I am a London-based Digital PR/Social Media/SEO Consultant, music producer/anorak, deep sea diver, avid cyclist, worldwide traveller and football-loving technology bod! This page functions as a kind of online scrapbook/resource featuring my favourite blog posts and news items as well as my own personal reviews and recommendations in the worlds of music, sport, travel and technology!
Monday, 3 March 2008
Mention the word Underworld to most people and they think one of three things:
1. Are you about to offer me stolen goods?
2. That's that dingy club in Camden full of smelly goths and metalheads innit?
3. Weren't they that dance band who wrote that 'Lager, Lager' tune as part of the Trainspotting soundtrack when I was in the height of my clubbing phase?
Indeed, the latter is true for most of my generation. But what most people don't seem to realise, is the amazing body of work and live success Underworld have achieved since they were first launched into the music spotlight following the success of 'Born Slippy'.
Mention the word Underworld to most people and they think one of three things:
They actually became one of the most crucial electronic acts of the 1990s via an intriguing synthesis of old and new.
The trio's two-man frontline, vocalist Karl Hyde and guitarist Rick Smith, had been recording together since the early-'80s new wave explosion; after two unsuccessful albums released during the late '80s, the pair finally hit it big when they recruited a young DJ called Darren Emerson who hipped to the sound of techno and house. Traditional pop song forms were jettisoned in favor of Hyde's heavily treated vocals, barely there whispering, and surreal wordplay, stretched out over the urban breakbeat trance while Smith's cascade of guitar-shard effects provided a bluesy foil to the stark music. All in all, the decision to go pop was hardly a concession to the mainstream.
The first Underworld album by the trio, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, appeared in late 1993 to a flurry of critical acclaim; the trio then gained U.S. distribution for the album with TVT. Second Toughest in the Infants, the group's sophomore LP, updated their sound slightly and received more praise than the debut. Unlike the first, the LP also sold well, thanks in part to the non-album single "Born Slippy," featured on the soundtrack to the seminal film Trainspotting.
The roots of Underworld go back to the dawn of the 1980s. The group released Doot-Doot in 1983 and Get Us out of Here two years later, but later disintegrated. Hyde worked on guitar sessions for Debby Harry and Prince, then reunited with Smith in 1988 to form an industrial-funk band called Underworld. The pair earned an American contract with Sire and released their debut album, Underneath the Radar, in 1988. Change the Weather followed one year later, even though little attention had been paid to the first. By the end of the decade, Underworld had disappeared also.
As they had several years earlier, Hyde and Smith shed their skin yet again, recruiting hotshot DJ Darren Emerson and renaming themselves Lemon Interrupt. In 1992, the trio debuted with two singles, "Dirty"/"Minneapolis" and "Bigmouth"/"Eclipse," both released on Junior Boys Own Records. 1993's "Rez" and "MMM...Skyscraper I Love You" caused a minor sensation in the dance community. Instead of adding small elements of techno to a basically pop or rock formula (as many bands had attempted with varying success), Underworld treated techno as the dominant force. Their debut album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, was praised by many critics upon release later in 1993 and crossed over to the British pop charts. Darren Emerson, Hyde, Smith impressed many at their concert dates as well; the trio apparently relished playing live, touring Great Britain twice plus Japan, Europe, and the annual summer-festival circuit, where their Glastonbury appearance became the stuff of legend.
Dubnobasswithmyheadman was released in the U.S. in 1995 after being licensed to TVT Records. During the rest of the year, Underworld were relatively quiet, releasing only the single "Born Slippy." Finally, Second Toughest in the Infants appeared in early 1996 to much critical praise. The trio gained no small amount of commercial success later in the year when "Born Slippy" was featured on the soundtrack to Trainspotting, the controversial Scottish film that earned praise from critics all over the globe. Underworld also remained busy with Tomato -- their own graphic-design company responsible for commercials from such high-profile clients as Nike, Sony, Adidas, and Pepsi -- and remixing work for various top artists. Emerson continued to DJ on a regular basis, releasing mix albums for Mixmag! and Deconstruction. Though Underworld's 1999 LP Beaucoup Fish was initially a disappointment, critically and commercially, the band continued to tour the world. The live album Everything, Everything followed in 2000, after which Emerson left to continue his DJ career. A Hundred Days Off, Underworld's first LP as a duo since 1989, was released in mid-2002. One year later, the stopgap compilation 1992-2002 appeared.
By 2005, the duo had recorded new material for the soundtrack of the film Breaking and Entering. Their first "proper" full-length since 2002, Oblivion with Bells, appeared in 2007.
This weekend's gig at the Roundhouse was truly memorable for me in many ways - not because of the venue, the amazing live sound techniques and Abelton jams, all the classic tunes they played, the fantastic stage set they choreographed, Rick Hyde's silver suit and chicken dancing but the crowd who were probably one of the most energetic and up-for-it crowds I've ever seen at a gig - mainly early-30-something's who were there for a nostalgic time-travel journey back to those heady early-raving days. I also caught up with an old friend I hadn't seen in 10 years! Click the YouTube link below to see a mobile-phone video of the gig:
Long live Live Dance Music!
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
LONDON (Reuters) - An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 shook parts of Britain on Wednesday but officials said there were no reports of anyone being killed or serious damage.
"(The quake) was really bad. I was fast asleep and woke up and the room was shaking," Jemma Harrison, who lives in Manchester, told the BBC.
Soon after the quake occurred the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the magnitude at 4.7, but the British Geological Survey later raised the figure to 5.3 before settling on 5.2.
The USGS said on its Web site the quake's epicentre was 127 miles north of London and 50 miles east of Sheffield.
"We have no reports of injuries (in London)," said a police spokesman in the capital.
Police in Lincolnshire said some people had reported minor damage to their homes.
The quake was the largest to hit Britain since one with a magnitude of 5.4 in 1984.
"This is a significant earthquake for the UK and will have been widely felt across England and Wales," said seismologist Brian Baptie of the British Geological Survey.
(Editing by Ralph Gowling)
Busted had eight top 10 hits between 2002 and 2004
Ki McPhail and Owen Doyle say they wrote songs with James Bourne and Matt Willis when the group formed in 2001.
But they claim they were forced to sign away their rights after "threats" and "undue pressure" when they were sacked from the band later that year.
The songs include Year 3000 and What I Go To School For, which went on to be huge hits for the now-defunct group.
Mr McPhail and Mr Doyle were in a band called The Termites with Mr Bourne and Mr Willis between January and October 2001, the High Court in London heard.
'In the dark'
They also wrote songs including Sleeping with the Light On and Psycho Girl together during that time, the claimants said.
That March, the four signed a deal with a professional management company, changing their name to Busted the following month.
In October, however, Mr McPhail and Mr Doyle say they were kicked out of the group and coerced into signing an agreement that released their claim to the group's material.
The pair said they were not told record label Universal liked the songs and had offered Busted a lucrative record deal when they signed the agreement.
They are now seeking to set aside that agreement on the basis of undue influence and misrepresentation.
Tim Penny, representing the pair, said: "The pressure placed on the claimants consisted of repeated advice and threats.
He said they were told "unless they released their claims in relation to the group members' songs and in particular the four songs, they would be sued, Ki McPhail's parents would lose their home and the claimants would never work in the industry again".
Singer Charlie Simpson subsequently joined the group, remaining with them until they split up in 2005.The case continues at the High Court before Mr Justice Morgan. The hearing is expected to last 15 days.
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
I was lucky enough to go and see the screening of U2's new 3D movie at the iMax last week and while I love their music and respect them primarily as song writers and masters of their craft who have worked tirelessly over the years to get to the dizzy heights they have reached, I couldn't help but think that their PR company came up with this whole concept in order to further capitalize on the huge fortunes they have already accrued and mainly through lack of other ideas. Whilst it was fantastic to see and hear 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' in 3D sound and vision - I still feel that creating such media hype around a video such as this which in all honesty, wasn't that much better than any previous live videos they've released, plus having to put up with Bono getting all 'up-close and personal' considering he's a fat fucker these days, a tad bit desperate and cringeworthy. One thing you can always rely on with U2 is that they will always deliver great songs and a solid live performance. Here is NME's take on things:
U2 go supersize in new 3-D movie
|Their live performances became legendary. Such was the show in Manchester, in June 1976, when they performed to a crowd of just 42 people. This show became one of the most important and the most mythologized live acts in rock history, since among the audience were many people who are today significant for the punk history, including Anthony H. Wilson (founder of Factory Records), Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Adam Ant, Morrissey, Mick Hucknall... If it were not for this band, many musicians would not have existed. Often, these musicians didn't even have a direct musical connection to the Sex Pistols' initial three-minute blasts of rage. Bands which have been influenced by the Sex Pistols include The Clash, The Offspring, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Nirvana, NOFX, Oasis, Green Day... When Johnny Rotten joined the original line-up, which comprised Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, the band played simple rock & roll, but Rotten instantly and arrogantly started singing about anarchy, violence, fascism and apathy. In this way, he provided the band's conceptual direction � to oppose the British Royal Family and authority as much as possible. Soon afterwards, the band released the singles "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen", and following was the record "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols". BBC refused to broadcast the second single, and Matlock was fired. According to popular legend, it happened because he liked The Beatles. Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious, a street kid, a guy who could not play bass, self-appointed ultimate Sex Pistols fan... He was recruited on account of his punk attitude and his look. The manager of the Sex Pistols Malcolm McLaren explained: "If Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude." Sid Vicious died from a heroin overdose on 2nd February 1979. The Sex Pistols disbanded soon after the release of their first and only album "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols", and only 14 days after the beginning of the American tour. In 1996, the Sex Pistols reunited for their 20th anniversary, and since then, they have occasional live performances. When asked about their unexpected reunion, Rotten stated: "We have found a common cause, and it's your money". www.sex-pistols.net www.myspace.com/philsingleton|
Saturday 16/02/08 The Smashing Pumpkins @ The O2 Arena, London
Triumphal returns have been famed since biblical days. But it spoils the fun too if the returnee is just that too damn cock sure of themselves. The Smashing Pumpkins are a super successful band, and The O2 is a super successful arena. But the super hugeness of both of these things are dwarfed in comparison by Billy Corgan’s super-sized ego. Playing well is not a challenge for this reformed Pumpkins line up and it would be easy to decorate the entire two-and-a-half hour set list with pure gold without ever having to play a weak song. Yet for Corgan, tastefully wearing a silver patchwork skirt seemingly stolen from a robot hooker, tonight is about playing what he wants rather than the audience. It takes three uninspired songs from their early days and most recent album Zeitgeist before there is a real sense of the evening getting going with the formidable ‘Tonight Tonight’.
From there it’s onto the song that launched a thousand alt. bands, ‘Mayoniase’. Over 15 years since its inception, it still sounds seminal enough to launch another thousand more bands. Now moving into this mid-section of the set list and being bombarded with hit after hit, it’s almost a return to the glory days. Juxtaposing the energetic new material such as ‘Come on (Let’s Go)’ with the dainty ‘Perfect’ illustrates the diversity of this band when in its full swing. And followed by the shining jewels ‘Today’, ‘Stand Inside Your Love’ and ‘Ava Adore’, it’s a feeling of sheer elation to be a witness to this rock spectacular. The usually dour Corgan even cracks jokes before ‘Drown’, then hits the audience with a surreal yet enticing rendition of Girls Aloud’s ‘Call the Shots’ before a before a heart breaking solo acoustic rendition of ‘1979’. Truly this is the best the Pumpkins have ever been.
Except this isn’t really the Pumpkins, and its hard to not notice the stark contrast between the original members in their casual attire compared with new bassist Ginger Reyes and new guitarist Jeff Schroeder’s bright red uniformed barbs. No, this is still Corgan’s show as it always has been, and having got the formalities of the hits out of the way, Corgan moves on to perform the ego boosters. And while good to hear outings for ‘The Everlasting Gaze’ and rarity ‘Cash Car Star’, the weakness of ‘Daydream’ and ‘Wound’ at the end of the set is confounded only by the epic pointlessness of ‘United States’ – easily the weakest track on Zeitgeist and as close to the Pumpkins’ good material as man is to the moon.
A final snub comes in the choice of encore. Having endured 10 minutes of guitar wankery and feedback nonsense, an expectant audience hopes of so far unplayed gems like ‘Zero’ or ‘Cherub Rock’. Instead this melodrama is concluded with ‘Sugar Kisses’ as a tribute to Echo and the Bunnymen, leaving fans mixed in their feelings to what they have witnessed tonight.
Such a big gig as this was only ever going to go Corgan’s way. And looking back at the set list written down this was an evening of anthems. But as with most the new material from these new Pumpkins, something just doesn’t fit right about the night. On reflection there can only be one final question: who wanted to relive the glory days more – 20,000 fans or Billy Corgan? I’m almost certain the answer to that is the man at the end of the spotlight