Mezzo Forte Monday, Pt 2.

The Meaning Of Music

Did you know the playing time of ‘The Holy Bible’ (original 1994 release) is a mere 56 minutes and 17 seconds? ‘Ok Computer’ being 53:27, and ‘Rumours’ only 39:03. Looking further back, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ ends at just past 30 minutes and ‘Elvis Presley’ only 28:03. Not that this is a comparison between the length of songs/albums in different decades, but it is amusing to contextualise sometimes.

Anyway, the point was that while the playing time, out of context of the fact it is an album, seems quite small, the meaning can be huge. Huge! And if it’s a good album, it frequently is. Songs hang around for days in my head, usually cropping up at the most unlikely of times, and if it’s a song that “grabs” me immediately (Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man Machine’ and Delays ‘Tonite’ being recent examples), I will listen to it repeatedly until I can’t anymore. Idiotic I know, as I potentially ruin some amazing songs. At least there are others out there.

Being in physical form, music will also be visible for years, and giving you the ability to handle it. Artwork adds a lot to each album, which is why it’s quite a shame no one buys hard copies anymore, unless it’s a really special occasion (like a new Sea Power album). I feel this sort of diminishes the value of music – as a package I mean – as sometimes you get the lyrics, sometimes pictures, sometimes just some detail that is intrinsic to the album itself, so as a majority the fact that most music comes (or is available) digitally is a negative thing, but the silver lining could be that it means you scrap away the outer layers and get to have an uninfluenced version of the music, unbiased from the artwork surrounding the album. And it really is about the music then, and nothing much else. It certainly is more convenient coming in digital form, seeing as technology is all geared towards that nowadays, but it is much more pleasant having a slice of vinyl to play rather than an MP3 file or similar. A shame but that’s how things seem to rock at the present moment.

Obviously the digital format leads to the illegal downloading argument, which is a huge other topic to cover – not now – but while the artist should be concerned with “what they are owed”, should they not also be concerned that music is an art form, and therefore the money is just a secondary bonus and not something to make music for? It is a very good thing that people wish to listen at all, the fact some want to pay you money for it is even better. And if they really like you, I’m sure they will. Which is why you end up with Lily Allen stating how bad file sharing is (clearly no one wishes to pay for her god awful excuse for music…), and then people like Ed O’Brien saying the opposite, and urging people to “Move quicker” to get over such an issue. And yes I am aware of Radiohead being a huge band and therefore it is unlikely they will ever be struggling like  small band at the moment.

One of my favourite things about music is when you inadvertently are listening to it a-plenty at some significant moment, or on holiday or with a particular friend or something – and whenever you play it after, it reminds you of the feeling you had at the time. I don’t think anything else does that in quite the same way music does, which makes it even more special.

I suppose it really depends how much music means to you – whether you don’t care at all, whether it’s something just to have on in the background to break the silence at an awkward supper, or whether it near enough consumes your life and it’s always there. Even so, in twenty years time, if you play ”, the likelihood is that everyone will remember, and it will be sticking around for a lot longer than the 3 or 4 minutes it took you to play it. Music has longevity, so perhaps we should not be so illegal with it.


Mezzo Forte Monday, Pt 1.

Where Did They Go Wrong?

My cynical view on all musical ventures this week points, much like the gleaming eye of Sauron, to the intellectual, and somewhat frequently misunderstood, souls that make up the Manic Street Preachers.

Having mildly forgotten them for a few years, a close contemporary of mine, Mr Thomas J Bench Esq (who has earned the right to this title, as he is attending a wine tasting tomorrow), enthused about me making him a Manics-themed playlist, thinking this would be a much more personal insight to the back catalogue of this rather odd band. Despite the aforementioned Bench insisting James Dean Bradfield “screams” on too many occasions, and deems them, as a band, acceptable (not a compliment from him), this was a good opportunity to re-live the panda-eyed days of when you first discover the truthful, gritty, desolate, (maybe a little gloomy?), and incredibly realistic view the songs of these Welsh poets and musicians take. And you realise, when it gets to listening to the ‘Holy Bible’, for the 14th night running, and you think you begin to understand Richey, and you think the lyrics “speak to you”, that life is, actually, fantastic. Not depressing, fantastic.

And then you get to this age, and you think “… Aw… How infantile.”

HOWEVER. The musical merit is still there, and it attracts a plethora of fans. My least favourite being the 40-year-old males at the gigs, who should be at home with their wife and kids and not pushing me aside to get to the front (especially not when they could sit on you and kill you), not thinking it’s ok to abuse other gig goers (we all want to see Nicky Wire in a dress don’t we…), and especially not in bloody leather jackets. Aside from them looking ridiculous, the amount of sweat produced by every adoring fan gets passed from person to person, thus making leather stick, thus making lots of pain. Idiots. Aside from the pain of getting your lungs crushed and having literally toe-space to stand on. Having said that, they still were lots of fun.

I’m tempted to say their lyrics make the band. Their subject material is out of this world – who would write a song that sampled a quote from the Nuremberg Trials at the start? Can you really reference more ’80s phenomenons than they do in ‘Patrick Bateman’? No, you can’t, because you are neither Nicky Wire or Richey Edwards. I am of the opinion I learnt more through the Manics than through the education system, leading me on the read up about everything they wrote about, and inspiring me far more than school or university ever did or ever could do.  So technically I have an awful lot to thank them for, but similarly if they actually DID something with their music, I would have a hell of a lot more.  I am so ridiculously SICK of the mundane set up of their songs. The dismal realisation that, yes, it’s yet another Manics album that has interesting subject material (and, let’s face it, much more interesting than anything that’s “in” (charts or otherwise) at the moment, as I really couldn’t care less if some “pop diva” met a bloke and now he’s not interested in her anymore… Oh so boring), BUT HAVE THEY EXPERIMENTED MUSICALLY? Have they bollocks. And it’s so frustrating when you know what they can do and what they have done! Just another collection of “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, chorus, end”. Really, it’s just not interesting anymore. And no they are not bloody “back on form”, which is a quote I read every single time a new Manics album is out, but then again I wouldn’t wish for them to break up. But I feel I am “done”, whereas new music from them is concerned – I am quite happy with what they’ve already offered to the world. Similarly, I am done with seeing the hits played at gigs. I wish for rarities! So much more exciting than hearing the intro to ‘A Design For Life’, again.

On the plus side, they can also do this:

And this:

And even this!

I feel perhaps that I am disappointed in the somewhat less inspiring song format they have chosen to take, and that they don’t do seem to do anything with their music. Maybe their early albums hinted that they would? Maybe they should have packed it in a long time ago? Maybe I missed out properly on when they were really there, but it’s not all doom and gloom – there are some other exceptional bands in existence (YES REALLY), and methinks the Manics only need to hand over to them now.

Hello Sea Power!