Being On A Major Label

Newsgroups: Date: Sat, 23 Dec 2000 12:00:38 +0000 Organization: Bzangy Groink

“Rod Penguin” wrote:

“How would you feel if EMI came along and threw hundreds of thousands of pounds at a no-sale artist that you like?”

Ey up, this sounds vaguely familiar to me…

Hmmm… Being on a major label…

In my bizarre experience, you can’t be on a major label and make artistically uncompromised music. Even if you’re dead famous (which I wasn’t), there’s always some cloth-eared A&R telling you the kick drum sound needs more oomph. They don’t really think this of course, but how else can they justify being employed without sticking their oar in?

So you end up with art made by committee. Not intrinsically a bad thing since this is what democratic-type bands do anyway. But at least they’re all musicians.

Personally, I don’t see why non-musicians should tell musicians how to make music. Maybe I’m being prejudiced but if they’re that fucking clued-in, why don’t they sign themselves and have a string of no. 1s?

It’s not even the old joke about buying a dog and then barking yourself. Major labels buy dogs and then are surprised and annoyed when they don’t miaow.

But major label money is *very* nice. You can sign off, or quit Uni or finally tell your boss to fuck off. You can buy recording gear that’s actually new. Treat your mates to trips or presents they could never afford themselves. Maybe have a studio that’s bigger than a boxroom. Create music with a wider set of resources than you ever had before. Which doesn’t automatically mean it’s better, just that you’ve got more choices in its creation.

So you have two choices. The first is to shut up and take the money and be resigned to fighting your label over every tiny fucking detail. You might still make great music (despite the label interference) that millions of people get the chance to love and hear. But every time you see *that* cover or hear *that* mix that you hated but the label pushed through, you wince and die a little inside. But hey, the fans really love it and don’t know how great it could have been… If only…

The second choice is to take the money, get dropped and then become a one-hit wonder. Then carry on making music you totally love which will probably never trouble the charts or radio again. You’re insanely proud of every release but every Christmas your Dad looks at you sadly and asks you when you’re going to have another number one.

Hmmm… mince pie, anyone?
love and kisses,

Major – My Mood

(Disco Volante DVA-5005-CD)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

‘My Mood’ opens with the cess-hymn ‘Get High’ and I don’t know why cos I think it’s one of the weakest tracks on the album, both lyrically and musically. I mean, it’s *okay*, it gets your head nodding and there’s nice plinking percussion (courtesy of 23 Skidoo) but as a whole, it’s nothing special.

Track 3, ‘Million Miles’ is far better, starting with a grand string theme and, like a lot of the tracks, croaky Nine-style half-sung, half-rapped vocals. Track 6, ‘Dark Dreams’, is very trip hoppy, co-written and with a lead vocal by Tahira Jumah.

The best track is ‘4 Shoes’ which has some lovely menacing strings courtesy of Izzi Dunn and Stella Page and another Tahira Jumah melodic vocal. The rapped vocal is very gruff and Chandleresque. I like the feel of this album (mixed by Special Ed) and it’s very ambitious. Sometimes it works, sometimes it over-reaches but at least it’s trying. Buy this album if you’re not particularly in a party mood. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for something light and frothy.

The Original Modern Lovers

(BOMP BCD 4021)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

Okay, I’m being a completist here as I have most of these tracks on various Richman comps but I had to buy this CD when I saw it. It’s billed as the original band with tracks recorded in session with Kim Fowley in 1972. But as Richman himself says in the notes, that wasn’t the original lineup and a lot of the tracks are from a later session.

Whatever, you get great performances of ‘Road Runner’, ‘She Cracked’, ‘Girlfren’ and other Richman classics. Can you imagine writing a song as insanely brilliant as ‘Road Runner’ when you’re only 18? If you haven’t got any Jonathan Richman, this perhaps isn’t the best intro to the breadth of his work but for me it’s a must-have album, crackling with energy and thumping, cranking geetars. Buy this album if you love simple, open pop songs. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for Yes-like layers of mystical shite.

Kid606 – PS I Love You

(Mille Plateaux MP93 EFA 08093-2)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

Now, this might not be the newest Kid606 CD (though it’s new to me) cos I can’t find a date on the bugger anywhere, apart from a 99-00. Still, compared with some electronic releases, I’m just glad it’s got a title and artist printed on it.

In feel, it’s much more, er, “techno” than BoC, more groinky and zingy. There’s loads of fluttering hi-hats, dolphin clicking and white noise bursts. It’s also generally more up-tempo through the nine tracks. Melodically, it’s quite sparse, with none of the plaintive hootings of BoC or, say, Cylob. It’s quite dancey, even though it’s bass-light. Though it’s mostly bleeping there is some sample mangling going on, most notably on ‘Twirl’ and ‘Strum.’ But mostly, it is crunchy, vastly aliased rhythm sections with chordal spelunking.

My fave track is ‘Whereweleftoff’ cos it’s the funkiest, sounding a little bit like fast Funkstorung. Most unlistenable track is the last one, ‘Fuck Up Everything You Can Before You Plan On Slowing Down’ which is six minutes of Boyd Rice-like noiseathon without the bells. Hmmm.

Buy this album if you’d like to dance like Tik & Tok round your sitting room. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for singalong pop classics.

Boards Of Canada – In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country

(Warp WAP144CD)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

This is a very lovely four track single.

The first track, ‘kid for today’ starts with soft organish chords, some thwacking and a squodgy bass drum. Then a very BoC melody comes in, very low and understated. To be honest, I’d love BoC whether they used synths or guitars to make their music as long as they had their sense of melody. I guess because, like Kraftwerk, it’s a very minimal, non-jazz melodiousness that’s more Debussy or Satie than Wagner.

The first track is my overall favourite but the others aren’t fillers. I guess my next fave would be the eponymous track which features kid giggling and what sounds like a Cylon reading a travel brochure. All the tracks share that kind of elegaic sadness that BoC seem to have copyrighted. They do demand time and attention to get into, like classical music, but if you give them time you’re rewarded by subtle restatements and modifications of the themes, plus a growing urge to do bad ballet.

Buy this single if you’d like to spend an hour or two staring at the rain and sighing. Don’t buy it if you feel like taking purple hearts and pogoing on your bed.

Various – The Ecstasy Of The Agony

(Alternative Tentacles Virus 252)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

This is another AT comp featuring 30 tracks for about a fiver, depending where you buy it (it’s got ‘Pay no more than $5.99’ on the front).

There’s a wide mix of artists and genres on here and along with the songs there’s spoken-word excerpts from heroes of mine like anarcho-syndicalist Noam Chomsky, Black Panther Angela Davies, Mumia Abu-Jamal and other notables. I personally love these interludes but if you’re not a lefty, they’ll probably just annoy the crap out of you. As for bands, well, you get tracks from NoMeansNo (the fab ‘Hello-Goodbye’), Pitchshifter, Jad Fair, Pachinko, the Dicks, Victim’s Family, Half Japanese and loads more.

Really, at this price you can’t go wrong if you’ve ever vaguely liked any guitar music – there’ll be enough on here to justify the price. There’s even a track by Ant Chapman favourite, Wesley Willis, ‘Termites Ate My House Up.’ Now I’ve heard him, I think I’ll be buying more 🙂

Buy this album if you’re dead stingy and want to have a load of happenin’ new music to listen to for very little. Don’t buy this album if you hate lefty preaching.

Aesop Rock – Float

(Mush Records – can’t see a Cat. No.)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

I just bought this taking a risk, never having heard of either Mr. Rock or Mush. I’m pleasantly surprised. I guess musically the tracks sound like Premier in terms of jazzness and starkness. But they’re not copies, they have their own style and ambience, mixing bizarre loops with naked 606 snares and low bass synths. The loops are all fresh and all, umm, pushed in different ways. Even if you recognise the source (for example, cheeky rips of Blade Runner), the way they’re integrated is original and not obvious. If anything, you want to hear more.

‘Breakfast with Blockhead’ is just a 36 second interlude but it’d make a killer track. Overall, the sound is very close, clean and bare. My fave track is ‘Skip Town’ because it’s the perfect mix of music and rapping. And the rapping is *good.* Unlike a lot of new hip hop, AR isn’t trying to sound at all Wu-Tang or Master P. There’s a lot of multi-line, fast, staccato rapping interspersed with slower, looser flows. Closest comparisons would be Masta Ace or perhaps Del. Buy this album if you like hip hop that’s trying to push ahead rather than copy success. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for another g thang.

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – Like A Mother Fucker

(Jungle Freud CD 044E)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

Yeah, it’s dead old, ’77 *rock’n’roll* but I haven’t heard some of these tracks in years and I’ve forgotten how much they, er, kick ass! There’s not a duff track on here, they all have choruses to kill for and splendid guitar rifferama. ‘Born To Lose’ opens and the brilliantly hoarse, shouty chorus sucks you in.

I guess if you don’t like classic punk, you’re not gonna like this. Even as a straight-edgeish bloke, I can’t avoid singing along to ‘Chinese Rocks’ (a Ramones cover or co-write, depending who you believe) cos it’s so fucking catchy. Honestly, it shows how pale and insipid most modern schmindie bands are. They may have better recording technology but they just haven’t got *soul*.

Buy this album if the Ramones are your idea of perfect pop. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for sonic cathedrals of expensive reverby plinking.

The Nation Of Ulysses – The Embassy Tapes

(Dischord 124)

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 15:13:52 +0000
Organization: Bzangy Groink

As it states on the back, this is a recording made at the NOU, er, Embassy in 1992 and it sounds pretty much like a live, room-reverby recording so don’t expect Limp Bizkit production values. But do expect noisy, pumping, shouty, unintelligible agit-prop from the Situationist pranksters. Sometimes, cos of the recording, even though they’re really going for it, the result is sadly a bit subdued compared to ‘Plays Pretty For Baby.’ But the songs are still the NOU gonzoid thumpers we’ve come to grow and love.

My fave is the 1.38min ‘Gimme Disaster’ cos I can *almost* singalong. Ten tracks for ten quid, all of them better than the shit that passes for punk nowadays. All the songs are about *something*, even if they are insane. Plus , you get a whole load of NOU mad rambling on the cover, full of needless Situationist CAPITALS for NO GODDAMN REASON whatSOever.

Buy this album if you’re an Ian MacKaye completist and believe that people should hammer their guitars hard enough to make their hands bleed. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for hi-fi friendly, corporate-punk air-punching anthems.