Bye bye, blog?

I’m thinking of shutting this blog down and replacing it with a static site: WordPress is under pretty much constant attack and the hassle of removing dodgy files, patching vulnerabilities etc is becoming a bit too much for me at the moment. If there’s anything here you particularly treasure, such as my legendarily busy article about defrosting plates (no, really), then it’s maybe worth downloading it just in case.

I’m still on Twitter and Facebook, of course.

New free music from DMGM

It’s taken ages, I know, but David and I have finished some more songs:  they’re tracks 7, 8 and 9 on our ever-expanding second album, Battle Bruised and Broken Hearted. They are:

One Brick

Musically this one’s where my love of REM shows through – I wanted a World Leader Pretend kind of vibe, but we don’t know anyone with a pedal steel so we used synths to get the slide guitar effect.

Lyrically it comes from an article about the building of The Shard, a skyscraper in London; someone who lived nearby was interviewed and described how the building had taken away his view of the moon. With so much expensive property owned by outright villains, the idea that someone with stolen money would go on to steal the sky was too good not to use. The “sheets of glass” is from news reports of another London skyscraper whose glass frontage reflected sunlight onto the street and melted cars. It’s a little revenge fantasy, one of the darkest lyrics I’ve written, I think.

Magic Pill

This is our Everybody Hurts, a song about keeping on when you feel that everything’s falling apart around you. The song basically appeared fully formed in David’s head, but it took forever to get the vocal right. The one here is actually a guide vocal, because while I could probably sing it technically better I haven’t been able to recapture the feel of the vocal we’ve used here. That sounds wanky, I know.

Battle Bruised and Broken Hearted

We tend to pinball between guitar rock and electronic pop in DMGM, and this is one of the former: there’s a bit of Faith No More in there and a lot of ridiculously loud guitars. We don’t own any leather trousers, but if we did we’d be wearing them for this song.

As ever, the songs are free to stream and free to download. If you like them, we’d really appreciate it if you could tell somebody else about them. Thanks.

#leaveoutthetout

Fascinating and appalling statistic in this article about Adele’s anti-tout plans:

approximately 1.9% of the ‘first wave’ of Adele tickets ended up on secondary ticketing sites – with some today being sold for prices in excess of £1,000.

1.9%. It’s a percentage that’s much lower than the touts would have liked to have achieved, with experts telling us the average arena gig sees closer to 20%.

I knew it was a lot, but nearly 20%? That’s an astonishing amount of tickets, a huge pile of money and a bloody scandal.

In the absence of any legislation, the only way to stop this is to #leaveoutthetout (hashtag courtesy of Chvrches, who retweet fans’ last-minute ticket availability): if you’ve got spares or need them, there are ethical ticket exchanges such as Scarlet Mist and Twickets. The big-name resale sites are despicable, as are the people that sell on them.

Prince is right about ticket touts

Tickets for Prince’s UK shows were supposed to go on sale today, but he pulled the sales before they started. The reason? Listings were already appearing on secondary ticketing sites such as GetMeIn.

There’s something seriously wrong with the way UK ticket sites and touts operate: tickets for Jeff Lynne’s ELO went on sale at 9am this morning, and by 9.20am there were 4,264 tickets listed for resale on GetMeIn alone.

The government is currently consulting on the ticket resale market in the UK. If you think it needs reform or regulation, you’ve got until next Friday to make a submission. 

You’re so Venn

Bands are musical Venn diagrams: each member has their own tastes in music, and the music the band makes is located where those individual tastes overlap (in most cases, anyway: it’s different if the dynamic is more like Oasis, where one strong personality basically bosses everybody else about).

That means bands tend to be fairly consistent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – for example if one of Chvrches wanted to do a death metal song or Angus Young decided to embrace jazz-funk, you’d hope the others would veto it – but it does narrow your musical horizons a little bit.

If you’re making music, is that a good thing?

I haven’t played in a band for a long time – ten years or so, I think, maybe more – but of course I’ve continued to write and record music with my brother and partner in musical crimes, David. And because there’s just two of us, and because we often write separately, and because we don’t have the issue of wondering how we’d play something live, we don’t have the consensus or compromise that you’d get in a larger group. The songs we’re working on at the moment include straight-ahead rock, grinding EDM, very delicate acoustic stuff, shimmery pop and at least one track that sounds like Donna Summer.

The thing is, though, while that’s an accurate reflection of the kinds of music we like, it isn’t a reflection of individual bands we like: each of them does a fairly specific thing. For example, Faith No More will do the odd bit of mexicana or a Commodores cover, but 99% of what they do is what you’d expect Faith No More to do. Eels are so consistent they often record the same song with different words. Chvrches aren’t going to start doing ska.

The only bands I can think of that don’t stick to a single recognisable sound or genre, who’ll flit from genre to genre without a care, are parodists. And that worries me, because I don’t really want to be part of a club that includes Weird Al Yankovic and the crap songs on comedy sketch shows. I’m not using arpeggiators and drum machines because I want to parody dance music, or big guitars because I’m taking the piss out of metal bands; I’m doing these things because they’re what the songs demand. The Donna Summer-esque song needs that Moroder chug. The shimmery pop needs those synths. The declaration of intent needs to sound like an invading army. And so on.

And yet I feel that I’m doing something wrong.

Am I?

Stadium crock

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I went to see AC/DC this weekend in Hampden Park, Glasgow – seeing them is on my bucket list and I doubt they’ll be touring for much longer, so I overcame my hatred of Hampden (whose motto should be “Where sound goes to die”) on the grounds that it can’t be that hard to amplify two guitars, a bass and a drum kit.

It is in Hampden, it seems. Hampden is the wrong shape for gigs, I’m told, too low and too prone to the wind whooshing the sound away. So AC/DC joins my list of bands I’ve seen but not heard at Hampden, a list that includes Eminem (couldn’t hear the raps), Bruce Springsteen (couldn’t hear The Boss) and U2 (couldn’t hear The Edge).

It’s not the sound engineers’ fault, I know, but when you’ve got 50,000 people paying really big money for a gig and the only ones hearing it properly are the hardcore fans at the very front, you’re really taking money under false pretences. If you’re not the push-to-the-front type, it’s one of the worst places to hear music I’ve ever visited. And I’ve been to gigs at the SECC.

A new tune: Never Lonely Again

Here’s another song with an unnaturally long gestation period: it started off as a sci-fi riff in the SoundPrism app, took a detour into PIL-style punk metal, and now we’re claiming there’s always been a G-Funk element to our music. It’s about online friends, who we suspect are all bots.

I’m not a Nat

One of the irritating things about post-election reporting is the way many (English) publications keep banging on about a nationalist surge. The SNP vote was based on many things, and for some people I’m sure nationalism played a part. But for me, and for many of the No voters I know who voted SNP in this election, it wasn’t about nationalism at all. So kudos to the LSE for today’s blog on the subject of Scottish nationalism and voting:

To just make the point absolutely clear: Scottish identity or sentiment has not been increasing, but decreasing gradually since the advent of devolution…  the strongest determinants of both independence and SNP support were pragmatic evaluations about economic prospects, trustworthiness and political personnel. For most people in Scotland the SNP is a normal party, that they like, hate or are indifferent to, but those evaluations for most are based on whether people agree with their policies and how they evaluate their representation.

In The Night Garden is Jacob’s Ladder for kids

You end up watching quite a lot of kids’ TV when you’re a parent, and it gets pretty boring pretty quickly. So you let your mind wander. You create imaginary backstories for the presenters on the assumption that the perkier the presenter, the more depraved the private life. You take things out of context for your own amusement, such as the bit on Baby TV where a creature dressed as a scoutmaster growls “I will take the little ones.” And more than anything, you imagine what the programme is really about.

A good example of the genre is Chris Brown’s Teletubbies video, which is based on the discovery that the Teletubbies in black and white are quite frightening.

But I prefer the theory that In The Night Garden is Jacob’s Ladder remade for kids.

If you’re not familiar with the film, Jacob’s Ladder was a 1990 film directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Tim Robbins. I’m not sure how it’s aged, but I remember it as one of the most frightening and disturbing films I’ve ever seen. It’s very difficult to explain without giving away the whole story, so let’s just leave it at this: it’s about death.

In The Night Garden is about death too.

The programme starts with the main character, Igglepiggle, alone in a boat. It’s dark and the seas are high. Igglepiggle takes down the boat’s sail, lights a light, and is transported to the Night Garden where he meets the love of his life, Upsy Daisy, along with a cast of characters including midget families and giant inflatables with faces on them. After a bit of excitement everybody goes to bed and Igglepiggle goes to sleep on his boat.

Here’s an episode I’ve just watched with my son.

It’s all very lovely, until somebody on the internet tells you that the whole thing is desperately sad. Igglepiggle has been shipwrecked. He’s out of food and water. He’s hallucinating. And everything that happens in the episode is a fever dream as his body shuts down.

Viewed through that prism, it all makes sense. The weird characters. The voice of God (well, Derek Jacobi) talking to the characters. The way everybody leaves, leaving Igglepiggle alone in the garden, wishing the fun would never end. And through that prism, when Derek Jacobi says “Don’t worry, Igglepiggle. It’s time to go”, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s the equivalent of this bit in Jacob’s Ladder (spoiler alert!):

“Don’t worry, Igglepiggle. It’s time to go.”

The camera returns to the boat, where Igglepiggle is silent and still, and the melancholy theme tune swells as the boat disappears into the horizon.

Devastating.

Next week: why Peppa Pig is secretly about Satan.

Sometimes winning elections is very simple

As an elderly woman told our newly elected MP during last week’s canvassing, she was voting for him because he was the only person coming to her door with reasons to vote for a candidate. The only thing the other canvassers talked about, she said, was why she shouldn’t vote for their rivals.