Various Artists – Singles and EPs

There are ‘pieces’ that are undeniably rap, and definitely not poetry, such as The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’, and there are others that are undeniably poetry, and definitely not rap, such as John Donne’s Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going To Bed. This emphatic distinction is a matter of customary usage however, not of hard and fast definitions, and to look for the precise boundary between the two is to fall into an essentialist fallacy. Nevertheless, many assume the existence of such a defensible frontier, which can make for a strong reaction to its penetration, either of outrage or amazement. The Ruby Kid straddles that imaginary barrier without difficulty; the songs/poems/raps on Strange, Lively & Commonplace are both one …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Sufficiently independent not to sound ‘indie’, yet aesthetically straightforward enough not to sound ‘experimental’, Neurotic Wreck’s schtick is a pretty accessible art-pop stew; a predominantly electronic production mashes up trip-hop, electro, shoegaze and other downbeat sources, into a melancholy and and carefully textured soundworld, freighted with nostalgia and regret. The album is all about its songs, which is to say it’s as much about lyrics and melody as it is about production, but the creative textures and arrangements are a central part of the utterance; it’s moderately avant-garde, but it’s also furnished with a pop sensibility, and very well put together. It’s not party music, but it’s very listenable, and indeed re-listenable.

Review Of The Year 2012, Part 1: 12 Albums

It’s that time of year again, the nights drawing in, the pointless over-consumption going into overdrive, and the music bloggers arranging releases into spurious hierarchies of how hip they think they make them look. Well, let me issue the same caveats I always do: I don’t claim that these are the best albums of the year, simply that they are the ones I like the most out of the ones I happen to have heard. There are lots of famous records I happen not to have heard, some of which I might think were fantastic if I did hear them, but quite honestly I haven’t had time in the past year to hear any more music than I have, and I consider it infinitely preferable to stumble across music organically than to be guided to it just because it’s famous …

Various Artists – Straight Outta B.C. – Tape One (hip-hop)

B.C. Birmingham City. Britain’s second city, and crucible of the world’s first industrial revolution; ask most people in Britain about it though, and they’ll probably think it’s just some Midlands city, and they certainly won’t think of music at the first mention of the name. Unlike Liverpool, Manchester or London, Brum is not associated in the public imagination with any particular act or scene, and it is generally a byword for mediocrity rather than a paragon of cultural excellence. This is a total misconception, and in the field of music Birmingham has particular historical significance, with formal music institutions that possess an international reputation; Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Napalm Death have all re-written metal from this West Midlands base …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Why do I write reviews? Largely so that I can blag free music instead of buying it like everyone else, and so I can kid my conscience that my inane ramblings are an adequate substitute for paying musicians their due. Of course I can (and will, given half a chance) list any number of more high-minded motivations, but I always feel that the transaction is balanced in my favour; so when this CD was pressed on me by guitarist Simon Rollo, and a review requested with the circumspection of a man asking me to clean the diarrhoea off his sofa, I was amused, embarrassed and confirmed in my impression of Three Thrones, which is that whatever they’re full of, it’s not themselves.

Copywrite – God Save The King (Proper English Version) (hip-hop)

Underground hip-hop takes distinct forms on either side of the Atlantic, to the extent that it’s arguable that ‘British underground hip-hop’ refers to a genre distinct from the American equivalent, rather than a geographically differentiated variety of the same thing. Arguable, but that doesn’t mean I think that’s necessarily the case… I do think that there are some important cultural differences (place and ethnicity both have very different functions in the construction of American and British identity), but I also think that the adherents of hip-hop’s undergrounds probably have more in common globally than they do with their local mainstreams. That being the case, transatlantic collaborations seem to be a little thin on the ground…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Serious pop music: I love it. Of course most pop music has been made with a serious attention to getting the sound right, such as it is, but then there’s the stuff that applies the language and sensibility of pop to its chosen themes in a manner that looks way beyond the superficial concerns of the mainstream. Obviously the ‘popular music’ label has ended up including tons of stuff, such as extreme metal and progressive rock, that have pretty much nothing to do with pop, but while DIN Martin’s filigreed post-punk is hardly in the pop mainstream (and is certainly a lot more gloomy than anything that charts these days), but there’s still something distinctly pop about this.