Leaving On A Jet Plane III

Back soon…

currently playing: The Stranglers - Golden Brown

The State We're In

The UK album chart for last week:

  1. Call Off The Search — Katie Melua
  2. Feels Like Home — Norah Jones
  3. The Jukebox Years — Daniel O'Donnell
  4. Twentysomething — Jamie Cullum
  5. Just For You — Lionel Richie -Mercury
  6. Only You — Harry Connick Jr
  7. His Greatest Love Songs — Engelbert Humperdinck
  8. Thank You — Jamelia
  9. When It Falls — Zero 7
  10. Friday's Child — Will Young
  11. Ultimate Manilow Barry Manilow

Is this it? Is this what 2004 holds for the music industry? Endless iterations of Terry Wogan-approved jazz-lite singers and repackaged Greatest Hits collections, forming a Julia set of mediocrity? With the advent of the 50-Quid Man, it certainly looks that way (in case you were hoping for solace from the rest of the chart, I must point out that Barry Manilow is number eleven. There's no good news to be found, I'm afraid).

Surely, though, things have always been this way? Well, not really. Here's the chart from ten years ago, before the big Britpop explosion, during a time when the halcyon sales of the 1980s and 1970s were a distant memory:

  1. Music Box — Mariah Carey
  2. The Cross Of Changes — Enigma
  3. Debut — Bjork
  4. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? — The Cranberries
  5. So Close — Dina Carroll
  6. Bat Out Of Hell 2: Back Into Hell — Meatloaf
  7. Elegant Slumming — M People
  8. Tiger Bay — Saint Etienne
  9. Ten Summoner's Tales — Sting
  10. Under The Pink — Tori Amos

You can see the difference instantly; rock, dance, MOR, indie, and the goth audience all share the honours, instead of the rather bland, samey line-up of today. And yet, in the past ten years, the amount of albums sold has increased considerably since then, to the extent that the single market is now less important than it used to be. It's just that all the excitement and interest seems to have vanished.

Perhaps the singles chart provides a glimmer of hope? Well, it does, but not really. It has much more variety than the album chart, but this is because hardly anybody is buying singles any more. Consider Graham Coxon's new entry this week, "Freakin' Out". With a placing at #37, it looks like a poor showing at first; he's reasonably popular with the indie crowd, and he should have done a little bit better. But this single is a limited edition 7". Only 2500 copies have been made. And yet it still managed to enter the Top 40. The singles chart is not doing well at all.

To make matters worse, the record companies refuse to adjust to this new reality; relatively established names like Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Emma Bunton are under the threat of being dropped from their record labels unless they generate hit singles. But their fanbase no longer buys singles in any significant amount, instead going for the better value album, watching the video on one of the many satellite music channels, or downloading it from the Internet. With the change of who's buying albums, album sales that would have looked respectable a few years back are dwarfed by the big name collections and this month's Radio 2-approved fad. They will find themselves dropped by the end of the year, as the record companies shed bands to save money, decimating the mid-list and concentrating solely on the big names who can guarantee sales.

Most of the independent labels of yesteryear that nurtured new talent are now themselves part of the big companies, and are little more than a storefront to project an image of cool. Perhaps we've reached the end times of pop music. All we have left is nostalgia mining; endless ways of convincing the public to buy a resequenced version of Engelbert Humperdinck's greatest hits.

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners — Let’s Make This Precious

Eh?

I don’t understand. Are we living in a time where Renee and Renato’s “Save Your Love” has been erased from history? Hoddle and Waddle’s “Diamond Lights” is no longer with us? Was there a reality-wide cataclysmic event that involved altering the time-stream, leaving us with a new world that is bereft of Northern Uproar’s back catalogue?

Come on, it's not even the worst Take That song (which is Do What U Like. Easily)!

currently playing: Bis — Theme From Tokyo

"It was breezy…Oh, gosh, what if it wasn't breezy?"

  • The Postal ServiceClark Gable
    This is the reason why this week’s music entry is late (see!? Postal Service! Ha ha ha (You’re fired. Again. — Ed.)). Probably straying dangerously close to the dreaded emo territory, but this is my new discovery for the week. Americans in London! Writing your past via film! A fun echo effect! And so on.
  • Camera ObscuraLunar Sea
    I've written about this elsewhere, but I thought I'd stick it up so people can actually hear it. If The Postal Service are dangerously emo, then Camera Obscura are Belle & Sebastian after getting high on pixy stix and having their faces painted like tigers. This is from their latest album, Underachievers Please Try Harder, and harkens back to the childish wonderment of Low's Just Like Christmas. Or so it says here.
This will probably be the last MP3 post for a while; I'm heading off to Chapel Hill again this Thursday (which means the blog might start having longer posts again, for a little while at least), and UNC is closing the account I use to store the files at the end of March (not that I can complain, after having use of it for almost a year longer than I should have done), so getting songs up will be a problem for the foreseeable future. Don't worry, I will find another way to subject you to the horrors of my music collection…

currently playing: Jimmy Buffett — Margaritaville

Danny The Hypertime Street

currently playing: Kenickie — Millionaire Sweeper

Zrrrrr.

Last week: Clinton as VP.

This week: McCain as VP.

Next week: The eldritch-animated statue of Abraham Lincoln as VP!

(GOLEMS HAVE RIGHTS TOO!)

currently playing: ESG — UFO

Link Mix

Expect police raids for your mix-tapes in a year’s time.

Oh, the fun you can have with a Barbie doll.

Oooh! A shed!

Hmm. Screen-printing.

I wasn't making it up! This show exists!

currently playing: Patti Smith — Gloria

Back In The Hat (Although I Don't Have A Hat)

Hmm. Sorry about the lack of updates. Here’s a special music day in order to make up for that.

Firstly, have a listen to this, Travis's new single "Love Will Come Through" (yes, I know, but I'm making a point here, so you can take the pain). Then, after you've done that, download Godspeed You Black Emperor's "Moya". It takes a while to get going, so you might want to fast forward to around eight minutes in if you're in a hurry.

They sound suspiciously similar, don't they?

currently playing: Idlewild — American English

It's Been A While

Here’s a preview of a short thing I’m working on, which currently has the rather awkward title of “The Thing With The Supervillains Who Share An Apartment”.

currently playing: Courtney Love — Mono

And Then There Was One

Not exactly the situation people were predicting last November.

Now, it's just about time for the $200m Bush Juggernaut to roll out…

currently playing: The Smiths — Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others