“Everyone is speechless from afar”
Frankie valet, Nakid 2020
“By removing art from capitalism while allowing capitalism to thrive elsewhere unfettered we are in danger of removing any benefit of speaking in the first place so the artists may as well remain speechless. From afar, I guess. Yeah, that works”
This Blog, This Post, just now
(it was suggested that these pieces should link to the album at the start rather than the end. So here it is, now please stop sending me those abusive text messages)
I’m old enough (late, late, late late* twenties) to remember a career in arts being at least a quasi viable life choice. Nobody would kid themselves that they would make it to be ‘Goo Goo Dolls Big’, where you would earn enough money to finance a daily trip to Mars to wave stacks of Molybdenums in the seediest strip clubs of Tharsis’s Northern Edge and get yourself some of that sweet, sweet Martian poontang (John Rzeznik really lived the dream in that sense), but you’d be able to comfortably exist composing your Romo paeans to Garry Flitcroft without too many people getting on your case. You’d likely do a handful of Peel Sessions before you even released that song about his fringe. I mean, sure, people would still get on your back about getting a ‘real job’, but that’s just because back then a ‘real job’ meant a job that you absolutely hated and that made you seriously consider taking a sledgehammer to your knees each morning just as an excuse not to subject yourself to one more day to the joyless and soul destroying churn of capitalism. Y’know, the same as today. You created something, there were more options for getting people to experience that thing you created, and if people liked that thing enough they would pay you a bit of money to experience it whenever they want. Maybe they’d never been able to hear it, but it had received such good reviews from the reams of art review magazines (that they’d already paid £2 for) that people decide you’re worth the risk and buy your Flitcroft Fantasies CD single backed with a Groove Armada remix and acoustic cover of Lisa Loeb. Hopefully they’d buy the next thing you created as well, maybe the next thing after that. Maybe not the next thing after that, because let’s face it that was absolute pants, but the next thing after that would be hailed as a return to form so they’d jump back on board.
(*Late. Late. late, late, late. Like, really fucking late, alright?)
Then the internet became more of a thing, and it basically ballsed up every presumption and business practice that the world had previously taken for granted. Suddenly, everything was available all the time and (essentially) for free. “Don’t worry! Don’t worry! No no no no no no no! Don’t worry! Don’t fuckin’ worry! We got this!” said the Technoidealists*, “We’ll work this all out- we got this!!- and there’ll actually be more opportunities in this new digital utopia** once we’ve just sorted shit out, yeah??”. And it really was a utopia. For the consumers, who now could enjoy all the shit they could ever dream of with only the occasional irritation of having to skip past a Skillshare advert. It was a utopia for the huge companies who charge people to access this unlimited chasm of artistic beauty/Green Day albums and continue to make hideous amounts of money off work they had no fucking hand in creating. As for the artists? Sorry, I forgot we were in 2020- as for the ‘content creators’? I’ll leave it to Kevin Kelly (not that one) to explain:
(*I might have made that term up, or they might have been the name of the bad guys in Johnny Mnemonic, not sure. Rather fittingly, The Technoidealists actually did a Peel Session back in 1986. John Peel described the performance as “a perfectly legitimate mode of expression”.)
(**New Digital Utopia didn’t do a Peel Session until 1997)
“[It’s] famously good news for two classes of people: a few lucky aggregators, such as Amazon and Netflix, and 6 billion consumers. Of those two, I think consumers earn the greater reward from the wealth hidden in infinite niches.
But the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artists’ work, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales”
So what do you do if you’re an artist who actually wants to make a living from your art? Since I started charging people £699.99 to read each post on this blog, I’ve been able to quit my job and work on it full time*, but I appreciate that method isn’t feasible for many creators. There’s Patreon (covered by The Guardian but also covered way more entertainingly by me in my Jherek Bischoff review. Few boobs on that post, so definitely worth a look), which at least allows for people to try and ensure that artists receive some recompense and attempts to ensure that art remains worth making. There’s BandCamp, of course, which is maybe the greatest site on the internet and where roughly 97.4% of all the albums you read about on this site were purchased from and should be purchased from by you!! These are both Good Things. You could also post your work to feetbeans.org and offer to send everyone who purchases your work a high definition photo of you pouring beans over your naked feet. This is also good idea, and has obviously worked very well for Big Thief over the past few years.
(*Well… I only need to work part time now. By which I mean I get to leave early on Wednesdays. Sometimes. And by ‘early’ I mean, like, four o’clock. Or six. I think we just call it ‘early’ whenever I leave)
But how do you even get to the stage where people want to support you on Patreon or buy your releases from BandCamp or frame photos of tomato juice seeps erotically through the gap between your third and fourth toe? How do you get exposure? In a world where everything is available all the time, how do you convince the wider public that you’re more worthy of their time than, say, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space‘ (the greatest record of all time and available now on Spotify!!)? How do you find a little bit of love to take the pain away??
That’s where pricks like me come in. I run a music blog. I mean, occasionally about wrestling*, but mostly about music. I do try and highlight a lot of underground music that people might not otherwise be exposed to, which has previously been appreciated by smaller acts such as Govier, Ursula’s Cartridges, Pink Ranger, Drowse and Christine & the Queens. Yeah, I know, I still give the album of the year to someone like Beyonce or Nick Cave who hardly need the exposure, but still… This has meant that a surprising amount** of artists actually send me their work to write about. Unfortunately, stuff that gets sent to me is almost always absolutely fucking terrible***, and for me to honestly review it would mean just slagging off somebody who reached out to me in obvious desperation. Anyway, I get people sending me songs to review- which I’ve never done- and albums released last year, which kind of goes against the blog’s USP. What am I expected to do anyway, review the album?? Aside from my end of year list, I’ve reviewed exactly two albums on this blog- I was excited enough to hear what direction Govier was going in last year, and also the american poetry club record. Because the singer asked me to on Twitter.
(*The Royal Rumble 2020 was freaking amazing by the way. There you go. That’s my review)
(**I think, honestly, that a ‘surprising amount’ would be any more than ‘zero’)
(***If you’re reading this and you’ve previously sent me some music of yours to listen to, don’t worry, all the other artists who sent me stuff in were terrible, you’re great, I just, erm, didn’t find time to write about it, yeah?)
It’s not quite as lame as it sounds- I had previously named american poetry club‘s last record as one of my favourite records of 2018, so Jordan Weinstock already knew I liked their music and that their polite offer for me to listen to the album before it was released was unlikely to spark condescending laughter. They thought I’d like it and would like to review it. I did, and I did. Jordan also co-runs a record label, It Takes Time Records, and wondered if I’d be interested in reviewing one of the new albums on the record they were particularly pleased with. I, of course, told them to fuck off, that I was far too busy these days trying to reach level 112 on Fortnite. However, they then promised they would buy me 2’800 V-Bucks if I agreed, so I decided to do it. Y’know, for the love of art. They were introducing me to a new act that I hadn’t previously heard of and allowing me to finally buy that Metal Masq bundle that I’ve had my eye on. It was a wonderful example of modern capitalism: they expose me, I expose the band, I get to bash noobs over the head with a spiked mace.
Frankie valet* though (I knew I’d get to them eventually) are absolutely amazing. They’re a perfect example of why legitimate art needs to be better supported- they don’t fit easily enough into any niche or genre for straightforward commercial pigeonholing, none of these songs would easily soundtrack Marvel movies or straightforwardly slip onto a Spotify playlist. They don’t sound anyway near enough like other shit already out there to be easily categorised and pushed onto the less cognizant members of public. They’re a ‘rock band’ in the same way that ‘Ulysses‘ is a collection of words committed to paper- that is simply the very base upon which the art is worked. You could perhaps refer to it as ’emo’ if you were feeling particularly unimaginative, but deigning something ’emo’ suggests that it deals in large, basic and empty emotions and intense seriousness that can only ever possibly be communicated through strained grits and underneath tightly shut eyelids, but ‘Waterfowl’ is far more astute and tender than that. It also demonstrates a sense of humour occasionally, which is pretty much taboo in emo music. It might be ’emo’ in the same way that the Hotelier are emo, as in it might make categorisation a little easier when you’re trying to recommend them to your gran, but it barely covers the very basics of the directions they take their art. It’s kinda… punk… sometimes… I guess… Neutral Milk Hotel…?
(*yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s stylised as a capitalised first name and smaller case surname. I’m past questioning this bullshit by now. I think it’s a pun though, so that’s an automatic +⭐)
‘Waterfowl’ is an urgent album, but never sounds rushed or intense, like Frankie valet have something they really need to tell you, but are far too polite to make a scene. There are so many places the album takes you in its 28 minutes that it can be a little dizzying at times. This is probably the album’s main flaw- Frankie valet are obviously so keen to incorporate as many facets into their sound as possible that the record can on occasion sound a little overloaded with ideas to the hindrance of a more unified sound. But then, fuck it, then you hear something like Wilt or Engulfed or Try not to think– some of 2020’s absolute best songs- and you find yourself forgiving the band pretty quickly.
This, this, this- fucking this, motherfuckers!- is proof that great art and brilliant creators still exist within the digital capitalistic mess that we currently find ourselves in. They’re not being properly rewarded or appreciated, but with the help of people as dedicated as Jordan Weinstock, as talented at Frankie valet, as mouthy as me and fans as willing to support good music as fuckin’ you, stuff this good may still be allowed to flourish. Buy it, yeah? I give it a massive four waterfowls out of five.
So that’s the secret of getting me to review your music. V-Bucks. Oh, and making sure the album’s incredible. But mainly the V-Bucks.
Green Day are fucking awful though. Like, historically, an absolute waste of time. If you like Green Day you’re either a sexually frustrated thirteen year old boy, or far too in touch with the sexual frustrations of thirteen year old boys. Sorry, I just felt I didn’t make that clear enough. I wasn’t joking about ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ either.