Total Pageviews

Made in Shoreditch

I also contribute a weekly column to Made in Shoreditch magazine called 'Old East End/New East End', where I look at the relationship between the East End of old and new, looking at the changes and the stalwarts in landscape, residents and culture, focussing on one street or district each week. You can find it here.

'Songwriting Camps', Millions Spent and What? Garbage, That's What

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

On the NME website I read an interesting (if very badly written) article on the cost of releasing big budget, bubblegum pop. The full story is available here, though be warned, I feel my seven-year-old nephew could have structured and edited it better.

Anyway, in the report it says that it costs roughly £3 million to launch an album from a big, established pop act such as Rihanna or Britney and roughly £1 million to launch one from a new act such as Jessie J or whoever the industry is pushing that month.

Put 'em down Katy, Russ will tell you self harm leads to nothing but bad endings

It also discusses the 'songwriting camps' that are set up for your Rihannas and and Britneys, in which Tin Pan Alley-style teams of writers and producers compete to come up with the biggest hit, hence why the same ones are often used (think David Guetta et al).

One has to wonder why really. Apparently it cost about £660,000 to put together Rihanna's latest single Man Down. I find all of this staggering, I mean, dynamic range compressors are built into most digital audio workstations these days, a decent synth doesn't cost too much and a half-arsed, sequenced drum pattern is easy to work out. From listening to some of this tripe I'd say that's all you need. To be fair 'tripe' is a strong word, Rihanna has a few good tunes. I'm thinking more Britney, Katy Perry and The Wanted here.

Once you give the 'star' a decent advance for the album and pay off Guetta, however, and then go on an unscrupulous marketing and advertising campaign to re-coup the advance and pay-offs and, stupidly, the marketing campaign debt (what a fucking stupid cycle) the amount spent seems pretty realistic, modest, in fact.

Rihanna, in case you didn't know. Hardly ever ugly, these bubblegum pop stars, are they?

So, after spending that amount of money and time on an album you would think it was as ground-breaking and timeless as Revolver, Highway 61 Revisited or The Queen is Dead. Sadly this is not the case. I listened to the aptly named Loud by Rihanna (I like some of her stuff, remember) this morning and, quite frankly, other than the big singles like Only Girl in the World etc. it is fucking crap.

If you've ever, like me, thought that the Western World is awfully, almost deliberately wasteful, then surely these statistics' coming to the fore show that consumerism has an artistic representation in albums such as Loud and Katy Perry's Teenage Dream.

Noel's Big Mojo Edit

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A review of a magazine whose main job is to review new music and look at incidents past and present and essentially put them under review in features is quite odd really. This month's Mojo, however, is guest-edited by none other than (the always entertaining) Mr. Noel Gallagher and so therefore needs me to get my monocle out and give it a good thumbing through.

It's a great issue, it must be said, and Noel is engaging in the section where he discusses his favourite records and brutally honest in the interview with him (no change there then). There's a great piece on the '70s roots of punk (pub rock etc. feature, obviously) by that genre's finest commentator, Jon Savage, and a fantastic, eloquent interview with Manc poet (bloody) John (bloody) Cooper (bloody) Clarke.

It's our kid innit

It mustn't go without comment that Noel has done a fantastic job on the edit and in another life may well have made a fine critical writer or journo. Not nearly as much money in that game as his though, hey.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

My home town of London is currently reeling from the rioting, looting and anarchy of the past few days. The shooting of alleged crack-cocaine dealer Mark Duggan, 29, from Tottenham, North London led to a vigil held by his family outside a North London police station which in turn led to riots in Tottenham on Saturday (though how I don't know) and here we are now.

Many areas in London have been hit including Ealing, West London (very near where I grew up); Clapham, South London and Hackney, North East London. The main point of much of the more nihilistic violence and rioting seems to be theft and looting from local shops. News pictures show many youths fleeing the scenes of violence with televisions, trainers, laptops etc. All of this leads me to one question: has consumerism and the pursuit of material wealth infected that much of the youth in Britain that this is what they will do to get products they feel they need?

It's Well Kickin' Off

Young people in Britain are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling them they need certain products (be it explicitly or in a more subliminal fashion). Much of mainstream culture is based around brand label-consciousness and the pursuit of wealth and material goods. Just look at, for instance, the music of P Diddy, 50 Cent and Jay-Z. In fact much of mainstream culture bombards the youth with a 'must have it all now' ethos which arguably undermines intellectual enlightenment and fulfilment. Take for instance popular movies such as Scarface or the porn industry's multiple orgasms or celebrity and/or Hollywood events that glamourise designer clothing and the like.

Not an Original Banksy

It is certainly arguable that most young people today see owning products such as Ralph Lauren clothing or Apple/Macintosh technology as more important than picking up a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species or a George Orwell novel from their local Waterstone's (see, I did it there, I mean book fair, charity shop or second-hand book shop, of course). Whether this is the first step towards radical reform and re-structuring of our monetary-based culture or just "I want it now man, so I'm just gonna' nick it" ideology polluting our youth or, in fact, just an isolated event that will blow over as news changes (remember phone-hacking and stock market collapse?) only time will tell. It is clear, however, that the shooting of Mark Duggan is not the main motive behind much of this, but rather a trigger for one riot which has led to "mindless free-loading" (that's what they're calling it on youtube, facebook etc.) on a wide scale.

Makes Sense Really

The funniest reaction I've seen to all of this (one must always try to find a humorous aspect in dire situations) is the "if you wanna' fight mate, get in the fackin' army innit, yeah" theory. Both the idiocy in believing that the armed forces are the best way forward for wayward young people and the ridiculousness of believing that, in fact, everybody involved in this ugly mess wants violence and nothing but, so therefore should go and kill some Afghans and what not is, darkly, a hilarious riot in itself.

London Calling to be Used in 2012 Olympics Ad

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ronald Regan used Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen in his election campaign, Tony Blair decided to use Things Can Only Get Better by D-Ream in his and then proceeded to send the country into mental wars and generally go on a mission with George Bush to kill people in the Middle East, now it seems London 2012's advertising team are using a song which really doesn't befit the event.

Surely bass-smashing won't become an event...

Yes, we know that advertising is a ridiculous trade, constantly mediating the public and making them believe they actually need the junk companies are plugging. This lot, however, have chosen a song about the possible effect of Cold War nuclear apocalypse to plug the biggest sporting event in the world (apparently an event which will bring joy, carnival spirit and glitzy entertainment to London, not Armageddon as far as I'm aware).

I cannot even begin to stress the stupidity and lack of understanding of a song lyric at play here so I will just sigh, laugh at the irony and sit in dismay when I see the advert. The wheat really is growing thin.

London Calling