Monday, 21 January 2013

The joy of (good) blogs

It's often written that Twitter and Facebook have killed blogs, and there's probably a lot of truth in that. Why wade through some no-mark's poorly written essay on the futility of their life when you can digest the essence of it, with a hyperlinked YouTube video for good measure, in 140 characters? And think about it - when's the last time you heard about a blog "success story", you know the sort - an unheralded and previously anonymous blog gathers momentum through word of mouth (or word of mouse, if your prefer) and the next thing you know the blogger has a book deal or has been snapped up by a magazine/record label/film studio/publishing house. It used to happen, not often, but often enough to be talked about. But when did it last happen?

However, I do not believe social media have killed blogging. Rather, I see the advent of Twitter et al as just another step in the rapid Darwinian evolution of the humble blog. Because it's so much easier to just scroll through tweets, for a blog to prosper it has to be really good - it really is survival of the fitness. Natural selection. The wheat has been, and continues to be, thoroughly separated from the chaff. The cream has risen to the top, et cetera. I'll give the cliched metaphors a rest now.

Much as I have tried to embrace Twitter, I still continue to read, and love reading, blogs. But then I try to only read the ones that are fit enough to survive. For example, before work this morning I had a read of the blogs to which I subscribe. Amongst other things, they served me up the following delights:

...and more besides. These are all worth a moment of your time, as are all the other good blogs in the blogroll to your right (when Yahoo Pipes is working, that is). A decent blog spreads news, message and opinion, just like Twitter, but in a depth and with a knowledge that just cannot be encapsulated in 140 characters... and that, Constant Reader, is the joy of good blogs.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Clandestine Classic XXXII - Slow Emotion Replay

Slow Emotion ReplayThe thirty-second post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Lots of people whose musical taste I identified with in the 1980s and '90s raved about The The but I just never got it. Matt Johnson is a genius, they would say, and I would nod sagely. I never tapped my foot though. I never sway-danced like the shy indie boy I was either, however much Matt's genius was played in the back room at The Penny Theatre. In short, The The left me unmoved. Even The Beat(en) Generation, their chart-troubling commercial highpoint, passed me by. So how come I ended up with today's clandestine classic in my collection? Let's put that down to the Marr effect... and Woolies.

Let me explain. In 1988 a certain Johnny Marr joined The The for the Mind Bomb album. Much as I love Mr Marr in 1988 I just wasn't interested unless Steven Patrick was crooning over Johnny's tunesmithery. And the same would have been true of tracks from the 1993 album Dusk, on which Johnny also collaborated with Matt, except that one day, whilst rooting through the bargain bin in Woolworths I stumbled across a CD single of Slow Emotion Replay, for the princely sum of 99p. What the hell, I thought. What's the worst that could happen?

As it turns out, I'd landed myself a bargain slice of classic Marr, as instantly identifiable as anything The Smiths recorded, as obviously Marr-related as Billy Bragg's Sexuality or Kite-era Kirsty MacColl. All the trademarks are there: the chiming guitar sound, the chord progressions, the harmonica riff... quintessential Marr. In fact, I was so enamoured with this track that it figured on nearly every mix tape I made for at least eighteen months, and I still play it now. Surprising, then, that it's taken until now, the 32nd in the series, for this to feature as a clandestine classic.

I suppose I ought to eulogise about Matt Johnson too. After all, he's a genius, right? So, okay, the lyrics are interesting and he sings them well enough. But overall I just never really got into him, sorry, in much the same way that I've never been able to get into Nick Cave, despite repeated attempts. These artists are just blind spots for me - again, sorry. But Marr... I'm still blinded, by only by his genius. I'm going to see him live in March and am quite excited about this...

Anyway, Slow Emotion Replay dipped into the UK chart very briefly at a lowly #35, and just as quickly dipped out again, hence its presence in the Woolies bargain bin. Matt Johnson's loss, my gain. It remains the only The The record in my collection, but what a corker! If you're looking you can still find it on the aforementioned Dusk or the compilation 45rpm - The Singles of The The. Beyond that, here's today classic, with fan-noted lyrics, courtesy of YouTube. Enjoy.