Adventures in Music: Last.fm

Pandora always had the sense to see that my taste wasn’t “industrial” or “rock” or “pop”, but “songs with strong hooks and elements of electronica, featuring syncopated rhythms, in predominantly minor keys, with strong vocals and extensive vamping”.

It’s all moot now, though, because Pandora stopped streaming to the UK a couple of years back, which means we just have Last.fm, and Last.fm streams by genre. That means that a fan of NIN must automatically like Stabbing Westward (not really!); that if you like Blur then you have to like Oasis (*shudder*); and heaven forbid you type in Gwen Stefani unless you really want to listen to Fergie (and, let’s face it, most people don’t).

Still, I thought I’d give it another go yesterday on the recommendation of a friend, and installed their ‘scrobbling’ tool, which rummages through your record collection to dig out the stuff you really actually listen to. Wow! Have I really listened to Foetus over 280 times in the past month? OK, then: let’s see what “Foetus Radio” throws up. I read on Twitter that one person hated their Foetus station on Pandora because “it didn’t know which style to pick”. That, my dear, is precisely the point …
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Jarboe – Red
I don’t even know how to begin to classify this, except that I could definitely listen to more. It reminds me a bit of Ruby – or more specifically, of when Silverfish’s Lesley Rankine was singing for Pigface: just abrasively feisty female vocals over searing breakbeats.
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Steroid Maximus – Chaiste
Hooray! Quentin Tarantino wrote a soundtrack! OK, technically it’s JG Thirlwell, but it’s what would happen if QT did write soundtracks.
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The Damage Manual – Sunset Gun

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I saw this lot live once – accomplished my dream of walking up to Jah Wobble and saying, “Mr Wobble: may I shake you by the hand?” (He obliged). They sound exactly what you think ex-Killing Joke members fronted by Chris Connelly would sound like. One of those promising bands where nobody can quite work out why they weren’t enormous.

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Nurse With Wound – Wash The Dust From My Heart
I had a lot of preconceptions about what a seminal goth-industrial band ought to sound like: unfavourable enough to ignore them, at any rate. They’re actually very good – quite mellow and listenable, and not at all what I was expecting. It actually reminds me of dreamy Creation act The Telescopes – that very warm double-bass sound and lazy jazz aesthetic.
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Chris Connelly – July
OMG! I had totally forgotten this album existed! I probably have it in the attic somewhere. I still know all the words. Connelly impersonates David Bowie over a pared-down indie-rock guitar sound. Good song.
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Test Dept
I want to like Test Dept … but … *skip*
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SPK
*skip*
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Ohgr – Cracker

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Ah, see, this was one of those underrated gems. Skinny Puppy’s Kevin ‘Ogre’ Ogilvy’s stripped-down vocals over funky beats and chunky noise
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Tear Garden
I want to like them – I really do. I mean, I liked Download in their whole only-one-track-on-any-album’s-any-good way, but … *skip*
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Swans – New Mind

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Michael Gira and his merry band of pioneers are always something I felt I should have liked, but never actually enjoyed. This song is sort of Fall-ish and good enough to make me interested to hear more.

The Residents – Nameless Souls

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See, this is the sort of random introduction that I was looking for. There is no other circumstance under which I’d get to hear this stuff. I don’t love it, but I could hear more.
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Download
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You know that I said that only one track off each Download album is any good? This isn’t it. *skip*
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Pig – Blades (KMFDM mix)
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I love this track, but it’s such an obvious genre choice that it sounds jarringly out of place alongside the other more esoteric offerings.
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Pigface – Nutopia
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Love this song. Snarky spoken wit over pummelling beats.

Verdict
If you want to use Last.fm to introduce you to music you might not otherwise get to hear, then your best bet is to pick the most eclectic act you know. It’s best to listen when you’re doing something else (like reading forums) because you’re less likely to skip tracks and more disposed towards giving things a fair hearing. Swap profile info with friends, and note who is “Loving” the same tracks as you and check out their profiles – they might have stumbled on that amazing band that you’ve never heard of. Above all, don’t get too bogged down by genre: it’s no better an indicator than hair colour of whether you’ll like it or not.

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