Pete Shelley R.I.P.

Pete Shelley Buzzcocks

News is coming in that Pete Shelley, co-founder, singer and principal songwriter in Britain’s greatest ever male pop group Buzzocks, is dead of a suspected heart attack at the age of 63.

First band I ever saw.
The initial incarnation of Buzzcocks (and yes, I’d include ‘Spiral Scratch’ in that, and the three final singles) is about the most perfect incarnation of a pop group ever.
Greatest run of seven-inch singles in the history of pop music.
Greatest run of albums ever.

God damn. Pete, you were so special.

I’m reprinting this from Collapse Board, by way of a tribute.

Your three favourite Buzzcocks songs | a thoroughly scientific survey

I’ve never properly attempted to write about Buzzcocks. I don’t want to try. I believe their first three albums (+ the three bootlegs I bought at the time, on vinyl) are peerless. I believe their initial run of singles (+ the final three which never really bothered the charts) are exemplary, manifestos to stay alive by. I believe EVERYTHING in their initial incarnation was…. man. I just love it, ok. Every year since ’78, I’ve played them with alarming regularity, continually discovering new things. I can’t decide a favourite album, nor a favourite single, nor a favourite song. The first girl I ever snogged was wearing a homemade Buzzcocks T-shirt (I didn’t snog another for six more years). Their songs… no. I don’t want to discuss their music. It’s too precious.

Here are your votes, culled from Facebook after being given an almost impossible decision – choose your favourite three Buzzcocks songs. None of the ones I voted for are in the chart. I was swamped by the response.

1. What Do I Get?
The Buzzcocks are the perfect mesh of punk and pop, a cleaned up version of the grittier Sex Pistols, but still pretty bratty themselves. Pete Shelley’s voice has a melodic, high-register flair. He sounds downright desperate and pleading on songs like “What do I Get?” and “Ever Fallen in Love?,” but it’s OK because the chunky music that surrounds him is so easy on the ears.
( reader review)

2. Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)
Sometime during November 1977, the band watched the musical Guys and Dolls in the TV lounge of a guesthouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the dialogue “Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have” from the film which inspired the song. The following day Shelley wrote the lyrics of the song, in a van outside a post office, with the music following soon after. The music and lyrics, as well as the singing, belong to Pete Shelley. The song uses the verse-chorus formal pattern and is in the key of E major. Both the verse and the chorus start with C# minor chords (sixth degree in E major), which “give [the song] a distinctly downbeat, edgy feel.” The minor chords and the D-major-to-B-major move in the chorus are unusual for a 1970s punk song, yet they contribute to its ear-catching nature, along with the vocal melody. The verses feature a guitar riff and a double stroke tom-tom drum pattern over the E chord. The vocal melody ranges from G#3 to baritone F#4 in the verses and chorus; in the ending, Shelley hits a tenor G4 and then a G#4. The lyrics consist of two verses (of which one is repeated) and a chorus. According to music critic Mark Deming, “the lyrics owe less to adolescent self-pity than the more adult realization of how much being in love can hurt – and how little one can really do about it”.

3. Boredom
EC: At 16, I liked punk rock. Especially the Buzzcocks. That’s when I started playing guitar, too. I remember the UK fanzine Sniffin’ Glue by Mark Perry. It showed you how to go out there.
GM: By 1979, Edwyn thought punk rock had all gone to shit. It was all idiots. By that point, there was an elitist element about punk, like it was only for those in the know. He was very, very, very strict. The Clash? No. The Stranglers? Absolutely not a chance. The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks, yes. It was important to take a position.
(Edwyn Collins and Grace Maxwell)

4. I Don’t Mind
Reality’s a dream, a game in which I seem
To never find out just what I am
I don’t know if I’m an actor or ham, a shamen or sham
But if you don’t mind and I don’t mind
I’m lost without a clue so how can I undo
The tangle of these webs I keep weaving
I don’t know if I should be believing, deceptive perceiving
But if you don’t mind and I don’t mind
I used to bet that you didn’t care
But gambling never got me anywhere
Each time I used to feel so sure
Something about you made me doubt you more
How can you convince me, when everything I see
Just makes me feel you’re putting me down
And if it’s true, this pathetic clown’ll keep hanging around
That’s if you don’t mind and I don’t mind
I used to bet that you didn’t care
But gambling never got me anywhere
Each time I used to be so sure
Something about you made me doubt you more
I even think you hate me when you call me on the phone
And sometimes when we go out, then I wish, I’d stayed at home
And when I’m dreaming or just lying in my bed
I think you’ve got it in for me, is it all in my head? Is it in my head?
How can you convince me, when everything I see
Just makes me feel you’re putting me down
And if it’s true this pathetic clown’ll keep hanging around
That’s if you don’t mind and I don’t mind, I don’t mind

5. Orgasm Addict

6. Why Can’t I Touch It?
Buzzcocks were a genius art-punk band from Manchester who mixed lovelorn, spiteful lyrics with jagged guitar riffs and rampantly incestuous pop hooks as they stormed the British charts during the late 1970s. They split up following three, wonderful albums…
(Nirvana: The True Story)

7. Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?”
“I don’t know what you mean, I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”
He laughed. “Yes. ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.
(Aldous Huxley, Brave New World)

8. You Say You Don’t Love Me
Buzzcocks is a punk band, but the songs on A Different Kind Of Tension embody that titular tension—the group’s desire since its inception to play simple, stupid songs that were neither simple nor stupid. That paradox is central to Buzzcocks, and it’s never as strongly as evident as on this album. The Ramones may have created the idea of bubblegum-plus-chainsaw pop-punk, but instead of feeding ’60s garage rock into a ’70s punk meat grinder, Buzzcocks used the chirpier, harmonically rich songcraft of The Beatles and The Zombies as raw material. The record’s most tuneful example of this is “You Say You Don’t Love Me,” a forlorn, bitterly witty love song on par with Singles Going Steady classics like “What Do I Get?” and “I Don’t Mind.”
(A.V. Club)

Everett, Moz once asked me why I thought ‘You Say Don’t Love Me’ wasn’t a hit (a tune he, later, did live.) I could’ve said it dates from the time when BCs were a dusty file at the back of some EMI filing cabinet in a room to which no-one could find the key. Sadly, that was a couple of years before I could’ve rejoindered: ‘Why wasn’t “Shakespeare’s Sister” a hit?’ Obvs, the former beats the latter. This has been a fun thread to observe, esp. as ‘Ever Fallen…’ is cited only occasionally, while obscured gems are being polished.
(Richard Boon, Facebook)

9. Fast Cars
Ralph Nader came to prominence in 1965 with the publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a critique of the safety record of American automobile manufacturers in general, and most famously the Chevrolet Corvair. In 1999, a New York University panel of journalists ranked Unsafe at Any Speed 38th among the top 100 pieces of journalism of the 20th century. Nader is a five-time candidate for President of the United States, having run as a write-in candidate in the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic primary, as the Green Party nominee in 1996 and 2000, and as an independent candidate in 2004 and 2008.

10. Harmony In My Head
Buzzcocks were the first band I ever saw – Chelmsford Odeon ’78. I was so naive, I thought that the support band Subway Sect were the main band and couldn’t figure out a) why I didn’t recognise any of their songs (I explained that away to myself by surmising that bands live must sound different to bands recorded) and b) why everyone didn’t leave after they’d finished. I was in the front row, smoking a crafty fag: and yes, I did go out and buy a Subway Sect single the following day (‘Nobody’s Scared’). It wasn’t as tuneful as I wanted, but immediately I was loving the lyrics and thunderous drums. Plus, it was half-price.
(Song Of The Day – 336: Subway Sect)

11. I Believe
In these times of contention it’s not my intention to make things plain
I’m looking through mirrors to catch the reflection that can’t be mine
I’m losing control now I’ll just have to slow down a thought or two
I can’t feel the future and I’m not even certain that there is a past

I believe in the worker’s revolution
And I believe in the final solution
I believe in
I believe in
I believe in the shape of things to come
And I believe in I’m not the only one
Yes I believe in
I believe in

When I poison my system I take thoughts and twist them into shapes
I’m reaching my nadir and I haven’t an idea of what to do
I’m painting by numbers but can’t find the colours that fill you in
I’m not even knowing if I’m coming or going if to end or begin

I believe in the immaculate conception
And I believe in the resurrection
And I believe in
I believe in
I believe in the elixir of youth
And I believe in the absolute truth
Yes I believe in
I believe in

There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore

I’ve fallen from favour while trying to savour experience
I’m seeing things clearly but it has quite nearly blown my mind
It’s the aim of existence to offer resistance to the flow of time
Everything is and that is why it is will be the line

I believe in perpetual motion
And I believe in perfect devotion
I believe in
I believe in
I believe in the things I’ve never had
I believe in my Mum and my Dad
And I believe in
I believe in

There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore

I’m skippin’ the pages of a book that takes ages for the foreword to end
Triangular cover concealing another aspect from view
My relative motion is just an illusion from stopping too fast
The essence of being these feelings I’m feeling I just want them to last

I believe in original sin
And I believe what I believe in
Yes I believe in
I believe in
I believe in the web of fate
And I believe in I’m going to be late
So I’ll be leavin’
What I believe in

There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore
There is no love in this world anymore

I still believe the first three Buzzcocks albums to be the most perfect run of albums I have ever heard. Even now I can’t bring myself to start describing their music – a genius amalgam of Krautrock, sardonic punk attitude, lovelorn lyrics and unstoppable hooks – for fear of dispelling even a tiniest fraction of the magic. Every year, without fail, I listen to those three albums (and all the assorted add-ons) time and time again. And every year, without fail, I feel cleansed for doing so, invigorated, far more able to cope with the detritus and flotsam of life than I had been before.
(Buzzcocks live @ The Zoo, 19.11.09)

12. Moving Away From The Pulsebeat
The big secret is Shelley’s worship of Krautrock’s obsessive focus on repetition and rhythm, which transforms what would be “simply” basic punk songs into at-times monstrous epics. The ghost of Can particular hovers even on some of the shorter songs — unsurprising, given Shelley’s worship of that band’s guitarist Michael Karoli. “Moving Away From the Pulsebeat” is the best instance of this, with a rumbling Maher rhythm supporting some trancelike guitar lines.
(Ned Raggett, All Music)

Also mentioned:
Love You More, Autonomy, Promises

Breakdown, Noise Annoys, Friends Of Mine, Are Everything, Late For The Train

Lipstick, Sixteen Again, Something’s Gone Wrong Again, Hollow Inside

A Different Kind Of Tension, Fiction Romance, Love Battery, Nostalgia, Real World, Time’s Up, ESP

Drop In The Ocean, Just Lust, Mad Mad Judy, Sitting Round At Home, Walking Distance, What Do You Know, I Look Alone, Whatever Happened To, Why She’s The Girl From The Chainstore, You Tear Me Up, Strange Thing, Oh Shit, I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life, Airwaves Dream


I read a while ago that the major label Buzzcocks guitar sound was arrived at by layering chords which were all slightly out of tune with each other, resulting in a kind of woozy ‘chorus’. That was why they had such a unique sound. The guitars on the new stuff sound like meticulously in-tune indie rock thrashes, and therein lies the problem (the lyrics are too direct, too).
(David Callahan, Facebook)

Wish I Never Loved You

Totally From The Heart



2 Responses to Your three favourite Buzzcocks songs

April 12, 2015 at 1:15 pm Edit
Why is “Breakdown” not in the top 3? Has to be the catchiest/nastiest thing they ever coughed up.

November 5, 2018 at 10:52 pm Edit
Really enoyed this – thanks for posting. Made me think, everyone has their favourite Buzzcocks track but which one actually single sold the most copies? I’m sure I read or heard somewhere that even though ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ was their highest ever chart position, ‘Promises’ sold the most copies over time?


The most (im)perfect pop band. Ever.


Bonus tracks

Related posts: How NOT to write about music – 35. Buzzcocks


How NOT to write about music – 34. Little Mix

little mix

What if you’re not looking for authenticity in your music, what then?

What if you’re not looking for ways to interpret and understand your own day-to-day life?

What if you understand that all music is a performance?

What if music does not feed into your sense of identity, but instead serves to distract away from it?

What if the main time you encounter music is during the Radio One Breakfast Show?

What if you are so tired after travelling and working all day, so overburdened with a surfeit of human contact, that your favourite sound to listen to when you get back home late at night to a well cold and empty house is silence?

What if the reason you like or dislike music is not because it is “manufactured’ (what’s that?) or ‘inauthentic’ (what’s that?) or gender-specific or imaginative or has that special half-second echo on the kick drum or the size of the marketing budget but whether it measures up to Bey, to Ariana, to Chicago (the musical), to Mary Poppins?

What if you view music on the same terms as television, as film, as video games?

What if you are just seeking diversion and lip service to the sort of fragile relationships you turned your back on decades ago?

What if you have long thought that Nicki Minaj is way more entertaining and imaginative and creates (I dunno) way more adventurous noise pollution than anything the more feted rock and avant-rock and doom metal and whatever genres have thrown up in decades?

What if you started believing in stars like Lauren Bacall or Katherine Hepburn again?

What if you figure it’s OK to escape to an aspiration dreamworld, long as you avoid the aspiration?

What if you understood that growing up is doing nothing of the sort?

This performance feels false to me, but so the fuck what. Maybe I just resent folk having a good time.

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1. How NOT to write about music – 2. Mango
By any interpretation you choose to take, Mango rock. It ain’t the kind of rock I sometimes throw your way, no denying – no heavy kick-ass metallic chundering guitars or chundering kick-ass heavy drums or that shit: but the words are enunciated and stretched out at volume with a velocity and fierceness that offsets the jazz-tinged funk with a pleasing counter. (See the way there I smartly separated the two genres?) I don’t really understand the quiet bits but I never really understand the quiet bits, although I do like the way they sound tentative, nervous, concerned they may be out of order.

2. How NOT to write about music – 22. (reprinted from 2015)
I wanted to give something back. So I started writing about music, trying to convert everyone to my cause. Even early on – especially early on – I knew that was a futile quest, but that made it all the more fun. If I didn’t think I could change the world through my writing I wouldn’t be doing it, even now. Especially now. I want to communicate the emotion, the rampant emotions that lead me to dance. I want to make everyone else dance. I barely go out to concerts these days – perhaps one every couple of months – but that’s still the case. I still want to make everyone dance. I still want to change the world. These years, I’m whistling in a wind tunnel, pissing in the billowing ocean.

3. How NOT to write about music – 21: Robyn
Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn.

4. How NOT to write about music – 20. Snail Mail
I got banned from the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle after a Hatfield gig. A few years earlier, I engaged in a Manhattan street spat with Matador Records founder Gerard Cosloy (who know who was chasing who?). Handbags at dawn. Matador, being the home of Snail Mail. Bittersweet with the emphasis on… nah. Let’s not go down that path. Everything is perfect in our imperfect world. Heaven, heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. Something to do with a distrust of the outside world. This music resonates the way this music has always resonated in my world. Makes me think of late night/early morning Sydney taverns.

5. How NOT to write about music – 5. Eminem
Shortly as I was coming up the final approach to Haywards Heath, a new track started up. Didn’t pay too much attention, then I started getting into the nasty-ass lyrics and obstructionist worldview, the steady flow of invective, the aggressive double-speed rap and… damn, I was just loving the flow. I sat there in the car outside my house, engine running, lights on, neighbours beginning to peer out their windows, while the track built inexorably to its cussed climax. I wanted to know who it was (although it was clearly Eminem). I wanted to know what it was. The volume kept building. The invective kept flowing. Damn, it shook my late Thursday evening up.

6. How NOT to write about music – 13. Kate Nash (part two)
If  I was to write a review of the 2018 Kate Nash album Yesterday Was Forever – and it seems unlikely at this stage, I mean why would I? – this is what I would do. Brainstorm, take notes. Collect my scattered impressions of the music and its surrounding context into some form of list which I would then check off as I start to write the piece. Usually I do not even do this as the list forms and takes shape as I am writing… but I am trying to document the process here.

7. How NOT to write about music – 23: Johnny Cash
This Johnny Cash song… oh fuck. This Johnny Cash song I heard a few nights back when I was watching the tail-end of an OK if somewhat overdone (in terms of violence and its own self-importance) movie about a tired mutant nearing the end of his life. I do not know which inspired genius decided to place it right there, at the film’s end: it did not complement the film content – instead it threw the entire movie into stark relief, showed it up for what it was, storytelling that resonates for only as long as the flickering images are there in front of your eyes (like life itself, I guess). You think generations of male filmmakers and storytellers, from Tarantino and Eastwood onward, through Peaky Blinders and the rest of the Game Of Thrones shebang, have not been trying (and failing) to duplicate what Johnny Cash does with such ease here, over the course of a few sparse lines and inflections…

8. How NOT to write about music – 16: Porridge Radio
Three exhibits today. Three examples of an old man railing at clouds. Three shows of weakness, of the reason why music criticism can be such a futile occupation sometimes. (Are Porridge Radio Adele? Are Porridge Radio Sam Smith? Are Porridge Radio Jess Glynne? Am I Piers Morgan?) This is self-evident, except the final exhibit got repeated at several different points in time (named “the greatest band in the world” by Everett True on the strength of half a song) in Brighton and London and Amsterdam to help keep a few bedraggled punters away doubtless.

9. How NOT to write about music – 15: Ed Sheeran
It isn’t so much that Ed Sheeran is shit, when it comes down to it – but the culture that enables him, and through constant use of repetition and reinforcement encourages the general population to believe that his music has some worth or value… You can still buy the book if you want. I have plenty of copies left. Paypal £13 (UK)/£16 (EU)/£20 (rotw) to

10. How NOT to write about music – 3. Marianne Faithfull
OK. Here’s a fast pop quiz for anyone interested. Keep a track of the news stories and first reviews running around ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ and Negative Capability – see how many quote word-for-word from the press release in the paragraph above. That is not music criticism or evaluation. That is simple laziness, plagiarism. Yet this is what gets called music criticism the world over.

How NOT to write about music – 33. Muse


God, I hate Muse.

Everything flash, shallow and opportune about music, overwrought and over-burdened with portentousness, rock music for boys who are no longer young but refuse to accept the fact performed by boys who are no longer young but still refuse to accept the fact and paraded as some form of “look how serious and earnest we are about music” when in reality Muse are flimsier, more crass and meaningless than an amalgam of shit identikit 2018 pop featuring Chainsmokers and Clean Bandit and that dick Calvin Harris. Schoolyard symbolism that wasn’t even big or clever when it was in the schoolyard. There’s no value, no frenzy, no meaning. Mock-anger paraded on the biggest stages of the land, like Green Day given a hefty dosage of prog theatrics and pop-up posturing, shit shit shit. God, I hate Muse. All the dullest bits of all the dullest parts of histrionic rock vocalising, coupled with all the dullest bits of prog and glam and cheeseboard guitar – and man there have been plenty – coupled with all the yawning chasms of imagination Pink Floyd have traded in ever since they dropped ‘songs’ from their repertoire, coupled with all the very dullest parts of retro 1980s electronica and retro 1980s rock posturing – and man there have been plenty – coupled with all the dullest parts of life. WHY IS IT THAT ALL THESE CUNTS INSIST ON SOUNDING EXACTLY LIKE EACH OTHER? The animals looked from pig to man, from man to pig, from Thom Yorke to Chris Martin to Matt Bellamy, and there is no way of telling them apart. God, I hate Muse. Where are you from ? Waitrose. Singing in a strained falsetto does not make you special or soulful it just means you sing in strained falsetto. The term space rock does not actually apply to their music: there is none of the mind-altering imaginings of Sun Ra or Alice Coltrane (who surely own the term), but a very earthbound reliance on tried tropes and even more tired production values. The Jonas Brothers of the rock world, Emerson Lake and Palmer without the musical flamboyance (and they didn’t even have any of that), an entire phalanx of shit for a generation bamboozled into thinking histrionic and flatulent means searching and imaginative instead of constipated and shit. God, I hate Muse. Dull as the bands that they so blatantly rip-off; in another age they’d have been called the Teignmouth Radiohead and reduced to a living eked out playing beered-up pubs full of lairy lads shouting “play fucking ‘Creep’ you wankers, not the pretentious shit”, indie buskers who unaccountably made it big. Musical theatre for people who have no idea how thrilling musical theatre can be. As people they seem remarkably inoffensive and well-meaning but that makes me hate them even more. As someone rightly once put it, “A band who if they weren’t famous would be assistant managers at branches of Subway in Rotherham, Wrexham and Dudley respectively”. Seven-minute guitar solos are not big. They’re not clever. They are seven-minute guitar solos. Like Dobby if he was given a rock band to play with. Bombastic, whiny, gross. God, I hate Muse. They were (sort of) OK when they were 16 because at least it was explainable then. They are not 16 now, not vaguely. They’re not Queen either. They’re not shit in the Smashing Pumpkins sense of the word but they sure as fuck ain’t Ariana. I feel so unclean.

Fun though – right? No.

This description is brilliant:

“Muse are for people whose political beliefs were formed by Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’. They’re for people who cite vaping as a sport. They’re for people who still fall out with their friends for not including them in their MySpace Top 8. They have ‘jet fuel can’t melt steel beams’ tattooed down their forearm. They wear black vests with tribal designs on them. If you were to ask Matt Bellamy who he hated most in this world it would either be George W. Bush or his Mum for grounding him after she caught him kissing a poster of Robocop.”

How NOT to write about music – 32. Big Joanie


I am not on one side or another here.

I hear something, I like it, I want to share it and, if I can help promote it and perhaps validate it along the way (not that these ladies need my validation, for sure) then that is a looked-for bonus. Incurious, I flick through Facebook and note that a couple of friends (ones whose taste I rate) are thinking of checking out London feminist punk band Big Joanie when they play at The Albert in Brighton in a couple of weeks time. Nice, nice, nice. Been meaning to listen to the ladies again for a while now, so I listen…

Nice nice nice.

Note, while I’m reading up on stuff, that the ladies have an album out The Quietus likes (something about reclamation of space and silence, a cursory comparison to The Breeders, stripped-back sound and a variety of apposite socio-political references). Note that, as ever, The Quietus reviewer is determined to go on for at least 300 words too long but the review does make me decide to listen to Big Joanie’s new songs.

Nice nice nice, but decide I fractionally prefer the production on the old songs more. Prefer them (a little) more when the guitar sound reminds me of The Petticoats. I do like the way the YouTube algorithms take me immediately on to Hole (first time), Solange (second time), Beyoncé (third time) and Skinny Girl Diet (fourth time) following this song.

Nice, nice nice. Resolve to go out to the Brighton show especially as they have a very interesting support act – and then note the day of the Brighton show. Monday. Damn it. The one evening I cannot make. Damn. Resolve instead that I should mention this show and this band on this blog and then wonder if I’ve done enough.

Well, have I?

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Wolf Alice 1

1. How NOT to write about music – 27. Television Personalities
I have been aware for as long as I can recall that music has provided me with a sense of belonging, a sense of community and sharing, give and take. And if that no longer exists then surely that is my fault and no more and no less than I deserve. Music scorns me like a former lover. Back when I knew Alan McGee and Dan Treacy in the early 1980s the music provided a palpable sense of belonging, clubs like (Alan’s) Living Room at the Adams Arms and (Dan and Emily’s) Room At The Top (Chalk Farm Enterprise) providing a living community of outsiders, bloaters, the braggarts and the bullies, the shy and the emotional, the Sixties obsessed guitar freaks and the psychedelic losers. Alan gave me Dan, Dan gave me Marine Girls and so much inspiration in his own personal, heart-torn songs – no separation between performance and performer, much as Dan attempted to insert some. Amazing fucking pop songs.

2. How NOT to write about music – 26. Kristin Hersh
I want to write about Kristin’s new album but the music keeps intruding, in a way music rarely – if ever – does when I am attempting to write about it. Full immersion. The way the music and guitar lollops and loops and curves, and throws off sunshine and charm (NB: stolen from press release), the way her voice sounds wise beyond understanding, the way a pink birthing ball is resting over there by the torn-out fireplace, the shallowness of my breathing, the tears splattered across my car’s windscreen… I find myself unequal to the task. She’s not.

3. WORLD EXCLUSIVE! Live review of ‘fake’ metal band THREATIN at Camden Underworld
Surely, this is of interest? We were there. “Three people show up and one of them’s a music journalist! Jammy bastard! What are the chances of that?” Quite high, actually. It’s what we do. As keen metal fans here at How NOT To Write About Music, we posted this report a couple of days ago – but no one paid attention. So here it is again: whether the band is ‘real’ or not is not of importance to us here at How NOT To Write About Music. To us, they were real when they played. What is far more important is the question: does the band rock? And trust us, like you’ve never trusted a music critic before: this band… well, read for yourselves.

4. How NOT to write about music – 25. Salad
Where are we now? This is silly-good catchy. This is Elastica good. Also, it reminds me of my long-term Worthing sweethearts La Mômo… and that makes me happy. Don’t know why the following is only a short preview, but why the fuck not. First new stuff since 1997 apparently, but … uh … not that I’d know it. So catchy I wanna go back and listen to the old shit, see if I did miss something first time round.

5. Everett True’s 10 favourite albums of all time* … and one that changed his life
This is reprinted from my Brisbane website Collapse Board, originally written for an Australian publication that never ran with the article. My original intro pretty much covers it – to this list of omissions I would now add most obviously Beyoncé (Lemonade, duh), but also St Vincent, some gospel (this, for instance), Blind Blake, Metal Box (PiL), more ska and bluebeat for sure, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and dub reggae circa late 1970s, Talking Heads, Undertones, Tunabunny, Little Mix, some female grime (this, for instance – or this), my own stuff, Miley Cyrus (seriously), The Cramps, The Saints, The Go-Betweens (but also this!), The Roches’ first two, Daniel Johnston and so forth.

6. How NOT to write about music – 6. Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice remind me of two favourites from the early 2000s – Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia and Life Without Buildings. With some Northern Gothic leanings and bog-standard indie guitars thrown in, obv.

7. How NOT to write about music – 31. Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons is shit, Cath Kitson folk shit, Occado Levellers shit. Shout it from the tops of night buses and at office parties. Waistcoat-bothering, fake folk dinner party shit. Slumming shit. Tweed clad, Morris-dancing jizz wizard shit. Tripe shit that needs to be sellotaped to a Frisbee and thrown into a fire shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They make Bono sound restrained. They make Billy Corgan shine with integrity, Ed Sheeran shine with an inner fire, Trump dance the media with rascal grace. They put the grey into perspective.

8. How NOT to write about music – 11. Tracyanne & Danny
The Tracyanne & Danny album is one of my most played this year and it has soundtracked many a solitary train journey and rushed car ride, many an empty afternoon spent wasting away in the depths of loneliness in Haywards Heath, the overwhelming emotion being one of shock. Not awe. Just shock, delayed reaction. Other people have their Ed Sheerans and Red House Painters and that is fine. Bless them. This is not what I look for in music, not when I seek solace and reassurance and some form of comfort. I am looking for voices that can transport me out of this mess, this delayed shock – pure and open and laden with understanding. Voices that understand the secret history of The Pastels. I am looking for Tracyanne & Danny. Both singers, all their songs.

9. How NOT to write about music – 9. Amyl and the Sniffers
Watching Amyl and the Sniffers at The Windmill in Brixton yesterday evening is what I imagine it must have been like going to CBGBs in ’75. Not that there’s anything four decades old about Amyl and the Sniffers. Not even vaguely.

10. How NOT to write about music – 8. The Breeders
Hunched over in my tiny own personal space on the 7.47 to Clapham Junction, eyes closed, trying to ignore the brutish commuters walking in desperate search of a seat banging into my tucked-in elbows and nearly upsetting my flask of homemade coffee, headphones wrapped tight round my head, hunched in more, trying make myself so small as to be invisible, retreating further and further inside, so wanting to create a tiny inviolate bubble, I make the decision to play the last Breeders album on my crappy iPhone (battery lasts 30 minutes max). This is a big moment for me. Back in April, a day before my birthday, I wrote a blog entry for The Friendly Critic that I later turned into a song and performed several times on stage, about how I found myself unable to listen to the new Breeders album, how listening to the new Breeders album upset me, how the very idea of being upset by listening to a Breeders album upset me, and how…

How NOT to write about music – 31. Mumford & Sons


“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (George Orwell, Animal Farm)

You may interpret the above quote as a commentary on the corrupting influence of power upon those who seek to exert it, but I have always viewed it as a metaphor for conformity, for the unchanging status quo, for the way that the more (music and) society changes the more (music and) society stays the same (with a hefty boot of extra nastiness thrown in for good measure). My favourite part of the quote is the three words at the start of the closing sentence (“The creatures outside…”).

I have heard songs by U2, Mumford & Sons, Kings Of Leon and Coldplay in recent days on Radio One and found myself unable to distinguish between them.*

Doubtless, if I decided to suspend my critical aesthetic for a moment and could view myself as a fan of any of these bands, then I would be able to pick up on the minutiae and tiny changes in guitar and vocal sound that separates one from another.

Not being a fan, I find myself unable to.

Doubtless, the pigs and men seated around the table quaffing and having it large on the back of the animals’ labour view themselves as individual entities, each with their own distinct idioms and quirks. Their self-illusion is irrelevant to both me and the animals however, faces pressed up close against the glass, vision clouded by smoky condensation. The four bands are impossible to tell apart – not just because of the production, music and overwrought vocals – but also due to their bombastic, narcissistic, flatulent, diarrheic sweep of emotion, their astonishing lack of empathy. Pigs and men braying together.


Mumford & Sons is shit.

Do not believe the hype. Do never believe the hype. My life over the last decade has been swamped with people spouting crap like “I don’t want to say Mumford & Sons is shit because it ain’t up to me to tell others how to live their lives”. No. I lie. Mumford & Sons are like the folk-rock equivalent of Nickelback: NOT ONE PERSON WILL STAND UP TO DEFEND THEM. Damn straight. Some shit is so shit, pallid, fake (spiffing, waddling, arrogant, talentless, entitled, cancerous) that not even the most benighted benevolent generous hapless hipster can be seen to be leaping to the rich fucktards’ defence. It’d be like speaking up for Jacob Rees-Mogg at a convention of actual people, defending fracking. Say it loud, say it clear, scream yourself hoarse so even the fuckwads controlling this nation’s media cannot misconstrue it: MUMOFRD & SSONS IS HSHIT

I can’t even fucmking type straight thery’re so fuckghubngh sghit.

They’re a beardy bland comfort zone for people with no meaning in their lives, and no expectations beyond the promise of a new M&S advert come Christmas time, a predigested retro sweep of mawkish sentimentality and cultural appropriation emotion whose primary concern is not HOPE but… nothing. Less than nothing. Shit. Less than nothing. Shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. You don’t need to be a Harvard Scholar in semantics and political rhetoric to theorise this, you do not need to be a marketed-to sheep stuck inside with your collection of Netflix downloads and Instagram selfies to say this. You don’t need to be a crow, you don’t need to be powerless. Mumford & Sons is shit. You do not need to listen to their music – in fact, DO NOT listen to their fucking music – to say this, or listen to stadium after stadium of their increasingly pitiful fans, just read the apoplectic commentary from those who think they’re Making A Statement by coming out against them, the yawning insipid praise from those whose idea of a varied and worldly musical taste means including a Bumford & Cunts song on their playlist of Coldplay, U2, Kings Of Leon and all the other pig-shit bombastic music.

Look at the way they look. Not so much rock stars as an exercise in self-containment (how many times can you look at a picture of those smug Tory cunts, before you go punch a wall?). Mumford & Sons is shit. How many times do I need to say this before you start listening? Hey, why not start listening? Just cos you’ve only heard a handful of songs in your life does not mean that no alternatives exist. Mumford & Sons is shit. Do not be scared of the crowd. The crowd is wrong, often. Mumford & Sons is shit. The idea of listening to their music drives me to extremes of… jesus. Whatever. Mumford & Sons is shit, Cath Kitson folk shit, Occado Levellers shit. Shout it from the tops of night buses and at office parties. Waistcoat-bothering, fake folk dinner party shit. Slumming shit. Tweed clad, Morris-dancing jizz wizard shit. Tripe shit that needs to be sellotaped to a Frisbee and thrown into a fire shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They make Bono sound restrained. They make Billy Corgan shine with integrity, Ed Sheeran shine with an inner fire, Trump dance the media with rascal grace. They put the grey into perspective.

Mumford & Sons is shit. Bullshit. They are the shit in the middle of the bullshit. Their emotion is not theirs. It’s empty, big washes of guitar-driven bombastic shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. The smuggest toddlers in a romper room crammed full of vacuous Tory bastards and the entitled rich. Useless shit that pervades the world with the smell of uncritical acceptance. Smiley shit. Bouncy shit. Bearded shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They are one more commodity, just one more commodity. Shit. Less than nothing. Shit. Lifestyle choice for the folk who think life has no need of choice. Shit. An approximation of music that does not bother to capture the spark that makes music so magical, so special. An approximation of an approximation. The boys from the rich town up on the hill three counties over with a bottomless trust fund and an entire trailer van full of mummy’s silver spoons.

… of an approximation.

I eat at home. My nights are filled with anger and (occasionally) children. Mumford & Sons is shit. And that shit is everywhere.


Don’t click on the video. You will not like it. It will not enhance your life. The song is a meaningless mishmash of flimflam and mawkish emotion, with all the obvious dynamics in all the obvious places. Click on the link beneath the video instead.

LINK: Neil Kulkarni on Mumford & Sons

*Entirely true.