If there’s a god he’s laughing at us (and our football team)

…or why I don’t read the music press.

In this totally internetted up world in which we live in (sic), it’s so much easier to find new music to listen to, and yet can be so much harder to find stuff that you’re genuinely going to like. Let’s face it, with all the band myspaces and podcasts and internet radio shows out there, it takes a lot of time and effort to seek out the nuggets of good stuff from the sheer mass of the banal, unenlightened and just plain weird.

Now, many of you at this point might pipe up with: “Haud, the bus, Neilly, son. That’s what music reviews are for.” And maybe you’d be right. But music reviews have never sat well with me. From my point of view there’s always been something grating about the music  journalism culture, a sense that your reviewer is more interested in making themselves sound clever, that coming up with a cruel analogy or a crushing comparison is more important than actually taking an objective look at the music itself. Of course, I understand that I’m probably doing the industry and many of its practitioners a disservice, but I was turned off at an early age by the false adulation/unjustified sneering meted out to artists I felt deserved neither, and have never gone back.

Occasionally, I hear snippets (through the wall, as it were, like noisy neighbours having a barney), enough to pique the interest. Take Glasvegas, for instance, touted far and wide as the NBT, redrawing the map of Scottish indie pop, etc.  I know they’re very popular, and seem to be doing pretty well, so I bought the album on the back of a phrase I overheard (from somewhere, I dunno where), that described them as being like The Jesus And Mary Chain if they’d been produced by Phil Spector. And you know, that’s not a bad ballpark description. They are a bit different, certainly, although I reckon once the novelty of the sound has worn off I’ll probably not stay with them for the songs. Camera Obscura do that sixties pop thing more faithfully and with more heart.

So, if I don’t read reviews, how do I solve the problem of getting the new music to come to me? Generally, I just leave it up to serendipity. Like most people I don’t have time to trawl myspace for hours, or spend all day listening to new music shows on the radio, or go to gigs every night, but I might do a little of any of those, on a whim, from time to time, and I find that – like stepping stones – one good thing often leads to another. The important thing is to take opportunities when they arise. Here’s a few recent examples:

Candy Box Burlesque club in Birmingham was the first place that introduced me to the amazing voice of Miss Imelda May and, lo and behold, there she is turning up on Later… last week. Not only that, she’s also entered for this year’s Channel 4 Act Unsigned competition. I kind of fell into the first series, expecting something like an X-Factor for indie bands, but being pretty pleasantly surprised by it, and coming out of it all with a band I really admire – the eventual winners, Envy And Other Sins. So, this year I decided to get in at the ground floor and sign up and listen to some bands and vote for them. I was unsurprised to discover a few bands in there that I already knew about (Yellow Bentines, The Asthmatic Scene, Lou Hickey) and gave them some support, but I also discovered some new acts from around here that I want to check out as soon as I can (The Viragoes sound interesting). And I’ve no doubt if I’m out at a Viragoes gig in the near future I’ll catch someone else that’s worth listening to.

So that chain led from a Birmingham cabaret club to national TV and right back to the local band scene. And I like that there are so many points of access to new music now. Where as previously you had the Radio One chart show VS Peel to get exposure to new sounds, now there are a load of opportunities if you know where to look.

Is the day of the vainglorious music reviewer dead, I wonder?

4 thoughts on “If there’s a god he’s laughing at us (and our football team)

  1. Hi Neil
    I just have to say , you need to go see the viragoes if the opportunity arises.
    Now i am a bit bias as i know the band but that doesnt mean they not fantastic and thats exactly what they are!
    They’re music is true to everyday life, the reason i love they’re music is because you can listen to the lyrics and understand what they are trying to say, its not just noise and sound effects, its music from the heart and soul and the band members are a great group of people who put everything into what the write, play and sing.
    If you get the chance to go and see them, you won’t be disappointed, i promise!!!

  2. Thanks for the endorsement, Samantha. I think I recall that they’re playing around here some time soon, so I’ll definitely try and get down there.

  3. Hi Neil

    Hope you don’t mind us leaving a comment, but a semi-regular google of ourselves led us to your page. Anyway, we just wanted to first of all say thank you for your kind words but also for taking the time to check us out. It’s those like yourself who take the time to do so that allow us (and other unknown/new acts) to be heard by more people and for that, we’re truly grateful.

    We hope that you get the chance to come and see us live sometime (an up-do-date list of gigs is always available on our myspace page). If you do make it to a gig, make sure you come up and say hi.

    Cheers and thanks again,

    The Viragoes

    ps. If you fance a wee free copy of our album, email your postal address to us and we’ll get one posted out to you pronto.

  4. Hi guys – nice to hear from you. One of the things that I love about living in Glasgow is being able to discover new bands so easily. Conversely, one of the hard things about being in a Glasgow band is that there is so much competition that it’s just so hard to spread the word about yourself and build on your fan base. So, yeah, I think it’s important to spread the word when I come across an act I genuinely find interesting.

    What amazes me is that I only heard about you when I was trawling through the Unsigned Act entrants!

    Anyway, I notice you’ve got quite a few shows lined up over the next couple of weeks, so I’ll definitely try and get out to one of them.

    And, yes, I’d love a copy of the album – an email is winging its way to you imminently.

    All the best for now

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