10 Most Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music (June 2019)

bikini-kill

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 (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.

3 (-) ET’s 30 favourite songs of 2018
1. Suburban Death Twitch – A Layer of Fat and Mold
One dear friend saw Brighton’s Suburban Death Twitch perform recently and found himself dismayed and more than a little angry that such casual, soulful brilliance should go unrecognised. He has little recourse to publicity like many of us, so he used what he could. He bought a copy of their new EP for me, knowing that I could not fail to love this beautiful, soulful music (like a general scouring in the area that involves ABBA’s break-up albums, the mould at the back of your fridge, half the towns of Hastings and St Leonard’s, the three-point acerbic harmonies of The Roches, the wayward belligerent swagger of Band Of Holy Joy#metoo, friends that still cannot grasp why half their world seems to give up soon as they have a steady revenue and a person, any person, to fill the void, and so forth).

4 (-) How NOT to write about music – 43. Bikini Kill
How did you hear about riot grrrl?
“Oh jeez. So long ago. I used to travel to Olympia whenever Sub Pop flew me out to Seattle – it was one of my great, secret pleasures: turn up there, sleep on Calvin Johnson’s floor at The Martin (first time I visited there, I even recorded a single with Calvin and Tobi Vail in the garage at Tobi’s parents’ house), berate him for the Skrewdriver poster on his wall, drink hot chocolate and go to all-night dance parties, and delight in the fact alcohol didn’t seem to exist in Olympia. How little I knew! My early friends there were Nikki McLure, Calvin, Al Larsen, Lois Maffeo and Tae from Kicking Giant. I delighted in visiting the K warehouse – which was in a tiny apartment above a garage shop or something right near the Capitol Theatre – and avariciously buying up every last cassette and fanzine and seven-inch single Calvin was distributing, on Melody Maker expenses.”

5 (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.

6 (-) How NOT to write about music – 51. Ryan Adams
Some of us have always hated Ryan Adams. The following is reprinted from Music That I Like, 2017.

7 (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.

8 (-) How NOT to write about music – 48. Billie Eilish
I have this on constant repeat and it races round my head on a loop of delight and discovery. It is playful, it teases but it is also maudlin and it depresses. It is conflicted, confused. I love conflicted, confused. That is my main jam in life. Feeling conflicted. Such a natural pace and rhythm and timing. The way it stops and then jolts awake. The way it jolts awake and then screams silently and then stops and then runs away and then loops around once more. The way it falls asleep. The Way It Keeps You In The Dark. We all fall asleep. We all feel excited and depressed and maudlin and charged simultaneously. We all like to be playful with our darkest spirits. We all crush. We all crash. We call crush.

8 (-) Pete Shelley R.I.P.
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.

10 (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.

THE NEXT 10
11 (-) How NOT to write about music – 79. Bikini Kill
12 (-) How NOT to write about music – 33. Muse
13 (4) How NOT to write about music – 25. Salad
14 (-) How NOT to write about music – 78. Bruce Springsteen
15 (-) How NOT to write about music – 72. Tropical Fuck Storm
16 (-) How NOT to write about music – 80. Radiohead
17 (-) How NOT to write about music – 67. The Membranes
18 (-) How NOT to write about music – 35. Buzzcocks
19 (-) How NOT to write about music – 75. Morrissey
20 (-) How NOT to write about music – 58. Michael Jackson

…from which I can extrapolate, my blog is slowly (very slowly) picking up readers. So thank you for that.

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10 Most Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music

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

mumford-and-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.

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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.