Thursday, August 21, 2008

Aw, picket lines, picket signs / Don't punish me with brutality

And so it begins.

McCain opened up a five-point lead, according to a Zogby/Reuters poll published yesterday, completely overturning the seven point lead Mr Obama had in July.

Mr McCain now leads Mr Obama among likely voters by 46 per cent to 41 per cent.

Is it all over bar the coronation? No, there will be a bounce back after Denver, but it’s getting much closer.

There has been so much gung-ho bravado and bullshit over the Georgia issue but, for my euro at least, both Max Hastings in the Guardian, and Bernard Chazelle at A Tiny Revolution made some sense.

But that is neither here nor there and what the populace, most especially the US populace, most wants to hear is the bravado and bullshit.

Which is why I think McCain won the 3am contest hands down last week. And why Obama lost the same competition so badly. That, partially is reflected in these worsening Obama poll numbers. McCain and the GOP strategists know that talking so-called tough (except it's not, it's the easy option), spouting gung-ho slogans and talking down to the US voter within a narrow band of language works. It's a GOP strategic cornerstone and a major point of difference between them and Obama who still assumes that middle America, outside a few big cities, thinks deeply about these things (and before I'm accused, talking down to the electorate is not just a winning US victory strategy).

And the most gormless thing said last week was We Are All Georgians. Especially when most Americans would be wondering who exactly had invaded Atlanta (I don’t think that link was serious but hat tip to Bob, and it could be..seriously). Read through that OpEd linked above, it’s stuffed full of such simplistic heart stirring twaddle as:

This small democracy, far away from our shores, is an inspiration to all those who cherish our deepest ideals

and, incredibly:

At the same time, we must make clear to Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world.

Is it possible to be any more arrogant than that? But that sort of arrogance and dumbing down is what Rove and the other GOP navigators specialise in. They assume the American voter is stupid, they look down on them as a mass, and they know that simplistic semi-Rambo-ish slogans resound incredibly. It’s a huge part of what has kept Bush going for all these years, and why 1 in 3 Americans still thing he da man…

Obama, well, he failed this test. On several levels. Firstly he half heartedly bought into the Repressive-Bear gung-ho-ness rather than providing the sort of independent leadership we non US voters are clamouring for and he has repeatedly promised to provide. He did that because he’s scared of the support-the-troops, we-invented-democracy, taking-freedom-to the-world gormlessness that is such a much repeated US cornerstone.

Secondly, having bought into this nonsense he then didn’t buy into it at the resounding Fox news-ish simplistic sloganing level which is what is required and what the GOP, since Reagan, who was the king of half baked sloganing, have been the masters of. Thus he sounded weak on that level.

Thirdly he made the assumption that the US voter actually cares beyond the slogan. McCain, whose minders know that most Americans don’t really understand or really care what cause they are actually being rallied to, did the short sharp Rambo thing, made Obama look weak and then moved onto the next attack platform…

If only Obama had had the balls to say, what (as much as this pains me to link to the man, but he talks some sense) Pat Buchanan says here (once again, tip to Bob). But he doesn’t and that is another reason why McCain will win.

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Something's gone wrong again / And again and again and again again and

Australia does well with rock trios -- the terrific You Am I, for example -- and the Living End live up to the great Australian rock tradition going back to the Saints, the Buzzcocks, and the Easybeats.

American journalist gets mighty confused by where Manchester is......

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And you may ask yourself / Well...How did I get here?

A lifetime ago David Byrne and Brian Eno released My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Not only was it an addictively entrancing record, it was also a musical milestone.

Its use of samples and loops was absolutely revolutionary. Sure samples had been used before but never in such a core way that it was the essence of the released recording. It quite literally opened the floodgates for a raft of innovations and pointed the way towards new roads up which thousands have trod and continue to do so almost thirty years after it was recorded.

It was one of those records...

In 2007 they reissued the album and, taking the concept one step further, encouraged others to use parts of a couple of tracks and remix them and no cost.

That concept was later picked up by the likes of Radiohead who encouraged, or allowed remixes of tracks from their last album. That album was the subject of a major flurry last year when it was, famously or notoriously, depending on where you came from, essentially offered for sale at the price you wanted to nominate, including free. Then it was later commercially released.

The, how shall we say, more traditional, arms of the recording industry took some pleasure in saying the experiment had flopped, pointing to the percentage who paid nothing, or, more recently to the numbers who, despite the offer at the band’s site, look it from P2p or Torrent sites.

All that of course rather missed the point, that being, that from Radiohead’s point of view, which really was the only one that mattered, it was a roaring, profile increasing, money making, chart topping and stadium filling success. It took them as a brand and a ban to a new level. And the recent round of publicity only added to the simple fact that they are more current now than they would ever have been if they’d resigned to EMI..a Google news search got almost 5000 hits…just on the current Radiohead news..

The analysis of the RH figures came from, predictably, the chief economist of the UK collection agency, PRS, who was unable to see the proverbial wood for the trees in his joy to release the download figures. Part, just a small part, mind you, of which was that overall numbers downloaded dwarf recent Radiohead sales, and thus the album is in that many more homes, which I’d imagine any band or manager would reasonably be happy about.

But Byrne and Eno have taken the concept one step further, as you only could in these broadband times. Their new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, was released online yesterday, via a dedicated site which will allow you to listen to their album forever free, as long as you stream it or download a widget from either their site or via developer Topspin Media. That widget is below.

And then, having listened to the album all day (as I have), which, as an aside is quite spookily lovely..far more so than I expected, since I’ve not been a Byrne fan in recent years…I’m able to continue doing so day after day, or I can buy it in a variety of formats, hard and digital, or a mix, including lossless FLAC.

It’s hard to see how they could offer more to the consumer…how the consumer could be made to feel better about the artist and the record. And how the artist, who gets the bulk of whatever is paid for copies sold, not just a small royalty against recoupment (less packaging deductions, and a new technology deduction etc blah blah blah), could do better. It’s a mighty mighty win-win…even if 95% of folks never go beyond the stream

And the simple fact is that it’s getting harder and harder, for acts like this and many others, to see what a proper record company could add to the mix anymore, as they furry around trying to rewrite the traditional deals.

Is there anything less artist friendly than a 360 deal?

I said once before that we are at the beginning of the tip of the start of the germ of this digital delivery model, and that, as I believe, the iTunes road might eventually turn into a dead end as a wider network of search and delivery, perhaps out of the hands of huge corporations like Apple, takes hold. Especially as there is so much drive to innovate.

To quote TopSpin co-founder, Ian Rogers:

And I don’t think it’s controversial to say software will play a role in the future of music marketing. Artists, managers, and labels alike will use some sort of software to help them manage direct relationships with fans, find new listeners, measure the success of their business, pay licenses and royalties, etc.

Things like Everything That Happens Will Happen Today are a clear pointer that way.

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And it's one, two, three / What are we fighting for ?

Ten French soldiers and an unknown number of civilians died yesterday in the ongoing, and, it seems, accelerating, bloodshed in poor Afghanistan.

One wonders what they are dying / fighting for….

Beneath the anonymity of the sky-blue burqa, Saliha's slender frame and voice betray her young age.Asked why she was serving seven years in jail alongside hardened insurgents and criminals, the 15-year-old giggled and buried her head in her friend's shoulder.

"She is shy," apologised fellow inmate Zirdana, explaining that the teenager had been married at a young age to an abusive husband and ran away with a boy from her neighbourhood.

Asked whether she had loved the boy, Saliha squirmed with childish embarrassment as her friend replied: "Yes."

Ostracised from her family and village, Saliha was convicted of escaping from home and illegal sexual relations. The first carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, the second 20. These are two of the most common accusations facing female prisoners in Afghanistan.


In a separate area are the female "criminals" – the youngest is just 13 years old – along with their small children, who must stay with their mothers if no one else will claim them. Their only luxury is a carpet, two blankets, basic cooking facilities and two daily deliveries of bread. They have neither medical care nor, as Colonel Ali acknowledged, "basic human facilities", such as washing areas, electricity and drinking water.

surely this far into this liberating war, often defined as the right war, this sort of thing should be somehow behind these poor souls, and the country as a whole.


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Monday, August 18, 2008

They lead him half way to paradise / They lead you half way to bliss

DUBASYLUM3396 Do yourself something of a favour and head over to Peter Mac’s MySpace for a taster of his forthcoming Dub Asylum EP due out digitally very soon. I love the joyous ska / rocksteady-ness of Ba Ba Boom and, what I described to him as the very post rare-groove feel of the wonderfully named My Sneaker Collection Weighs A Ton. I always find the playlists from Peter’s radio show on BaseFM both inspiring, and frustrating (the latter because outside of NZ it’s just about impossible to find good radio of the sort that NZ is so privileged to have). I miss this sort of thing.

I’ve also been privy to a bunch of new tracks from Timmy Schumacher, from his forthcoming album, due later this year. I don’t buy breaks as such, but I’ve always had a huge soft spot for the joyous, utterly irreverent-ness of breaks which captures the spirit of the sampling / cut’n’paste era of the mid 1980s. Not only that, but What’s Down Low was a killer, no? What I've heard has the same kicking verve as that and should, if there is any justice, go through the roof. And add to Tim's strong reputation both inside and outside New Zealand's shores.

Timmy’s had a bunch of NZ on Air grants a few years back but is hitting his head against the wall this time on timmyhis new single, despite the vocal presence of Opshop singer Jason Kerrigan on his track, and his past successes...What’s Down Low was a massive record, not only on NZ radio, but all around the planet, and this new one has radio written all over it. Even on mainstream radio, even on mainstream radio in the extraordinarily conservative NZ mainstream radio market….which is the great funding conundrum: Do we pander to this conservatism or lead it?

And it’s ongoing frustration many artists producing New Zealand flavoured electronica have found. Greg Churchill, something akin to a superstar in the inner cities, has had a string of successful and critically acclaimed European and UK club chart hits, and a bite at the UK pop charts, but has too hit a solid brick wall with local funding. He’s made his own videos.

Steve Hill, from Wellington, is one of New Zealand’s most successful artists internationally over the past decade…god knows how many records he’s sold...without any help that I know of.

I guess I sound a little like Gray Bartlett moaning on about the lack of country support and that’s perhaps a fair call, but these acts, more or less, represent a huge part of the soundtrack of urban New Zealand and they produce music that sounds like it comes from nowhere else….and it gets extensive airplay both in NZ and abroad…just rarely mainstream airplay. And the hole in Gray's argument was that creative country does get funded in NZ, although I guess to him that is subjective, whereas creative NZ electronic music rarely gets a look in beyond a token act or two, usually from a source with some tie to the funding inside track.

In the middle years of this decade, a young girl, Nik Barrett produced a series of some sixty one hour features on New Zealanders producing electronic music..across all genres. It was played across several radio stations, and repeated nationwide in primetime on the likes of George FM. It was her idea and she did it herself with her time and money over two years. It was a phenomenal piece of work and should be archived somehow, if only for the hours of interviews she did and I guess has kept. An approach I made on her behalf for funding went’s not the sort of thing we do, I was told. But many shows documenting and profiling non-electronic musicians get funding all the time. The nos I got were less than convincing:

You need to apply before the show begins...

okay I'll apply for the next series..

but we don't support people who just play records...

these people compose, record and produce...

sorry we don't have the budget..and so on, at a variety of levels.

Eventually she gave up and moved on…

I scratch my head and wonder why…

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