Thursday, January 29, 2009

Film Industry in 'Capitalist' Shock

This week's non-union New Statesman takes us back to the heady days of Louis Althusser and 'base-and-superstructure' Marxism, though without using those terms. Robbie Graham and Matthew Alford's article 'The Power Behind the Screen' belongs to a tradition that dates back at least as far as the 1930s and F. D. Klingender and Stuart Legg’s book Money Behind the Screen.

The story goes that because the Hollywood studios are – this emerges early in the piece – capitalist enterprises, they have an obvious interest in maintaining the status quo. This will come as news to few people, and fewer still New Statesman readers – a magazine whose financial situation has of course no effect whatever on its contents, and which remains defiantly independent of party politics.

Still, it is interesting to note that the troother doc Loose Change, here identified as a product of the ‘counterculture’, had trouble finding a mainstream distributor. More interesting still, we learn that Paul Greengrass, when he made United 93, which did get a distributor, was actually following a sinister Neocon agenda that supported ‘Bush’s official 9/11 story’. The authors report that

just one month prior to the release of United 93, 83 per cent of CNN viewers confirmed their belief "that the US government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks". With the official narrative under attack, the US government welcomed the release of United 93 with open arms: the film was a faithful audiovisual translation of the 9/11 Commission Report.

I guess we shouldn’t expect any better from the magazine that gave us the ‘kosher conspiracy’. But what really bites is the chronic cinematic illiteracy involved in this kind of thing – which is only a more detailed and tendentious version of what gets published all the time elsewhere. (I’m sure I’ve seen more than one article claiming that – already – films being released in cinemas now reflect the Obama victory.) In this particular case the problem, apart from the implication that Greengrass’s film is covering up for Mossad or whoever really did 9/11, is that the values represented by United 93 – collective action, competence, love of one’s fellow man and the like – are not values one associates with the last administration at all.

Their precis of Munich, which ends on ‘a lingering shot of the World Trade Center, its twin towers standing as monolithic reminders as to "why we fight",’ ‘a corporate-backed endorsement of Israeli policy,’ is even worse – simply put, they have completely misread the film, as well as giving us an international Jewish conspiracy theory to chew on. If anything, that lingering shot of the WTC on the foggy horizon – they don’t look very monolithic – is meant to at least suggest that 9/11 was in some way a result of the failure to resolve Israel/Palestine. No-one could see the film as cheerleading for Mossad, at any rate, and it certainly drew a lot of criticism from pro-Israeli pressure groups – which only goes to demonstrate the perils of trying to get a political ‘read’ off a film based on who paid for it.

More amusingly, Graham and Alford end by telling us what they do like: 'American Psycho, which criticised corporate capitalism; Hotel Rwanda, which highlighted the failings of US foreign policy, and Lord of War, which focused on the arms trade.’ Now, American Psycho is a lovely bit of work, but critique of corporate capitalism, or any kind of capitalism, it is not; far superior to the book, it is nonetheless still your basic businessman-in-his-suit-and-tie demonology. Nothing wrong with that of course, but there’s no need to front that it’s The Hour of the Furnace; Lord of War meanwhile is just a dull movie picking up points for saying that the arms trade is a bad thing, not good like you thought. (That’s two Lee and Herring articles in one paragraph if you’re counting.)

In the end, this kind of article, which, as I say, is a media staple, and not just on the left, rests on the idea that the most salient thing about any film is its politics – but moreover, its politics as elaborated in the synopsis of the film, rather than its texture, as in United 93, or even just in its detail, as in Munich. In the end, this kind of article is bad criticism.

RIP Big Man - John Martyn

Capsule Review #3: 'Valkyrie'

Actually kinda dope.

Slow to Speak as Slow to Think

Sometimes in a recession it feels good to celebrate a heroic act of spending. Other times the person doing the spending would be a mark whatever the circumstances.

If you’re spending twelve quid on a pirate 12” repressing of three Devo tracks, that won’t sound any better for the extra vinyl spread coz they aren’t from the master tapes, then y’re a mark. And a schmuck. That goes even if they are ‘curated’ by Terre Thaemlitz, who has gone to the extraordinary trouble of picking the two most famous Devo songs from their most famous album and (here’s the genius) one slightly less wll-known one from their second. You could buy nice second hand copies of both albums for less than the cost of this twelve.

They haven’t even bothered to get the track titles correct. It’s “Mongoloid” not “Mongoloids”.

There’s a whole raft of these 12”s too, all with fake record company logos and “for promotional use only” legend, even though there’s nothing to promote.

If anyone out there has bought one of these, get in touch at the Rocktimists email address and include your bank details because we need to verify your PayPal and ebay accounts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Pressure than the Bottom of the Mariana Trench

This is the back cover of the ‘deluxe’ edition of the new Franz Ferdinand album. It’s not a good idea to try to gauge what someone is experiencing based on their work but I don’t think Franz Ferdinand are having fun right now. And they were never a band who found it easy to look like they were having fun in the first place.

Feel The Pressure

Three Years. Twenty-five dog years. An infinity in group years. And calculating every second.

Feeling Kind of Anxious

Calculate. Put two and two together and get four. Start again. And again. And again.

The Vaguest of Feeling

Run on the spot for mile after mile after mile. Thick breath on the back of the neck. Drenched. So near –

Feel The Envy

Swallow the bile. Look over a shoulder and force a smile. Drenched. So near and yet so far –

Can’t Stop Feeling

Can’t start feeling.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Love is Not a Victory March

I went to see The Wrestler recently despite knowing nothing about that noble art, thinking that Mickey Rourke has never been in a good film and that Requiem for a Dream (by the same director, Darren Aronofsky) is one of the top three worst movies ever—the type of shit I would have found profound as a fourteen-year-old and then felt vaguely embarrassed about later. The Wrestler is excellent though; the plot is prefab and may as well be from Karate Kid VII but Rourke and Marisa Tomei are terrific, the wrestling scenes are exciting, punishing and funny, and there’s a surplus of weird, niggling detail.

I’ve fucked up and been totally unable to find what I really wanted to post here tonight though, video footage of something a friend informed me of as we left and which is a perfect confluence of Christmas number one single and Oscar-bait film. I’ll let Wikipedia tell it, with added emphasis by me on the bit that sounds so amazing: “Extreme Championship Wrestling was infamous for regularly holding "Bring Your Own Weapon Nights" at the ECW Arena in the early days of the promotion. Fans were encouraged to bring their own weapons to give to wrestlers, as fighting in the crowd was a staple of ECW matches. A dollar store located next to the ECW Arena often supplied the bulk of the weapons, with fans purchasing them while they waited in line for each show. Memorable weapons included crutches, a large piece of cardboard with the words "Use Me!" handwritten on it but actually concealing a full-sized Stop sign, a two-man kayak, a Leonard Cohen vinyl record, a VCR (with remote), a cactus, a cast iron ladder, and a Nintendo Entertainment System.”

I refuse to believe that I can’t watch a man getting beaten with a Leonard Cohen LP somewhere on the internet coz, really, what the fuck was the internet even developed for if not that?

The Wrestler also marks the flipping point where even in mainstream mags and papers “that pussy Cobain” (as Rourke’s character Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson dubs him) and grunge are going to start to be called out as whiney and not-fun, and hair metal seen as old-is-new-again party food like the rest of the 80s. Look for articles on the subject in the next six months.

Hair metal still sucks though. Except “Cherry Pie” by Warrant.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


One of the few good things about the ongoing world economic shit-spin is the probability that the endless amount of tiresome “web 2.0 gurus” that fill up the business and tech pages of the broadsheet papers with spiels about how the music biz can save itself will go back to where they belong, talking to the gullible—but mainly themselves—on their blogs. The idea that musicians were gonna support themselves financially by giving their shit away and making the cash back on live shows was always laughable, and now even the dummies that convinced themselves it was workable can surely see it.

That said, one of their touted ideas, the celestial jukebox—all recorded music beamed from the heavens and streaming straight from one's computer—is here. Or at least enough of a working model that it’s possible to get an idea of the possibilities.

It’s called Spotify and sign-up is here, at least if you live in the UK (there’s no US support yet and access varies across Europe). After that you download a widget to your computer which runs an iTunes-like interface for accessing the music. It actually takes up much less system resource than the memory hog of iTunes and sound quality is pretty good considering the music is streaming over the internet. The only times that I’ve had playback problems have been when using up most of my connection with BitTorrents.

After installation the first thing to do seemed to be to try to find what isn’t available, and out of my initial searches Spotify did much better than I expected, although there is no Denim, Half Man Half Biscuit or “Prisencolinensinainciusol”.

As one of Spotify’s best features is that it’s possible to share playlists, I figured that it would be good to try to put one together for the Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll track results and see what happened. Considering that the results were quite wide ranging there aren’t too many artists that are missing entirely; only volcano!, 88 Keys (bar one song with him guesting), heartsrevolution, Nat Johnson, Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Salem. Surprisingly S.C.U.M. and “Put a Donk on It “ by Blackout Crew are there (“Did you mean Blackest Crow” suggests the search engine helpfully). Some other artists appeared but not the tracks that placed in the poll: the only Radiohead is Kid A and The Best Of, Tricky has his early work available but not “Bacative” even though plenty other Domino Records stuff is there, Black Milk has some tracks up but they’re mixed in undifferentiated with a girl group of the same name, and for Addictive ft. T2 there’s only “Gonna Be Mine (T2 Gyalist Mix)” and not the original.

So here, as near as I can get it and with a few substitutions, is The Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll Spotify Playlist. If you have Spotify installed just click to add.

Rocktimist Mike T-Diva has done a couple of similar playlists, one for his top 75 tracks of 2008 (which is mainly missing funky house tracks) and one for the Pazz and Jop top 100 singles (six missing there).

Lastly, a couple of weird things about Spotify. The tagging of remixes is terrible leading to singles being on there with no fucking way of telling what is up with the multiple identically titled versions listed (save heading over to Discogs and comparing track lengths). And, perplexingly, how did RVNG Mix 3 a mail-order only, unauthorised mix CD by Tim Sweeney of the DFA end up being available?

Mix Up

I posted a link to a mix at the end of last week, and here already are links to a couple more from two of the best blogs out there. If I was broke, or at least less greedy, I think I could probably live off free internet mixes alone.

Mix blog Allez-Allez has a half-hour set from Animal Collective’s Josh Deacon featuring Arthur Russell, Panda Bear and Greece’s finest, Aphrodite’s Child.

Over at post-post-punk-and-beyond kings 20 Jazz Funk Greats there’s a cheap-disco mix by new (and unheard by me) Italians Do It Better signings Bottin.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pazz, Jop 2008

Pazz & Jop 2008, the latest iteration of the poll that inspired our own Disastrous Critics Poll is now up on the Village Voice website. Unlike (at least) the previous two years I think I might be the only Brit living in Britain who voted (the other Brit being the NY-based Simon Reynolds). For people that voted and super-aspies there’s also Glenn McDonald’s stat-heavy autopsy of P&J2008.

The results are pretty thrill- and surprise-free, with TV on the Radio winning the albums and M.I.A. the singles. This is probably to do with what seems to be the main trend this year; that going by a whole fucking special section in the comments (“How politics changed how we thought about music, if we thought about music at all”) American critics seemed more obsessed with patting themselves on the back about having played a part in Obama’s victory than ranking records. I get it—you cast a vote! Elsewhere people ponder furrowed browed about the declining fortunes of the rock crit without hitting on the idea that they should perhaps be concentrating on their jobs a bit harder.

On the other hand the boring results might be down to a whole load of douches like Michael Ayers who sez, infront of everyone, no shame, “I didn't get the Bon Iver album when I first heard it. I'm not sure I still get it. But I wanted to get it, because everyone else got it, and I hate feeling left out. So now, I think I get it.”

Or Geoffrey Himes who sez “I don't necessarily vote for the candidates I like the most, but for those good enough to admire and mainstream enough to have a legitimate shot at winning. I didn't really think the Hold Steady and Raphael Saadiq albums were among the 10 best of the year—releases by Bill Frisell, the SteelDrivers, Jon Dee Graham, and David Murray were much better—but I really liked the Hold Steady and Saadiq discs, and I thought they might actually place in the printed lists.” That’s right, he voted for records that were much worse than others he could’ve repped. Put it on the line there Geoff, eh.

Mix Up

Confession: I don’t usually listen to any of the promo blat that ends up in the Rocktimists inbox as I’m hard pushed to keep up with all the stuff I wanna hear anyway without adding a load of weedy soft-psych bands to the list. 

I have been nodding my head to this dubstep mix by Forensics that showed up in the inbox though. It’s recommended and I’ve stuck a tracklisting in the comments section.

And since I was speaking of info overload, this seems the right place to mention Michaelangelo Matos’s new blog, the self-explanatory Slow Listening Movement.

The Red Man Will Get Ahead, Man

I successfully avoided every piece of Obama related music leading up to the election, but here’s one that I have checked post-inauguration; the venerable Steinski—the guy who invented Coldcut, DJ Shadow and Girl Talk—has posted up on his blog a quickie track, "None Shall Be Afraid", which mixes up his typically bouncy, tom-heavy drums with snips of the Reverend Lowery’s benediction speech.

As contrast to a Steinski track about optimism and the beginning of a Presidential term here’s one of his about fear and dread and the end of a Presidential career, the sound of Kennedy getting his brains spread across his wife’s dress set to the “Honky Tonk Women” break. It’s goofy and creepy in equal measure, the kind of weird document a conspiracy obsessive could pore repeatedly over, looking for hidden signs. It’s only competition for el supremo Kennedy blam track is surely The Misfits "Bullet" with its incredible lyrics.

Steinski & Mass Media – The Motorcade Sped On [ysi]

“The Motorcade Sped On” is taken from the Steinski retrospective What Does It All Mean which can be bought physical here or digitally here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mix Up

Here are some mixes worthy of waking you up on the morning commute:

The Revenge, who gained a lot of attention for his *weary sigh* re-edits last year, has a mix of disco into house on his blog.

DFA/Rekids guy Jacques Renault also has a mix doing the disco into house move here.

Finally welcome the New Year with a funky house mix from Roska that, amazingly, doesn't feature "Devil in a Blue Dress", "African Warrior" or "Bongo Jam". Corner, turned.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happiest on Horseback

Did an article on page 36 of a 1981 issue of the Times lead to 1992s worst run of top ten singles?  We'll probably find out with the long overdue return of Robin Carmody to blogging.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Orgies of Inbreeding

Whilst I love end-of-year polls—a chance to measure what I like against what other people are repping for—I really don’t like the beginning of the year when the magazines and broadsheets run their Exciting! Prospects! For! The! Coming! Year! pieces. I’d like these lists if they were filled with genuine punts and oddities but instead they're compiled by churnlists acting like they know by picking a bunch of artists who’ve had long-term development deals, big advances, PR spend and radio play already in the bag.  The BBC Sound of 2009 is the biggest and this year even comes with a instructional section called “you should love this music because…” just in case one was having any doubts.

So I was getting away from it all and revisiting the past by reading a few blogs from the turn of the last century when I came across a post from Hanns Eisler about 1928’s crop of tips (when Ernst Krenek won) and how the lists “have become downright stock exchanges, where the value of the works is assessed and contracts for the coming season are settled. Yet all this noise is carried out in the vacuum of a bell glass, so to speak, so that not a sound can be heard outside. An empty officiousness celebrates orgies of inbreeding, while there is a complete lack of interest or participation of a public of any kind”.

That said, I’m glad that Little Boots won the BBC poll this year as not only is “Stuck on Repeat” the only song I’ve heard by anyone on the list that doesn’t make me want to harm my ears but it’s one that’s been a fairly constant commute companion for the past few months. Props to her too for linking this el cheapo (and previously unseen by me) vid for Dee D. Jackson’s amazing sputnik-disco track “Automatic Lover”. (She's got no chance of making the O face with that robot much though).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Set Texts

Here is your set text reading elsewhere:

How to push the Animal Collective collective to breaking point.

The strange death of the UK charts. Or maybe their rebirth. Features a graph so you know it's good value.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll 2008 Wrap-Up

Because we’ve run this one into the ground. But before we finish, a few more things.

Here, here, here and here (jeez, there’s gotta be a more elegant way of doing that) is a thought provoking set of interlocking posts on the nature of end-of-year lists, and the way that they balance individual taste and consensus, all-encompassing greed and purpose. The DRUKPCP2K8, as no-one is calling it, was meant to be find consensus but in the end what I thought would be the clear winner, Fleet Foxes, was left out of both the albums and tracks lists (which listed everything getting 10 points and above). I’m no fan of the prozac Everley Brothers so this doesn’t bother me aesthetically, only because it shows that there was a vast heartland of critics—yer Q and Mojo and Independent on Sunday dadrockers—that we totally missed out on getting to. That did mean, to my delight, that DJ KHAAAAALEEED ended number four in the tracks poll however. At Rocktimists we’re always grindin’

The ballot email also asked critics to name a worst release of the year, the thinking being that what a lot of people love, a lot of other people loathe, and we wanted to see if what people thought was worst was a mirror image of the others best. Most crits out there mustn’t be filled with the same amount of hatred, bitterness and contempt as I am as a lot bowed out of selecting anything and beyond that the only bands to get more than one vote were Glasvegas (3), Foals (2) and Girl Talk (2), all good choices. Notable beyond that were Freaky Trigger’s Tom Ewing, “the actual most reprehensible thing I heard in 08 was Elephant Man’s version of “No Air” as “No Queer”. I really wish I’d left it as an OMG rumour and not actually decided to hear it” (I’ve heard it too and it’s hard to say what’s worse, the virulent hatred of the sentiment or Elephant Man’s physically painful attempts at matching the original singing); William B Swygart with the Strictly Come Dancing House Band’s murder of “Spice Up Your Life”, “not technically a release but I had to sit through it, so it counts” and Peter Parrish’s inadmissible but undeniably correct pick of xkcd, “not an album or a track, but xkcd is the worst thing in any context”. My worst of the year? These New Puritans’ Beat Pyramid CD, the gauntly unacceptable face of fake experimentation.

And entirely unilaterally, here’s the Rocktimists video of the year, posted so I get an excuse to watch it again. My brother heard this in the only pub open in our small Northern home town on Christmas day and I am so jealous.

Lastly, a big thanks to everyone who voted or showed support.

RIP Big Man - Ron Asheton

Ron Asheton RIP.

You can hear a lot of Ron on the stupidest/greatest ever box set of all timeevery second of tape recorded for Funhouse (28 fucking takes of "Loose"!)here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll 2008 - The Jagger Opinion

Always a man for expanse, Rocktimists prog-rock correspondent Louis Jagger attached comments to his ballot that are so long that they’re getting their own entry.  Also postcode.

A year deep in the shadow of 2007, there were nonetheless a few nice surprises. Chief of all was the impromptu discovery of a debut solo record from The Electric Soft Parade’s more talented brother. I found out about its existence when visiting the band’s Myspace, with the express intention of finding Thomas White’s contact details and hectoring him about why he hadn’t taken creative control of the group and followed a star clearly more expansive and musically sublime than shown by last year’s disappointing ESP record. A swift iTunes download later and it became rapidly apparent that he had done just that. Only 37 minutes long, it’s not got a wasted second, trading in pop snap for flow, craft and a handful of mighty, mighty compositions. Considering it was all done in his girlfriend’s basement for close to no expenditure, it’s as technically inspirational as it is stunningly conceived. White himself claims that there are plenty of things he’d have liked to have tweaked given time, but he had to just “get it out there”. Such modesty is disarming, and belies an album with a clear and thoroughly convincing musical arc. Don’t be put off by the rough edges; White is something of a studio master, and after alternating near-acoustic pluckalongs with showstopping psych-rock-outs, he settles into an ambient-pop groove that thrills as much as it soothes, before ending on a note as unexpected as it is brilliantly-realised: think “smoky jazz sci-fi apocalypse”, then sip on a Daquiri as the sun explodes. For many reasons my album of the year. Sadly, I do not expect it to be on anyone else’s list; it seems like the kind of record you had to have found by happy accident.

After this, there was an intriguing battle for 2-5 by four records I’m more than happy to stick a metanarrative on. More appropriately, they represent two pairs of albums looking to forge ahead and make exciting, different music they can call their own. Volcano and Youthmovies, having been around some time, were unleashing long-awaited 2nd major releases, having refined their raw talents, written some stunning songs, and married progressive structure and attitude to a more organised, user-friendly format. As it turned out, Volcano’s record contained the best moments (more on that later), but Youthmovies’, as their first full-length album, seemed to have more at stake, and consequently was from start-to-finish the more engaging, surprising listen. Volcano, having blown minds and won hearts in 2005 with Beautiful Seizure, were faced with the near-impossible task of following up a classic, and did so admirably, with a less shocking but perhaps more assured, controlled bunch of songs. I’d call Good Nature the stone-cold classic, but Paperwork got better every time I listened to it, and is worthy of a place in the top 5.

The other two records in this little metanarrative were less spiky-guitar post-rock, more rollercoaster-pop stuck in 6th gear with no out-shot except to roll on and on. Silvery were a breath of fresh air, their dementedly whirlwind-psychogeography-London-carnival-apocalypse pop mash containing more than a hint of Cardiacs and Blur while dealing with subject-matter Iain Sinclair would doubtless approve of, the overall effect one of joyous revel in London’s luminous historical underbelly. The music itself was fast, furious, and never less than convincing, the album well-paced and the lyrics intelligent. In the other corner, we had Late Of The Pier, and an album that at first (and any subsequent) description sounds like it should be awful, a sort of Nathan Barley wet-dream glam-nu-rave wig-out. Crucially, despite being this, it’s also musically inquisitive, open-minded, assured and in its zaniness utterly compelling. I’ll find it difficult to say how I came to love it, but believe me, it improves with repeat listens. Funny, smart, self-deprecating, huge, beautiful and constantly engaging, it blindsided a lot of people this year, myself one of them, and its placement alongside records incalculably inferior to it (Klaxons anyone?) is slightly insulting.

There weren’t many more records I liked much this year, so the rest of the list pretty much writes itself. HMHB were superb as usual, making it 6 career-best albums since turning 10, a feat I’m certain is completely unique in the music world. No let-up in lyrical bite, and the songs were just as memorably tuneful as anyone could have hoped. The Chap massively improved on “Ham”, turning out an album both fun and interesting, never academic or dull. Hope you catch my drift. Some massive tunes on show, brilliant lyrics. Pretty good. Art-pop at its most deviously catchy, almost reluctantly dancefloor-ready, scornfully ironic best. The rest is stuff I included to make it 10. In 2007 they wouldn’t have made my top 30.

As for songs, Volcano were responsible for the only truly transcendental moment of the year, a 7-minute rock bolero that should have ended their album (and the careers of several bands who purport to make “art-rock”). Building from steady rhythmic ground into a morose meditation on working life, it reaches a central point of reckoning, reorganises itself in 3-time, and slowly transforms into an utterly triumphant, careening victory-march, with crazed electronics, a tune to die for, and a vocal performance by frontman Aaron With that will take some beating. Then, just as everything reaches its apex, it all drops away and the whole thing is chewed up by an electronic processor. Breathtaking, and I can confirm they pull the whole thing off live as well (being by FAR the best act I’ve seen all year). And they’re nice people! Good lord. HMHB’s “National Shite Day”, based on an awesome rocked-out riff, contained some of N. Blackwell’s best lyrics yet, describing in the first (extended) verse a country in disrepair, and in the second, a nevertheless fictitious personal anecdote that nonetheless constituted both the saddest and funniest 90 seconds of the year. And that chorus! So catchy! All after me: “I do believe it’s National Shiiiiiiiite Daaaaaay!”

The others are all best tracks on their album, “Proper Rock” probably the zenith of The Chap’s drive to write a song that is both 100% sarcastic and yet 100% catchy, a brilliantly exuberant dance-rock Cardiacs in melody but lyrically an RP-voiced, irony-dripping treatise on “proper songs for real folk” about “girls and clubbing” that drops out, tunes in, spins about and shows The Chap frankly having their arty cake and eating it. Special mention to Esoteric for writing an album so enormous that I wasn’t remotely able to comprehend it, but putting by far the best track at the start, a 20-minute doom opus that charms, shreds, crushes, lulls, corrodes and destroys. On its own, a brilliant musical manifesto, but followed by about 90 more minutes of similar-ish dark majesty, perhaps best taken in isolation. And special mention to Late Of The Pier for proving that they could dial back on the pyrotechnics and produce a composition deep with texture, subtlety, mood and patience, along with one of the most outrageous titles in recent memory. Torche and Virgin Passages sneak in for providing respectively the finest feelgood moment in 2008 metal and a completely overlooked 7-minute ambient gem, all keyboard swooshes, poised acoustic guitar and pretty vocal harmonies spinning off into the sunset.

The worst release of the year is a political rather than a qualitative decision, handed to a band that seem to be critically at least crushing all opposition but who have (given actual audio appraisal) released not only their most staid, soulless record but a genuine backwards step, a perfunctory MOR funk-rock outing that hides all their experimental urges behind the need to party, something at which they are completely rubbish at. For some unfathomable reason, everyone’s gone gaga over it and they’re all so hideously wrong. An abysmal waste of potential, a boring mess, and proof that people are sheep.

Later, after I’d tabulated the results, he sent these (three) Facebook messages. They were ignored.

hey, Rocktimists bigdogs, could you please remove "Elbow - The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver" from the no. 9 position on my tracks ballot, push Virgin Passages up to no. 9, and place "Shit And Shine - Toilet Door Tits" at no. 10, please? it is a jam.

srsly anyone with a passing interest in a) noise, b) massive grooves and c) terrorising the neighbours needs to stick that song on, loud

it is the sister ray of the 00's

Volcano! - Palimpsests [YSI]

Half Man Half Biscuit - National Shite Day [YSI]

Shit & Shine - Toilet Door Tits [YSI]

Monday, January 05, 2009


Muse Bin - reducing music reviews to single lines.

I have actually
been thinking for a while now
of haiku reviews.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll 2008 Introduction

Yes, Rocktimists has organised it's own poll this year. And, like the title sez, it's a fucking disaster, so we’re only gonna spin it out over about a week and not a whole year like we would have done.

The original idea was to put together a poll that would be a UK equivalent to the Village Voice’s 35 year-old, appallingly named Pazz & Jop poll. Maybe you haven't heard of it—I hadn't until I became an internet music aspie—but it was started in the early seventies by America's oldest living music critic Robert “The Dean” Christgau and since then has polled as many music writers as possible on their top ten albums and tracks of the year. There's usually between 500 and 1000 respondents a year, leading to a good view of critical consensus and, more interestingly to me at least, a view of the rising and falling tides on the margins. Plus it's mean fun to look back at what corny bullshit did well in the past—Arrested Development's Three Years, 5 Months & Two Days in the Life of... came first in 1992. which isn't to pick on rap, the list is always clogged with whatever is mystifyingly popular with crits that year, and that's what's good about it.

Which leads to what is disastrous about our poll. As the emails trickled in, I never quite decided what number of replies we needed to get above to make this thing worthwhile. Greater than fifty would mean that we didn't have to be embarrassed, but it still wouldn't be enough to show what UK music writers were thinking in the oh-eight. Anywhere over 100 would be getting there. However, after constantly hustling ballots to every mag I could think of—from Terrorizer to P/i/X to NME to Disappear Here—and every Anglo blogger of note (about eight) we got forty-one replies. Face red etc. That's probably not a great enough number to have made it worthwhile getting a warning from Facebook saying that they were considering deleting my account for being a spammer (which to be fair I was—sending out invites to any writer I could think of with an unusual enough name that there was only one of 'em on Facebook.)

As for the reasons why we couldn't scare up enough voters, I suspect a toxic combo of no-one giving a shit about what a no-name blog is up to, the fact that between them the writers here have pissed off a lot of people (a slight paraphrase from one response in order to conceal identity: “you'll forgive me if I don't participate: the idea of offering any sort of assistance to Rocktimists rather sticks in my craw”), and over-zealous spam filters (a particular fuck you to fRoots mag on that one). There's also the fact that UK pop crits are a cowardly, superstitious breed of loners and proud of it. The guy who started the US version might call himself the “Dean of American Rock Critics”—and get others to do so too!—but not even Simon Frith would call himself “the Headmaster”, and he is one.

Fuck all that though. Here's what we ended up with, and there is some good stuff, especially some of the individual ballots. Next year, maybe someone with some cred can pick up the baton, coz—and I’m really not trying to be a dick here—it'd sure be more interesting than this.

(And I know that ranking using equal places doesn't work how I've done it. I got lazy and it’s late.)

The Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll 2008 Album Results

Here they are, the top 63 albums of the year (that's everything that got ten points or above), as determined by UK pop critics:

Place Total Points Artist Title
1 80 Portishead Third
2 55 Elbow Seldom Seen Kid, The
3 42 Hold Steady, The Stay Positive
4 36 Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
4 36 TV on the Radio Dear Science
5 35 Late of the Pier Fantasy Black Channel
5 35 Los Campesinos! Hold On Now, Youngster…
6 34 Lindstrøm Where You Go I Go Too
6 34 Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
7 30 Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
8 28 Bug, The London Zoo
9 27 Indelicates, The American Demo
10 26 Hercules & Love Affair Hercules & Love Affair
10 26 Cut Copy In Ghost Colours
11 25 Fuck Buttons Street Horrrsing
12 24 Abe Vigoda Skeleton
13 22 Crystal Castles Crystal Castles
13 22 Frightened Rabbit Midnight Organ Fight, The
14 21 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
14 21 Wave Pictures, The Instant Coffee Baby
15 19 Shearwater Rook
16 19 Tricky Knowle West Boy
16 18 Why? Alopecia
16 18 Wild Beasts Limbo, Panto
16 18 Caretaker, The Persistent Repetition of Phrases
17 17 Koushik Out My Window
17 17 Stereo Image S/T
18 16 Los Campesinos! We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
18 16 M83 Saturdays=Youth
18 16 Fall, The Imperial Wax Solvent
18 16 Kanye West 808s & Heartbreak
19 15 Lil Wayne Tha Carter III
19 15 Be Your Own Pet Get Awkward
19 15 Benge Twenty Systems 1968-1988
19 15 Gang Gang Dance Saint Dymphna
20 14 Half Man Half Biscuit CSI Ambleside
21 13 Howlin' Rain Magnificent Fiend
21 13 Polar Bear Polar Bear
22 12 Arthur Russell Love Is Overtaking Me
22 12 Elzhi Preface, The
22 12 Youthmovies Good Nature
23 11 Roots Manuva Slime & Reason
23 11 Metronomy Nights Out
23 11 Okkervil River Stand Ins, The
24 10 British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?
24 10 Bloc Party Intimacy
24 10 No Age Nouns
24 10 Silver Jews Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
24 10 Skull Disco Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals
24 10 volcano! Paperwork
24 10 Black Dog, The Radio Scarecrow
24 10 Fat Ray & Black Milk Set Up, The
24 10 Girl Talk Feed The Animals
24 10 Gregory and the Hawk Moenie and Kitchi
24 10 Grouper Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
24 10 James Blackshaw Litany Of Echoes
24 10 Journey To Ixtlan Journey To Ixtlan
24 10 Kelley Polar I Need You To Hold On While the Sky is Falling
24 10 Max Tundra Parallax Error Beheads You
24 10 of Montreal Skeletal Lamping
24 10 Q-Tip Renaissance, The
24 10 Thomas White I Dream Of Black
24 10 Those Dancing Days In Our Space Hero Suits

The Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll 2008 Track Results

Here they are, the top 54 tracks of the year (that's everything that got ten points or above), as determined by UK pop critics:

Place Total Points Artist Title
1 46 Hercules & Love Affair Blind
2 33 Wiley Wearing My Rolex
3 31 Estelle ft Kanye West American Boy
4 28 DJ KhaledOut Here Grindin'
5 22 MGMT Time To Pretend
6 20 Goldfrapp A&E
6 20 Kanye West Love Lockdown
6 20 Santogold L.E.S. Artistes
7 19 Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown No Air
7 19 Portishead Machine Gun
8 17 H "Two" O ft Plat'num What's It Gonna Be?
8 17 Paleface ft Kyla Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz House Mix)
9 15 Portishead Rip, The
10 14 Juan MacLean, The Happy House
11 13 MGMT Kids
11 13 volcano! Africa Just Wants To Have Fun
11 13 Bug, The Angry
12 12 Crystal Castles Courtship Dating
12 12 Alexandra Burke Hallelujah
12 12 Katy Perry I Kissed a Girl
13 11 Lil Wayne A Milli
13 11 Vampire Weekend Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
14 10 Addictive ft. T2 Gonna Be Mine
14 10 Black Milk ft Royce Da 5'9" Losing Out
14 10 Deerhunter Nothing Ever Happened
14 10 Okkervil River Lost Coastlines
14 10 Wiz Khalifa Say Yeah
14 10 88 Keys feat. Kid Cudi Wasting My Minutes
14 10 Atlas Sound Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
14 10 Beyonce If I Were A Boy
14 10 Blackout Crew, The Put a Donk On It
14 10 Bloc Party Mercury
14 10 Bon Iver & Bowerbirds Lovin's For Fools
14 10 British Sea Power Open The Door
14 10 Courteeners, The Not Nineteen Forever
14 10 Cut Copy Feel The Love
14 10 Death Cab for Cutie I Will Possess Your Heart
14 10 Elbow Starlings
14 10 Emiliana Torrini Gun
14 10 Erykah Badu Telephone
14 10 Heartsrevolution Digital Suicide
14 10 Hold Steady, The Constructive Summer
14 10 Kathleen Edwards I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory
14 10 Nat Johnson Heart of Clay (Demo)
14 10 Nat Johnson Dirty Rotten Soul
14 10 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds We Call Upon The Author
14 10 Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Everywhere With You
14 10 Radiohead Reckoner
14 10 S.C.U.M. Visions Arise
14 10 Salem Redlights
14 10 The Week That Was Scratch The Surface
14 10 Tricky Bacative
14 10 Vampire Weekend Oxford Comma
14 10 volcano! Palimpsests