Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Friday, 22 April 2016


 "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear" - C.S.Lewis, A Grief Observed

 Of course, what you mourn at first, is yourself. Too soon to reassure myself by recounting Prince's importance, or his place in the cannon, too soon to contextualise something that feels like a personal attack, by death, upon your reason. Right now, things are a little too raw because what you recount when you hear this kind of news isn't just the person you never met, who you've lost - you recall the people who you've been with, the nights when he saved you and the mornings he woke you, that first flush of first love when Around The World In A Day tangled you to sleep nightly for a year, the kids you lullabied with those songs, the person you were when those songs first kept you intact and kept you alive. This isn't about adding up marks, checking the legacy, nailing anything - rather you apprehend just how concretely and spectrally someone's art can inhabit your life, your everyday - not just soundtracking it but dwelling with you, in your kitchen and your bedroom and your living room, colouring things, taking your hand, lifting you up. You recall, with the habitual focus of an adult, times and places and specifics but more evocatively you remember how your senses flared, your synapses sparked, how prior to your current deadening you were still so up for grabs, there to be made. You recall hope seen through tears, pictures you played on a constant mind-reel, sounds that are now cellular, inside you, part of your own unique visceral balance between idealism and despair. What you're mourning is yourself. Because you wouldn't be yourself without him. From the off, he was too much to simply apportion affection to. He was a burning bright filament of your animus that has now been extinguished. This isn't over-reaction. This is what music can do. 

Inconsolable shock, a numbness that waits for the deluge to come but truth be told, ever since David Bowie's passing I'm not sure I've been feeling anything. Of course, every generation suffers from delusions of uniqueness. Have been reading Kenneth Williams diaries again of late, a reminder that celebrity-death has always been a shocking rupture in our assumptions of star's immortality. What's different now is the visibility, the echo-chamber of reaction. When those who made you, die, you're reminded of how close you are to life's ultimate fulfillment, how the dwindling time you have left can be plotted with a little bit more accuracy. And you apprehend a future if this process accelerates (which it will) that may be nought but a dumbfounded reckoning of famous death, us pop-culture fans of a certain vintage bearing increasingly appalled witness as everyone who made us disappears, leaving us adrift in a world  populated by skinny posh actors, twitter-legends, perma-grinned vloggers and autotuned mediocrities. Battling through the dazed loss, walking out into a Prince-less, Bowie-less universe, walking under skies that seem a little less real, on ground that feels a little too real - you're told, by events, that this thing you spent your life chasing, pop - the conversation between black and white - is kind of over. And really all you are is an enthusiast, at the end of the platform with your binoculars, taking increasingly weepier notes as you're left more and more alone in the universe. You didn't need these deaths to tell you your stars are weak, have bodies as structurally prone as everyone's, aren't as impervious to time as you believed when you first engulfed yourself in their world. We believe in stars because, too broken for God, we need to believe in something that believes in itself - when those people go we genuinely think about how we can carry on, perhaps more so than we do with family bereavements. When family dies, those who are left give you a reason, an intractable reason, to continue. Even then, things can swing perilous at any time. When someone who gives you so much beauty dies so suddenly,  it's all about you, about how you're able to continue in a darker, emptier world you never imagined. As soon as Prince entered my life with such force he darkened this future but I didn't know that then, wasn't damn fool enough to realise he was mortal. The colours seemed endless, the songs indestructible. I won't contextualise him, put him in a lineage, because it's too soon. All I feel is that a part of my metabolism has been removed wholesale from every cell, the sunlight winked out, every happy memory tinged with sadness now. Appalled not that I could be so changed by someone but that the man who saved me couldn't save himself.

If I can pinpoint the moment for me, although aware and aroused by Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain and Around The World In A Day, it was Parade that was MY Prince epiphany, the first orgasm of identification and immersion. The 'Kiss' video had hipped me my life was about to change. I was, at the time, fairly horrified by what was going on in music, alienated massively from the mid-80s aspirational politesse and rolled-up pastel linen sleeves of yuppie-directed 'professional' pop. Far more intoxicating to anyone similarly alienated was seeking out the past, the 60s and 70s in particular. So you did old drugs and listened to old music. To the mainstream's slick, white, deoderised and closed-off world of pop, Prince not only provided an immolating deeply sensual alternative, he reached through and grabbed you and told you that your story, your isolation, your difference, could also be a starting point for a solution to the problem that was your life. He whispered in your ear, hey, I've created my own universe, perhaps you could too. And crucially, he kicked your retrograde despair out the window by showing how you could do this NOW, for THIS time. This suggestiveness flooded from everything he did. And the tiny details of his dreams' realisation were as essential to the whole as the broader over-arching narratives of playfulness with your outer identity emerging from a ferocious inner strength.  Seems like a daft detail - he always knew that pop bliss is all about daft detail - but easy to forget how the flares that Prince wore in the 'Kiss' video were such a gigantic fuck you to pop in 1986. A focus on pleasure through style, where elsewhere was all fashionable appropriateness. His moves directly touched upon the same sexuality Jagger had in the Gimme Shelter Madison Square Garden footage, had that same eye-intoxicating grace between the buttons. What that video suggested was that the past could be used to make a future, that the diktats music seemed to want to limit itself with could be ignored so long as the prevailing impulses were pure delight and liberation. And when I'd saved enough sponds to buy the album it utterly shook my world. With its honesty about his dishonesty, its utter disinterest in proper-ness, it's fascination with itself. Struggling with ambivalent feelings about sexuality, about race, about how I could get this face and mind I was cursed and blessed with taken seriously by anyone - Prince (unlike even that black pop and rap that spoke to my nascent political consciousness) advocated total freedom with his music, an almost-indisciplined waywardness (that as you grow older you realise can only come from the most intense self-discipline). A total contrast to the way Public Enemy insisted on a marshalling of consciousness, or contemporary pop advocated a shallow self-awareness i.e an endless celebration of your selfishness.

 If you were a kid and you were brown, or black, in the 80s you were told by all kinds of pop to be a certain way. To hide your geekism, to be tough, to look like this and to act like that and struggle to find the best way to hide. Prince blew all that out of the water (and who knew WHAT he was? Brown? Black? White? There was that confusion there, and he played on it brilliantly). He said if you want to be camp as christmas AND black/brown, feel free, if you're going to be tough, be tough as only a geek can be, whatever you want to wear, say, think, be, sing, play - DO IT to the UTMOST, do whatever you DAMN WELL LIKE and do it YOUR WAY. That message of freedom was so powerful it's fair to say he saved a hell of a lot of lives. I know he saved mine though of course this wasn't a message only I received. Think of exactly how different black pop would be without Prince - difficult to imagine Outkast, Kanye, Busta, PE, Wu-Tang, Missy, Timbaland, Pharrell, Tribe Called Quest, D'Angelo. TLC, Puff Daddy, Beyonce, Jay-Z or ANY black-pop star of the last 30 years not being massively affected by the promise and the power of Prince's music. Parade said that all the previous rules about being non-white and being an artist were out the window. It sewed life-long lessons in survival that you couldn't spell out but that galvanised your soul and still do. It didn't reach out to you to give you that message, you reached out to it because it was presented so ravishingly, even if you could only dream of such poise and self-possession. It taught you crucially that not-fitting could be a way of life. It suggested to you, where everything else suggested the opposite, that you, you strange twisted confused little fucker, could have a future. Could make your own Eden, and guard it and nurture it and wander in it forever. I know that without him, oblivion would have beckoned with irresistable strength. I thank him now. And quietly, selfishly, curse his dereliction of duty.

If Parade lit the fuse, Sign Of The Times was the bomb, the ultimate, the endless explosion you surrendered to, so ravishing you never wanted to walk from the flames even though you knew you would do so utterly changed, transformed back to your soul and spirit, armed to the teeth with beauty. Unlike Parade, Sign Of The Times looked outwards, extended a hand to the world, pulled you into its new steps, led you into a life in which romance and sex and redemption and politics and rhythm and Joni were always close, always threatening to spill into his ability to focus and derail it. Where Parade felt like a transmission from an alternate reality, Sign Of The Times sounded like the world taking its revenge, a whole life and afterlife in four sides of plastic, his past as much a part of the record as his busy scratching at the upholstered door of the future-party. Like any great double album, where you decided to start listening would change everything. But wherever you started listening you always had to hear it all, because the puzzlebox would only fit together if you did, would only give up its truths about the horrors and heartaches out there if you allowed it to create heaven in here, in your home, in your head. Fixed you up for the battle as sharply as any of the more strident revolutionary voices in hip hop at the time. We lost a soldier yesterday, a general, important as Mandela. Not an over-reaction. This is what music can do.

Nearly 30 years on Prince saved my life again. Finally, through craven begging, got to see him live. Birmingham, 2014. Me and my wife, on the short drive up from Cov find ourselves following a massive limo, doubtless just some gig-goers who decided to make a night of it, but we convinced ourselves it was Mr.Nelson himself, hid in the back with nothing but a few copies of The Watchtower and his make-up artist for company. Something about the limo, blacked out, no decals about 'available for hire', had us following, stalker-like, from a safe two-second-rule distance. Eventually, halfway up the A45 it pulls into a Texaco. We debate pulling in as well, surmise rightly that if it was the Purple One stopping off for a snack it'd be his driver who he'd send in for his Ginsters Spicy Slice, so stay on the road, get to the LG, park, walk, judging our fellow fans on whether they're wearing purple. A crush, and we're in, and we're waiting, heart trembling, listening to the smartly-chosen 'Big Fun'-era Miles Davis that's got everyone tenser and tenser, and we still can't quite believe that we're here. We're gonna wake up in a minute. This can't be real. These memories are now a part of me and my wife's life. He never stopped being a part of us. Our mutual love of him was one of the first things we had in common. You know of course that shared taste has nothing to do with love. But a shared hope, which is what Prince was, can mean everything.

There are those great gigs you go to. Those good gigs you go to. Those bad gigs you go to. All seem to exist on the same scale. When I saw Prince, for the first time it was off the scale in every way. So good, halfway through your mind was making cast-iron assurances that tomorrow you'd quit your job, quit your life, quit everything just to dedicate the rest of your paltry existence to chasing... this, this night, these feelings, this turning of yourself inside out. So good you started seeing your life from the moment you stepped out trembling into the night, at least in those rare moments where the palpitations stopped, in two distinct stages - your life up to that night and the second phase that starts now. It felt like my pre-seeing-Prince years were gone,  that nothing I learned in them could help me now.  I never got to see James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Earth Wind & Fire, T.Rex, My Bloody Valentine, Kraftwerk, This Heat, New Order, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Sly & The Family Stone, Merzbow. Doesn't matter. I saw HIM. At various points that night Prince recalled all of them, smart enough to leave enough space to let the funky moments really get inside your bones and make your toes curl, genius enough that when he plays guitar he really does recall Hendrix/Hazel but still puts across nothing but his OWN blend of what he's listened to. Still a brilliant, bewitching dancer. In a sense, Prince was the last living relic we had that directly touched back to those aulden times in music, crucially though every time he played a note that night he propelled us into the future. 'Musicianship' is something it's become incredibly difficult to defend or respect or acclaim anymore - so often does it mean the tedium of wanky solos, empty showboating. In Prince the whole concept got opened up to the full possibilities perhaps only Miles & Jimi ever touched before - every moment of Prince's guitar playing that night was a juddering jolt of electric wow that pushed your jaw just that extra inch closer to the floor. Never frowning or sweating, looking like the coolest motherfucker you ever saw in your life, looking like he was ENJOYING it as well, just as turned on by the sheer psychedelic outrageousness of what he was conjuring from his battle-axe /magic wand. Two utterly astonishing moments as well where he entirely slipped the rock-god leash and transmogrified into utterly contrary identities- one a gorgeous medley of songs where he's at the piano, pure Donny Hath/Joni style and you realised his voice is somehow older, but still immortal, his voice this thing that, like his playing, can seemingly DO ANYTHING, flying from the most sultry depths to the most shattering falsetto in the space of a syllable. Another moment where he stepped behind what looked like a straight-up DJ set-up (samplers, decks), and pushed buttons and 'Hot Thing' and 'Sign Of The Times' happened LOUDER than you've ever heard 'em, heaviest harshest electro beats you've ever heard live and you danced and you screamed and entirely free of gimmickry or hoodwinkery he stirred you and yours and the thousands around you, timed it, paced it, built it, like no-one else on earth. Greatest showman I've ever seen in my life.

It was only on the way home that I thought "man, no 'Dorothy Parker' or 'Girlfriend'" but by then, like everyone else, I was a sticky sated mess with his name in my heart and rattling in my brain with the ear-ringing deafening frenzy of a new-convert. Beforehand I was thinking - there's no-one alive or dead I want to see play for 3 hours. At the end, I wanted to go see him again. And again. And again. NOW. Simply couldn't sleep afterwards, still buzzing, my head full of undeniable inarguable HIM. It struck me that the most important thing about what I'd just seen wasn't about skill or technique or songs or showmanship, nothing you can learn or fake. It wasn't about virtuosity, it was about generosity. Generosity of spirit in your music. At all times Prince did the incredible things he did FOR the people. At no point is this merely flash. If it was, my god WHAT flash. But there's something about the way Prince put his music across that was about love, about love for us, and our love for him - he never scowled, he never moaned if the crowd didn't sing back as loud as he wanted them to, he never made us feel like we had to do anything. He started a party and he kept that party going and it's the greatest party you'd ever been at and you felt blessed and honoured to have been there, borne witness, got DOWN with the man.  That's the thing, perhaps the only thing, that links all true artistic immortals, that deep intrinsic instinctive unselfishness, and Prince exuded it out of every pore. There were moments that night where it was if he actually WAS music, made out of music, in some way a living avatar of music's true liberating spirit, the openness, the freedom, the suggestiveness, the abstractness, the horniness, the transcendence that has us all hooked our whole lives made flesh. He was everything. In a time where it's become orthodoxy that there's nothing new under the sun, Prince always gave you back a new you, under a new sun, dancing a new dance. He made your life, in seeing him, feel that big, that worth it. An incredibly rare and precious gift, to be able to make people feel that life is worth pushing on with. Now he's gone, we need him now more than ever.
   No one ever told me grief felt so like fear. I fear the world a little bit more now, feel, just as I did before I heard Parade, that perhaps it's not for me, will never be my home again. Accept that inward retreat. Stay in your home. Hold what you've got close. It will take you a while to realise that the reason to go out the door, to carry on, is to try, no matter how impossible & doomed, to be as beautiful.

Until that penny drops again remember - this isn't an overreaction. This is what music can do. RIP x

Thursday, 14 April 2016


Unlinkable but listened to alot this past week - beautiful stuff from 50ft Wave and Spain. Here's the other things that have been squirrel-ransacking my birdfeeder soul this month.

COMMODO's been making music of massive intrigue and suggestiveness for some time now, culminating with last year's awesome 'Volume 1' on Deep Medi with fellow freaks Gantz & Khan. He's got a new album about to drop called 'How What Time' available on tasty-looking vinyl here and also available on on iTunes here. An essential for late night drives and despair which I've been doing alot of of late.

Been banging on about CULT MOUNTAIN for a while now, after being hipped to Trellion & Sniff a few years ago and loving last year's debut self-titled tape - they've been busy smoking that Mambo and toying with charcoal-suicides ever since by the sounds of the sequel, 'Cult Mountain II'. Utterly twisted, utterly perverse, utterly compelling music from the edge of everyday UK life. Absolutely essential.

While on a UK rap tip LOVING this from JEHST & LEE SCOTT & STRANGE U . . . .

 and make sure you've copped yourself the new albums from OCEAN WISDOM

 and this slab of Bristolian brilliance from the stupendous SPLIT PROPHETS

Fucking love the icey darkness of this one from SULLY. Chilling like your first childhood glimpse of the Cybermen/Cylons (depending on your vintage). And when, a minute in these robots start grinding against each other well garsh, you don't know where to look but you can't take your appalled gaze away. Unsettling.

JOKER STARR , MICALL PARKNSUN & SI PHILLI  provide the verbals. Parknsun produces Genesis Elijah made the video. Love it when UK rap doesn't wait for recognition or crossover, just GETS ON AND DOES IT. 'No Comparison' is a tough, weird track, beats and bass so big they could dominate but MP threads this weird, woozy bontempi-loop throughout that's jazzy and odd as fuck and totally unhinges you by the time the track ends (if anything, an instrumental of this would sit neatly next to Boards Of Canada). Hope that more tracks and maybe an album are forthcoming, cos this is beautifully spontaneous rugged genius from front to back. Keep an eye open.

In the month in which broke the devastating news that The Enemy are calling it a day, Coventry music fans can console themselves that a young MC from round our ends, MUGUN is making some darkly engrossing, tough yet ferociously insular grime right now. Wipe away that tear mishkin. Maybe one day, we can pick up the pieces and carry on with our lives.

SONANCE's mighty 'Blackflower' I wrote about here. Avail yourself immediately. Then once you've burrowed your way back to the surface of the earth get plunged back into earth's core with this,  a simply stunning split single with Torpor that sees the Bristolian genii hit new depths of molten heaviosity and stellar reach. **STOP PRESS** a brand new full-length album too! Haven't dug into this yet but fuck, it's Sonance, it's gonna be awesome.

Totally re-energised towards ROYCE DA 5'9" after his work on the Prhyme album, so this tasty teaser for (but not from) his new album 'Layers' already has me onside. It doesn't stick around for long. It doesn't make any grand statements or power moves for its duration, but for about 170 seconds it absolutely clamps onto you; walks you down its streets, pouring scorn on pretty much everyone; skewering ego and arrogance and other targets currently narrowing hip-hop down to nothing. Great production from Nottz that has little in it bar a nice fat bass hum and loose beat, but adds some picky harmonics that keep the intrigue high. The tracklist for 'Layers' reveals that he's kept all but two cameos out (GOOD), has Nottz producing on a new track (VERY GOOD) and in general it seems focused, and with trajectory, rather than aimless; overstuffed with names/producers and overlong. Looking forward to it and this mixtape is making me drool . . . .

Brave of Brick to make the first preview from REKS' soon-dropping 'The Greatest X' set, which includes a stunning roster of production talent, to be a track produced by relative unknown Streetrunner. Streetrunner is clearly young, has heard a lot on his headphones and hence the harshness of 'Hands Up' might be initially shocking — but once you realise that what Reks is delivering here is nothing short of thee most stunning look at 2016's political situtation as you've heard from hip-hop thus far this year, you realise that the harshness is there for a point and actually suits the words brilliantly. Tantalising stuff but more importantly, truthful and timely stuff too. Diggit.


 Seven years since MR LIF's last transmission,  'I Heard It Today', and in today's incessant turnover of mixtapes and rush-releases and leaks that's an eternity in hip-hop. Of course, Lif's been waiting until he actually has something to say, and his new opus 'Don't Look Now' is a stone-cold masterpiece of which this is my current highlight. Yes, Edan on the mix, so you know you're in for absolutely stellar, mind-melting production. On 'Whizdom', the sound most clearly recalled for me is that freaky mix of Middle-Eastern sounds and old-skool rawness that Alchemist hit on 'Israeli Salad' last year — the cameo from Blacastan only seals the deal on an inspirational return for one of underground rap's most compelling voices. Hear it, hear the album, dig deeper. 

Oh man, been waiting what seems like aeons for new shit from ELZHI and this teaser from his new opus 'Lead Poison' doesn't dissapoint — murky lyrics and beats under a gorgeous dappled textural riot of guitar and womb-like bass that seriously recalls Joni Mitchell circa 'Hissing'/'Hejira'. Remedy to US rap getting shittier? DON'T LISTEN TO THE SHITTY STUFF! SIMPLE!

ODDISEE has made great albums for the indefatigably ace Mello Music Group but I really do think this free mixtape is the best thing he's ever done. Won't get love on Datpiff or HotNewHipHop and that should be all you need to know. This is sublime, lyrical, lush, smooth, gritty, hip hop for those who know.

Somewhat inevitable that when ONOE CAPONOE met High Focus the results would be somewhat unhinged, but prior knowledge of both won't prepare you for just what a staggering slab of schizoid menace 'Ghosts In Ma Hallway' is. A track in three parts, the first a dungeon-esque straight-up horrorcore slam of slo-mo broken beats and refracted dialogue, the second a weird harpsichord-laden slew of diseased trap-beats and humming brown-note bass over which OC streams his customary extraterrestrial consciousness, Lord Pusswhip on the mix dubbing out every last word. Then, finally, the beat nearly absconds, this strange psyche-folk vocal starts dominating and OC is reduced to a burbling mess, just about clinging on. Until that 'Cold Mountain II' vinyl pops through your letterbox consider this an essential transmission from Britain's alternate reality and strapo yourself in for the stunning album about to drop, the psychedelic masterpiece that is 'Spells From The Cyclops'. Superb.

Welcome back SCHOOLBOY Q you nutter. TDE can do no wrong at the moment. STILL WAITING for the new Isiaah Rashid but new Q will more than fill the gap.

If you've worn out your copy of Alchemist's 'Israeli Salad' make sure you pick up JAKE ONE's wonderfully monikered 'PrayerHandsEmoji' mixtape - hip hop instrumentals that paint supercool super-8 mini-movie matiness in your mind. You can also dl this from HotNewHipHop, 2DopeBoyz and all the usual places. Oh, and if you're jonesing for something fresh from the Alch check this, it's ace.


S'funny — we're conditioned to accept retroism in rock music, mainly because looking back is all it's been doing for the best part of 40 years. Hip-hop, now 40 years old, feels a pressure to look forward, but what's wrong with the odd bit of hip-hop that unapologetically looks back? JUNGLE BROWN has that '90s boombap sound down-pat; not just the usual suspects but a real Native Tongues freshness and brightness of sound, as showcased on his brilliant new 'Flight 314' mini-album. 'Keep It Movin' is a good pointer towards the bouncy, warm, infectious grooves on offer here — hold it tight until summer and then let it work its magic on parties, BBQs and anywhere where you want the vibe tight but nice. Check it.

Speaking of retroism — as soon as I heard that PF Cuttin from Blazhay Blazhay was involved in this Brooklynite's debut LP 'From Ashes To Kingdom Come', I knew I'd have to hear it. And that while it might touch on '90s golden-age goodness, it'd also be sufficiently weird and populated with genius touches to safely keep it away from pure '90s dress-up. I was partly right — over the course of the whole album, TRUTH's committment to eliminating all modernity from his sound becomes a little forced, but here and there it takes off; hits you up with pure pleasure. 'Genuine Article' is one of those moments; incredibly dope beat from PFC — lean, lo-slung, heavy, stalked with simmering atmosphere and a building sense of dread. O.C coming more than correct with a blistering cameo. Check the album out now.

It's just pop music dude, get over it Part One. Never Forget. Never Forgive. I Am Just Following Orders.

Firstly, two ground rules. One - just because someone complains about the present doesn't mean they yearn for the past. I remember the past. It was shite. It is why I mistrust myths of progress. Two - I am just following orders. I was asked to write this. It's not good for me, and it's unhealthy, and provides no catharsis but I must undignify myself cos I can't stop. This is my process. Truth and shame. 
That said - it's some achievement for The NME to engineer an even shoddier demise than the Melody Maker's. Or should I say, spiritually akin demise - the same moneymen and chuckleheads are behind it all but seriously, looking at the latest issues I think I can say they're now, impossibly, even worse than we ever were, and Jesus, that's going some. The Melody Maker was fucking terrible when it died, went out not with a bang but a whimper of whacky (i.e fucking appalling) feature ideas, free stickers and sex-issues and panicky shit covers and general twattish underestimation of the readership. A Gorky-esque  tragi-comedy, but with alot less laughs. My particular low-point of pride was taking Ultrasound to Legoland, me in a permanent cramp of apology, they incredulous that this is what promo now meant. No hilarity did ensue. Anyhoo, one day our readership was down to barely twice as much as NME was in its final months so that was that. The guilty got jobs elsewhere, we got the heave-ho and a lasting sense of shame and anger. I remember going to the office one last time to pick up the mail and goggling at the upturned desks, the history in boxes soon to be destroyed, 70-odd years of work packed up and ready for obsolescence. I remember a final issue being passed to me by a tearful production editor. I remember reading it on the way to Waterloo. And dumping the fucking thing in the bin because it was such a tawdry stain on my memories.Throughout this process of demise and deterioration at the Maker, the predominant feel was that its editorial inability to stop underestimating its readership, and its increasingly desperate flailings to try and get itself out of the mire of not being the 'brand leader' meant it needed putting out of its misery, the bullet better delivered sooner rather than at some point in an unimaginably squalid future that surely beckoned. The NME dodged any such bullet but is now a whored-out corpse of a music-paper - the final fossilised conclusion to a process that's been going on since the birth of the internet. Seriously, pick up a copy, read it. It won't take you long to glaze over, see it purely as paper, not soft, not strong, not even highly absorbent.

 Fit for the litter tray if your cat's not fussy. Been seeing alot of music press in bins of late. Almost as if they're being dumped en masse. I ain't getting my boot in there, I like these boots. In no mood to kick a terminally-ill dog. 
From 'Actually Don’t Know WTF I’m Doing, Kulkarni' by  Eve Barlow 
Of course, for a bitter and twisted malcontent on one level it's absolutely fucking hilarious, delicious creamy Schadenfreude to sustain you as the cold nights draw in. On another level it's like watching something autopsy itself. I know I know - PROPER music writers don't talk in print about music writing. But what the fuck, the inkies are both dead now. This is no time for politesse. I've been dumbfounded by what people have said to me over recent years about it. I don't want my silence to allow lies to harden about myself although it might be too late on that score. What I will say, being as adult as I can be is that

No, YOU started it. 

Oh I realise the moment to 'care' about anything is long gone but I've been prodded, a wound reopened, a graze freshly touched by a sharp pang of memory. I've been asked, and that's the only reason why I'm doing this, to add an addenda to that Peace blogpost I wrote, about what kicked off afterwards and what's kicked off recently regarding the music press in the UK. This is a commission - otherwise I wouldn't be doing it cos my god it's unhealthy and against the advice of my doctors. Like a twat I'd written what I thought in that Peace blogpost. Professional suicide 'pparently. Just because someone has problems with the present doesn't mean they're yearning for the past (you could just as likely be agitating for a different future) but the current rictus of optimism insists so. Don't moan, especially not if you're old. If you're old, well, we pity you, we faintly wrinkle our nose at your non-death, but you better be happy and optimistic or you're harking back, you're decrepit. And truth be told, looking back over that Peace piece I wonder what the hell I was clinging on to any way. Music journalism? FFS why? A minority concern. Minority concerns might as well be dead now that economic heft is all that matters.
Like my detractors, I am just following orders.

Might as well be dead. I am well over 40 years old and do not work in the music business and do not have any friends with columns in national newspapers, in fact, sorry, I don't actually live in London at all. If you feel any of this precludes me from having an opinion, please stop reading now, you have calls to make and pop to patronise and cupcakes to bake and a future to win.

OK are those people gone now?
Y'know those people.
These people.
Who mis-read and caricature. WTF. It's been two years but I'm going back in. These fucking people. I read these old old old things and my anger is undimmed. How fucking DARE they.


These nice ostensibly liberal/left-wing people who think that because I'm 'old', and have a 'proper job and shit', I should just shut up. A pat on the head that drips condescencion, the way a facade of liberalism/leftism can slip so quickly when people get together for a good ol' bitch. I know this well, the words spoken behind someone's back, what the hell do I expect?

You know what I expect? Some fucking respect. I've changed lives. They have only 'manoeuvred'. This para ill-fits me but I'm doing it anyway. I loathe compliments, self-boosting, positivity, feeling good about yourself. But fucking hell - at times, to keep your sanity and perspective you need to remind yourself that you have done things you should be proud of. And that those tearing into you have insecurities just like you. Oh dear oh dear. I know what regrets might be sewn by an ill-judged word now all walls have ears but these people surely can't be proud of these exchanges. People who will presumably/probably publically love and defend the welfare state, a caring society, egalitarianism in all kinds of racial/sexual issues - but who when stung feel entitled to laugh at a fellow critic because said critic is poor and older than them and rather pathetically thinks he's allowed to still criticise. What a wonderful set of hypocrisies to juggle. Because if someone's angry with the media they can only be expressing their bitterness at being excluded, bitterness at writing themselves out of work.

Those people who know how to write tight good copy and get ahead, and are faintly embarassed that I still persist in thinking I can write too. Hahahahaha.Sad old fucker eh? No wonder he’s suicidal so often! I would be too if I was that much of a  loser with a 23 yr-old’s prose and a ‘proper job and shit’. If ONLY he'd get over the fact that he's not a music journalist anymore and stop moaning and remain silent. What a sad old cunt, having mouths to feed. What a sad old cunt getting angry about pop. He's not one of us anymore, he's one of them, the punters. It's undignified the way he throws on his old shtick again and again, throwing off his bib and spoon when he needs to accept that he is, like all our readers, there to be spoonfed by us, just like anyone with a proper job and shit. FAZZACKERLY! If you don't like something, just don't listen to it. SIMPLES! Hahahahaha.

(BTW - have no idea what kind of music critique I should be engaged in now I have a 'proper job': "this track will appeal to your stakeholders and can accompany a summer barbecue or a nervous breakdown in an Asda carpark with equal effectiveness" Those people who would balk at taking a selfie with someone homeless, but love ganging up and telling a pathetic old grandad to just fucking get over it.)

Those winners, whose own motives are so clear, they can't understand why anyone would be angry unless they were deservedly being ignored. Career is the only point, the only justification, and where you are on the arc, how 'influential' the algorithms and metrics decide you are, ultimately decides & determines not just your worth, but your right to speak. 

The 5p coin gag I dig. The rest of it - man these fuckers were stung. And so they lie - my Peace 'review' got alot of 'response' and I'd be daft to think it wouldn't. It wasn't just a record review. It was about music and criticism.  A minute before clicking 'publish' I panicked - that's usually a sign something will garner some reaction. I used to take that as a sure sign that I was on the right track- that if I found myself saying 'you can't say that' then it was a sure sign that I must say that. Increasingly those doubts become a little more paralysing as you grow older. What surprised me back in 2013, what struck me dumb, beyond the ageism and poor-baiting is the hint of a drawing in of a professional circle whose etiquette I've broken, even though I'm simply another powerless reader and a powerless writer. Right now I can't make a living solely from writing - to use that as a way of dismissing what I say, and insinuating that I can't turn in copy to word-counts and deadlines, is a low, low desperate move utterly at odds with the experiences of those I've worked for. Ask them. I'd suggest, perhaps, that you don't keep writing for print media for 20+ years if you miss deadlines and wordcounts.  The idea that cos I’ve got a ‘proper job’ I’m not allowed to critique culture anymore or that if I do I’m somehow raging against my unemployability & powerlessness I suspect only reveals what a lot of those journalists really think about their readership, and what they really think about themselves. It simply wouldn’t ever occur to me or anyone I know to criticise someone cos they’re poor, or take the piss out of someone cos they’re not getting as much work as you, or not listen to someone cos they’re too old. But then, the people I know don't need recourse to Nuremberg defences and Tory-lite sneering to justify themselves. I know the wrong people I guess. It's just pop music?  Get over it?  No Rob Fitzpatrick. It's my job not to get over it. If you work for fucking Spotify, yeah, I guess it is just pop music, more capital to wring dry, more workers to leave bereft, more shareholders to enrich. Prick. Almost as soon as that Peace blog was published loads of pro writers were telling me it was indigestible and needed an editor (true probly, d'you know any decent ones willing to work for fuck all?) and other variants of the tl:dr consensus. Noticeable that the fact I never set my blog's clock properly so it looked like I published these pieces in the wee smalls was picked up on also - as a way of adding to the 'mad old bastard' image, slinging my shit at people like an irate gorilla,  a way of yet again swerving what I actually said. I write at night, after work, if I can, but have to be up at 7 to get the kids ready for school. Can't imagine the kind of mindset you'd have to have to actually have a PROBLEM with a writer writing in the small hours, or allow such a 'fact' to enable a colossal snobbery towards said writer. Actually, I can imagine that kind of mindset. It's the mindset of winners
    Winners who think I'm some kind of sandwich-board toting lip-diddling loon touting this shit around as if it'd ever be in print - there's a REASON these things are blogposts. I would never dream of pitching articles like the Peace blog to anyone, or hoping for a commission or payment for them, let alone proffer them as some kind of writing model. 20 odd years of pitching - do these fucking twats think I'm simple? Both the Peace article and my piece about the NME are what they are – blogposts on my blog, my own black little garden. I feel I should be allowed to tend that blog as I see fit, ignoring some constraints, pruning according to other strictures I choose to impose myself. As repeatedly and joyfully confirmed by my detractors, I can't pay myself a wage so why should I count words or watch my lip? Not all of us are fully signed up to the future of content-provision. And if we don't 'provide content', because we WRITE, which is a process that involves the body and soul and not just the brain and the wallet, we must be laying down some kind of template or blueprint for others? Fuck's sake. I'll do my thang. You do yours. We'll see who gets remembered. None of this grief was surprising. I've heard similar over the years. Britpop's official curator and Wiggins/Weller twatalike John Harris fucking hates me. RESULT. John Mulvey, who I've never worked with but have been assured by people I love is a cast-iron cock-end also expressed his distaste. CASHBACK. All of this ensures that I'll doubtless never be welcome in the world of mainstream magazine publishing again. Persona non-grata/slightly embarrassing old blowhard, so be it. Eve Barlow, deputy-ed of the NME at the time wrote this piece in response to this 2012 piece and I commented underneath. While I thought we'd engaged in a rather polite exchange of views (I even, sensitively for me, deleted the names of those NME writers she was defending with her 'we got rent to pay' schtik) clearly the Peace review was enough to make me an enemy again. Never mentioned her name but under the comments under her own, now-deleted blogpost (the trifecta of entitled twattery that was her 'WTF is WOC - Weapons Of Colour?' post - handily archived here ) a chap called Neil pipes up in the comments and Barlow thinks its me. Paranoia, perhaps, either from her, or me - anyhoo, in order to confirm I hadn't dreamt this, went to her blog and found her latest post about the new NME freesheet. Check it out here.  

Now, personally, I am not some bellyacher about ‘passion’ missing in music writing at the moment – I just miss laffs and mind fuel – passion shouldn’t be used as a mask for inexactitude or wooliness. But Eve's post is heartfelt, and touching. I can understand that kind of upset because as a young writer I went through it as well when the mag I loved, the mag that raised me, turned to shit. And just as then, you felt daft for caring, so now I partly find myself agreeing with those sad to see the demise of the NME, yet partly think of alot of the moaners - YOU LAID THE GROUND FOR THIS. By reducing critique to cheerleading, to the lubrication of commerce. Something I said in that NME piece needs reiterating here . . .  

"Faced with new technologies that enable everyone to be a critic what do you do? Make criticism look like everything else, or emphasise its unique posture, its antique desire not just to reflect but to CHANGE the way pop is thought about?"

The thing I'm not allowed to say is that the lubrication of commerce's total take-over of the mentality of a critical music culture is enabled by the steady populating of that critical culture with the needy and mediocre, folk willing to sing from a hymnsheet, button it, blind themselves, people like me in the late 90s, nails in the wall, clinging to a dying thing to survive. The people in charge of the NME for the last two decades have surrendered critique to commerce entirely. Cuntbubbles like Conor McNicholas and current corporate shill Mike Williams are who I hold responsible but those publishing and managerial staff who were complicit also have fingers I wouldn't smell. Capital has entirely won and even saying so deems me an old crank. I find alot of things I say dying in my mouth these days. Because belief is out of style. When you talk about music, and media, 'belief' is an old-fashioned, out-of-touch word, a little embarassing in a world now controlled by SEO specialists and other assorted wankshafts. I don't like kicking a dying dog. I feel, looking at the recent 'sponsored-content' articles in the new NME freesheet, that the auld enemy is now just very very sad, a 'tribute magazine' to the idea of a print music magazine, trading purely on the name, sharing nothing else with its old self, the print equivalent of a Primark Motorhead t-shirt. It's difficult to feel inclined to administer a kicking to something so seeming self-destructive. But let's do so anyway. I mean ffs. Look at this. 

One of the most powerful voices in pop writing for nearly 70 years. Now, an irredeemable shitrag and only a fucking shillcunt like McNicholas/Williams would deny it. Do I blame the above mentioned chuckleheads for this? No, not entirely, much as you can't blame every Tory voter for our current hell, but perhaps if someone in power had fucking listened . . . ah well. How the fuck did we get here?  I'll tell you next week.