…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?