Curtains

Hello. Thanks for coming.

Demon Pigeon is now closed. For good. We would like to thank all our lovely readers for their time and attention—especially the ones who left us idiotic comments. And we’d like to say thanks for all the handsome tributes we have received since we announced our terminal illness.

Over our lifespan, we’ve been privileged to have the support of some of the best writers working today, and we’re proud to have had a small hand in helping launch at least a couple of magazine careers in our time. I’d like to offer particular thanks to everyone who has ever contributed in any way whatsoever to Demon Pigeon, for your generosity, patience and grace. You all know who you are.

In days gone by, I might have punctuated this message with a pithy rant about how parasitical and compromised a medium music criticism seems to be; by and large, it’s a vehicle for morons to write inoffensive PR copy about the efforts of actual artists. Or, I might have stripped down and smeared on my warpaint to get busy laying into the emphysemic husk of 2014 heavy metal like a pint pot Incredible Hulk, maybe by calling Metallica a bunch of old wankers or something.

james-hetfield-james-hetfield-28084266-1024-768

But who cares? Not me, not really. And not you. Why should you? Is our small voice of conscience—shrieking ‘WAIT A MINUTE WHAT IF IT’S ALL A BIT SHIT THOUGH’—something you never knew was missing from your life? Well, tough titties. We’re tired now. Go away.

Thus, we’re finished. It’s time to do something new. I don’t know what yet.

Thanks again for your forbearance, and hopefully we will see you again soon.

Bye! X

Music Matters

Editors’ Note: Pray our eternal thanks to Paul Graham Raven for this thoughtful epic which he wrote as his DP swansong, instead of working on an actual Book-For-Publication. Pretty foolish of him, but we love him to bits anyway. Also it’s rather brilliant. Godspeed, you mad lugubrious bastard (nb: lugubrious means ‘wordy’ okay?).

ARE YOU FEELING BEYONCE'S PEPSI AD CAMPAIGN?

ARE YOU FEELING BEYONCE’S PEPSI AD CAMPAIGN?

Over the last five years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that music doesn’t matter like it used to, and that it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter.

The image that drove it home was a poster for some student shin-dig, an “iPod disco”—a night out where everyone goes to da club with their own music player, and dances to their own beat as heard on their headphones. How utterly neoliberal is that? You couldn’t make a better metaphor for individualist consumerism if you tried. Music as wallpaper, a domesticated and utterly internal experience, rather than the communal channel of experience and story that even two hours of cheesy hard house in a backstreet Sheffield flea-pit manages to convey… despite seeming to privilege how much music matters to the attendee, the iPod disco does exactly the opposite: it privileges how much the attendee matters to themselves. And I consider this to be emblematic of a more general (if less extreme) decline in the importance of music as a central plank of youth cultural identity, at least in the UK.

On one level, that sounds ridiculous: “You’re saying music doesn’t matter anymore? Now, with music more ubiquitous, accessible and diverse than it ever has been before in the history of humankind? How could it not matter?!”

And sure, music still matters; it’s a crucial layer of cultural topography. But it’s not the dominant channel of subcultural ideas any more; it’s just one channel among many, all of which are busily being subsumed into the metachannel, otherwise known as these here internets upon which I am writing to you.

But before the internet, music was the internet.

Allow me to explain.

#

First of all, you need to think of “the recording industry” as a system, as a medium; step back from the actual components of the machine—the radio stations, record companies, recording studios and record stores—and think purely in terms of function. Alongside magazines, pop records were the first medium explicitly marketed at the then newly-minted demographic of The Teenager; recordings had been sold before then, of course, but they were a less ephemeral sort of cultural product; albums that curated serious art by serious artists were marketed to collectors and connoisseurs. The 7-inch single was a way to make a fast buck out of the fleeting tastes of these strange new Teenaged creatures.

As history shows, this market expanded incredibly fast, and sideband channels of marketing and publicity sprung up around it; the business learned how to shape the tastes of its audience by carefully curating the novelty to which it was exposed. At the same time, the business became increasingly infrastructural as it expanded. This is unavoidable, because it is functionally similar to a telecoms company; it’s in the business of delivering messages to paying subscribers, and once the volume of messages becomes significant, it’s all you can do to keep on top of the logistics. Worrying about exactly which messages the subscribers want becomes mere detail; so long as the demand is there, you’re happily making bank, but you’ve gotta keep those pipes flowing. A corporation is an economic entity, remember; it doesn’t have (or need) the capacity to care what it’s selling, so long as it’s selling it and making money.

But the machine doesn’t run without that demand, so the infrastructure had to be fed with novelty by the “creative” side of the business, the managers and A&R people, promoters and pluggers and hustlers of every stripe. Meanwhile, the first generations of pop listeners reached an age where they’d started their own bands; these are the first bands to have grown up believing that there could be music aimed specifically at them, at young people in their world. No surprise, then, that when they picked up their instruments they found they had things they wanted to say—things that no one would let them say anywhere else, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. It was a generational backchannel, if you like; a peer-to-peer medium where youth could speak to youth.

At no time in your life are you ever more hungry for new stories and new ideas than when you’re a teenager; outside of books and magazines (the latter of which were increasingly aligned with the music business anyway), music was the most likely place you’d hear the shibboleths of your generation spoken aloud. Rebellion, lust, desire, frustration, and the sheer shattering thrill and terror of being young and alive—to know someone else felt the same must have been an incredible liberation after the bland suits’n’boots orgman conformity of the post-war years. And while there was some money to be made from peddling saccharine conformity, the market turned out to be hungry for the forbidden topics—which was just fine for the recording industry: The forbidden could flow just as smoothly through the pipes as the wholesome. Hell, sometimes the forbidden flowed better, especially when someone outside the system tried to impede it; then as now, nothing heightens demand like a banning.

So maybe you can see what I mean now if I say that the early pop recording industry was like a very asymmetrical internet for contemporary youths, where a limited few (by the good graces of the infrastructural side of the business, who could make a buck from it) got the chance to publish new ideas and stories, and the majority could access and (to a limited extent) share those messages around. This is the era of the newly electrified Dylan, the early Beatles and Stones, ‘the British invasion’, all that stuff.

The system is biased against certain sorts of message, of course, and in some cases very strongly; it’s far from an ideologically flat marketplace. But nonetheless, there’s more levity here than elsewhere, and the very narrowness of this much-desired channel makes it very lucrative indeed, especially as the wider world of business begins to recognise the power of the Teenaged pound, and the utility of an established hot-line to its most active and willing consumers. However, with a firm hold over access to the means of (re)production, the industry could maintain a broadly conservative control over the general tone: when the pipes are flowing fast, you want to avoid riling the regulators excessively. Only trouble being, the more successful your artists become, the more likely they seem to be to start cocking a snook at the establishment… and you don’t want to entirely stamp that out, because it’s so bloody lucrative, eh wot?

Around this time, the capabilities of recording equipment and studios were also expanding rapidly, and the costs of getting records out into the market were falling, lowering the barriers to new contenders for the still-small but ever-expanding roster of artists with access to the medium, plus new, smaller players among the record companies, piggybacking on the now predominantly-infrastructural distribution side of the business. Music mutated its way through myriad forms, but the real Cambrian explosions came with the arrival, from the late 70s onwards, of affordable electronic instruments and home recording equipment, and the arrival of consumer-grade home duplication systems—the miniMoog and the cassette recorder, in other words—which had a significant part to play in the emergence of (post-)punk and electronica, and paved the way for the synthesiser-drenched 80s, the rave explosion, 90s grunge and alt-rock and everything else.

michael-jackson-bad-25-pepsi_0

Pepsi today announced an exclusive global partnership with the Estate of Michael Jackson as part of its new “Live for Now” campaign/

But it’s the ability to record and duplicate at home that’s important if we’re thinking about music as a medium, because this is the point where the traditionally-asymmetrical access to the industry starts to trend toward the symmetrical; all of a sudden, true peer-to-peer transmission is possible (albeit slowly, with considerable loss of quality, and at not insignificant opportunity cost), as is cheaply obtaining and sharing the messages of “official” artists without recourse to the official channels.

I reckon this technological shift has as much to do with the expansion of forms and styles of the late 70s and beyond as the sociopolitics of the time; it’s not just that there was so much more experimentation going on, it’s also that the experimenters could create their works and disseminate them cheaply, as well as becoming able to bypass the gatekeepers of the industry and connect directly with audiences.

(Does that rhetoric sound familiar, at all?)

So the industry lost some of its control, but ultimately gained from yet more growth in the overall market; so what if there were more bad messages in the pipe, so long as there were more messages? And while it got cheaper and easier for consumers to record and duplicate, the business still had the lion’s share of the power when it came to high bandwidth distribution, which allowed it to co-opt and absorb the smaller channels, once they reached a point where they need to scale their business up and onto the established infrastructures to keep their margins viable.

Sure, there’s mail-order 7-inch-single clubs from marginal labels run out of someone’s shed, pirate radio stations, but that’s all little-league shit; if you want the big reach, you need the big pipes, and if you wanna use their pipes, you gotta deal with the big boys… and when you do, they’ll take up your niche and commercialise it quicker than you can say “UK grime was once a viable and genuinely interesting music scene”. It happened to punk, to synth-pop, New Romo, C90 indie, to every successive sub-wave of the rave explosion, to grunge, Britpop, everything; as soon as a new message or idea hits the infrastructure, it’s everywhere, it’s ubiquitous, it’s over. This is why we talk about “selling out”, but it happens at a much higher level than individual artists, and it’s a two-way process. The infrastructural core of the business has to suck in novelty from the outer edges in order to fuel the machine and keep the pipes flowing; it’s like a black hole, in a way. Or maybe a sarlacc pit.

For fuck's sake, George.

For fuck’s sake, George.

But the bigger the black hole, the greater the surface area of its event horizon, meaning the marginal ecosystem of independent artists clinging onto the edges of the infrastructure; so many voices out there, so many new stories! I remember being a teenager in the early 90s, with music being the only way I could gain access to any view of the world that wasn’t seen from what I now recognise as a white British middle-class perspective; it was the only place I could hear about the sort of politics that mattered to me, the only place I heard the truths that elsewhere went unspoken, the only place where lives that felt like my own were narrated. (Well, there were novels, too, but who reads those anymore, amiritez?) It was a crazy time—though I suppose the period during which you become an adult always looks like that, whenever you’re born.

The 90s also threw up the internet, the metamedium which would go on to subsume all other mediums, but it would be a long time before enough people had it that anyone could guess what it’d be good for. So it kinda bubbled along as a rather obscure channel-of-subcultural-backchannels until bandwidth and baud rates and processor speeds got to the point where Napster could happen. 

At which point all bets were off.

lars mate thats not how u hold drumsticks bud let me show u fam

lars mate thats not how u hold drumsticks bud let me show u fam

As we now know, thanks to the 2002 invention of hindsight, the recording industry either hadn’t seen this coming or had chosen to ignore it; indeed, there are big sections of the industry only now, 15 years later, slipping out of the denial stage and adapting to the new landscape. But everything changed, again, once the opportunity cost for finding and duplicating a song and sharing it with someone became effectively zero; suddenly those messages were multiplying like Gremlins in a swimming pool, pouring through a whole new set of pipes, under a whole new set of rules, beyond reach or control. Owning the recording industry’s manufacturing and distribution infrastructure was suddenly an expensive liability… and the nature of the new distro channels was that it made your product laughably easy to duplicate infinitely, with no significant loss in quality.

I think this is where our relationship with music really began to pivot, because suddenly access to the music you wanted needn’t be a matter of expense: you could just have it, whether streamed or torrented or ripped or whatever. Music – not just contemporary music, mind, but as time passed, the entire corpus of recorded music—everything that’s still capable of playback and redigitisation—became a resource, a commodity, an ocean of sound that our access to the internet allowed us to draw from effortlessly, without friction, and over a wider selection than was even conceivable beforehand. Yes, you still choose your music—but you choose it lightly, spoiled by choice. It’s not a hoarded pocket-money purchase, a long-anticipated mail-order CD of some obscure album that your local HMV didn’t even have on its database, or some long-forgotten b-side that you’ve scoured an endless string of backstreet record shops to find; it’s a coat plucked on a whim from an infinite coat-rack. What do you want to wear today?

And hey, why not—this is not a bad thing. It’s just the way things are… and as many bad things as there are about the world and about the internet, I don’t think this is one of them. Nor is this one of those “OMFG music is DEAD these modern bands SUCK and you should all get the hell off my LAWN” sorta essays, either; music’s definitely not dead, it’s alive and crawling like kudzu, soundtracking our workdays as much as our playdays, thanks to teeny-tiny technology and better batteries. Music and musicians aren’t disappearing anytime soon; sure, it may be harder to secure the sort of mid-list careers that album bands could have in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but that’s because the labels can’t play the old “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” approach to A&R any more; they don’t have the monopoly over distribution or promotional channels any more, so they can’t stack the deck so easily in their own favour. They were gamblers in the golden age, taking a chance on dozens of bands in the hope that one would be the new Beatles, Led Zep, whoever; it was a poor method, but it was the best one they had. (And if the rock biographies are to be believed, it could be quite a fun process, provided you didn’t let it kill you.)

mm.. deliciouse papso -- simen cowl

“mm.. deliciouse papso……” — simen cowl

But don’t believe the hype about the music industry being in decline. Far from it; it’s just abandoned the old infrastructural business model and merged with the TV and Hollywood conglomerates, getting into the “content” game, which is a game of stories within stories within stories, of which music is only one type among many. But selling music itself is a dead scene for anyone operating outside the Long Tail; as soon as something’s in sufficient demand, piracy takes care of the supply problem for you, and leaves you out of pocket. You only avoid this by being obscure… and if you’re obscure, you’re not expecting to make any money from selling records, anyway, except as exactly the sort of connoisseur’s collection-piece that recorded music first got sold as: high-weight vinyl albums of obscure Williamsburg drone-pop quartets. These are artefacts, treasures; their value does not lie purely in the music that they encode. This is the last bastion of music really mattering to people like it used to: obsession, the expense of time and money. Try rewatching High Fidelity; it was always a little satirical, but now it looks like a send-up of the doomed relics of a by-gone era, twisted man-children angsting over their grown-up Pokémon collections. Defining yourself by the physical albums you own – how limited an idea that seems now! (If only because, well, shit – who can afford a spare room for their vinyl now the bedroom tax is in, eh?)

You want the proof that music doesn’t matter? Look at the charts. Sure, they were always topped-off with obvious pop puppets, but now even they are carefully groomed and manufactured—in public, and at great length, as part and parcel of the whole spectacle—long before they ever release any actual tunes one can buy. And when they are released, they’re a sideshow, a vestigial legacy-mechanism by which you get the act to chart, and thus to be talked about more. The money in pop music nowadays is all in using it as the honey coating on bigger and more easily-monetised media spectacles like television or cinema, or as a demographic shorthand in advertising material. Simon Cowell’s exploitative franchises have made him many fortunes, but hardly any of that came from record sales; it comes from the ad slots that appear around his programs, from the licenses to reuse his formulae in other territories; he’s not selling music, he’s selling the idea of selling… Music’s just the scent of fresh-baked bread piped out from the front door of his underground-railway-themed sandwich shop, so to speak; its job is to get you in through the door.

article-1234934-0069AFE400000258-333_468x345

“Cheer up, Simon. You’re going to be even richer.” — Pete Waterman

(This, in fact, is not that far away from the old Tin Pan Alley model of the early 60s, or Pete Waterman’s “hit factory” model of the 80s; the only difference is that now it’s easier to monetise the artist selection and development process than the resulting musical product.)

However, there’s masses of other stuff going on, little sub-sub-genres and scenes of all sorts popping up all over, outside the dominant channels of promotion; how can I say music doesn’t matter when more people are making it or going to listen to it than ever before? Yet at the same time, there’s a sense that everything’s been done before, everything’s been said already. Caught in the atemporality of postmodernism’s end-game, all that’s left to us is quotation, pastiche, mash-ups and covers and remixes. The possibility of newness is nowhere to be seen.

#

To repeat: music still matters, but it matters in the abstract, as one aspect of the sensorial tapestry that is our cultural lives. It’s not a lifeline like it once was; there are other channels now where youth can speak to itself, even if they’re increasingly clogged with the detritus of capital and commerce. It doesn’t have to carry all the weight of our hopes and fears any more; nor our politics, our dreams of futurity. There are other ways to make the world hear us, and while they may not be much more effective, they’re surely no less so.

And maybe I’m wrong, and a few miles away there’s some urgent new musical subculture coalescing in some grotty little venue, the first true Next Big Thing of the Internet Era, set to blow people’s minds and give them a star to steer by. I wouldn’t be sad to see it; hell, I’ve spent years watching hungrily for it. Put me out of my misery, y’know?

But ultimately it doesn’t matter that music doesn’t matter so much, because the internet subsumed the recording industry, absorbed that systemic function into itself, perfected it, balanced the asymmetry (a bit). Oh, it’s no utopia, no matter what Silicon Valley and its boosters may claim to the contrary, and there’s a lot of work to be done before we’ve shaped the internet into something that serves all of us, instead of just a few. But even so, the messages are still getting through, whatever the platform, whatever the medium… and it’s never been easier to send your own message back out there and see what happens.

And that’s what always mattered about music in the first place.

To follow Paul’s future exploits, check out his personal blog at www.velcro-city.co.uk.

Film’s Music (Off the Film’s)

filmmusic

There are lots of films out there. Literally over a hundred different ones, from comedy to horror to comedy-horror. They all have soundtracks but usually they’re rubbish. Film directors should not be allowed to choose the music for their own projects. When they do you end up with a collection of songs that includes Zach Galifianakis singing Who Let The Dogs Out without apparent irony.

This piece isn’t about about film scores though. John Williams, Danny Elfman, Michael Kamen and Hank Zimmerframe have those nailed. This is about soundtrack albums; the selections of drab love songs, thuggishly mysoginistic hip-hop anthems and brain-meltingly dumb nu-metal dollops that we get a cheeky snippet of during the doe-eyed kiss/car chase/bit where Jason Statham jumps sideways firing two guns. As much as I love dark tales of horror and cheesy action extravanganzas, and I could name you a dozen of each with suitably punchy metal-by-numbers records that would fit neatly alongside, and so can you. So you can do that yourself in your own head. 

DnghXFa8yhbgqtnzvW4MufGro1_500

What with all the films that have had crappy soundtracks, and all the albums that were really really dead good, but weren’t soundtracks, it got me thinking. I came up with an idea that almost two people liked, which was to re-purpose existing albums as soundtracks for existing films. Try to bear with it—it’s not quite as tortuous as it sounds.

Prometheus is a terrible movie. It was never going to live up to the expectations of those of us who grew up adoring the Alien franchise. Alien was a tense sci-fi masterpiece and Aliens: The New Batch was a tasty blend of action and horror. Sadly, no further sequels were ever made. No other Alien films exist. Definitely not.

The casting is great, the dramatic set pieces are perfectly adequate and the look of it is suitably Gigery, but then someone forgot to write a plot. Well, there was a plot but it had more holes in it than that type of Swiss cheese that has lots of holes in it. Flaws in logic, ridiculous leaps from one idea to the next and daft inconsistencies left this viewer rather depressed and underwhelmed.

But imagine if it had all been underlined with the aural misery of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist. Tom G Warrior punches you repeatedly in the soul and transfers his gloom into your naked mind with every jarring atonal riff. The visual disappointment of Prometheus marries perfectly with the mortal despair buzzing within A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh or Drown In Ashes. Try watching this with sound muted, whilst listening to this

No? Okay.Well, maybe try this one then.

large_paris_texas_blu-ray4x

Paris, Texas, by stark contrast to Piddley Scort’s rubbish, is a cinematic gem. Wim Wenders’ subtle, wistful study of a distant family relationship and the essence of love, loss and broken dreams is worthy of a more thoughtful and emotional soundtrack than it was afforded. Harry Dean Stanton epitomises the minimalistic approach to acting, saying more with a silent stare than he could with a thousand words. The dusty, angry and ultimately hopeful feel of the film always seems to me like it would gel perfectly with Peter Dolving’s 2003 solo outing Bad BloodTaking a break from yelling over thrash metal in The Haunted, he creeps through your speakers and lays his soul bare in a joyously uncontrived heap of noises. Too obscure for the mainstream acoustic rock crowd and not metal enough for the headbangers, it sold poorly and never reached as many pairs of ears as it deserved to. Brake Or Bust and the title track would nestle in and amongst the barren scenery of Paris, Texas comfortably and the final moments of the story would resonate perfectly to the strains of When You Leave Me.

Next up, from out of my head, the wonderful Wes Anderson’s third feature length production, Rushmore, is a unique and fascinating essay on boyish obsession and being an outsider in the conformist world of high school. The almost autistic nature of the protagonist drags you along on a journey into his pseudo-intellectual world of unrequited love and arrogant pontification. Enter the shimmering genius of Keith (Mina) Caputo. Having come to prominence fronting hardcore underdogs Life Of Agony, he sheared off into the world of electro-indie-rock and jazzey-pop with the remarkable and catchy Die Laughing. A multiplicitous collection of wistful ballads, upbeat singalongs and mournful dirges, it bears repeated listens and could have accompanied so many of the pivotal scenes from Anderson’s characteristically quaint movie.

And so to the obvious and almost necessary part of this ramble through Hollywood’s musical errors—The Wizard Of Oz. It was well established lore for many years that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon synchronised perfectly with the Judy Garland silver screen classic. Many a mushroom-chomping hippie would swear blind it was a deliberate and carefully crafted effort by messrs Gilmour and Waters. It wasn’t. Many have further said that even though it may not have been intentional, the whole thing fits so neatly alongside every scene of the movie, that the effect is dazzling. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t.

One might wonder how I would know that unless I had been stupid and immature enough during my student years to try the experiment myself one evening after too much Benylin, skunkweed and whiskey, hoping for a total trip, man. Well, my only thought was how much better suited Music From The Elder by Kiss would be to the flying monkeys, yellow brick road and wicked witch montage. Pedants amongst you might point out that this record was technically a soundtrack anyway, crafted by the facepainted ones as a supposed accompaniment to an imagined book/film. It was a concept album of fantastically pretentious preposterousness, brought to us by a band famed for blaring out cock rock anthems, with a frontman waggling his tongue whilst not really playing the bass and then spitting fake blood whilst staring at the teenaged girls in the front row he was intending to bed later. I bet he regrets every moment of his life.

Kiss overstretched themselves without a doubt, trying to tell a detailed sci-fi story throughout the course of ten relatively short songs that were not catchy enough to please their fans and would inevitably be laughed at or merely ignored by aficionados of prog rock or serious concept pieces. Did they want to be Bowie? Rush? Who knows. However, if you cast aside your pre-conceptions of Kiss and forgive or at least overlook the arrogance of their ambition, then what you have is a half-decent collection of background dad-rock.

Imagine that bubbling under the munchkins’ freakish and unnerving cavorting and you’ll realise that I am typing this out way past my bedtime, that I have lost the thread entirely and that I am clearly hammering one of the final nails into Demon Pigeon’s coffin.

Night night.

WAVE GOODBYE

I’m not one for warm, fuzzy feelings or sentimentality. A veritable lifetime of metal, videogames and deathmatch professional wrestling has left me with all the empathy of an 8 year old child that pours boiling water on ants and then sets them alight.

I will say though, that I got some sad pangs when Noel told me Demon Pigeon was bidding adieu.

Noel and I were festering on some hideous metal blog full of bogans that wanted to do genuine guides to National Socialist Black Metal before Paul came in and saved us, coming up with the idea of doing our own thing. Noel and I were naturally all in. Having our own outlet to piss you people off? Excellent. We wouldn’t have to review a terrible black metal album again! Even though we did. Towers of Flesh or something. Noel gave them 7 and they kicked off about it in the comments section, because obviously it was a masterpiece that we just didn’t get, and they’re named after a penis.

After recruiting other semi-literate troglodytes, a guy to do internet stuff and lovely Dominic Sohor to do us a design (one of the initial concepts was a pigeon vomiting the name of the site, which was brilliant), we were off!

Pretty soon after launch, we found out just how desperately humourless some of you people are, like the aforementioned Tower of Flesh. We were met with a litany of negativity from people that actually took all this shit seriously.

However, we also found out some of you were just like us; you just wanted to laugh at it all too.

Demon Pigeon never had the biggest readership (the one time we got semi famous was with our Burzum lolcat review knocked up in 10 minutes, which just shows what you people are like really) largely because we have the collective work ethic of a dead cat on benefits, but I genuinely think we had the best. We made actual friends and met like-minded pissants; pissants that joined us on Twitter and other places with jokes about Robb Flynn, Varg and Insane Clown Posse. We even like some of you in real life! A bit. Maybe. Probably?

Let’s be frank. 99.9 per cent of metal blogs are appalling. Characterless, press release spewing garbage outlets run by people with a grasp of English that can—at best—be described as “haphazard”. We did some things wrong, and of course we all cringe at the stuff we were writing years ago, but at least we always set out to do things differently from the norm, whether it was taking you on cosmic trips with reviews of Stone Rock albums (delivered by our stone rock and titty expert Noel, who’s long overdue a gig from a proper place that pays money, so suck on that) or filling reviews of terrible death metal with pictures of lovely old Buster Merryfield. We were crass, tasteless and often infuriating, but we did it out of love. When we could be bothered.

226116439_e851beef

I drifted away from DP a few years ago to write for places for dollah dollah bills, but I always read it, and one day hoped to make a glorious return. Alas, that won’t happen now. It’s being put down; it’s been decided you didn’t really deserve us, so you’re all stuck with cool places that actually do stuff on time and write listicles and do press releases for Italian Power Metal bands that no one has ever heard of. Besides, nothing we do will ever top Global Metal Apocalypse. Check that shit out!

And even though James Swallow never did do anything for the site and I ribbed him mercilessly (though never out of spite), I’ve come to love him more than any woman I’ve ever known, so he’s on the same level as the steroid taking Blue Tit in Animal Crossing now. All’s well that ends well.

Thank you one and all. And we’ll see you all on Revenant Kestrel.

On Rap Music: The Rap Bus’s Final Journey

Last time we heard from Geoff the Rap Bus had been blown up by Nazis, and Geoff was stuck behind enemy lines in a brutal prison, hacking Spotify and making playlists. We embarked on a rescue mission that would require the commando-ninja talents of the whole Demon Pigeon team. It went off exactly like this

We were now somewhat unwelcome in parts of the USA that looked down on this sort of violence but fortunately, there were still plenty of places happy to welcome us and our fully-automatic large-calibre machine guns with open arms (satire).

It was now a race to get out of the country before Obama and his liberal communists caught up with us and took away our guns, but we tried to visit a couple of rappers on the way. We also had to get back home before Demon Pigeon closed forever and we all turned to stone.bus gifMinneapolis: Astronautalis

After being chased out of LA by some angry villagers we headed to Minneapolis because that was the next major city with a Greggs. Astronautalis was happy to let us hide out in his mansion for a couple of days while we rested and planned our next sprint towards freedom.

When I downloaded my digital copy of this guy’s latest album from the excellent Fake Four inc. label, the genre tags said “Historical Fiction Hip-Hop.” That’s funny isn’t it? It’s funny because it’s (somewhat) true.

I don’t know about you but I really like rap songs about US Civil War battles with huge choruses and videos with vampires in them.

I also like rap songs about Dimitri Mendeleev discovering the periodic table.

And I definitely like it when rappers “go in” over piano versions of Poker Face.

So Astronautalis ticks a lot of boxes for me.

Just as we were settling into life in the Astromansion though, a brick was thrown through the window with a note attached to it that read “Please Turn Over.” I turned the note over and read: “I’m coming for you. Love from Dog.” So Dog the Bounty Hunter was now on our trail?! We had to get moving.

bus gif

New York: YC The Cynic

There then followed a high speed chase along New York Road which is the main A road between Minneapolis and New York City. We were now being pursued by angry LA villagers and this guy:

dogart

So running away was very much a priority.

During our time in the Astromansion, Noel had managed to modify the Rap Bus using some tin foil and banana skins, enabling us to get as close to Ludicrous Speed as possible without attracting the attention of American traffic cops on cool motorcycles (55 MPH).

After another chase that involved High Octane Thrills, Edge of the Seat Suspense and a horse, we arrived at our next safe location, YC The Cynic’s pyramid fortress.

The_pyramid_fotress_by_UnidColorYC agreed to let us hang out with him for a while as long as we promised to say that he is one of the most talented and exciting young rappers around and that he has in fact already got pubes, despite what we said in our end of year round up. His first album proper after three mixtapes, 2013’s GNK, was 100% self-released and is both accessible and challenging, often cleverly subverting hip-hop tropes to add depth and complexity to the impressive delivery.

The hook to Murphy’s Law for example sounds tired and clichéd if you’re not paying attention, but listen to what YC is almost whispering in between each line and pay attention to the second verse in particular.

Similarly the hook to Negus sounds familiar to anyone that remembers the days when the likes of  DMX and Ja Rule were dominating our radios and TVs. However, the song is preceded by an interlude that sheds a whole new light on the song.

Also, best flipping of Tom’s Diner ever.

It was all very lovely inside the Pyramid Fortress but the angry villagers and Dog the Bounty Hunter had begun a siege and we were running out of pasties so we had to make a break for it again.

bus gif

Would we escape the angry mob and get back to Pigeon Towers before the gates shut forever? Well, there’s no room for a cliffhanger because we’re not doing any more of these so yes, of course we did.

However, similar to old skool Doctor Who when occasionally one of the companions would decide to stay on an alien planet, the Rap Bus decided to stay in America. Its talents were spotted by a talent spotting talent spotter and it is now enjoying a new career and unlimited Greggs sausage rolls. It sent us a video of its new job, looks pretty cool. Good luck to you Rap Bus, it’s been a lot of fun.

Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

pearl_jam_57471

(Monkeywrench)

As you grow ever closer to whatever end you may find, you can notice yourself accumulating a lot of rituals. I have dozens of them. I have a ritual for making coffee in exactly the right way (stir as you pour in the water); a ritual for curating the music I have on my phone (you don’t want to know); a ritual for closing down the pop up ads on an illegal football match stream (less of a ritual and more a fraught exercise in malware avoidance) and most importantly, I have a ritual for new Pearl Jam albums.

I’ve mentioned before what a rabid Pearl Jam fanboy I am. You remember that, right? They were the be-all and end-all of my adolescence, and every two years I used to celebrate the release of a new album in the same way, when, like clockwork, they would arrive. The night before release I’d listen to all the albums back to back, to prepare myself for the inevitable wonderfulness of the newborn. It’s a bit like the nesting that pregnant women do, except nothing is actually achieved.

The first time I did this was with Vitalogy, so I only had two albums to listen to. Then, I got up bright and early on a Monday morning and headed to Our Price in Canterbury, queued up (there was only me there) and ran back to school as fast as my chubby little legs would carry me, in the hope I wouldn’t get beaten for my lateness by a scowling and decidedly un-grunge teacher, clutching the plastic bag carrying the excellently-packaged CD to my sweaty little breast the whole day. For No Code it was similar, but with the Our Price in the Lakeside Shopping Centre, and me giving considerably less of a shit if I made it to college on time. By the time Yield came around it was the Our Price in Sunderland and me not remotely caring if I had lectures that day.

These days a new Pearl Jam album has been out for weeks before I even realise it, encased as I am in the shroud of middle-aged alienation and befuddlement; but the ritual is still there, like a pair of warm slippers. Ten records into their career, however, it now takes a couple of days to get through all the re-recorded classic albums, the two-disc rarities albums, not to mention their 759 live albums, and then the albums proper, all before the main event.

Listening to the band’s entire back catalogue unlocks a flood of memories, feelings and other such mental detritus, like scanning the index pages of my entire life. I recall all the friendships that have revolved around this band over the years, from my best friend in college with whom I shared a radio show, whose jingle was crafted out of a song from Vitalogy. The same one who phoned me out of the blue years later when I was absolutely skint to tell me he’d bought me a ticket to go and see them at Wembley, so that I might finally witness my heroes in the flesh, all because four years earlier, he hadn’t been able to get me a ticket to see them on the No Code tour. I think that still ranks as the single nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

pearl-jam-2012-madeinamerica-jump-getty

I thought about my current friend who is about to enter fatherhood and how I know for a fact that his son will spend most of his first weeks listening to this new Pearl Jam album, possibly whilst being read the Morrissey autobiography, proving once and for all that being a Pearl Jam fan is no guarantee of taste. I also thought about how I’ll never fully forgive my mum for taping over the MTV Unplugged VHS I had with a random episode of Coronation Street. God damn you, Mum.

I remembered feeling completely lost and sad after the Roskilde tragedy, when nine fellow fans lost their lives during Pearl Jam’s set. I remember being at the front of the crowd six years later when the band played their first festival since the accident and how overwhelmed by emotion they were and we were, the band bringing a storming set to a close with a tear strewn Yellow Ledbetter that had band and crowd both weeping. Personally, I just had dust in my eye, obviously.

I also thought about how predictable reviewers and other music hacks are when they talk about Pearl Jam’s flagging powers and their lack of decent albums since whichever was the last one they actually bothered listening to. Seriously, they’ve had a purple patch eight albums long, with every new record being well above the standard set by the rest of the American ‘AOR’ market, even the slightly lacklustre last one. Beat that, U2.

Lastly, I looked at my kids and hoped that they too might find something in their teenage years that will last as long for them; that when they inevitably find themselves facing moments of darkness and strife, they have something that will pull them back from the brink, like the song Footsteps did for me.

This isn’t a band to me anymore, it’s a mythos, a thread that has existed as part of my life for so long that I can’t separate it from the rest of what is me. They’ve been part of me for 22 of my 34 years. I’m not sure there’s anything else that can make that claim, besides my actual meat and bones. All of which is to say that if you’re expecting an impartial review from Demon Pigeon dot com then as usual, you are shit out of luck.

So, with back catalogue inhaled and one-thousand-word preamble written (which will likely prevent anyone from making it as far as the actual review), here we go:

It’s great. Best thing they’ve done in ages. Gone is the awkwardness of Backspacer, which now feels like a band trying desperately to get an album out in time for their 20th anniversary. Where that album was filled with passable but forgettable pop tunes, Lightning Bolt is crammed from start to finish with the kind of masterful songwriting that Pearl Jam do so well. If you enjoy hooks, then this is like walking into a giant out-of-town fishing emporium that’s having a BOGOF and a January sale, simultaneously. Five listens in, I am very impressed; the likes of Sirens, Infallible, Mind Your Manners, Yellow Moon and Future Days are all easy contenders for a ranking alongside the greats of their back catalogue. They’ve gone balls-out epic (that’s a noun, not an adjective, kids) for this album, and there’s easily six or seven of the 13 tracks assembled that could fling them back to the top of the singles charts, given the right confluence of events. It’s brilliant, quite frankly.

But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

All the points out of all the points.

pearljam.com

Dat’s not troo metuls

shit

The magical land of the Internet was thrown into momentary chaos this morning with the staggering news that a musical act had been booked to play at, of all places, a music festival. This remarkable turn of events caught people so off guard that they were moved to take to the internet to voice their opinions, in that way that people do on the internet, and that way in which I am doing right now. Here is a sample of the collective eloquence:

weep

I’ll gloss over the grammatical crimes as evidence of a failing educational system. Far be it for me to pour scorn on people’s rage and ire, but might I begin by saying that if you are not a fan of a musical artist that you are perhaps not legally obligated to spend money to see them in a live setting? Or that if you are attending a festivial event where said band are performing their dubious wares, that you might find some other way to occupy your time? Perhaps with ale?

Complaining about the quality of the headliners at Download is a bit like bemoaning the quality of the acting on Hollyoaks. Avenged Sevenfold are a karaoke version of all the metal festival headliners of yesteryear, and Download is the perfect place for them, being as it is the playground of idiot children who have not yet discovered their innate ability to not shout SLAYYEEEEER or METAAAAAAALL at throat ripping volume.

To stretch the drama metaphor beyond any logical feasibility, if it’s decent acting and drama you want, why not turn from the 6.30 slot on Channel 4 and focus instead on some gritty and superior foreign imports like The Killing (Hellfest, Roadburn or Wacken) or some homegrown but independently minded quality drama like Utopia (Damnation, Temples or Desertfest) rather than bleat about how something that is obviously shit is obviously shit?

It’s a shit festival, basically, is where I was going with this. Unless the organizers want to give us free tickets, of course.