A music blog, reviews and comment from an overly opiniated 26 year old London bloke

Scotland: the greatest GMP per capita? July 17, 2009

Perhaps the greatest Scottish band of them all?

Perhaps the greatest Scottish band of them all?

Beatles, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin Vs Nirvana, The Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground – the debate of whether the US or UK has produced the greatest bands has raged on for many a year. But what if we distill this question by factoring in size of population, as often seen in judging great sporting nations, or evaluating economies, then what is the greatest nation on Earth? Which nation has the greatest Gross Musical Product per capita?

Well, obviously Britain. At times the list of my favourite bands has been weighted in favour of American artists, but never so much as the country’s population is weighted against the UK’s. I’m fairly sure only the most isolated Americans (or people who’s music taste is limited to one or two genres, like country, hip-hop or Uzbek shoe gaze) could possibly say different . If anyone can suggest another country, I’d like to hear about it…

But what if we were to concentrate this further, to within the UK? England, right? All the greatest bands, as mentioned above, plus there’s the Stones, the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Blur… I could go on, for a very long time.

So what have Wales got? Manic Street Preachers, admittedly, made one and a half good albums. Stereophonics have probably got enough decent material to put one listenable album together (none of it has been recorded since 1999 mind). Feeder have some tunes, I even liked Funeral For A Friend’s first album (anyone who hasn’t Busted-jumped to Juneau is not qualified to argue against this). But then Catatonia, Lost Prophets and Tom Jones cancel all that hard work out. And really, Gold Against the Soul sort of self-cancelled out the Manics.

Northern Ireland: Ash and the Undertones, instantly erased by Snow Patrol.

So that leaves Scotland as contenders. Mogwai, Boards of Canada, Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit, Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, The Twilight Sad, Idlewild, Seafood, Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Skids… how many people live in Scotland?! Currently according to the BBC, it’s 5,062,011. That’s almost one great band PER PERSON, a ratio of 1:1!* Wales have a population of 2.9 million, and only 1.2 great bands, so that makes their ratio 1:2,416,666.

So you might have noticed I may be being slightly biased here, and you might (if you’re really clever) have assimilated that my name probably indicates some kind of Scottish heritage. But seriously, let’s consider a country that has a similar population to Scotland, Finland. How many great Finnish bands do you know? More than the Scottish bands listed above? No. Nowhere near. Actually I can’t name one, sorry, world music guilt setting in…

Any other nations punching above their music to population weight? Sweden? Iceland? Sweden have Sounds Like Violence, The Hives, but a population of 9 mill. Iceland have Sigur Ros, Jakobinarina, Bjork, and a population of around 300,000. It’s good. It’s very good. But it’s still a ratio of 1:100,000, that’s 100,000 times worse than Scotland.

* Not scientifically calculated

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What I’ve learnt from Britney Spears, O2 Arena, 14th June 2009 June 16, 2009

Filed under: Blog,Reviews,Sticks — gloamsticks @ 10:37 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

OK. I admit it. I was at a Britney Spears concert on Sunday night.

I think there's an international tabloid star in there somewhere...

I think there's an international tabloid star in there somewhere...

I would go through the rigmarole of explaining how my girlfriend couldn’t find a single other sole in the world to accompany her, and that I was only dragged along kicking and screaming. I could claim that as she tried to push me through the entrance to the O2,  security detected with special muso detecting equipment that I wasn’t really supposed to be there, explained that no one with any credibility or discerning music taste would be allowed to enter and that I would have to abstain. But the fact of the matter is, I thought I’d probably enjoy it really. And I did, without half the incumbent guilt I was expecting.

I was expecting to need be defiant about my attendance, I knew the ribbing I was in for from my friends, I’d already had a bit of it having told them where I’d be on Sunday night. The best way to deal with it would be to say “yeah, I went to a Britney gig, I loved it, and so would you, what are you going to do about it?” I’d planned a blog post about it being not only a good gig, but a fantastic gig, that all us serious musos could learn from. “You wouldn’t get juggling clowns, magicians and trapeze artists at a Mogwai show,” I’d say. “Stop being so pretentious everyone, I’m comfortable enough with my music taste to see Britney. Maybe there should be unicycling jugglers as part of the next My Bloody Valentine tour.”

Which might be true, but it’s not what I learnt. Some of you will not be surprised at all to hear that I went to a Britney Spears concert and learnt absolutely nothing. Nothing about music, anyway. This being a music blog, technically I shouldn’t be writing about it here.

Britney’s support act (apart from Ciara, who I thought I’d never heard of but did recognise some songs, she seems to be some kind of robot Beyonce emulation) was a circus. The same circus was integrated into the main performance, in this show that was billed as The Circus Featuring Britney Spears. Which sums it up really, Britney was constantly surrounded by dancers, clowns, acrobats, rollerskaters… for large portions of the night Britney was not even on the stage. She wasn’t really the main attraction of the night, and neither was her music. There was so much going on visually that thankfully I found I didn’t even need to pay too much attention to what was going on aurally. Discussion of how much she mimes seems laughably off the point, frankly, as if a Britney show is about music, let alone live singing.

There were people playing instruments, I had a good view of a viruoso drummer, but 80% of the rest of the crowd wouldn’t have been able to see him hidden in a pit to the side of the stage. Bizarrely the bass player was allowed to get up on stage at one point, but otherwise actual musicianship was kept discreet. Real gigs are about real musicians channeling their passion and energy through their instruments, they can involve other accoutrements to add to the experience but the music is the core. Which was far from the case on Sunday night. Sunday night was about massive circular video screens, circus performers, dance groups, lights, explosions and awe.

So what I saw was a probably the most spectacular (and spectacularly expensive) circus in the world, in the largest circus tent in Britain (the world?). Some blonde who is in the tabloids a lot was there too apparently, but I barely noticed. Sounds like a good night to me.

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