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#atozchallenge: K is for Rock…

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Ummm, ok, it doesn’t begin with K.

But I’ve been run off my feet today and just haven’t had time to write anything, so I’m going to cheat for today’s A-Z challenge and share some K-related rock tracks from my collection.

One of the most willfully avant garde rock bands of the ’70s, in an era when intellectual pretentiousness, drama and bombast were practically compulsory in the world of prog, King Crimson stood head and shoulders above their less highbrow rivals.
Their continually changing lineup and eclectic mix of styles probably explains their longevity and their wide appeal accounts for the fact that they are still going strong now.

This concert was recorded in Japan in 2003 and if you’re a fan it’s well worth a watch. If you’ve never heard them before, watch it, then go and listen to their back catalogue.

Speaking of less highbrow rock, here’s some that soundtracked much of my teenage headbanging years; the glorious, big-haired, spandex-clad riffage of Swiss metal band, Krokus, with their 1980 album, Metal  Rendezvous.

One of my favourite intros to a metal album, too.

A bit more up to date for the next one and a song that starts with a K, from the modern pretender to prog’s crown, Muse and Knights of Cydonia

…returning to the good old days to end this quartet of classics, with one you may not expect in a list of rock tracks; this is Kraftwerk (yes, those robotic Germans) and a surprisingly punchy moment from early in their career, here is Heavy Metal Kids.

Play loud and enjoy, see you tomorrow.

#atozchallenge

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4 Comments

Posted by on April 13, 2016 in A - Z challenge, Music, Video

 

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The food of love never goes stale…

The food of love never goes stale…

A study was published recently that claims we lose the urge to listen to new music at the age of 33, (although as Ho pointed out, that should be 33 1/3) which was a bit of a shock to me, given that I’m nearly fifty and my desire to discover new, original and interesting things to listen to hasn’t dimmed in the slightest in the last 15 years or so.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers when I say that I’m an obsessive music fan and I see no reason why that should ever change.
No matter if it was rushing to buy the latest 7″ vinyl single from Crowborough’s Revolver Records, back when I was a teenager in Sussex, or trawling the CD racks of independent music shops and record fairs, reading music magazines and blogs, or scouring the internet for obscure gems to download, I’ve never lost what I like to think of as the John Peel spirit, the all-consuming passion for an art form that, almost by it’s very nature, never gets old.

Every generation has its naysayers of course, the “music isn’t like it was in the old days” brigade, because people are instinctively cautious of change. But that’s not an excuse to consign all new music to the cultural bargain bin, because if the change is bad, it won’t last.
And if it’s good, it’ll only get better.

I remember when acid house music first arrived, thinking it was a load of repetitive rubbish, (this, despite being a huge Kraftwerk fan at the time) but it didn’t take long before I found that there was good and bad in this genre, just as there is in any other and I embraced the change.
After all, many of the repetitive, trance-like rhythms used in modern dance music were prominent in the sort of zoned out space rock produced by Hawkwind and I had also been huge a fan of bleepy electronic ’80s music, another much maligned oeuvre in British pop, so it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that this new wave of electronic bedroom superstars would catch my imagination.
Same with Hip Hop, Drum ‘n’ Bass, Goth, Britpop, Punk, Techno, or any other media-created pigeonhole you care to name, once you listen to enough of anything you’ll realise there’s more to any genre than meets the ear first time round.

I don’t claim to like all music, just for the sake of even-handedness, (I never could get into opera or country and western) and I don’t even claim to be rational or fair in deciding what I do and don’t like, so I’m just like the rest of you in that respect.
We all think our own taste is faultless, of course.
But I do make a serious effort to listen to as much and as many different kinds of music as I possibly can.
At least until I’m sure I really don’t like something.

I mean, why wouldn’t you give yourself the chance to have more things in your life you can enjoy?
Why would you suddenly come to a decision one day and say to yourself “No, I’ve got enough new and interesting experiences in my life already, I think I’ll just go round in circles from now on.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia.
We all fall back on the classics when we need the aural equivalent of a comforting hug from an old friend, but if you’re going to spend two thirds of your life stubbornly looking backwards, won’t the nostalgia, like familiarity, eventually only breed contempt?

It used to be a real treat to hear a slice of joyous eighties pop like a-ha‘s Take On Me, with its groundbreaking video and catchy synth hooks, or any number of earworms by one hit wonders (in the UK at least) such as Bran Van 3000‘s laid back summer groove, Drinking In L.A. or Breakfast At Tiffany’s by jangly also-rans Deep Blue Something, but nowadays, with the proliferation of internet radio stations whose record collections only seem to go up to the late nineties, we have reached nostalgia saturation point and the classic pop tunes of my teenage years are in danger of losing the ability to rekindle memories of my musical youth. (No pun intended)

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But why any of that would stop people from seeking out new material is a complete mystery to me.
The study that claims we lose our musically adventurous nature in our early thirties uses the phrase “taste freeze” to explain the phenomenon, whatever that means, and also correlates the onset of parenthood with the downturn in our interest in checking out new releases.
You’d think that having additional young people playing modern music around the house would expose you to a greater variety of listening opportunities, but apparently not.

So, although I continue to plough through my CD collection in sequential order, an exercise which obviously leads me to play plenty of old familiar tracks, a great many of which can still give me one of those “Oh yeah, I haven’t heard this for years!” moments, which is of course only right and proper, it doesn’t stop me from my pursuit of my Next New Favourite Tune.

With this in mind, and to encourage any of you who are being dragged down by the terrifying scourge of taste freeze, here is a snapshot of the most recent leg of my musical search, via the last three albums I downloaded.

You never know, you might discover something you like…

My advice?
Stay forever young.
Never stop searching out and listening to new music.

[Original blog-toon by Ho]

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Arts, Music, Personal anecdote, Video

 

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Now that’s what I call an ’80s flashback – Volume one…

“If you remember the sixties, then you weren’t there” was a common saying when I was growing up and nonsensical as it may be grammatically speaking, it effectively conveys the mystique of a decade to those of us who actually weren’t there, but who were nevertheless born there, so to speak.

But nobody says things like that about the years I spent my childhood in, the ’70s.
We had prog rock, punk, disco and glam, but we also had strikes, the National Front, the IRA, the three day week and Thatcher, which can mean that despite much evidence to the contrary, the musically schizophrenic decade that gave us the Sex Pistols, Rush, Chic, Kraftwerk and David Bowie is sometimes seen as a bit drab, miserable and depressing, like a combined hangover/detox after ten years of psychedelia, free love and liberal drug laws, a kind of temporal anteroom in which we all waited for the gleaming technological paradise of the eighties to arrive in a flying car with a robot chauffeur.

So when the ’80s finally arrived, complete with strikes, the National Front, the IRA, riots, Thatcher and the Falklands war, it was music that we turned to once again for inspiration and escape.
And now we were living in the future we wanted something new and futuristic to act as an antidote to the emerging culture of unstoppable greed and consumerism, a sound that echoed the homemade ethos of punk but brought some order and technical precision into the equation.
A sound made possible by the increased availability of affordable electronic instruments, something that would lead to the first real musical revolution since the invention of the lead guitar.

Now you might think that to be an outrageous exaggeration, especially if you’re an old-school folkie who booed when Dylan went electric or someone who, when you hear the term “keyboard solo”, immediately thinks of Richard Clayderman, but electronics have been stealthily allowing innovative musicians to create new and interesting sounds as far back as the mid-sixties, when Dr Robert Moog produced the first practical analogue synthesizer.

      *****Here is an example for your listening pleasure.*****
(free music download, “Moogalicious by Dogsounds, click to save)

I was 14 as the eighties arrived, already obsessed with music and at that point, a metal and prog rock enthusiast, but also greedily absorbing the eclectic mix of genres and styles played by one of my musical heroes, the late, very great John Peel.
I still recall the covert thrill of listening to the late night radio show of this gruff yet affable, funny and comically disorganised bloke, playing anything from dub reggae and thrash metal to ambient electronica and hardcore German techno.

Hidden beneath the duvet, the earpiece of my radio-cassette player firmly in place, was the first place I heard this next song.
I remember thinking what a precise, clean sound it had (while my inner headbanger shouted at me for being a poncey new romantic) and I reckon I could say with some confidence that this was probably about the time I had to concede that I rather liked synth-pop…

…and I can also remember going into the tiny record shop in Crowborough – Revolver Records, now long defunct – to buy the debut OMD album, the first LP I’d bought that didn’t have at least three guitars on it, and discovering the other side of the strange world of synth-pop that wasn’t all radio friendly singles and twinkly keyboard flourishes.
To my pleasant surprise, I found that this shiny new type of music could be just as dark, deep and peculiar as any progressive rock epic concept album.
Pop music had just got credible.

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A selection of my ’80s vinyl, this afternoon.

I can certainly say that my old friend (then a new friend) Ho was a big part in getting me into the wider world of electronic music.
Ho, already a Gary Numan, Tangerine Dream and Can fan, played me albums I never would have heard among my long-haired, denim-clad mates. (with the possible exception of Tangerine Dream, the electronic band it was ok for prog fans to like)
He also introduced me to one of my all-time favourite bands, Kraftwerk.
Not only did I go out and buy the German electro-boffins’ sporadically-released ’80s output, (Computer World, Electric Café) after hearing their back catalogue, from the long haired, proggy, avant-garde jazz experimentation of the early seventies, through to the sublime period of the Radioactivity and Man Machine albums which brought them to the attention of a wider audience, I went out and bought almost everything they recorded.

Another artist that went on to inform my taste for the glacial sounding electronic music that came to be synonymous with the eighties and beyond was John Foxx, particularly his album Metamatic, which I and some friends who were similarly attracted to this new genre (especially when combined with various recreational stimulants) came to describe as “clinical music”.

There is admittedly a certain amount of rose tinted musical hindsight involved in these reminiscences, as for every Speak and Spell classic there was a Stock, Aitken and Waterman clone waiting in the wings, so the eighties detractors have plenty of ammunition to refute the musical importance of The Decade That Fashion Forgot.

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What with the endless power ballads, glossy U.S.stadium rock and cheesy manufactured chart pop fodder infesting the radio airwaves, the edgy, harsh tones of the new technology came as a breath of fresh air, albeit air fresh from dingy bedsits and basement studios where the new New Wave was starting to break.

As the new music began to gain credibility and appear alongside established artists on shows like Top of the Pops, the electronic bands started to develop a more polished sound and glamorous image, something that would help them take advantage of the increasing popularity of music videos.
Not always a good thing in my not-very-humble opinion, because a lot of what made these bands so different to start with was lost as they strove to be accepted into the mainstream.

Compare the two examples below, one from The Human League and the other from Gary Numan.
The earlier material of both is harder, more abrasive, while only a short time later the image makeover has smoothed off the bright corners and dulled the sharp edges.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a fan of both artists, both early and late material, as I am of all the music here, and they are both still going strong too.
The Human League released a brand new album, Credo, in 2011 and the former Gary Webb hasn’t stopped producing music since he began with Tubeway Army in the late seventies.

Interestingly, Phil Oakey and the Human League have stuck more or less to their high-gloss, late career peak musical style, while Numan has continued to evolve, including drum ‘n’ bass, industrial and techno into the mix over the years, without ever losing that certain something that makes it still very much Numanoid.

The Human League

…and today; It wasn’t broke so they didn’t fix it.

Gary Numan

…and today; The old darkness and edge are still very much in evidence, possibly a result of his recent association with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails

I added “volume one” to the title of this post automatically because I knew that once I started on this subject it was likely to turn into a labour of love.
So I shan’t try and cram anything else in now, but you can be sure that as soon as I hit the “publish” button I will be resuming my search for echoes of that Golden Hour of the Future we lived in for a few short, groundbreaking years.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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