It needed to make up for their previous release: Keep Calm And Carry On.
In what can only be described as a highly embarrassing incident, the Welshmen managed to press the all-important record button on an album that featured next to no rock. When a rock band fails to rock, they don’t just have a problem on their hands but a crisis of identity.
It wasn’t just the lack of guitar driven noise that was an issue. I Got Your Number saw Kelly Jones count slowly from one to eight in every chorus. They weren’t exactly the most inspiring lyrics he could have written. The opening track sounded amateurish and the closing song began with more “riveting” words: “I pulled into a petrol station”. In between there were a few nice ballads, but overall it was a massively disappointing record.
The band that had released an album every two years, decided to take a break after Keep Calm. And it’s a good job they did. Waiting four years before daring to put any more music in their fans ears was wise. This month the band returned with Graffiti On The Train.
One of the first signs that Graffiti could be a suitable antidote to the horror of Keep Calm was this superb video for Violins and Tambourines:
The themes of violence and redemption captured in the video really deserve a blog post of their own. But we must move on…
Unusually for the band, it’s the latter songs on their new album that really hit home. This includes the above ‘Violins’ which is track 7 of 10.
The bluesy/acoustic feel of “Been Caught Cheating” (track 8) sounds authentic enough and penultimate track (and first single) In A Moment sees the band resurrect the same vibe that was responsible for their early success.
Stereophonics are going through a process of both reinvention and rejuvenation They’re moving away from their heavy roots and developing a milder side more reminiscent of Have A Nice Day…only better. Graffiti On The Train is an encouraging step toward a brighter future for these giants of indy rock. But as time goes on even that label grows tired and old. The band are now faced with a question: How do they stay ahead of the curve without completely selling out?
Graffiti On The Train doesn’t answer that question with overwhelming satisfaction, but it does mark a step in the right direction. Keep Calm’s memory can finally be buried. And for that fact alone, fans should be grateful.
Passion makes all the difference.
It was on the way back from last night’s historic event where Christian music finally got its own chart that one industry professional pointed this out to me: “The Edge could play an amazing guitar riff, but when Bono picks the guitar up, it doesn’t sound the same.” The comment was not a critique of Bono’s guitar skills but an observation about the way passion drives music.
Christian music is overflowing with passion because it’s not just the music that gets us excited, it’s the person we’re singing about.
Speaking at the launch, MD of the Official Charts Company Martin Talbot said that he has overseen dozens of charts “but I’ve never experienced the enthusiasm we’ve had from the Christian and Gospel labels”.
Later a representative from the same company told me she was staggered at the level of camaraderie and relationship within the Christian music world. Her comments reminded me of John 13:35 when Jesus said: “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another”.
When the Official Charts Company launches a new chart they do it properly. When industry experts “discovered” (that’s their word, not mine) the Christian music scene they were gobsmacked. People simply didn’t realise such a huge market existed.
- More people go to Church every week than people who went to the London Olympics.
- Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons was the 4th biggest download of sheet music – 2nd only to Adele in the UK.
- 300,000 people went to Christian concerts and festivals in the UK last year.
- Katy Perry’s songs were played 1.4 million times on the radio last year. Chris Tomlin’s songs were played 3.12 million times in churches.
Christian music has come a long way in recent decades. No longer is the genre synonymous with poor quality cringe-worthy songs. In any genre there’ll be bad apples, but for the most part Christian music is top quality, and it’s getting better all the time.
Critics of the new chart worry a Christian ghetto is being created. But nothing could be further from the truth. Thousands of people sing Christians songs in the UK. Yet this beautiful picture of unified worship across backgrounds, races and denominations that Christians take for granted at events like Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor is hidden from the general public’s view. Having a Christian chart which is recognised and backed by a mainstream music organisation proves that Christian music is not some kind of strange side show for religious people, but a serious collection of great sounding, positive songs.
The Christian music industry is arguably set apart from how the secular world has traditionally operated. If you talk to the top worship leaders and record label bosses you will soon notice a common character trait. Real, genuine humility. I’ve interviewed many people within the Christian music industry yet I can’t think of anyone who has come across as only being interested in promoting their music. When they say they want to serve churches by providing songs that help people to worship, they mean it.
There’s a deep level of friendship even between representatives of “rival” organisations in the Christian music world. You could even argue the industry is not an industry at all but a community.
This chart has been a long time coming. I’m told there’s been plenty of debate behind the scenes as to what constitutes ‘Christian’ music. The organisers of this chart are not oblivious to some of these tricky questions. Some of the finer details are yet to be worked out. But what’s important and what should be celebrated right now is that Christian music has moved out of the ghetto. It’s been recognised as a legitimate, well-produced and relevant genre of music. If your a Christian this should excite you, and if you’re not I hope it encourages you to look into this world of great music. You don’t have to believe to belong. Let the future begin…
Last year, Apple decided not to put a CD/DVD drive in their latest MacBook Pros. A serious laptop without a disc drive? Surely not!
But with the news that both HMV and Blockbuster (who make most of their money by trading CDs and DVDs) have gone into administration, it looks like Apple knew exactly what they were doing. Have CDs and DVDs really had their day?
You may be surprised to learn cassette tapes were only popular for around 20 years. CDs have been sold since 1983 and there’s no reason why the disc format should last much longer than cassette format.
If I’m right on this then we should see a decline of CD sales around 20 years after the first sale. That would mean CD sales would start to decline around 2003.
The statistics show it was actually 2004 that the big drop began (so I wasn’t far wrong!). Needless to say sales have been plummeting ever since…
While I do believe we’re seeing the beginning of the end in terms of CDs and DVDs, I think there’s one very important reason why CDs have lasted longer than cassettes did: Ripping.
My CD may not get much use, but at least it’s still useful. In a few minutes the content of the CD can be on my iPod. Cassettes on the other hand didn’t stand a chance. You could have copied from cassette to CD but few did. It wasn’t a quick or easy process like it is to copy from CD to iPod.
It’s astonishing to think that in my lifetime, VHS videos were being sold for at least £10 each, yet today they are worth £0. You couldn’t even give them to a charity shop. No one wants them.
Yet look at people’s vast DVD collections today. We’re approaching a time where they will be worth £0 too! People will have moved on to Blu-ray, or perhaps DVD players will stop being made altogether as people stream and download films?
There’s very little we can say for certain on these topics. But one thing we do know is this: Constant change is here to stay.
Will we ever reach a time when MP3s are useless and everyone has moved on to yet another format? I find it difficult to envision such a time. But then again, I’m sure 1960s hippies found it difficult to think ahead to a time where music lovers didn’t own a record player…
Welcome to the fourth annual holymansam.wordpress.com music awards!
This year I’ve added 1000 songs to my iTunes library. Hear the top 10 by going to Spotify and checking out my best of 2012 playlist.
Now onto the awards…
Best Live Album
A Creation Liturgy – Gungor The decision to not overdub anything on a live album is always going to be a risky strategy. But Gungor’s first (and eagerly anticipated) live album is mind-blowing. Here’s a wonderful taste of their organic sound.
Best Worship Album
Live from New York – Jesus Culture & Martin Smith – “I’m so proud of it, I put my name on it!” That’s right, the UK publishers were kind enough to send me an advanced copy and print my words on their advertising: “Surpasses already sky-high expectations. This has all the hallmarks of a classic in the making”
The Remission Flow – The Irish friends have an incredible story (see here). They remain the most humble and polite band I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing. Oh, and their music is pretty cool too!
Best Debut Album
Bullet Proof- Thorntree This is full on old-school unashamed rock music. Not many bands can say their first album was mastered at Abbey Road, but the musicians in Thorntree are all pros. I hesitate to use the word ‘superband’ but after hearing Everything I Need (see above playlist) for the umpteenth time I couldn’t find a better word that sums up their collective talent.
This award goes to Tom Read for his adaptation of popular poem Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep. Born in England but now residing in Hong Kong, China, Mr Read has drawn on a variety of musical styles to pull together his debut album Compass.
Next up it’s the award for Best Pop Album.
There’s been so many melodic, beautiful and chilled albums this year, I felt such music deserved an award of its own. My top three of the year are:
Safe Place – Kristene Dimarco - A stunning collection of chilled, pop influenced songs with soaring melodies and top quality production.
Light For The Lost Boy – Andrew Peterson - As above, but with more of a creative and storytelling edge.
Honeycomb Tombs – Karla Adolphe. Karla’s voice is stunning while the musical backing on the album proves there’s beauty in simplicity. Perhaps the best thing about the record is it’s absolutely free. Click here to get your copy.
And the winner is:
Finally, it’s the big one. The award for Best Album
The nominations are:
Chaos Curb Collaboration - Combines the best rock and dance sounds together. Musically mature, it’s a debut like no other.
Give Us Rest – David Crowder Band - As their 16 year career came to an end this year, one couldn’t help but feel sad to lose one of the greatest bands Christian music has ever seen.
Cold Hard Want – House of Heroes - Arguably their best offering yet. And that’s saying something! Full on, unrestrained rock at its best.
Eye On It – Toby Mac - He made history again. The first Christian album since 1997 (LeAnn Rimes) to reach number one in both the gospel and mainstream US charts. So well deserved.
And the winner is:
Song of the Year
Over to you for this one…Simply listen to the songs here, then click your selection!
Well, that’s it for another year. Over to you…tell me what I’ve missed by listing your favourite songs and albums of 2012 in the comments below.
If you’re downloading music or films without paying for them, you’re probably breaking the law.
People don’t care they are breaking the law. But if they worked in the music industry and witnessed redundancies all around them because of illegal downloading, they probably would!
Today I stumbled across a recent live Christian worship album uploaded in its entirety to YouTube. This was not done by the producer, record label or artist. It was done by someone who didn’t own the copyright. I politely pointed this out to him, and he kindly promised to remove it. His excuse? He didn’t know it was illegal.
You may think I’m being picky and being a kill joy. Many of you seemed to have this impression when I relayed some of the above on Twitter. I was shocked at the number of Christians defending this person’s actions!
So let’s deconstruct some of the arguments for illegally streaming or downloading music and see if they stand up…
I believe we as Christians should be leading the way in acting within the law and acting morally and in accordance with our own scriptures (Rom13:1-2)
1) It’s not stealing because it’s not physical!
According to this argument, when it comes to downloading, there isn’t a physical object to take so it can’t be called stealing.
I don’t know of many people who would steal a CD for the artwork! They steal it for the information (songs) on it. When people download – they are taking that same information. So the same product is being taken. It may not be being taken in the same manner, but the outcome is the same.
2) The artists earn too much money anyway. They won’t notice a few quid lost because I didn’t buy their CD.
Christians, let’s get a few facts straight: Probably the best selling Christian CD of the last 18 months was Spirit Break Out. It reached number 9 in the iTunes chart, and according to the people involved, it hasn’t even broken even yet! Worship leaders are clearly not rolling in it. You have to sell millions, not thousands to make a big profit.
But that point is actually an aside.
By the above logic, I could steal Rihanna’s car because she’s already rich and can afford another one.
But I don’t refrain from stealing music or cars because it will or won’t damage people. I refrain from stealing because it’s morally wrong.
3) I just illegally stream or download so I can decide if I like it. If I like it then I’ll buy it.
This is a really common argument. The ’try before you buy’ attitude sounds great to begin with, but what is it based on?
It’s based on the idea that stealing is only stealing if you hang on to something for a certain period of time.
So you could argue the first 45 minutes of listening to an album is not stealing, it’s just sampling/trying. The argument implies that if I continued to enjoy the product and held onto it for X hours or days then it would be considered stealing and wrong. But where’s the limit?
The limit is hour 0. In other words, unless you’ve already paid the money, it’s wrong and it’s stealing.
4) All music should be free, anyway!
These people want there to be a world where everyone benefits from the joys of music, but no one has to pay for it.
Can you imagine walking up to someone who already struggles to sell tickets to their gigs or get money from album sales and telling them to “just do it all for free!”? These people have mortgages to pay and children to feed.
To those illegally downloading music saying “it should be free”, can I just point out there’s already a legal and free way of listening to music? Spotify.
You have NO excuse to illegally stream music on YouTube now that Spotify is here. Thanks to Spotify – the person who wants music to be free, gets what they want. But they get it without damaging the artist.
It is shocking to me that we need to have a discussion on what constitutes stealing and what doesn’t. But all the statistics suggest that’s exactly what needs to happen. (Seeing as Ed Sheeran’s album is the most illegally downloaded, perhaps we also need to have a discussion on what constitutes good music? But we’ll save that for another time)
While I believe it’s wrong to steal regardless of your religious beliefs, I’m primarily aiming this post at my fellow Christians. Check Rom13:1-2 again. Too many are setting a bad example, damaging the very industry (Christian music/film) they claim to love and deliberately ignoring God’s commandments.
Sorry for the preach, but this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away. I welcome your comments and am more than happy to debate this if need be…
Eastbourne is great for many things. Live music isn’t usually one of them.
All that changed, perhaps just momentarily last Saturday evening when Thorntree launched their debut album Bullet Proof.
For all intents and purposes, Thorntree are a superband. All four band members have been professional musicians for many years, involved in countless bands and projects across the UK and beyond. They probably wouldn’t put their careers in such grand terms. Working in the music industry is rarely as glamorous as it sounds plus Martin, Neil, Mark and Mikey are humble men.
The Underground Theatre is one of the town’s best kept secrets. The intimate venue holds just a couple of hundred people and is situated beneath Eastbourne’s library. With an outstanding sound system, the venue was perfect for the launch. 80 is an impressive number of people to gather in the sleepy town, and as lead singer and guitarist Martin Cooper said to the small crowd: “Thank you for coming out to hear a band you’ve never heard of play songs you’ve never heard of”.
The music turned out to be straightforward, powerful and energetic rock. There wasn’t an acoustic guitar in sight. Instead, in your face guitar solos and ridiculously complex drum fills abounded.
The band gave it their all from the outset. Drummer Mikey Randon dropped a stick, replaced it and snapped a large chunk of wood off the second one as he crashed a cymbal. That was all within the opening tune Blue Skies Turn Grey.
Three songs in and Martin stops to take his first swig of water. “I’m going to need this. The next song is 400 beats per minute,” he laughs. “I hope you like your music ‘rock’ cause that’s what you’ve got now”.
Mikey gets his high hat going and before you know it, everyone has launched into a super fast heavy guitar riff. But more than just a bunch of musicians showing off, Everything I Need turned out to be a very well crafted song with an excellent chorus and thoughtful lyrics.
“At 17 I had a dream that I would be a star / By 23 I realised I never came that far / I could have given up or just played the fool / Whatever didn’t kill me helped me stand up tall”.
Martin had previously said the song is set during a time in his life where he wished he had the technical ability to play complex solos and fast riffs. It’s apt that the music these lyrics are set to is precisely the same style that the guitarist was so desperate to emulate a couple of decades ago.
The band tended to let their music do the talking. Who needs small talk when you’ve got so many top songs to thrash out? But after instrumental tune Mean Monkey, Martin gave the audience an insight into the production process.
“So we recorded 10 songs for the album. We’d finished it and I just had to put the final track order together. I was in Starbucks with my iPad…” “Show off”, I thought to myself “…and I opened my emails to find an email from Mark saying we need to write another song. Which is not what you want to hear when you’ve finished a project. Neil sent over a demo and I wrote a chorus. It turned out to be one of the best songs on the album. It’s called Paradise’.
It’s certainly the most pop orientated and radio friendly track on the recording. But Everything I Need, Peace Sign and Here I Am were arguably much stronger songs. The band played with their amps up to 11 the entire evening. In a time when folk/acoustic/pop music has become the ‘in’ genre, it’s refreshing to listen to a band that are unashamedly bashing their instruments for all they are worth.
To say the band were ‘tight’ or ‘together’ is the stupidest statement since ‘this water is a bit wet’. The most common word that went through my head as I watched Thorntree was ‘flawless’. Looking around the room I was pleased to see I wasn’t the only person watching every note played with a huge grin on my face. The band were clearly enjoying themselves too. Relaxed, if a little weary by the end, their quiet confidence put everyone at ease.
It’s been 12 years since Martin last played the Underground theatre. Back then he was playing acoustic Christian songs with Paul Oakley for a live album Unafraid. Much has happened in those years. Martin has become a father, started and finished another band – Chasing Stars, written an instrumental album State of the Union, starting writing a monthly column for Guitar Techniques and taken up a teaching post at BIMM.
What’s the motive behind starting Thorntree? The singer says he simply wanted to record an album, do a gig and then “see what happens”. The album, in case your interested – contains (according to one pundit) “the best guitar tones I’ve ever heard”. The quality is superb. Of course, when it comes to recording, it does help when your guitarist owns the best studio on the south coast.
Make no mistake: Thorntree have done everything right so far. They’ve put together a fantastic debut album and the best first gig Eastbourne has ever seen. The big test starts now. Will they secure more gigs and attract industry attention? I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you they totally deserve both of those things…and in huge helpings.
All photos (c) holeinabox.com used with permission.