Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nothing to do with intros. Not a favorite Madness tune either. Just to mark the fact that I passed my driving test. Finally.

Three and a half years after moving to a city where you really have to drive. 

And thirty three years after you're eligible to learn in the U.K.

Monday, December 30, 2013

intros #3

Postpunk, New Wave, New Pop...  the creeping return of "fancy music" (as M.E. Smith sneered it). So plenty of intros to choose from. Probably. Here's three:

Clive Timperley's delayed, echo-plex guitar - the missing link between Vini Reilly and Alan Rankine. (With a bit of that speccy git-arist in Flock of Seagulls thrown in too).

Talking of Rankine... 

This next one - competition's over, surely?

Now, the start to this is very nearly sublime.


Even the verse is rather lovely. It's the chorus where it craps  out utterly.

Intro semi-recurs with the breakdown at 2.17 which again is really rather wondrous (that gaseous billow of lead guitar). Dudes in the band wanted to be Level 42.

intros #2

A no-nonsense genre like punk shouldn't really bother itself with yes-nonsense stuff like intros.  Punk songs should slam right in. Most do. A few don't.

Phil's nominated "Smash It Up" by the Damned already, which I'd never heard (the intro, I mean: basically a completely different and rather wet song, nothing like the rousing, ridiculous anthem itself).  He also mentions Black Flag.

Here's three others:

Fanfare-knell-salvo, warning of tempestuous darkness to come.  The whole song is almost symphonic in its glowering grandeur, but that intro makes me think of Beethoven's 5th. 

Just back from Catalina, as it happens.

Were The Only Ones punk?  Not really, but "Another Girl Another Planet" belongs to that moment and it has one of the most thrilling ignition / take-off  bits of that or any other time, eclipsing the song itself (great as it is).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

intro inspection

Nominated by the Phil Zone as this year's topic. Seconded by Our God Is Speed. Ratified by ththrong. This year's theme is: Great Intros.

Can't be the clearing house for non-blog-owning entities just yet, owing to commitments over the holiday season. For now, a few suggestions of my own.

Lovely darkly shimmering bit at the start of this Roxy:

Aerosmith had a penchant for the unusual or dreamy-eerie intro:


There is a dubby-metal thing going on at the start of these near-contemporaneous MTV faves by Guns N 'Roses and Def Leppard

 But this time around, though, not going to stick to rock, or even hand-played music. 

 The Drum and Bass Intro could be one of the worst things ever, especially during the Intelligent Era -  every bleedin' track came with a long drawn antechamber of synth-pads and atmospheric flatus. Always for the same (excessive) number of bars too - such that you could look at the vinyl on the 12 inch and see how far it was before the track got going, the grooves looked different. 

But there were killer ones too, proper tension builders, and others that walked a line between daft 'n' deadly: 


(That is Japan's "Nightporter", that intro).

Many more from the world of dance to come I'm sure.

But for now, in closing, and before anybody else nabs it - from 2001, Osymyso's "Intro Inspection", a mash-up made of 101 intros....




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

best bits  
Sage the Gemini, "Gas Pedal"
Kanye West, "Black Skinhead"
Gesaffelstein, "Piece of Future"
DJ Rashad, "Only One"
Sage the Gemini, "Red Nose"
Boards of Canada, "Reach for the Dead" 
A$AP Rocky featuring 2 Chainz, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, "Fuckin' Problems" 
Ty Dolla $ign featuring B.o.B, "Paranoid"
My Bloody Valentine, "In Another Way"
Big Sean featuring Lil Wayne, Jheine Aiko, "Beware" 
Haim, "Honey & I"
Lorde, "Royals"
Children of Alice, "Harbinger of Spring" 
Daft Punk featuring Panda Bear, "Doin' It Right" 
Lorde, "Million Dollar Bills"
B.o.B featuring 2 Chainz, "Headband"
Peter Graham & Chris Lorenzo, "Dorothy's Forrest" 
Tyga featuring Rick Ross, "Dope"
Jay-Z, "Tom Ford"
John Foxx & the Belbury Circle, "Almost There" 
Sean Paul featuring Konshens, "Want Dem All"
Raven Felix, "Girl"
Dev featuring Sage the Gemini, "Kiss it" 
Chris Brown featuring Nicki Minaj, "Love More"
Lorde, "Team"
Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne & French Montana, "Loyal"
TeeFLii, "This D"

best bundles 
Kanye West, Yeezus 
James Holden, The Inheritors
Young Echo, Nexus
Forest Swords, Engravings 
The Horrorist, Fire Funmania
The Knife, Shaking the Habitual
eMMplekz, Your Crate Has Changed
DJ Rashad, Double Cup
Gesaffelstein, Aleph 
Boards of Canada, Tomorrow's Harvest 
Moon Wiring Club, A Fondness For Fancy Hats ~ Soft Confusion 
The Focus Group, Elektrik Karousel
David Bowie, The Next Day
These New Puritans, Field of Reeds

bundles with good bits
Oneohtrix Point Never, Laurel Halo, Juana Molina, Connect_icut, Autechre, Katy Gately, Dinos Chapman, Ensemble Scalectrix, Matias Aguayo,The Haxan Cloak, Rashad Becker, Moine, FC Judd Remixes, Lucrecia Dalt...

best "new-old" bits + bundles
Daft Punk featuring Todd Edwards, "Fragments of Time"
Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell, T.I., "Blurred Lines"
Pulp, "After You (Soulwax Remix)"
John Foxx & the Belbury Circle, Empty Avenues
Arcade Fire, "Reflektor" 
Special Request, Soul Music
Logos, Cold Mission
Manix, Living in the Past 
Infestus, "Dopamine Rush"
Haim, Days Are Gone
Disclosure, Settle
Tame Impala, "Elephant" (2012, true, but still on the radio)

best old-new bundles 
Various, IPEM - Institute for Psychoacousticsand Electronic Music : 50 years of electronic and electroacoustic music at theGhent University
Laraaji, Celestial Music 1978-2011
Various, Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance 2 
Various, I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990
Jeff Keen, Noise Art
Mike Ratledge, Riddles of the Sphinx 
Otto Luening + Vladimir Ussachevky, Tape Recorder Music 
My Bloody Valentine, m b v
World of Twist, Quality Street
Footsie,  King Original Vol 2 
Various Germans, Elektronische Musik: Konkret - Instrumental - Vokal
Various Greeks, Works of Electronic Music 
Various Yugoslavians, Elektronski Studio Radio Beograda 
Lucien Goethals + Karel Goeyvaerts, IPEM 1963-73

food for thought 
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

food for puke  
M.I.A.  "Come Walk With Me"
Paris Hilton featuring Lil Wayne, "Good Time"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Ceiling Can't Hold Us"

"you fill me with... inertia" 
Julia Holter
Jake Bugg
           ~~~~and many more utterly evacuated from memory~~~ 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In the inaugural issue of The Pitchfork Review - the hitherto-online-only magazine's quarterly excursion into archaic ink-on-paper--you can find my essay "Worth Their Wait", a remembrance of  the inkie music papers of the 1970s and 1980s. When they suggested the idea, I said to editor J.C. Gabel, "You do realise this could end up a right wallow in nostalgia?" In the event, it's part "Confessions of A Teenage NME Reader" and part cost-benefit analysis of the Analogue System versus the Digital System.

More information about The Pitchfork Review and the contents of the debut issue. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"We miss / World of Twist"

At The Quietus, an in-depth interview, by Julian Marszalek, with World of Twist's Gordon King and Jim Fry, in celebration of the reissue of Quality Street  (+ extensive bonus material)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Like mince pies, ginger wine, brazil nuts and packets of dates, the Moon Wiring Club album is a seasonal occurrence. The crepuscular dank of Ian Hodgson's latest is always linked for me with that time of year when daylight hours shrivel and the chill creeps under your clothes into your bones.  

A Fondness For Fancy Hats is the latest emanation from the Blank Workshop. There are two formats, compact disc and cassette, with the latter bearing an extra title: Soft Confusion.  In line with the governing audio-concept of "Edwardian Computer Games", the cassettes nestle inside the sort of plastic case that once upon a time housed certain videogames ("mainly BBC Micro ones", notes Ian, causing me to nod blankly, having not the slightest inkling whereof he speaks).  

The Soft Confusion version especially -  which involved recording much of the CD onto tape, mucking about with it, looping, weaving in game sounds and ghost-flickers of earlier MWC tunes,  until the end-product resembles a "knacked-up" mixtape - is one of the best things he's done yet, I think.  Hear an excerpt:

At this point MWC possesses the most consistently on-it discography (and Fancy Hats is album #9, would you believe!) in the H-ological domain, nipping clear ahead of Ghost Box, Jon Brooks, Mordant, James Kirby, et al, who all have more stumbles to their name. (Only the Royal Wedding-timed Somewhere A Fox Is Getting Married failed to fully engage me, and perhaps revealingly, that one didn't come out in the winter). 

More information about A Fondness for Fancy Hats / Soft Confusion and the "mind palace" is secreted here. A vintage piece on Moon Wiring Club lurks over there.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

In his latest Singles Page Neil Kulkarni nails a couple of things that have been nagging away at me for a while as an in-car radio-listener.

One is that quavery, breathy singing style that's rather widespread and that I always think of as "peaky": as in your mum saying, "you look a little peaky, dear", but also because it seems to strain at the upper limit of the vocal chords's capacities (like Chris Martin but more feminine and fluttery). Ellie Goulding is a prime perpetrator and  her "How Long Will I Love You" spurs Neil to observe:

"What's so horrible at the moment is that the most dangerously influential voices are the weak ones, or rather the faux-weak ones, the ones that impart a horrible tincture of fake fragility to their singing, fake conversationality, a prissy, self-aggrandizing 'vulnerability' that's monstrously arrogant. Wonky-mouthed mediocrity Ellie Goulding's ...  'Burn' would have been a fairly emetic slice of EDM-folk in anyone's hands but with her 'broken' 'breathy' 'natural' tones it attained fresh new levels of hellishness."

He talks about this is a new kind of bombast that's actually worse than the Celines and Mariahs and Whitney's of yore:

"Things were easier when bad voices, damaging, dangerously influential voices were the loudest voices, the most stentorian and bossy and show offy.... that surfeit of notes and melisma, that mistaking of technicality and proficiency for emotion that was so analogous to other musicians, guitarists who solo too much, drummers who solo at all." 

It's a bombast of timbre, maybe, rather than octave-vaulting vocal gymnastics.  An imploded bombast.

And just as the HyperPassion of the Eighties had a perfect emotionally-manipulative fit with the charity records of that day, likewise "How Long Will I Love You" is a Children In Need single.  

The other vocal trend is more glancingly referred to, in connection with a Fall Out Boy single:

"Fashionably unplugged acoustic oompah bollocks musically and then, vocally, that hateful thing so much 'anthemic' music does these days - that kind of soaring simpleton holler to the heavens everyone's on a ce moment (see also Bastille, Arcade Fire - who could also be blamed for starting this shit, Lumineers, Fun, Katy Perry, even Derulo now. . . ) meant I'm sure to imply/recall/become a kind of open-throated end-of-the-night wail at the wonder at the universe, coming over as the kind of hateful studenty bellowing singalong shit you scowl at from the gap in the curtains  and can't help wishing will get scooped up by the wrong kind of cab-driver, then groomed into a lifelong nightmare of white slavery and degradation i.e reality shows and reunion tours."

Can't bring myself to listen to the Fall Out Boy single in question but I know what Neil is talking about.  Voices, particularly at the chorus, that mingle uplifting, imploring and resignation. 

A purely euphoric variant of this is the overdriven vocal: as if the lungs were bellows blasting a gust of air through a fuzz-box. Paradigm example here is the brickwall-roar chorus of Neon Trees's "Everybody Talks", a/k/a "It Started With a Wispa". Oasis and Strokes are in this style's DNA but it's more modern rock force-fed.

Neil mentions Katy Perry in his list of banes of our aural existence and "Roar" is a pop version of the latter style. The thing that fascinates me about her voice is that it's almost without timbre, there's no textural width to it, just this stiletto-thin melodic insistence, pure stridency.  Yet despite the lack of grain, the voice is instantly recognisable. 


(Kinda obvious but it had never struck me before: Neil with his Singles Page is doing a form of music-journalism retro. He's  resurrecting that  most glorious of weekly music paper formats, the singles's column. One of the funnest things to read back in the day, and one of the funnest things to... not do, but to have done. Because actually doing it was a grisly ordeal that invariably took you through  the break-of-drawn and often right up to lunch time the next day, and entailed listening to 3 singles to everyone you actually reviewed. Of the ones you reviewed, most of them would be shit. With such a superfluity of shit to hand, the key was to sift selectively, find the shit that could be most entertainingly abused, or the shit that could be used to Make A Point. So at its best the Singles Column could be a format for interleaving Grand Overview Statements / Aesthetic Manifestos with cruel gags.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Religious music

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wanted to post "Sun Zither" or "I Am Sky", both on this awesome, awe-filled Laraaji retrospective.

stop press: FACT magazine has Laraaji giving a guided tour through his back catalogue

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

"we miss the world of twist"

Amazing archive of World of Twist memorabilia - posters, photos, videos, interviews + reviews, record artwork, fanzines, flyers, promotional WoTnot, etc - pulled together around the deluxe dubble ceedee reissue of Quality Street, out any minute now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ARGENTINA + CHILE TOUR - September 26th to 30th

Next week I'll be in Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile for FILBA, the international literary festival that takes place in each city consecutively. I'll be doing various events, including talks based around Rip It Up and Start Again, which has just been published in Spanish as Postpunk by Caja Negra.  All the events are free and open to the public. Details below.


Thursday 26th September, 12 pm

Workshop - the art of criticism

Museo de la Lengua –  Las Heras 2555, Recoleta

Thursday 26th September, 7 pm

Interview and trialogue with Diego Manso and Pablo Schanton, + Q&A

Fundación Osde –  Leandro N. Alem 1067 2do. subsuelo, Centro

Friday 27th, 7 pm

Post Punk conference – with Pablo Schanton

Alianza Francesa – Córdoba 946, Centro


Sunday 29th, 4.30 pm

Post Punk conference - with Pablo Márquez

Centro Cultural GAM: Libertador Bernando O´Higgins 227

Monday 30th, 11 am

Workshop - the art of criticism

Diego Portales University -  Manuel Rodríguez Sur 415

more informatoin and complete Festival’s activities at http://filba.org.ar/


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Really terrific, this EP from John Foxx and The Belbury Circle (Jon Brooks + Jim Jupp). Empty Avenues  - Ghost Box's first pop record.  Hear here. Buy buy.

Slightly prefer the "radio mix" of the title track, but the Pye Corner Audio remix is excellent.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Birthday to The Quietus!

John Doran reflects on the magazine's first half-decade
RIP Andrew Goodwin

some notable works

Monday, September 09, 2013

Out soon, on Caja Negra Editora - the Spanish translation of Rip It Up and Start Again.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

RIP Frederick Pohl

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm heading to Australia next week! I'll be doing a whole bunch of events at the Melbourne Writers Festival and at the Brisbane Writers Festival. In between, I'm visiting Sydney and participating in a panel discussion at the University of Sydney. 

MELBOURNE WRITERS FESTIVAL - Thursday 29 August to Sunday 1st September

Friday 30 August 
02.00 pm - 5.00 pm 
The Wheeler Centre - Boardroom 

Saturday 31 August 
10.00 am 
 Iwaki Auditorium

"Join Andrew Ford, Presenter of ABC Radio National's The Music Show as he broadcasts live from the Melbourne Writers Festival. Hear conversations and performances from: music historian Simon Reynolds; publisher Nicholas Spice; author and pianist Anna Goldsworthy; Torres Strait Island singer-songwriter Seaman Dan; music producer Karl Neuenfeldt; and author Andrea Goldsmith".

Saturday 31 August
01.00 pm
NGV Theatrette at Ian Potter Centre:NGV Australia

"Rock culture has always had a profound ambivalence about its potential for art-ification. Often it's the seemingly most arty figures in the music's history who have been the most conflicted about this issue, fearing the terminal gentrification of a music originally considered the opposite of high culture. Simon Reynolds looks at the history of this ambivalence, as voiced by musicians like John Lennon, Malcolm McLaren, John Lydon, and Sonic Youth, and by critics such as Lester Bangs, and explores how this has changed in recent years with the emergence of 'curator rock' and 'concept music'. Introduced by Penny Modra".

Sunday 1 September
11.30 am
NGV Theatrette at Ian Potter Centre:NGV Australia

"Music writers Simon Reynolds and Chris Ruen explore the punk ethos of do-it-yourself and explore the ways people have seized the means of production to open new frontiers. Analogue or digital, DIY is back on the cultural agenda: find out where its taking us next. chaired by Jon Tjhia".


Sunday 1 September
 04.00 pm 
ACMI Cinema 1 

"Music historian Simon Reynolds asks: is pop music's addiction to its own past killing innovation, and if it is, how can music it get its mojo working? Can we regain a hunger for risk, originality and adventure? Chaired by Ben Birchall."

SYDNEY -  Monday 2 September to Wednesday 3 September

Tuesday 3 September
6.00pm - 7.30pm
Presented by Faber Academy  and the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney  
Law School Foyer, New Law School, Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney
Free and open to all (with registration requested)

"Writing about music was never a route to riches, but the digital era has made it an even tougher livelihood. Yet there are more public spaces for music discourse than ever, thanks to webzines, blogs, message boards, and other online forums. At the same time, analogue forms of music criticism are also thriving: specialist and small-run print magazines proliferate, while we're living through a golden age for serious books about music, from weighty macro-narratives mapping eras and genres to micro-studies that focus on individual albums or even single songs. What to make of this paradoxical situation where it’s never been easier to voice your opinion about music, but never harder to make a career out of it?  Join author Simon Reynolds, critic Anwyn Crawford, journalist Craig Mathieson and cultural historian Rebecca Sheehan for a discussion about the past, present and future of music writing."

BRISBANE  WRITERS FESTIVAL- Thursday 5th September to Sunday 8th September

Friday 6 September
CULTURE VULTURE (music writing masterclass / workshop)
Bank of Queensland Heritage Collections Learning Room, SLQ


Friday 6 September
Maiwar Green,State Library of Queensland

"‘Juvenilia’ (stories we wrote as teenagers) set featuring Kevin Kwan, Clementine Ford, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Kimberley Freeman (Kim Wilkins), Stuart MacBride and Benjamin Law reading work they scribbled in their youth. A special ‘Juvenilia’ deejay set by Simon Reynolds will wrap up the night."

Saturday 7th September
Queensland Terrace, State Library of Queensland

"Simon Reynolds has chronicled electronic dance music, postpunk and rock. James Griffin is a songwriter, radio producer and critic. They talk to Simon Groth about why we write about art and culture".

Sunday 8th September
Title Books & Music, 133 Grey St, South Brisbane

"Simon Reynolds muses on his top ten most influential moments in 20th Century popular music".