Reflections on Rowland from Swamplandzine. I was one of those people going to every Rowland Howard gig I could in Melbourne in the late ’90s. He quickly learnt to hold a room with just a guitar. Also, he did in fact play “Shivers” … but only when absolutely no-one was expecting it. I have a Walkman tape somewhere. Hat-tip to the Rowland S. Howard Tribute Page.
In my much younger days, like many others with simultaneous libertarian and socialist convictions, a gravitation towards the political side of punk rock had a certain inevitability. On one side of the big pond The Clash and Crass were the big names in this particular genre, albeit with their own significant differences in style and in substance. On the other side, there was the Dead Kennedys, who performed with music that was hard, fast, and competent and lyrics that combined the insightful and absurd. As a result, the appearance their former lead (for goodness sake’s people, patch up those differences) as part of “Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine” was greeted some interest, although past experiences of The Corner as a venue (e.g., the Buzzcocks, the Sisters of Mercy) did lead to some potential of concerns of the sound quality.
Midge Ure is a musician who shouldn’t require much of an introduction. He’s travelled from from the Rich Kids in the 1970s, to Visage, to leading the reformed electronic rock group Ultravox from the early to mid 80s with a succession of hits, to co-organising Live Aid and Band Aid with Bob Geldof and then a successful solo career. With the recent reformation of Ultravox and very successful concerts (e.g., Return To Eden), it was a little surprising to see him visiting Australia – for the first time in over twenty five years – as “Midge Ure” rather than as part of “Ultravox”, although later in the evening we are informed that this tour is a stalking horse for a future Ultravox tour. Certainly if this is the case, they might be giving second thoughts to the matter. Partially because of fairly poor promotion, and possibly because it was Midge rather than Ultravox, the turnout on the night was significantly less than what would be expected. One has to say it would have been a little bit of a step down to the person who has performed to concerts of scores of thousands and for the person who co-wrote and produced what was the highest selling record UK single.
As a followup to his detailed explanation of why 24/192 downloads are complete and utter snake oil, Chris “Monty” Montgomery of Xiph.org has produced a video showing you, live, using spectroscopes and oscilloscopes, why digital wave forms aren’t stairsteps and why 16/44 really is enough for the ears of any human ever measured. It’s an incredibly lucid 23 minutes that I recommend heartily, and if you don’t believe anything he says there, the source code is available for you to try it all yourself. (Hat tip to Unter.)
(Greg Wadley asks me to note that this is for the end listener — you should be recording at 24/96 or 32/96 on the assumption it’ll subsequently go through several hundred DSP filters, and headroom for mistakes is cheap these days.)
It is not enough to say you hate Nickelback. It’s not even enough to notice that people who don’t know or care about music know they’re supposed to hate Nickelback. You need to trace the memetic origin of people hating Nickelback to its source. (Spoiler: a joke in a Comedy Central promo, played for months in 2003.)
Old post-punks, raise your walkers in the air and cheer! James Nice of LTM has revived the Factory Benelux label for the ongoing LTM reissue programme and for new stuff from Section 25, who also have a bunch of gigs coming up. Closest they have to a home page is their Facebook. I’ve taken care to update the discography on Wikipedia. “They’re editions, dear boy.”
Well, that was certainly a thing. I was a teenage Joy Division/New Order obsessive, and for many years I’ve found covers of them inherently hilarious. There were two legendary obscurities that could not be found in the record shops at the far edge of the world under any circumstances, and still remain so obscure you won’t even find copies on YouTube. I present for your delight the Savoy Hitler Youth Band combining “Blue Monday” with Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” and the shuddering majesty of P.J. Proby’s truly remarkable take on “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. You can thank me later.
(The tracks are from an interview with David Britton of Savoy Records by Simon Sellars, one of the three greatest J.G. Ballard fans in the world and compiler of the superb Extreme Metaphors, a just-released book of Ballard interviews that pretty much everyone should read.)
You will in all likelihood die before you get old: researchers at John Moores University, Liverpool, present “Dying to be famous: retrospective cohort study of rock and pop star mortality and its association with adverse childhood experiences”. Ars Technica has a tl;dr. Stay obscure, kids — fame kills.
And you thought Peter King’s polycarbonate records were indie. How about 3D-printing an LP as the do-it-yourself trump card? The printer does 600dpi, which is pretty much the best 3D can presently do. As a bonus, it sounds like tuning in to a late-night AM station three hundred kilometres away. (Courtesy Michael Haney.)
The text from the unpublished Party Fears #18¾ (late 1993) and #19 (1994) is up and online at last. The world can end now.
#18¾ was my side of a one-page zine to be done with Louise Dickinson of Lemon that she never did her side for. I’ve cleaned up the pile of fragments I had to hand and called them #19. Interviews with the Ampersands, Dave Graney, Dirty Three, Mardi Picasso, Mustang!, Reichardt (a local prankster) and Sonic Youth (1989). Live stuff from 1992 to 1994, and Australian Roadfool, the diary of my first visit to Melbourne and Sydney (and there’s almost no-one who remembers where I got the name from). And a pile of reviews, including of magazines about the nascent cyberculture. It’s a better read than I remembered.
(The one bit I can’t find: my list of “101 reasons why this issue is late.”)
The Party Fears archive is now complete. The only thing left to do would be to transcribe all this stuff into a searchable format, but I can’t be bothered and neither can you. The next thing would be to dig out my other fanzines and start scanning. This is something you should do too.
The only question remaining is why this took me fifteen years longer than it should have. I started sorting through this stuff in 1997. I think I was still suffering delusions of print.
Among the aging fans of good eighties music the prospect of The Church, Devo, and Simple Minds all at one show came with some enthusiasm. It was certainly one of the more surprising lineups that remained within the time period although each band could, in a pinch, be considered as tangental directions in the new wave, post-punk style. The Palais, of course, is a beautiful venue; built in 1927, it has absolutely gorgeous deco and neoclassical features, encouraging artful levels of minor dilapidation. Albert Speer would have been very excited with this example of Ruinengesetz and true to such design, the Palais remains the largest seated theatre in Australia, with a capacity of close to three thousand. Unsurprisingly, the show sold out quite quickly, even with follow-up performances both in the state and across the country. The crowd represented a strange visual snapshot of the period; mostly older with a smattering of young folk, and mostly culturally mainstream, a gentle reminder that what was mainstream then is alternative today.
Courtesy Adrian Butcher, we now have all the PF there ever was scanned and online. Interviews: Severed Heads, Scarecrow Tiggy. Live: Hunkpapas, Wash, Yummy Fur, Kryptonics, Evan Dando, Pink Fluffy Bunnies, Pool Floatation Device, The Brautigans, Wash, Manic Pizza, West Australian Rock Music Industry Awards. There are still bits of stuff that were at some stage destined for PF#19 here which I’ll bother with some time.
At the usual place. These are the last two I have copies of to hand; if anyone has a copy of #17 to hand they could scan for me, I’ll love you forever, even more than I do now. (Office printer/photocopiers do good scans these days — that’s what I used for these.)
#4 (July-August 1986) — Rabbit’s Wedding, Marigolds, Greenhouse Effect, Holy Rollers, Fallen Angels (later Palisades), Hunters & Collectors, Love Pump, Stems, Steve Kilbey/Church. Stems/Go-Starts/Bamboos/Kryptonics family tree. And the Original Music Awards. Dear God I was young. This issue is Perth 1986 in a bottle.
#18 (Autumn 1992) — David McComb, Lurid (Wash), Summer Suns, Third Eye, Rainyard. The last proper issue, and probably the best. This made me want to travel in time back to mid-1992 and write a fanzine.
After the KLF, what can you do with your life but cure cancer?
I figured out the scanner at work, so expect this page to fill out nicely. The early pop-kid days of Party Fears, with the sort of bright and clueless enthusiasm you get when you’re nineteen and you haven’t realised that what you’re doing will actually turn out slightly significant. The print wasn’t eyewateringly tiny at the start either.
In case you ever wondered what the EMI “Maxicut” process you saw listed on all those Australian LPs was, learn about the rationale and process. The clever engineers at Studio 301 worked out how to get a louder cut with no skipping out of their Neumann cutting lathes, going so far as to replace some of the control electronics themselves. Their test rig for skip-immunity? A crappy HMV 3 in 1.
Description and scans, only twenty-five years after the fact. Psychotic Turnbuckles, David Nichols, Deadly Hume, Die Monster Die, Headonist, Jackals, Kryptonics, And An A, Homecoming, The Fate, Painters & Dockers, Kim Williams, Huxton Creepers. Family tree: Scientists/Victims/Hoodoo Gurus (the Salmon/Faulkner/Baker axis). Live: Garry Meadows Syndrome, James Baker Experience, Greg Dear, Watermelon Boy, Homecoming, Bamboos, The Moment, Stolen Picassos, Swamp Monsters, Greenhouse Effect, Kryptonics, Freuds, Holy Rollers, Charlotte’s Web, Scarlet, Stems, Johnnys, Die Monster Die, Perfect Strangers (yes, really), And An A, Blue, Pontiac Conspiracy, Bacen Assegai, A Company Of Angels, Never Never, Kno Matter, Screaming Blue Messiahs. Scan courtesy Aaron Curran.
Here’s something instructive: YouTube: A Dinosaur Story. That’s a three-hour movie done by two kids in their loungeroom with toy dinosaurs. Ridiculously low production values, make-it-up-as-we-go-along story by a couple of kids who seem to be about nine or ten. It’s genuine unintermediated young children’s folk culture, on the internet. HOLY CRAP. PUNK ROCK FOR EVERYONE.
The reason this is noteworthy: it’s one of my five-year-old’s favourite films. She’s watched her assorted Disney DVDs about half a time each, she’s watched this movie repeatedly and tells bits of it to her classmates. I boggle, but I cannot deny the observation that they’re doing something right that Disney isn’t, on a budget of zero.
She was also incredibly excited when she saw YouTube videos of kids making Thomas the Tank Engine fan videos using wooden railways just like hers. “They’re making their own stories!” (Example. Of course it’s rubbish. That’s not the point.) The powerful drive for a culture of your own starts early.
The recording industry used to try to justify not being taken out and shot by claiming blockbusterism was necessary to music, which was of course just a lie. Bands can (and do) now do albums with a microphone and a laptop. Microphone optional. Record at home, put it up on Bandcamp, the physical barrier to recording and distribution is gone. I remember the eighties, and just how bloody hard it was even to record, let alone distribute the result. Sure, the studio result is better, but that’s optional now. For getting the damn song out of your head and into the world, convenience beats quality every time the two are head-to-head.
Culture is everything humans do to impress each other, and it’s diseased unless it’s owned by all of us. The arrangement where you have creators here and consumers here and never the twain shall meet is a twentieth-century perversion we are well rid of.
Cracked delivers. “The Sign Says ‘Fire Your Graphic Designer’.”
Jay Ruttenberg in the New York Times laments his own career as a rock critic, and discusses current trends in literary depictions of musicians. Sounds like the authors didn’t actually get it all stupidly wrong. “Encouraged to ply his music on the Internet, Spiotta’s fiercely guarded artist reacts as if he has just been asked to streak across the town square.”
David Weigel, a political reporter for Slate, is in the midst of a series on the history of prog rock. It’s really quite frightening.
I bet you’ve always wondered what music would sound like if the bottom 8 bits of 16-bit sound were ever used for anything at all. This is promising: the ITU has defined a unit of loudness, and the European Broadcasting Union is making it a recommendation. What this means is that recordings with no dynamic range will end up played apparently more quietly than recordings with dynamic range. The US has also passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act so that ad breaks don’t blare. We can but hope. I SAID, “WE CAN BUT HOPE.”
This week’s bit of Wikipedia: Space Invaders (Player One song). A disco novelty hit from Russell Brown and Bruce Dunlop, Australian #3 in 1980 and fourth-best-selling single of that year, which for some reason had no article. Check this page for the most collected information on the thing, the cheesy pre-MTV video and, since it hasn’t been available for thirty years, here for the still pretty good single and here for the incredibly awful album. This thing also started Chicago house music: it was sampled, or at least the bass line copied, for “On And On” by Jesse Saunders.
It’s doomed, along with the CD in general. But then, albums have always sorta sucked, with a very few exceptions; they were a more cost-effective music carrier per song for a while, and they’re not any more. The main thing keeping CD sales afloat at all in the UK in the past year was 21 by Adele, which was actually put together as a coherent piece of work, not just a CD-sized bucket of stuff.
(So we are told, anyway. I did listen to 19 all the way through and had that thing where you literally can’t remember the tune five seconds after the song finishes. But apparently someone likes this sort of thing.)
I’m sure people putting out downloads will continue to group them into conceptual “EPs” and “albums”; perhaps the resulting groups of songs will suck less on average. The bit in the late ’80s when Australian indie bands were putting out really good and concise five- and six-track EPs was great, until Shock started telling bands to record full albums because they’d have a higher sticker price. I sorta miss B-sides too, but most artists didn’t really use them very artistically either.