"Trivia point: can you name any of the members other than the guy who’s consciously uncoupled from Gwyneth? Yeah, didn’t think so."
As the wet fish of 2016 collectively slaps us across the face to realise the world is still changing, with music still redefining its worth. Artists are ever more trying to find new angles to reach an audience and/or at least find new income streams. Actually, ‘streams’ is probably a bit strong in the current market – let’s say ‘trickle’, although that kind of suggests pop music has some sort of prostate problem.
Villagers are Irish, and you should maybe know more of them. They’ve been shortlisted for the UK’s respected and lucrative Mercury Prize a couple of times, and have kept to the more folkie side of their nature, even while the form’s most successful practitioners – Mumford and his accursed offspring – have rolled back the banjos and tin-whistles a bit. Perhaps trying for wider attention they now go for the cover version gambit, bravely picking one of those tunes which many would consider untouchable. Yes, it’s the wistful glory of Wichita Lineman (Domino), which they treat with deserved respect, although maybe a little too much to put any real stamp of their own it. But the safety-first approach might stop the wider general public from being offended by anything unfamiliar among the familiar.
Perhaps you should change jobs entirely, but to a position where you can still give your music a bit of a leg-up. Which in the case of Billy Corgan, that leg-up may be more of a stepover toe-hold and headlock. He’s now Creative & Talent Development Director for TNA Wrestling – sort of a second division operation to the big boys like the WWE, although with their own cable channel and such. As part of their makeover they decided they needed a new theme tune, and old Bill handily has a bunch of leftover Smashing Pumpkins tunes laying around. Roustabout (Caroline) is one of those, and while probably not as loud and bombastic as some of the action its soundtracking, it will become identifiable with the product and become a nice little earner for its composer.
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Or, you can move away and make yourself useful to your mates coming to your new town. Dion Nanio started Panel Of Judges as a one-man band in Melbourne before it became a more formal group of people, and may be trying the same sort of thing as Free Time as he kinda bases himself in New York. Not sure if he’s offering Air BnB services for Australian bands on tour, but has been well-placed to stick together various forms of the combo to be local support act for diggers passing through like Twerps, as well as US locals such as Real Estate. Who Owns The Moon? (Bedroom Suck) is a calling card of his new style, as it relaxedly strolls a pop line somewhere between sweet and slacker. That ‘Big cheese pie’ over the big apple seems to be working for him/them.
Then again, you could bite the bullet and find an audience in the world – with a handy European holiday built in. The Mis-Made has members from well-liked and well-missed Australian bands like Nitocris and Bitchslap, but like so many Sydney combos of the now often struggle to find a place to play. Move to Melbourne? Nah. Go to Spain, France, and the UK – get some punters in with the novelty of being from here and going there, then impress them with the fact you’re a real solid little pop-to-somewhat-harder-rock band. Further work the world so you can record your single in the Czech Republic, and that sounds exotic on the press release as well. The Prague-recorded In Between (Independent) is chunky and guitary in a good way. Plan are afoot to tour that other hemisphere again in the near future, allowing for the bars from which they’re now barred.
Meanwhile in the land of too big to fail, it’s almost reached the point where the interest in each new Coldplay song is based on the visuals more than the actual song. Which - if we were being churlish, heaven forbid – are pretty much the same song sounding pretty much the same each time lately. So, following the one with the puppets, the one at the circus, and the one where they screwed up Newtown’s traffic for the day, comes Birds (Parlophone) – herewith known as the one where they went to Mexico, and added the colours you see if you had eaten the worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle. Trivia point: can you name any of the members other than the guy who’s consciously uncoupled from Gwyneth? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Of course, you could find your royalty cheque a little larger this month when a perhaps unlikely artist samples a chunk of one of your own tunes. Thus, happy days to The Velvet Underground’s John Cale - who’s had that aching, bending, clenching viola line from the classic Venus In Furs co-opted by Waka Flocka on his new Hey Charlamagne (Brick Squad Monopoly). In its own right, it’s heading for that Kendrick territory of personal and cultural self-criticism bordering on self-loathing which in this case has a real anger and angst to it, along with the obligatory beef with a DJ. At least it somewhat dulls the memory that Cale recently took his own beautiful hymn of human frailty, Close Watch, and vandalised it completely in the name of art and progress. Sigh.
Ah, for the old ways, where you keep running into that same person around the traps and/or the campfires and portaloos of the festival circuit and think ‘hey, let’s do something together’. This Way North have credits like Sal Kimber’s Rollin’ Wheels and Lisa Miller on the CV, and a handy mate in Shane O’Mara to produce the resulting Don’t You Fly (Independent), to preview a self-titled EP out probably by the time you read this. This tune has the two-piece making a wiry, bluesy, heading toward swampy noise on this, as one sample of what they’re about.
And there’s always a place for the good ol’ alt.country murder ballad. Here, one based on a true story and no less than 11 bodies left piled up. Ah, isn’t the world a wonderful place? The Wayward Henrys do an admirable job of handling the feelings and trying to work out what in the head of the perpetrator through Early Grave (The Same Tune). Dark as it should be, not as voyeuristic as it could be. And thus, pretty good.