Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The boat that definitely rocked and the public who do not.

Recently I watched The Boat That Rocked for possibly, the millionth time. I wish it was required viewing for the nation because it's so completely brilliant that even I get a sense of nostalgia from it, and it's set 30 years before I was born. However, it was a commercial fail at the box office and received a surprising amount of mixed reviews. While I cannot account for the minor aneurysms those critics must have been suffering, I believe I can shed some light on the film's unpopularity with the general public.

That film portrays something Britain lost a long time ago and will probably never get back. Kids listening to the radio in bed, so quietly their eager ears are pressed against the speakers so no sound escapes their magical, rebellious bubble. Teenagers getting together, not to oh so originally hack each others' facebook, but to listen to the latest Kinks until it's scratched and/or they've run out of beer. Adults spending all night at gigs, then calling in sick the next day. We don't have to try to listen to music anymore. It isn't banned, it isn't forbidden. The closest we get to living on the audio edge is 4music's pathetic Ed Sheeran edits, where the word 'snowflakes' is removed. Snowflakes! God forbid a child should repeat the word snowflakes! 

The Boat That Rocked captures the beauty of how our country used to defy the musical rules. It started with the pioneer bands, who made the music they wanted to and released it knowing full well it wouldn't get any radio play. Nowadays if a song hasn't appeared on Radio 1 or a car advert, it hasn't made it. This film was deemed 'a commercial failure'. A failure. Why was it? Because it didn't make 10 million in the first day? Because someone from The Daily Mail didn't like it? I liked it. It re-ignited my passion for music, it made me want to write this. The film may be fictional but the idea behind it was real and the fact is, we no longer make the effort to listen to music that they did.

The presenters of pirate radio risked fines and jail, as did the listeners. They broadcasted from offshore ships to avoid prosecution. They broadcasted what the public wanted, and what the public really wanted, was rock and roll. I find it both hard and sad to try and imagine Britain today rallying together, in secret, to do something the government won't allow. And I don't mean revolting against pension cuts, or striking for a 3 day weekend. I mean something fun. There would be, and is today, a select few who would take a stand, maybe their videos on YouTube would get a few thousand hits before they were removed, maybe there would be protests. 

Times have changed, culture has changed, and music has changed. I hope bands today still feel euphoria knowing the screaming crowd below have travelled to see them, because this is one of the few ways we have left to show our appreciation. There is a line in the film which often leaves me wondering:
'Young men and women will always dream dreams, and put those dreams into song.' I can't help but be dismayed at how wrong half this quote is. No prizes for guessing which half, because I'm pretty sure 'Damn girl, damn you'se a sexy bitch' are not the inspiring dreams of Akon. Chart music, the music that supposedly represents the public's musical taste, is dire. X Factor demonstrates we no longer care about what comes out of artists' mouths, as long as it rhymes and they have dolls out in time for Christmas.

It's a tragedy. 
I alone can't do anything to change it. When 'Killing in the name of' trounced the X Factor winner to Christmas number 1 in 2009, I felt like we'd achieved something mildly hilarious, and for a moment, music fans were united in their dislike of Joe Mcelderry. But i'll finish now, and turn my attentions to these time machine blueprints, because it's the only way I'll ever experience the true sense, of rock and roll. Next stop, the swinging 60s. 

The Kinks. A proper, proper decent band.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Kooks go out on a high*

*quite possibly literally in Luke's case

Female hormones ran wild last night as The Kooks played one of their last gigs of 2011.
Support came in the form of Scoundrels; four guys from London, so far so generic, but who turned out to be pretty bloody good. A country/blues influence is evident in their music and a little research reveals the band spent time in Louisiana, writing, recording and soaking up the laid back Louisiana groove. Lead Vocalist Ned Wyndham reminded me of a darker haired Eric Hutchinson; several songs struck me as similar to early Kings of Leon. Sadly too often support bands give you the chance to nip to the bar, and discuss what song you think the headliners will open with. Not this time. Scoundrel's talent and quirky songs left me drink-less and their attractiveness left the girls next to me squealing, yes, painfully squealing, with delight. I blame you for the scream-induced ringing in my ears boys, but I will be buying your album.

What I liked most about The Kooks setlist was that they weren't afraid to take it right back to Inside In/Inside Out. Many bands seem to forget that the majority of their fans have been there from the start, and we don't care if you've had 2 albums since then - we want naive and we want it now. Predictably, but still brilliantly, naive was the final encore number, and the rest of the setlist consisted of a perfect balance of all 3 albums.

Luke Pritchard's shirt was ripped from the start (no complaints) and his mannerisms suggested something other than creative juices were flowing backstage. But who can judge, at 26 he's already selling out around the world; simply rubbing the microphone down his chest gains him rapturous applause. He's talented too, several guitars and a piano made an appearance during the night. For 'Seaside' it was just Pritchard, alone on the stage so the rest of the band could 'go and have a beer.'
What a nice chap.

The Kooks know what they're doing. As with many bands of their genre, the lead singer takes the attention. Pritchard strutted up and down like he owned the stage - and he did. Looking up at the balcony seats, well, they might as well have ditched them, everyone was on their feet; I even spotted a suspiciously middle aged couple miming along to Shine on. Their confident stage presence and seamless song changes prove they've got it together as a band. Cheeky little glances between the boys give you the impression they are genuinely happy to be here. And while the most of us can't even speak coherently after several beers, Luke manages to carry a whole show, and carry it well. Kooks, I salute you.

p.s check out because they really were pretty decent.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Rachel's smothering killed the cat*

Time out from the angry rants, time to tell you that I love cats (cue the eharmony girl style emotional breakdown).
I was recently challenged to sway an opinion on the animals, but I believe you are either a cat or dog person. You can like both but deep down you probably resent the smell of your dog or the claws of your cat. So sorry, I am to be deeply disappointing about this. You can be apathetic, or you can hate them so much that when Edgar tried to murder the Aristocats you felt slight arousal. But you can't deny that they are hilarious feline f***ers, so instead of my mediocre writing abilities I give you a cat, in a pot, dressed as a lobster...meow.

*DISCLAIMER- I have never harmed a cat.*

Friday, 9 December 2011

Malthus is my controversial homedawg

In simple terms, Thomas Malthus believed that population increases faster than food supply, reaches its peak, and has to be brought down again in a population crash, like famine or war. It's a pretty harsh theory, basically implying that the thousands of deaths that stem from disease or natural disasters like earthquakes are cruelly convenient because they bring down our numbers. There's then enough to go round for those who survive. Sinister swings and roundabouts.

But Malthus has a valid point, one I tried to argue before the angry glares of my classmates shut me up. It does make sense, and I can't be the only person to have occasionally thought: 'Hey that disaster was tragic and heartbreaking but at least all the victims are at peace rather than having to deal with the aftermath...' There's no easy way to word it, either way I come out as Cruella De vil.

My brain is a realist, I feel the same way about 'first world pains'. They are first world problems! Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those people who'll pause guiltily in the middle of a meal as the latest WaterAid advert comes on, but I'm also the person who'll carry on eating when it's finished. I have, and will continue to, donate to charities for those far worse off than me. But I refuse to spend my life feeling bad about every meal I don't finish, every luxury I buy. I was lucky enough to be born into a good, financially stable family, have I committed a crime?! It would seem that way.

'My Laptop's running out of battery but the charger is upstairs. #firstworldproblems'
Yes, this may seem mundane but haven't we all felt this way at some point?
'I have a car but petrol's so expensive #firstworldproblems'
Am I to pedal a rickshaw to school just because I worked hard to learn and work hard to pay for it? No! I study geography, I understand the explosive population growth we're experiencing. But a little part of me, and secretly a little part of you too, often wonders where the millions of pounds we donate every year actually goes.

I could argue this for a long time, but my coherency and ability to structure an argument will disappear and my arms will start to flap. For now I leave you with this, because in my world, this truly is an issue.