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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How NOT to write about music – 35. Buzzcocks

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What if you’re looking for authenticity in music, what then?

What if you’re confused, lonely, feel ostracised, can’t even begin to understand the unspoken social protocols of boy-girl, boy-boy relationships and teenage love, and you’re looking for ways to interpret and understand your own day-to-day life?

What if you understand that while music may be a performance, it is a performance that cuts far deeper and goes far closer to the heart of its audience than any similar medium (film, television, written) because often it feels like there is no separation between the performance and the performer?

What if music feeds directly into your sense of identity, gives you a reason to carry on – and not just a reason, but it also inspires you, confuses you, lifts you higher than any drug, takes you to another universe?

What if you treat music like a spurned lover?

What if the main time you encounter music is in the bedroom you share with your three brothers; sat next to your tinny, tiny Dansette mono record-player, with the coloured vinyl and beautifully designed record sleeves sprawled out on the floor next to you, hidden away in your own secret world?

What if you are so tired after battling with people and school all day, so burdened by your lack of actual human contact, that your favourite sound to listen to when you get back home early evening is soulful sensitive acerbic cutting two-minute pop songs?

What if you grew up believing there is no difference between pop and punk because of one band, and one band alone?

What if the reason you like or dislike music is not because it is “manufactured’ (what’s that?) or ‘inauthentic’ (what’s that?) or has that special half-second echo on the kick drum or the size of the marketing budget but because of the BEAUTIFUL BRUISED FUCKING GLORIOUS POP MUSIC ITSELF?

What if music is your life?

What if you are seeking diversion and understanding of the sort of fragile relationships you have no hope of entering into?

What if you have long thought that Pete Shelley is way more courageous and imaginative and talented and PUNK ROCK than any of his more feted macho male colleagues?

What if you grow up believing that stars don’t exist, just people – but simultaneously you have Secret Best Friends, people you can ride with out to the heavens?

What if you figure it’s OK to escape to reality, long as you can avoid the nastiness and incessant bullying?

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

This performance feels real to me, but so the fuck what. Maybe I just love the sight of folk having a good time.

This entry is supposed to be read in conjunction with the previous day’s blog entry.

Favourite male punk band? There was no other.

Related posts: Pete Shelley R.I.P.

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.

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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.
(Amazon.com 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”.
(Wikipedia)

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.
(Wikipedia)

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

AND, AFTER THE FALL

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

Jerk

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2 Responses to Your three favourite Buzzcocks songs

Chris
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.

Geoff
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?

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The most (im)perfect pop band. Ever.

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Bonus tracks

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