Saturday, October 28, 2006

Discovering great new music

Howling Bells One of the little pleasures of life for a music lover is the moment when you hear a new band for the first time and absolutely love everything about them. It's a pleasure made all the greater if you can manage to circumnavigate the usual hype, marketing and music-journo hyperbole and make the discovery all by yourself. There's a purity in the knowledge that your love of the music is completely honest and unswayed by fashion, personality, genre or bandwagons.

There was a time when such discoveries happened more often, when Indie was really independent, and you could always find hidden gems on the playlists of John Peel, Andy Kershaw or the Evening Session. Now it seems every new band is preceded by a whirlwind of hype and marketing. Even the apparently word-of-mouth rise of the Arctic Monkeys via Myspace has since been revealed as a piece of expert marketing by the record label - seizing the opportunity of Web 2.0 some way in advance of the rest of the music industry.

I don't have a lot of time to listen to the radio or read the music press on a regular basis, so my own opportunities for coming across something new are a little diminished these days. However, it does mean I can avoid a lot of the background noise surrounding new bands and make my own decisions about what I like. Over the last few years, Later...with Jools Holland has proved invaluable in introducing me to some great new stuff. Last year, on the same edition of the show Hard-Fi had their first TV appearance (several months before their Stars of CCTV album was released), along with Arcade Fire. Both performances were storming and made me a devoted fan. Later... is back on BBC2 next Friday, 3rd November for what will hopefully be a decent run of programmes, after the last couple of runs which have been a bit short. Muse are on the first show, and after they wiped the floor with everyone else at Reading in the summer that should be one not to miss.

Howling Bells Album CoverThe Album Chart Show on Channel 4 is another place (one of the few remaining) to see brilliant live performances on TV, particularly from new bands. And it was tonight's show that led me to post this music-related blurb. There is a new 'best new band in Britain' and it is the Howling Bells. Their stonking performance of Setting Sun was fantastic - think PJ Harvey meets the Velvet Underground via Mazzy Star. Fucking Ace. Imagine my surprise when just an hour or so later their video turned up on MTV2. I guess they have been written about in the music press; there is obviously some weight of promotion behind them. I'm thankfully oblivious to all that but happy that I managed to catch them and add their eponymous debut album to my must-buy list for this weekend. Apparently the album is produced by Ken Nelson who has previously worked with Coldplay, but I won't let that put me off. I think they sounded better playing live than in their video anyway... :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Start of a New Error

Apparently I just became a blogger.

Interesting facts about bloggers include the statistic that 99% of blogs have only 1 reader - the author. I'm proud to be a member of the silent majority.

I used to write a lot more when I was younger, but somewhere along the road to premature middle-age, family, a mortgage and responsibility, I stopped. I plan to keep these entries short, but what I lack in verbiage I hope to make up for by being hugely opinionated.

So my own journey to becoming a blogger began last month when I enjoyed a lengthy period of hospitalisation with a fantastically painful slipped disc, accompanied by a right leg that wouldn't work. An extended period of lying in bed staring at the ceiling of an ageing infirmary waiting for spinal surgery does lead one to thoughts of an introspective nature, hence the sudden urge to share these thoughts/words/ideas/opinions as I sit here in the latter stages of my convalescence.

Here is a list of thoughts that came to me whilst enjoying my morphine-enhanced ceiling view:

1. Hospital medical and cleaning staff work incredibly hard and should get paid more.

2. Constant news about poorly-run and dirty hospitals is over-stated media hype and is an injustice to the aforementioned hard-working staff.

3. Having said that, hospital administrators are invisible bean-counters who have no business running medical facilities. (This particular thought is fuelled by the double-cancellation of my operation.)

4. Are Coldplay the new U2?

5. If so, does that make Keane the new Simple Minds?

6. I really hope there isn't a new Deacon Blue. They were shit.

Spot the difference...


The Borat movie is out at the end of next week. Just about the funniest thing around at the moment. Hugely offensive but gets under people's skin in the right way.