3 Reasons Why Reading & Leeds’ Lineup Is A Disaster

by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

You know the drill by now: January comes and the musical drought is avoided thanks to an abundance of festival announcements, the big dogs like Primavera and Reading & Leeds dropping their line ups and provoking a huge response in the process. While the former has been analysed and drooled over, there’s been a choir of cricket chirps and tumbleweed drifting as we’re yet to see any Reading & Leeds announcement, to the point where sites like ourselves are doing the work for the organisers and chiming about our predictions.

Thankfully though, R&L have a sense of humour and this morning had a jab at the dying meme economy of fake billings, posting the below lineup: 

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Wait…sorry, it turns out this is actually the line-up? Aw for f-

1. Headliners are (mostly) shite

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Let’s try and figure out why this billing is so tragic which no doubt comes down to the headlining acts. Now, if you were to get an alt-rock band that had prominence in the noughties who are even more relevant now than they were then, Paramore would have been the dead ringer especially considering they co-headlined just a few years back. Yet, somehow, the folk (?) over at R&L seem to think that both Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco are far better choices (see also: acts that haven’t released anything worth mentioning in the past 5 years).

In addition to this, the choice to pack Kendrick Lamar alongside PATD is almost insulting considering the former would be able to bring in an abundance of folk to the festival just by headlining. The quality of PATD‘s music is obviously entirely subjective but considering the fact that Kendrick is undeniably more popular than them and every other headliner here, it’s a bit of a total misstep from R&L.

2. The undercard isn’t much better

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Let’s get the good out of the way: it’s hard not to see acts like SkeptaBrockhampton$uicideboys and Wolf Alice on the undercard and being thoroughly happy with some of the inclusions. In addition to this, including the best boyband since One Direction on the same day as Kendrick is a smart decision to get more of those day tickets moved.

Then there’s the rest and if it weren’t for the firm 2018 at the top of the poster, you’d have thought this year’s campsite was located in some interdimensional paradox. Papa Roach? Sum 41? Holywood UndeadAn alternate timeline where Nothing But Thieves aren’t abusive and didn’t intimidate victims with legal pressure? Our opinions on the boring indie/lad rock acts on here aside (e.g Courteeners, Pale Waves), it’s hard not think that many of these inclusions occurred because the organisers were either A) frustrated over the loss of big headliner(s) B) underestimated the competition after the lack of Glastonbury this year or C) both.

3. It feels like a safe afterthought. 

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As I mentioned in the intro, R&L have put this announcement on the backburner for quite some time and now that we’ve got the lineup, it seems clear why: obviously taken aback by the quality of other UK festivals, they’ve tried to take a bit from each yet it all comes off as a bit of a headscratcher. 

I don’t have a problem with R&L not being a rock festival anymore but if you’re gonna incorporate some hip-hop acts into the formula, surely someone like Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt or CupcakKe would be better inclusions as opposed to going for the safest option available? 

If it turns out that I’m completely wrong on this then I take full blame but does it not feel like Kings of Leon probably got a late night booty call from R&L organisers after talks with Arctic Monkeys fell through? I’m fond of some of the Tennesse rock outfit’s work yet at the same time, I just can’t help but feel that R&L went for them just to save face, especially considering the fact that a Sunday which consisted of Arctic Monkeys, Courteeners and Skepta would be a licence to print money.

Well, that’s if you didn’t mind your entire audience calling you a goth for not liking AM.

 

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Butlerism: How to Review a Gig

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Everyone who reads my live reviews always asks me the same thing; “Why do you still write these inane live reviews? Are you some kind of fucking moron?”. And well, whilst my mother asks a good question, I can’t hold onto these secrets any longer, so I’m going to tell you just how I go about reviewing a live gig, how you can, and how you can better enjoy your live experience. Or you can just tell me to fuck off. I’m pretty used to that.

Pre Gig

Gig day… it’s gig day. You’ve been thinking about this gig for months, days, weeks, seconds or not at all if you’ve totally forgotten about it. Why are we talking about this? This bares no impact on my review, apart from that time I went to see Royal Blood, forgot my ticket, had to run back, despite having the worst hangover ever. Got called handsome by a drunk woman, got handed a beer by a drunk woman, on the stipulation she could go on my shoulders, upon taking that beer, I smiled, said “Sure” and slipped into the moshpit.

The main takeaways from here are; do not forget your ticket, make empty promises to strangers, have a few beers, but not too many, to get you into a warm and cosy mood for the evening.

Pre Gig, But This Time, You’re in the Venue

I’m 24, 25 in two months. I still get very, very bored, very, very quickly and cannot stand around waiting, because that’s boring. At this point, it’s a good time to start playing up, loudly shitpost people and remind yourself of funny memes. Also best to enjoy this with another beer. Seriously, the standing around waiting between bands is the worst thing ever. Time moves much, much slower but you don’t want to sacrifice your spot in the crowd. Unless your friend, who is me, is 6’4″ and is the size of a household appliance, you can get through crowds pretty quickly. Sorry to everyone who’s stood behind me.

Support Band

Depending on who the support band is, I’ll either give them a shout out or not. Every band was a support band once, so it’s always a good place to find new bands to listen to, or even, for bigger marquee gigs, see a few of your favourite bands in once place. Like that time I saw Nothing But Thieves support Muse. That was great. The takeaway here? Everyone will break your fucking heart eventually. Sometimes however, I either miss the support bands because I’m in traffic, exceedingly lazy or drinking a beer. It’s just the way things work when you’re an adult.

The Actual Fucking Gig!

My favourite part! There’s nothing more exciting than the music cutting, the lights dimming and the scream as hundreds, maybe thousands of people all welcome their heroes for a thousand different reasons. If you’re reviewing a gig, it’s good to read the room; what’s the atmosphere like? Is the air heavy and full of anticipation, are the crowd really into it, or just a bunch of pretenders? If you’re into it too, the moshpit is always the best place to enjoy a gig.

Not when everyone tries their hand at it though, so you’re having to struggle to get an obese 50 year old named Keith up off the floor, despite the fact he’s made letcherous comments to all the girls in the venue, but the pit rules are the rules; no body down. Then he gets angry you creased his Ralph Lauren shirt. Keith sweetie, you’re at a hard rock gig, why are you dressed like you’re presenting the accounts to the board of directors? You dick. Stop it.

With that, if you see sexual harrasment at gigs, please alert your nearest security member, scary looking front man or take matters into your own hands and chin the bastard. Gigs should always be for love and peace, but performing an impromptu tooth extraction on a creep is always on the money.

Also, if you get chance, read the band’s mood. Are they having a good time, or are they wishing they’d never come to Birmingham? Birmingham crowds are really good actually, London crowds are a bit wanky, but so is everyone in London, so I guess the two go hand in hand. Manchester are a good laugh too, same with Liverpool. Basically if you go to a gig past the Watford gap you’re going to be mugged or unappreciated.

Don’t just list out a load of songs, list out your favourites, the new ones, where the passion was, what the crowd absolutely went bananas for and be critical if you have to. But the most important thing to remember is to let go, report live from the pit, use all five senses to enjoy the gig. Arcane Roots played their gig in the pitch black, but their ethereal, strobe based attack made them one of the best bands I’ve seen live.

Festivals

Drink a lot of beer, see people you fucking hate, because who doesn’t love a hate fuck? I guess the same applies from the above. Let go, get a bit drunk, experience everything around you. The crowd can turn a bad gig into an amazing one, and vice versa. Comment on what else you did during the day or the week, how hungover you were, some of the weird and wacky folk you see around festivals.

Really though, you’ve just wasted your time, yet again reading another one of my articles. Sorry.

Step Down, Eddie: A Tribute

by Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Apologies, apologies for those of you who were expecting a column last week. I know there’s probably one of you, two of you maybe. I’m probably just going to give up soon. Do you want an excuse? Sure. Sadness, and an inability to find the right words to justify this column in such a short space of time. However, one week has passed, and there’s an ability to now put into digital print just what the passing of “Fast” Eddie Clarke means to me, and the wider music community.

With Eddie‘s tragic passing at just the age of 67, this now means that the ‘classic’ Motorhead line up is no longer of this earth. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve dropped the edgy r/atheism side to my personality, I don’t really care what people believe as long as they’re good & righteous in their actions, and taken a wider view as to what happens to us when we die. Whilst I don’t know what happens when we die, I do hope, wherever the Three Amigos have ended up, there’s a bottomless bar, a stack of Marshalls and some er… ‘nasal decongestants’ to paraphrase Philthy Animal.

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But with his passing last Wednesday, the last connection to some of the most influential rock ‘n’ roll records in the world was finally closed, to an outpouring of love & sadness from the people who inspired him most. Despite the fact he hadn’t played with Motorhead since 1982, his lightning riffs & screaming solos laid the blueprint for some of the biggest bands in the world, including Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth. Whilst Lemmy will forever be remembered as the beating heart & snarled face of MotorheadEddie should forever be remembered as the soul of Motorhead. “Fast” by name, “Fast” by nature, he contributed to the full-frontal speed based attack that made Overkill, Bomber Ace of Spades so good and why they’re still widely regarded as some of the band’s best works, despite all being on the cusp of 40 years old.

Which says it all, considering that he spent considerably more time out of Motorhead than in Motorhead, both he and Philthy Animal are still held in such high regard, not just because of their raw talent, but because as a trio, they were, and still are a formidable combination. 50% of early Motorhead was the music, the other 50% was because they looked & sounded like biker pirates from outer space, who’d steal your wallet, your girlfriend & your heart in the same one hour set. If someone wanted to dress up as a rockstar for the evening, you’d just need to show them a photo of late 70s Motorhead and be done with it. That was and still is rock ‘n’ roll. But there was no posing involved, that’s how they genuinely dressed, cool as ice as they played red-hot music.

However, it’s not like Eddie left Motorhead in 1982 and then just disappeared after falling out with the band over recording with The Plasmatics; or being pushed out of the band largely by Philthy, depending on which version of events you believe although no member was available for comment on this via ouija board. After leaving, he formed his own hard rock, heavy metal express Fastway. Was this just a way of keeping himself busy? Absolutely not. In the eighties alone, Fastway released five full-length studio albums, each bottling the essence of heavy rock itself; fast, loose and unforgiving. Had glam rock risen to prominence in the mid-Eighties, history may remember Fastway a bit more kindly, but music nowadays is all about finding those hidden gems. Go and stick Fastway and All Fired Up on, you’ll be pleasantly delighted. It’s not quite Motorhead, but it’s still got that roll-in-the hay filth to it.

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With Lemmy’s passing just over two years ago, which I’m still not fully over, the death of Philthy a few weeks prior and now Eddie, it’s terribly sad that the creators of some of the finest rock and roll albums ever have now passed on. Eddie made sporadic appearances here and there with Motorhead, one of which I missed because I was on holiday with my awful, horrible, nasty girlfriend at the time, and every time he climbed on stage, he was greeted as if he never left. Every fan in that audience, even the ones born years after he left Motorhead recognised and understood Eddie‘s contribution to the rich tapestry that was those first five records, plus No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, still one of the finest live records out there.

So with this, after booking out an entire column to pay tribute to you, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, Edward Allan Clarke, for playing a huge part in writing some of my favourite albums, for inspiring some of my favourite bands, and for forever creating a white-hot rock & roll aesthetic.

Butlerisms: Why Your Dad Is Wrong About Hip-Hop

by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Ah, 2018. Six days into you and we’ve already had a dick swinging contest between the USA and North Korea and learned that the leader of the former is a petulant child who enjoys cheeseburgers and hairspray. Not even the Gorilla Channel could soothe our already weary souls, as we realise that this year probably isn’t going to get much better. Just more of the same shit under a different banner.

So it was no surprise that everyone’s favourite free puppy training paper, the NME, took time out of its busy schedule reporting on Liam Gallagher taking a shit or comparing some big band with The Beatles (because every band’s benchmark in life is to be the fucking Beatles) to furrow their indie brows, scratch their chins and cluck “Is Hip Hop now bigger than Rock?”.

Side note: I once got into an argument with the nice lady who works in my local record store because she tried to give me a copy of the NME and I really, really didn’t want it.

 

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First of all, the data confirms it. Hip-hop artists filled Nielsen’s end of year data on what people listened to, with only Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift muscling in the top ten, the latter proving that an appetite for eating shit is still rife. Really, that’s come as a shock to nobody who doesn’t believe that music peaked with Oasis. Hip-hop has forever been a more accessible genre, able to cross all tastes. The average metalcore fan and the average pop fan would both be able to listen to Drake with relative ease, because it’s easy on the ears with an accessible sound and theme, but would the average pop fan be able to swallow up some Architects? Probably not, whilst it’s not a secret club, any kind of rock music is indeed an acquired taste unless it’s got a poppy, accessible sound.

Hip-hop being bigger than rock isn’t really the problem, because, at the end of the day, it’s all music; good music is good music regardless, and shouldn’t have to be held aloft purely because it belongs to a certain genre. The real issue here and the one that’s grinding my gears to no end is as per usual, the reaction to the statement that hip-hop is bigger than rock.

“God help us” tweets yer da, who’s currently praying that an Oasis reunion will finally show the kids some good music.

“Crap-hop, more like, Kanye West isn’t half as talented as REAL musicians” your boyfriend comments, desperately searching for that clip of Ye singing Bohemian Rhapsody, determined to prove his point by missing out his entire discography.

“Eugh, it’s just people saying ‘yo yo yo’ and talking about their ‘bitches'” says your weird coworker, who’s probably never listened to hip-hop, but is pretending they know something.

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The problem here is tribalism. People are so damn narrow-minded that they think bland, milquetoast indie rock like Oasis is the absolute pinnacle of music, or believe that the true flag bearers of rock and roll are the Foo Fighters. Both of these bands are good, but you need to wake up and smell the fucking coffee man as there’s a whole world of great music beyond a driving songs compilation!

Maybe it’s the folk I’ve encountered over the years, but most of this tribalism comes from people only listening to rock music. That’s it. Just rock music. None of that pop for me thank you, I’m happy listening to just rock music (and from experience, not good rock music), and you can keep that stupid hip-hop away from me, it’s just people in hats talking to a beat – it’s so fucking stupid.

When the Coachella announcement landed this week, former boyband heartthrob Louis Tomlinson took to the auld Twitter to ask where all the bands were. I mean, first things first, there ARE bands there you dumb fuck, with alt-J, Highly Suspect, A Perfect Circle, Alvvays and FUCKING CHIC, THE BEST BAND EVER, making an appearance. But obviously, because The Weeknd, Beyoncè and confusingly, Eminem were headlining, this now meant that there were no bands there, and band music was dead. You see what I’m on about here? Because hip-hop/R&B takes statistical prominence, that suddenly means that all the bands ever have been violently culled and will never perform anywhere again. Pull the fucking other mate, and take a look at the Download line up if you want bands.

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I’mma keep it real with you here chief, I don’t listen to that much hip hop compared to some of the other writers here, but I still keep my ears open and palette clean for fresh beats. Some of the best music I heard in 2017 was hip-hop, including Brockhampton & Kendrick Lamar, and I just know that there’s more of that out there, and it’s clear to see why it’s the biggest genre. If someone like me, who does live off a primary diet of heavy rock, metal & big riffs can appreciate the genius that goes into hip-hop, it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular; it’s for everyone, it’s relatable, it’s without dumbing it down too much, poetry on the beat.

This stupid tribalism in music needs to fucking stop. People need to get their heads out of their asses and realise that there’s more to life than thinking rock music is the be all and end all, and that all rock music is great, because it’s really, really not. If you think The Hunna, Liam Gallagher, and The Courteeners are levels above someone like Kendrick, Future or even Kanye, you need your fucking head rattling, because just because it’s rock music, doesn’t mean it’s automatically better. I absolutely love rock music, I love heavy metal, I consider Motörhead and Black Sabbath to be the best acts of all time, but I’m not so damn blinkered that I believe that is all there is to music.

So go on, go and explore some hip-hop, even if ashamedly, you end up liking it. Nobody’ll tell on you.

Butlerisms: VIP Packages

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Music, as much as anyone tries to deny or hide it, is a business. Bands/artists are the business, and we, the fans are the customers. We pay their wages by buying records, gig tickets, and merch, and as such, bands that provide good “customer service” are always well received. Bands that are happy to stop & chat to their fans, take a photo or even sneak them into the soundcheck are beacons of exemplary customer service and recognise the people who put food on the table for them. Dress it up however you want, we’re the customers, they’re the business, and we’re owed a certain level of service without verging on being over-entitled.

Which is why I find it utterly confusing when bands decide to charge a premium rate for VIP packages when they hit the road. Okay, the first contradiction of the day here, because it gives fans an opportunity to get access to their heroes in a way they couldn’t with a normal ticket, but why not do that anyway, without charging top dollar? Get ticket holders to enter a raffle to get VIP passes, let the first ten fans who show up into soundcheck, because then it’s more special than just paying to meet the guys from Metallica.

But what really boils my piss is bands that offer “golden circle” standing tickets, at a much higher rate than the price of a usual standing ticket to guarantee them a place at the front.

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How the “golden circle” works at Glasgow’s biggest venue.

Gig tickets aren’t cheap: you know that, I know that, your mum & dad know that, and someone could well blow a large chunk of their income on that one ticket. They show up at midday, hoping to catch a glimpse of the band at load in, then get into the queue, ready for doors open. As soon as the doors open, they sprint through, going as fast as their legs will carry them, eager to be first against the barrier, ready to come face to face with their idol.

Except that won’t happen because their idol has decided that the fans with the biggest wallets are the biggest fans of the band. Sure, have segregated standing & wristbanded standing sections from a crowd surge point of view, but don’t charge fans a premium rate just to be at the front. It feels to me that right now, gigs are going to the highest bidder.

Last year, I bought my dad a pair of Black Sabbath tickets for Father’s Day. I was given the option of buying regular standing tickets or ‘golden circle’ tickets, for some £30 more. A little bit more than that? I could get into soundcheck. In the end, I went for the standard standing tickets, because who’d pay a premium price to stand in the same arena? The hardest of the hardcore Sabbath fans; the fans who bought the records even when it was just Tony Iommi and a few stragglers, and this is how they’re repaid for their loyalty; charged a premium price to be in close proximity of the band they’ve stuck by for years.

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Artists both old and new are guilty of engaging in this greedy practice. 

But what if they can’t afford the premium? They might be squeezed in at the back, hollering every note of every song whilst someone with a fatter wallet mumbles along to Paranoid and gets confused that Ozzy didn’t sing Crazy Train. That’s obviously a hugely sweeping generalisation, but you can see it, can’t you? Some guy in smart casual, four £6 Amstels deep, standing there stone-faced at the front, whilst someone in their battle weathered tour t-shirt is giving it all they’ve got, as they always do. Is that a level playing field? Not at all.

Wanted to see Metallica on their latest tour? You’d have to be prepared to part ways with nearly £100 for a standing ticket. Got a wad that’s burning a hole in your pocket? You could shell out up to £5,000 for a VIP package, which includes a meet and greet (great!), private merch shopping (er, alright, I guess) and a “Spit out the Bone” buffet (pure Partridge). Metallica are no surprise, since their formation in the eighties, the thrash overlords have managed to monetise their band and turn their name into a global brand. And whilst I’m thrash talking, Anthrax charge over £1,000 for a VIP package, which includes a whole host of interesting things, souvenir programme, meet & greet, maybe even a signature instrument if you’re rich enough.

Wanna see no-tory-ous tax dodge Gary Barlow, but want a bit more bang for your buck? How about you spend £175 on the Gary Barlow VIP seated package? Bet you get a meet and greet for that, huh? Nah mate, you get a seat in the first nine rows, a pre-signed tour programme, a tote bag and a VIP tour gift, whatever the hell that is. Things like this either sell the artist to the highest bidder or take advantage of the fans who would pay any price to be in with a sniff of their hero?

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One VIP seat package and you’ll be paying more tax than this prick.

Without dropping into my own Spinal Tap moment here, every fan that spends their money on a concert ticket is a Very Important Person. This is a message shared by bands like Enter Shikari & Bury Tomorrow, with the frontman of the latter, Daniel Winter-Bates routinely using stage time to decry VIP packages, and let us know we’re all very important.

It sounds chintzy, but it’s true, bands need to understand that by offering packages like this, they’re either taking advantage of the hardest of core fans or marginalising the ones who simply can’t afford to. Bands need to make money, that much is true, but charging hundreds, even thousands of pounds for tickets or special access tickets seems ludicrous. Why not just have a raffle for 10 VIP tickets at £2/5 each? That way then, everyone can largely buy into it, and it’s even more special when someone wins because it could be someone who couldn’t even afford to dream about meeting their favourite artists, never mind paying top dollar for it.

This isn’t pre-warning some kind of musical peasants revolt, but I find it absolutely contemptuous that bands/artists will charge such outrageous prices that either give little in return or charge so much that the fan experience becomes a corporate exercise. Either give free “access” to your band, invite loyal fans in, or don’t offer anything at all. Charge for the equal opportunity of seeing you perform live, and anything past that should be a bonus.

Butlerisms: Rock is Alive

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Every now and then, usually around album release time, some rent-a-dad like Noel Gallagher or Tom Meighan from Kasabian will come out and declare that rock and roll is dead” and that they’re going to “save guitar music”. Further to this, some rent-an-arsehole like Gene Simmons will come out for no good reason, the most likely reason being he’s bored, and spout some shite like there’s “no good bands” anymore, and that he’s waiting for another KISS.

It happened this year, with Kasabian widely touting that their latest offering, For Crying Out Loud, would “save guitar music”. Sounds like a pretty tasty concept if you ask me. Guitar music’s in such a state that this album’s gonna change everything? Lay it on me sugar!

However, this quote is merely a concept. Because For Crying Out Loud left many crying out loud at how underwhelming this album was. By no stretch was it a bad album, but to herald it at the saviour of guitar music was nothing but pure bluster & bullshit.

 

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The saviours of guitar music (apparently).

 

Further to this, guitar music is just FINE, sweeties. Now, there’s some truth to these statements, because rightly so, rock & roll ain’t what it used to be. But if you go back to the genesis, rock & roll was Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, the Beatles, hell, even Cliff Richard & the Shadows. These guys were the pioneers of rock & roll, but rock & roll has evolved from there to hard rock, heavy metal, punk, thrash metal, grunge, hardcore, post-hardcore, emo, metalcore, deathcore, thrashcore, core-core, electronic rock, doom metal, death metal, alt-rock, folk rock, pop punk, Brit rock, dad rock, crust punk.

If anything, the problem with rock & roll these days is that there are too many guitar bands out there, meaning it’s hard for a band to cut through the noise to become superstars. Back in the day, all you had to do was have the right haircut & be able to play a few chords and boom – you’re the Beatles. That’s not to do them a disservice, they were at the very start of rock, and we ALL have them to thank for our favourite bands being here today. But in today’s day and age, four lads with guitars would struggle to hit those heights.

But is that such a problem? Not really as there’s a bustling scene, with a new band wriggling into your ears on a near-weekly basis. Take a look at some of the bands who’ve released debut albums in the last three years; in one of my playlists alone, names off the top of my head include Black Foxxes, Creeper, PVRIS, Broken Hands, Dorothy, Highly Suspect, Wolf Alice, Treeherder – the list is fucking exhaustless. Bit of a stretch here considering his tenure in rock, but take a look at Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes. Together for three years with two sublime albums, touring halls, academies and institutes across the land. And if we went back to 2010 as the threshold, the list would be chunkier than Eddie Hall’s biceps.

 

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New bands like Wolf Alice have kept the guitar music light lit – no help needed.

 

I’m literally just naming my own personal examples here, but I’m sure you could name ten off the top of your head as well. Go write them down, send them to me, send them to bands like Kasabian and tell those fuckers that rock isn’t dead, you’re just not slinging albums like you used to.

The biggest contradiction, in this columnist’s humble & largely incorrect opinion, to the “rock is dead” trope is, like ’em, love ’em or hate ’em, Royal Blood. Just look at them. In four short years, they’ve gone from Brighton open mic night nobodies to global rock superstars. They’ve come off the back of a sell-out UK arena tour and two albums out of two to reach number one in the charts. Their heavy rock riff charges are positioning them as the torchbearers for the future of rock and roll. I’m biased towards them, yes, but even on paper, they are one of the most promising bands out there to join the immortals. I know some of you will stick your tongue out at that prospect, but in terms of a health check, rock is in the pink.

One identifiable gripe could be that pop music is bigger than rock music but the problem there is that “pop” has always been big because it’s more accessible than anything else out there. Can we all appreciate a screaming Jimmy Page solo? No. Can we all appreciate a catchy Little Mix tune? Fuck yes. Ed Sheeran is so bland that vanilla ice cream burns his tongue, but his brand of endless, nameless guitar playing is crafted for everyone, from the still-hip parents to people who exclusively have missionary sex whilst watching The X-Factor.

But what message does this send when people such as Gene Simmons, Serge Pizzorno, Justin Hawkins & Noel Gallagher say that there’s no good music out there anymore & rock is dead? There are kids out there who’ve picked up a guitar in their name, only to be told “Sorry kids, there’s nothing out there for you. Go home, become an accountant instead“. Bands instead should be doing a Metallica: inviting bands to come and snatch their crown. We need to encourage young bands to be Metallica, to be Led Zep, to be Oasis, to be Kasabian, but better than they could ever be. “Rock is dead” should be replaced with “Rock is yours, if you think you’re hard enough“.

Scott Ian of Anthrax recently shared that opinion that there wasn’t much out there, as they were currently touring with Code Orange: yeno, the band who released their first album in 2014, and their second album Forever, released this year is f u c k i n g G r a m m y n o m i n a t e d. Maybe his comments were twisted out of context but if I was in a young band, out on tour with a veteran band who then told the press that there are no good bands out there, I’d pack up my equipment and go home. Next plane home, sorry Scott, you said that we’re not good enough.

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Note: if you haven’t listened to Code Orange then get your act together.

 

Never will I question any band that goes out there to plant their flag in the ground, but big bands should be encouraging them to push forwards, inspiring the passion within them. There are no free lunches in the music business, but our rock & roll elders could be doing more to invite the youth to lunch. The bands that put the work in, play every show they possibly can & promote themselves like billy-o will always rise to the top, if they’re good enough because that’s what always happens. The bands that go into the business to pose and claim they’re “saving guitar music” will inevitably die. Because they’ve spent so much time talking about what’s so wrong with music today, they haven’t bothered thinking about what to do to improve it.

Streaming is also decried by the elders, sometimes under the guise that it doesn’t help young bands. Perhaps not compared to selling records straight up, but in the age of “radio killed the riff” and “rock is dead“, it helps thriving bands bypass getting their rock sound onto the airwaves, because they can get their music out by word of mouth, social media and a good old-fashioned flyer drop. If they’re good enough, their mates tell their other mates, other mates to other mates & before you know it, they’re on Spotify’s discover weekly.

Spotify gives risk-free music exploration. For just £9.99 a month, I can check out hundreds and hundreds of new bands without having to buy a record. But with that, if they’re good enough, I’ll buy the record, the vinyl, the t-shirt, the countless gig tickets and become a long term investor in that band. Bands might not make as much money initially at less than a penny a stream, but their worldwide reach could make them bigger than if they’d relied on radio play & record company support. Crap bands will forever die on their feet, good bands will forever have loyal fans. Doesn’t matter what the year is, what the platform is and who the rent-a-gob is, good bands will always have loyal followings.

Small gigs are forever the genesis of a new band, and I think we’re all guilty of not going enough, but there’s no finer pleasure than heading down to a sticky little club to see a band playing for their bus fare home. No faking, no bullshit, just a group of friends playing their hearts out. But that’s happening every day of every week in nearly every town. Rehearsal studios rattle as young bands figure out the finer points of their killer riffs. If rock & roll was dead, we’d be all congregating in an arena to watch some no-name band on the downswing of their career blast out their greatest hits and be met with stony faces when the new songs are played.

Kasabian are currently touring the United Kingdom.

Album Review: Stress by Charlie Leach

By Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)

Charlie Leach’s beginnings in music were as mundane as many other; gaining a love for the profession from his studies at school, he progressively became more enamoured with the many more eclectic genres that were available to him. His sonic pallet has aged in a manner that has been in tandem with his own personal development: starting in a happier, indie rock background, Leach has swerved and bobbed through many different styles and music communities, this current iteration has found Leach delving into much more dark, extreme music, lurking on the fringes of the greater music world. Though, like many of his contemporaries, he is still a novice, in both his profession and life. His latest reviews for Yung Lean’s Stranger and Sleigh Bell’s Kid Kruschev show Leach at his most vulnerable and echo a problem that is rife in the review industry.

For someone such as Leach to pick these two albums was a bold move. While it could be argued that he has experience in the genres of rap and pop music, it would be quite churlish to suggest he has a firm mastery of the many sub-genres and trends in these communities today. In respect to Yung Lean, Leach seems to show little background knowledge on the rapper. He might be able to effectively reflect his knowledge on some of Lean’s earlier singles (such as Kyoto and Yoshi City), and may take an interest in the vaporwave aesthetic that the rapper so heavily pulled from when first coming into the limelight, but Leach seems to have no real basis to pull from for a well-founded review into his latest project. Leach seems to intimate that he finds Stranger a “cloud-filled listen, with no real substance to pull at”, though in respects to the writer, he himself only writes from a surface level, and only a love for the single Hoover, a song that marks a clear, fleeting departure from the rapper’s main catalogue.

In spite of his lacking knowledge of all things Lean, Leach does have a fuller grasp of the work of Sleigh Bells. Though rumored to have not listened to all of their albums, Leach has in the past showed a great appreciation for Sleigh Bells’ first album, Treats. This album was the first foray for Leach into more experimental forms of music. The noisier overtones in the instruments used in Sleigh Bells’ music helped provide a standing ground for Leach to jump into the genre of noise (and it’s sub-genres). However, it is worth noting that Leach has shown no more real interest in Sleigh Bells’ work, and this can be seen in his review for their latest release, Kid Kruschev.

A succinct album, Kid Kruschev has been fairly well received by many critics. Some have written quite positively about the thematic cohesion throughout the album, praising the prominent vocals and ballad-like nature of many of the songs (but contrasted this glowing praise with  luke-warm review scores). Leach, however, found the album a laborious listen. Citing in his opinion the monotonous nature of many of the instrumentals in this album (the “over-compressed” kick drums being something that greatly distressed the reviewer), Leach seemingly found the album quite boring and laborious, equating to a “time-consuming, un-fulfilling listen, that though not necessarily bad full of bad musicianship, is littered with unsatisfying production and lackluster lyrics”.

This scathing criticism is nothing without its context. Privately, Leach has suffered from many hindrances that, quite reasonably, affect his professional responsibilities. For many years, the young writer has dealt with depression, causing many working days to be akin to traversing through a murky, foggy sludge. While Leach himself may not want to lean on this illness and allow it (in his mind) to be an excuse, many would argue that this affliction is grounds for many disadvantages he may face in his working career. Many similar to him have suffered and will suffer through similar circumstances, and like him will trudge through in relative silence.

To be expected, unknown factors such as these will affect a review by any budding writer, and with Leach, this could be seen to be the case. His mainly emotionless response to the music on offer by these two well-regarded contemporary artists could be indicative of the emotional state Leach found himself in throughout the week.

This emotional state could be conducive of the week Leach has had. Having just started a new job in retail this week, rumours have abounded about his lack of control on the balance he has between his different professional interests. Consequently, the reviews produced have suffered as a result. Leach, as a part of music journalism (albeit on a voluntary basis), has fallen victim to the looming specter of deadlines and the pressure of balancing work and play. Print journalism is an industry rife with deadlines and pressure from above, which in many cases leads to pieces that might not be reflective of the writer’s opinion or true ability. An enjoyment of an album for someone such as Leach is tempered by how much time and energy that particular writer has to put into listening to an album. The pressure of having his work placed for all to see in a public space ins frightening in itself; added to that the pressure of getting a good piece of work out on time is deadly to someone’s mental health, as is evident in the case of Leach.

And so, Leach concludes that these two reviews would not be fit for purpose. For many, it would be of the up-most importance for their work to be completed on time, but in this instance, Leach has decided that it more important to tackle the issue head-on, instead of burying it underground. Though, it may have been more therapeutic for Leach to actually write an opinion piece, instead of opting for a headache-inducing meta-review on himself. A light 4 to a strong 7.