Some songs make you stare into space ruefully. Some make you close your eyes, with raised arms and a smile remembering a past night. Some make you swagger down the street like you’re being followed by a soundtrack, your attitude strutting to the break.
It’s now 30 years since Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons met at university before DJing as The 237 Turbo Nutters, revolutionising the art of the remix, inventing a sub-genre and becoming one of the biggest electronic acts of all time.
Back in 2000, Nick and I started a music site called badvibes. It was designed to be like the music press we understood growing up. We tried to cover everything and felt that we had to dislike stuff and be snarky in order to validate the reviews of stuff we loved. You know… like the NME did. We were determined not to be fanboyish and not to be like ‘blogs’ - the new craze that looked to us (or me, Nick has always been more forward thinking) like online diaries. Why do I care about what YOU think - what’s your qualification? Of course, they didn’t need a qualification. That was the point.
It was fun while it lasted, but we struggled to get enough good writers for free and you know what… we were missing the point anyway. The two decent UK music sites at the time were Playlouder which seemed to follow a similar ethos to us, and Drowned In Sound.
Drowned in Sound was different. It had a secret ingredient, one that we lacked but was the USP of the new blogs - visible enthusiasm. Started by Sean Adams, DiS never seemed to lose sight of the fact that they were music lovers writing about what they loved, not music journalists acting like your cooler big brother which, with hindsight, is what the mainstream music press had become. Consequently the writing was excellent precisely because they weren’t just copying what they’d been brought up on like we were. Music journalism had always been a man’s world and it had picked up some awful male tendencies - ego and competitiveness. DiS managed to avoid this. They weren’t your mate who knows everything about music, keeps track of the stuff he got into before you, and is sneery about what other people like. They just loved music and wanted you to love it too. They embodied the inclusivity and democracy that was pushing the internet forward.
Over the years, it’s always been a nice place to hang out - the content was entertaining and their message boards were a super friendly and informative place to chat, and remain so now, long long long after all the other message boards have been taken down. I went there expecting to find out about new bands. I didn’t expect to be educated about social issues. Much like the NME taught people about anti fascism, I learned about third wave feminism and trans rights there long before they would otherwise have entered my world.
Today Sean announced that the site is effectively ceasing to operate…
“Drowned in Sound will not be commissioning new reviews or features for the foreseeable future.
Our forums will remain (thank you for all the donations).
We will publish some pieces and festival reviews that we’ve committed to on our Medium blog (subscribe for alerts), plus I’ll continue to do some music recommendations on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’m also really enjoying doing the weekly recommendations via Facebook Messenger, so I’ll continue doing that for the foreseeable future.”
Sean seemed to have spent years exhausting every avenue trying to keep it going, long after others would have thrown in the towel. So while this isn’t a surprise, it’s still a sad day.
We look forward to what Sean does next and from all at Beat Rehab - thanks Drowned in Sound and thanks Sean.
The best opening line we’ve heard this year and even though the Californians are nearing their mid twenties on their fourth album, it demonstrates an adolescent anger that pops up throughout, with an impetuousness that could only come from the heart.
The album’s eponymous opener and lead single is ostensibly about the difference between the news reporting of a protest and the reality on the ground. It’s all well phrased sloganeering and it’s about getting shit done for a society that would rather they just shut their punk mouths and let the grown ups keep on fucking everything up. It’s direct to the degree that it namechecks Milo Yiannopoulis. This is every bit as clunky as it sounds, and it’s great.
Berkeley’s on Fire sounds like a punk band who haven’t been listening to much punk. The percussion mixes live and programmed drums and that approach is extended to the whole mix. Second lead singer Max Becker sounds almost electronic and provides a needed break from brother Cole’s more traditional West coast anglo-punk voice. The noughties loom large on Berkeley’s on Fire - there’s a groove to some of these songs that doesn’t sound far from punk funk and disco beats. Even the most straight up rock moment, Hellboy, has more than a passing resemblance to the new wave showman rock of The Hives.
Berkeley’s on Fire comfortably crosses over into something very accessible without feeling forced or cynical, and is our album of the week.
For this week’s Therapy Session, we’re going to have to insist you get off our couch. We don’t want to hear about your problems, and your childhood trauma is of little interest. This week, we insist you dance. Tonight the sweaty half naked gyrating idiot is you. This week’s guest curator is the terribly named One Day Travelcard Wanker. Their set of techno is something a bit special and, sportingly, they’ve embraced our awful limitation of using the Spotify crossfader to great effect. It starts off slowly so you can find your spot on the floor before the hard stuff kicks in, with regular gentle bits so you can catch your breath, close your eyes or have a slash. Please listen, it’s massive.
Curator: One Day Travelcard Wanker
Crossfade setting: 6 seconds
Sounds: Techno, Acid
Jake Phelps, skateboarder and editor of Thrasher magazine passed away on Thursday, leaving behind no wife or children, but the world’s skateboarding community.
Possibly the greatest advocate for the sport, Phelps’ enthusiasm for skateboarding ran at a 1000 miles per hour, just like the way he talked. He could be relied on to be sounding off about all the legendary moments in skateboarding. You’d know the spot, you’d know the skater, but he knew the trick and how many tries - usually because he was there. And so was Thrasher - pushing skateboarding forward, daring it to be bigger, higher, larger and more creative
Phelps and his huge personality ultimately brought Thrasher to the global brand it is today without compromising its integrity.
People from the skateboarding world have lined up to pay homage to a man who lived and breathed skateboarding for 40 years. Former pro skater and founder of skate shoe and apparel company Sole Technology, Pierre-André Senizergues stated
“Jake not only loved skateboarding, but he also shared it with everyone. He did not ask for anything except the most important thing, be the best skater you can be for our skate culture.”
In addition to a passion for hill bombing, he also loved his music and regularly played gigs with is band Bad Shit. Back in 2014, Thrasher published a playlist of some of his favourites, which we’ve recreated below.
Nine years into her rapping game, and still only 25 years old, Simbi Ajokawo has just dropped one of the best albums of 2019 thus far. “But we’re only two months into the year, stop using meaningless hyberbole!” we hear you cry. OK, fair point. Is it acceptable if we make it the first album in our ‘album of the week’ feature? “Well, OK but there will have to be an album every week, or you’ll invalidate the whole concept” you rather pushily respond. And that’s the story of how you forced us to write an album of the week column.
Simz has stepped up on Grey Area. We’ve always liked her wordplay but her previous albums failed to connect. That changed last year when she released Boss, a bass heavy mean funk jam reminiscent of the Beasties’ dirtier 90s output but with a far less playful attitude. It was exactly the kind of music we wanted to hear in 2018. Outspoken and assertive but direct and controlled. The “Boss in a fuckin’ dress” made the perfect soundtrack for a year when the women of the world declared “we’ve had enough of your shit”. It was a sentiment that manifested in every genre from pop to techno, and Boss set the bar super-high.
Boss was the personal as political and Grey Area continues this theme. It’s not remotely an album of diss tracks but lyrically she’s defining herself in opposition to other people and their expectations. This is pretty well trodden thematic ground for hip hop but this is pride not boasting, and she’s the first to accept vulnerability. Awareness of herself, others and her environment are part of her strength. There’s something about her delivery and perspective that make it captivating and affecting. This shit will make you strut.
The sound is all live instruments but aside from the last song Flowers, the album’s only misstep, she manages to steer clear of jazz crossover traps and lets the rhythm of her vocal provide a momentum. The tempo is laidback but her flow ensures it feels focused. Reverb drenched orchestration flits between jazz, 70s funk and soul - opening track Offence has some gorgeous flute and while it wouldn’t be out of place on a Curtis Mayfield track, we’re nowhere near the Blaxploitation pastiche of Ghostface Killa. The album doesn’t stick to one idea, there’s variety across its admirably tight ten tracks, but it always feels like it was written as hip hop, rather than just freestyling over a jam.
This is the kind of album that will unite tastes, and we can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the Mercury Music judges when they realise they don’t have to give this year’s prize to white kids with guitars.