March 5th, 2014
Having spent 2011 and 2012 listening to so much new, free hip-hop that I almost lost track of who I was and where I laid my head (in case you were wondering: a man who writes about comics on the internet; Glasgow), I made a decision early at the start of 2013 to cut back a bit. While this means that someone like the Bottie Beast is probably better placed to give you an overview of what’s going on with hip-hop right at this point in 2014, it also means that I’ve had a decent amount of time to really dig into the albums and songs I did check out over the past few years.
With an album like Ab-Soul’s Control System, it’s just as well that I had time to spare because otherwise I might not have got my head around how good it really is.
As the member of the Black Hippy crew who does the most to live up to the back half of that description, Ab-Soul risks being obscured by some of the more traditionally appealing rappers in his posse. Schoolboy Q’s perfectly titled Habits and Contradictions provided an early warning that the current era was going to belong to the TDE crew, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city received so much praise that it kicked off a discussion about what rap fans mean when they label something a classic.
Still, now that the smoke has started to clear – well, shit, as I type this Q’s Oxymoron is currently setting fire to my speakers but let’s deal with that in a separate post – it’s Control System that’s stayed with me. Ab’s too stoned and too subtle to make an album full of straight bangers, but there’s something about the raw fluidity of his rhymes that just gets to me. The way he can get stuck on a series of punishing homonyms for most of a verse before switching his flow up to effortlessly hit series of breathlessly off-kilter punchlines suggests the movement of a mind that’s still in the process of making itself up. This sits in stark-contrast to Lamar’s ever-more impressive verbal gymnastics: the power of good kid, m.A.A.d. city lies in the fact that it always seems like Kendrick knows what he’s doing, while the genius of Control System is that it makes you feel like you’re thinking these thoughts for the first time every time.
January 15th, 2013
Good news everyone: turns out that Then Play Long, aka the best music blog you’re not reading, isn’t closing down after all!
Then Play Long is dedicated to chronicling every number one album in UK chart history, but it’s not the sort of dry historical catalog that this description might suggest. Instead its writers Marcello Carlin (The Church Of Me, The Clothed Maja, Koons Really Does Think He’s Michelangelo, The Blue in the Air) and Lena Friesen (Music Sounds Better With Two) are committed to using the most personal details to fill out the broadest canvas possible, a history of who and where we are now that threatens to add up to suggestion as to why. It’s a reclamation of sorts, a rescue mission into the past, an attempt to recover a couple of histories that have been partially obscured by the official party line, and as such I can’t recommend it highly enough.
For a minute there it looked like a combination of reader disinterest, duff spending decisions on the part of the UK public, and a shady attitude towards chart compilation from the OCC might have prematurely ended the blog, but a day later the sun rose again, and it had the face of Paul McCartney:
No, I didn’t see that sentence coming either.
I was introduced to Carlin’s writing by the inestimable Dan Emerson way back when I was only a little baby blogger, and – though it hardly seems fair to incriminate him in my ongoing assault on linguistic decency – it’s fair to say that he’s been a major influences on my bloggy output ever since.
There’s one line of Carlin’s in particular that’s haunted my writing – “I suppose that’s the difference between “real journalists” and writers like me; they write in what they think is the correct way to write, whereas I write me”.
Then Play Long is a triumph of Friesen and Carlin’s approaches to music writing over the currently accepted models. Go check the site out, and if you like what you see, keep checking it out – this time, dear readers, your attention might just save the world…
March 1st, 2012
This photo is from what I think was the last ever photocall the Monkees did, on what I think was Davy Jones’ last visit to his hometown of Manchester. I was about three feet away at the time.
At the show that night, Davy Jones made a joke that he made every night of that tour – “I used to be a heartthrob, now I’m a coronary”.
January 1st, 2012
I’m sorry I’ve been absent from posting for a month, but here’s a xmas mix for those who enjoy such things (click Amiga Mountain).
Although there’s tracks from years gone by in there, there’s also a great deal to love from this year too. It’s a shame everything I enjoyed couldn’t get a look in, but I just don’t believe in making mixtapes that last much longer than sixty minutes. From the biting cold synths of Pye Corner Audio’s November Sequence to the scuzzed-out wooze of Hype Williams, the thrumming desert horror of Ayshay and the complete and utter big-up-yer-bogle rudeness of Jam City, the year’s best music is pretty well represented here. Hope you enjoy and forgive me for the cobbled together nature of the whole thing and the fact that, well, it sounds too quiet on my computer and too loud on the headphones – it’s my first time using Audacity and I’m in the Isle of Man for New Year’s without a sound expert scientist like Gary Lactus to nag.
The Beegees – Until
Roly Porter – Caladan
Pye Corner Audio – November Sequence
Jean Claude Vannier for Yves St Laurent
Hype Williams – You Little Nothing
Amy – Ramirez
Cold War slow dance 1979
Omar S – Night Over Comption
Inga Copeland – Trample
Sand Circles – Midnight Crimes
Innercity – The Bells of Backworld
Ayshay – Warn-U
Julia Holter – Goddess Eyes
Rangers – Airport Lights
Machinedrum – Now You Know The Deal 4 Real
Jam City – Aquabox
April 30th, 2009
“What sounds to you like a big load of trashy old noise is, in fact, the brilliant music of a genius. Myself.” Iggy Pop
Which is how David Lapham describes what he was tying to achieve with Young Liars. You know Young Liars yes? Young Liars, the best new title to have been released in along time. Young Liars the gonzo romance, action, sci-fi, music comic. Young Liars that has recently been announced as cancelled. Much to the dismay of the loyal, hardcore fans that this utterly original book has attracted. Balls. Another one bites the dust.
Well we caught up with David, after he’d finished his three day PCP and Meths-fuelled rampage, gave him a grapefruit juice, and asked him some questions about Young Liars, Stray Bullets and the future…
December 23rd, 2008
…said Steve the shop. Luckily, I had the issue in my hand already, thereby narrowly dodging another cruel flechette of conversational shrapnel, saved from a fresh scar of shame and age gouged from the old character armour.
Candy covers – Pic’n'Mix (Woolies RIP)