Thursday, 31 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #11

Unknown shrub, Heaton Chapel
You know, I've never understood why Luscious Jackson didn't make it as big as I thought they were going to. They had all the best qualities of indie, punk and hip hop at a time when you'd have thought that would be A Good Thing. 

Natural Ingredients, which was released on the Beastie Boys label, Grand Royale, was the follow up to the 1993 mini album In Search of Manny, which is still worth a listen. 'Energy Sucker' has a certain
up yours kind of swaggery attitude to it that I really like. And it doesn't seem to have dated at all.

Pins, from Manchester, released their second album in summer 2015. 'Young Girls' was the leading single from it and saw the band taking a slightly more melodic, less garage route than on their previous album.

As the marking of the centenary of World War I continues, it felt only right to acknowledge it with Laura Cantrell's lovely take on 'When The Roses Bloom Again', a poignant folk take on those parted by war.

I saw Laura Cantrell in Manchester back in 2003, when she was touring with Paul Burch. The gig had a fantastically friendly atmosphere and Laura and Paul hung out by the merch stall afterwards, signing CD's.

Toussaint McCall's 'Nothing Takes The Place Of You' will be familiar to anyone who has seen the original 1980s film version of Hairspray. It is a timeless soul classic.

Image of unknown shrub, Heaton Chapel, by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #10

Berries growing in hedgerow, Offerton.
We begin this morning with Lamb, and their excellent drum 'n' bass classic 'Gorecki'. I was first introduced to this song not long after it was released, by a friend who was just starting to transition from a broadly punk based musical diet to hip hop and drum'n'bass. She put it on a mixtape for me, but didn't label it. I absolutely hammered the tape and, after about a year, nature took its course and it snapped...

Fast forward about 13 or so years and I'm at home in the kitchen listening to 6music on a Saturday morning, and Liz Kershaw announce's she's playing Lamb next. And I hear the words 'If I should die...' and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end because, at last, it is. That. Song.

End of quest.

I have a decidedly less intense relationship with Choir of Young Believers and their song 'Jeg Ser Dig', in which I have to concur wholeheartedly with the bands press release that singer Jannis Noya Makrigiannis sounds like a male Sade. This song was released in October, and there's a new album to follow in February 2016. The song is a lovely, sorrowful soundscape of a song. In Danish.

Probably not that many people, outside of the Lone Justice/Maria McKee fanbase, will have heard the Lone Justice version of Lou Reed's 'Sweet Jane', but it is definitely worth a listen. It first appeared on a Lone Justice E.P, which I suspect is now a collectors item, and resurfaced, years later, on a Maria McKee best of.

I've just discovered that, at last, someone has managed to upload the famous clip of Big Brother and the Holding Company perorming 'Ball and Chain' at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival without it being taken down for copyright violation within a week. Hurrah! Rolling Stone presumably have the correct licence. So here it is in all it's glory for your enjoyment. There really is very little left to say about it as a clip, other than it being the moment when Janis Joplin clearly got her first moment in the limelight and showed she was a force to be reckoned with. 

Big Mama Thornton gave the world the original 'Ball and Chain', and I blogged about that version when Holly Combe and I were doing the Song of the day series on The F-Word. Both versions are really worth a listen. 

Image of Berries growing in hedgerow, Offerton, by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #9

There were so many gorgeously sad, atmospheric, occasionally maudlin songs to emerge from the feverish sixties girl group period. So many classics, so little time...

The Pussycat's version of 'Dressed in black' is dripping with melodrama, and it's not often heard. Time for a revisit.

Florence + The Machine's 'Delilah' is part six, seemingly the concluding part, of the Odyssey series of videos made to accompany How big, how blue, how beautiful. Watching all six videos is a vaguely gruelling, but gripping, experience that definitely puts you through the emotional ringer, but it is worth it. If you want to do so, start with 'What kind of man', follow with 'St Jude', then continue with 'Ship to wreck', 'Queen of peace' and 'Long and Lost' before concluding with 'Delilah'

As to 'Delilah' itself, I described the song as being a marriage of the Dusty Springfield version of 'Can I get a witness?' and Siouxsie and the Banshees 'Halloween': It really shouldn't work, and yet somehow, it does... Harmonies, drama, atmosphere, urgency... it's all there.

The Vanilla Fudge version of the Supreme's classic 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' is from 1968, so not that long after the original, but way, way before the suitably overblown pop rock Kim Wilde version. It has much more in common with Jimi Hendrix than it does with Motown, and the slowed down rawk of it all gives it a swaggering overwrought glamour.

We conclude todays selection of sixties tinged charm and excess with Amy Winehouse and 'Back to Black', a song which takes us full circle, acknowledging as it does a clear debt to the sixties girl groups, particularly the Shangri-Las and 'I can never go home anymore'

Image of tiara by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved

Monday, 28 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #8

Berries and leaves, Heaton Moor
I thought I'd begin today's post with an extra slice of California sunshine, following on from Tommy James and the Shondells yesterday. So, todays slice of sunshine pop is the Mamas & The Papas 'California Dreaming', which is, I think, my favourite track of theirs. They're one of those bands where it's easy to use, and subvert, the meaning of their songs, hence the use of 'Dedicated to the one I love' on the soundtrack to Morvern Caller and oh so ironic use of 'It's Getting Better' in Beautiful Thing. There was darkness as well as lightness in the band, and that that is part of the reason why their songs can be used and interpreted in a number of ways.

Kali Uchis' 'Know what I want' has a very summary vibe to it as well. Think post-Amy Winehouse with a vague nod to dub reggae. This is from late 2014, so not as 'new' as it should be, but it is my favourite track of hers so far.

I love the swagger of Santigold's 'My Superman', although the debt to Siouxsie and the Banshee's 'Red Light' is very evident, she manages to totally transform it and make it something very different but also a good salute to the original.

While Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra collaborated on a number of songs, the collaborations they are most famous for are 'Some Velvet Morning' and 'Summer Wine', both of which I like, but not as much as 'Sundown, Sundown'

Image of berries and leaves in Heaton Moor by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #7

Fake Poinsettia
We open today with the rather lovely 'Crimson and Clover' by Tommy James and the Shondells. Tommy James and the Shondells, while being a particularly classy sixties outfit, also crop up regularly on 'Sunshine pop' compilations of the era. And a bit of sunshine pop is exactly what we need this side of Christmas I think.

Earlier this year I heard a fascinating BBC radio documentary about Cambodian music, Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. While incredibly harrowing, it also brought alive to me a real sense of what the Cambodian music scene was like in the years before the Khmer Rouge. Dengue Fever pay homage to that heritage and I've liked them for a couple of years now without fully understanding their heritage and context.

I watched them do it live at least twice, and it was brilliant. I was so pleased when they released it as the B side to 'Dialling Tone'.

Our final track is not so much blue as icy blue. This is the commanding and sepulchral 'Vessel' by Zola Jesus, in which Nika Danilova really gives voice to something eerily beautiful.

Image of Fake Poinsettia by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #6

Christmas star decoration
Boxing Day always seems to require something vaguely poignant and slightly overblown. Because even if you don't have a hangover on Boxing Day, there's always a vague sense of disappointment and ennui somehow.

Let the majestic Dinah Washington lift your mood this morning...

I heard the record shop at the Piccadilly Approach end of Newton Street blaring Dinah out over their external speakers one evening on my way to the bus stop, and while raising a smile, it also made me feel like I was in the supermarket scene in Morvern Callar, or else the Bonnie and Clyde homage scene in Run Lola Run.

What follows is a sudden jolt into nihilism and dystopeia courtesy of Halsey's 'New Americana', which is best described as post Lana Del Rey and post Hunger Games... 

By contrast, Dusty Springfield's impeccable (of course!) take on the Lesley Gore classic 'You Don't Own Me' is a different kind of restlessness.

From one outstanding singer to an outstanding, and much under appreciated singer songwriter, namely Laura Nyro. 'You don't love me when I cry' is the opening track from the classic New York Tendaberry album from 1969, and is a defining example of edge of the seat gripping, while also being very sad and beautiful.

Image of Christmas star decoration by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #5

I've always found it a bit odd that the Saint Etienne/Tim Burgess collaboration, 'I was born on Christmas Day' isn't revisited more at this time of year. It's scuffed indie credentials might mean it can't compete with Slade and Wizzard, but it's a much more charming record, and it has never knowingly been overplayed...

Peluche's 'Ohio', which was released in the dying months of 2014, has the double distinction of not being quite new enough to fully qualify as 'New' for the intents and purposes of this post, but it also sounds like it was recorded in 1982. That said, it's a joyous romp through post punk musicality for the modern age.

The Belle Stars, meanwhile, were really performing 'The Clapping Song' in 1982, itself a cover of the Shirley Ellis classic. The 80s revival in fashion has endured for so long now that their outfits look almost contemporary. Funny old world...

Owlle's France was one of my albums of last year, and now seems a good time to revisit it's cool electro sophistication. 'Ticky Ticky' flirts with Eurovision but stays the right side of it, and yes, it is a real earworm once you've heard it, even once.

Image of Satsumas by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #4

Christmas tree in shop, Levenshulme, from bus window in rush hour traffic
While the sound on the clip isn't fantastic, todays video does show the goddess like Eartha Kitt in playful mood, performing the classic 'Santa Baby'. Kitt was, of course, about much more than this, and a song like 'Lazy Afternoon' shows off her vocal skills to a greater extent, but that doesn't detract from her performance here, which is perfect.

There's a vague aural unease and discordance in a lot of Tei Shi's work that is evident in her August release 'See Me'. Whereas February's 'Bassically' was slinky and slightly menacing, there's a gentle, pastoral quality to 'See Me' that is just as unsettling, just in a different way.

The Mediaeval Baebes have always been a curious ensemble, not really a choir, not really a band, not really classical, not really folk... 'Sour Grove', which is taken from 2007's The Rose, captures well where they were as an ensemble at that point, combining old and new elements to create a very distinctive and arresting take on an old song.

Todays post concludes with the excellent Laura Groves, aka Blue Roses, and 'First Frost Night', Groves was one of a number of Laura's making folk music in the UK in 2009, and the self titled Blue Roses album is still an excellent listen. It would be great if she made another album.

Photo of Christmas tree in shop, Levenshulme, from bus window in rush hour traffic, by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #3

Ivy in Heaton Chapel
Belly's 'Feed the tree' feels more like a summer or early autumn song than a winter song, with a post Throwing Muses Tanya Donnelly in seemingly exuberant mood. Oddly timeless.

Grace Mitchell's 'NoLo' is an absolute gold standard, freshly minted pop classic, the video to which was released on 25th November. Good things are surely to be expected of this girl.

Florence + The Machine's cover of Drake's 'Take Care' is from 2011, it was performed as part of a Radio 1 live session for Fearne Cotton and captures the band between Lungs and Ceremonials. While Florence's introduction is a little quiet in this clip, the song is captured in all its sonic glory.

Shocking Blue's 'Venus', while not as memorable perhaps as the Bananarama version, was given a second lease of life back in the 1990s when it was used to advertise, I think, Gillette? or similar. I believe the band had a fairly prolific output in the 1970s, and having heard a song of theirs on Radcliffe and Maconie's Chain about a year ago, they definitely are a band I should look into further.

Photo of ivy in Heaton Chapel by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #2

Holly Tree, Heaton Moor
Low's 'It was just like Christmas' is a sweetly lo fi, just the right side of cheesy, slice of festive fare that is always due a re-listen at this time of year. There's something innately comforting and innocent about it that ensures it never loses its charm.

Julia Holter's new album Have you in my wilderness is Piccadilly Records number 1 album of the year. They probably nailed it when they wrote in their end of year round up that, while liking her previous albums, they love the new one a lot more because it seems more substantial and fully formed in a pop sense than previous offerings. Personally, I really loved 'Hello Stranger', and loved the concept behind Loud City Song in a general sense, but never really got into it as an album.

September's track 'Sea Calls Me Home' captures the new album well.

Birdy's take on the Fleet Foxes' song 'White Winter Hymnal' showcases the singer's voice well, while deftly paying tribute to a song that, while markedly different in its original form, remains far from spoiled. I like both versions, but for very different reasons.

'Pale blue eyes' features on the Velvet Underground's self titled third album and, while not perhaps as well known as, say, 'I'm Waiting For My Man', or 'Venus In Furs', it is a quiet masterpiece.

Image of holly tree by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #1

Heaton Moor Christmas Tree
The Waitresses'  'Christmas Wrapping' is my favourite Christmas song of all time.

I like it's realness, it's sense of harassed pre-Christmas organisation and the merry hell Christmas preparations can have upon everyday life. Anyone trying to get in or out of Manchester city centre recently will know what I'm talking about here.

I first encountered the song in the late 1990s when I was in the process of leaving my job as a Catering Assistant for an ill fated stint as a Researcher at a publishing company. That saxophone definitely kept me sane, and Patty died far too young.

'Coconut Water' by Milk & Bone is a sweetly sad, wistful song I only heard recently. It came out in March so I haven't built any history with this song yet, just really, really like it's electro pop elegance. It reminds me of Foxbase Alpha period Saint Etienne, and doesn't feel much like a winter song, but put that to one side because it has all the hallmarks of a classic.

'She moved through the fair', here being hauntingly performed by Sinead O'Connor as 'He moved through the fair' is a traditional folk song I have loved for several years now. There is a ambiguity and sadness to it that I really like. This version, needless to say, is perfect.

It's taken me a while to settle on a Billie Holiday track, but I've settled in the end on 'T'ain't Nobody's Business if I Do' because I like it's cheery 'fuck you' attitude, its knife edge morality and all round excellence. Enjoy...

Image of Heaton Moor Christmas tree by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Monday, 16 November 2015

To suck, or not to suck...

Manchester city centre, on TUC march day, October 4th 2015 (date setting on camera not set up before using)
This piece is inspired by a panel discussion I attended at Louder Than Words on Sunday 15th November. The title of the discussion was 'Is the Enemy Really Free?', a coded reference to the NME, Britain's last weekly music paper, and it's decision two months ago to go free.

A lot was discussed in the discussion, and it is a massive area, but it made me think about my own relationship with journalism and blogging, with being a paid writer and an unpaid writer, and what it all might mean....

To make sense of it all, I need to go right back to the beginning.

The Fanzine Writer:

When I was 14, I started a fanzine, Aggamengmong Moggie, which I wrote, edited, printed and copied myself. It came out every two months (by and large, I paused for exams a couple of times) for six years and was distributed firstly by Piao! the underground distribution network, gig promotion unit and record label in London, secondly by Little Green Man, the Mancunian tape label. Neither of which took a percentage of the cover price to distribute it. No one paid me to write it, and I don't think it ever covered costs, but, up to a point, I did have complete creative control.

Up to a point? Well, if you want to look at it under an ethical microscope, I was reliant on means of production that were perhaps not ethical: It was photocopied and printed using devices made by Canon, a multi national conglomerate, and I had no idea at the time what their ethics were. Similarly, photocopy toner isn't particularly environmentally friendly. I did, when I was printing and copying it myself at home, use recycled paper though.

The website writer and editor:

Moving on, I started writing for The F-Word website in 2002, at which point the site was basically Catherine Redfern (founder and editor) and any contributors she could find. She wasn't paying herself a wage, and none of the contributors were paid a wage either. The F-Word has expanded considerably since 2002, it now has section editors and a blogging team, plus a social media team, as well as contributors. None of these people are paid. I still write for The F-Word, and spent two and a half years working for the site as a Music Review Editor between 2011 and 2013, a job I was happy to do for free because I really liked the idea of being a Music Review Editor at a UK feminist website, an opportunity for which there was no paid equivalent, and it seemed like a really interesting dynamic to work with.

Did I make use of free music platforms? Yes, I did, and I do. I often feel that I have no choice.

What you may or may not know is that sourcing promo is always a bit of a lottery when you aren't an established journalist. The F-Word has very respectable page view figures, but the site isn't always known or understood by music PR's, and coupled with the sites editors and writers not being well known authors and writers by and large, this does tend to place us at a disadvantage.

Some PR's are great, and we were able to source some really good stuff and get our reviewers on the guest list for some amazing gigs that we half expected to be knocked back for. But some PR's and labels definitely have the attitude that they will only give you access to some of their clients and their work (usually new signings not getting much press elsewhere), not all of it, leading to a two tier system which can lead to less established writers scrabbling around for solutions beyond the world of PR and promo. I have, on a number of occasions, waited until release day, logged into Spotify, and hammered the streams of certain albums for a few days in order to get a review done and in within a respectable window of the release date. I've, on one occasion, burnt a copy of an album I'd purchased myself but wanted a reviewer to review because promo would have taken too long to sort out.

And then there have been albums that we should have reviewed, but couldn't because no one would send us the promo, it wasn't on Spotify, and it needed to be done quickly. There was also at least one interview we would have loved to have done with a famously pro feminist pop star, but we couldn't get past the gatekeepers of her agent and PR team.

Pictures are another issue, and it's one that has got worse in the past few years because, as photographers have become more assertive in enforcing copyright (and who can blame them for that?) people are much less inclined to put photos up on flickr under a creative commons licence. The only way around this, as a writer or editor working for free, is to start taking your own pictures and only use them, to constantly find new sources of creative commons images as websites such as flickr dry up, or not to use pictures. The F-Word has no photographers, but it does have a picture editor, whose job it is to trawl the net looking for creative commons friendly images. Whether you feel any sympathy for journalists in this situation or not, it's worth considering that a number of charities, including Cat's Protection, also make use of creative commons images on their blogs and websites.

Does the F-Word exploit it's writers? I would say no, for a number of reasons. Chiefly because I realised, during my two and a half years as an editor, that the balance of power lay much more with the writers than it did with the editors at the site. We didn't receive so many contributions that we could afford to reject stuff or, at least, not without a very good reason. Reasons would include pieces that were not feminist in sentiment (and The F-Word is a feminist website), or contributors who turned out, after a few checks by us, to be people with a business interest in their subject that they weren't being at all transparent about. On a rare occasion we also rejected two pieces on Rihanna on the basis that we'd already run a piece fairly similar to both of them fairly recently. But with those pieces we did accept or commission we would always work with the writer on the piece until it was ready to be published, however bad the first draft was or however awkward and difficult the writer was to work with. We were shafted by some writers. But I can't think of an occasion when, as a writer, I've been shafted by editors at The F-Word. And that's why I still write for the site.

Digital Disruption and the British class system:

Southwark, London, July 2015
It's not just digital disruption that has caused music journalism to be devalued and writers to write for free, it's also the system of media internships and patronage within the British media. Both of these factors have led to a situation where a media career (in the general sense, not just in a music journalism sense) is increasingly out of reach for anyone who isn't from a rich background, or who has parents or other relatives already working in the media. This leads, by a logical leap, to a media that not only doesn't understand what is really going on in the country it seeks to cover (and coverage of Manchester and the issues around the TUC march in October as covered in the media, particularly The Guardian, really did bring this home to me,) but also to some really terrible choices when it comes to the promotion of music and culture. Coldplay were surely the classic example of this.

Paid freelance music journalism: 

So what of paid music journalism? Well, my experience is somewhat limited, but I did contribute reviews and short pieces to Record Collector magazine for two and a half years between 2005 and 2007. At that time, the rates were £10 for 200 word album reviews and £25 for Diggin' For Gold pieces, which were 250 word length pieces on collectible items. They ran gig reviews, but didn't pay for them.

As someone whose areas of musical interest weren't always covered by Record Collector (Riot Grrrl for example) or were being covered by more established writers already (punk), my areas of specialism ended up being 80s girl bands (an area no one would surely want to fight me for) and bands who had recorded sessions for John Peel. I didn't mind this that much, but it did mean that I couldn't write about what I was most interested in, musically, and get paid for it. Similarly, today, it is highly unlikely that I would be commissioned to write over 1,000 words on Florence + The Machine for anyone other than The F-Word. 

This isn't just because it seems unlikely that, say, Mojo, would give a full page review to a Florence + The Machine album, but also because, if they did, such a review commission would not be given to me, it would be given to a more experienced and established music journalist with a more proven track record.

The Wage Don't Fit:

Anyone doing the maths here will have realised that, whether writing for Record Collector or for The F-Word, it is impossible for me to make a living purely from writing for these publications. You are right. I even had a book chapter commission while I was writing for Record Collector, but off the back of stuff I'd written for The F-Word. The book chapter was a flat fee of £700, paid in three instalments, with no royalties, and all the writers did receive their money... eventually.

So, here it comes: The only reason I can afford to write at all is because I have a full time library job, and I can earn the equivalent of two album reviews for Record Collector in about an hour.  From a purely economic point of view, it makes much more sense to do two hours overtime in my library than it does to review four albums. What is ironic, and somewhat depressing, is that libraries are also subject to a massive extent of digital disruption. Having gone into libraries as a job while waiting for my writing career to take off, back in 2004, it is sad to see both careers going south at the same time.

The fruits of a particularly appalling two month period at my library, June 2015
But would I work as a volunteer library assistant, unpaid? I would be absolutely fucking incandescent if this were put to me in exchange of my current library job, and I would categorically refuse to do it. As such, I understand completely why writers such as Barney Hoskyns, who was on the panel at Louder Than Words, feel so strongly about the issue, to the extent of setting up the Facebook campaign Don't Work For Free


I also understand why young, un-established writers feel that they have little choice but to work for free, either by writing for publications that don't pay, or by doing unpaid internships in the hope of gaining sufficient experience to get paid writing work.

I have a sliding scale on this:

  • I won't write for free for publications that pay their editors and staff writers but don't pay their freelances. 
  • But I will write for free for charities or organisations that are on a par with charities, finance wise, if I agree with and support their organisation and ideals.

For me, the issue is also complicated by my roots in fanzines: Working for free, or at a loss, is something I've done for a very long time.

Would I sell out, or, to quote the panel at Louder Than Words "Suck Satan's cock" in order to get work? I would do as I do now, take every commission on a case by case basis.

Talking and getting paid for it (usually...)

Aside from writing, I do make a very modest amount of money (all declared, along with the paid writing, to HMRC by the way...) from doing talks about riot grrrl, fanzine culture, punk and women.

I've only ever not been paid once, and that was a talk for The Working Class Movement Library in Salford for part of their Hidden Histories series. The WCML are a registered charity, and their funding from Salford Council has been absolutely slashed. They rely increasingly on donations. I greatly admire the library, and it's work and, as such, I was happy to provide my time for free. That the library is in Salford helped with this because it meant my travel and accommodation costs were nil. Could I have done this in a library in London? No, not unless my accommodation and travel costs were paid, at the very least, and even then, it would depend on what the commission was and who it was for.

Being a blogger

I stumbled into blogging by accident really. I set up my first blog, Because Grrrls Like To Read, to publish a seemingly unpublishable novel and discuss issues around riot grrrl and women and punk. I don't maintain this blog anymore, but I do another blog now as Too Late For Cake.

Too Late For Cake didn't have a financial motive behind it, and I didn't have a clue about who would read it, or if people would follow it, or like it, or share it... All I knew was that I wanted to write about the 2010 student protests in Manchester, and that it dovetailed quite nicely with the idea of blogging about weird things that happen on buses in Greater Manchester, and other observational stuff. I now see it as an extension of the kind of work I was doing with Aggamengmong Moggie back in 1993 and, as such, would never dream of the possibility that anyone would pay me for it.

That's not to say you can't blog and get paid for it, and that, as such, the lines between newspapers, magazines, and blogs are increasingly blurred.

While most of the stuff I write for Too Late For Cake could never be published on a paid blog, there has been the odd piece I've written for it, and for the F-Word blog, where I could perhaps have adapted it, made it sharper and snappier, made it more antagonistic and J'accuse in tone, but... I didn't want to.

That doesn't mean I haven't ruled out writing specially written, tailored blog pieces for paid titles. I just haven't bothered to explore it because I'm happy doing Too Late For Cake. If I lost my library job next week, or next year, I might well reconsider because money would suddenly be a lot more pressing. But writing deliberately provocative pieces for 'Comment Is Free' would make me feel pretty dead inside, and would definitely constitute sucking Satan's cock for me. Admittedly, not as much as writing for the Daily Mail would, but...

What happens now?

There is no straightforward answer to this, as I think the panel at Louder Than Words recognised. In an hour and a half, they were unable to cover everything they wanted to say. Similarly, I didn't contribute to the discussion at all because it barely even touched on writing, it focused much more on music and musicians, arguably a more emotive and sympathetic group than music writers.

While the old models of music journalism have gone, or are going, it's hard to say whether music journalism will itself survive. Similarly, it's too early to say whether libraries will survive. Digital disruption is here to stay, and many, many professions will go to the wall in the next ten or twenty years. The only uncertain thing is which ones.

All photographs copyright Cazz Blase, 2015.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Good new tunes

Two excellent new tunes for you.

First of all, the stylish almost Prince tinged pop of Band of Gold and their song 'Parade'

Secondly, the lush 'Jeg Ser Dig' by Choir of Young Believers in which, as the press release maintains (and I have to say I wholeheartedly agree...) our hero comes over like a male Sade. Lovely.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Two new, very different, pieces for The F-Word

It's been a busy few weeks, and I've two new pieces up on The F-Word

The first was my interview with the lovely Viv Albertine, who I talked to in London back in July. We talked about her memoir, and the phenomenal response it has received by readers and critics alike.

The second is a review of the new Shannon and the Clams album, Gone before the dawn, a brilliant blend of rock'n'roll, garage rock and punk. If ever a band were made to soundtrack and star in a John Waters film, it is they.

Friday, 25 September 2015


New York band Grassfight have a nice line in dark post punk atmospherics.

Their ep Please don't tell, will be out on October 9th, and you can here the title track ahead of the release date over on Soundcloud.

There is the dark claustrophobia of Joy Division running through the track, but there's also a nod to Funhouse period Stooges and I can imagine this band being a particularly attractive live proposition.
The band, meanwhile, cite their influences as Radiohead, Spoon, BRMC and LCD Soundsystem.

In the press release to accompany Please Don't Tell, the band explained that:

" “Please Don't Tell’ is the name of a speak-easy style bar in East Village. To get in, you walk into a hot dog shop and enter a phone booth. When you pick up the phone somebody answers and you say the name of your reservation. Then the side wall of the phone booth slides back and you walk into this "secret" small bar that's decorated like it's the 1920's. There are taxidermy animals with hats and jewellery on, they play a lot of Fleetwood Mac, and the cocktails are awesome, with a Mezcal theme.”

The ep is a very strong slice of post punk flavoured atmospheric indie, and is well worth a listen.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Worshipping Florence Welch

I recently reviewed the new Florence + The Machine album for The F-Word. It's the second Florence album I've reviewed for the site, and I even submitted a review of Lungs when it came out but, for various reasons, it didn't run. This was perhaps for the best, in retrospect, as I was rather, shall we say, overexcited upon reviewing it. I'm probably still pretty excited in my review of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, but I think I'm a bit more capable of reigning it in these days.

I don't think it was until 'Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)' was released that I realised just how much I'd been missing full on, emotionally drenched, powerfully vocalled, dramatic, left of centre, pop music. If you haven't been exposed to sonically powerful female vocalists (in the contemporary sense, rather than the historic sense) much recently, you tend to forgot what you're missing and compensate with music that is... if not actually inferior, just not quite what the doctor ordered. I was emerging from a particularly intense week having a semi religious experience to Laura Nyro's Eli And The Thirteenth Confession the week 'Rabbit Heart' was released as a single, and I'd had it on pre-order for weeks, waiting for it...

It helped as well that I found Welch interesting as a personality, in that she seemed to be possessed of intelligence, have refreshingly sophisticated listening habits, and an engaging personality, which is not always a given. I often avoid finding out about the personnel of bands I like because they either don't capture my interest that way, or I don't want to be disappointed, but I found myself liking Welch from the start, which is quite rare for me. I even bought NME for the first time in years in 2009 because she was on the cover (a woman on the cover of NME in 2009 was a pretty rare occurrence in itself, let alone an artist I like as well) and again in 2012 when they put her on the cover again.

While I was far from in at the beginning, not really becoming a dedicated fan until 2009, I have watched the rise and rise of Florence + The Machine with interest and excitement. I have never seen the band live, and they now play at such large venues I probably wouldn't want to, but I did watch the bands surprise headline slot at Glastonbury in June, courtesy of the BBC, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This third album is a worthy successor to its two siblings, and hopefully the band will continue to innovate and create exciting music for many years to come.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Dim the lights

Excellent new US electro pop band Wild Ones have put out a teaser from their upcoming debut Heatwave EP that promises great things. No video as yet, but you can hear it on Soundcloud.

The EP will be out in August.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

I'm in the fucking band! Tomboy give it some attitude

Tomboy by Caitlin Bechtel
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the debut E.P by Boston punk grrrls Tomboy for The F-Word, which I really, really enjoyed.

Their label, Ride The Snake, is in the process trying to sort out a UK distribution deal for the E.P, but in the meantime a stream of the E.P is available for your listening pleasure on The Le Sigh

There were a few bands who seemed to turn up around the twentieth anniversary of US riot grrrl in 2011 (riot grrrl didn't really arrive in the UK until 1992), and I do remember a band called Death of the Elephant who were OK but seemed a bit derivative to my ears.

But Tomboy are different. They are very much their own band, taking on board the legacies of post punk rock bands such as the Go-Go's and riot grrrl bands such as Bikini Kill while sounding fresh and inspiring and not derivative or slavish.

'I'm in the fucking band!' is a hilarious take on an infuriating subject, whereas 'Sweetie' achieves the unachievable by subverting Stooges style garage rock to unsettling affect.

I love this record, and I can't wait for it to be available to buy in the UK.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

An intriguing and heartbreakingly atmospheric listen

Brooding and slightly offbeat singer/songwriters are not in themselves unique, but there is something very special about Zohara's new track 'Lost'

From Tel Aviv and London, Zohara has recorded a bedroom album of songs, and while I wasn't bothered about the earlier track, 'Bass and Drum' I do find 'Lost' to be gorgeously bleak and beautiful.

She's been compared to both Bjork and Stina Nordenstam, but she reminds me more of Regina Spektor if anything. Regina Spektor with a virtual orchestra on her laptop. Have a listen, 'Lost' is well worth five minutes of anyones time.

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Punk Singer

On Saturday I re-watched Jamie Babbitt's amazing Itty Bitty Titty Committee, a film inspired by the energy of riot grrrl, starring Melonie Diaz. The first time I watched it the Nicole Vicious character, Sadie, really annoyed me but, watching it again, I think I appreciated much more the role that her character plays within the group.

The film proved to be a good companion piece to The Punk Singer, which is the Kathleen Hanna story. Watching it made me realise just how much the Bikini Kill songbook is seared into the patterns of my brain. The film began with footage of Kathleen performing a startling and absorbing piece of spoken word in 1991, then went on to discuss her meeting with Kathy Acker when she was at Evergreen College, and how Kathy Acker effectively told her to form a band instead of doing spoken word. It was great to see so much archive footage of Bikini Kill, it really brought home what a force of nature she was in that band, similarly, the footage of her performing as part of Le Tigre displayed her ability to command an audience and own the stage.

The later stages of the film concern Kathleen's life after 2005, when she contracted Lymes disease, which went undiagnosed for five years, and her retreat from performance and from music as she dealt with what were very serious health problems. This part of the film reminded me, to a certain extent, of parts of Viv Albertine's memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, specifically those chapters where she described battling cancer. Both women were pioneers, but very different characters I think.

I really liked the moment when Kathleen was talking about her post Bikini Kill, pre Le Tigre solo project, Julie Ruin. The Julie Ruin album was a bedroom album, and Kathleen talked about how girls have traditionally created art in their bedrooms but that most of the art goes undiscovered, unreleased, and never sees the light of day. This is because each bedroom is like an isolated satellite with no connections, so the girls get discouraged and destroy their work rather than share it. By releasing the Julie Ruin album, she was hoping to inspire such girls. I really love this observation because it directly challenges the idea held by cultural historians and sociologists that girls consume culture but do not create it, and I love that Kathleen was challenging this, perhaps unwittingly.

Perhaps the most moving part of The Punk Singer was Kathleen's return to performance, leading The Julie Ruin Band, as part of a Kathleen Hanna tribute night. Even though she seemed frailer, once onstage she showed she still had the energy and the voice, and she was able to own that stage and be inspirational all over again.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Paying tribute to punk women, by punk women

It's always nice when artists you like make art you not only like but that also pays sweet tribute to those who have gone before.

Recently, we've seen Ex Hex, whose 'Don't wanna lose' is currently out as a single, providing a video salute to the cult 1982 film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains!

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains! tells the story of Corinne Burns, a teenage fry chef sacked live on TV who goes on to form an all girl punk band with her sister and cousin, the eponymous Stains. The film charts the bands rise from bedroom band to ramshackle support act, to rock pop superstars via the power of TV.

A couple of years ago Corin Tucker's 'Neskowin' also had  a video that harked back to the late 1970s, and referenced punk, particularly X Ray Spex.

Given that both X Ray Spex and Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains! were formative influences on Riot Grrrl, it's a nice example of passing the compliment now that the grrrls are grown up now and playing in post riot grrrl, post ladyfest punk bands.