Album of the Week #2: The Band – Rock of Ages

The Band - Rock of AgesMention The Band and the first thing people will mention is The Last Waltz, the now-legendary live performance involving not just The Band but a host of guests – and, evidently, no end of cocaine, with Neil Young’s infamous ‘white booger’ debacle now being as famous as the music itself.

Here’s the thing though: to me, The Last Waltz is nowhere near as good as most claim, and indeed over the years I think its become something of a case study in one member of a group (in this case Robbie Robertson) meddling with a release and attempting to rewrite history. Robertson allegedly insisted that he get preferential treatment in the edit of the film, leading one site to call it “The Robbie Robertson show, starring Robbie Robertson with music by Robbie Robertson”. Bottom line? It felt like the whole thing was fake; fixed and tweaked here and there to suit the frontman and no one else. To me its not the sound of a band locked in and playing their hearts out; its all a bit… staged.

So, where The Band are concerned my favourite album – live or otherwise – is without a doubt Rock of Ages. Sporting arguably the worst cover in the history of music, this record may just be the finest live album ever released. This was The Band in their prime: full of swagger and groove. Hell you only have to listen to their opening gambit of Don’t Do It to hear a perfect example.

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Album of the Week #1: Swell – Well?

Swell - Well? Often in music, my journey – like most I suspect – is quite linear. You get into a particular genre or sound, then proceed to plough that furrow for some time as you soak up all you can. Around 1992 I was very much immersed in the US indie sound of the day – perhaps less around Sub Pop and more other labels like Amphetamine Reptile, Dischord, Touch & Go and Simple Machines among others. Whilst a majority of my friends were largely into Ride and other UK indie, I was all over Fugazi, Jawbox, Helmet, The Jesus Lizard, Girls Against Boys etc.

And yet, as we all know, just once in a long while something comes along that blows your mind. The best ones are never hyped or raved about in the press; they’re the verbal recommendations you got from someone like a secret password. In 1992, it was all about tapes and tape comps getting passed around between friends, where you’d stumble onto a song that stopped you in your tracks and left you thinking “I have GOT to find out more about this lot”.

Enter Swell, whom I stumbled upon in precisely this manner. A friend of a friend had done a stellar tape comp and, as befits the time, I soon wound up with a second or third generation copy. The original compiler of the tape had incredible taste and this comp pulled together all manner of unknown gems and artists that would go on to be recognised as legends. Amongst this though, Swell’s one song leapt out at me. It was called “Get High” and it was from the band’s first, self-titled, album.

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Revisiting the Facebook reach debate

facebook_logoThe debate around Facebook Pages and their organic reach has been ongoing for years now, but it always spikes again when Facebook themselves cop to the fact that organic reach is changing or that their algorithm has changed in some manner.

The latest development is an apparent admission on Facebook’s part that Pages will now see organic reach drop to “between 1-2%”. For what its worth, previous organic reach was around 6%, and two years ago I remember telling bands I worked with that 10% was probably a sign things were going well – anything more than 10% would be a bonus. So, let’s be clear: Facebook organic reach has never been all that great.

Now though as we drop nearer and nearer to a zero figure, it rightly leaves many wondering why they bother. Just last week, Eat24 announced they were deleting their Facebook Page citing the hopeless reach as a factor.

I certainly sympathise. Let’s be clear: I’ve never been of the view that we all deserved unlimited reach with our Pages. However the ideal always felt like a balance of sorts, with day-to-day posts achieving decent reach (provided they were good) and ‘milestone’ posts (which in the context of bands would mean new single/video/album/tour) getting promoted to ensure maximum reach not just to fans but to broader audiences too. There was logic to this: it ensured a good flow of decent content to fans (which in turn kept them on the site, thereby benefiting Facebook as well) whilst also ensuring that Facebook would see money for promoting those key posts to broader audiences.

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Motorik Beats

cover_43432117102008I found myself jonesing for some Motorik beats having played Neu’s mighty Hallogallo. One quick google search for a playlist of some kind landed me on this brilliant article on The Quietus.

Having read it, I noticed that Spotify was – at the time of compiling the playlist back in 2009 – missing some of the tracks. So, I recompiled it to add in the missing songs here.

Its ace – check it out if you can. Quite funny to read a claim that Bowie used motorik beats only to then have the evidence (which is 100% spot-on) presented to me via the playlist. Ditto Ultravox and The Human League!

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Music vs The Web: Have We Reached Social Media’s Tipping Point?

facebook_logoThis article originally appeared on Drowned In Sound.

Its been a bumper year for Facebook, on paper at least. Recently they announced that year-on-year revenues were up 60%, with advertising revenue up to $1.8bn. Their daily active user count rose 25% to 728 million people. At this point then, you’d think it would be high-fives all round, with Wall Street giving Zuckerberg and co a hearty pat on the back.

And yet, shortly after this announcement, more than $18bn was wiped from Facebook’s stock value. The reason? One, short sentence: “We did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens.”

Herein lies the problem for Facebook – and indeed any tech company looking to take the IPO path: when advertising is your core product, at some point the balance will tip, driving users – usually starting with the younger ones – away.

Put simply: in order to make money, Facebook must serve ads. In order to make more money, Facebook must serve even more ads – almost certainly putting them on a collision with a critical mass point, where people burn out completely on ads and, at the very least, stop clicking on them or, as is the current case among teens, find other services to use.

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