National Treasures Mixtape

I’m British like I’m Irish: when it suits me. I view the Royals with the same casual indifference as I view … peas. The Queen is a public servant, and provided she keeps on doing the job well and bringing in more than she costs, I’m quite happy for her to continue.

We’re going to spend the weekend munching miniature cupcakes on the village green with all those neighbours we’ve never said more than two words to. I did buy some tiny Scotch eggs, but I probably ought to have grabbed some sausage rolls, too, while I was at it. Oh well. It’s going to piss down anyway, so the whole thing will likely fizzle out after about half an hour. Why didn’t I buy any Pimms?

Having purchased a tiny Union Jack bowtie (for my baby daughter to wear as a headband) and fully loaded up with cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches I’m about ready for a right royal knees-up. For which we’ll need a soundtrack …  Continue reading

#musicmonday : Graham Coxon – The Truth

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this sounds like NIN, but it has a sort of fuzzy dirginess to its bleak rhythms that has caused others to make the comparison. From new album a + e, this demonstrates that Coxon must have been the driving force behind Blur’s self-titled fifth album, but this is way more immediate and arresting. More what he must have had in mind.  Continue reading

White Swan Event: why success is impossible to predict

Although the term had been floating around for a while, the phrase “Black Swan Event” only recently reached general usage. It’s a random, unpredictable and catastrophic event – so called because of the Old World presumption that all swans were white, which was scuppered when Willem de Vlamingh found a black one.

What anyone writing a blog or playing in a band (etc) will encounter are White Swan Events: random, unpredictable and fortuitous events. Why white swans? Because even though we don’t think of swans as being particularly rare, most people could go a number of years without seeing one. So imagine that you are on a boat and you see a white swan. That’s the kind of serendipity you can expect when being creative: things that you can reasonably expect to happen, can happen at any time, aren’t particularly weird, but are surprising and unpredictable nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Skrillex that I didn’t put much time or effort or thought into, but has had more views each day than all the other posts that day combined. I quipped to Him Indoors that this post had more readers than the magazine in his hand – in fact, double – and it would be easy to see the now-consistent traffic charts as being the new average. But then, what happens when people tire of Skrillex? That there will come a point when the freakishly high hit count for that one post tails off, and with it, the traffic for the site as a whole. It’s not the first time it’s happened, either – there was a massive spike, for example, when I live-blogged my Radiohead review, or mentioned the Pottermore website.  I’ve seen the phenomenon elsewhere, too. At Collapse Board, it’s Shut Up About Kreayshawn Being Racist, at Brainwashed, it’s the Peter Christopherson interview. Posts that are phenomenally popular in comparison to the rest of the site. It’s not just blog posts, either. The most obvious white swan event is the one-hit wonder.  Continue reading

30 day song challenge: day 22 – a song that you listen to when you’re sad

jg thirlwell by seze devres 2009

Now that the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is finally upon us, I’m detecting a sadness in the air. It’s not just gloom in the news – there is always gloom in the news – but that literal gloom when it’s dark at teatime and the sun doesn’t rise for an hour or two after waking.  It’s not even seven at night and I’m typing this by dull lamp-light, deciding which fluffy blanket to snuggle under while I watch something comforting on DVD.

I just feel a bit like this

and given the nature of some of my friends’ Facebook updates, I’m far from the only one. Luckily, I have cheering-myself-the-hell-up down to a fine art after nearly 35 winters.

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Producers that make (or break) the band

New on Collapse Board

Band-members are like the ingredients of a cake: get it wrong, and the result is bland or sickly. It’s about getting people together who make each other feel comfortable, who can inspire the audience, and who can deflate the ego of an overindulgent songwriter. The producer is the mould. If you pour cake mix onto a baking tray, you’ll end up with a flat, sticky mess. Some producers are like old-fashioned round cake tins, providing a strong but subtle structure that simply allows the flavours to emerge. Others make fancy shapes, so vibrant and daring that its cakeness comes second to its art-form. Like the line-up, the right producer for your band is the one that fits your personal dynamic, and brings out the best in what you, uniquely, have to offer.

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Why I Love Blur

It always annoys me that people just think of Song 2 or Parklife when they think of Blur. There was so much more to the band than that, and Damon Albarn is a fantastically accomplished songwriter. They were an energetic, compelling live band, and – as anyone who drank in Camden’s Good Mixer or Spread Eagle back in ’94 can attest – very nice people.

Here’s why you should love them, too.



After a miserable time in America, Blur decided to embrace their Britishness, typified by this Kinks-inspired song. I love how it builds from something not particularly interesting into that epic string-laden gospel bridge that remains strangely understated at the same. Relentlessly infectious stuff.



My favourite track from the band’s self-titled fifth album – a lo-fi, Beck-influenced, atmospheric and funky little number.



Just an absolutely magnificent video, accompanying a song of which Ray Davies would be proud.

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