Victory at Sea: Festival Review 


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This August Bank Holiday I attended Victorious Festival in Southsea, Portsmouth. Boasting a heavyweight line-up at a remarkably modest price; I enjoyed a belated birthday weekend of Britpop and beer. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Despite a variety of festivals under my belt — from the juggernauts of Glastonbury and Reading to much smaller, cheaper affairs — this was my first year at the seaside. And with a number of my favourite artists on the bill, coupled with the promise of a shower and a clean bed every night, I entered with an open mind.

What I found was rather exciting. Victorious offers something of a mediation. A sweet-spot between the larger festivals that I’ve become increasingly jaded with something far more accessible — if not inherently more enjoyable. Big names, a cheap ticket and an interesting site to boot? It seems almost too good to be true.


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Why Definitely Maybe Matters

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1994 produced two of my favourite albums: Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral and Manic Street Preachers’ Holy Bible. These dark, introverted records remain cornerstones in what I consider one of the best decades of music. However, there’s one record from 1994 that is receiving much attention lately,  Oasis’ seminal-debut, Definitely Maybe.

Now I’ll admit – I’ve never been an Oasis fan. My allegiance has always been with Blur and I’ve always viewed the Gallagher Brothers with an ounce of contempt. I think they’re egotists – who spurt out more nonsensical guff that the average politician. That said, I can’t deny they wrote some good songs. Really good songs. And whilst I’ve been looking back at their discography; it’s difficult not to rate their first two records as highlights of the era.

Of course, Oasis followed a pretty chaotic trajectory. Many would agree that the band burned out after What’s The Story Morning Glory? – with Be Here Now often cited as one of the biggest disappointments of the 1990’s. In fact, that bloated and indulgent record is exactly why I’ve disliked the band in the past. A concoction of drugs, noise and the NME giving it a proverbial hand job under the table. But cynicism aside; Definitely Maybe was, and still is, an important record. It was the dawn of Britpop, New Labour, a new era – all in the run up to the millennium. Its impact was unprecedented – and its songs were even greater. This year marks it 20th anniversary (and bizarrely, 50 years since the British Invasion) so I’ve decided to revisit it anew to breakdown exactly why Definitely Maybe matters.


1. It was cool.

tumblr_mw41ieKabd1t16vyso1_1280There’s something wonderfully punk about Definitely Maybe. Not only in its guitars and aesthetic – but in the way it didn’t give a shit about the existing norms. Similar to how the Sex Pistols countered the indulgence of prog-rock; there’s nothing pretentious about Definitely Maybe. (That’s more than can be said about the Gallagher Brothers, though)

Consider how Noel talks about Supersonic:

‘I went in the back and wrote ‘Supersonic’ in about a half hour, recorded it the rest of the night. And that’s the rough mix, and
it was never remixed, either. A magical night, brilliant.’

It took half an hour to crack out one of the most iconic songs of the 1990s. Sure, the lyrics are meaningless and Gin and Tonic/Supersonic is hardly the most poetic rhyming couplet. But Definitely Maybe matters because it wasn’t caught up in the bullshit of trying to be cool, and that’s exactly why it remains so endearing.


2. It was counter-culture.

Nnoel-gallagher-20060301-112086oel Gallagher claims he wrote Live Forever whilst working on a building site, in what he considered a response to U.S Grunge.

‘Seems to me that here was a guy who had everything, and was miserable about it,” said Noel. “And we had fuck-all, and I still thought that getting up in the morning was the greatest fuckin’ thing ever.’

Live Forever may be a slightly crass title to challenge Nirvana’s I Hate Myself and I Want To Die – but it represents an important counterculture against U.S music. Noel’s lyrics were unmistakably British, and inspired an identity that was so absent in 1990’s music from across the pond.

Take Digsty’s Diner for example:

‘If you could come to mine for tea // I’ll give you strawberries and cream’

Woefully simple – but impeccably English. These lyrics encouraged a new sense British cultural identity – that coincided with the Cool Britannia and New Labour movements.

l2eg2v2j.c4zLikewise, the records’ stylistic elements harked back to a ‘golden era’ of Britain. Guitars, bass and drums – it’s unsurprising critics drew links to 60’s bands like The Who and The Kinks. Given that the late 1980s was ripe with electronic music (house, techno etc) – Definitely Maybe was a refreshing sound, regardless of how dated its style really was.

The record’s producer Owen Morris even considered it an attack on that 80’s music.

“I wanted to make the sound as heavy as possible, as I was frustrated with machines and dance music and wanted loud guitars, and luckily enough so did they”

Of course, John Squire and Ian Brown’s work half a decade before laid the foundation for this movement; but a war on ‘machines’ is exactly what Britpop embodied sonically. Ensuring that Rock and Roll would never die.


3. It meant a lot… to a lot of people.

Definitely Maybe matters because it connected with so many Brits. Those who were alienated by American rock and monotonous electronica wanted to hear music that resonated with them. Suddenly, the influx of ‘British lyrics’ about Manchurian life and daily observations was compelling.  Definitely Maybe propelled the Britpop machine into affluence and in doing so revitalised British cultural identity.

Likewise, the records’ critical reception was unanimously positive. But an album can be much more than just a few good songs – and some of the best didn’t please the critics. Granted – my understanding of how Definitely Maybe affected people is somewhat dubious, as the record itself is before my time. Nevertheless, you only need to look at the comments NME’s ‘Albums that changed your life’ to gauge its impact:

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‘This album was a game changer!’ – and it bloody well was.


4. It had some fantastic tunes

There’s no denying that Definitely Maybe has some tunes. Hell – the whole record could’ve been released as singles. If I were to compile a greatest hits of Oasis – no doubt most of the songs would come from their first two efforts.

Supersonic? Rock N Roll Star? Slide Away? Columbia?

Ultimately, Definitely Maybe is an important part of British Music History. Whilst I hate the romanticism that Oasis were consistently good (the denial that their whole career really bottles down to only two records) – there’s no avoiding the impact Definitely Maybe had to British culture. It paved the way for a musical movement and embodies a wonderful sense of national identify. Nevertheless, amidst the celebration of its anniversary, and its subsequent reissue – there are the inevitable talks of a reunion. Whether of not we’ll see remains to be seen. However, Definitely Maybe can stand on its own. I’m not an Oasis fan, and not particularly fussed about seeing them live.  But I love this album, and so do a lot of people. Records are like great novels that stand the test of time, and can outshine any wrongdoing of their author. And for that reason – I’m willing to turn a blind eye to Be Here Now and Heathen Chemistry. Definitely Maybe has aged gracefully… and I can’t wait to see how she looks in another 20 years.


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Music Abundance and the Fate of the Album

In an attempt to put recent discussions I’ve had into writing, I thought I’d kick this blog off with an article on the dubious fate of album. Music is an incredibly important part of my life and the ever changing face of how we consume it affects us all. With the influx of digital music and the inevitable change it has bought to our listening habits, I’m interested to look into whether the album has any real relevance today.


Primarily, it’s the album as an artistic entity that I am looking at. It’s worth noting that physicality (or rather, the lack of) never killed it before, so to simply point the finger at the iPod is shortsighted. Albeit in vinyl, cassette or CD – music has always adapted to the shifts in technology. That said, who exactly listens to a full album today? Who has the time?

If anything, it’s the art of listening to the album that I feel has changed. It seems we’ve become so accustom to picking specific songs, shuffling and streaming through our favourite tracks, that the structured format of the record has been lost. In fact, the idea of listening to an album in isolation, from start to finish, seems somewhat alien. No doubt Smartphones have made public transport more bearable, but seeing music as merely an accompaniment to our daily lives demonstrates a clear change in attitudes today.


Interestingly enough, Noel Gallagher commented on how these attitudes have changed in a recent interview about Arcade Fire’s Reflektor:

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“Anybody that comes back with a double album, to me, needs to pry themselves out of their own asshole. This is not the ’70s, okay? Go and ask Billy Corgan about a double album. Who has the fucking time, in 2013, to sit through 45 minutes of a single album? How arrogant are these people to think that you’ve got an hour and a half to listen to a fucking record?”1

In true Gallagher fashion, the LP is ripped to pieces. That said, it does open up an interesting angle for this debate. The Double-LP represents a slightly pretentious era of music, but certainly demonstrates how much time was once devoted to the listening to music. Does this fit in with our on-demand approach to music today? I can’t help but think that 75 minutes of The Who’s Tommy would be lost on the average iPhone or Spotify playlist. Cynicism aside, it’s a great lost to see these ambitiously crafted albums die out. In fact, Some of my favourite albums of all time, (London Calling, The Fragile, The White Album, Melancholily & ISS’), are double albums. Gallagher may disregard the relevance of the double LP today, but there is no denying that some of the most influential albums of all time were presented in this format.

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Likewise, what about the concept album? Ziggy Stardust or The Wall – albums that really come into their own when listened to as a continuous narrative. Has this art form died for the sake of specific songs? I’ve always liked to raise the discussion about Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt here – a song that whilst depressing in isolation feels like a peaceful ending in the context of its album. (The Downward Spiral, 1994). Once more – I look towards how we listen to music today and ask if all this construction is lost. Artists devote a huge amount of time to meticulously order track listings, hell, they even cut incongruous tracks from records all together. But perhaps this is entirely redundant – as continuity and fluidity is irrelevant when listening to specific tracks.

ASH-FLATCOVERBizarrely, some efforts have been made to counter this. Kaiser Chiefs released a (frankly underwhelming) record in 2011 where fans could ‘create their own’ track listing from track samplers on their website. Similarly, ASH released their ambitious A-Z Series, a digital subscription service that provided fortnightly singles via download. Of course, maybe this could be the evolution that the album needs, a sort of blend of artistic construction and digital flexibility. That said, neither were truly successful and it’s worth nothing that both                                                          bands have returned to making conventional albums.


Moreover, I should probably take a moment to stop romanticising the album. Modern listening habits reflect a wealth of advantages that were alien in the era of the double LP. We no longer have to buy a record (that’s assuming music is still payed for) only to find a handful of enjoyable songs. Likewise, making playlists allows us to make our own personal greatest hits, a sort of tailor-fitting that no record will ever provide. In fact, the sheer convince of digital media is unparalleled. I can can access an unlimited amount of songs on my phone with an internet connection – you sure as hell couldn’t do that with a walkman in the 80’s. Similarly, Spotify and YouTube offer a platform for discovering music that would normally go unheard. The ‘try before you buy’ ethos of streaming services gives us access to more music than ever before. However, I can’t help but feel this is is the harmartia, or tragic flaw for the album all together – accessibility will eventually kill it.

Ultimately, this is this is the argument I have building towards. I recently debated my own thesis of ‘entertainment abundance’ in light of how we consume film and TV. Netflix provides more shows on-demand than any physical form of media, to the point where we have no idea what to watch. How this happens is actually quite remarkable and I feel it spawns from the fact we’ve never had so much choice before. Whilst listening and viewing habits are totally individual, to be overwhelmed with options inevitably leads to a less engaged relationship with records or films. The idea of passive and active engagement is useful here as it seems music is seen as less of a major source entertainment and rather a subsidiary to something else. (i.e. listening via an iPhone on the bus, rather than in the dark listening/crying to The Smiths etc)

And that’s really the point I’m really trying to make. Through such an open access to music we haven fallen trap to superficiality in our listening habits. Maybe we need to go back to listening to albums again. Sitting down with a tea or gin, listening from start to finish and enduring all those painfully shit filler tracks. Because that is *listening* to music is it not? Warts and all? Browsing through specific tracks whilst undoubtably convenient, ultimately undermines the artists’ creation.


Above else, what I’m calling Musical Abundance , you may well consider the greatest thing to happen to music. This increase in accessibility will continue and no doubt the relevance of the album will slip away. Ultimately, this piece has been intended to reassess how modern habits have changed, for good and for bad. Of course, I’m not denying the marvels of recent media forms, and I admit I enjoy handpicking songs as much as a fluid concept album.London Calling - Sound System [Disc 1]

But I’d still try to encourage that we give the album another chance. I like to see music as much as a narrative as any book or film and a way of conveying an artists thoughts and feelings concisely. Whether or not you agree with this view is perfectly understandable, and I intended this to be contradictive article for the sake of provoking thought. Nevertheless, I for one am going to sit down and listen to London Calling… and you’re more than welcome to follow suit.