Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Let's Be Frank....

These days there’s no alternative, you have to be in for the long run, playing the long game and hoping that the long tail can be yours. Short cuts may lead to short term success but it may not be sustainable.

The indie stars that were meant to save us from this pop hell have either fallen away or imploded, forced to fly too close to the sun they could not maintain the altitude. You know who they are or, more to the point, who they were.

Enough riddles though, a case in point is Frank Turner. Frank has been around. Twelve years ago he was in a punk band, Eight years ago he went solo. He’s now on his fifth studio album. That’s a lot of effort, a hell of a lot of songs, a huge amount of touring – hard work, basically.

Maybe he could afford to put the work in because his parents are rich, I don’t know the detail of how but he’s now selling out tours so whatever way you have to find, whatever pays the bills then that’s what you have to do I guess.

There’s a chance his time at Eton instilled him with a sense of entitlement, perhaps it increased his self-worth to the point where he knew he couldn’t fail. He’s clearly a clever bloke and the arguments about the music biz being full of over-privileged white boys are largely disproven and probably for another time. 

Frank could be a case study. For now it’s about the music.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Give me some truth

This is the information age. Now, more than ever, info abounds, the truth is out there. This may not apply to every subject under the sun and you can be sceptical about some things you may read online but dig deep and you can learn.

I was sidetracked in my last post by a rage of differing thought when what I’d meant to simply say was that we need not listen to the ill-informed or those who skew a message for their own purpose, we should be able to see the truth somewhere.

These thoughts were prompted by two issues. The first was the differing views of politicians and pundits upon the austerity measures and benefit changes wreaked by the ‘honourable’ Gideon Osborne. The fact that both sides were able to argue and claim polarised opposing views was anathema to me. Someone, I thought, must be able to do the sums and calculate which parts of society are now better and worse off – to settle the argument. As it happened I was fortunate to catch a BBC news bulletin where they attempted to do this (sadly I can’t find it online) and as it turned out we were all worse off to a large degree – if not now then very soon.

Quite often the data is out there, generally it’s the case that there’s some vested interest that prevents it being shared with us. In the situation above you may argue that the best evidence would be in the calculation of the difference expressed as a percentage of previous household income. The fact that I know this – when I barely passed maths at school – means that it can and should be calculated and always shown as evidence when this debate rages.

The problem may be that the news exists not just to share what happened and when, but to demonstrate those ‘occurrences’ as a form of entertainment, they have to illustrate rather than state. If they were to just say ‘this is how it is’ then the opportunity to have two differing political viewpoints debating it would be irrelevant.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The truth is out there

Possibly the most frustrating thing about the many thousands of words I’ve digested on the Thatcher subject is how deeply entrenched people’s viewpoints are. It might be predictable that she was feted by the right and hated by the left but it is frustrating that some will not allow for a tiny chink of doubt in their strident opinions. This wouldn’t be so offensive were they not insistent upon sharing those strongly/wrongly held beliefs at every available opportunity.

Enough time has elapsed that we can view her rule for what it was and the long-term effect that it had upon the Country. In the last blog whilst skirting the subject myself I was keen to point to a vast number of articles I’d read on her. Reviews and opinion pieces I’d spent time on because I wanted to check my own beliefs and judgements – to check if, and to what extent, she could be blamed for this mess that we’re in.

Naturally there are grey areas and my leanings and empathies were always likely to be with the writers and opinion formers whose thoughts and reasoning correlated most with my own. What I tried not to do was leap upon every wrong-headed or idiotic statement that some were keen to repeat across every social media outlet throughout the last two weeks. Like many, I had reached Thatcheration (my favourite mash-up word of the week) point long before the over-priced and over-blown funeral.

From those last two paras alone it will be quite clear where I sit on the subject and I don’t intend to dwell on it, others have already done a much better and more in-depth job. I did try to read a wider cross-section of thought though, not just those that mirrored my own. Now, more than ever, this information is available to all of us – we don’t have to parrot the bigoted or wrong-headed comments of our Facebook friends we can actually search and find information with relative ease. Sadly it seems that we still don’t.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Six Feet Under

With age comes maturity, at least that’s the theory. Age should at least provide most of us with the knowledge of when to ‘hold our tongues’, giving us the ability to know and recognise the time and place to be polite or to make a point. Some are blessed with the wisdom, grace and authority to be able to do both. Unfortunately they are the minority and I am not among them.

This week has provided numerous examples of emotive outpourings and public venting that may have been best kept private. In the days before social media the bulk of it would have been. There is a time to stop and consider the impact of your views upon others whilst pausing to look at what theirs actually are. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them of course but if all you have is spite and bile your maturity may ask if it’s really worth sharing.

That’s the theory anyway. Instead we react first and think later, often failing to question whether we’ve added anything to public understanding, popular belief, interest or knowledge. We share for the sake of sharing, just to join in – that’s why it’s called ‘social’ media I suppose.

The two women who dominated the news agenda fit ‘nicely’ into my proposed diatribe but with so many people seizing the same opportunity and shaking it senseless it was a bit hard to keep up and keep track, I only wish I had a £1 for every time I read the politely ineffective word ‘divisive’.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Blood, Sweat, Tears

What does it take to break through? It’s the big music industry question, the one for which there are no easy answers. I would always say it is a combination of factors – hard work, perseverance, great songs, ability, luck and timing/fashionability. Of course you can add any number of others – being naturally photogenic never hurts in this image-conscious world for example. So, good looks, great talent, bloody mindedness plus blood, sweat and tears and not necessarily in that order.

Naturally there are exceptions, I recently read TraceyThorn’s autobiography and she made the early years sound pretty easy, perhaps it was rose-tinted reflection or maybe that’s how it was for her, others seldom find it that simple.

A good example of this is Biffy Clyro who probably only stepped into most people’s consciousness in the last four years – even mine only slightly prior to that. They’ve actually been together since 1995 which means it took them twelve years and three albums to build enough of a following to break through, with another two albums and years to become mainstream or big enough to sell out arenas. If that sounds like a long-haul then perhaps you’re not as committed as they were?

They are the epitome of the general belief that the songs will out as even their earlier, more ragged albums contain some real gems. The one that stood out for me during the LG Arena gig last month was from the 2007 ‘breakthrough’ album Puzzle.

Take the pieces and build them skywards indeed. I doubt I’ll ever tire of hearing that track.