Sunday, 28 July 2013

Mumford and Sons - Babel

Mumford and Sons have got very, very popular in the last 6 years so I decided to give their latest offering, Babel, a checkout to see what all the fuss is about as you don't sell over 200,000 albums without something going for you. Of a formula, which appears to be what these guys have.

If you like jingle and/or jangle in your banjo music with a smooth acoustic guitar backing then you will love this album, because every single track has it in spades. It's a pleasantly upbeat sounds that is easy on the ears (helped by the amazing clarity of the mix and the production) and seems precision aimed at getting your feet tapping along, as proven by them being a hit on the festival circuit. It's their core sounds (sometimes mixed up with a piano or a violin) and they like it enough to put on in every tune but it also means that there are no standout numbers on the album as they all just roll into one another and end up being rather 'sound-alike'. I had hoped for more variation, more experimentation, but its not there in any meaningful fashion which resulted in the album becoming a pleasant washover. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting a psychodelic freakout or a death metal track at the back of the album. It was just that even on the slow tracks there was an inevitable 'and now for the bounce along bit in the same rhythm as the last 5 songs'. As I said though, very foot tapping and very easy to get into (until the point around the last 3/4 of the album when it just got comfortable my ears stopped bothering to listen) so I get why so many people are all for it as it is going to offend no-ones sensibilities due to never challenging you in any way.

So that was the music, but what about the lyrics? Afraid to say that it's very much the same, just with more 'fill in the gaps' nothingness. The singing is strong, of that there is no denying, but once you get beyond the rousing chorus it is a collection of vague pronouncements on the general theme of lost love, being miserable and then managing to be strong again. Standard stuff, however it never feels like it gets personal enough to really feel anything. There is no sense of it ever actually having happening, so it becomes a colouring in book of generalised emotions: easy to feel connected to because these are 'anybody' stories but never giving you anything to really latch onto. There are also some lyrical wonders like "I came home like a stone" and a song about tearing down walls that is called Babel. Profound stuff, until you actually think about it.

It is, sadly, all a much of a blandness. This is 'authentic music' for people who can't be bothered with putting any real emotion into their listening time, bubblegum folk with a nostalgic singalong section that's been scientifically designed to never bring you down with a true feeling. If it does move you then I would have to ask 'why?' as I am quite sure you won't be able to give me a specific other than it sounds kind of fun and has a nice chorus, or giving me some tosh about how its 'real music' or some other retro-folkie bollocks. This is an Asda of folk music dressed up as a family corner shop, nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Music blogging is hard

So a quick, and quite self-indulgent, post on why music blogging is not all that easy (and why I currently have writers block).

The main thing is that music is not the easiest of things to write about as the very medium is not a written one. You can do the history of it, the state of the industry, or the lyrics really well but the only true way you can experience music is by listening to it. Some second-hand emotions can be expressed but "the band came out for the second encore and the crowd went wild" or "the album is like a slap to the senses" doesn't express anything much. Even if you break it down into technicalities of time signatures and note sequence you are not going to get what is happening until you actually hear the tune itself. So writing about music (as has been proven by the music press again and again and again) actually becomes a list of dates, vague intentions, and observations about your own biases rather than the actual thing itself. This is why the more successful music press has CDs on the front of their journals, so you can actually do in thirty minutes the thing that they have spent 100 pages trying to explain.

Negativity also plays its part in slowing down my writing, which may come as a surprise. It is always much easier to write why you dislike something than it is as to why you like it, mostly because you just need to find one or two negative points to be able to totally reject a musicians work. Saying why something is good is a whole different story though, as you have to open up and build an argument for why someone should take the time to listen to whatever it is you have found that you think sounds that good. Slamming a band or a situation is a quick and cheap write, but it's not a path I want to go down on this blog as I'd rather tell you about a great new find than some shit that you either have already heard or are never going to have bother you. This is obviously not helped when the bulk of music I get forced on me from the main-stream 'pop' world is such weakarse garbage, the temptation to just lashout at that is sometimes overwhelming.

And then there is time, the eternal enemy of all creativity but especially so when it comes such a consumed medium. Not time to sit down and write but time to sit down and enjoy the music itself so that I can write. If I want to write an album review it's a six hour process as, IMO, you need to listen to the thing that many times to get a real feel for it. Now that shouldn't be too much of an issue but at the same time I have got a collection of tens of thousands of hours of music already that I want to listen to again, on top of the opportunity to just go tune surfing on youtube or something similar. And I mean 'just listen to the music', not 'listen to it whilst trying to come up with something smart to say about it' as those are two totally separate things.

This is before you hit generic issues like 'not sure what to write about', 'not sure if people will give a monkeys about what I write' (which if you are doing a blog you have to care about otherwise it becomes pure ego-wanking into the void) and 'do I blog or do some house work/cook the dinner/play with the cat ' etc.

Not the greatest of situations to be in, but on the plus side I had the rather excellent new album "Echogenetic" by FrontLine Assembly playing whilst doing it so all was not lost.