legally not liable for any damage caused to the victim of the complaint’s business by virtue of a potentially frivolous complaint.  Now, Google don’t merely revert the offending post to ‘draft’ mode or something sensible like that, or lock it, or anything, so that the actual merits of the complaint can be ascertained.  No, they just delete it forever, and getting a response from a counter-claim is like pulling fucking teeth, despite what their terms and conditions would seem to suggest.  They presumably have no desire to actually examine the veracity of these complaints because it could potentially cost them a fucking fortune.  As it is, this job has been outsourced to Chilling Effects, which is basically run by a team of volunteers – their backlog may be as bad as a year at the moment.

This is a fucking disgrace, and it is something we should all be very worried about, because it signifies a very powerful and very scary change in how the law works: guilt by accusation.  In this situation the actual factual accuracy of the accusation is irrelevant – a blogger’s work can be destroyed simply by someone making an accusation, irrespective of the truth.  Remind you of anything?  Yes, another fucking diabolical piece of legislation which the big media companies are trying to jam up our arses at the moment: three strikes and you’re out internet disconnections. The European Court has ruled against this nonsense on the basis that the internet is becoming a fundamental utility in the Twenty-First Century, but they didn’t mention the simple fact that accusation does not mean guilt, and that this is supposed to be the very cornerstone of a civillised legal system.  And the French government is pressing ahead with their plans to implement it nevertheless.

So what are we left with?  Feudalism, basically.  Guilty unless you are prepared to take on a massive corporation in the courts of law and risk total ruin and bankruptcy.  Justice by might, rather than right.  Brilliant.  Vic from Muruch is the only person I know of so far who has been brave enough to actually fight any of this, primarily because she knew for absolute certainty that she was in the right, because Muruch is a 100% legal music blog, but for most people they simply submit to the legal hatchet jobs and either soldier on or end up quitting.  I can’t stress how brave Vic’s actions were, however.  People with houses and families don’t want to be on the receiving end of the music industry’s famously ludicrous damages claims, recently upheld by Barack fucking Obama thank you very much.  And once law becomes about accusation rather than guilt the world could become a very scary place indeed.  It is already happening in other fields, and we should be very, very worried about this.

So a big thank you to Paul Haig and his management for their support during this bloody nonsense.  Please show your appreciation for their efforts in putting out a press release highlighting this silliness, as well as making Reason available for free download as a statement of intent.  Feel free to show it by buying something from here, for instance.  Once the artists and the fans turn on this fucking rotten law who are we left with who will speak up for it?  Ah yes, the grasping whores who made a merry living for years fleecing both of us.  Never let anyone tell you that this is about encouraging art or protecting artists.  It’s just another major industry trying to throw their weight around as their self-importance and onanistic sense of personal entitlement consistently fail to be matched by reality.

Paul Haig – Reason

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Paul Haig – Let’s Face the Music and Dance

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Introduce Your Record Shop #2: Rotate This

New Front

New Front

[Next up in our series where readers and general pals introduce their local record shops is JC, author of The Vinyl Villain, pretty much the model of mp3 blogging to which we should all aspire: honest, personal, knowledgable and enthusiastic.]

Last year, I spent four months working in Toronto, and it didn’t take me any time at all to find myself getting immersed in the local music scene.

It’s a city with loads of great venues for bands to play – with many of them charging way below what we are used to in the UK. And as for the record stores??? Three in particular stand out – Sonic Boom, Soundscapes and Rotate This and I could happily waffle on about any or all of them. But I’ll go for what is the most established of the three – Rotate This.

Its got a great mix of CDs and vinyl, new and second-hand, and it doesnt have staff that sneer at your own peculiar tastes. It also sells tickets for just about all the gigs in the city, from the smallest pub to the main arenas, never charging more than $1 or $2 in commission. What more could you ask for??? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Music Fan’s Lament #4: Decreasing Quality

Mozza

Well the series bumbles on into its final installment.  I am writing this from Vancouver Airport, waiting for a connection to Portland, so what better way to fill the time than with needless blathering about things I don’t really understand.  It’s taken a while to post, but I thought I’d finish this off before getting into all the Portland stuff and forever banishing the whiff of leeks from these pages.  Well, maybe not forever, but erm, well… oh never mind.

Once again, here are the various articles that prompted this little festival of self-indulgence, so you have some idea what to expect:
A Penny For Your Thoughts by The Vinyl Villain (read the comments as well, because some of them are very thought-provoking.
Does the World Need Another Indie Band? by Tim Walker, writing in The Independent.
Why Has Modern Music Lost So Much Impact? by the Kings of A&R.
This comment, from a reader called Alex in the comment thread of my recent podcast – The Tribecast.

And here are the other posts in the series:
1. Fragmentation
2. Over Saturation
3. Hype Overload
4. Quality

#4 Decreasing Quality

Reading JC’s article in particular put me in mind of this common complaint, and some of the commenters pushed the point even further.  Modern music is shit – where are the great bands?  Where, in particular, are the next Smiths, for example?

I can’t, and won’t, argue that there is a current band that I could honestly describe as the new Smiths.  But then, there wasn’t an old Smiths either.  You are talking about the very cream of the crop – that sort of band come along maybe once a decade, don’t they?  Radiohead for the 90s, I suppose, and erm, who for the noughties?  I really am not sure, so I can see where he’s coming from in that respect.

I don’t, predictably enough, agree entirely though.  One of the things JC seems to be doing, as do a lot of the people who criticise a living music scene by comparing it unfavourably to the past, is ignoring the fact of hindsight.  It’s easy to tell that the Smiths were something special, because we can look back on anything and everything that was around at the time and evaluate them in a relatively dispassionate way – something we just can’t do for anything current.  The Stone Roses first and the early Radiohead albums stand up very strongly in retrospect, but as we get closer to the present day how can we tell how good the bands are that we’re listening to now?

A couple of the groups mentioned in the comment thread on JC’s post are DeVotchKa and Calexico, but these bands are both a good solid handful of albums into their careers by now.  Think back over the last couple of years and the records that made real impact: LCD Soundsystem, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes – all these bands have pretty broad appeal, but only the White Stripes are more than a couple of albums into their careers, and we just don’t know who is going to be remembered from this era yet.  If the Arctic Monkeys continue to peter out, then maybe they’ll be forgotten about altogether.  It would just take one more brilliant album from any of these groups to cement their reputation as one of the really key bands of the first decade of this century.  Do we really think that the riff from Seven Nation Army is going to be less memorable in ten years than Johnny Marr’s equally iconic performance on How Soon is Now?  I know there’s more to genius that a few memorable riffs, but I think the more general point still stands.

The other question is this: who even remembers the Kasabian of the 80s anyway?  We can look back on the 90s now and identify bands like Blur and Pulp, Radiohead and early James as iconic and brilliant.  But how many Menswears and Kula Shakers are we consigning to the dustbins of forgetfullness in order to do so?  If no-one gives much of a fuck about the View now, then their memory may not survive the next full moon, never mind twenty years worth of rosy-tinted nostaligia.

Then again, as popular entertainment has made ever-greater inroads into the world of indie, having realised that there was a sizable market out there that their dancing karaoke whores were not capable of suitably exploiting, it seems that the world of indie is being over-run by preening, prancing piss-artists like the Hoosiers, Joe Lean and the Short Tight Pants, that one who’s pumping, er… Kate Moss.  Whoever they are.  They’re shit, anyway.  This is indie rock as commerical product, but it must be remembered that in no meaningful way is it actually indie.  It’s a branch of the celebrity industry, approached as such, and does not deserve our attention.  The bands are in it for the fame, the coke and the floosies, the music is fucking dreadful, and the marketing spend in proportion to investment in the actual ‘product’ is repellently high.  This last one is always a good metric to use when considering whether or not something might just be fucking rubbish.

At the other end of the scale, there are a lot of piss-poor bedroom bands reaching out using MySpace and the like, and we have a lot more contact with them than before because they can reach us directly.  They don’t need the middle-man, who might just have pointed out that they are shit, and so our MySpace inboxes are clogged with shit by groups that barely deserve to call themselves bands, nevermind command anyone’s ears.

If you’re used to listening to all this stuff because you want the buzz of that one exciting discovery, then you really do have to stop moaning and just accept it.  The people who got to be the arbiters of what was and wasn’t worth our time before the internet all had to wade through this stuff, so if we want to liberate ourselves from being told what to like, then we have to do the work that goes with it.  With great power comes gr… er, sorry, wrong speech.  The other option is to quitchabitchin and just find a few bloggers and a couple of radio stations that you trust and let them do it for you.  If you want to participate, you are just going to have to put the time in to listen.

So although I wouldn’t say that there are fewer great bands out there, I would certainly concede that we have exposure to far more really shit ones.  But as for greatness, I just don’t think we can tell right now what is going to be remembered in twenty years.  And I also think we conveniently forget all the crap that there was milling about on the airwaves at the time we thought the Smiths were so great.  I can see how you would get full, too.  After thirty-odd years scouring the country for great new bands, like JC has, there must come a point where you’re just full up.  There is a limit to the amount of music we can really find special, because if there was more of it then it would by definition be less special, but I really don’t buy the argument that bands then were better than they are now.

And as Mrs. Toad is whispering in my ear, great bands tend to be born into times of economic hardship – it’s what makes the release all the more euphoric – so you never know, we could be on the cusp of great things over the next five years or so.

The Smiths – How Soon is Now?
Blur – Clover Over Dover
The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
Arcade Fire – Intervention

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The Music Fan’s Lament #1: Fragmentation

Archipelago

I have been reading a few things recently about the state of music in the 21st Century. Not the state of the music industry exactly, but the state of music itself and its relationship with its fans. There are a lot of things I want to write about in response to this, so rather than one massive great big monster post, I think I’ll break it down into a small series of things which I’ll write over the course of the next day or so.

Firstly, here are the various articles that prompted this little festival of self-indulgence, so you have some idea what to expect:
A Penny For Your Thoughts by The Vinyl Villain (read the comments as well, because some of them are very thought-provoking.
Does the World Need Another Indie Band? by Tim Walker, writing in The Independent.
Why Has Modern Music Lost So Much Impact? by the Kings of A&R.
This comment, from a reader called Alex in the comment thread of my recent podcast – The Tribecast.

So, how am I going to break this down into relatively digestible chunks, so this post doesn’t just ramble on forever? Like so:
1. Fragmentation
2. Over Saturation
3. Hype Overload
4. Decreasing Quality

#1 Fragmentation

I may quibble with either the existence or the seriousness of some of the other things I am going to discuss in this series, but I don’t think I can honestly argue against the fact that there is severe fragmentation in the music market. Whether it’s a bad thing or a good thing, however, I couldn’t rightly say, although I don’t think it is great for the vast majority of music fans.

If you think about it, no-one really knows where or what the mainstream is anymore. Jay-Z headlines Glastonbury, the NME left relevance behind years ago, Top of the Pops is dead, radio stations are struggling and internet ones are actually under attack from the music industry itself, so where do we all find out about the next big thing together?

Well for the fanatics like myself and probably, given you’re here reading this, you too, the fragmentation is actually a bonus most of the time. It is what allows us to be here, examining some of the more obscure
corners of the indiesphere, whilst still keeping half an eye on the wider mainstream acts at the same time. It also helps us build communities of people, even ones who have never met, nor are ever likely to.

For the more balanced music fan, however, it can be a problem. I mentioned during the Tribecast that pop music, particuarly mainstream pop music is not particularly about the music itself from an artistic standpoint. I mean, there’s a reasonably rigid formula for pop hits, and they have to be catchy as hell for some reason, so it’s not like the music can get away with being entirely inept (vapid is another question), but for the listener the social aspect is often equally important.

Culture is a crucial part of group bonding – basic tribal behaviour – and the act of sharing cultural entities is an important way of binding a community together. So it really doesn’t matter what you think of a song, what matters is its capacity to appeal to a large number of people and enough awareness that it has the chance to become something shared by as many people as possible.

In the Tribecast I mentioned Mr. Brightside by the Killers as a perfect example of a song and an album that was so ubiquitous that it is now completely attached to the Summer of 2005 and in five or six years time, any of us who hear that song again will instantly associate it with whatever was going on in our life at the time. We’ll have that ‘Aaa, remember this!‘ conversation with a random person in a pub, and this will allow us to instantly bond that little bit more, and that little bit more easily.

At the moment there seems to be no shared mass market for this stuff, in fact Top of the Pops’ very breadth was probably what killed it. Looking at the Top Ten Albums lists for 2007, we see the Billboard Charts – the barometer of major label sales – giving us obviously ludicrous hits such as Hannah Montana and Now Fifty-Whatever. Even the superficial magazines were writing out lists full of LCD Soundsytem and TV on the Radio – a bloggers’ delight perhaps, but is it that representative of mainstream tastes? Bloggers are prominent at the moment because we are very easy to find, and there is a definite style of indie rock that seems to be very popular amongst bloggers. So we’re one of the most coherent, available voices out there, but I really have my doubts that we are representative of mainstream tastes.

All this results in the fragmentation we are talking about. As Alex said, in his comment on the Tribecast thread:

“I think songs like ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ and bands like Arctic Monkeys – that really capture the imagination of the mainstream, but that can also be looked back on a few months down the line without any hint of embarrassment – are so important. They’re the only point of cultural bonding (and drunken singalong) I can expect to have with anyone of my age in 10 years time.”

He’s right, but in other ways this fragmentation is a good thing. It allows, for example, smaller, more close-knit communities to form, often locally centred. Imagine if you find someone in ten years with a Toad Session recording in their music collection, for example. Or imagine, on a larger scale, meeting a fan of King Creosote and realising that you both talked on the Fence Beefboard at the same time. Or even just meeting someone who also reads The Vinyl Villain or, more likely, Said the Gramophone. That bond will be a hell of a lot stronger than a wishy-washy, generic ‘Oh yeah, I liked that Killers song’.

But remember that it isn’t just radio and television that forges these shared bonds. ASDA radio plays more and better indie music in an hour that pretty much any major radio station, and they probably have more listeners too, albeit not by choice. But this seeps in everywhere – in every pub and bar that plays music. If you’re in the same pubs as someone, you’re listening to the same music, and if it happens a lot you remember it, however subconsciously, so this process really hasn’t been stopped. Think about the ubiquity of cutting edge music in advertising and television as well – if we’re all watching Big Brother, we’re all listening to the same music.

Ultimately though, I think these things will consolidate. That’s what Capitalism does: builds bigger and bigger and shitter and shitter companies until there is an explosion and it all tumbles down and starts over. You can already see the growth of things like The Hype Machine and Drowned in Sound and to some extent The Guardian as well, all starting to point the way to the kinds of large entities that could easily grow out of the current sea of tiny enterprises. So for anyone worrying about the fragmentation in the actual music industry itself, I honestly doubt it will last that long.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that we often don’t know what is going to define a period of time until afterwards. What’s going to define 2008? Well we don’t know, do we – Vampire Weekend? It’s not unlikely.

The Killers – Mr. Brightside
Vampire Weekend – A-Punk
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

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The Bluteones – Bluetonic

Bluetonic

Had a good rummage recently?

Well Davy H, from the truly excellent Ghost of Electricity started rummaging about in his 90s CD singles last week, and wrote this. Following that we had Mick from Raiding the Vinyl Archive, with his contribution.  And this weekend everyone’s favourite superannuated Weegie – JC from The Vinyl Villain – has got stuck in as well.

So now I have had a rummage through my own box of 90s CD singles, and unearthed a gem.  The CD single is a much-maligned animal, the distant, buck-toothed cousin to its urbane vinyl counterpart.  But it had something of a heyday in the 90s, before the re-birth of the 7″ and after the cassette tape had been effectively seen off.  I didn’t have a record player anyway so I had a huge pile of these things, and of course the 90s was when I first started getting into music with real determination.

It’s not an original purchase I’m afraid, because most of those were stolen when someone broke into our Glasgow basement flat, but it is one of many I have since painstakingly re-acquired with the aid of eBay and Amazon Marketplace in the years since.  There were many choices I could have made.  Gene would be an obvious example, I had Pulp’s masterpiece Common People too, and the unbelievably good Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave, but I thought I’d go for The Bluetones.

The Bluteones, like Gene before them, were the quintessential singles band.  Their albums were disappointing, but there was a period in about 1995 when a couple of superb singles had us all convinced that they were going to be the next massive thing in Britpop – a scene which had already peaked, but which still very much dominated the musical landscape.  The Bluetones have proved to be oddly long-lived actually, and still release albums today to a hard-core of dedicated fans, so it’s unfair to imply that they couldn’t cut the mustard.  One thing is for sure though, they have never ever matched the heady hype of those first few singles, and Bluetonic was the first and the best of the lot.

Rough Outline, a collection of their singles and b-sides can be bought from Amazon unless you want to scour eBay where there are both some vinyl and CD versions knocking around.

The Bluteones – Bluetonic
The Bluteones – Colorado Beetle
The Bluteones – Glad to See Y’Back Again

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Uber-Campers Part 3

Well, I couldn’t find an mp3 for this one, but this is JC‘s entry to the Campest Song in the Universe competition. Alan Cumming. Gosh. Is this the one you meant JC or have I got a comedy version by mistake? Or is this genuinely as sensible as this song ever gets? Judge for yourselves people, I can’t bring myself to write any more about this fiasco.

Next is the turn of the lovely China from Choir Croak Out Them Goodies, although frankly she’ll be going some to top this rubbish.  That said, this is clearly not entirely serious, so I’m not sure it doesn’t lose points for that.  Something 100% sincere, but still screamingly camp would probably pip it at the post.  Come on people, get going!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hMt6KTSz_g]

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Yikes!

Naughty Naughty

Everyone know The Vinyl Villain? Well of course you do. Go and check out this post from yesterday.

I think we can all appreciate the reinvention of a children’s classic as a filthily seductive song of sexual torment, albeit not in a way we’d want to discuss with our therapists. Or our Mums. Or, come to think of it, our wives, shit must go and find Mrs. Toad before this all goes terribly wr…

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