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PHOTO BLOG: Ratking in London //

In support of the release of their debut LP So It Goes, NYC rap trio Rakting came to London to open for Earl Sweatshirt at the O2 Academy Islington. For our feature on the group, our photographer Teddy Fitzhugh hung out near XL Recordings’ studio in West London before heading to the show in the evening. Have a look some photos from the shoot below, and read outr the full feature here.

 

 

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Can everyone stop pretending North Face is cool now? //

There’s a certain type of man, let’s call him ‘Guardian Dad’. He likes complaining about Cameron, talking about, maybe one day, thinking about climbing Ben Nevis and – above all else – ‘repping’ his North Face. Guardian Dad doesn’t know he’s repping anything though. He just, as Drake so finely put it “Wants some head in a comfortable bed.” (Which in this case serves as a metaphor for a nice warm jacket and a pint of real ale.)

He’d also like to talk to you about Guided By Voices and The Fall, if you’ll listen. His stack of Wire magazine back issues is impressive and when he presses the P button in his browser the first result is Pitchfork, not Pornhub. You love him, but secretly you wish he’d stop going on about hiking and just, maybe, have a pill or something?

Much like its culinary cousin Pulled Pork though, North Face is enjoying something of a hip revival. Unlike pulled pork – which is obviously quite nice if you can mash your head round the whole ‘I’m eating a once-sentient being’ bit – it’s hard to understand why the fuck everyone is suddenly turning up in camping attire. Timberland boots first, now North Face jackets. Am I about to find myself surrounded by Lowe Alpine backpacks next time I decide it would be a fun idea to visit friends in East London? That, of course, comes before realising I’d rather be slowly tapping a drawing pin into my big toe nail than listening to another dull ‘social media manager’ say another word about craft fucking beer or the warehouse scene in Romford. I’m finding it incredibly hard to give a shit about your mate’s post ironic, psuedo ghetto, actual chic, postmodern, arthouse garage floor clearers because he’s wearing the same coat as my mate’s Dad. Just look at post-ironic, psuedo-ghetto, actual chic, postmodern, arthouse garage person Hannah Diamond wearing North Face like it’s not even funny or weird or anything. (It is funny, and weird actually.)

There was a moment where I thought I’d got it. It was either, ‘it’s edgy to be a middle aged man now’ or something about how ‘camping is shit so it’s like ironic cause you can’t camp in Camberwell’ or ‘it’s anti fashion because it’s so not fashion but now it’s become fashion because it wasn’t?’ That sentence doesn’t make sense really, but I don’t care because it all actually is that fucking stupid. It’s not like Guardian Dads have stopped wearing North Face. It’s not like anyone actually ever gave a shit that they did. It’s just a practical brand that serves its purpose. Now, I could spend hours trying to get my head around it but to be honest I doubt I ever will. And anyway, I’ve heard Regatta are doing a collab with Obey on a very limited range of thermal fleeces and there’s a pretty big queue forming outside Millett’s. I don’t want to miss my one shot at being slightly edgier than no-one ever. Sod it, I’ll just stay in and bang my head against a light bulb instead.

 

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Words: Billy Black

2

MEDIASPANK 40: Turnkey Tyranny //

The future of the internet is on the line and it could come down to who’s got their hands on your cock shots. We knew government agencies were hoovering up metadata, but it looks they might have your finest O-moments on file too.

The contempt for our personal data is causing developers to question how they think about the future of the internet. The transition from anonymity to sharing by default has helped define the web’s big bang moment, and now that shift is being brought into question.

This particular hack has to do with Yahoo webcam chat, which GCHQ’s been taking screenshots from by tapping directly into internet cables. The spooks estimated that up to 11 percent of the pictures it took of millions of “unselected” users (this wasn’t a targeted operation) were sexually explicit.

The content of the illicit images reads like a Turkey Twizzlers ingredients list. We think 56% of them had breasts in, 12% bum and 54% genitalia (according to news stats site Ampp3d, which compared them to an internet rule of thumb).

Collecting metadata from phone calls felt uncomfortable, but knowing they barely paused for thought when they discovered the immensely personal nature of these images demonstrates a different level
of disdain.

It’s important to remember the metadata collected by default provides a surprisingly detailed picture of our lives. They can map our social networks and movements, and potentially know our age, marital status, occupation and sexual orientation. Entire banks of our internet history are available to build “pattern-of-life” profiles. And that’s what we know they have on hand right now, before they even choose to actually target someone.

This provides the infrastructure for what Edward Snowden called “turnkey tyranny” in his first interview; imagine what would have happened if the Stasi had the NSA’s tool box.

It might be far fetched to consider how history’s most effective secret police service would have used this infrastructure, and I don’t want you to imagine me writing this in my mother’s basement, face covered by a Guy Fawkes mask and voice disguised by a mouthful of Haribo Tangfastics. But history’s taught us to be cautious, and the post-9/11 decade saw a huge grab for our civil liberties. What happens when Bush Jnr Jnr is in power and there’s another terrorist attack?

Even if you ignore the theoretical arguments on state surveillance for a moment, I think we still have an innate desire for privacy; we care about protecting our data. That’s why a lot of people got annoyed about Facebook changing its privacy settings and the reason Snapchat achieved such meteoric growth, to name just two glib examples.

We’re at a point where we’re going to have to figure out whether we tolerate this kind of no-holds-barred invasion of privacy (and you can bet the US and UK aren’t the only two countries trying to do this, never mind private interests) or re-think the way we use services online and whether we pay for them. Preventing mass surveillance requires end-to-end encryption that will stop companies like Google selling targeted ads around content. No adverts means no free stuff.

On some levels the revelations about stolen webcam images is the worst surveillance scheme Snowden’s exposed, but it’s unlikely to be enough to crystallise that creeping sense of outrage into out-on-the- streets sedition. What it has done is add weight to the wider argument about the price we’ve paid, largely without knowing it, for letting these services use our data.

It raises questions over the faith we’ve placed in the large US firms that handle our information and the US’s role in governing the internet. What will European companies and governments do to protect themselves and their citizens and customers? When are we going to start breaking down the near hegemony America’s established over the English-speaking internet?

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

mediaspank.net

@MediaSpank

Illustration: Lee Nutland

RSD

Our Guide To Record Store Day 2014 //

We love Record Store Day. 19 April is a good day. In anticipation of this year’s event, we headed down to our local record store, Rise Bristol, to see what they’ll have on offer. What we found was a selection of 7s, 12s and cassettes (yes, the inevitable comeback is in full swing) that emphasise what Record Store Day is all about.

We’ve handpicked our favourite cuts from the characteristically innovative, attractive and extremely limited wax on offer this year. There’s a highly unconventional oddball greatest hits, some of the most outlandish pieces of vinyl engineering we’ve ever seen and a cover version that’ll make you want to go home and dig out those Buffalo platforms you left in your mum’s attic. Here are our five to watch out for.

 

Xiu Xiu – There Is No Right, There Is No Wrong: The Best of Xiu Xiu

Bad Paintings

£27.50

Xiu-Xiu-Cover

Jamie Stewart’s Xiu Xiu are about as well known for churning out hits as they are for encouraging people to stay at home and bake cookies. Nevertheless, Record Store Day will see the release of There Is No Right, There Is No Wrong: a greatest hits compilation for a band who have had – give or take – zero hits.

Hopefully it’ll include all your favourite toe tappers like Dear God, I Hate MyselfI Luv Abortion and who could forget that memorable chart topper You Are Pregnant You, You are Dead. That said, we can’t wait to get our hands on the thing. J-Stew might be a weirdo, but boy does he still give us butterflies.

Dear God, I Hate Myself from Steven Whore on Vimeo.

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Psychic TV – Hacienda, Live At The Marquee + Thee Fabulous Feast of Flowering Light

Cold Spring Records

£18 each

PSYCHIC

Psychic TV are one of the most prolific and oft-overlooked post-industrial outfits that emerged from the UK In the late 1970s. Rising from the ashes of the mighty Throbbing Gristle their output has been eclectic, ranging from psych-pop masterpieces to crushing industrial techno to out-and-out power electronics.

The three live albums being reissued for Record Store Day show a broad spectrum of the many sides of Genesis P-Orridge and his constantly evolving musical project. The Hacienda concert sees the band on a tribal, folk inspired diversion, The Fabulous Feast… is the more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll gig recorded at The Hammersmith Palais and Live At Thee Marquee is a high energy run through the band’s acid house-influenced beats and rave-inspired tracks.

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Liars – Mess On A Mission 

Mute Records

£18

Liars

Don’t want to sound melodramatic, right, but this might be the most aesthetically pleasing piece of wax we’ve ever laid eyes on, a masterpiece of vinyl engineering. It’s clear, which is always cool, but it also has a piece of STRING inside it. Actually string. How does you do that? It’s like a ship in a bottle or something. And the slab of post-industrial oddness nestled in the grooves is pretty amazing too.

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The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

Kompakt

£18

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The Field’s definitive debut, 2007′s From Here We Go Sublime, was the introduction to Axel Willner’s uniquely looping, hypnotic, warming brand of techno. The CD came with a three-track 12″ sampler, but the full album has never been released on vinyl. It’s a criminal oversight from the usually flawless Kompakt, but that’s about to be corrected with the full double LP release. Blood will be spilt over this one.

This is the kind of thing that makes Record Store Day so thrilling; the moment you finally get your hands on a piece of vinyl you’ve been craving for years.

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MØ – Say You’ll Be There

£7

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Hip lady. Spice Girls Cover. We’re pretty sure you can figure this one out for yourself.

 

So there it is. That’s what we’ve got our eyes on down at Rise. But why not head to your local record store this year and support your favourite industry. (That’s assuming you haven’t accidentally stumbled upon our magazine in a vain attempt to find the UKs premier periodical on Polyfilling).

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Words: Billy Black

SKRILLLLLEX

‘Recess’ by Skrillex Is Billy Black’s Record Of 2014 So Far //

There’s always been a bit of a divide in Crack Towers over young Sonny Moore. Well, actually, there’s not really a divide at all. It’s more like a unanimous feeling of disdain. Fortunately though, EDM’s first son does have one fan up here. One big fan. When Billy Black heard we weren’t particularly keen on running a glowing review of his new record Recess, he had a few things to say. 

If you’ve got a problem with Skrillex then you’ve got a problem with me. You’ve also lost touch with how to have fun. That’s right, I said it, you are boring. In fact, you should probably go and have dinner with your girlfriend’s parents and talk about travel insurance or something. Stop reading. Seriously. I don’t want boring people’s eyes all over my words. I won’t bore you with the details but I was once ‘an emo’. Back then I spent a lot of time on Myspace. It was around this time I developed a reproachably teenage, highly elitist attitude towards music.

Back then I wouldn’t listen to a band if they’d sold more records than I’d had girlfriends (roughly one at the time). That’s when I discovered From First To Last. Their first record, the ridiculously titled Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has A Body Count really grabbed my attention. The frontman looked like a troll, wore a lot of black and screeched about everything from mass murder to LA drag queens. I was 17, confused and lived in the middle of fucking nowhere, and it rocked. Needless to say, two weeks later I saw someone outside of my friendship group wearing a FFTL T-shirt and immediately began vehemently denying that I had ever liked them.

The fact is though, whether it’s your thing or not, they were pretty good. When their singer Sonny left to make electronic music I was disappointed. More on, I was sceptical. I presumed he’d never make it and the early stuff he released around the time of the Gypsyhook EP sounded really fucking lame. Long story short; I feel pretty stupid now. Since then Sonny has changed his name to Skrillex. He’s felt his way around an MPC and some software and crowned himself the undisputed king of parent-baiting, chainsaw-sampling EDM. The tunes, the image and the emotional outpourings are brash and unabashedly commercial. But the fact that a man and his decks – especially one who looks like a particularly sullen extra from Hackers – can fill arenas is nothing short of incredible.

I’m not here to defend Skrillex the man, though. I’m here to talk about his music and – as his spiritual peers in Say Anything would have it – “In Defence of The Genre.” The fact is, if you know anything about him you will know he doesn’t need defending. He is one of the friendliest, most humble and amicably enthusiastic DJs in the world. Happily posing for photographs, signing autographs and waving off internet haters with smiley face emoticons. Apparently he played 300 shows last year. Which is a lot of shows. In fact, that’s probably more shows than you had days at work. Which is lazy of you.

I’ve even met him twice. The first time I found him ducking out of an opportunity to get down at a Villalobos afterparty at a Croatian festival to “get some sleep and have a cup of tea” (but not before shaking every other DJs hand and posing for about 100 selfies.) The next time he was buying a round of drinks for an entire 1000 capacity club in Bristol just to say thanks for coming.

What I’m getting at here is; silly hair does not a douchebag make.

On 17 December Sonny officially released Recess, his debut album. A stream of the album premiered on Dazed and Confused‘s website with no marketing, no hype and no official announcement. Some people have called it a gimmick but the California kid will be quick to remind you he never wanted it that way. He’s never been bothered with big campaigns and normally just drops his tunes, quietly, on YouTube. People find them, because people want to hear them. It really is that simple. He first dropped Bangarang on Christmas Day via Youtube. You can imagine how many people were logged on on Christmas Day just waiting for that one.

So what about Recess? Is it actually any good? I guess it depends on what you want from a record really. It’s Skrillex, it’s not one for your mum. Unless your mum happens to be a particularly forward thinking noise rave enthusiast. The thing is, it is fucking noisy and that in itself puts Skrillex at the front of the pack in many ways. It’s relentless in its experimentation, opener All’s Fair In Love and Brostep harks back to dubstep’s roots and retains Moore’s trademark squawks, laser sharp synth shots and treacherous levels of bass. If you ever had any doubt as to why he’s so successful you need look no further. His ability to experiment with aggression and still make it somehow inherently accessible is unrivalled.

Try It Out, Moore’s collaboration with Alvin Risk, is the perfect example. If you can get the past the repetitive glare of that drop – something he openly admits to rinsing to almost comic effect – you’ll find yourself able to enjoy a lesson in perfect timing. The structure he’s created is a calculated and dextrous combination of fast edits and futuristic noises that fit so perfectly it’s impossible to fault. It’s unique and compelling, without exception. The thing is though, it’s so aggressive, complex and layered that it’s hard to comprehend without context. Outside of a heaving warehouse it provides a perfect level of moral panic. It’s that combination of gauche pop sensibility that can only come from a true understanding of songwriting and the absolute noise assault that allows Skrillex his status as the ultimate folk devil. To deny the man success, based on anything other than that, would be cruel.

Beyond Try It Out, the dancehall-inflected sound of Doompy Poomp is a stripped back testament to the young prodigy’s skills as an experimental artist. The crackles, clipped samples and low key half beats of Fuck That prove he can calm down when he needs to, with a drop which calls back to the days when Skream and co were ruling the low-ceilinged rooms of Croydon and Bristol with their new sound. That’s the thing though, while Skrillex is influenced by those early artists the music he makes is ultimately his own. It’s future music for a generation that’s finding it increasingly hard to rebel. It hits harder, appalls almost everyone and sounds like the result of a laboratory experiment in musical extremity.

The first time I saw Skrillex live he dropped Fatman Scoop’s classic Be Faithful (Put Ya Hands Up) to a packed pool party. I have never seen someone smiling that much behind turntables, an appreciation for pure pop that shines through on Recess and indeed on tracks like Bangarang and Scary Monsters and Bright Sprites which made the 24-year-old arguably the biggest producer in the world. Skrillex is talked about more than most largely because he’s gaudy and he’s not about to apologise for it. Imagine for a second, on the other hand, that he cared what anyone thought about it. He wouldn’t have reached this point. The fact is, he doesn’t care, because he’s owning it. Whether you like his tunes or not they show unrivalled technical (and absurdly complex) production, old people don’t get it and his tireless earnestness simply makes people want to move. If Elvis Presley had given a shit what you thought about those three things then he would have given up and he’d probably have ended up old, bored and nobody would have cared.

Of course, none of that matters because Crack’s reviewer has just handed in his copy and it looks like the only place he wants to see Recess is in the bottom of the bargain bin.

Cretin.

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Words: Billy Black

Mediaspank39

MEDIASPANK39: Sorry, Osborne?

During the recession Irish journalists beat the country’s political and banking classes like a hollow green, white and orange piñata. How did they miss the warnings that the economy was overheating, and why the near-pathological obsession with property?

I was working in Dublin during the bailout talks and wrote a feature levelling the same accusations at the media. With a few exceptions they played a key role in developing the country’s property mania, in some cases losing their own shirts in the process, and had failed to notice the Celtic Tiger’s symptoms.

Covering the UK’s recession led me to write a series of scathing editorials about George Osborne’s economic policies, from portraying him as a gambler screaming double down to writing under a caricature of a blinkered donkey chasing a “Plan A” carrot and, in one instance, suggesting he “winced at the prole-stench on the West Coast Main Line’s cattle cars”…

Anyway, the strength of the UK’s economic recovery’s left me with a dilemma that the left-leaning press is failing to confront. Just like Ireland’s journalists all those years ago; was my coverage of Osborne-omics misinformed? Was my assessment of the economy flawed?

For the last few decades the government’s generally spent more than it earns, borrowing money to make ends meet. When the recession hit the Tories argued for aggressive cuts to eliminate the spending deficit and start paying back the debt. Roughly speaking, Labour would have cut slightly slower and put more focus on increasing taxes, rather than reducing spending.

We have no idea what would have happened if Labour were in charge (who knows if I’d be languishing in Red Ed’s bread queue instead of toiling over this column?) and it’s impossible to definitively say what’s morally correct, so it’s probably best to judge Osborne by his own standards.

It only took a few quarters of growth for the chancellor to claim the debate was over – you can track this back to my glibly-titled column ‘George Osborne seems pretty smug about ‘fixing’ the economy’ – but there are some major issues with his version of events.

The Chancellor’s self-imposed mandates were to reduce the deficit to zero and have government debt falling as a share of GDP by 2015-2016. He’s made a small amount of progress, but we’re going to borrow a staggering £96 billion in 2014-2015 – £96 billion more than he expected, more than the entire education budget – and he’s going to fail on the other count too.

That said, the economy’s growing, unemployment’s falling and we’ve put in a lot of hard work in terms of cutting spending, so you could argue that will pay off in dividends as the economy improves … but I think that line of argument is relatively weak.

The economic growth is great news, but it’s not enough. The government should be judged on the rate of recovery, starting with their own standards. The problem is, it’s hard to point this out over the Tories’ shouts of ‘we’re cleaning up your mess’ and ‘we made the tough choices’, plus voters are generally short-sighted and will likely focus on whatever’s happened immediately before next year’s election.

My mistake was implying austerity would wreck the economy even after we had limped into a recovery and it was wrong to ever even meekly imply that there’d be no recovery under Plan A. The focus should have shifted to the type of recovery we were experiencing (more part-time, badly paid jobs, growing government debt etc.) at some point early last year and highlighting how this happened.

After the election the coalition told us they weren’t acting out of “some ideological zeal”, they had no choice but to make the cuts. Cameron had already implied he wants to make austerity permanent and recently he said cutting benefits was a “moral mission”. It was a Tory policy bait and switch; they sold us on a ‘there’s no alternative economic rescue’ package and we ended up buying a Tory party policy wet dream, with little or no impact on improving our economy.

 

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

mediaspank.net

@MediaSpank

Illustration: Lee Nutland 

MEDIASPANK – WELCOME TO 2014! //

By the time you pick up this beautifully revamped edition of Crack the Christmas credit card bill will have landed, your resolutions dropped and the news cycle will continue grinding its cogs of despair – but there’s still hope for 2014.

This time last year we discovered Black Beauty hadn’t gone to the big glue factory in the sky, but was probably slaughtered, ground down and served to us in the microwave lasagnas that we stuffed into our faces in front of Gogglebox (the show that serves us videos of ourselves watching TV, mis-labelled as original programming).

Gogglebox’s endless meta-loop toward the nadir of broadcast television seems harmless compared to Channel 4’s current January smash hit Benefits Street. In a supposedly titillating PR move we were shown the real poor people behind the numbers we’re always told about. That said, there’s a startling information gap around what their lives are actually like – hopefully we can learn and understand what the cuts actually mean this year, and not eat such shitty processed food.

February last year saw the Catholic Church make a divine PR move calling on God to appear to Pope Benedict and tell him to go fishing. 2014 looks even more positive for Catholicism, with a papal Rolling Stone cover showing Francis above the Dylan- referencing strapline: “The times they are a-changin.”

It’s amazing to think that the Catholic leadership could be wrenched from conservatism, that Francis used his first major written teaching to rail against unchecked free-market capitalism and answered “Who am I to judge?” to a question on homosexual priests.

Margaret Thatcher died in spring last year and Osborne shed what appeared to be a tear, but was in fact the distilled juices of poor people’s dreams, at her funeral. My friend saw her at a high-brow do a decade ago and said she was “madder than a box of frogs”.

In 2014, the economic recovery is going from strength to strength and the Tories are finding it hard to control their excitement as David Cameron’s face slowly eats itself in rolls of smug. It’s great that we’re back to growth; now the Tories have to shake off the stigma of exactly the kind of nasty, cut-making Tory party image Thatcher embodied and address the recovery’s structural issues with inequality.

Justin Bieber’s escapades were limited to giving away a hamster (#rippac), and shouting at a cameraman or something in 2013. It didn’t even register on the rock n’ roll scale of one to Keith Moon driving a Lincoln Continental into a swimming pool after knocking out his front teeth. But this year he’s already given us ‘drag racing and driving under the influence’ and being belligerent to the cops – that’s a solid two Baby Biebs!

The VMA awards gave a Beetlejuice-garbed Robin Thicke an opportunity to sexually harass the world’s online columnists. Except instead of being summoned when someone says his name three times, he says “I know you want it” three times to summon a Gene-Simmons-tongue- wrangling Miley Cyrus who, apparently unbeknownst to her handlers, had just gone on heat.

By contrast, January’s Grammy Awards gave dozens of couples, some gay, some straight, the chance to wed as a guy who wasn’t Kendrick Lamar performed Same Love, an anthem for legal gay marriage. It’s encouraging to see an awards show used as a platform for something positive (and something that doesn’t involve Kanye’s ego or Miley’s foam finger grinding).

In 2013, King Richard III’s skeleton was found rotting underneath a car park next to Gerri Halliwell’s music career. In 2014 we discover that an old pelvis that had been lying in storage might by that of King Alfred the Great’s … but it looks like Halliwell might be brought back to life to represent the UK at Eurovision. Can’t win them all I ‘spose.

 

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

mediaspank.net

twitter.com/MediaSpank

Illustration: Lee Nutland

leenutland.com

childish-gambino

Childish Gambino Review II – A Track-by-Track Analysis //

Last week Crack published this review of the second Childish Gambino record. And unfortunately, fans of the rapper/actor were less than impressed by the angle our reviewer Billy Black chose to take:

 

GAMBINOCOMMENTS

 

And after things got personal, Billy decided to knock up a more substantial, and probably less entertaining, 1500 word review of the album in order to expound on his theory and explain exactly why he fucking hates this record. Here it is:

 

01. the library (intro)

After listening to the library numerous times, I can determine absolutely nothing about this track apart from the fact it sounds like it was probably created using a preset GarageBand loop. Now maybe I’m just getting too old to understand the levels of post-reality, post-Mac ironic references emanating from this five second noise which may or may not be a reference to the ease with which music can be created and disseminated, or maybe I totally got it and I just didn’t find it clever or funny.

 02. I. crawl

There’s nothing worse than trying, and failing miserably, to look clever by using Roman numerals. It’s right up there with trying, and failing miserably, to look innovative by imitating Death Grips. I will admit that Glover’s flow is actually quite agreeable and that the beats, despite the blatant influence bordering on thievery, are well turned out, and I’m almost convinced – but the moment when Glover croons ‘At her booty’ around 1 minute 7 seconds in I feel like I’m listening to a Lonely Island parody video which hasn’t been funny for about six years. I. Crawl sounds like the result of a confused young man trying far too hard to sound like he’s not trying hard. Either that or it’s all irony. I don’t find it clever, or funny.

03. II. WORLDSTAR

There’s nothing worse than trying, and failing miserably, to look ‘real’ by imitating 2 Chainz. Seriously though, WORLDSTAR may as well be Birthday Song even down to the bit where Glover uses a ‘brrr’ sound which feels suspiciously like appropriation of Deuce’s trademark ‘Skrrr’ sound. Two tracks in and there’s nothing original in earshot. Maybe it’s irony or something. Not clever, not funny …

04. dial up

At least the Roman numerals have gone now. Oh no, wait it’s just to let us know it’s an interlude. Interludes are great, aren’t they? Seriously, I love them.

05 I. the worst guys ft. Chance The Rapper

Oh, they’re back. Great. We almost got confused there. This one looked hopeful, there was a distinct possibility that wacky acid rap ‘innovator’ and rap’s answer to Barney The Dinosaur Chance The Rapper might just save this track but unfortunately, he doesn’t. It’s partly because he’s wet as fuck but mainly because the only thing faker than Donald Glover’s connection to rap is the pantomime tinted gimmick of a persona young Chance “I took mushrooms once at drama school” The Rapper has crafted – fair play to him though for successfully pulling the wool over the eyes of people I used to consider friends. The Sister Sister references are pretty much the only good thing about it, everything else is turgid, completely lacking excitement and that guitar solo near the end is about as pleasant as that album the bloke from The Darkness made after he decided he was too good for the rest of the band.

That Sister Sister bit though… everyone loves a good reference to a TV show from their youth, especially one that features African American people. Nostalgia is always funny. Always.

06. II. shadows

By the law of averages releasing an album having 19 tracks on it means at least one of them should be good. shadows is probably the closest thing to a banger on Because The Internet. The sample comes from a great place – Space Funk by Manzel – and the vocal is natural, it even feels more lyrically honest than the previous tracks with references to awkward email exchanges and a tongue-in-cheek aspirational bar about Jay Z and Beyoncé, presumably a hark to the hip-hop power couple’s Bonnie and Clyde references. This kind of meta-RnB is actually quite thoughtful and in fact raised a wistful half-smile on this reviewer’s face.

If only Frank Ocean hadn’t already recorded and released a critically acclaimed album full of the exact same thing, done twice as well, two years ago.

07. III. telegraph ave (“Oakland” by Lloyd)

“I was making Japanese/She’s watching DVDs”. I’m almost 100% certain these lyrics will be immortalised in the annals of hip-hop with the cerebral witticisms that made Biggie the giant he was, the tongue twisting, deep cutting bars that secured GZA his place at the top of his game or the unpredictable, hater baiting rhymes a young Marshall Mathers used to propel himself to the forefront of the hip-hop scene. (“Sarcasm” by Billy.)

08. IV. sweatpants

Was that a Charlie Sheen ‘Winning’ reference? Here is a three point list, using roman numerals, explaining why Charlie Sheen ‘Winning’ references aren’t funny. I. Drug addiction is not funny. II. Charlie Sheen wasn’t winning, the whole affair was sad and the media glorification of the situation was horrifyingly insensitive. III. It happened over a year ago, seriously, lay it to rest.

09. V. 3005

3005 is the first single from Because The Internet and we’ll put our hands up here, it deserves to be a success. 3005 is pretty impressive and, perhaps, if Glover would focus his attention on crafting more original and honest tunes like this one he might be able to assert his own credibility and dominance as a genuine artist to watch.

10. playing around before the party starts

Oh great, another interlude. Seriously though, interludes are the best.

11 I. the party

the party is probably an attempt at being experimental. The result? The most annoying piece of music I’ve ever heard. Trust me, I’ve sat through entire Whitehouse records and found them more agreeable.

12. II. no exit

Where the party fails, no exit nearly succeeds. The last minute, in fact, is a well-judged, sugary and melodious piece of RnB which emerges, unexpectedly, from a pleasantly composed clutter of electronic tweaks and bleeps. No exit is probably the best track on the record from a technical point of view, the textures and the transition feel like the result of hard work and thoughtful composition. It’s not as good as 3005, it won’t get you dancing on a table but it is actually a down-to-earth track which lets the small glimmers of hope we have for Glover’s talent shine through.

13. death by numbers

Seriously though, enough with the FUCKING interludes dude.

14. I. flight of the navigator

By the end of this track I felt like I’d been cheated out of five minutes. There is nothing here, like the previous track it’s full of layers and heavy on the atmosphere. It constantly feels like it’s getting somewhere but somehow – spoiler alert – it doesn’t. It just doesn’t feel like Glover has thought about the direction on this one. It sounds rushed, obvious and completely devoid of structure.

15. II. zealots of stockholm (free information)

Just for a change of form here Donald Glover has put his full back into zealots of stockholm and created a track that sounds like Frank Ocean covering Death Grips. A refreshing change from the rest of that tracks that either sound like Frank Ocean or Death Grips.

 16. III. urn

I’m getting really tired of this record now, and it’s really quite hard to keep coming up with sarcastic comments about it. Had it not been for the backlash of internet concern for my ability to judge art on its merits rather than the inherently embarrassing persona of the creator, I’d have switched this off, burned the tracks to a CD-R and thrown that shit out of the window. It sounds like someone’s doing a bad Frank Ocean impression … again …

17. I. pink toes ft. jhene aiko

Look Childish, mate, no amount of credible collaborations are going to make your record sound better than it is and FOR FUCKS SAKE, FRANK OCEAN ALREADY WROTE CRACK ROCK IN TWO THOUSAND AND TWELVE.

 18. II. earth: the oldest computer (the last night)

The extremely long and quite frankly pretentious title of this song is enough to put me off without even listening to the song. However, for the sake of argument I did, I listened to it all the way through and what I discovered was, well, it was emotionally charged, it was thoughtful, it was… oh no sorry I thought I was listening to Diamonds by Drake and Frank Ocean.

19. III. life: the biggest troll [andrew aurenheimer]

The generic-sounding beats and hyper-florid lyrics on this track are representative of a lot of the things Glover has gotten so wrong on this record. The thing about life… though,  is that it sounds so outdated it’s impossible to imagine why Glover would consider it the perfect closer for this record. A record which, it is impossible to forget, had his whole musical career resting on it after his extremely disappointing first record completely failed to connect with anyone anywhere.

CONCLUSION:

Because The Internet is a derivative, pretentious record that fails to deliver any bite or sense of real passion for music. It’s an arid, barren album that at times feels bitter and relentless in its flagrant and pronounced plagiarism of artists who have already reshaped and remodelled the fields Glover is now mimicking. The more I listen, the less I feel any connection to the disparate and completely unrealised structure of the record. Fortunately though, Honest Don has a plethora of other talents to fall back on, like, he was on an episode of Girls and ermm … he has a cringe-inducing sense of humour … and uhhh … he can use Instagram?

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Words: Billy Black

 

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MEDIASPANK – DON’T READ BELOW THE LINE //

A monstrous amoeba-brained blob is heading for Downingtown, Informationville, consuming everything in its path in an angry, all-enveloping mass. Nothing can stop the Internet’s comments section.

Even the left-leaning websites have been consumed by faux rage. The Guardian ran an article headlined ‘Miley Cyrus’s twerking routine was cultural appropriation at its worst’ one week and a piece on ‘Nine uses for a burka … that don’t involve bashing them’ the next (includes getaway costumes and fire blankets, by the way).

The article about Cyrus’ performance at a music video awards show starts and ends with references to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, and picked up 800-plus comments. The endless number of columnists who covered the event didn’t tune in live, they aren’t roving scholars of pop culture; everyone just watched it when it went viral on the off chance they could have their say.

Was there anything wrong with Miley’s routine? The truth is that ‘In the 90s Miley would just be another wigger’. Just kidding. That was my attempt to write another click bait headline with a buzzword like ‘wigger’, which is enticing because we’re not sure if it’s racist and 30-year-old liberals love that retro stuff.

Neither of the two Guardian articles are badly written, but they hint at part of a bigger problem – the need to steal eyeballs through click bait headlines. This leads us to quickly wrap every developing story in easy-to-digest comment.

It means that on the same day The Express says ‘The burka is an affront to women and a free society’, The Spectator ‘Why I want my schools to ban the burka (and the miniskirt)’ and The Daily Mail ‘You don’t need a burka, just mad hair and a tatty tracksuit’.

Watching that life affirming video of Tom Daley outing himself, I could feel the army of commentators gearing up to write think pieces. The problem is the scale, speed and prevalence of online cultural commentary is forcing false polemics and detracting from important debates.

I don’t care too much one way or the other about Miley’s performance, but I know it’s the kind of thing that might get commissioned by the knee-jerk comment farms. And there’s the problem; we’re all learning to write faux rage articles. Richard and Judy of wholesome-morning-TV fame wrote that reactionary Express piece for fuck sake.

Faux rage isn’t new either, it’s just that the left-wing media are now signing up to what The New York Times calls the Daily Mail’s unofficial motto: “What Fresh Hell Is This?”

The Mail has been doing it online for a long time, and look how good they’ve gotten (I haven’t made this up, you couldn’t): ‘Why the Left hates families: MELANIE PHIILLIPS reveals how the selfish sneers of Guardianistas made her see how the Left actively fosters – and revels in – family breakdown.’ In fairness to Phillips, I never finished reading her article. There might be some revolutionary thinking past the bit where she crows about being the maligned party, under that headline, without a hint of irony.

It’s not that every piece of online commentary is bad, but you can see how quickly this back and forth creates a hollow, unnecessary and distracting dialogue. At some point you realise it’s not necessarily worth digging through statistics or records of speeches to point out policy failures, the key is being first to file a polemic. I’m cynical enough to realise that this is becoming a problem, but not clever enough to stop it, I’m afraid.

This week’s autumn statement is the first I haven’t covered in a while. You have to send your work to editors almost immediately after the chancellor sits down. Inevitably you just reiterate whatever dogma you’ve embraced – ‘the Tories are out-of-touch millionaires who grow more powerful every time the dreams of a poor person die’ etc. Maybe I’ll take the opportunity to assess the fiscal measure and check the numbers again – was I right? Who knows, but at least I’ll question my assumptions and do some genuine footwork to figure it out.

 

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

twitter.com/MediaSpank

mediaspank.net 

Illustation: Lee Nutland

bored man

1 Thing I Don’t Like About BuzzFeed //

Has everyone gone a little bit dim? Seriously though. Is the future of the human attention span completely fucking rotten? Is it even possible to read these simple sentences without getting helplessly distracted?

It’s not exactly a stretch to say it’s becoming imperative to the continued existence of our species that we relearn how to process information in slightly larger chunks, like, now. For example, how are you supposed to understand how to operate a hoover or turn on the dishwasher if you can’t decipher page after page of poorly translated instructions? More importantly, how will my many, many future children ever be able to sit through a whole episode of Celebrity Cash In The Attic if they can only sit still for long enough to digest tiny pieces of information designed to trick their brains into thinking they’re participating in some form of self-advancement when they’re really, really not?

The reason for all this brain-dulling seems pretty clear from where most of my generation are standing; the government wants us all on our knees. After all, they’re just reptilian moon people who are only interested in all the money and all the power anyway. Fuck the new world order, yeah? Yeah, maybe, or maybe they’re just boring old men in boring old suits with boring old haircuts who won’t play GTA 5 because they’re too ashamed to face the parallels it draws to their own miserable, prostitute slaying, dog beating sociopathic ego-driven existences. Either way, it doesn’t matter: none of us will be able to stop them, we’re all too distracted by fucking lists.

 

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Yes, that’s what it all boils down to. Lists. Beats me if I know where it all went wrong but this is where we are now, sadly. Oh what’s that? You didn’t realise it had happened because you were too busy shoving big piles of white powder up your nose from the end of your mate’s house key and listening to repetitive electronic music? Who am I to deny you small pleasures I suppose, everyone’s got to get their kicks, besides at least you’re not on BuzzFeed reading a list of 15 Ugly Old Toys Only A Blind Ugandan Organist Could Use To Escape From The Former Home Of A Left Leaning Tulip Grower Who Became Gradually More Conservative With Age. OK, that one might not be real but it might as well be. Seriously; this is the stuff of dystopian nightmares.

The most disturbing thing of all is that nobody is immune; I frequently find myself putting off actual work in order to read articles with catchy and relatable tiles. Titles like 12 Things Only Girls With Curly Hair Will Understand – I read the whole fucking thing, start to finish, despite being both male and straight haired – or 39 Times Neal Caffrey Was The Sexiest Man On TV. If you’re interested, ‘That time he emerged from the water and gave Daniel Craig a run for his money’ came in at number one. They’re right too, I mean who could forget that time. Well, I mean it kind of relies on having seen that bit from whatever film that actor you’ve heard of was in, but y’know.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not berating the idea of lists as a form of disseminating opinions altogether, in fact I think intaking someone else’s views in a form that is both satisfying and easy is probably as good a way to pass some time as any and hey, just because I have no idea who Neal Caffrey is doesn’t mean he doesn’t resonate in the hearts and minds of a million teenage girls. I just worry – as I am wont to do – about the state of our collective intelligence. Our capacity to collect and retain information and our capacity to actually think. However, anything I say now is basically inconsequential considering that the lack of bullet points on this page means that virtually everyone who opened it has long since been preoccupied by the distant, glowing allure of an article called something like, oh I don’t know, 37 Ways To Convince Yourself You Are Living A Satisfying And Entirely Realised Existence.

 

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Words: Billy Black

Bored-at-Work-Pen-and-Paper

AN OPEN LETTER TO OPEN LETTERS //

Dear Open Letters,

It is with a heavy heart that I place my fingers on the keyboard of my very silver, rather expensive, incredibly hip laptop – already, I digress, but just so you understand I am middle class, white and know what Instagram is so you can trust me. Some things are very hard to say, and while I know I may not speak on behalf of everyone I certainly speak on behalf of at least 99.9% of humanity when I say what I am about to say. Right after I have persuaded you that I am a relevant social entity through two paragraphs of verbose drivel.

I won’t continue to beat around the bush, for it is of the utmost importance that I share with you and the world my extremely decisive and utterly apposite modus opinari. Plainly speaking there is an issue, the heart of which is of earnest and consequential concern to some people who are not you, all of whom I am assuming do not have access to any form of social media, which must be addressed – post haste!

The matter at hand, I hasten to add, must be gently approached for it is so immensely pertinent that not only you but everyone in the whole world – or at least everyone on Twitter – must know how I personally feel about it. I would have simply just tweeted but, as you will soon realise, it needs more words than Twitter can offer and, with any luck, will be picked up by a major cultural publication. If that helps build publicity for me and at the same time reminds people that I am literate as well as handsome, well then I guess I’ll just have to live with that, won’t I?

So without further ado, here it is, Open Letters. The truth, brutal as it may be, hard as it is to hear; YOU SERVE NO PURPOSE.

Oh no wait, that would have fit in a tweet, wouldn’t it? My bad. Do one.

Billy.

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MEDIASPANK – THE BIG PIPE THEORY //

What’s the difference between the decimated hulk of newspaper and CD businesses, and broadcast television? Couch potatoes and bandwidth, probably.

You know the future’s arrived when describing technology from your childhood makes you sound like a 19th Century chimney sweep: “My documents were saved on 3.5 inch floppy disks, which stored less than half a five-minute song. We only had one phone line in the whole house and I made calls using a rotary dialler. And when I was 16 I used to smoke roll ups in pubs.”

That’s how it feels to describe broadcast television in the internet age. It’s amazing we haven’t kicked the habit.

It’s a medium where a quarter of the content is non- targeted advertising. The rest is a mind-numbing 24-hour entertainment spiel over some hundred- odd channels that you can scroll through for hours without ever quite landing on something you want to watch when it’s about to begin.

Right now I could tune into a rerun of a prime time show in which contestants guess the contents of red boxes based on absolutely nothing. The ‘jeopardy’ factor is introduced by a man who looks like the 6th form philosophy lecturer that’s always hitting on students, calling The Banker on exactly the type of phone described a moment ago.

The next channel’s showing non-stop episodes of Ted ‘punch me in the face’ Mosby making 20-minute soliloquies about how someday he’s going to ruin the life of a perfectly nice woman with a yellow umbrella that have me frantically trying to break the safety guards off my BIC razor.

In the meantime, the internet has become a multifaceted thing of media beauty that costs next to nothing to use and has unimaginable depths of content. Looking at the TV guide and choosing something to watch on a Saturday night seems about as relevant as walking into Blockbuster and renting Speed 2: Cruise Control on VHS.

I’m not saying there’s nothing but bad content on broadcast television. Episodic drama, led by the likes of The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, has been taken to unbelievable new heights. And I suppose there’s an argument that some people choose to watch the shows from the last few paragraphs, too.

What I’m saying is that broadcast television is a terrible content delivery system. It doesn’t learn, it’s old and it needs to be quietly retired. It’s the John McCain of electronic goods.

We already know what the alternatives are. Streaming services hit another new high-tide point when Netflix announced it has more subscribers than HBO last month, and more TVs are being built to work with streaming services, albeit they still promote regular channels and lack the right kind of interface.

When you have an internet connection faster than 20mbps, there’s no more reason to pay for phone line rental and a satellite package. Everything will come through the same pipe via a platform that’s interactive, on-demand, intelligent and utilises peer recommendation, and your friends will be there to talk to and play with.

When this happens the old gatekeepers like Sky and Virgin will be decimated. Signing up to a satellite provider will make about as much sense as paying for the AOL-content-only internet the now-defunct ISP peddled in the 90s. Existing channels will try to adapt, but most will fail. Broadcast television will go through the same structural change that newspaper businesses are struggling with. They might be able to sell some content and operate big draw live events like the X Factor, but the monopoly will be smashed.

We just need to reach the tipping point in what I’m going to call the Big Pipe Theory (the name comes from a discussion about the future of television and ‘High Resolution Home Graphic Centres’ that took place in the 80s). When enough households are connected, multimedia companies which are building huge audiences online – think Vice and TMZ – will explode. Sure, some will need companies like YouTube to wrap adverts around their content, but imagine what’ll happen when a company like BuzzFeed plugs directly into the living rooms of millions of households. Will Dave really be able to compete?

It’ll take about 10 years, but the coach potato habit will be chipped away piece by piece until the Big Pipe audience gains real traction. Then broadcast television will be all but killed off. In 50 years, explaining a five- channel television to a 20-year-old will be like trying to explain a microwave to a cowboy.

 

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

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Illustration: Lee Nutland

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