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It's All Your Fault, Bob Monkhouse

The Golden Shot game show rarely features on lists of the most influential music programmes. It lags some way behind Ready, Steady Go; Jukebox Jury; TOTP; Old Grey Whistle Test; The Tube or Later.

Bob Monkhouse has a lot to answer for though. If he had not invited the Sweet onto the programme to perform Blockbuster, I may never have become transfixed and fascinated by pop. I would never have spent a small fortune on music. I would never have wasted so many hours, days and weeks just listening. I would never have experienced so much pure joy, pleasure and fun

Why Pop In the Real World?

It's all to do with what sticks when you're busy doing other things. I'm a massive fan of blog sites such as Pitchfork, Loud and Quiet, Line of Best Fit and Louder Than War. I'll scour music magazine review sections for recommendations for something new. I'll devour compilations from the excellent Cherry Red Records, Bob Stanley / Pete Wiggs, Late Night Tales and many others. And if I like what I read or hear I'll explore it further.

But take an excerpt from the November 2020, The Wire 441 issue. Their reviewer, Dan Barrow says of the Avalon Emerson DJ-Kicks compilation:

Emerson's own "Poodle Power" rattles along on a crisp but recessed kicks, a close-knit arpeggio and a wandering synth melody that frequently phases nearly out of existence.

Now Dan is a much better journalist than I could ever hope to be, and his expertise dwarfs my technical and musical knowledge. And 'Wire' is clearly a magazine that looks away from the mainstream to look at the avant-garde and more experimental sides of music. Ultimately though, the purpose of any review must be to draw attention to a record - whether to sing its praises or warn listeners off. I don't pretend to understand what 'recessed kicks', 'a close-knit arpeggio' or 'phases nearly out of existence' sound like, so I don't know if that's a recommendation to me or a deterrent. I do like the sound though of a 'wandering synth melody' and the references elsewhere to 'lush melody', the Magnetic Fields, French indie pop and Austra.

The reason for this slightly defensive rant is that I have to listen to music in the real world. The chances are that I'll miss the muted breakdown foreshadowing Austra remixes because my wife will ask for a cup of tea in the middle of it. The approach to a peak of 'gently curling tension' is quite possibly going to be disrupted by passengers joining my train at Hayes and Harlington and scrabbling over me for seats. And dreadful though it is to confess, my mind may wander at the precise point it should be focusing on the neon-gloopy and crystalline texture. Or the phone might ring, or there's a knock at the door, or the cat will decide it's feeding time. (It won't be.)

Let's be honest I know I miss a lot of good things from records through enforced and self-inflicted inattentive listening. I used to think that Damien Rice's 'The Blower's Daughter was one of the most heartfelt and gorgeous love songs I'd ever heard, right up until I finally registered the last four words that undercut the whole song. Just as well I never dedicated it to my wife!

I almost missed Jim Noir's wonderful 'The Only Way' because I didn't have time to listen to the whole album in one sitting and other music bumped it down the list. It took me even longer to realise there was a hidden track attached to it. But what I hope that what I lack in attentiveness I make up for with enthusiasm, curiosity and a generally open mind.

The 'R' Rate

I'll cough to saying that whilst this might be a cheap and easy headline in the current circumstances, it's nothing to do with coronavirus.

Here the R Rate stands for Recommendation Rate. I'll be recommending, suggesting, flagging, begging you to listen to recommendations that I want to share. It won't all be new, but it will have been new to me. Last week, for example, I listened to

  • Benjamin Biolay

  • Eggtooth

  • I Still Play - a compilation

  • Erland Cooper

  • Boy Pablo

  • Young Gun, Silver Fox

  • Modern Studies

  • Spencer Zahn

  • Shook Twins

  • Letters To Cleo

Three of these I'd recommend with few, if any, reservations. A couple I'd suggest avoiding, and the remaining five have some good songs that I'd highlight, including:

The 'R' Rate will be the source of new shares and recommendations for me whether from reviews, word of mouth or specific suggestions from you via this website. You'll be able to make these through the Reviews page on this website and I hope you will.

And by the way Dan, if this blog is ever drawn to your attention by one of the few people who read it, I will be streaming the Avalon Emerson DJ-Kicks compilation in the near future - so job done and thank you.

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