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January 31, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 24/4/00 - The Star & Garter, Manchester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 2:55 pm

The first thing I ever had released as a Solo Artiste was on Fortuna Pop records and so for several years afterwards I got counted as one of their ARTISTES, despite the fact that every time I spoke to Sean Fortuna Pop about putting something else out he’d get a dreamy kind of look in his eyes and either have to go somewhere else very quickly or would become poorly. Maybe the excitement of the idea was too much for him?

Anyway, this association occasionally led me to getting booked with other bands on the label, one such being The Butterflies Of Love. The Butterflies Of Love - or The ButtLove, for a) short b) never ending hilarity - are an American Band who were forever coming over and touring the UK. You might think it’s a long way to go for a gig but LOADS of American bands do it for one very good reason: no matter how much we’d like to claim otherwise, the British Indie Kids absolutely LOVE Americans. We’ll be as surly as you LIKE, cursing George Bush and sneering at New York’s claims to have originated Punk (THEY DIDN’T), but the very instant we hear an American Accent we are like so many Wartime housewives, waving our pinnies at them in the hope of getting some nylons.

And so it was with The Buttlove - they needn’t really have bothered to learn any songs, all they had to do was say “Why… hello there” like some kind of TWEE PRIVATE EYE and every heart was a flutter, every mind EAGER to hang around outside the gig afterwards to see if they’d bought any bubble gum, comics or BANANAS over for us. GEE WHILLACKERS we sure dug them yanks!

This time they were touring the country with the marvellous band The Chemistry Experiment, back in the days when they were an Indie Band rather than the PROG JAZZ Collective they’ve since morphed into - I don’t know why I’m always so surprised about that happening, it’s not like Lee (FLAUTIST) was INVISIBLE, and I even helped CARRY the glockenspiel a few times. Anyway, the pull of these two acts together was too much for me to miss, so I went to SEVERAL gigs they were playing and managed to get myself booked on for the Manchester leg.

For some reason I was booked SPECIFICALLY as a solo act - maybe Sean had been talking to Half Man Half Biscuit fans? - and it was my first one in a long old time. I practiced a LOT and even learnt up “Seymour Stein” by Belle & Sebastian especially for the occasion, which seemed to go down OK. The whole gig was actually quite pleasant - I sat down (as I rather foolishly DID for solo gigs at that time) and sang and had a lovely chat with the audience. It was DELIGHTFUL.

SO delightful in fact that I didn’t want to leave. I trudged off sorrowfully to the station, only to find that I’d missed the last train home… well, actually, that’s NOT what happened, that’s just what I told everybody. Yes, the TRUTH can now be told - I told a BIG FIB just so I could stay and watch the gig and CADGE a lift home! YEARS of hiding the TRUTH at last are ended - I stood on the platform MISERABLE, thinking “But I wanted to stay! that was brilliant!” Very slowly my Naughty Brain (as opposed to my Well-Behaved one) whispered “Just go back! What’s the worse that can happen? GO BACK!” and as I did so I felt a RUSH of JOY. The further I got from the station and the less the chance I’d have of changing my mind, the MORE excited I got, so much so that I had to stand around outside the pub trying to calm down so I could re-enter looking suitable UPSET and ANNOYED about missing the train.

I was glad to be back, as the building was FULL of lovely people, and also MJ HIBBERT. I was stood around watching a band when a SCARY geezer came over and said “ARE YOU MJ Hibbett? HERE! LOOK at THIS!” and he THRUST his bank card at me. “Hello MJ Hibbert!” I said. “Hello MJ Hibbett!” he replied, and we EMBRACED. He’d kept seeing the poster for this gig around town saying HE was playing (my name is CONSTANTLY getting misspelt, and Hibbert is far and away the most popular version) so he’d thought he’d best come along and have a look. I wondered, at the time, why so many people were looking on at us GOGGLE EYED. Had they never seen two men in a MANLY EMBRACE before I wondered? It turns out he was Notoriously Hard, and people thought we were about to have a FITE!

Violence did NOT occur on this occasion, and I managed to get a VAN ride back to the East Midlands with the touring party. I stayed at one of their houses, where the only sleeping space available was a mattress in the front room also occupied by Mr John Jervis, of the independent record label Where It’s At Is Where You Are. I can highly recommend him as a sleeping partner - we lay in the dark and LARFED like two GIDDY schoolchildren, as the combination of BEER, AMERICANS, and Jerv’s general HILARITY meant we were awake into the early hours GIGGLING like nanas about all sorts of things. I distinctly remember a conversation about EYEBROWS making me TITTER for about ten minutes.

I know there’s not been MUCH mattress bothering or night-time hi-jinks so far in this series, but come on, EYEBROWS! It was worth waiting for!

January 30, 2008

The PhoeniX 50 : 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized, music, reviews, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 5:37 pm

Better late than never! This was started back in December but I moved house, then got ill, then there was plague of locusts, my dog ate the homework etc. etc.
So here it is the legendary PhoeniX 50. A semi-favourite songs of the year affair where I
 
a)       Wax lyrical about the glories of a good pop single like a simple dog excited about a bone
b)       Inevitably get a load of e-mails saying “actually that was out two years ago…”
c)       Promote my love for songs and / or bands that I may well regret giving early support to over the course of the next 12 months (oh how easy it is to get “swerved” by an early single)
 
The following rules apply
 
a)       Only one song per band
b)       In order to escape charges of nepotism (I don’t work for NME after all) I haven’t included any songs that may have released via PopArt or any songs by people who have seen me in my pants
 
 
Are you ready? Well yes down and here we go…
 
The PhoeniX 50 2007
 
 
 

50
This Is Pop (Live XFM Session)
Charlotte Hatherley

A spiffing cover version of the XTC tune by the ex-Ash guitar maiden. Not big nor clever but always fun during an “i-shuffle”
 
 
 
 

49
Just a Song About Ping Pong
Operator Please

Yeah yeah.. It’s a novelty single by a bunch of (possibly stage school) Australian kids but hey! atleast it’s a silly speedball head rush of a novelty single by Australian school kids. In at number 49 for the “CHEATER! LIAR!” bit alone. 
 
 
 

48
Painting New York On My Shoes
Poppy & The Jezebels

Sounding like the X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene recounting a misty dream over some almost self-taught piano this song charmed me in the early parts of 2007.
 
 

47
A Ghost In The Arcade
Idlewild

They may have disappeared into post-peak mediocrity but this blistering little tune was still a treat.
 

46
Disconnect the Dots
Of Montreal

Half of me thinks this is too smug by half “Oh look we’ve got 80’s synths” U.S. indie-smindie tedium, the half of me is quite charmed by the fact it sounds like Ken Stringfellow “doing a Postal Service”. Oh the conflict! … Still, I keep listening to it so it’s in at 46. Poppet.
 

45
The Last Parade On Ann St.
Chris Bathgate

Singer-songwriter-sometimes SLGTM bassist Chris Bathgate is in at number 45. with this song that seems lost in a whisper until the final reverb drenched guitar outro that sounds like heaven crying.
 

44
Legs ‘N’ Show
Glasvegas

Admittedly “Daddy’s Gone” was funnier (in a sing along doing your own comical impression of singer James Allan’s vocals) but this fuzzed up JAMC go doop wop blast was the track that gets me excited. If the CBP (Chavy British Public) take Glasvegas to their heart in 2008 there could be pub sing longs of such scale it would be as if The Proclaimers and Oasis had produced a distorted spawn. Frightening… yet also strangely exciting.
 

43
Click, Click, Click, Click
Bishop Allen

Yeah yeah… it’s generic U.S. radio friendly indie rock but I’m sucker for an instant almost jingle-esque chorus and this chorus delivers in spades plus I admire their mercenary business savvy in them fully going for the “indie girls who take photos” demographic. How do I sleep at night? I pretend this is by the Eels or someother band that’s “allowed”.
 

42
Mansard Roof
Vampire Weekend

This sounds like the classic ”Concrete & Clay” re-imagined by a band forced to play on a Polynesian cruise ship. More power to them, I say.
 

41
Strangers
The Sailplanes

A fine unleashing of pounding bass, wirey guitars and joy dividing synth from this London band.
 

40
I Am John
Loney, Dear

Yet another “Swedish indie-pop” charmer of a song, the difference this time is that at the end it all goes falsetto crazy and sounds a bit like Barry Gibb gatecrashing a Hidden Cameras’ recording session. Fantastic.
 

39
Delivery
Babyshambles

He’ll never release a brilliant album (and he’ll never top those classic Libertines singles) BUT dear old “Cheeky Pete” can still knock out great tunes like this.
 

38
Golden Skans
Klaxons

Being more manufactured than McFly, even sillier than SFA and fuelled by Bill Drummoned pop philosophies should make Klaxons a hell of a lot more entertaining than the “alright I suppose… if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing” product that they actually are. Still, this is classic “Indie goes Top Ten” crossover hit that will be used on Question Of Sport as backing music to sports clips from 2007 for years to come. Hooray! 
 

37
Australia
The Shins

After loving “Chutes Too Narrow”, I found The Shins’ follow up album “Wincing The Night Away” something of a disappointment but in the handful of tunes that got repeated plays this year was “Australia”… a charming little funbundle of a song if ever there was one.
 

36
Western Meadowlark
Brown Recluse Sings

Chortle. The 8 year old in me find’s this bands name hilarious, it instantly brings to mind someone who is advertising a new brand of constipation relief leaping off the toilet with a fist in the air proudly declaring “FINALLY… Brown Recluse Sings!” followed by some notes on a tuba. “But what of the music?” I hear you ask. Well, this is a little charmer, a bit like the bass and drum track of U2’s “With Or Without You” over dubbed with some splendid fey U.S. indie.
 

35
What’s a Girl to Do?
Bat for Lashes

Semi-spooky bit of cinematic harpy wailing entwined with spokenword over harpsichord notes entwined over a Spector beat. Essentially it’s just Black Box Recorder for ATP types but still I declare this great stuff.
 

34
Super Trouper
Camera Obscura

Traceyanne Campbell and company drag out every inch of sadness out of the Abba classic with this slowed down softly strummed cover version.
 
 

33
I’m A Soldier
The Afghan Whigs

A new track from their 2007 best of (”Unbreakable: A Retrospective”) “I’m A Soldier” showed that Greg Dulli and the boys still could deliver soul tinged-90’s alt rock with gusto.
 

32
The One U Wanna C
Prince

“His Royal Badness” was reunited with Wendy & Lisa for this ace power popping track.
 

31
Heinrich Maneuver
Interpol

Yet another brooding anthem to stroll around mysteriously to while wearing a duffle coat from everyone’s favourite gloom rockers.
 

30
Dashboard
Modest Mouse

A cracking piece of modern alternative from the band that also won the “Most Successful Guitarist Wanted Advert” award this year.
 

29
Sirens of Titan
Zan Pan

Ridiculous and sublime in equal measures, “Sirens of Titan” sounded like Marc Bolan and Sparks surfing on a punkoid rainbow generated from Rush’s amplifiers. Wins the award for “most outrageous single of the year” hands down.
 

28
You! Me! Dancing!
Los Campesinos!

Depending on my mood, I find the music of Los Campesinos! either extremely irritating or extremely exhilarating. For my money this was their bestest offering of the year, starting with slowly and soft strums on a guitar the intro builds into a cacophony of noise before the driving riff kicks in. The listener is then plunged headfirst into a dizzying rush of guitars, glockenspiels and indie boy / indie girl vocals with the song stopping and starting at all the right places just like a pop rollercoaster.
 

27
I Want You Back
The School

Admittedly this was just the demo on their Myspace page BUT what a tune it is. Sounding a bit like The Concretes with a greater spring in their step this song is one of the highlights of the live sets. Hopefully 2008 will see the release of the actual version.
 

26
I Wish That I Could See You Soon
Herman Düne

Actually out in 2006 (I believe) but the song and the video only seemed to get wider appreciation this year. This is a great little ditty about keeping calm when your loved one is far from you by the using the advice of angels in the role of backing singers. Or something.
 

25
Bluebells
Patrick Wolf

Ah the use of fireworks as percussion. Ah the crooning vocals. Ah the glam-boho romance of it all.
 

24
Nag Nag Nag Nag
Art Brut

“Older? Wiser? This song’s the decider,” sang Eddie Argos on this spiffing good comeback single. Dealing with the classic “Mid - Late 20’s crises” has never been relayed in songform better than this.
 

23
Baby’s Coming Back
McFly

In a move akin to as if Oasis released a cover of “Get It On”, McFly decided to cover a song of which they had already stolen the intro from (for “Obviously”). Still mustn’t grumble it gave the lads yet another Number One Pop Hit plus it finally took the legacy of cult power popper’s Jellyfish into the bedrooms of teenage girls. It’s a shame that McFly’s only other single of the year “The Heart Never Lies” was utter shyte.
 

22
    Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls
Pelle Carlberg

Charming piece of Indiepop from (guess where… yes it’s) Sweden, CGLCBMMTCBLCG does everything you’d expect it to and then some.
 
 

21
Black Jacks
Girls Aloud

At the risk of sounding like one of those godawful websites that patronisingly bang on about how pop music (or anything that has pseudo-Goldfrapp electric synth blips in it) is sooooooo much better and artiscally futurist than the Kooksian Indie Rock, it does have to be said that Team GA (that’s the managers, producers, writers and the five semi-celebs that front the product) are one of the best groups of the decade. I wouldn’t dare suggest that any of their albums are classics but when it comes to the crunch the dizzying arrangements, occasionally cavalier song structures (”Biology”) and non-sensical lyrics of GA will leap the next generation gap far easier than the likes of the Foo Fighters. Anyhow, this album track from their new album “Tangled Up” shows Team GA at their best throwing together melodic verses that are bit like Blondie’s “Sunday Girl” over a backing track that evokes a futurist take on Mike Flowers Pops. Then the chorus explodes covered in a wall of crashing guitars before a shouty Le Tigre-esque cheerleader bit is thrown in as if just for fun. Splendid, if this isn’t a single in 2008 then their record label are a bunch of buffoons.
 
 
 

20
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
Biffy Clyro

Pounding drums, gruff vocals, crashing guitars that occasional riff n’ shred, strings and choirs flow through the song like angels slaying demons… yes it’s the world of HORMOAN RAWK. The album version of this is immense! If I was 16 this would have been my song of the year but alas I’m 30 so it peaks at number 20.
 
 

19
No Cars Go
The Arcade Fire

Yes The AF make a really good big slab of noise don’t they? It’s all a bit obvious and easy to say that they’re rather good. But I won’t punish them for it. Still this song wins the rare but prestigious “best saxophone solo of the year” award.
 
 

18
One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer
Lucky Soul

Dear old Lucky Soul, having seen them grow from seedlings in 2006 to a band getting 5 out of 5 in the Metro and doing proper tours in 2007 I felt a bit like a parent who had seen his child go off and make their way in the world. This summer indie hit is a heart bursting, strings exploding lesson in pop glory with a fabulous day brightening outro to boot.
 
 
 

17
Profit In Your Poetry
Butcher Boy

What is in the Butcher Boy’s pop sausages? I hear you ask. Well the ‘niX tastes a little bit of Love, a little bit of The Smiths and dare I say it some Moody Blues-esque seasoning. A tasty bite if you’re feeling cinematically wronged on rainy walk to work.
 

16
Better as a Girl
The Stricken City

Hands down winner of “Bass Riff of The Year”, London’s The Stricken City are kinda like Life Without Buildings for Echobelly / Brit-Pop fans. Nothing wrong with that I say and I love the kickass indie-in-a-garage guitar solo on this where you can hear the plectrum hitting the scratch plate.
 
 

15
Tears Dry On Their Own
Amy Winehouse

Amy Whinehouse is at number 16? Yes… what of it? A tune’s a tune and this 60’s soul pastiche delivers in spades. Plus the title is very true which is odd as I heard someone say at a bus top that Amy hasn’t known what “dry” is for years. I paid no attention… I’m not one for gossip.
 
 

14
I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
Black Kids

If this would have been out a few months earlier it would have been higher in the PX50 (I’m already regretting it being so low), in 2008 expect Black Kids to get hyped in that annoying faux-low key “Interweb Blog! Interweb Blog! Oh aren’t we clever we’re making indiekids think they’ve discovered them” marketing approach (see also Arcade Fire, Artic Monkeys) that could mean that their popularity will peak in April before fading out into apathy by September (see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Hot Hot Heat). STILL, lets focus on NOW… this song is great. Yelpy Robert Smith vocals over a genre defying backing track with easily chant along / shout along bits and a chorus suitable for every sexually frustrated indieboy. According Dave Rees they ripped off a band called The Violet Pets… maybe but I think it’s unlikely that one of the ten people to experience the VP’s went on to be a member of Black Kids. Plus it’s far; far more accomplished than anything the VP’s achieved. Lament.
 
 

13
My Friend in a Comfortable Chair
Cats On Fire

I think this was actually released years ago but people only started banging on about them this year so who cares. Charming jangle-jangle indiepop from (guess where?… ha ha tricked you! Not from Sweden this time) Finland that wears its “Hatful of Hollow” influence on its sleeve.
 
 

12
On Call
Kings of Leon

This sounds like the big stadium rock hit that Urge Overkill shoulda produced in the mid 90’s but didn’t (produced by Gil Norton naturally). Some people love KoL. Some people loathe KoL… personally I can take them or leave them BUT this song hits all PXPL’s buttons. At moments, it’s eerie yet peaceful like staring out of a log cabin window at midnight and then at other moments it roars softly yet sternly like a protective lioness protecting her cubs. A lesson in comeback singles if ever there was one.
 

11
Umbrella
Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z)

The best thing about 2007 was the MP3 sales fuelled return of genuine pop hits. Whether you loved or hated the songs, artists and demographics that made up the 52 weeks worth of top tens you have to admit they way singles now climb, fall and climb again in the charts is so much better than the “straight into the top ten and then straight out of the charts with an anchor” culture that slowly ruined the concept of Pop Music and killed off Top Of The Pops over the past 8 years. All they need to do is being back ToTP on a Thursday night (WITHOUT pointless live performances of dance hits involving failed glamour models prancing around and without Fearne and Reggie please) and we’ll have weather that matches it’s season, a reduction in street crime and oh by golly terrestrial telly will stop bombarding us with rubbish cooking / ice skating / ”making chavs look decent” shows and start showing proper programs again like Wrestling, The Monkees and Blake’s 7. I remember when this was all fields etc.
 
Anyhow, the return of “proper” charts gave us a proper long, thick, sustainable “number one for the whole of summer” hit single for the first time in ages and what a belter it was. A nagging low burn of a chorus (with it’s instantly irritating yet unstoppable and enjoyable ”ELLA ELLA ELLA” hook) mixed with its thumping synth drums and blippy electro arrangement that does a truckload of work without the listener even realising. Heck even, the Jiggaman turns up and half raps / half mumbles all over the intro just because he can. Add to this a video where “slightly famous but not a household name yet” R&B star Rihanna was re-styled /re-invented as an urban Aeon-Flux pop superstar, and it just goes to show that Pop Music shouldn’t be written off just yet it just needs a bit of stardust, a bit of effort and a bit of belief in it’s importance.
 
 

10
Dead Sounds
The Raveonettes

Sometimes I just want to hear a song that sounds like 80’s goth vampires invading an episode of Happy Days only to come into conflict with a crucifix waving Tom Bosley. When I do get this urge I reach for this splendid fuzzed-up ramma-lamma ding-dong of a single by Sune and Sharin.
 
 

9
Flux
Bloc Party

 

I still find it hard to become a fan of this band HOWEVER songs such as this make it hard for me to fault them. “Flux” is a delicious headrush of Giorgio Moroder synth blips, epic wailing indie guitar heroics and misery guts vocals. PLUS the video has people dressed up as giant alien robots beating each other up. Superb.  
 

 

8
The Song Is The Single
BARR

BARR is a band built around some beat poet type. I can’t say I’m a massive fan of the band but the “Song Is The Single” is ace… kinda like Stephen Malkmus freeforming tales about disastrous lower league indie careering over a pounding Glitter-beat, some driving bass and some minimalist piano.
 

7
Those Dancing Days
Those Dancing Days

Just when I feel a bit too ”seen it all before” to like new bands I often hear something that puts a huge grin on my face and makes me think, “Heck! Yes there ARE still great new pop songs to be written and celebrated!” Hearing this song was one of those moments, it comes across as if Ace Of Base were re-invented as a lo-fi band with rattling drums and twangy 80’s indie guitar parts. Brilliant… this is like a Eurotrash version odf “Debaser”. Or something.
 

6
Our Velocity
Maxïmo Park

You’ve gotta love the Park. They’re the kind of indie band that the UK will always need… they stack up a fine array of top 30 hits and then turn up to the festivals at tea time and play them all with pride and gusto. Lovely. This was the first single from their second album and what fun I had mechanically marching on the spot bellowing along to it “I’m not a man.. I am machine!” I did this all summer and I’m still doing it now if it gets played. Now that’s what I call artistic impact.
 
 
 

5
When I Lose My Eyes
Saturday Looks Good To Me

SLGTM’s 2007 album “Fill Up The Room” was fantastic! My album of the year… but the rules of the PX50 only allow one song per artist so I’m going with track three. “When I Lose My Eyes” see’s SLGTM main main Fred Thomas expore the concept of love surviving physical decay over six minutes of demented, emotional, rattlingly heroic indie heaven.  This song has everything… so much so that the melodic riff that acts as a hook in the chorus is played by different arrangements of instruments each time it pops round (for example a Wizzard-esque rock n roll sax arrangement one time round, a Disney styled string section the next). At the end of the chorus Fred sings “…to finally find you” like he’s about to bursts into tears at the sheer realisation of his soul searching and before you can take in the sheer scope of what Fred is thinking and feeling the rattling drums kick in and it’s in to verse two. The whole song ends with crashing electric guitars that sound like the waves of death crashing into and destroying the vessel of physical life. If you lose yourself in this song you’ll need to lay down in a dark room afterwards just to feel normal again.
 
 

4
Rule the World
Take That

Lovely old Take That. They do what it says on the tin. They are a pop group. They are entertainers. They don’t want you to feel their pain.. they want to ease your pain. The makers of  ”Stardust” went to Mr. Gary Barlow’s office and said, “Hey Mr. Gary Barlow we’re doing a film can you do a big silly romantic song for us. Y’know like what films had in the 90’s and then we can do a promo vid for the song and stick lots of bits from film… y’know quick flashes of action mixed with close ups of the most famous people in the film”. Mr. Gary Barlow pondered for a while before imagining his fingers on his piano, suddenly Mr. barlow looked up and declared, “Oh yes Mr. Film Maker …The That will indeed deliver the goods for you.” And oh how they did… a song that sounds like Valentines Day, fireworks night and Christmas rolled into one. Lovely. Plus it has the great outro where Gary Barlow sings “Ah’ll the stars, are coming out tonight they’re lighting up the sky tonight…. For you, …for you” in a camp Britpop Suede-esque kinda way. Brilliant …all a boy of a certain age could ask for.
 
 

3
Vuitton Blues
The Laurel Collective

If there’s any justice in the world, The Laurels would hit the hearts and the pockets of the nations young and young at heart like a tornado. Here’s a band who could… nay should have a cultural impact on the charts that matches the likes of The Specials or The Stone Roses. Not that they particularly sound like either band but that’s one of the brilliant things about The Laurels. They don’t sound like anybody else. They don’t dress like they’re trying to fit a genre. Add to this the fact that their lyrics are light years away from their peers and the fact that they can blow another band off the stage with their blistering live performances and I think you’ll agree we’ve got a band that could help kickstart creativity and originality in the UK. In my innocent little pop hits world where everything is still all The Chart Show / Top Of The Pops and the NME / Melody Maker still making Wednesday’s exciting, I reckon that the Laurels have five. Yes FIVE “should be Top Ten smash hits” in them… “Vuitton Blues” is one them. Instantly catchy, constantly rewarding… god bless em.
 

2
Run-Away
Super Furry Animals

Now then, I do like a bit SFA. Unlike every other band from “The Britpop Wars”, SFA still haven’t released a complete duffer of an album (maybe some of them have been a bit “hazy” but they have released any actual “Head Music” styled duffers). Even so, this splendid fuzzed up-Glam rock meets Phil Spector gem felt kinda like a return to form.
 
 
 

1
Men’s Needs
The Cribs

A catchy riff, an outsider stance, vocal interplay mixed with a splendid bit of pop sensibility. All these things make for a great pop single in my opinion and “Men’s Needs” delivered them in spades. It’s an exhilarating 3 minutes worth of guitar pop… the like of which is rarely made these days. From the instant “diddly diddly did  dee dee dee” guitar riff and Gary Jarman’s opening despondent vocals (“Have you noticed I’ve never been impressed by your friends from New York and London?”) through till Ryan Jarman shouting out the chorus like his life depended on it, up until the final scratchy guitar / bass one note outro (that’d make a great hip hop sample).
 
Like the Ramones before them, the Cribs are kinda like the idiot savants of pop. They were never really been considered contenders but have not only outlived all the other “post-Strokes” bands but also out performed them easily simply by churning out a handful of irresistible indie-punk anthems over the past three years. The result is a dedicated fanbase and chance on album number three to break “the glass ceiling” and “Men’s Needs” did everything it needed to do to launch the band into the top 20, get them a slot at the V Festival and net Ryan Jarman a celebrity girlfriend (bizarrely… Kate Nash !?!)
 
Naturally being The Cribs there’s some “Whoa-oh oh oh’s!” thrown in just before the instrumental break. Franz’ Alex Kapranos does a splendid job making quite the impression as a producer, giving The Cribs sound some much needed pop-sheen subtly mixing in some soft plinky (almost steel-drum sounding) synth notes to highlight the chorus like a wash on a painting.
 
This single is a lesson in pop-craft that all secondary indie bands stuck at the Barfly should pay attention to.


 

Atlong last PopArt: our end of 2007 message

Filed under: Uncategorized, editorial, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 5:15 pm

2007! Where to start? 2007 was such a blur that it’s only now that I get a chance to actually look at what was seen, heard and achieved over the past 12 months. I’m not going to bang on about the large amounts of dreary, clichéd averageness on Mtv2 and in the music press as I’ve moaned enough about this recently, I’m going to use this Review to focus on some of the great moments at PopArt had this year. 

From a PopArt point of view it’s a lot harder to look back on 2007 with clear eyes than it was to look back on 2006. PopArt promised to go further and be bigger, better, more in 2007. It was a reckless promise, 2006 had been a blast… we defied our critics, got to meet some of our heroes and made Time Out.   

The thing about 2006 was that we only did events sporadically giving us the opportunity of a few weeks after each event to catch our collected breaths and revel in the memories of the good times had.   

In 2007 we took the PopArt All-Dayer concept to Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes on a Monthly basis. Each all-dayer had a different theme, a different gameshow, and several band slots to arrange and fill. The result being that as soon as one PopArt Sunday event had finished we were thrust into arranging the next one. It was quite a dizzying experience… not that we want the violins of sympathy to come out (we thrived on the challenge of it all… especially inventing increasingly more ridiculous gameshows for Dave Rees to host) but ultimately it was a dizzying year for a group of lads who also have to hold down boring proper day jobs to pay the rent.   

The dizzying effect reached it’s peak in the summer where we organised two PopArts at Bloomsbury (the “controversial” PopArt Idol & the Now That’s What I Call PopArt 80’s themed event) AND three days worth of bands and games for the PopArt Weekender 2 all taking place within the same 5 week period. So dizzying I think I actually forgot my own name several times during those weeks. Still like I said, us PopArt boys do thrive on a challenge.   

So then what with all this “dizzying” going on, there really wasn’t time this year for us to constantly pat ourselves on our backs and think about all the wonderful things we had achieved but now with our successful NYE night a memory, I can now sit back and declare “Yep we only bloody did it!”   

We aimed to bigger; better, more… well excuse us while we blow our own trumpets:    

  • We pulled off eleven successful and varied all-day events (each with at least FIVE live bands). One of these events was the monumental THREE DAY extravaganza we call the “PopArt Weekender 2”. 

  • We released our first commercial record: a split single from “And What Will Be Left Of Them?” and “Brontosaurus Chorus”. Being PopArt we weren’t just satisfied putting out a vinyl record so we also gave each sale exclusive access to all manner of downloadable content. 

  • We put together the “PopArt: Covered At Christmas” charity compilation with all manner of brilliant exclusive tracks by brilliant artists. Monica Queen’s cover of “Lips Are Unhappy” got us mentioned in the German version of Rolling Stone. 

  • The first song to played at a PopArt event via Dj’ing was “Alcohol” by U.S. indie gods Saturday Looks Good To Me. It was essentially the song that christened PopArt. Imagine our joy when Fred Thomas of SLGTM texted Dom asking if they could play a secret gig at PopArt. Imagine our even greater joy when they opened their set with “Alcohol”. 

  • Events like Brit-PopArt, Bowl & Sebastian 2 and NYE being rammed full of excitable and happy “smart kids”. We take delight from making happiness. It’s the thing we treasure most. 

  So (to quote “Sweet Child O’ Mine”) where do we go, where do we go now, where do we go now? 

  The general consensus amongst the PopArt 5 (that’s ScoobyDom, Tamla Tim, The Quill, Dave Rees & I) is that we have done all we can do with last years “Once a month at the Bloomsbury Alldayer” battle plan. We aim to release more records… possibly branching out into other media (podcasts etc.) HOWEVER that doesn’t mean that PopArt is gonna stop coming atcha live. Infact it means the opposite, we are aiming to reduce the amount of live alldayers that we do BUT make the ones we do put on EVEN BIGGER and EVEN BETTER…. The concept is known to us as “The PopArt: Big Four”. 

  Also, do you remember those sweaty, bad-ass devastating “no bands just tunes n’ booze” dance fests we used to do monthly? Well we’re looking to bring them back (if you can suggest a decent venue please let us know). 

  Now then, I can tell you bursting to find out all about this …but we don’t want to make promises we may not be able to keep. All I’m saying is keep ‘em peeled. 

  So in closing on behalf of PopArt, I want to say a big THANK YOU to the bands & artist that always put 100% into playing music / getting involved with ludicrous gameshows at PopArt. The bands that played were all lovely types but big shout outs have to go to: Mr. Solo, MJ Hibbet, Pocketbooks, The School, The Spells and our good friends Swimsuit Issue, Pocus Whiteface, AWWBLOT & The Laurels for the extra support and effort they have put in. 

  A massive thank you has to go to our friends (Di, Nooshie, Stef, Kerrie, Loz, B.S.E to name but 6) for helping out with props, decorations, door duty and other very important things that I’m sure I’m normally to be busy / stressed or drunk to appropriately thank them for at the time. 

  But the biggest thank you as ever goes to anyone who came to an event or bought a record (or even if you just look at our pretty fliers). An event without “smart kids” attending is just an empty room. So thank you… you all appear to be on our side in this “Indie Civil War” that’s occurring., so lets go over the trench and take it to the “Skins” types in 2008. First person to get Conor McNicholas pubicly embaressed and sacked from NME gets a DJ slot (proof required naturally). 

  

Keep a little PopArt in Your Heart,

    

PhoeniX PhiL  On behalf of PopArt Enterprises 

January 29, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 4/4/00 - The Bull & Gate, London

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 1:10 pm

Back back again at the Bull & Gate for the next chunk of touring action with Johnny Domino. The Validators had gone down a bit early so we could do a session for Imperial College’s radio station, in their basement studio. Frankie and I had been and done a session for them the year before which was GRATE. We’d arrived to find the studio locked so we were FORCED to march the borderline underage engineer round to the pub to have a LOT to drink before doing the session at high speed then taking him out on the RAZZ with us, seeing another band then going CLUBBING. It was a different youngster this time - I hope this was just the natural CYCLE of CHANGE at student stations. Nobody SAID the last chap had mysteriously disappeared, last seen in a gutter, so I think it was OK.

This time the studio was fully open but we still had a fine old time playing and, vitally, having a much-needed practice. As mentioned previously, our fresh-faced teenage bassist Ollie was soon to head off to University and as he’d been unable to make this gig we thought we might as well try out a new arrangement, with Frankie moving over from lead guitar to bass and me playing ALL the guitar bits on my own. Things suddenly became significantly more PUNK. Frankie’s an excellent, rather florid guitar player, especially compared to me and my tendency to try and hit as many strings as possible and hope I’ve got the basic chords right. Conversely, I was originally a bass player and tend to be very wibbly wobbly boingy boingy (technical terms), whereas he plays more in the Peter Hook tradition of HERE! IS! THE! BASS!

Now, you might wander why we chose to go that way, instead of retaining Frankie’s guitar expertise and having me switch to bass. The answer is simple: playing bass and singing is REALLY HARD. Bass itself isn’t difficult - it’s actually PEASY, although you’d not guess it from the plethora of pillocks that try to do SLAPPING or play with six strings or fretlessly in an effort to make out like it’s DIFFICULT. It ISN’T - if you want to play something that ISN’T easy be a man about it and get some bagpipes!

No, the difficulty comes from trying to play bass AND sing simultaneously. It’s hard ENOUGH for me when it’s just the guitar and singing, as there’s always about 500 things going on in my mind at the same time. As proof, here is an unedited transcript of my BRANE PATTERNS at a gig: “How many choruses have we done? Is Tom OK over there? What’s Emma looking at? Are people liking us? What chord comes next? Have I finished my Beer? OH GOD WHAT ARE THE WORDS?!?!”

At least with guitar the changes only happen a few times a minute and you can hit as many strings as you like (well, that’s how I do it), but with the BASS you playing all sorts of different strings in all kinds of places in all MANNER of timings which just CONFUSES a fundamentally Not-Particularly-Musical BRANE like mine. Far better then to avoid the terminal embarrassment of every gig ending with me in TEARS and going for the PUNK EDGE instead.

It was a GOOD GIG, although the thing I remember most clearly about the whole evening was when Johnny Domino turned up at the venue, and each and everyone of them got out of the car and IMMEDIATELY took out a mobile phone, so as to ring their girlfriends. Quite aside from how impressive it was that EVERYONE in that band had a real-live proper girlfriend, it was also remarkable to see them ALL on mobile phones. Hardly any of us had them at that time, and those who DID have them would always make a point, when down the pub, of taking them out of their pocket and ostentatiously placing them on the table, just in case anyone rang. They never did, of course, as the only other people any of us knew who owned one would be sat at the same table, but we’d all LOOK at these wondrous articles of technology with ENVY, also FEAR.

After we’d played we were all rather surprised at how NATURAL this line-up sounded, which was handy as it was pretty much what we were going to be stuck with forever after. It was a good night all round, as Johnny Domino were a) dead good but b) not SO much better than us to make me upset, so everyone was happy. We looked forward IMMENSELY to our final gig of the tour, in our adopted home town of Derby - it was going to be great, wasn’t it?

A clue to the answer to that question can be found in the last two words of the sentence. Just move them round a bit.

January 27, 2008

Again and Again

Filed under: editorial, mr solo — mrsolo @ 11:03 pm

Moving some air is a phrase I use to describe those actions I don’t see the point of and generally don’t want to take but usually lead to some kind of minor transcendental revelation.  My default is probably to sit in front of a murder mystery having devoured the antiques road show - it’s a kind of mogadon I suppose. So moving some air is a pain in the arse akin to a parent saying oh you’ll be glad when you get there as you slouch in the front seat on the way to scouts. Whilst we’re on the subject I actually managed to create my own subculture within scouts, which made it like a rather jolly pretend form of real life. Skip was an academic who took exception to the words “academics kill” on my butty bag and I was at a loss to explain it as I believe my sister wrote it under the influence of the cult of mike (my dad - more of that another day). Still I was called “Punk” at scouts, which still makes me smile because I’ve always been a very polite boy. It was related I know to not having a single badge and liking punk music. Before we move on from scouting (I feel sure we will return to it again at a later date) I should like to reveal that my penchant for double identities and performing was first revealed at our scouts review when I became Superscout in a road safety sketch.

So there I was last night at the Amersham in new Cross moving some air and watching Art Brut. They are a band I knew instinctively were connected to me and my various musical incarnations the first time I heard their song “Formed a band”. This effect is what great pop has on the listener. No sod it great Art speaks directly to the listener or viewer alone. In this case my good friend and fictional manager Steve major talent fishman rang me the next day to say he had got us a gig with a band called Art Brut at the Tate Britain (subject of our first single “Pimlico”) thus amplifying me euphoric feeling that the record had indeed spoken directly to me. Now, however I find myself becoming drawn further and further into the web of art brut and their music. There’s sex metaphysical yearning, hope, defiance, magic, absurdity and did I say Defiance already? Art brut aren’t about destroying consensus reality rather building your own from the ruins of contemporary culture - the rubble that surrounds us. Yeah so where was I? Ah well Eddie’s voice is getting louder and his command more hypnotic but still he remains adorable. It is adoration that became my point of transcendence. After the show I loitered near the dressing room not knowing how big it was and knowing how a band needs space after the gig (oh yeah did I say I’ve played a few shows -we had the ub40 guys backstage and everything - actually it was… well never mind). Eventually I had a great chat with Eddie and after I told him how much I liked their Roman toga video he described how on another shoot the director had paid an audience to behave at a close to psychotic level of ecstatic adoration. This, Eddie revealed felt very therapeutic and really boosted his self-esteem. As we all know because books tell us lots of times, the human brain cannot distinguish between fact and dream. Its almost like the brain is an appendage to our true state (more of that another day). So watch out for a new Crowd Based Therapy at your local GP soon. Failing that I will try my best to make it part of an art installation by the end of the year.

I thank you

January 24, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 27/3/00 - Fair & Firkin, Nottingham

Filed under: mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:52 am

And so began the great PLAN to promote both our album “Say It With Words” and the Johnny Domino album “Players” - The Players With Words Tour!

Do you see what we did there? This seemed very clever at the time and, unusually for such a daft idea, the name stuck, so that years later we STILL refer to this string of gigs by this name. The general idea was that we’d have a GRATE time gigging together around the country, combining our forces so that anybody who’d come to see ONE of the bands would end up enjoying the other. Johnny Domino, in my opinion, are pretty much the BEST band to have ever come out of Derby (and there’ve been MANY good ones), with a live show that is as AWESOME as it is IRREGULAR: and they can go YEARS without a gig, so that’s actually PRETTY AWESOME.

The only slight flaw in this plan was that neither band really HAD many fans - The Domino’s policy of hardly ever gigging, and almost never doing so outside of Derby, meant they were as little known as they were, well, AWESOME (see above) and a quick glance through previous items on this very page will show the kind of popularity level we were operating at. The only advantage to this situation was that each band knew there’d be at least FOUR people who really liked them at every gig … even if they’d got in free, owing to being on tour with them.

Calling it a “tour” was also perhaps going a bit overboard - there were four gigs in the space of a few weeks but none of them were consecutive. It’s very difficult to organise a tour at the best of times, but when you have to beg and plead for each one it makes it tricky to line them up properly, although when the people you’re booking for have a variety of jobs, children, pregnancies and house moves to fit in, keeping them far apart from each other does at least make it easier for everyone to get to them.

The line-up for The Validators was at the end of its transitionary period, with 80% of the final membership turning up for every gig and other people gradually drifting away. The Durham Ox Singers had recently packed in gigging with us, Dr Brown was on his last outing as our synthesiser player (we only had one song that needed it, so it always seemed a bit mean to drag him out just for that), and Ollie was about to set off to University. AAh, Ollie - how we REVELLED in the fact that he was ten years younger than the rest of us, it was like having an APPRENTICE in our Factory Of ROCK, and we were forever metaphorically sending him off to get us cans of stripy paint. I don’t know what the metaphorical equivalent of stripy paint in ROCK would be - the chord H minor, perhaps? - but we certainly sent him to get it, and when that DULLED we would tell him he was middle class. He clearly WASN’T but the fact that he got so upset about it was always a joy to watch. I wonder if he really WAS going to University?

The rest of us were in it for the long-haul, but had a long journey ahead of us before we became the INSANE ROCK AND ROLL ANIMALS that we are today. I clearly remember standing talking to Tom, gently suggesting that although we were not - AS YET - Monsters Of Mental, it was still a good idea if he didn’t tuck his JUMPER into his trousers when we are on stage. “If you do this”, I said, “you will be DELUGED with women!” We then looked across the pub to see Mr Frankie Machine (as Rob was by now to be addressed) surrounded by THREE women, all hanging on his arm and every word. Jealousy levels were EXTREME - that was more women than I’d spoken to at gigs all year!

The gig part of the evening was all a bit depressing. It wasn’t that people actively HATED us, they didn’t boo or throw things, they just LOOKED at us in a distinctly disapproving way. The more we bounced around or ROCKED OUT the more I got the impression that we were DISAPPOINTING them, and that it would be best for everyone if we just packed in all this nonsense right away. Come on, you’ve had your fun, just stop it now and we’ll say no more about it.

The mood was not improved by Johnny Domino’s set, which went down FANTASTICALLY. People danced, cheered, and ELBOWED their way past me to get to their merchandise. I, of course, took delight in their success, as ALL people in bands do. People in Bands are KNOWN for their selflessness and delight in the triumphs of others and I am no different - it may have LOOKED like I was skulking at the back of the room with the rest of The Vlads, SCOWLING at the stage, but I was actually OVERJOYED that a room which had regarded us with DISDAIN was going loopy for The Domino. Couldn’t have been more happy. Wish it happened more often.

There’d be plenty of time for similar JOY over the weeks ahead!

January 22, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: Getting The Big Box Of CDs

Filed under: mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:35 am

Anyone who’s read previous entries here will realise that the world of ROCK is a constant whirl-y-gig of glamour and excitement, a non-stop sled ride through the snow-bound hills of sexy thrills. Sometimes, however, one has to calm down a little bit and do some Administrative Tasks to grease the blades on said sled and re-arrange the metaphorical stirrups on… er… the reindeer of KICKING ASS.

One such occasion was the completion of our first album, when after several months of LARKS in Studios double-tracking backwards guitars and cross-fading the paradiddles it was time to get down to the serious business of mastering and manufacturing. Having recorded and mixed it all with the MIGHTY Mr Kev Reverb in Leicester it seemed like a good idea to do the mastering somewhere else. JARGON EXPLAINED: “mixing” is when you fiddle about with the volume, effects, and general STUFF for all the individual recorded sounds, whereas “mastering” is when you shove the whole thing through a MAGIC BOX to make it sound more exciting. It’s generally thought of as a Good Idea to get a fresh pair of EARS around it, so Frankie and I headed over to The Hive in Derby to get it sorted out.

It was a strange experience for us as The Hive was VERY CLEAN INDEED. At Kev’s studio you had to move magazines, fag ash, cardboard boxes and pot plants out of the way before you could sit on the dilapidated sofa, and the walls were festooned with pictures of Elvis Presley and local Club Singers, also TAT from the market, signed pictures of various bands who’d played there, and STAINS. It was GRATE, but a complete world away from the Sound Baffles and Acoustically Adjusted Mouldings of The Hive, where you weren’t even allowed to SMOKE. I sat quietly in the corner, feeling like an East End Orphan being giving tea up at The Manor House, AFEARED lest I sully the doilies with my soot-soiled paws.

Once it was DONE, however, all that was left to do was wait for CA$H to pay for it. Some bands finance their first album with constant touring, others by taking out massive bank loans and still others by nefarious dealings on the dark side of the economy. Ours was paid for by the writing of a guide to best database practice for the local health authority, called “Making Data Work For You (and not the other way round)”. And if you think THAT sounds Rock And Roll, just wait for the Film Adaptation!

THUS we were ready to send it off for manufacturing. CD Manufacturing is a funny old business, it’s a massive industry which processes millions of copies of thousands of different albums and singles every year but seems to be run almost entirely by the kind of people who Dodgy Plumbers, Naughty Estate Agents and Nigerian Email Scammers would regard as a BIT SHIFTY. I HAVE put out CDs where everything has gone according to plan, items promised have been delivered on time1, costs have remained as specified and telephone calls have been answered, but it has been RARE.

The manufacture of THIS album was one of the worst I’ve ever had. You’d think it’d be simple - they need to make 500 copies of a CD, and have ENORMOUS machines designed to do exactly this, but for some reason it tends to take LONGER to for them to sort it out that in would if you sat and did them one by one at work, even allowing for having to pretend to be busy when people walk by. Cover artwork, no matter how closely you comply with templates, ALWAYS needs adjustment (”It’s the bleed”, they will say) and they always seems to end up charging thirty quid and taking 24 hours to do the three mouse clicks that change the colours from CMYK to RGB.

As you can tell from my slip into TERMINOLOGY, it gets RATHER FRUSTRATING. Worst of all is the process of getting the damn things delivered. After a MONTH of phone calls and (these days) emails the company will FINALLY say they’re ready and agree a date for the CDs to arrive.

They do not arrive. More telephone calls, more time taken off work, more agreed times (and offers from the delivery company to deliver it on a weekend IF you pay them an extra fifty quid) and more ENTIRE DAYS are then spent sitting in COMPLETE SILENCE so as not to miss the knock at the door, JUMPING every time someone tiptoes down the street and RUSHING to the window to see if it’s your lorry until you eventually give up hope at eight o’clock (three hours after the last possible delivery time, with you by now CONVINCED the lorry has gone over a cliff) and go to the pub, GIRDING yourself to go through the whole process again. It is, I suppose, like CHILDBIRTH: a lengthy painful unpredictable process than can go on for AGES during which you vow NEVER EVER EVER to do anything like it again, until your creation eventually arrive and you look it in the eyes and think “Aah, it’s got my barcode!”

The labour in this case went on for a FORTNIGHT, including a SATURDAY when I got up at 7am to wait for twelve hours to no avail, so my JOY when the albums eventually arrived was unparalleled in the history of GLEE, and I spent the next month giving away copies to friends and acquaintances, whose reaction, once I’d got used to it, was Almost Complimentary: “But… this sounds quite good?!? How did that happen?” It was only when I’d sent all the promo copies out and flogged a few at gigs that I started to notice something odd.

I’d stacked all the boxes in my hallway, and one Sunday morning it struck me that, surely, there were too many of them? I counted and, as stated on the outside, each box contained 100 CDs. I’d not got rid of THAT many, so that should have meant there were still all five boxes left but, no matter how many times I walked round and counted them all, there were TEN of them.

They’d sent me twice as many as I’d ordered. Being an honest sort I would, of course, in usual circumstances have rung them straight away to point out the error, but as they’d pissed me around SO much I thought I’d wait and see what happened. A month later I got a very chummy email saying they’d just noticed that they’d sent me twice as many and, as they were so lovely, had decided NOT to charge me the full cost for the whole extra batch. “Just give us a call and we’ll work out a price!” they said.

Being nothing if not forgiving, I replied almost immediately. “I don’t need another 500 copies”, I said, “So you’re welcome to come and collect them. Let me know what time you’re coming and I’ll do my very VERY best to be at home.”

I never heard from them again. VICTORY!

January 17, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 19/2/2000 - The Boardwalk, Sheffield

Filed under: mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 3:13 pm

I wouldn’t like to give the impression that all my gigs have been drunken disasters. This one, for instance, was a drunken TRIUMPH!

The Pop-A-Go-Go All-Dayer (for such it was) was the first time I ever played in Sheffield, all thanks to a rag tag band of survivors who I always thought of as The Velodrome Lot on account for most of them being in the band Velodrome 2000. When I first met them I was thoroughly DOWN about all aspects of gigs, as nothing much was happening for me in Leicester and I was FED UP of hanging round with the same old people, and so they were a GLEAMING BEACON OF HOPE - funny, enthusiastic, down to earth, and generally GRATE at GIGS. THUS I’d been looking forward to this for a LONG time, not just for the gig itself, but because I knew they’d all be there.

I had to arrive early as Penny, who ran these all-dayers, had asked me to COMPERE . For some reason ALL promoters, even otherwise LOVELY and BRAINY ones, believe that if you’re able to stand on a stage on your own and play a guitar then you must ALSO be able to stand on stage and seamlessly bind an entire evening’s entertainment together, taking the audience by the hand from one act to the next, dazzling them with witty remarks and building the whole loose collection of artistes into a festival, a happening, an EVENT. In this belief they are incorrect, at least as far as I’m concerned. Every time I’ve done it I’ve discovered that the HILARIOUS REMARKS I had planned can be described as STUPID at best, ACTUALLY OFFENSIVE at worst. It’s fine when I’m talking about ME, as if it all gets too much I can at least launch into a song to cover it up, but when it’s OTHER people I’m supposed to be talking about… well, lets be honest, if I was THAT interested in talking about other people I would never have joined a band!

Some NAUGHTY promoters do it because it’s a REALLY easy way of fobbing off the solo artiste. Instead of saying “Yeah, we care so little for you that if you absolutely HAVE to sing a song we’d like you to do it while other people who are MUCH more valuable to us than YOU take down or set up their gear behind you and the entire audience has gone for a WEE” they say “Hey! We’d love you to do a few songs BETWEEN acts, you can be the compere!” It’s just more polite, I guess. Doing songs as well makes it an even MORE thankless task, as even if you do REALLY WELL and everyone starts singing along and DANCING then you have to get off the stage and let someone else come on and take advantage of THE GOOD TIMES. Handily this hardly EVER happens and usually you play to the backs of everybody dashing to the bar/toilet, accompanied by the doleful sound of a snare drum, being checked.

HAPPILY this was a GLARING exception to the norm - probably because it was Sheffield, where all is JOY. I started the day by doing a whole proper SET, which garnered the BEST kind of reaction: Reaction From GURLS! One young lady came over and said the song “The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)” had reminded her of someone she knew from Peterborough, who was unable to operate a clutch. All right then. Not QUITE the sort of thing I was after, but she WAS still a LADY, and at that point in my life talking to such exotic creatures was a RARE TREAT. Shortly afterwards ANOTHER came towards me. “THIS could be IT!” I thought, in the way that the Long-Term Celibate often will. “You were very brave,” she said, “it must be scary up there - you looked absolutely terrified!” Perhaps “terrified” was Sheffield street slang for “really sexy”?

Shortly after THAT a bloke came over and asked me for my web address! In these days of blue-tooth enable toothbrushes that may seem entirely unremarkable, but back in the year 2000 it was the first time this had EVER happened, and we BOTH jiggled excitedly at the sheer MODERNITY of our interaction. My webpage address, like so MANY at the time, included a TILDE (this thing ~), it was something I very much enjoyed saying. In the rush to the future, I fear we have abandoned the humble tilde, and I for one mourn its loss. TILDE!

The day progressed DELIGHTFULLY, with me popping up between the acts to sing COVERS like “Back For Good” and “Ooh Stick You” and GRASPING the chance to sing some of my own songs where relevant. At that time there was a band called Vyvyan who were one of those bands ARCHLY “manufactured” by middle-aged men who really SHOULD have better things to occupy their time - LONDON, and by extension the music press, was RIDDLED with them, and they were all AWFUL. They might well have been TERRIBLY AMUSING when thought up in a Soho Cellar, but brought into the light of Actually Happening they were always RUBBISH. Another example was GABBA - Abba songs, sung by The Ramones!! AAHAHA! Julian, that’s BRILLIANT! COCAINE FOR ALL! I went to see them and yes, it was VAGUELY JOLLY for the first couple of songs, but INTENSELY TIRESOME half an hour later when they did the extended version of “Knowing me, knowing you - OI!”

Anyway, the GAG about Vyvyan was that they were GIRLS! YOUNG GIRLS! DOING PUNK! Oh Tristan, please, I’m laughing so hard my SNOOD has fallen off! They themselves may well have been perfectly nice, but the MENAGERIE of SNIGGERING GITS around them were intensely annoying. Like all the SMUG WAZZOCKS that this sort of thing attracts they were HUMMING with the sure knowledge that they were about to BLOW THE TINY MINDS of the YOKELS with their LONDON IRONY. As usual, the band went on and were met with stony faced indifference, gradually changing to vague resentment and, it being Sheffield, CUDDLY FORGIVENESS. I went on straight afterwards and did “Bands From London (Are Shit)” and got the BIGGEST APPLAUSE OF THE DAY.

After that things went a bit blurry - I have a clear memory of a sing-along in the backstage room (which was bigger than most venues I play) with a PHALANX of WOMEN playing BONGOES. It’s the sort of thing that sticks in the mind. There was BEER and DANCING and SHOUTING and every so often I’d stagger out to the front and say the name of a band. After a while I was gently asked if I’d mind not playing any more songs, as they were running short of time. I think perhaps they were being polite, as I’d long since lost control of my Chord Fingers, and anyway, it was soon time for me to stagger off to the tram and make my weary way home.

Since then Penny’s asked me back to play at every all-dayer she’s organised - I can only guess that she offended a local COVEN who CURSED her with my presence for evermore, and am extremely grateful to them for doing so, as they’ve always been TREMENDOUS fun although none, as yet, have featured any more MASSED BONGO WOMEN.

Sheffield: that’s a HINT.

January 15, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: Payday and Hey Hey 16K

Filed under: mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:57 am

Putting out a single is GRATE. No matter what happens in the future, there’ll ALWAYS be a space for the humble single, whether it’s on Holographic 4D TESSERACT or beamed directly into the LIVING MIND, The Kids of The Future will always have room in their hearts (or, as I say, LIVING MINDS) for the stand-alone upbeat dance boogie hit.

Similarly, BANDS will always be drawn to the form, not just because there’s something INTRINSICALLY SEXY about a single as a way of having ONE song penetrate the yielding face of ROCK, but also because it allows you to do a B-Side. B-Sides are ACE - unlike a Single or an Album Track, A B-side almost HAS to be a bit RUM, being EITHER something a bit DAFT and throwaway for a LARK OR an unusually TOUCHING song of which, one hopes, people will say “I can’t BELIEVE it was just a b-side!” As in all things, The Beatles were masters of this, with “You Know My Name (look up the number)” and “This Boy” being perfect examples.

So yes, doing a single is GRATE for everybody, and doing so also means you can make out like you’re having a Big Promotional Push For The Album. You always want to have a Big Promotional Push around the time you’re releasing an album - it’s an EXCELLENT excuse to do some gigs (”Yeah, we’ve got an album out, so there should be a lot of interest” is the CLASSIC Lie To Gig Promoters) and similarly is a Surprisingly Effective way of getting local radio Indie shows to play one of your songs, especially if you can get one of the aforesaid gigs in their catchment area. Above ALL of this, having a Big Promotional Push For The Album legally entitles you to a whole YEAR’S worth of complaining bitterly about not getting a review in the NME.

The only downside of releasing a single is that it tends to cost almost as much to put out as the album itself (especially on CD, when the physical product is pretty much IDENTICAL) but there’s no WAY it’s ever going to pay for itself. THUS, when we were gearing up to unleash our first album, “Say It With Words”, on the world I tried TWO single release strategies, both designed to get round this cost ISSUE.

The first was to release an INTERNET single. Nowadays EVERYONE is doing this as a matter of course, but back in those primitive days of the last century it was UNHEARD OF. There are several bands who claim to have released the first ever Internet Single, but I say IT WAS US - “Hey Hey 16K” came out in October 1999 as a mini-site with two b-sides, proper front and back covers and… well, it was a proper single. And it was THE FIRST! I know Elastica did a thing around the same time where you could email them and they’d reply with a ZIP attachment containing AN mp3, but that’s hardly the same thing is it? First? US!

Cunningly I’d chosen that particular song because, I REASONED, the sort of people who’d have ACCESS to the interweb would be EXACTLY the sort of people who’d be interested in a song about ZX Spectrums, and I was CORRECT. Again, it may seem strange now when everyone and their NAN is online, but back then the internet was the preserve of Academics, Computer Nerds and Scandinavian Indie Kids… and if you drew that demographic as a Venn Diagram you’d've found there was a LOT of coloured-in space in the middle.

The good thing about this is that we got a LOT of hits (in the thousands, which back then was about 10% of the entire interweb) but the downside was that… well, what with most people still wandering around the information super-second hand garage rather than on the actual HIGHWAY, it only ever got heard by the aforementioned Academics, Computer Nerds and Scandinavian Indie Kids.

HENCE - the OTHER plan, an actual VINYL single! As the marvellous Johnny Domino were releasing an album at the same time as us on AAS I REASONED that a Split Single featuring us and them, released a couple of months before both albums, would be the IDEAL way to publicise them. I also REASONED that getting someone else to pay for it would be an IDEAL way of cutting costs so GENEROUSLY decided to offer it to another record company. Yes, I am very kind like that.

The lucky target of my scheme was Tom From Reveal Records, who I chose for three reasons: I knew he was wanting to put some singles out; I knew he could afford to do so; and having got him to give us a gig supporting Half Man Half Biscuit simply by telling him it would be a Good Idea I thought the same tactic might work again. Remarkably, it DID, and soon we were sending off CDs to a pressing plant ready for MASTERING. In no time at all we had TEST PRESSINGS back for checking - in a fit of excitement I washed mine with washing up liquid and a SPONGE. I would not recommend this course of action.

Things took a turn for the FATIGUING when we actually had to put the records together. In a bid to have a Uniform Look for his releases (and also to save money), Tom had bought a huge load of cardboard record sleeves stamped with the Reveal Records logo, to be used for all singles. All we had to do was get some stickers printed and stick them on. Stupidly I thought “Well, if we’re releasing 200 records, I only need to get 200 stickers made” and spent four NERVE WRACKING hours, PAINSTAKINGLY placing every single sticker JUST right, full of DREAD in case I got one wrong and had to go back and get a whole other batch.

When that was done I ran into another problem - Tom felt, understandably, that as he’d paid to manufacture the singles, he didn’t want to pay out for anything else, including publicity. On the one hand, I saw his point - he ran a record shop, and as far as he was concerned records are for SELLING, and certainly not (as I’d always believed) for FOISTING on people when drunk. However, this meant that having reluctantly agreed to give us one each per band he expected to sell all 198 remaining copies for MONEY. After some DEBATE I ended up buying 25 copies off him, at cost price, just so that I could give some to The Validators and have a batch to send out to Radio stations.

Unfortunately this was all just AFTER all radio stations had completely given up on vinyl and gone over to CD, and just BEFORE they all realised this was daft and started buying record players again, so hardly anyone played it. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! It also meant that the only people who knew about the single were record shops, partly thanks to Tom’s contacts and partly due to us having proper distribution, so although it DID get into the shops quite well, nobody knew that it was there to buy, and so a few months later they pretty much ALL came flying home, like 7 inch pigeons.

And so it was that my GRATE idea to publicise the album completely backfired - we soon discovered that, having sold precisely ZERO copies of our single, independent record shops were somewhat LESS likely to order copies of the album, so they didn’t. Luckily, not many people wanted to buy it, otherwise we’d have been in real trouble!

January 10, 2008

Come to this!

Filed under: Uncategorized — scoobydom @ 11:14 pm

As the Laurels rule!

That is all.

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