Here’s a playlist for of Stereolab’s inspirations and influences. It features the likes of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu!, Broadcast, The Beach Boys, Philip Glass, Brian Eno, The Velvet Underground etc. Get to know!
Good morning guys, just an update on this blog and my lack of activity as of recent.
Recently, I’ve been appointed as a marketing and social media assistant for a major online vinyl store. I started at Norman Records a few weeks back, and I’m loving it so far. It’s been an aim to work in music for years now, but due to writing about music as part of a job, I’ll rarely find the time to do my own personal writing as most of it will go to the site. There should be a few posts here and there, and I’m not going to stop doing Album of the Year articles. Your best bet for looking at what I’m listening to and writing about is following Norman’s socials and checking our their site. Give us a follow if you fancy.
Bye for now, Tom.
On Thursday 6th of December, Pete Shelley passed away. He was 63 years old, and died due to a heart attack. Shelley was the frontman, guitarist and primary songwriter for the Manchester punk group, the Buzzcocks, a hugely seminal group at the forefront of the first-wave of UK punk rock. Pete also achieved some success as a solo musician with the popular single ‘Homosapien’. Whilst the Buzzcocks peers like The Clash and The Sex Pistols were overtly political, openly confrontational, and often nihilistic, Buzzcocks wrote songs about romance, growing up, teenage lust, homosexuality (Pete was openly bisexual), and relationships. They fused power pop with energetic punk, presenting a highly melodic sound with a clear emphasis on songwriting. Their unique take on the genre became massively influential to new wave and pop punk.
The Buzzcocks are a very important band to me. They are one of my earliest musical memories and they subconsciously shaped my music taste. I remember my parents used to play a tape-rip of Singles Going Steady relatively often on car journeys, or they’d surface frequently on the numerous punk and new wave compilations they owned. Their tuneful and poppy sound was more distinct to me than the other groups; it was music you’d have stuck in your head for days afterwards. During my late primary school and early high school years, I began listening to pop punk, a genre Buzzcocks practically invented. Green Day were constantly on every audio device imaginable and albums like Dookie became favourites. Though my forays into punk and hardcore hadn’t properly begun, Buzzcocks subliminally tailored a musical mind-set of aggressive music with an emphasis on tight songwriting and melodious musicianship. In my mid-teens, punk became my go-to genre. The Clash were my favourite band, I listened to countless early punk groups, I discovered hardcore and early post-hardcore, and I began playing in punk bands. Buzzcocks were played often, and practically all of Singles Going Steady featured in my punk playlists. At University I discovered Joyce Manor, a group at the cutting edge of pop punk who perfectly channel aggression and sentiment into short and sweet punk songs. Sounds familiar, right? Both Green Day and Joyce Manor have posted tributes regarding the influence of Shelley on their music after the news of his death surfaced.
If you aren’t familiar with Shelley or the Buzzcocks, then please read on:
The Buzzcocks formed in 1975 in Bolton, Greater Manchester after Howard Devoto (later of Magazine), placed a classified ad in college asking for musicians to collaborate on a cover of The Velvet Underground’s 17 minute avant-rock epic ‘Sister Ray’. They began playing gigs at their college and beyond. In the February of 1976, the group travelled to see the Sex Pistols, and ended up booking them for a gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Despite only 150 people turning up, the gig is known as one of the most influential events in alternative music, with Mark E. Smith of The Fall, members of Joy Division, Tony Wilson, Kevin Cummins and Morrissey in attendance.
At the start of 1977, the Buzzcocks released the four track EP Spiral Scratch on their own label New Hormones. Spiral Scratch was a completely independent effort; they funded, recorded, produced, manufactured and distributed the release entirely by themselves. It was the beginning of DIY and independent music. Musically speaking, the EP was raw, repetitive, lively and anti-virtuoistic. It took just five hours to record and mix, and effectively established the minimalist manifesto of punk rock. The EP’s most celebrated track ‘Boredom’ features the infamous anti-solo, where Shelley repeats 2 notes for a total of 66 times. It was a declaration of punk’s “less is more approach”, as well as a jab at how overblown and pompous progressive rock had become. This record changed the world, demonstrating that anyone could start a band and get their music out there. It also allowed bands to experiment more; groups wouldn’t be forced to write a single or a radio friendly pop hit if they had no major label to answer to. It sold 16,000 copies and put Manchester and the North back on the musical map.
The Buzzcocks went on to release three classic albums (Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites, and A Different Kind of Tension) and a string of ground-breaking singles. They toyed with desire and sexuality with the early single ‘Orgasm Addict’, wrote one of the best songs of all-time with ‘Ever Fallen In Love With Someone? (You Shouldn’t Have)’, broke the charts with ‘What Do I Get?’, and released the must-have compilation Singles Going Steady. The Buzzcocks were true originals, effectively creating both pop punk and indie rock.
Pete was taken too early, but the Buzzcocks’ legacy will live on forever in the sounds of punk, pop punk, and through any music released independently and with a DIY spirit.
Check out this playlist of my favourite Buzzcocks tracks below:
Each time I mention that OutKast are one of my favourite groups, usually it’s met with a response somewhere along the lines of “OutKast? Those one hit-wonders who did ‘Hey Ya’?”. Granted, ‘Hey Ya’ is an incredible slice of pop which reached dizzying heights of success, but there is far much more to the group than that. This article explores the importance and influence of OutKast, an analysis of each of their albums, their enduring influence and long-lasting appeal, and why they are not only one of the best hip hop groups of all-time, but one of the most important acts in music.
OutKast were formed in East Point, Georgia in 1991. The duo consisted of André ‘André 3000’ Benjamin and Antwon ‘Big Boi’ Patton. They met in high school, and soon started participating in rap battles and making music together. Soon enough, they had teamed up with the production squad Organized Noise and became the first hip hop act to be signed to Sony Records subsidiary LaFace records. With the strength and success of their debut single ‘Players Ball’ in 1993, and the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik a year later, OutKast quickly became a driving force in hip hop, swiftly building a cult following with several high profile releases. Alongside acts such as The Geto Boys, 2 Live Crew, Goodie Mob and UGK, OutKast helped to bring Southern hip hop to mainstream prominence and demonstrated that it could be as critically and commercially successful as West and East coast rap.
OutKast broke free of the constraints of hip hop, and the perceptions of what the genre could and should aspire to. Just as important as alternative rap innovators such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Beastie Boys and De La Soul, OutKast managed to create a unique and original style which sent shockwaves through America and beyond. Though André and Big Boi are polar opposites in terms of style, technique, musical influences, and personality, they manage to jump-off and perfectly complement each other as performers, rappers, musicians and producers. Big Boi’s rapping style is heavier and more aggressive in tone and timbre, and is often more frenetic than the smoother and more relaxed tenor of André. Lyrically, André is more abstract and figurative than Patton who habitually ‘tells it like it is’ in typical Southern fashion. Big Boi’s into his hard-hitting funk, soul and early hip hop, whilst André idolises Prince and adores psychedelic music. This bizarre combination allowed for a unique artistic vision to flourish, and OutKast created a new and cutting edge sound which relied primarily on live instrumentation instead of direct sampling. Smooth funk basslines underpin Southern soul vocal hooks and brass instrumentation, and embellishments of electronic soundscapes and spacey psychedelia characterise OutKast’s productions.
Under the influence from a range of popular culture topics, OutKast created heavily conceptual pieces of work in both their music and performance, often adopting different fashions and personas upon each touring cycle and stream of music videos. Whether it be posturing as pimps and extra-terrestrials in their early work, or discussing socio-political ideals and creating soundtracks and starring in accompanying films, the music is just one element of the complex and inimitable OutKast. Excluding the soundtrack piece Idlewild here’s a rundown of each of their studio albums:
Featuring a G-funk influenced sound, funk and soul elements, and live and organic production techniques of Organized Noize, Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik gave the world their first taste of Outkast; a sound which was defined by heavy yet irresistible bass licks, tongue-twisting wordplay and smooth, melodic sung hooks. The social commentary regarding pimp and drug culture is rife; the group even hustled to generate funds to record, a surprising thought considering the pair were both in high school. Their debut proclamation became one of the first Southern hip hop albums to gain commercial success, and began to generate acclaim despite 1994 being a very strong year in rap with high profile releases from Nas, Beastie Boys, Common, and Gravediggaz. The lead single ‘Player’s Ball’ sold half a million copies, and the group were invited by The Notorious B.I.G. to support him on tour. However, this triumph was just the beginning for Outkast…
ATLiens is my personal favourite OutKast album. As the title suggests, ATLiens sounds out of this world. Defined by alien soundscapes, riddled with incredibly technical rapping and multifaceted lingo, and complete with interstellar instrumentation and newfound experimentations in production and composition, this album is an ideal starting point into OutKast’s straight-up hip hop work. It’s a tranquil trip into sci-fi conceptualism, with the psychedelic production and instrumentation offering a completely absorbing and immersive listening experience. Motivated by the naysayers of their Southern sound, Big Boi and André utilised their own recording studio to grow as artists by brushing up on their production and instrument playing skills. Their efforts began to show immediately in their music; OutKast created a labour of love which served as both a musically consistent and conceptually cohesive record which is entirely deserving of its classic status.
The title Aquemini stems from a portmanteau of the members Zodiac star signs, indicating that despite the duo being vastly dissimilar in terms of their musicality, vocal diction and personality, that it’s the two parts of the individual that fashion the whole to create OutKast. Aquemini mixes the eclecticism and experimentation of ATLiens with the hardcore rap of Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik to create a record which assembles all shades of black Southern American music to a march of forward thinking hip hop. OutKast successfully merged East Coast rap with Southern hip hop in the Raekwon guesting ‘Skew It On The Bar-B’, reintroduced the hood elements in ‘Return of the ‘G’’, borrowed the spacey psych of ATLiens in the records title track, and created their magnum opus in the Curtis Mayfield worship of ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’. With its sprawling, eclectic sound and colossal variety of themes, instrumentation and moods, it’s no wonder that Aquemini is considered OutKast’s greatest achievement.
At the turn of the 21st Century, OutKast had some things to say about the state of America and the rest of the world. A glance at the album art and track-list immediately infers their political intent; with songs such as ‘Gasoline Dreams’ and ‘B.O.B.’ (‘Bombs Over Baghdad’) alongside the cover which sees the duo posturing in front of a black and white American flag, Stankonia was their biggest statement yet. It seemed impossible that the duo could top the quality and scope of Aquemini, but Outkast upped the experimentation, employing a huge variety of genres, range of tones, topics and pacing. Stankonia is the duo’s ‘heaviest’ and widescreen sounding record, thanks to its incorporation of faster tempos, distorted guitar instrumentation, and influence from genres as far afield as drum & bass, psychedelic rock and P-funk.
Speakerboxxx / The Love Below (2003)
Speakerboxxx / The Love Below is the eleven-times platinum record shook the world. There was a time where you could switch over to any radio station and it was guaranteed that ‘Hey Ya’, ‘I Like The Way You Move’ or ‘Roses’ would be playing; it was absolutely massive and completely inescapable. Interestingly, this double album comprises of a side from each of the members. Characteristically, Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx disc is a funky take on Southern rap, whilst André’s The Love Below features folk, psychedelia, pop and R&B. It’s a sprawling and highly eclectic affair which showcases the influences and musical mind-set of each member over its two-hour runtime. Its ambitious scope and interpretation of various subgenres and flavours of mood is comparable to The Beatles’ White Album or Prince’s Sign O’ The Times. This is possibly the biggest album of our generation.
OutKast released their last effort before their hiatus in 2006, the ambitious Idlewild, a soundtrack to the film which the duo wrote and starred in. Though the critical and commercial response was muted, it still exhibited the group were out there pushing boundaries. To come hot off the heels of one of the most successful albums of all-time with a film and accompanying soundtrack is a bold statement to say the least.
During their fourteen year career, OutKast managed to push the boundaries of rap with each album release, sending shockwaves through the music scene with an influence which can still be heard today. Listen to Kendrick Lamar and tell me that André 3000 isn’t one of his biggest influences; good kid, m.A.A.d city is basically serves as the West Coast’s answer to Aquemini. There’s a huge amount of influence of OutKast in modern Southern rappers such as the likes of Isaiah Rashad, Big K.R.I.T. and CunninLynguists, who probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Dre and Antwon. Detroit’s madcap MC Danny Brown declares OutKast as a major influence, even lifting some lines from ‘B.O.B’ in ‘Today’ and stating “If you don’t know five OutKast songs, then we have a problem / If you don’t know where you come from, you can’t know where you’re going” in response to Lil Yachty’s inability to name five songs by Biggie or Tupac.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that trap rap is the most prevalent form of hip hop around today, and is one of the most popular and discussed genres in popular music. OutKast and their peers put the South on the map, and their gritty portrayals of urban life in Atlanta can be seen as precursors to trap music. Their debut discussed themes of living in some of the most crime-ridden and deprived areas of America, discussing topics including hustling, cooking crack and pimping in Atlanta. In ‘SpottieOttieDopalicous’, Big Boi discusses the hopelessness of youth unemployment and being confined in the trap lifestyle due to previous minor convictions; “The United Parcel Service and the people at the post office didn’t call you back because you had cloudy piss, So now you back at the trap just that, trapped”. OutKast and their peers who created the Southern/Atlanta sound opened the door for early trap artists such as T.I., Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy. Basically, the current hip hop climate may have never even come to light if it wasn’t for OutKast.
The question is, will OutKast ever end their hiatus? Will they tour or do a few festival dates? Will they record new music together? Can we expect a new album? The answer to all these is ‘probably not’. Big Boi’s got his solo career, and Dre tends to stay out of the spotlight, occasionally featuring in a film or lending a guest appearance to a track. Until then, let’s just revisit OutKast and their phenomenal body of work.
It’s the height of the festival season, and if you’re lucky enough to be attending one then it’s crucial you don’t forget to pack these essential items! Packing for a festival can be tricky; it’s important to prepare for the worst, yet limited storage space, prohibited items, and the amount you’ll be able to carry should all be taken into account. It’s crucial to not overpack as you’ll struggle to even make it to the campsite, yet there are many essentials which simply cannot be forgotten. Here are the items you should bring, alongside some practical food and drink ideas.
- Tickets – You’d be surprised how many people forget to bring their tickets or lose them as they haven’t taken precautions to secure them properly. Triple check before you set off, and store them in a safe location when travelling to the event.
- Tent (+ pegs and mallet) – Tent shopping can be tricky, especially on a budget. It’s important to get one that will withstand the unpredictable British weather, and one that will suit the needs of yourself and anyone sharing a tent with you. Tents can have separate “rooms”, such as individual bedrooms and an entrance lobby. You can get one-man tents if you’re staying alone, or one which will suit the whole family. Don’t forget your tent pegs and mallet to secure them properly!
- Roll mat – An essential item which can aid in preventing back ache and prevent the coldness of the earth penetrating the tent. A good night’s sleep is critical at a festival; you’ll need rest to keep your spirits and energy up through the fun-filled days and nights.
- Sleeping bags/duvet/pillows – A decent sleeping bag is essential to stave off the cold.
- Waterproof jacket and a thick jumper – For the erratic weather and cold nights.
- Sun Cream/After Sun – There’s nothing worse than getting burnt at a festival. It can ruin your weekend. Pack a high factor sun cream, and make sure it’s a relatively new bottle as sun cream loses its potency overtime. After sun should be packed as burning may occur.
- Baby wipes – One of the most crucial items on the list, baby wipes are your go to for cleaning your hands before and after handling food, and washing your body in the morning.
- Toilet roll
- Torch – A cheap torch should allow you to find your items with ease. They’re also useful for bathroom trips in the pitch black; you don’t want to wake a fellow festival-goer by tripping over their tent pegs!
- Cash – You’ll need this as the majority of food and booze stalls won’t accept card transactions.
- Plastic bags/bin bags – Be a responsible attendee and dispose of your litter properly. It keeps ticket prices lower and gives the environment a helping hand. They’re also useful for storing used/dirty clothes.
- Clothes – It’s important not to overpack, however practical and weather appropriate clothing is crucial at a festival. Shorts, t-shirts and vests are all good shouts, as are comfortable and loose clothes like joggers and flannel shirts. Don’t forget a cap, a woolly hat, and sunglasses. Denim takes ages to dry, so avoid jeans if you can.
- Wellies or hiking boots
- Towel – Essential for drying off if it rains, or after a shower.
- Rucksack/suitcase – To store and transport all your belongings.
- Wallet, phone, phone charger (+adapter), ID, keys, cards – These are usually essential items to take anywhere anyway, however you’ll need a phone to contact your mates or for emergencies, an ID for booze (some festivals may need ID to check you’re who you say you are on your ticket), and your card will be useful to withdraw cash if needs be. Remember to write your address and a contact number on your belongings just in case you lose them.
- Camping chairs – After hours of standing up/dancing, you’re going to need a comfortable place to sit down and regain your energy.
- Hand sanitiser – Festivals aren’t known for being the cleanest places on Earth, but taking precautions like using hand sanitiser will be essential before and after handling food or using the bathroom.
- Paracetamol and plasters – For hangovers, headaches, and if you get a nasty cut.
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant – No one enjoys the idea of standing around thousands of people who haven’t been washed for three days, but you can help by packing deodorant and toothpaste. Try the travel-size items to save on space and weight.
- Tape – In case you need to seal a rip or hole in your tent
- Earplugs – To avoid tinnitus and hearing damage when watching live music, or for aiding in a good night’s sleep in noisy campsites
- Gas stove and disposable BBQs – Most festivals are very strict on these items, make sure you check if the festival you’re attending allows them!
- Lighter/matches – For lighting gas stoves, BBQs, fires and cigarettes.
- Cutlery/plates/cups – For your food and drink. Can use disposable items.
- Cool box with freezer blocks – Storing food in a cool and hygienic manner.
Food and Drink
Food is another tricky aspect to think about when planning a festival. You need to consider hygiene, storage space, weight, and if the items can be transported without easily damaging; the last thing you want is for a box of raw eggs to break all over the only clothes you’ve packed for the weekend. Here are some practical ideas for food which are cheap, filling, low-risk, ready-to-eat and easy to transport.
- Cereal bars/cake bars/squares – Inexpensive and substantial. Can be topped with spreads to give you a burst of energy and to fill you up even more.
- Protein bars
- Peanut butter, jam and chocolate spread –These are essential as they’re easy to transport, they’re high in protein and calories, can be spread on an assortment of things, and go down a treat if you’re bringing the kids along.
- Bread/bagels – Opt for bread that won’t get crushed during transportation.
- Pringles – The packaging means the contents won’t turn into shards of crisp dust before you even enter the site.
- Biscuits – Avoid chocolate biscuits as they will melt.
- Brioche, croissants etc – Filling and easy to transport. Usually they keep for ages.
- Nuts – Filling and cheap.
- Cold pasta/Cous Cous – Easy to transport, very filling, and can be made into hundreds of different types of flavours. Consume within the first day or two as they may make you ill if they’re stewing in a hot tent all day.
- Cheese and onion rolls etc – To be eaten on the first day.
- Hummus and falafel with wraps/flatbread – Makes for a filling daytime snack or light tea.
- Fruit juice
- Spirits – Vodka is usually the first choice for a festival spirit as it mixes with almost anything and is more pleasant than most liquors when consumed lukewarm. Make sure you empty a water bottle to store the alcohol, as glass is almost always prohibited at festivals.
- Fizzy drinks/mixer – Essential if you’re packing spirits.
- Marshmallows – For a quick energy boost or a campfire treat. It’s pretty difficult to squish these too.
- Veggie meat/meat – For a filling evening meal if you don’t fancy a dodgy burger van hotdog and/or want to save money. A useful tip to save time is to cook off your meat products and freeze them. They’ll be defrosted by the time the festival reaches its second or third day, and will require a minimal amount of cooking time. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about meat juices leaking all over your clothes or other food.
- Halloumi – A filling and rich snack. Can be cooked beforehand and frozen, and used on sandwiches.
- Chewing gum
- Crackers/pretzels etc
- Fruit and vegetables – Avoid fruits and veg that bruise or break easily.
- Cereal and UHT milk/milk substitute
- Tea bags and coffee
- Instant noodles
- Tinned items such as soup and baked beans
- LAGER – Probably the most important thing on the list.
Use this list before your prep and enjoy your festival!