Tag Archives: pop

Why I Agree with One Direction about Jake Bugg

If you’ve been immersed in the music press in the last couple of days you may have noticed possibly the most forced rivalry in music history being gradually eked out. Jake Bugg vs One Direction. For those who haven’t seen the quotes I’ll attempt to sum it all up.

Jake Bugg said this in this interview:

I vaguely mention that some people are saying One Direction are the closest thing to rock stars that we have these days. “Who the f*ck is saying that?” he splutters, sitting forward. Well, I say, among others, Paul McCartney called them “the next terrific band”, while Mick Jagger said they remind him of the Rolling Stones in their earliest, world-shaking incarnation. Plus, plenty of people have noted that, rather than anyone in an indie band, it’s Harry Styles that’s always being pictured staggering from one party to the next, daubed in lipstick, living the dream.

‘“Oh, I’m pretty sure they have a good laugh,” says Bugg dryly. “But it’s easy to, isn’t it? When you don’t have to write any songs. People [call them the new Beatles] because they broke America, but that don’t mean a thing. I mean, [One Direction] must know that they’re terrible. They must know… Calling them the new rock stars is a ridiculous statement. And people should stop making it.”

First of all just think how absolutely forced this statement is, and nothing to do with Jake Bugg at all, he’d been fed a question begging him to say something – anything – negative about a boy band. All for the reason that our pathetic press loves a good fued, and pushing Jake Bugg as the saviour of ‘real music’ against ‘manufactured pop’ is the easiest narrative to create and the best for getting page views and selling copies of the NME.

So when this response came out from One Direction member Louis Tomlinson on twitter:

Hi @JakeBugg do you think slagging off boy bands makes you more indie?

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, because the member of manufactured pop group 1D absolutely nailed it. And here’s why…Jake Bugg

Everything about Jake Bugg’s music and image has been very specifically chosen. His album sounds like it comes from the ’50s, and that is actually a really damn hard thing to do, far easier to record something closer to its real sound, so there must be a conscious decision to stylise the music like that. Furthermore his image, the mod working class hero, is another planned act. Just look at the other people doing the same thing, Miles Kane, young Paul Weller (anyone in The Good Mod Club).

Going even further, the main thing that is held up here as evidence of Jake Bugg being ‘real music’ is the fact that he writes his own songs. Great. But that alone isn’t actually a badge of honour. There are hundreds if not thousands of bands around England who can play sets of songs they wrote on their own, but we don’t care. The only thing that would make it important is if these songs are actually pretty good. The fact that Jake Bugg actually has his songs co-written by former Snow Patrol (snigger) member Iain Archer is obviously irrelevant. If a fantastic song was written by 5 people why should it matter? Is it not still a fantastic song?

The real reason that tweet from the 1D guy is so perfect is because he realises that Jake Bugg is just as manufactured as One Direction. The difference being where 1D go blatantly for pop and the hearts of teenage girls, Mr. Bugg is squarely targeted to appeal to the NME reading indie kids and mod men. I’ve never made any pretense that I like 1D, but I can live with the fact that they sure as hell aren’t pretending to anything other than what they are.

The cruelest slice of this all is that Jake himself probably didn’t even realise what was happening. As far as Jake Bugg the person goes, I have no problem, he’s a nice enough guy with good music taste who can write some pretty decent tunes. But Jake Bugg the artist is a hilarious product of manufacturing, record label execs worked out how to make his records sound old, because obviously the old days are when music was ‘real’. And of course none of the greatest songs ever made have been written with a team of writers, unless you count Motown’s brilliance or the old Jazz standards that still awe us.

So when a member of One Direction points out that ‘Jake Bugg slagging off One Direction’ is just another marketing tool to make Jake Bugg appeal more to the ‘indie’ crowd, it is a moment of pure poetic justice.

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Lucy Rose – Like I Used To – Review

Surprisingly good debut album from former Bombay Bicycle Club backing singer.

It would be easy to dismiss this album. Just another female singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and a nice voice, playing radio-friendly, late afternoon coffee shop music, ready to be forgotten by the end of the month. But what actually emerges deserves comparison with another, similarly situated singer, Lianne La Havas. Like La Havas, Rose has been well supported by radio plays, and widely known for a long time before her album was even announed. For La Havas this was thanks to a show-stealing performance on Jools Holland, while Rose has honed her trade working with Bombay Bicycle Club, first on Flaws and then throughout A Different Kind of Fix. But unlike La Havas’ album, which was overwrought and less impressive than her Jools performance, Like I Used To is well structured and entertaining enough to warrant immediate second playthroughs and definitely removes her from the shadow of BBC.

Whether or not you will like this album depends pretty much entirely on whether you like Lucy Rose’s voice. Somewhere between Laura Marling and BBC frontman Jack Steadman, it warbles delicately over the top of acoustic guitar lines, and while being bit, yes, twee, it is very effective and carries the songs well. She apparently sells tea at her live shows, which will for some be a sort of ‘I told you so’ revelation, and there is definitely something provincial in the album, which, combined with the fact the album was recorded at her home and village hall, gives the record an sort of homely feel to it. What saves it from being just that dreaded put down of the critic – ‘nice’ – is the songwriting. Take lead single ‘Lines’, what could be a simple, delicate ballad becomes a fascinating song, with syncopated guitar parts and an unexpected gear shift into the chorus and then a shift up again for a rousing bridge. To top it all off the verse is in 7/4 which to my drummers ears is confirmation of a talent beyond what could have been her pigeonhole, and singles her out among acoustic artists, just as BBC’s 10/4 ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ put them a foot above the standard indie plodder.

The flow of the album is something Rose has got perfectly right. There are just the right amount of songs so that the album never becomes boring, and each tender moment is countered by something more upbeat to prevent it being too samey. Songs like ‘Night Bus‘ and ‘Middle of the Road‘ show off Rose’s ability to write moving songs, while ‘Bikes’ and ‘Watch Over‘ provide the album with its happier, poppier moments, the latter containing little hints of Steadman’s Bombay stylings that will please fans crossing over between the two. Thankfully, this is the only moment reminding us of the connection. The overall theme of the album seems to be the past and adolescence. This is hinted at by the title, and album closer ‘Be Alright’ is be a brilliant moment where Rose effectively closes off this topic. Lyrically it reflects on love and relationships as you would probably expect, and it does it well, there’s never a grating lyric like many youthful acoustic bands suffer from.

As a debut this is highly promising. At its best it recalls the better folk/pop artists of the past in Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and even occasionally Cat Power. It isn’t without its Flaws (teehee its a reference), the variation is mostly contained as parts within each song, and it would be nicer to have one track where the sound is more experimental, although that was what became a major problem with the La Havas album. The album tracks have yet to really stand out from the singles and this could be a problem, but only time can tell as any one of them could be my favourite song by next week for all I know. What annoys me more is that like La Havas’ album it has a rubbish cover that does the music a disservice, but whatever.

Lucy Rose Like I Used To

While its critics might dismiss Like I Used To as the latest in a line of forgettable nu-folk, in reality it is a surprisingly strong record showing off a musical ability far beyond many of her peers, and deserving of repeated plays. The standout track by a country mile is track no. 4, ‘Shiver’. Anyone who fails to be moved by it has to be one cold-hearted bastard, one look at the long line of youtube cover versions will tell you of its instant appeal.

I am indebted to her performance for Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins on 6music at the ungodly hours of the morning for finally persuading me to get the album after a week or so of appreciating the singles. It’s well worth checking out here (there’s only 1 day left so hurry).

Lucy Rose can be found on facebook, twitter, youtube and the internet as well as in the background of Bombay Bicycle Club songs.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Or STFU You Boring Prick)

This time I’m mad…

It’s a fairly well known fact that The Beatles used the word ‘Love’ somewhere between 485 and 613 times in their lyrics (nobody could be arsed to count properly) which is higher than the number of songs they actually wrote. They can get away with it A) because they invented pop music as we know it and so were the first to really use it, and B) they never really get the credit for their inventive lyrics, they were subtle in a pop song in a way that Flo Rida’s ‘Whistle’ is not, despite almost saying the same thing (does anyone realise the filth hiding in the lyrics of ‘Please Please Me‘).

The reason I bring this up is because I’ve finally reached the end of my tether with the use of the word ‘Love’ in current music. Note that I didn’t say ‘pop music’. I don’t give any sort of a fuck whether Rihanna ‘found love in a hopeless place’ (or as my brother like to think of it ‘homeless place’, in a tribute to hobo love), because she’s a pop artist. No one’s seriously claiming that it’s being done for emotional depth (apart from Rihanna herself). What really grinds my gears is when modern bands trying to step into the less disposable rock world use this word as a lynchpin for their really ‘deep’ songs. The ones that seem to have real people moved to tears and screaming how meaningful and ‘inspiring’ the lyrics are. Well go fuck a duck.

A general and pretty practical rule for any sort of art is this principle that I have made up. In order for Art to be meaningful it either has to say something new, or say something old in a new way. It’s very simple and very effective. The former can be seen in acts like The Sex Pistols, Radiohead, The Velvet Underground or Gil Scott-Heron, while the latter has been recently achieved with songs like ‘Crown of Love’ by Arcade Fire, ‘Tessellate’ by Alt-J or ‘Wandering Star’ by Poliça.

It’s a shame that so many modern bands seem to run against this idea. By far the worst offenders are Mumford and Sons. A fairly popular hipster conspiracy theory is that Mumford and Sons are the soundtrack the to the Lib-Con Coalition, in that somehow they have the popular vote, they all seem like a bunch of wankers and we won’t see the back of them for upward of three more years. But the most annoying thing about them, far more than every song sounding the same, more than the fucking banjos, more than even the fact that, in the words of Drowned in Sound ‘Mumford & Sons are to folk what Nickelback are to grunge’, is their pseudo-meaningful lyrics. I’m going to post a few select quotes of their lyrics about ‘Love’ and see if you can refrain from groaning at the simultaneous meaninglessness and sheer blandness of them.

‘Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, It will set you free’
‘And my head told my heart “Let love grow”‘
‘And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.’
‘Love was kind, for a time, Now just aches, and it makes me blind’
‘I know that’s what you love, Cause you know I love the same’
‘Wanting change but loving her just as she lies Is the burden of the man who’s build his life on love’
‘Casting love on me as if it were a spell I could not break’
‘Where you invest your love, you invest your life’

Well if you’re not asleep, I should just say, these aren’t even the worst Mumford lyrics. There are far worse ones (I’m looking at you ‘I Will Wait’), but I’ve spared them for clarity’s sake. Under this band, the word that was the bedrock to The Beatles, has become completely meaningless. There’s no complexity, no depth, none of the gut-wrenching power of lyrics like Alt-J’s ‘Breezeblocks‘ or Cat Power’s ‘Colour and the Kids‘, which both use ‘Love’ to killer effect. This is bad art, in every sense. It’s saying what other people have said before and have said better. If ‘All You Need Is Love’ was true, once upon a time then these modern bands need to go the opposite route, and give the word a rest for a couple of years. Hopefully when it returns it can have meaning once again.

I’ll leave the last Mumford word to the legend that is Mark E. Smith, and you should know that name if you even want to start thinking about lyrics: “We were playing a festival in Dublin the other week. There was this other group like, warming up in the next sort of chalet, and they were terrible. I said ‘shut them cunts up’ and they were still warming up, so I threw a bottle at them. The band said ‘that’s the Sons of Mumford’ or something, ‘they’re number five in charts!’ I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers.”

Oh and the title of this article, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ is taken from a a set of short stories by Raymond Carver, who is the perfect place to start if you want to read something incredibly powerful, in a short time, and about Love.

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