Category Archives: Speculations

My first… Digital album

Further to my recent blog post on CD’s Vs. Digital music, I recently made a startling discovery.

I have never bought a digital album or song in my life.

I sort of guessed I had at some point, given I listen to so much digital music, but I definitely haven’t. It’s all streaming services or ripped albums from my own CD collection.

Now, I have kept a keen eye on the bootlegs for the recent Pearl Jam Euro Tour where I seen them live for the first time in Manchester. I am super keen to source the bootleg for the performance I was at. This is a rare artefact.

Looking up the prices though.. I have worked my way through my decision making process and decided to purchase the digital version of the recording.

Why? It’s cheaper. Markedly cheaper, as the delivery from the United States elevates the cost considerably. I would no doubt rip the CD immediately and rarely listen to the CD version of the performance anyhow, merely enjoying the physicality of the CD itself. Money is tight just now, and I’m moving flat so I have more room (presently small flat plus clutter, mainly DVD’s and CD’s really).

I think this is a ration decision making process, as reluctant as I am to ‘shift’ to digital music. This is not a major studio album release, it’s an official bootleg. I can live with that.

Additionally, I could burn the digital copy and make a funky personalised sleeve with increased value.

I’m still sort of amazed I’ve went so long without buying a digital song. That it has come down to this, a live official bootleg.. I find amusing.

As mentioned previously, I am warming to the concept of a clutter-free flat. This is the only real advantage I can settle on for digital music over CD.

For now, a great live performance of the Riot Act cut ‘Thumbing my way’

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Why go to live concerts?

File this entry in the ‘should-really-be-in-the-musicpiracyresearchblog-website’.

In a previous blog entry over on livemusicexchange, I commented on the sort of decision making behind purchasing concert tickets.

I’ve since done some reading on this, where the paper mentioned (Earl, P.E. (2001). Simon’s travel theorem and the demand for live music. Journal of Economic Psychology, 22(3), 335-358)  has been cited quite alot in different literature on the topic.

Since found some other great articles including: Black, G.C., Fox, M.A. and Kochanowski, P. (2007). Concert Tour Success in North America: An Examination of the Top 100 Tours from 1997 to 2005. Popular Music and Society, 30(2), 149-172 which is worthy of attention, for those of you with access.

For now, consider the volume of annoyances at live concerts.

Too busy. Too warm. Why is that guy on his phone and not watching the band!? It smells. I can’t see. The sound is awful. I bought a pint, and now I have no money left for winter. I am stuck to the floor. I’ve missed the last train and need to get a taxi. Who just slapped my arse. That guy is singing over the top of the band. I can’t hear them. How come I always get searched when I go to a gig? Why did I wear my nice shoes? They are getting wrecked. I’ve lost my friends.

None of these include the principal annoyance: they can be really expensive.

Why then, with so many negatives that are beyond your control, and at such a great financial cost, do music fans continue to go to the live concerts?

Not going to speculate on this here, working on that elsewhere. Would rather aim for that elusive thing that is poignancy by merely posing the question to you.

Note: spelling out your intention to be poignant minimises the intended effect by up to 80%.

Comprehensive entry on live music to follow on the musicpiracyresearchblog.

P.S. I am inadvertently working my way one entry at a time to solely working on the musicpiracyresearchblog instead of this one.

Busy boy.

Twitter and all that @meltedpigeon..

Guest blog post on Live Music Exchange: Anatomy of a gig

Click the Link or copy the following link into your browser http://livemusicexchange.org/blog/anatomy-of-a-gig-2-roger-waters-the-wall-steven-brown/ to read a guest blog post on a live performance I saw last year in London: Roger Waters performing The Wall.

In the post I go into more detail than your average concert review, discussing the business of live music along with notions of value, authenticity and nostalgia. The post concludes on motivations on live music attendance, concluding that technology may not necessarily be a good thing..

Please also check out the website also. A great resource for anyone interested in live music.

Enjoy!

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Praise

TDKR is awesome. But not a conventional kind of awesome. It’s BIG. Inception big (I was actually waiting for Leonardo Di Caprio to wake up..).

If the first film was about Bruce Wayne, the second about Batman, then this one is definitely about Gotham. Gotham finally finds itself standing up for itself, which only in hindsight is more satisfying than the Batman taking care of business again. Initially, I was a bit miffed that so little screen time is given to the Batman.

The origin of Bane is fantastic and this is my favourite incarnation of Catwoman. The stellar cast are all put to good use, with new characters being particularly exciting, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of Blake.

The action sequences are immersive, there’s alot of heart (thanks to another wonderful performance by Michael Caine) and a genuinely satisfying ending. The film also does a great job of tying things together from the previous films.

It’s more like a Bond movie, than anything else, complete with Bond women. The climax is also very Bond, where the structure of the film more or less follows the recent blockbuster format of building up to an epic final hour. The most Bond-like elements of the film are the themes. Bond movies always deal with the zeitgest of the times, the big worries. TDK has often been considered an allegory on the war on terror, where TDKR very much works in themes surrounding the bankers crisis/recession along with climate change/sustainability issues. There’s also hints towards privacy issues.

Bane’s plan (cannot say much without spoiling) is perhaps the most terrifying imaginable, as it is within the realms of possibility in the real world with such a great imbalance of power/wealth. Oppression – resistance – freedom. Chaos into order.

Like Bond, the movies are only as good as the villains and therein lies a main issue for me (see below).

I could go on with the positives (think ‘cellphone’ and ‘rope’), where it ranks highly on my top IMAX cinema experiences.

But it’s not all unconditional praise.

Criticisms

There are a few plotholes and the emotional centre of the film is lost entirely with Alfred absent for much of the film, where the middle section was so grand it was hard to follow. There are a lot of characters here, with various threads all weaving into the overall story (but it does all come together). Like I said, Batman is absent for alot of the film which is difficult to swallow, given it’s a Batman movie. I could not engage with the character of the Bane at all, without being able to see his mouth. His voice doesn’t particularly sound like it’s coming from his mouth (which it won’t be), which is an issue. Not convinced about his fate being befitting either (can’t say much here, in spoiler-free form). Conceptually, the opening of the film is also equivalent to TDK.

I could go on, but it would be petty points. I’ve said my bit.

Conclusion

No film is without it’s flaws, even TDK. I do however believe that on repeat viewings, I will be able to come to terms with the negatives, all of which really stem from the fact Nolan is the fucking man and made a massive movie with balls, relying on his audience being up for the challenge. I can respect that.

A satisfying conclusion to the series and one I’m keen to watch again.

And again.

SUPER SPOILERS-GALORE REVIEW

 

 

 

 

 

 

As per above, with the following additions.

How the hell did Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham?

Why spell out Blakes’ name as Robin? And after continuous promises that the character would not appear in the franchise? It was a Marvel-franchise sort of in-joke. Early on in the film when Blake revealed his backstory I was already putting together the pieces of the puzzle for myself. This could be the next Batman. Later, he was a natural and fearless leader with some of the exchanges between Batman and, erm, Robin, being very, well, Batman and Robin. Not sure I needed to hear his name.

Not happy with how Bane died. So much was made of his physical prowess over Batman that from a writing standpoint, the only satisfying outcome would be for Batman to beat him to death. Not for Catwoman to shoot him. That’s just not a satisfying arc. Kill Bill made the same mistake, letting Elle Driver kill Bud, not the Bride.

I anticipated Catwoman to be a romantic interest as there is always one, but it was unnecessary. The romance was always between Bruce and Alfred, never more so than in TDKR. At least little was made of it, not woven deep into the fabric of the movie. This is a plus and minus, as it makes the conclusion a little underdeveloped. Not sure what Catwomans backstory was either, to feel Bruce could let it go. I guess she is match for him in a way. I bought it.

As mentioned before, I think Alfreds absence for much of the film was a bad call. It did however, really help give the climax a really big punch. My missus of course called it, because she is good at that. I didn’t. It was perfect. I was expecting an Inception style shot, where I think Nolan used this expectation to his advantage to manipulate the audience and then give them the shot they wanted to see, after the pause. Well played, Chris.

My missus also called Marion Cotillard as the villain. I did not see that coming. Was too distracted by Matthew Modine in a minor role. Another great sleight of hand, but all too late in the film for me.

‘3 months later’. Really?

Dr. Crane. Why?

Auto-pilot. Genius. Also, didn’t see that coming. Well played, Chris.

Fan of Luther? Blink and you’ll miss it: Ripley is in it! So is Tom Conti, who is fantastic in this film.

Bruce Wayne got laid. Awesome. Also very Bond-like, sleeping with the (at the time unknown) enemy.

I could continue with minor criticisms but the main overall problem for me was the middle section being so grand it was hard to follow. I like to think with repeat viewings I will learn to get over any difficulties I had where I am still looking out for more on Catwomans backstory. I feel like I missed something.

Looking ahead, two key questions emerge:

Will Batmans identity be revealed?

Will Robin become the new Caped Crusader?

It was a bit strange to have so many people know Batmans identity in this film and not make a big thing out of it, given it was such a big part of TDK. We know Gordon doesn’t like to keep his secrets hidden.. what do you think?

If the answer is no, and I like to think it is, then it links nicely onto Robin adopting the persona, so that Batman can be immortal, as per the League of Shadows training and continuous mentions throughout the movie about what it means to be a hero, what Batman can be etc.

Overall, I feel satisfied. I wan’t to see it again. But not on the second row of an IMAX screening. Looking up for 3 hours is nae fun.

4 out of 5, if I had such a system.

*

Will make no mention of the US shooting in this review, as I believe it to be too early to fully understand what went on. Tragic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

*

13 minute preview below:

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CD’s Vs. Me

I recently posted about a CD walltile project I am working on where I hope to have an album on my wall for every year since I was born, ideally by a different artist every year.

Fair enough.

Now I take the time to think about it.. the digital revolution is in full swing where a recent IFPI report outlines how digital music revenues to record companies has grown by 8% globally since last year, where some markets including in the USA deriving over 50% of their profits from digital mediums.

Note, this is outlined in more detail in a blog post on my recently advertised Music Piracy Research Blog if you are interested in this sort of content.

Point being for now.. what will happen first: CD’s dying or ME dying?

I like to think CD’s will continue, for their aesthetic and collector values if not for their audio quality. The way things are going though.. it’s a tough one to call.

A surprising finding for me doing some research on this is that mp3’s are considered more valuable than hard copies, due largely to their convenience (think: no clutter).

The idea of a house with no books, CD’s or DVD’s taking over is indeed quite glamorous. Particularly if, like me, your accommodation is on the small side.

What do you think?

Do you think the CD will persevere?

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Sport and technology

Is technology being used effectively in live sports coverage?

I must admit, I love Hawkeye with the BBC coverage of live Snooker. Hawkeye maps the table and swoops in to show you what’s what from the point of view of the player. It’s useful, in that it clears up debate on whether or not a player may or may not be snookered or have a free ball, for example.

In the recent World Championship, they also started to include stats on how far the cueball has travelled to hit the object ball, and the distance between the object ball and pocket. This is not quite as interesting or spectacular in my mind, where it does, in fairness, facilitate discussion on how good a shot was. The further the distance between the cueball and object ball, the more difficult it is to gain good backspin. In this regard, it more or less does just what the shot speed statistics in tennis does, which is often quoted and always interesting.

We will call this one a justified addition to the technology canon of the BBC commentators, where nothing will ever beat Dennis Taylors amazing digital mapping of where he thinks the balls will go. Where he is ALWAYS right.

In Football however, I have noticed some ridiculous efforts to make the half-time pee-break an event in itself. Rewinding on Sky and Sci-Fi Subbuteo recreations on ESPN.. Why bother? It’s enough to make your head hurt. Just wheesht for 15 minutes and show us good goals or bad tackles. The half-time break wasn’t in itself broken. Don’t try to fix it.

Everyone loves sports statistics but I feel lately that broadcasters have been overusing technology to try and make events more exciting, with often counter-intuitive results. As Charlie Brooker has often remarked, news broadcasters with their over-the-top charts achieve little else but confusion.

I propose technology is better used in sports coverage by attaching tiny cameras to darts, which are then thrown directly into the faces of celebrities, chosen by use of the red button.

Just a thought.

Seasons

Been talking recently about how it seems that there’s only two distinguishable seasons now in the UK: Summer and Winter. Alternatively: Cold and less cold.

And with that, I bring you my favourite summer and winter albums.

Summer/Warm

Siamese Dream, Smashing Pumpkins

Nothing’s Shocking, Jane’s Addiction

Superunknown, Soundgarden

Vs., Pearl Jam

Odelay, Beck

Summer for me, means guitars. With honourable mentions  to The Chemical Brothers however, particularly Surrender in this instance and every single Clutch album (especially Blast Tyrant), Pixies album, Gorillaz album (particularly Demon Days).. and My Bloody Valentines’ Loveless.

Winter/Cold

Kid A, Radiohead

Homogenic, Bjork

For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver

f#a#, Godspeed You Black Emperor

( ), Sigur Ros

Winter for me, means electronic/minimalism. With honourable mentions to Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV, Pink Floyds’ Wish You Were Here and Portisheads third.

I should also note, I often listen to ‘summer’ albums in the winter time to get me geared up for summer and tend to listen to ‘winter’ albums when I am travelling, particularly on planes.

Having a look through my I-Pod here, there are a greater number of ‘summer’ bands and ‘winter’ bands, where it’s hard to imagine listening to The White Stripes or Queens of the Stone Age, for example, in any other setting than a lively optimistic one.

I’m wondering if there’s any structural foundation for these albums appearing ‘warm’ and ‘cold’, such as tempo. A careful glance at the first and second half of the Sigur Ros record listed above lends some support to this idea. The Icelandic quartets untitled record is purposefully split into two halves, broken up by silence. The most obvious difference between the songs on the first and second half is the tempo, where the tracks on the second half are also around twice as long.

Listen to it carefully. It’s a rare insight into the how the structural components of songs affect our emotional responses, by a band who successfully engage audiences.

No need for experiments.

But I digress..

Author note: I should really have just made this a music blog. It seems to be the only thing I take pleasure writing about.

And with that in mind, find below is an exciting photograph of Sigur Ros in action, live.

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