Pictures In My Mind.
Whenever I go to Folkestone, I tend to have my photo taken here.
R.E.M. Green (deluxe edition)
Aptly titled, "Green", REM's sixth record album - and their first for globalmegacompany Warners who kept them until their disbandment in 2011 - saw them stride confidently, and with barely a glance, into the big leagues. At this point, the band moved from the Manchester Apollo to headlining the Birmingham NEC and Wembley Arena, the venues they were still playing in their final years.
On the surface though, the record is unbowed by commerciality : the more accessable songs - "Stand", "Orange Crush", and so forth - sound unforced, natural extensions of the quirky pop philosophy demonstrated on their previous albums. Here though, and with the astute muscle of Warner Bros. Behind them, REM followed a path that frankly seems inconcievable now : that of a slowly growing cult band steadily becoming more popular with each record, before ascending from being the world's biggest cult band to one of the world's biggest bands. Only U2 eclipsed them in the early 90's, which is now, surprisingly two decades ago, and it is now "Green"s twenty fifth anniversary. As a record, well, you either know it or you don't. A spiky, literate and aware record, the title hints at naivety, at political ecology, and in reference to a state of embryonic, unmoulded nature.
As with other REM reissues/remasters, the additional material is almost exclusively unheard : here it is a live show from the tail end of the 1988-89 world tour from Greensboro, where the band were a tightly coiled, flawless music machine on borderline insanity after a decade of furious, frenzied touring. Whilst recorded for the 1989 live VHS "Tourfilm", and parts of it may have made b-sides in the great age of the CD single, this is the first time the show has been released in its entirity. (Well, almost : an extra five songs from the show are also on the Record Store Day "Live At Greenboro" EP). The slow dripfeed of live shows may become problematic for "Out of Time", "Automatic For The People", and "New Adventures In Hifi" where the band did not tour - but at least, after many decades of a scarcity of official live material the band are emptying the vaults to provide new, but old, music. Nonetheless, there are also a dearth of official avenues for the multitude of b-sides from the singles spawned by the era - such as the heartbreakingly broken version of Syd Barrett's "Dark Globe", the acoustic version of "Pop Song 89" : no doubt these are being held back for another dose of consumer exploitation at some point in the future. On the other hand, "Green" follows the REM canon of slow and dignified reissues with a elegantly packaged revisiting. Does anybody need it? Probably not. But this is the way that reissues and remasters should be given to us, with care, and with thought.
KARL HYDE, edgeland
30 years after his first record, the boy Hyde goes solo, of sorts. "Edgeland" is a sunday morning record - taking its time and slow to reveal its pleasures. Unlike the Underworld albums, which ride on rhythms of unstoppable beats and drums, "Edgeland" is a completely different beast, measured, slow, elegant. Built on atmosphere, ambience, and a hangover (by the sound of it), the "Edgeland" is the place between places, an airport waiting lounge, the town beyond the town, and this is revealed clearly in the 71 minute documentary DVD that comes with the deluxe edition.
The DVD itself is light on Karl Hyde : his face is never seen, his voice occasionally hear, the interviews with the local characters and personalities of the town near his home (Dorking, Dartford, Barking, somewhere like that) are interviewed and deliver the life stories of people who live near enough London, but not near enough to matter to London. The outskirts. The edgelands. But the album itself is different, the sense of exhaustion that rotates over the album like a sun is clear and yet, abstract. When, on occasion the music rises, and melody takes over - "Shoulda Been A Painter", for example - and it soars, the kind of euphoric leap that Underworld at their best deliver. The rest of the time, "Edgeland" is a fine record, designed for listening, absorbing, contemplation, thinking, similar to the heavier, woozier, Underworld songs where the beats relax and the images wash over you in waves.
STAR TREK : INTO DARKNESS
This review has spoilers ; and is unapologetic about them. If on the other hand, you don't want Star Trek spoiled, don't watch this festering, unintelligent LENSFLARE turd of a film, with a script that should have been strangled at birth.
Damon Lindelof should never work again. JJ Abrams is played out, and needs to step back. LENSFLARE LENSFLARE. This is the worst Star Trek film ever made. Yes. Even worse than “The Final Frontier”.
In Star Trek, you can travel to a million planets and countless species. You can explore the outer reaches or inner and - LENSFLARE - outer space. There are a multitude of options. All the worlds in the universe are your Gorn oyster.
Why then, choose a story so small? Why end your film on a fucking foot chase through San Francisco? Why choose to remake “Wrath Of Khan” (LENSFLARE with an identical set of story beats, retold through the idiot filter that is Lindelof LENSFLARE ), and make it stupider?
The one question every filmmaker needs to ask himself is simple : Why? LENSFLARE
Why does this film exist?
Why should people put down their money and watch this?
Why should people care about what happens in this film?
Why do the characters act the way they do?
Why does Damon Lindelof keep getting work?
If they act stupid, they are stupid. LENSFLARE And that means, for me at least, they are not the iconic characters they are meant to be LENSFLARE . Kirk may have been many things, but stupid – unless it came to ladies – is not one of them.
Here's some more questions :
Every film of this scale should have a session where the script is torn apart, and questions asked of every scene, every character. Why are they acting this way? What is their motivation? Why do they do THIS and not THAT? Because if you don't ask that, LENSFLARE your audience – who, despite what your focus groups tells you – are not all stupid popcorn munching teenagers, and think about what is happening on screen, will want to strangle the writers. The LENSFLARE people in the audience are thinking more LENSFLARE about the plot than Lindelof does.
Every problem this film has exists in the script. In a fundamental lack of thought applied to what is meant to be the smartest science fiction franchise. And make no mistake about it, Star Wars VII is going to be awful with JJ LENSFLARE Abrams at the helm.
Countless times during this film, I asked myself the one question that has eluded the film :Why?
Yeah, the simple answer from the dumb is Haters Gonna Hate. The question is why? Why do I hate this film? Because it is stupid. LENSFLARE LENSFLARE LENSFLARE . Because it pointlessly vandalises the Roddenberryverse for no reason than one cool background shot.
And oh God, the plot. There is nothing wrong with this film – apart from the obscenely layered lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare lensflare – that an instant rewrite and Lindelofs sudden and immediate retirement couldn't fix.
Message to Hollywood : there are other writers in the world than Damon Lindelof, and his dunderheaded, stupid fanfiction (Prometheus, and Into Darkness) should be banished. I'm excruiatingly bored his illogical, illthought, plothole bullshit where the whole film rests on the cliche of the Idiot Protagonist. LENSFLARE The man should never work again. My generation are starting to run countries and ruin franchises, and they are royally fucking it up. LENSFLARE This film is full of people who would rather say nothing and keep their jobs, than ask a basic question : “Why?”
touchthespacecobra touchthespacecobra touchthespacecobrOWWWHYISITATTACKINGME?
During one three minute sequence, I counted 39 shots in a row with LENSFLARE added in post-production, often multiple times in the same shot. Why? Any DP worth more than minimum wage would have his ass fired for that kind of result. Why? It's the artifical imposition of needlessly distracting artifacts for no reason apart from to look huh huh 'cool'. Lensflare is the vandalism of work : and I've seen enough films to know when it is 'real' and when it's a bullshit piece of fake rubbish, like someone gave every actor multiple false shadows. It looks wrong, no matter how well executed it may think it is.
This decade is one that will not be looked at as a great LENSFLARE decade of LENSFLARE filmmaking, but the triumph of the dumb as franchises are ripped to shreds for cool shots for the trailer. The script for this is the worst kind of entry level fanfiction that would generate hoots of laughter if a film company hadn't committed a quarter of a billion dollars to it. Patton Oswalt wrote a better film in his Parks & Recreation fillibustering speech than Lindelof. Borrowing LENSFLARE liberally from Insurrection, The Hunted, Wrath Of Khan, Nemesis, Undiscovered Country, and countless LENSFLARE other episodes, The plot is generic, boring, cookiecutter ticklist of cliches. Genetic superman? Check. Corrupt Admiral trying to start a war? Yawn. Pointless scene about First Directive where Kirk does something stupid for a reason that is never explained – and boneheadedly stupid? Of course. LENSFLARE Later on, this stodgy, charmless remake of Wrath Of Khan replays the last half of that film as a uncommitted tribute band, by messing up a bit. Switch all the things that happen to Spoke to Kirk? Wow, that's original. LENSFLARE. Whilst you are at it, make Starbuck a woman, really fuck with the audiences heads. In the meantime, lets blowup Klingon's moon for a cool but unexplained background shot. I've never blown up a moon, but I imagine it doesn't look as if the galaxies biggest holepunch just put a huge slot in it 5 minutes ago.
Oh fuck it – Khan? Really? You couldn't think of anyone more original? Cumberbatch is about 10% of the original actor in this, his origin is complete bullshit and contradicts the original TV series (why? bangs head against the desk of passing Starship), and the rest of the film is dunderheaded nonsense. Oh, and don't pretend we are in an alternate timeline now : the 'alternate' timeline started at Kirk's birth about 27 years ago, and Khan's origin was 300 years ago, so there's actually two Khans around now. Unless of course, Lindelof is full of incoherent shit and throws every 'cool' idea at the script without actually thinking to check the canon of the matter.
LENSFLARE There's a secret ship called The Dreadnought? How come, for example, Khan knows all this stuff? Why is Peter Weller's Admiral Marcus-The-Asshole intent on starting a war with the Klingons? What's the motive? It's never explained, and come to think of it, Khan is actually the good guy in this film, trying to avert a war that some idiot Admiral is intending to start for a reason that is never justified. LENSFLARE. It does not make any sense when you probe any deeper than the surface. “Star Trek” is a coked up supermodel of a film : it looks passable on the surface, but the character and content is flawed and stupid. It is insulting to watch this and know that I am undisputedly smarter than the writer.
There's an obligatory subplot about the warp core, and having to connect the tech to the tech. Snooze. Wake me up when you have an idea of your own. I half expected them to find the Omega 13.
Yes, Khan is in this. And he is forgettable. Cumberbatch is simply a paycheque thrown at the screen. And to think, Benecio Del Toro turned this down because they didn't offer him enough. Or as I like to call,The We-know-this-film-will-make-millions-so-we'll-save-ourselves-pennies-on-major-cast-members move. It's a dick move, and one that Terence Howard knows well. LENSFLARE. Del Toro would have destroyed Cumberbatch's Khan with a glance and pissed on the dust for a mild, distractionary amusement before he destroyed a planet without a second glance.
Oh, and whilst I remember, nobody really dies in the Star Trek universe. Kirk dies in this film. In a radiation chamber. LENSFLARE Trying to reconnect a reactor to save the ship from Khan's attack. And Spock shots at the top of his voice KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!
I wish I was joking. Here's a line about a Gorn. WINK. Here's a line that quotes an old film, but slightly differently. WINK. See what I did there? Aren't I clever? WINK. But as I said, nobody really dies in this film. LENSFLARE LENSFLARE . When Kirk walked down to engineering, I followed the Chekov's Gun theory, and said out loud “Zombie Tribbles”. Fear not, a few minutes later, Kirk is resurrected from fatal radiation using blood from a zombie Tribble. I wish I was joking.
This new Star Trek film is much like watching a monkey piss in its own mouth for 2 hours whilst burning £200,000,000 in front of you. I've written smarter shopping lists. It's not that this is a bad film, its more a good film made from an incoherent, pisspoor, stupid script. Damon Lindelof should never work in this town again.
Power and control has very much been on my mind recently. I have never been timid, never been reticent. Sometimes that has made me enemies. I have never wanted conflict, with anyone, ever. But sometimes, you have to stand for something, or else you stand for nothing. For me, any situation where I do not have influence and control over, I am a prisoner. And any and all prisoners defined themselves by wanting to escape. I either change my relationship by gaining control, or remove myself from the relationship. Any environment I do not have control over makes me very uncomfortable, very quickly. And therefore at the mercy of others. I no longer become myself, but merely an object to be used and misused entirely at the whims of others. I don't expect to be master of my own destiny, and I do not expect to entirely get my own way all the time, because that is utterly unrealistic. However I do not thrive in dictatorships, I do not 'own' anything in those circumstances, but am merely a robot with a punch card, an automaton. Where I am not valued, I will change my life until I am valued. I cannot live a life - and cannot respect myself - if I do not do that. I would be giving away my power, in exchange for nothing at all.
I'd rather die than give you control.
JESUS JONES, London Bull & Gate, 02 May 2013
One by one, they fall. The venues that were the lifeblood of a culture.
A generation from now, the idea of every town having a couple of small rooms where, at any given night, there's a band playing live music for around £5, will seem as archiac as the cassette single.
Because what Britain needs is more gastropubs. What Britain needs, more than live music, culture, and a room full of sweaty people jumping up and down, is yet another set of tables and menus and food. Everywhere looks the same. A Wetherspoons in Doncaster is the same as Dunstable, An identikit world of shops and pubs and bland, boring, nothingness. Because what Britain needs is more gastropubs.
Hence, with barely two days left in its life as one of the few remaining, genuinely spit-and-sawdust rock venue “toilets”, The Bull & Gate is rammed to the rafters. The Bull & Gate has seen countless legendary gigs. Its future will include countless legendary £6.95 Burgers. Progress is beautiful. No longer will friends meet friends in crowded, noisy rooms, or their future wives, future ex-wives, or future anythings. Because the joy that comes from jumping up and down in a crowded room with a few hundred strangers to songs you love is incomparable compared to the potential profit that can be generated by yet another gastropub.
Where would bands be without these type of venues? They now have to get onto the internet, record their material, and upload it, give it away, get 40 million plays on Spotify to earn less than minimum wage, and build a kind of fame through a riskier avenue. Bands can make a living through the Internet – but normally, the band has to be fairly big to do so in the first place. What cannot be replicated free and easily? Nights in crowded rooms. T shirts. Memories.
From the first moments of “Move Mountains”, to the last – barely an hour later – of “Who? Where? Why?”, Jesus Jones are a human time machine. Their career, as such, may now be no more glorious than a few nights every year playing shows in Europe for fun and a wee bit of pocket money – but that's not a bad way to have a holiday. But the Bull & Gate is not just another venue. It is the starting point for everything Jesus Jones did next : the first venue they headlined, the one where the band built the platform for everything that happens in the future, and to pay our respects in the suitably irreverent fashion the band requires by (largely) jumping up and down, singing out of tune, and pretending we are younger. More than once, I am told we are too old. But more than that, the music is too young for our bodies ; not our minds. Because what Britain needs is more Gastropubs.
Beset by monitor problems, Jesus Jones play on a tiny stage, for the first time, their entire debut album - “Liquidizer” - with many songs that haven't been played in public for 23 years. If ever. Presented as a whole, “Liquidizer” is a revolutionary record, like “Psychocandy”, a single slab of sonic terrorism where every song is an individual, and also, part of a wider whole. The sound of almost all the music I love, all playing in my head simultaneously. Some of the songs do merge into one, being in a similar tempo, style, and arrangement – there is little in the way of drama in sound – but are a cohesive piece. What is odd is the whole jumping-up-and-down stuff. I get the need to enjoy it, but being at a gig, and buying a pint midgig, taking it to the front of a moshpit, and then jumping up and down whilst wearing a backpack is just unnecessary. I don't want to wear your beer, or constantly be smacked around the head with your luggage.
It's not all bad. Despite being beset by sound problems, the band play a belter. At one point Iain Baker shouts so loudly with enthusiasm that I can hear him in the crowd. (Admittedly, I am down the front). Gen – drummer from 1988-1993 – guests on two songs ; for “One For The Money”, and the glorious rearrangement of “Someone To Blame”. Tony Arthy (drums 1997-2013) plays for the rest of the set, and overall, it sounds fantastic. Come the end, the encore is a greatest hits. “International Bright Young Thing” was always a bit slight, but the audience love it, and what more do you need? It's entertainment, anyway. “Zeroes And Ones” - the song that predicted the internet – folds into the glorious “Idiot Stare” as lots of people jump around and play air keyboards. The final song is “Who? Where? Why?” : the most dancable intellectual crisis of 1991 – and with that, Jesus Jones bide farewell to The Bull & Gate and its glorious future of keenly priced pub fare and lasagnes. Which is just what Britain needs. Culture, art, music, all these things are irrelevant. Cheap burgers must be eaten! Because what Britain needs is more gastropubs.
Move Mountains – Never Enough – The Real World – All The Answers – What's Going On – Song 13 – Info Freako – Bring It On Down – Too Much To Learn – What Would You Know – One For The Money (with Gen) – Someone To Blame (with Gen) – IBYT – Real Real Real – Zeroes & Ones – Idiot Stare – Who Where Why
THE STOOGES. Ready To Die.
Back. Six years after the underwhelming "The Weirdness", Iggy & The Stooges return for the first record with "Raw Power" guitarist James Williamson in forty years. After Ron Asheton's premature death four years ago, you could rightly consider that perhaps The Stooges had reached the end of the line. Here, Williamson and Iggy - with Stooge-of-a-decade Mike Watt on bass - return with a record that sounds it's been made by 16 years old, not sixtysomething elder statesmen of rock.
"Ready To Die" isn't exactly tasteful - with half of the original 1969-1971 lineup dead, and permanent drummer Scott Thurston incapacitated from touring due to a stroke - The Stooges aren't exactly a band so much as a team of furious rock commandos, bludgeoning huge riffs across the world. Williamson seems to have packed forty years of riffs into thirty four short minutes and 10 blistering songs. The cover is Iggy wearing a bomb belt in crosshairs. The songs are immaculately presented, with can opener riffs that are largely instant classics, pounding drums, and vocals that are miles away from the dunderheaded and melodically slight "Weirdness" record. Here, it's obviously not the first thing Iggy thought in front of the microphone, immortalised forever - thank God. Whilst its not as good as "Raw Power" (what is?), it's the equal of the firey and angry "Kill City" - with both "The Unfriendly World" and "The Departed", being the kind of blues that you saw glimpses of in the past. Also, this record is angry : "Job" rides on a simple premise many of us can live with : I've got a job, and it pays shit.... A few minutes later, Iggy is telling us all about ambition, about a world that wants to crush us, and about fighting to be yourself. Williamson's riffs crunch and roar away as he exercises the kind of chops that make it clear to me that his retirement from music for thirty years was a waste of an amazing talent. Nobody makes riffs quite like this.
Whilst forty years is a long time, you wouldn't know this wasn't made by a band half their age. Set in the clear world of vinyl, at a total length of 34 minutes (17 per side), the lasvicuous two sided album is a rip roaring rampage of riffs, raw power, and an ageless integrity that sees Iggy & The Stooges grow old disgracefully : the best way to be.
HOW TO DESTROY ANGELS. Welcome Oblivion.
Five years after his last vocal studio album, Trent Reznor returns with a new band, and a sort of new identity. Teaming up with his wife on vocals - ok, that sentence sounds terrifying, but at least it shows that his musical palette has changed -, as well as Atticus Ross (who has been Reznor's musical foil for many years on soundtrack work) and longstanding alumni in visual artist Rob Sheridan, How To Destroy Angels are both clearly children from the Nine Inch Nails camp, and a seperate identity. Musically, it follows the template of Reznors work for the past fifteen years, with densely layered, atmospheric pieces that unfold slowly with measured menace. Sonically, there's barely a guitar here, built on a slow and uncoiling air of general malaise, like a tense, angry Massive Attack.
Which is a nice way of saying that it is as good as a Nine Inch Nails record. There's little sense of a bold new musical identity - especially after the "Ghosts" double album and the soundtrack releases - but a more refined approach. Sonically it is the calmest release in his non-soundtrack work, lacking much in the way of organic instrumentation : it's all keyboards, drum machines, textures and the occasional vocal. But that is not a bad thing - the record operates largely as a duet , with Reznors icy whispered vocals and Mariqueen Maandig's monosyllabic, clipped melodies that are used more as punctuation, unclear words - aside from the odd sentence - in a way that sounds luxurious but uncomfortable.
Over the length of a full record though, the formula ages slightly. It all sounds the same - variations on a theme - as the record moves to a conclusion, slowly but confidently. If you liked his soundtrack work, were intruiged by the slower, more thoughtful edges to Nine Inch Nails then this is for your. In the old world, this is a record designed to be listened to repeatedly and which will reveal slightly more with every exposure, every listen. It is not, nor will it ever be, the kind of quick and instant rock hit that will be taken to the hearts of mainstream media, but a thoughtful, clever, dense record made for a world where intelligence is not a burden, where beauty is hidden, and where the answer is a question in itself.
THE EVIL DEAD (2013)
Oh. Let me count the ways. Groovy. Hail To The King Baby. Yep. After Cabin In The Woods blew the haunted house movie to pieces once and for all, the only way you could make a haunted house movie, is to faithfully resurrect the original and best. “The Evil Dead” is not a reboot. That word is a shit insult to the intelligence of writers, and the hard work of the original film. Some sequel/remakes are faithful in spirit and tone. Others are a crazed, graverobbing attempt to exploit your memories of better things by promising you something and giving you nothing worth wasting your time on : “halloween”, “texas chainsaw massacre”, “night mare on elm street”.
What is it about horrors? A film has to wait long enough to stew to be worth being re-made. If you remake a film, please don't fall into the trap many people make : a sanitised, boring, piece of gutless crap where the characters talk like a screenwriter, never say anything worth hearing, and there's the usual By-Committee rubbish. Tick off every demographic as you go. No.
“The Evil Dead” is merciless, brutal, and revels in its practical-in-front-of-the-camera effects. It pulls no punches, kills everyone brutally and without any hesitation, and adds a genuinely interesting take on the protoagonist. Hopefully there's no spoilers there, it's a film called “The Evil Dead”, it's not meant to be happy and not everyone comes out of most films alive anyway. “The Evil Dead” revels in its viciousness : the evil is genuinely evil, cunning, sly, and unrelenting, and the slight reinterpretation of the original plot is a genuine act of intelligence, that adds an extra layer of ambiguity and doubt to the film – could everything that is actually happening be an invention, or a misinterpretation? Could everything that is actually happening be real? Few films have made this ambiguity effective, barring Kubrick's “The Shining” which is intrinsically clever in its interpretation of events. This angle is quickly dispensed with when no longer applicable, as the reality becomes unavoidable. And then, when it starts, the roller coaster of blood, gore, terror, peeking-through-fingers blood & guts begins, and does not let up, ever, until everyone is dead and the credits roll. Well, not everyone. With original alumni Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on board, “The Evil Dead” is exactly that ; true to the spirit of the original, blood-choked, grim 1982 film, with lashings of relentless, adult action, not sanitised, not cut, not made boring and spineless by boring marketing assholes chasing the PG-13 market. There are enough horror films for the virgin market, and they are horrific enough in their gutless content. This film, though, is not a happy, market-tested, dull and boring piece of rubbish, but a film of vision and (to be frank) uncompromising cruelty that is a refreshing change from a sea of inconsequential nonsense, brainless 'reboots', and tired franchises. Groovy.
THE WONDER STUFF London Islington Academy 17 April 2013
It doesn't seem to matter so much anymore. Not that it shouldn't matter, but lives change. Life, as the cliché goes, is a diamond : it opens, and then once children are born, it closes to a much smaller set of options. Responsibility is a chain around your neck. The idea of going out on Wednesday to see a band seem sometimes indulgent – especially if the real world is in the way, as it often is. Childcare and jobs and work in other towns sits on your chest.
When I was 22, I'd laugh off a filling and skip an early morning lecture with a hangover. Not, sadly, now. Responsibility is boring, but being irresponsible is much less enjoyable. Do we live as we did when we were 21? Do we still see those people with any regularity? (I generally, don't). We're not the same. We're older now and a clever swine.
13 years into their reunion/continuation, 20 years after they last troubled the British charts, The Wonder Stuff – in whatever form they are these days – are a living, gigging band, sidelined by the press, continuing to bravely travel their work across the world whenever chance offers, often to small crowds of a few hundred people, and sometimes to a lot more. Drivers, delivering songs to people the world over.
“Oh No!”, the seventh studio record, and one which perhaps, you may be forgiven for not really considering as having a reason to exist, is far better than it needs to be. Miles Hunt is one of the best British songwriters of all time. There's no quality gap in that record and the older ones. The band can still pen a mean tune, though their existence has become dulled by the fog of time, the strength of their work hasn't. Were they a new band, they'd still be feted. But they aren't, and they aren't, and people ain't no good.
It still sounds like The Wonder Stuff – even though only Miles remains. From the moment they came on stage with the 'new boys' of Fuzz Townsend of Pop Will Eat Itself on drums, and Stevie Wyatt on guitar and the new “Clearer Through The Years”, to the last notes of “Ten Trenches Deep”, there was no doubting that this is a damn fine band that has a right to the name, and the songs, and plays them with a fierce fire. The new material slots smoothly into the old. And it is only that the older songs are better known – not better, just better known – that means more of them are received keenly.
There came a strange moment, midway through “Unbearable”, where it occurred to me that this was not The Wonder Stuff as you know them – and yet it is. It is not the band I fell in love with, but a band I love. But not the band. Unlike some bands though, Miles has the artistic right to the name and to play these songs, with a steady evolution over the years as the band changes, and we change. Back to the future. If the only way to keep The Wonder Stuff alive is to slowly evolve from one band to another – much like The Cure, and many others – then so be it. Were this a sudden reappearance after a dozen years or more of radio silence, this all-new lineup would be justifiably controversial, but it isn't, and it isn't, for bass player Mark McCarthy, and fiddle player/vocalist Erica Nockalls have both been with the band for almost a decade. It sure is weird seeing someone who isn't Malc Treece play guitar there (the band have had three other guitarists, two filling in at short notice). Yet, does it matter? Yes, and no. It sounds like The Wonder Stuff, it feels like The Wonder Stuff, and I can only hope that this band has many more years left in the tank, because there's still a lot of fire left to burn.
22 years after release, and for no particular reason, Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr's debut is reissued in a new configuration with a slew of additional songs. After a cursory 1994 remastering, this 2013 edition features the original debut LP, and a second CD with a huge host of additional material. After the demise of The Smiths, the suspension of New Order, and Johnny Marr's temporary five year excursion into The The, Electronic, who on paper seemed like a match made in heaven, were possibly the only 'supergroup' who actually were super. Here Sumners love of electronics, and Marr's wide vista of styles and eclecticism, welded styles in a perfect union. As far as debut records go, even though this was Sumner's eighth, and Marr's sixth full length record, it is confident, assured, utter genius. Aided and abetted by three songs which sees members of Pet Shop Boys onboard as well. Marr's love of funk, choppy dance rhythms, and squalls of guitar, as well as spindly and muscular melodies shine through, whilst Sumner – irking the wrath of Morrissey – added huge slabs of his plaintive, emotionless/emotional vocals, underrated guitar work, and deft production skills. Where the record is dated is only in the occasional outbreaks of 'italian house piano' (that also can be heard of the 1996 followup and New Order's “Republic”). As it stands though, it's a great record, with nary a dull or misplaced moment, though one of two halves as it stood just on the cusp of the entrance into the CD age where you didn't have to flip the vinyl slab over.
Bonus tracks are a scrappy and bizarre selection of oddities from across the bands lifespan. Leftover songs, remixes, and variants from the 1996 and 1999 albums are spread across it with barely any thought for sense. The songs are given largely pointless remix edits, so material from the era that spawned the parent album (remixes of “Gangster”, “Get The Message”, “Feel Every Beat”, “Disappointed”, “Lucky Bag”) are absent. In their place, four previously unheard remixes of 1996 and 1999 LP tracks are added somewhat pointlessly, and three mediocre instrumental b-sides are bundled in. On the other hand, “Second To None” is one of the best songs either party has ever attached their name to which is bafflingly not on the original album. Whilst the idea of a continuation of the band seems unlikely now, Electronic are a gem in the history of music you would be wise to investigate.
FRANK TURNER, Tape Deck Heart
Britains best songwriter returns. They don't make 'em like the used to. Unless you're Frank Turner. An album every two years. 1,400 live shows in 7 years and counting. And, unlike many artists, who use their good ideas up in the first five years - and after which, fade into embarrassing irrelevancy and tired xeroxes of greater moments - Frank Turner, the guitar-slinging, jetset, crime-fighting heartbreaker and troubador, offers us his fifth solo album in seven years with "Tape Deck Heart". Once again, a man and his guitar, and his muse, give us a slab of great songs.
Songs that I would not have imagined. Songs that I cannot live without. Songs like "Tell Tale Signs". Turner is growing old, and so are we, and songs like this are the ones that show us that inside everyone is a story, and some of the stories are ones we all share. How it feels to be there, how we have all been there - the names of the actors may have changed, but we are all here, and the song remains the same. I need someone who sings from his heart and means it. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.
And here we are. Melodies that anyone can remember. Music made with integrity, ideals, about real things, about the world we live in, about getting drunk, waking up with regrets, about a million things and everything. And every song has some words so utterly astute in seeing the world that they will inevitably be tattooed on someone's body somewhere. And rightly so.
Anyone who can write a song about the closing of the London Astoria and make it sound like a hymn fighting against the inexorable progress of capitalism wins in my book. "Polaroid Picture" is such a song, and it captures for me, the same sense of futile regret that came when they closed the best venue in London. "Tape Deck Heart" is just like other Frank Turner albums ; a selection of rousing, smart songs with huge choruses and a heart the size of a country designed to make lives better, because sometimes, we have no choice but to write songs and be the change we want to see in the world. "Nobody makes it out alive", he sings. Never a truer word sung.
Be Excellent To Each Other
There has been another, random, brutal, explosion that has murdered innocent people in Boston.
The world is vile, and ugly, people die, and are murdered, everyday. It happens millions of times every hour. And millions of times every hour, beautiful things happen in this world. Someone you know will go out of their way in an act of unexpected kindness. Your father, or your children, may come and give you a hug, or pass you a sweet, or some other act of general loveliness.
For evil to win, we only have to forget that we are surrounded by beauty and love constantly. It is there in the cracks, and the corners of life. If you watch the news, there is normally one asshole with a bomb, and a thousand people running to help. All it takes, every day, all day, is to live with honour, and morals, and thought, and to be excellent to each other, for as long as we can.
All we are, is dust in the wind, dude. The world will be here when we are gone. It is our job to look after the place for our children, and their children.
Tom Cruise continues his quest for relevancy and eternal youth with “Oblivion”, in which a man who looks nowhere near his fifty years manages to once again save the universe in what could best be described as an effective but generic sci-fi thrillers. Taking cues, and huge chunks of plot, from stuff like Star Trek IV, Silent Running, Adjustment Bureau, The Matrix, I Am Legend, Solaris, Total Recall, Planet of The Apes, Wall-E, Moon, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and boatloads of Philip K Dick, the film suffers – not on its own merits – but by being so obviously enthrall to the golden age of thinking Sci-Fi (1968-1982) and its own cleverness.
It's by no means a bad film at all : certainly its a fresh take on the Sci-fi film (of late, much filmed Sci-Fi is either pointlessly dirty and gritty, or bonecrushingly stupid that an small child can expose the plot points with rottweiler viciousness) – but perhaps one that rewards more if you expect less.
Of course, it looks gorgeous. Channelling nothing so much as the design of Minority Report, it is set in a bizarre world of a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland that conveniently used to be New York. Why is everything in a post-apocalyptic universe set in New York? Naturally, as in every film set in New York, the Statue Of Liberty suffers some awful fate, largely involving falling over on its side or tilting a bit. This does not neccesarily cover for a lack of invention : the core plot points, amnesia, identity, duty and deception, are straight out of the Christopher Nolan sketchbook with a huge dollop of Philip K Dick. Plot wise, if you squeeze this enough, the flaws come out in an embarrassment : however, it is in the execution, and the not the core concept, that the film falls over. It makes a certain kind of logical sense, but does manage to fall over in a certain key areas : how do people eat? Where do they get clothes from? Who makes the bad guys bullets? All these things worry me, the lack of key infrastructure to support the existence of certain characters is something I find disconcerting. At least I could imagine the Death Star having a canteen and sleeping quarters.
The cast is small – about 8 people overall – with the beautifully improbable Andrea Riseborough providing plotless nudity and sex as well as the clear yin to Cruise's more reckless Yang. On a cast basis, it is also undone by Morgan Freeman's appearance, largely as the generic Magic Negro who explains everything but who is also these days wheeled in as the voice of meaningful gravitas, cashes a paycheck and smokes the obligatory useless cigar. On the other hand, this makes any Michael Bay film look like the absolute brainwrong tripe it always was, and borders dangerously close to the film adaptation of the best book Philip K Dick never wrote, apart from the occasional sentimentality.
It's by no means a bad film – at all – and a confident and promising second step in Kosinski's journey, a clear vision, and suffers only from a slight elasticity in its generic logic and familiar plotting. What comes next will be the true sign of talent.
MORRISSEY, Kill Uncle
Why Why Why? Now available in a new sleeve, and with extra songs recorded long after the album release, this - and Morrissey's approach in general - baffles me. Morrissey has long regretted the original sleeve art, and even stated clearly in the book "Peepholism" the alternate design he would use, but once again, scrapped that in favour of this bizarre sleeve art. Outside of that, he has changed the tracklist and added two extra songs - a radio session of "There Is A Place", "Pashernate Love" (recorded a year after the "Kill Uncle" LP came out) and a cover of "East/West" recorded 18 months before the album in. This defies logic and sense. At the same time, some of the best non-album tracks "Pregnant For The Last Time", "My Love Life", "The Loop", "I've Changed My Plea" all recorded at the same time, are absent. Once again, Morrissey despoils his catalogue with pointless revisionism and general mucking about. Just reissue the albums as they are, put on extra songs after, don't mix up the various lineups or songs recorded years before or after, and don't delete songs as if they never existed.
Without A Trace
i cannot hide from it. neither can you. my hair is at war with me, and, in the spirit of any surrendering force, has taken a harsh score against me. One day, it was there, as long as I wanted, immaculate, unruly, doing whatever the fuck it wanted. Then one day, it did what it wanted, and slowly, over the course of a number of years, it fucked off to, amongst other places, my chest and my chin and the inside of my useless nose.
Allegedly, a man with no hair is sexy (Bruce Willis). But also, a man with no hair, is clearly the former singer of a metal band who has no choice but to go to the other extreme (Rob Halford, Thingy from Queensryche) is often a man who is obviously not sexy. If I don't shave my head, I end up looking like some kind of idiot, with lots of hair at the side and fuck all on top, as if I fell underneath a lawnmower. With hair like that, I might as well wear light brown coats, listening to Adele, reading The Daily Mail, and muttering about the evil unemployed like the kind of braindead commuting Tory fuckbrain I am surrounded by most days on the train. The kind of guy who thinks 27% of the 43% of my taxes that goes on welfare is defrauded (that is, around 10%) whereas in actual fact it is much closer to 1% of 2.3% - or, if you prefer 0.023% and not 10%. Hang on, I'm rambling.
My hairline makes me look like the type of right wing chunderwit that thinks the problems are the economy are the fault of the poorest and not the richest. That thinks that there is some demeneted left wing paradise that I'm funding instead of a land without mercy. I'm not that guy. Compromise, and mediocrity are for others.
I can't help it. The rumour is that it is your mothers father : a man I never really liked then, and now that he's gifted me the absence of keratin, a man I like less. People with full heads of hair walk past me as if it is simply the most natural, normal thing to ever have. They could do anything – have any style – Poodle rocker or James Bond. For me, nature has made its choice and provided me with just one choice : shorter than the lifespan of a World War I fighter pilot. The simple answer was that I never found a hairstyle I liked or could put up with, and now all the hair has decided to do the final insult of deserting me without even a formal discussion. Just woke up one day and gone. It wasn't that long ago – barely 7 years – that I walked through the door of this house for the first time as the owner of the property, with a full head of hair, and 32 years old. Now I feel as if I am older, defined – trapped almost in a box of my decisions – invisible, fading into being old, and past it, as seen by others as part of a generation with nothing to offer and yet I am not even 40. When Osborne was made Chancellor Of The Exchequer he was younger than me. Doctor Who is younger than me. This might be the cause of my mid-life crisis. Nothing to do with age, hair, or my somewhat stable waist.
But if this is the best it ever gets, then life is overall, going to be unsatisfactory. I can already see England going backwards : people are getting poorer, and the rich richer, the unemployed and sick are demonised and bullied, power is being centralised under the lie of competition and “strivers”, we are supposed to trumpet choice – but only have the choice of paying more and getting less, and being paid less. Everyone is trapped and most of us are unhappy with the state of the nation. I'm taxed out of my eyeballs, with fares that go up by several per cent more than inflation every year, and gas, electricity, food, everything getting more expensive. We're meant to sit tight and happy with this, as our spending power shrinks, and we get poorer and poorer every year, as the government subjects the NHS to death by a thousand cuts and reorganisations, and the welfare to a thousand lies, and the world becomes Pennywise but Poundfoolish and stores up disaster for the next administration. Pensions are destroyed and decimated. I can see the future, and it is an ugly place for all but the extremely privileged few.
This government see its role as to represent us, and for us to represent it. And if we do not represent its wishes – wishes biased in favour of the astonishingly wellpaid minority – then we are waster and shirkers. Wealth creators are those that get in the morning and take the kids to school and work two jobs on minimum wage to make ends meet, not the millionaires that perform devious financial sleights of hand. Strivers are those who try to survive life on the pittance that is unemployment benefit whilst feeding themselves, keeping the lights and heat on, and at the same time, are clobbered with the unfair Bedroom Tax that penalises the thousands who live in social housing with one or more extra 'bedrooms', when there aren't – and never were – enough smaller properties : a lack of smaller properties caused directly by a failure of the Government to invest in enough property. The media trumpets about absurd housing benefits, yet is silent on the fact that these housing benefits are the fault of unregulated rents, private landlords charging absurd rates, and the popular media's obsession with unsustainable and unreachably high house prices, where the averagehouse price is over a Quarter Of A Million Pounds. Think that one over : the average house prices is a quarter of a million pounds. No wonder Generation Rent cannot afford a home. All this is a recipe for a bleak future made of angry and underpaid millions that are saddled with debt, and have never been able to own a home, or have children, or have to commute thousands of miles a year to get to work, and who will die in utterly avoidable poverty. Culture and love are tolerated only because it keeps the population quiet(ish), and resistance is generally fought by an combination of oppressive policing, and underpaid overwork designed to keep us all knackered and too exhausted to fight back. The Government sees the only virtue as hard work for companies – hard work for a charity, as seen in the case of Cait O'Reilly – is a waste, and the unemployed are expected to work for free for companies. Companies then don't hire staff because they can get them for free. Staff they do hire are paid low wages. Staff paid low wages cannot afford to buy goods. This is trickle-down economics in its most brutal form. All activity that does not serve the profit line of prosperous companies is frippery and wasteful.
And the Government can now change the law retrospectively to prevent them paying out money to the poorest in society that they lied to.
This is why I am having a mid-life crisis, because we live in the cruellest time in memory, and there is no sign that it is ever going to improve.
Tramp The Dirt Down
“There is no such thing as society.”
I spent 11 long and miserable years under Thatchers cruel and uncaring eye. I rejoice not in her death, but in the symbolic end to a person who had no empathy for any other human being , and who actively inflicted upon millions of human beings years of misery and poverty.
It was the day that I always knew was going to come. The day that even if it happened on 22nd November 1990, would have been long overdue. Before any of you stupid ghouls criticise the idea of “making political capital” out of the death of others, consider, if you can, G Osborne – not even a week ago – using the murder of 6 children as a way of trying to destroy the welfare state, and the associated headlines of the Daily Mail?
If Philpott was the Vile Product Of Welfare UK, so was Thatcher. As she died this morning, aged 87, her successors – the reviled Cameron – implemented the many pronged dismantling of the welfare state : turning Disability Living Allowance into the PIP. Turning the Housing benefit into a Bedroom Tax. Turning the unemployed who suffered into scroungers and victims to be bullied. Turning anyone not rich, secure, and propertied into part of a huge, underpaid, underestimated, and oppressed army of millions.
So, around 1.05pm today, I idly checked my Twitter. “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead.” One phone call later, and it was confirmed. Where was my cider? The last Thatcher Death Cider I had to throw away a couple of years as the idle witch had miraculously failed to die. On the other hand, I outlived her. As did Nelson Mandela (whom she branded a “terrorist”), and Iain M Banks.
I take no joy in the death of a human being, not even one as vile and obviously psychopathic as her. I have little words of consolation for her armsdealer son. Whilst he mourns his mother, millions of families across this country have already grieved for deaths in their own family, hastened by her military actions in the Falklands, or hastened by her own personal apocalypses waged against the working class of Britain, or those who died in unheated rooms.
My first political memories are infected by her. At 9, I remember seeing ships burning and dying people jumping into the water. At nine, I knew that if this was the best mankind could do to resolve conflicts – by murdering each other en masse - we were frankly, fucked.
At 10, I remember as clear the face of my mother, small wooden stalls set up in Cotteridge High Street, begging for tins of food and clothing to be sent to the miners. At 10, I remember watching on the 6 O Clock news, armies of policemen attacking men who merely wanted to work for a living. In my heart, I knew there was something desperately immoral about this. Every day brought a newspaper headline and a photograph of a policeman on horseback clubbing a man without a helmet. My parents brought me up to believe that striking miners were the enemy and that Stalinistsocialism would destroy us all. My parents were fucking idiots.
At the age of 12, I remember the first phone call as my mother was told by dad that he had been made redundant. I remember our family eating sandwiches on school trips whilst the other kids had Big Macs in McDonalds. I remember the humiliation of being bullied and being called names by asshole kids, because my parents did not have the latest and smartest stitched horses, dolphins, and bulls on my clothing. I remember our family trying desperately not to be made homeless, as first, and then second, and then a third time, my father was made redundant by a dying industry. Even now, my Dad lives in abject poverty and crushing debt because he didn't take the pension, thinking the state would look after him, because he couldn't afford the pension after running up huge debts trying not to lose his house. I remember long summers of again, crushingly hard poverty and being punished by default for daring to want a university education, denying me the ability to get unemployment benefit, even though I was clearly unemployed. I remember standing outside the gates of some of the best gigs in my life, and knowing I could not afford the measly £12 to enter. Because I had dared to get an education. I remember working two jobs (one before, one after school), and emptying dead peoples flats for £1 an hour. I remember all of this, and I know that now, the immense fist of cruelty that crushes a huge part of our country now and carries with it a toll of untold misery onto millions is all born from her crazed, swivel-eyed fervour for capitalism at all costs.
And despite what you think, we are all one P45 from being a bankrupt scrounger on the take.
Child poverty in the UK was at its highest under her and Major's rule. Cameron is now trying to beat her.
For someone who had so little empathy for the misery she inflicted upon millions of humans, I have little empathy back. She was a cold woman, who saw the world in the language of balance sheets, saw the poor as deserving of their place, and who saw the inevitable fate of all human beings, a brush away from ill-health and destitution, as their just punishment for not being rich, and held them with the steely glare that they should just go away and die quietly.
Hillsborough.The Belgrano. Poll Tax. Falklands. Westland Helicopters. Right To Buy. Riots. Pinochet. The Battle Of Orgreave. The Valleys. Miners Strike. The abolition of rent councils that now trap millions in the poverty of rented accomodation. Clause 28. Hunger Strikes. Smashing the Trade Unions to make every worker poor and exploited. Utter support for Apartheid, and thus, state racism. All under her unfeeling eye.
Her legacy is greed by the powerful, division of the country into tiny fragments fighting against each other for crumbs, and a hypocrisy that claims to make work pay … but only the bare minimum mandated by law.
“The poor are just the bums you step over on the way to the theatre.”
Everything that is wrong in Britain today – the pennypinching poundfoolishness of accountancy, the moral deficit, the war upon workers, the cruel war between each other of Oneupmanship, the repugnant and immoral assault upon the rights and meagre benefits deserved by millions – all and each have their genesis in her demented world. If you are sad about her death, you have not noticed the trail of millions of ruined and unhappy lives that through her actions, and her inactions, she created in her wake. There is nothing to celebrate in her death, it does not change anything. There is no celebration, more a sense of blessed relief that the first of too many has at last fallen.
People rejoice at her death not because of her death, but because of the mortality of those repugnant and bankrupt policies for which she stood, and those she inflicted cruelly on millions without a moments hesitation for the years of misery and poverty she condemned the broken Welsh towns, the poor, the cold, the old, the ill, the young, the abandoned troops. The million dead who rest in graves, hastened there by a knowingly cruel and uncaring government, of which I saw only a small part.
Thatcher is dead. And if Thatcherism had died with her, it would be time to rejoice. But we have a battle to fight to protect the most vulnerable from the abuse and power of the most powerful, who have swallowed her ideology and got drunk upon it with a misanthropic passion. And by even having to fight this battle, the government has failed in its sole purpose. She may be dead. But her ideas live on, and those must be defeated. Suffer not any platitudes about her, challenge every statement made about her, and above all, do not relent in fighting for human happiness in the face of the cruel and morally deficit actions of the current government, who are in the pay of corrupt and immoral billionaires. They are the enemy of peace, happiness and prosperity we all desire.
A ceremonial funeral awaits. I dare one of you to get dressed as the Grim Reaper and dress all in black, silently, along the funeral procession. In the meantime, I hope her funeral has gone out to tender to the lowest bidder. And, of course, the security required to sell tickets for the inevitable procession of millions who intend to dance, and piss, upon her grave. I'd pay £10 for that. If her funeral were treated with the same respect that she treated everyone who wasn't a millionaire, her body would be wrapped in a cardboard box and urinated on by an endless procession of angry drunks, before being kicked to smithereens, and set aflame by the homeless to prevent them starving to death. The bones would be eaten by dogs and the remains turned into shit by flies. If as Cameron suggests, she was The Patriot Prime Minister, then she loved this country the way cancer loves the host.
Give the people what they want, after all. Just 34 years too late. She may have been a hero to some, but with heroes like that, who needs enemies?
"To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth." And you were hated. May your ideas be next.
THE FLAMING LIPS The Terror
10 years after the golden summer which brought them briefly to popularity with "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots", Wayne Coyne and his warriors of weird do what they have always done : whatever felt right. Not for them the easy path of diminishing returns by doing the same stuff as they always used to do, which, whilst it would have easily brought them a kind of gentle stasis in artistic death, the F'Lips eschew the easy in favour of the terror.
At the heart of it, they always did something slightly odd, and with long, instrumental experiements such as "Pompeii" in their canon, now they go one further : whereas their past album-a-year journey over the past several years has yield the good, the bizarre, and the ugly, with live albums, movie soundtracks, and the odd and brilliantly strange track-by-track remake of "Dark Side of The Moon", this, "The Terror" takes the world of strange they made around "The Embryonic" and go further. Much further. These aren't so much songs as .. punishments. Coyne and Drozd, with the rest of the band, conjour up some dense whirlwinds of sound and miserabilism built on a fierce mortality. Martin Amis has long seen the role of the driven artist as being founded in 'Premature Death Awareness Syndrome', a knowledge from a young age that we are all mortal : this drips this record with an uncompromising edge. We all die. When that happens, all that is left is the work. Nothing here now but the recordings, as William Burroughs had it. "The Terror" is not an easy record to love, or even like.
It is immaculately produced, but the songs are not always obvious. From the opening, groovedrenched "Look! The Sun Rises Today", where Coyne intones fragments of sentences over a pounding beat, it's obvious this band aren't just beyond the dark side of the moon, they're in another universe, and you can come along if you want. But it's not exactly the kind of strumalong you can sing a park. "Love is always something you should fear" he sings. Being at the age where parents start to die, and every year brings names crossed out of the address book as having escaped the mortal coil, the band are perhaps speeding up, as time speeds up as you get older, the years get quicker, the world gets stranger. Its as if the whole record was made of the kind of weird and odd songs that populated the back end of some of the early stuff. It's not that it isn't good : it certainly is, but it is dense, hard work, brave, rewarding, difficult and designed to soundtrack a hard hours thinking, eye closed, lost in a world, as free agents. Is it any good? Yes, but obvious, straightforward, designed for the stadia of the world? Not a chance.
SUEDE London Alexandra Palace 30 March 2013
This is how comebacks are made. We've all seen a lot of them by now, some good – some not so : where albums are excuses to tour, made of tired repetitions of past glories but not so convincing, and designed to populate setlists with boring moments whilst most of the audience wait for the hits. Few bands, after their first 10 or 15 years, keep in the public eye so fervently, but become part of the furniture,part of the noise of life. But this – this is the best comeback there is. On the back of their new – stunningly good – record, Suede eschew the usual bollocks, and open their second biggest non-Festival headline show with three belters from their new album that isn't even two weeks old. And they are received in raptures and waves.
It could have gone so wrong : Alexandra Palace has a cruel reputation, for pisspoor organisation, for broken queuing systems, beer tokens, pointless flow and one way systems, for generally being about as well organised as a school dinner party or a drunken night out, for sounding like a dustbin filled with fireworks on a good night, tonight though (aside from a laughable dearth of available female toilets and queues into the main arena for the ladies), the Palace manages somehow to acquit itself as a better venue than I have ever previously experienced.
After a capable support from Spector – who manage to sound like the bastard lovechild of Pulp and the Killers with mild dilution, the night is set for the most improbable comeback of the 90's, from the band that was written off by bandwagon chasers and popular media when, I dread to confess, Limp Bizkit took control of the front covers and the world turned away from ambition, from beauty, from ideas, in favour of bland, boring, boneheaded, bullshit and balderdash.
Opening with “Barriers” from the new record, Suede – Brett Anderson and his solid cohorts that have had a largely stable lineup for the past 2 decades (only one member has left for non-health related reasons since 1991) – have, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, returned with their sixth album and material that sounds both utterly of the here and now, and like they have never been away. Followed up with “Snowblind” and “It Starts And Ends With You”, the band wrestle us by the neck and make clear that they are no nostalgia act, no backwards glance, no touring indie museum for our amusement, but once again, clearly, and utterly, - and even if only to themselves – a valid and vital musical force. Then again, what have they got left to prove? Suede are one of Britains finest current exports, and unlike many bands, still making material 20 years in that is as good as they ever were, which is proof enough. Some bands would drop in apologetically a song from the new album after we've been warmed up with several old hits. Not here. Suede race out of the gates with the new stuff and the kind of hopeless self-belief that made them what they are.
For the great tragedy of Suede is that many people still cannot see beyond the fact that the band had a guitarist who left in 1994, and thus, no matter how good Suede have been since then, it's still never as good as it was. Which is complete bunkum. Whilst many of us of a certain age still see Richard Oakes as the 17 year old he was when he joined the band in 1994, he is, to my ears, the man who saved Suede, and for this, was denigrated as talentless clone, whereas it is really the same as when Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd and was replaced by David Gilmour : two different guitarists of differing styles, both very talented in very different ways. But when Oakes peels out the roar of feedback and “Metal Mickey” - or “Trash” or “Barriers” explode – around your ears, how anyone can think of Suede as 'past it' surprises me. We may be, on the outside, a little fatter or balder, or a little older and a lot wiser, but this is still just what it was like back then, but with more – and better – songs.
Even on the new songs, such as “Hit Me”, Anderson is buried to the chest in the crowd, leading a singalong of a chorus that two weeks earlier was largely unknown, a pied piper of pop, an aged actor taking us all to his dark world of gay animal sex and unrequited love. These days, the drugs and the dressings of fame matter not : all that seems to matter is communication between artist and listener. Does it connect? Does it make sense? Before long, though, this makes sense, unless like other reformations – hasty excuses to pad out pension plans and make money by performing bad cover versions of 20 year old songs – Suede have achieved that rarest of things, a comeback that does not seem like a comeback, but a continuation : a deserved next chapter made by a band that no longer wants to for the lure of filthy lucre, but does so, because it wants to, and because artistically it seems right. Sure, there's money in it – who works for free? - but money is not all there is in this. If there was, the summer would be chock full of festival shows and a 100 date world tour. This is not just about that, but also, about taking back a legacy unfairly besmirched by time and the lies of popular narrative. When the drums kick in, and Anderson serenades the crowd about jumping over barriers – shortly before doing so himself – and the band creates a maelstrom of guitars, it doesn't matter if this music is 20 years old, or came out last week. It connects. And, more than that, the new songs are those that sound the same yet different – older now, and a clever swine – but the same soul with memories – you know where you came from, you know where you are going, and you know where you belong. Never more than a few minutes away from a great old song or a great new one, this one of those nights. A hungry band, not on tour autopilot, but vicious and sharp and hungry and with the knowledge of the last throw of the dice they might yet win.
Quiet now : for the ending salvo, of “Can't Get Enough”, “Everything Will Flow”, “”So Young”, “Metal Mickey”, Trash”, “Beautiful Ones” are enough to deliver, and cement, Suede's place in the world as a band that cruelly suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous unfashionability whilst still remaining gobsmackingly brilliant. These bedsit dramas of love, loss, and of defiance ; being true to yourself and not everyone else were bedsit hymns for a new generation.
Time is the bell that rings. Who would've thought that, 20 years to the day after the release of their debut, Suede – who imploded in late 2003 – would be back in the fray, with a new album amongst their best, and live shows still as glorious as ever? No longer out of time, merely, timeless.
it starts and ends with you
we are the pigs
sometimes I feel like im floating away
killing of a flashboy
the wild ones
can't get enough
everything will flow
for the strangers
DEPECHE MODE delta machine
Twenty years ago this week, Depeche Mode released their masterpiece - "Songs Of Faith And Devotion" : two decades and several albums later, "Delta Machine" comes into view. As a trio, aided and abetted by a fleet of collaborators, Mode have remained defiantly the same yet always different. On first glance, this - their thirteenth studio record - suffers from the same quandry as any record from an artist who has been releasing material for 35 years would have : is there anything new to say? Is this just a case of saying the same old stuff slightly differently?
And, of course, when you are at this stage in your career - that is, having made as many records, and been active longer than, Pink Floyd - what is there to make the new record any good? It's not as if you are picking up 'new' fans : and it's not as if you have 'hits' any more because CD singles sell around 12 copies ; and its not as if there's anywhere to take your career, because you headline stadiums, so... why? And the answer is.. because you must. Because this is what you do. Because this is who you are. Because Depeche Mode make music and play shows and release records and do moody videos, and that is how they see the world.
As any artist might say, we see the world a certain way, and everyone of our experiences, all of our art, is merely a reflection of how the world looks to it, be it good, bad, ugly, and because how someone else sees the world may make the world seem different to us. Feargal Sharkey's " A Good Heart", and "You Little Thief" are - trivia fans - two songs written by two songwriters who used to be in a relationship with each other, and tell the two sides of each story. Whereas here, with the strangely titled "Delta Machine" - indicating the mix between the Delta Blues, and machine-led electronics that gives DM their peculiar brand of miserabilism - the band explore the same things they always have ; desire, power, the subjigation and joy of relationships, the world of love and loss and lust and longing and all the points inbetween : with an album that reminds me of nothing so much in tone as 2001's "Exciter", but with far stronger and livelier songs. Certainly "Soothe My Soul", "Raw Nerve/Soft Touch" and "Secret To The End" are the equal of anything they have released in the past 20 years. As with all DM albums, it needs time, and love, and attention. Gone are the days of an instant, gripping first listen : what makes this record, like their others, so enduring and successful, is the fact that it is not a record that reveals all its pleasures in the first listen. You must take this album, and let it become part of you, enjoy the light and shade, the rough and the smooth, the faith and the devotion, and let it absorb you. And then, only then, can a song like "Should Be Higher" can explode : Dave hasn't sung better on this in his life. Not even on "Condemnation".
Lead single "Heaven" is not really a hit as such ; the slowest, and least arresting DM lead single in the canon since... ever. Only 1998's "Only When I Lose Myself" is anything so modest. But repeated exposure helps. It is a great song, but not a pop hit.
On first listen, its not a bad record - but not a great one either. DM will never scale the heights of genius they had in the 1990-1993 Imperial phase where artistically they were invincible. But should you need to grow old, and need to make records, and need to carry on, you cannot ask for anything more : by most people's standards, this is a great record. But by the Mode standards, this is another record. Another very very good record. But perhaps not their best. The nearest relative I can think of is 2001's underwhelming "Exciter", which sees the jedi mindmeld of blues and misery with harsh electronics, not entirely successfully. Whereas that record still in my mind is the weak link in their body of work, this one sees DM trying the same attack, and this time, succeeding completely and utterly.
The Death Of The Top Dog
HIS MASTERS ADMINISTRATION : The Death Of HMV as seen from the outside
“First HMV and Blockbuster came for the independent record stores, and nobody minded, and then the administrators came for HMV and Blockbuster... and nobody cared anymore.”
As the shutters close on my local HMV on Friday, two months after the long ailing beast entered the slow, corporate death that is “administration”, the world faces an altogether more uncertain future. There is now not one national music retail company in the world's 6th biggest economy. Not one national music chain in the country that gave the world Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who,Steps, and … Ben Howard. But all false modesty aside, it is a national disgrace that HMV – a chain for whose flagship store was opened in 1921 by Edward Elgar – have gone into administration. HMV have been run into the ground by myopic arrogance, fuckwitted businessmen who don't understand the market, and a King Canute approach to the tide that no company can defeat.
Someone To Blame
The ignorant will claim that this is the fault of downloading. Step forward the archaic luddites of Peter Hook, et al. Yes, downloading and pirating may have affected record sales. Home taping is killing music. But what else has caused the death of the traditional retail outlets?
It's certainly not the fact that the price of gig tickets has outstripped inflation by a factor of at least twice as much.
It's certainly not the fact you can buy it all cheaper – or get it for free – online.
It's certainly not the most abusive and broken economy that has removed any such vulgar frippery as discretionary spending.
It's certainly not a dunderheaded pricing strategy. Its certainly not a wilful waste of a brand or a, at best, undereffective MP3 store.
It's certainly not the fact that restrictive and contemptuous packaging policies has deterred consumers from buying product – such as Suede record Bloodsports, where in order to own every song on the album you had to buy it at least three times (the iTunes version, the Japanese CD/DVD, and the Superdeluxe 7”+12”+CD+book+USB stick box set at £100), or the fact that DVD releases of films are often mercilessly and pointlessly stripped of extras, bonus features, and content in order to plug the Blu-Ray release.
In cases like this, people I know, just wait and buy a copy second hand a few months down the line – if at all - because there's no shortage of stuff in the world, and if they want to own Skyfall, it'll still be around, much cheaper, in the future. The idea of buying stuff the day it comes out is so archaic. I don't know anyone with enough money or enough insanity to buy every variant of the latest Smashing Pumpkins woodblock carved 7” EP. If you do, seek medical help.
People like paying for entertainment, but not when they are treated with such obvious loathing and exploitation.
But fear not. HMV always survived all the other upstarts : the death of the LP, the cassette, the rise of the Internet in 1996. HMV survived all these things. It'll survive the Internet in 2012! It will! It survived everything else. This presents no significant problem. It will even survive bankruptcy like some kind of zombie chain of retail invicinbili-
High Street Graveyard
We are always wiser after the event, but as I type this, my town – home to 100,000 people – now faces a future where the only place you can buy music is either in one aisle of a supermarket, or from your laptop. This is the endgame from Britain. And whilst I have long been discussing it, in fevered blogposts and telephone conversations, HMV has long been the doomed, ailing man of the British Music Industry, and one that royally, and wilfully, destroyed its own brand through dogged stupidity and single minded ignorance.
And, lets face it, in 2003 HMV had a strong brand. Sure, the high streets were filled with other music stores – Virgin, Tower, Our Price – and iTunes was barely a dream in Steve Jobs unstoppable mind. Now, ten years later, all those stores have fallen. Every one of them, with HMV merely the last to fall. And it was all so very avoidable.
Where did it all go wrong?
In short, HMV was arrogant. It decided not to fight the competition, and instead of defeating the supermarkets with all guns blazing, shot itself in the foot with both barrels.
Ask the staff. One of them said to me last week that HMV was sunk by ignorance. Arrogance, and wilful stupidity. And he's right.
After this article and this blog post, I am not surprised. I was sure in 2003, that HMV and others, were either holding back some powerful weapon, or clueless morons. As each one hit the wall, it became clear it was the latter. Even in 1999, when half the world had never heard of the internet and “speed” was not a fatpipe, but a 64kbps dialup connection, I was advocating a new and revolutionary method of selling music, where for 50p per song, anyone anywhere could download and own any song ever recorded by anyone at anytime. Sadly, without a startup behind me, or any balls, this became someone else's idea. No regrets, but it was bloody obvious at the time.
HMV, meanwhile, thought people had some kind of sentimental attachment to the CD and the DVD. People don't care whether it's a spinning disc or a hard drive platter. I don't care whether my music was originally recorded on a wax disc or a Maxell C-90. As long as it sounds good and I enjoy it, is my primary concern. If I have paid for it – HMV's other blind spot – is a matter for my conscience. If I don't pay for it then I have to accept that the artists producing it may very well cease producing more. That is my risk. And, when a ticket to see Thom Yorke's solo-band's first UK shows cost a whopping £49.50 – in the midst of the most vicious and long-lasting recession in 85 years – sometimes there is simply not enough money left in the economy for discretionary spending of the magnitude of £38 for a 2CD / 2DVD Pogues live box set (as spotted in a closing branch of HMV this afternoon) to keep afloat an old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar retail outlet. Especially one that charges so much money.
People have to buy an evening meal almost every night. You don't have to buy the Rhianna album everytime you want to listen to it – yet. That's the next insidious trick the market will go for : where you pay but never own anything, and merely rent the music you love.
If HMV sells 2,100,000 copies of Adele's “21” at £10, there are no guarantees that you can sell 4,200,000 at £5. Every record, be it The Saturdays, or The Sundays, has a finite number of sales in it.
“Mercifully Free Of The Ravages Of Intelligence.”
Does HMV really think it needs to stock 50 copies of the Lady Gaga album two years after it came out in case there's a sudden run on it? It may have sold 50,000 in the first week, but it won't sell 50,000 in the thirty first week.
Sometimes the market is saturated.
HMV had five stores in Glasgow two months ago. FIVE. (Population 600,000, by the way). AT that rate of attrition, HMV should have had 700 stores in the UK, not 238. And, when HMV Sandford* (*names changed) bought Zavvi and Woolworths went under, the targets were set to reflect a pre-recession economy and scaled up to a level which simply could not be achieved. There weren't enough potential sales. The idea was that with three stores turning into one, sales for the other two must have been same.. so TRIPLE the TARGETS!
There was a reason the other two shops went bankrupt. The reason Musiczone bought the ailing MVC, and turned from a company turning a profit to a company with 100 loss-making stores dragging into a watery grave. The economy does not exist in Waynes World where the reality is : “Build it, and they will come.” This is not Retail Field Of Dreams.
Music is not a scalable product in the same way as food. If you can sell a pizza for £3, you can lower the price point and you can sell more pizza. However, with an album, once you've made that sale, people continue reusing that product. The point of selling 5000 albums at £10 does not mean that if you halve the price, you can automatically sell twice as many. Its not a product that is use just once then destroy. That's then 5000 sales you won't make again – irrespective of the number of deluxe editions and bonus tracks the many alternate versions come with. So, HMV end up with vast quantities of unsaleable product. Sure, you can agitate sales with reissues, remasters, deluxe editions, but at the end of the day, there's a finite limit to the number of copies any album – even Def Leppards “Hysteria” - can sell.
As recently as 2005, HMV thought the way to make money was to charge more online than in the store, thinking that it could – for the convenience of sending you a parcel through the post that wouldn't fit through your letterbox and needed to be picked up from a sorting office queue on a Saturday morning – cost more than casually leaving the house, going to a store miles away, picking out and taking an item to a till, then putting it in a bag, going home, and listening to it.
As recently as 2012, HMV thought it could charge £16.99 in person for something that had been sat on the shelf for years when Amazon's new and used was selling it for £1.99 + £1.26 postage. Even my Dad is on the Internet. Why wasn't HMV aware? Why did HMV have its Head-In-The-Sand, screaming LaLa hoping the Internet would just …. go away.
In the meantime, competition walked through the open door HMV's complacency left swinging open. Play, Amazon, Zavvi, the Hut, et al all opened, and provided the customer with what they wanted : affordable convenience. The competition, Play etc., were all waiting for HMV to decimate them by opening fire with the Big Guns. And HMV not only didn't fire them, if half-assedly saw the monster eating them alive as a mere flea, so pointed the guns down and never fired them.
Too big to fail? Too big to survive.
Throw The Brand Away
HMV had a powerful brand. And it threw it against the wall. Thinking most people still, in this day and age, ignore Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Pirate Bay, and instead, still take the convoluted option of :
1. Go out of house
2. Drive / walk / abseil to store
3. Scour shelves. Find thing. If you can find the thing hiding among 500 copies of the Jay-Z CD.
4. Walk to till, queue, pay.
5. Drive / walk / huskyride home
6. Insert into CD player / rip to iTunes
7. add to MP3 player
Where did HMV go wrong? Everywhere.
In 1999, HMV, meanwhile, had an ideal platform to take the most well known music retail brand in the universe, and use it to transform music. They spunked it against the wall and let iTunes steal the open goal. Well done, Steve Knott. Your lack of action destroyed HMV and doomed it to a long, slow, lingering death by wilfully ignoring the biggest change in the world of retail since the invention of the shop.
Where did HMV go wrong? In short, a million places at once.
1. The Internet. HMV saw the Internet as a place to sell CD's online, and at absurd prices. The online sales price for a CD at HMV.com was often far above the bricks-and-mortar shops in the early years. For some reason no one could fathom, HMV thought you could change more to have to collect a CD sized parcel from a Royal Mail Sorting office than it could for you to browse through racks on a Saturday afternoon. Even on this basic point, HMV completely and utterly fucked up. With online retail, you don't have to pay for as many staff, you don't have to pay ground rents for stores, you don't have to carry dead shelf stock, you don't have to do anything but fill a warehouse with stuff and pack it into a jiffy bag and pop it in the post for 50p a go. Sometimes, you don't even have to pay tax if you go offshore. Easy fucking peasy.
2. MP3 Sales. HMV's online MP3 sales function was so dunderheadedly stupid it would fall into a barrel of tits and come out sucking its own thumb, to quote a bad old comedy film. HMV went wrong in a number of areas here, but in short :
a)1 Click Purchase. Easy. Buying MP3's should be as easy as opening a webpage. Why not a page hmv.com/pinkfloyd that dynamically offered you everything easily and affordably? Let's put aside artist considerations for a while (AC/DC didn't join the Internet until 2011, but iTunes did fine without them) ; some were absolutely 100% embracing the internet as early as 2002. End of debate.
b)Search function. The MP3 purchase page should always be laid out for maximum convenience and with oodles of common sense. When you search for “Suede”, it should not bring up “Blue Suede Shoes”. The search function should also clearly highlight HMV-exclusive material. What you cannot get anywhere else. Not the same stuff that everyone else can buy packaged in more expensive and complicated bundles. Click, buy, done.
c)Dynamic recommendations. Amazon really have some very intelligent algorithims behind this. In short “Bought this? You'll LOVE this.” And one populated by people that know what they are talking about. The world is full of people that know this. Some of them are unemployed. Use them. Employ product specialists that understand the market.
More importantly, HMV should have been all over broadband MP3 sales ten years ago, selling stuff at 50p a go, and decimated iTunes before it was even born.
3. The Supermarket. HMV became an expensive, poorly stocked supermarket, with shelves stacked by robots. Music, despite what people tell you isn't the same as baked beans or bananas. Music is art. People buy music to listen to it, dance to it, fall in love to it. They treat music as a luxury purchase : not something they need to buy, like bread, or milk. HMV fell out of love with music, and became a device to shift product and not only that, became a blatant Music Supermarket. And frankly, if people want to treat music that way, they will have no loyalty where they buy it from. And lo and behold, why drive to a separate store to be sold music by someone who really doesn't give a shit about it and pay more, when you can do by walking one aisle along in SuperMegaTescos? Especially when CD's were given away free with newspapers.
If you walked into a supermarket, what did you experience? Rows of the same items, all arranged carefully to maximise sales, competitively priced with maximum ease of access and designed to shift. This is fine for Bananas. Or Nappies. It is not the way to sell CD's if you want to have a sustainable business model. HMV treated music, CD's and DVD's with contempt. As if all it had to do was open its doors, and customers would come flocking in. In the midst of a recession the first spending to dip is entertainment. Especially when it's free on the Pirate Bay. It's not as if Paul McCartney needs any more millions anyway. Thumbs Aloft is loaded. This arrogance, coupled with an insane restocking policy, saw HMV commit cash where it had no resources to commit :
Like Tower, HMV had a bizarre restocking policy. If the Bodget & Scarper album had sold 1 copy of their Japanese import EP at £25, then it would order another 1. Even though Bodget & Scarper may only have 1 fan – leaving HMV with cash invested in an unsold album. And thus, the industry price for that item remained outside of the HMV coffers. (It was only relatively recently, when HMV clearly was in financial difficulties, that it started to explore Sale-Or-Return deals with labels). Repeat that 10,000 times : ask yourself how many copies of the Kings Of Leon album sit on HMV shelves right now waiting to be bought?
On a smaller scale, with an active catalogue in the 10's of thousands, each unsold title was a weight around HMV's neck : and endless moronic restocking of something as soon as it sold was not a 'lost sale', when it hung on the shelf for years on end. Many times, I remember seeing dogeared stock that had obviously been there for years in battered plastic shrinkwrap and old-format pricing stickers : after 2 years, I stopped looking at the dogeared version of Pop Will Eat Itself's “Dos Dedos Mis Amigos” imported from Japan at £28.99. Even if that copy had sold, the HMV order would have been for another copy the next week. Another two years of paid-for stock, tying up HMV money with no return, sitting on a shelf costing money. For tens of thousands of titles, in hundreds of stores, across the UK.
5. Ground Rent HMV used 1999 as a way of raising capital by doing a sale-and-leaseback of its stores rather than borrowing it, they did by selling off their stores under a lease back, ie Buy to Rent. Like selling you house to "unlock equity" and then renting it. In effect, in corporate terms, the “We-buy-your-mortgage-and-you-rent-off-us” loanshark bullshit.
With that, they then no longer owned a great number of their own stores, and were locked into rent increases. This is why they can't make the rent in a lot of stores - because of high rents caused by selling them off. if they hadn't sold them off, HMV would have not been crippled by it.
I could go on, and on and on. The list is endless.HMV was arrogant, incompetent, destroyed its own brand through inaction, and willingly gave away its whip hand in the market by failing to act against the competition which it thought would magically just … go away.
Where HMV ultimately went wrong, and this was its key failure, was both culturally and commercially. Music is art, and a society which does not sell culture on the high street is poorer for it. HMV could – and should have – sold itself as a gateway to the imagination, instead of merely a bunch of shelves selling expensive white slabs of plastic technology and MP3's-in-a-box. HMV sold itself on stack-it-high / sell-it-expensive bullshit, where it clearly didn't care what it sold, as long as it sold as much of it as it could. And here is where it failed. HMV stores had no class. No personality. No style. Just another dull, boring, corporately branded store.
The personality – if it had one – of a Rolling Stones indebted retiree fighting with a teenager with not very much money for control. HMV was bland, boring, shelves with no personality, diversified into basic and tedious stock, sold unimaginatively at insane prices, with staff who (in the main) couldn't've cared less if they were selling music or cakes. Knowledgable staff had to hide their personality and knowledge – one who I had a fascinating discussion about the marketing of “Kid A” last week for example and the other who could discuss to tedious detail the different pressings of Kraftwerk vinyl between Germany and the UK in the 70's – and reduced them to just people in purple shirts selling boxes of product. Radio friendly unit shifters.
HMV also made itself a laughing stock by suggesting that staff had to cover their tattoos. This is rock, the very market of tattoos. You might as well suggest that pubs be run by teetotallers. A third of the UK has tattoos. If HMV were so desperate for customers it would try to make its staff pretend they don't have tattoos, it should have had a half decent online MP3 store half a decade ago.
The average high street customer is smarter, and wiser with their money, than HMV. HMV's base retail price for the X-Men Trilogy Blu Ray Box Set was.... £42.99. The base retail price for The Pogues Live 2CD+2DVD Set was … £39.99 . Who would pay their prices? It's Our Price, Not Your Price, and Fuck Off If You Don't Like It.
Whatever happened to Our Price, anyway?
What does it mean?
But what does it mean for the High Street? In 1997, U2 launched their album, somewhat ironically, in a supermarket. Nowadays, Bono and Co descending from the ceiling of a Big Box supermarket the size of a football pitch is probably the best way to launch a record. Guns N Roses sold the long-awaited Chinese Democracy exclusively through Best Buy for six months before any other store had it.
What it means is, in the town where I live – population 100,000 – there is not one store that just sells entertainment brand new. CEX thrives, and sells other peoples cast offs. Since 2005, one local record shop, and Virgin, Zavvi, and now HMV, have all bitten the dust in the past seven years. The only place you can now buy music brand new from the back shelf of Asda and Sainsburys.
Of course, irrespective of the crowing by some at the death of yet another High Street Store, HMV's absence is a serious and worrying move.The week HMV went into administration, Blockbuster and Jessops also died. That's 15,000 retail jobs in one week. That is the equivalent of an entire fucking town the size of Royston being made suddenly unemployed. That is a big deal. The physical retail market is in dire straits. The economy is being destroyed by the economically illiterate dogma of politicians and vulture capitalists.
And to be frank, with HMV gone, what next for the physical media? CD's, DVD's will become niche products. By removing the main artery for sales to the general public, the general public will start to buy music only from the Supermarkets, and that means that if you don't get shelf space at Asda, your record is over. The opportunity for people to ask the (ignorant) staff about the song playing is over. The chance HMV had to promote culture – one it woefully wasted in favour of shifting boxes of Adele's “21” - was wasted. There was nothing HMV sold you couldn't get cheaper and easier from your laptop or on your local grocery shopping run.
Well done, HMV. You committed a slow, and moronic corporate suicide and weren't even smart enough to admit it. The story of HMV is a litany of endless wasted chances and blown opportunities, all of whom can be laid firmly at the feet of ignorant and stupid management who let their arrogance think they could somehow take on reality by pretending it didn't exist - and win. The Godzilla that killed you was the mouse that roared. It's called progress. And frankly, I'm surprised it took as long for you to commit suicide as you did.
Welcome to the future. It is no place for a dinosaur.