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 – 27. Television Personalities

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I am playing a show in London on Thursday, a benefit for Dan Treacy – the singer of Television Personalities. Dan is not well, has not been well for a long time.

I am feeling nervous about it. There are a lot of uncertainties involved. These days I prefer (wrong word) to sit in my house in Haywards Heath and mindlessly play basic computer games on my iPhone. I do not speak to people outside of my work, and my children. I do not go out to shows (although in recent months I have attempted to book myself into some speaking engagements and gigs, in an attempt to break this cycle). I do not go out to the cinema, to the pub, for meals. Sometimes I will watch old tv shows – Bewitched, The Simpsons, Sabrina The Teenage Witch – and the (very) occasional Jacques Tati film. Let the others who want to struggle, struggle. I would not say I am content or happy in my isolation, in my self-enforced loneliness – far from it – but I seem to be haunted by demons. Regret, perhaps. The state of not knowing. A near-suffocating sense of loss. Depression, if you want to call it that – although the past few months, teaching at BIMM London, have been both excellent and fun, if you can remove the ridiculous four hours daily travel. Tired, I cannot pity myself. I suffocate gently in my sleep.

I am feeling very nervous about it. Not because I feel I will be unable to perform…

That is not the reason. Far as that goes, I am performing as strongly as I have for years: crucially, I COULD NOT GIVE A FUCK whether anyone else thinks this music holds value or not. I know it does, and enough people I value (from Stephen Pastel and John Robb onwards) think that it does for me not to care. Indeed, I sometimes find myself humbled at the people who think my music holds value. Live, I understand the importance of space, of architecture, of the audience. I have been incorporating Television Personalities songs within my set for years, particularly ‘Happy All The Time’. Unpopular released a 7″ of two of my live renditions several years ago now. I contributed a song or two to Television Personalities tribute albums, one featuring my four-year-old son Isaac. I have enough confidence remaining as a performer (as The Legend!, as Everett True) to be able to fall back on silence, on spoken word, on old gospel or music hall songs, on improvised profanity, whatever it takes.

My performance is not the reason.

Here is the deal. I have  – both deliberately and undeliberately (alcohol blackouts) – engaged in a process of wiping the past from my mind throughout my life. I do not know when this process started. Perhaps it was a result of being bullied relentlessly at Junior School for four years, turning my innocence and hope and happiness into fear. Maybe it was a result of too many asshole drunken outings, or an overload of information and stimulus and good times: betraying my own ideals before I even knew what they were. Two weeks ago, I broke one of my great taboos. I got back in touch with an old friend – someone I haven’t spoken to for at least 30 years. I did so, partly because I am so fed up of not having friends, or at least friends I can speak to – I did so partly because I am fed up of friends dying before I get back in touch. I did so, partly because I am lonely. I do so, mainly because… Dan sang it best, with Television Personalities.

I am still looking for a sense of belonging.

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.

Songs that you can play with just the bare rudiments of musical knowledge, songs you can sing without even any backing at all.

I’m not sure I have ever paid the due respect I should have to Dan. I think this is mostly because I have been in hiding from my past for – what – 30, 40, 50 years now? This failed retreat didn’t just start when Kurt killed himself. Dan was the primary inspiration for all of us back then – and by that I mean Alan primarily, but everyone else just followed what Alan did. (Obviously, we had our own individual influences and inspirations, but I am talking about the community here.) We recorded the first Creation single at the old TVPs’ studio in West London, quite deliberately. I recall feeling angry that we only managed to record and mix 10 song in four hours; it felt like we’d been slacking. Dan, so clumsy and shy and beautiful and funny, mixing in wry humour with painful awareness with always the gorgeous poptones. The last time I ever saw him perform – Brighton, mid 2000s – I had to walk out, it was too painful. Everyone was laughing at the funny drunk fucked-up man. It wasn’t funny. It really wasn’t funny.

I can’t speak for Charlotte, but I know who I named our second son Daniel Thackray after – Dan Treacy and Daniel Johnston, the two greatest male poets it has been my privilege to know.

—————————————————-

Melody Maker 30th April 1994

SINGLE OF THE WEEK
TELEVISION PERSONALITIES
Far Away & Lost In Joy (Vinyl Japan)
Television Personalities have been England’s great forgotten band for too long. The four songs’ concerns here are more of the usual : loss of friends, embarrassment, betrayal, lack of desire for life, fear, observation of a loved one from afar – sung with weary resignation over an endearingly clumsy, slightly numb, sweetly sad and slow backing. Pop music, I guess, but this music is truly magical.

I love the way everything Dan does sounds so unfinished, so human. I empathise directly with his voice, his phrasing, the way he stumbles when he should run… and what does music come down to in the end, if it ain’t empathy?
Everett True