Links: Cogent overblocking again; 3800 pirate sites blocked in UK; blockchain!



All these streams will be lost in time, like tears in rain.


Ted Gioia writes at The Smart Set on streaming versus the sense of musical ownership. Back in our day, you bought your record and you loved that forty-minute object and its detailed packaging. In 2017, CDs and downloading are sideshows compared to streaming. (“Last year, more songs were streamed on any single day than were downloaded during the entire year.”) Ed Sheeran having sixteen tracks in the Top 40 is probably an honest reflection of what people are in fact listening to.

Past pop kids always treated their records as a bit disposable. But even they were fans — radio listenership went way up in the ’80s when they stopped surveying just music fans and started surveying the general public. Modern pop is now literally targeted at people who aren’t really into music.

Preservation of culture is, of course, about to become a massive arse. There’s already people releasing records primarily on Spotify. Are you going to just rip the audio from the MP3 or Ogg that Spotify actually send? Of course, when marketing demands the supply of full uncompressed streams, or even “hi-res”, that’ll be worth saving the decoded stream. But a huge amount is just going to be lost — there is no “cloud”, there’s just someone else’s computer. Did anyone catch the pre-lawsuit version of that great track? No? Oh well.

The problem Gioia describes is real — nobody will bother owning their own copy of music any more, “music” will become as ephemeral as it was before recording existed — but I think he overstates the importance to the industry of the humble record nerd, i.e., you and me. We’ve always been of interest to the A&R department, but in terms of what makes buckets of money we’re financially irrelevant and sort of annoying.

There’s still notional albums and physical CDs, and an individual CD still makes a substantial chunk of change if you have the sort of fans who still buy the archaic silver things. There’s notional EPs, meaning “a short enough collection of songs not to risk your attention wavering.” To be fair, albums have always sorta sucked, with a few exceptions.

The popular culture impact of music will continue to decline, because pop music has been not actually popular for a while now. As music becomes completely commodified, we should expect the general public to care even less. Gioia exhorts the reader to get out there and buy things, but I find even I’m listening to the latest lovingly curated Factory Benelux reissues on Spotify ‘cos it’s there, and casually playing songs off YouTube even when I have the ripped CD right at hand on the home server. Streaming as the answer to the Midas plague. Welcome to the bronze age. Spotify is also notably short on information on a given release.

There’s gotta be some way to turn what the kids are streaming into subculture, even in the midst of the Great Cultural Fragmentation. Nagging non-buyers to buy is not going to be it. What will be? Keeping in mind that we’re competing with the whole Internet.

I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening’s experiments – astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever.

— Arthur Sullivan congratulating Thomas Edison on the invention of the gramophone


The Fall: Perverted By Language (1983).


There’s a lot more beauty on this new LP. Some of the new songs aim straight at the heart. It’s still aggressive in a way though. Room to Live was aiming somewhere else. It wasn’t about emotion as such, but it was supposed to be looser in form than anything we had done before. Perverted by Language is a lot funnier as well. We craft everything much better these days. Seriousness and humour are blended together more now. It is difficult to say though whether a song is meant one way or another. I think it’s best if a writer doesn’t think too much about what is being written. I don’t over-analyse what I write. Some of it might be trivial and some might be obscure but it all goes towards the whole. Then again, I think my most trivial lyrics are ten times better than anything that’s taken seriously — say like (yawn) Elvis Costello, boring writer, boring man.

Perverted By Language was the first Fall album I bought. (The non-album indie hit “The Man Whose Head Expanded” was the first single.) It had been issued in Australia by the tiny local office of Rough Trade, just before they actually hit big with the Smiths. They issued a pile of stuff contemporaneous with the UK releases … Raincoats, Robert Wyatt, an amazing Australasia-only compilation

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the album at the time, but it remains a favourite. I wouldn’t call it the best starting point to get into what’s great about early 1980s Fall — that would probably be “Totally Wired”, “Kicker Conspiracy” and “The Man Whose Head Expanded” in that order — but it’s far from the worst. It’s largely surreal poetry recitations over single riffs repeated in linear chugging drones for several minutes; all the lyrics make sense in Mark E. Smith’s head, if nowhere else. His voice has a difficult relationship with melody, at best just not bothering. Not much here would make a plausible single.

“Eat Y’Self Fitter” starts proceedings. The fabulously catchy drum and guitar riff get the music hall call and response lyric started in pop-punk single shape without delay. It turns out to be a six-minute epic, the lyrics spiraling downward. (There’s a possible ending they could have taken around 3:30, but instead chose to keep right on going.)

“Neighbourhood of Infinity” is more of a linear racket. The lyric appears to be a cut-up, referring to the sleeve note “THAT Smith applied cut-up technique literally to brain”.

“The Garden” is structured as an epic that thinks highly of itself. It’s never been the slightest bit clear to me, even with the annotated lyrics, though the bouncy bassline is good. The words includes bits from the Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide.

“Hotel Bloedel” is the first contribution from Brix Smith, who joined after much of the album was recorded. It’s a pretty good pop song, based on one of Brix’s old songs. The hotel is apparently the Hotel Grüner Baum Gasthof Blödel in Nuremberg: “I was sure the place was haunted. Mark lit cigarettes and put them all around the room to fight off the horrible smell. When it got light we looked out of the window and saw an old woman coming across the courtyard carrying a sack of blood into the hotel …” The hotel turned out to be next door to an abattoir. That’s Mark on violin.

On to side two! “Smile” is five minutes of a simple descending 15/4 riff with lyrics ranting about bourgeois southerner anarchists; a strong start. “I Feel Voxish” is spiraling major-key bass riffs, and horribly perky for the Fall in this period. The seventh chords sound like the pop of the time.

“Tempo House” is a single bass riff for about nine minutes. This is a live version, not clear why (they did apparently record a studio version), but it works well.

“Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot” features a lovely guitar riff and occasional passing attacks on Marc Riley. If the Fall played the Velvets, it might sound a bit like this. It finishes the album really nicely and memorably.

The 2005 expanded edition includes the hit single not from the album “The Man Whose Head Expanded”, which is referred to in “Neighbourhood of Infinity”, and previous single “Kicker Conspiracy”.

The album had an accompanying video, Perverted By Language Bis, released by Ikon (Factory) after Rough Trade balked at it. I rented this from Dada Records a few times (much as I did Doublevision Present). Cherry Red released it on DVD in 2003, though it’s long out of print.

“There was a time when I asked Mark if he’d heard that ‘Under Pressure’ song that Bowie did with Queen and he just said, ‘Yeah! They ripped that bass-line off “An Older Lover” on Slates. ‘” — Brix Smith, ZigZag November 1983

The next album, The Wonderful And Frightening World, is actually the exact same lineup, though I found it nowhere near as lovable even if I like more individual songs. (The 12″ of “No Bulbs” rocks.) The Wonderful And Frightening World gets into Brix’s pop influence that turned the Fall into unlikely minor pop stars through the 1980s. Perverted By Language closes off the Fall’s indie era.


Links: Spotify to reduce convenience, the Velvets’ banana, Cosey Fanni Tutti goes establishment.


Reviews: Amyl and the Sniffers, Bestial Mouths (2016, 2017).


AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS: Big Attraction — trashy St Kilda rockabillyish cowpunk that sounds on the surface like less work than it probably was and catches the attention more than you’d expect from what it is. The songs are really short, but nevertheless just as long as they need to be. The lyrics are suitably blunt. This is charming and endearing. Above: “’70s Street Munchies”, “Caltex Cowgirl” from previous EP Giddy Up.


BESTIAL MOUTHS: Heartless (Cleopatra) — shouty female-vocal goth rock, but with electro bass. Works well. Songs not killer, but the sound is great. Personal favourite tracks: “Faceless”, “Worn Skin”. Above: “Heartless”, “Worn Skin”. If you like this, the just-released remix album (Still) Heartless will reward your time with a discofied version of the same thing.


Followups: laser-burnt records, that Beatles live album, Depeche Mode vs the Nazis.


Links: Spotify hackers, voiceover woes, Cabaret Voltaire in 2017.

1986-87 Perth fanzine Vortex scanned and up on the Party Fears page.


6NR Late Nite was a radio show run by the Curtin University of Technology student guild. Late Nite was one of the finest agents of musical corruption available to the youth of Perth in the 1980s, and certainly did wonders for me as a teenager: hearing sounds from who knows where coming over the AM airwaves, last thing at night.

In late 1986, they decided to do a magaziney fanzine thing (clearly inspired by my work on Party Fears) called Vortex, or ✪Vortex✪ if you used too many fonts. Most of the work was done by Anna Zanella, with contributions from everyone in range of Late Nite or Dawn Bailey’s Friday afternoon Australian indie show Sessions.

The financial basis is entirely unclear to me. They printed it on shiny expensive paper and the first two issues were given away free and later issues were $1. I strongly suspect they were just throwing money down a black hole and collecting the radiation of the resulting magazines.

It eventually stopped because (I asked her this some time ’88, ’89?) Anna didn’t think she could really have taken it much further. I spluttered at this, thinking just what I could have done with some sort of actual subsidy for my fanzining instead of attempting to pay for Party Fears out of my Austudy or dole … probably pretty much what I did, but with less angst and earlier computerisation.

Brad Lambert kindly scanned his collection a couple of years ago and sent me DVD-Rs of the lot. And nearly two years later, I have finally started putting them up. (Sorry Brad for the delay!) Issue 1 is up on the Party Fears World Service page, with issues 2 to 6 to follow.

If you have any other Perth indie press from back in the day, please send scans my way and I’ll put them up! (Yes, I’m particularly thinking of The Harvey. But there were lots of others.) And I’ll take less than two years about it this time, promise.


Synthpop reviews: The Past Made Us One, Endanger, Pomigato (2017).


THE PAST MADE US ONE: No Name Product — minimal-synth pop leaning darkwave with some lovely tunes. I like their way with a melody. The music sometimes sounds restricted by the minimal synth instrumentation; I’m hearing some of these songs (“The Longing”, “The Quest”) how they’d suit jangly guitar, bass and a drummer. But this is a good album by a fundamentally sound band.


ENDANGER: “Es Ist Nie Still” (Infacted) — pretty good EBM synthpop, and I have no idea what more specific to say about it. They’ve been around a couple of decades, though the past few years have mostly been singles on Infacted. It’s times like this I realise I’m listening to the wrong genre not to understand German. It sounds like a good single and is worth a spin, probably! And I have twenty years to catch up on.


POMIGATO: Soul Milk — indie Korean synthpop, starting from a pure pop base and going off at every angle it feels inspired to. It’s like pop but distinctly weird. (Particularly on “UN제어ABLE”, which is a good place to start. “RE_충전” is a bit more normal. And “((PRO_주역)길항근)” is really very nicely funky.) A surprising and pleasing find. Also check the previous EP, “Rainbow Oncology”.