Archives for the month of: November, 2012

I cannot write about Massive Attack. This reminds me of the narrative viewpoint of a guilty observer in a few modern poems that are hurled at teenagers in anthologies. I shall not write about what I’m writing about because words can’t capture the true sadness of what I see. The Warsaw Ghetto, child workers in the developing world and hapless urban music buffs from Bristol about to be turned into a middle class must have and discussed at woefully grim dinner parties. Discussed? No, played in the background. I shall not turn up the hi-fi too much and cheapen the then deeply fashionable trip hop by actually listening to it, no it is an item in my designer life. It’s cool and I aim for some of that cool to rub off on my new semi-detached box which I expect you to be impressed by as I offer you an olive and a very slow bit of rapping from Daddy G. Please believe that I’m urban but not a criminal. That spliff in the ashtray line? Well, maybe later but not now – Christ! What would the neighbours think? Mind you, when I buy my, err…shit, I do so from a proper Yardie…oh yes! Proper dangerous it is when I score, I’ll take you some time. You can sit in the car while I shit myself waiting on the pavement. Anything ringing any bells yet? No, you really wouldn’t be reading this would you? You were leaving the building in the mid 90s, now you are halfway home in a cab to mediocrity if you’re not already there. And besides, it wasn’t cool, it was just urban music that a somewhat self-conscious section of society that eventually gave up its self-consciousness to Ritchie (not Lionel) and the Gallaghers (not Rory) were prepared to accept. No obvious sexism or references to killing or race? Great, you can count me in then!

This is why ‘Blue Lines’ needs defending. It need rescuing from blind tributes. It is one of the hugely important albums that came out in 1991 that mapped the future. You can fight over the others but ‘Blue Lines’ remains more cohesive than ‘Screamadelica’, less familiar than ‘Nevermind’, just plain better than either ‘Banwagonesque’ or ‘Gish’ and if you have Pearl Jam or U2 in mind for the rest of your list then please delete them now. Did you just suggest R.E.M.’s ‘Out of Time’? Really?…

Originally, I had decided to get a piece written on Blue Lines in time for the recent remastered reissue. I rate it as one of my favourite albums of all time and it would be a way towards expanding what I can write about an album towards an eventual 33/3rd book project. Not only that, but the album brings back personal memories of Bristol in the early 90s and the eventual rise of trip hop. However, this album also proved the bridge from 3 weekly music papers in the 80s to just 1 nowadays and a lot more music coverage appearing in the newspapers, well, The Guardian is the one that gets the notice for me or from me depending. What band better demonstrates a move from inky indie publications like Sounds to the coffee table covering Guardian? Why none better than Massive Attack – urban culture in your living room possibly from IKEA. So, as the reissue came closer, so did the articles from authentic mid-90s chancers. The memories of somehow ‘being there’ which cannot be true as the collective did not really court publicity but struggled to shrug it off. It wasn’t there for ‘Blue Lines’ but kind of stuck about 4 years later and led to Madonna practically stalking them for a collaboration – always a bad sign.

Yes, at some point in the mid-90s, possibly as a gut reaction to the mundane aura of Britpop, the middle classes developed a sophistication that could not possibly have true mass appeal. The drawback was that it was so successful that in actual fact it was mainstream and Portishead became the new Sade and possibly influenced Dido. As a result, almost any anecdote on this album sounds like a second-hand cliché. You’ll notice this, I’m sure but you are no longer allowed to criticise because I’m pointing out the flaw in advance. This of course allows me to let through all sorts of second-rate writing but I promise not to do so. You may have your doubts based on these last 3 sentences if not the ones that preceded them. Also, ‘second-hand cliché’ IS a second-hand cliché.

So, Bristol in 1991. I’d left home to attend Bristol Polytechnic in September of the previous year. As Massive Attack were about to introduce the idea of Bristol being a hip place for the 1990s, I was living in halls of residence in Fishponds. Bristol seemed like something very laid back and yet urban when compared with someone like myself who had always lived in a little village previously. It was apparent in the music that I listened to as a lot more of an urban influence came into my thinking and yet Bristol is never far from cider references and the least urban accent of any city in the world (someone might want to research their own article on that point, mightn’t they my lover?) and let us not forget that ‘Fishponds’ could never sound particularly urban as a place to be based and it was also a long bus journey through traffic to get to the centre. In Bristol, Massive Attack did not sound hip or cool, they sounded gert lush and their loosely formed collective made sense in this environment. However, they appeared on some youth culture magazine show very briefly when the video for ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ must have been given approximately 2 minutes preceded by a yoof presenter already claiming them to be cool. To be cool and unheard of seems a dangerous precedent. In fact, it was an image the band could never emerge from under. Ultimately, Massive Attack would always suffer from being too cool rather than benefit from it as it became them and they became it. A new Massive Attack song would, within 10 years, become something that just sounded cool and would cause listeners to nod their heads calmly to the downbeat rhythm whilst watching from the side on Later with Jools. Thankfully, Jools himself would not be encouraged to add his tedious brand of honky-tonk ragtime bollocks to ‘Inertia Creeps’. Essentially this had become coffee table dance music. It was dance music for the background of dinner parties. It was an instant cliché drawn from something which had previously sounded totally original.

The music itself has had so very many attempts made at describing it. Essentially it is a form of blunted backbeat led hip hop and soul mixed together. Less upbeat than Soul II Soul but of a similar ilk, and obviously much cooler. It sounded very stoned. It sounded like a type of music I had associated with the mainstream had instantly leapt into a more self-conscious/self-obsessed genre of its own. This was outgoing music for introverts not just the comedown album after the club, and it had its own language that would exclude others and even most of its fans on some levels. Though emerging at the same time as the Acid Jazz label and various soul/jazz/funk type outfits who harked back to the 60s and 70s, Massive Attack’s music never sounded backward-looking or nostalgic. Clear influences from other eras can be heard in the samples and even the choice of a cover version but it was incorporated into a fuzzy vision of the future which ironically became much less human as Massive Attack evolved into a fully formed band.

‘Unfinished Sympathy’ was what it was really all about for me. The wonderful layering and building of the strings with simple percussion and bass drum backing and a seemingly improvised soul prayer. Apparently, the lyrics were originally improvised which will make a lot of sense to anyone who has tried to unveil a narrative thread to this song and many others from Massive Attack. However, this somehow fits the song, as universal themes emerge from the unspecific allowing anyone to create their own moody perspective even their own lyrics as the song reverberates around their head. Dramatic strings perhaps show the way to the future: as the group developed and left them behind, other later Britpop artists would incorporate them into their own fuzzy visions. ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ borrowed its string sample from the Stones and all the royalties thus had to be signed over. However, the title, using strings, the walking video, the repetitive anthem without chorus and possibly improvised lyrical ideas suggest that three-quarters of what was borrowed was taken from Massive Attack.

Some people went as far as embracing the half-baked secret identities that seemed to exist in Massive Attack, though The Wu Tang Clan were always a better source of material and, if you can be bothered to look, there are still more than one random Wu Tang member name generator sites out there. But with Massive Attack, the names seemed more homely, even 3D but especially Mushroom. Tricky Kid approached interesting but less so when shortened to the eventual Tricky. 3D became the driving force in the band though one suspects Mushroom’s record collection had more of an influence on the earlier DJ based material and had left by the time the group had morphed into moody stadium rock with a dance music twist and a former Blue Aeroplane on guitar. Daddy G left the group for ‘100th Window’ which therefore acts as more of a Robert Del Naja solo album and is all the more tedious for it. The gang was augmented by/with Shara Nelson’s restrained soul diva stylings and Horace Andy’s reggae falsetto which seemed just as at home with rockers, roots, lovers, dub and now a bunch of stoned Bristolians who were much younger than him. Later on the guests seemed more obvious or even contrived. Nicolette was clearly seen as a Shara replacement to begin with, Tracey Thorn and Liz Fraser seemed obvious in the mid 90s in a way that might have been innovative in the mid 80s. Sinead O’Connor? It could be worse…oh, the bloke out of Elbow? Maybe it couldn’t.

Samples were used that hooked people into that most middle class of music obsessions: crate digging. Now it was time to head for the Record and Tape Exchange armed with a little pre-wiki information about the source of said samples spread through word of mouth. You really wanted that Archie Shepp album which Galliano sampled but realise to your horror, that apart from the title track it is really quite irritating (Attica Blues – just download the individual track, trust me). There are plenty more cool funk, jazz-funk and soul samples used for you to hunt down from Isaac Hayes, The Blackbyrds, Tom Scott, Funkadelic and Al Green. Oh! Let’s not forget Sade! Now, you’ve discovered that the bassline from ‘Safe From Harm’ is lifted from Billy Cobham’s ‘Spectrum’ album. Better still, the album is widely available for very little money as most Atlantic Jazz is. Great! Now all you have to do is to convince yourself that you actually want to listen to a jazz fusion album. Good luck with that, there’s a Mahavishnu Orchestra sample on ‘One Love’ to give you the excuse for more jazz fusion. Wait a minute! You started off trying to be cool with your fancy Massive Attack collective – not even a proper band, and now, NOW, you’ve just doubled the jazz fusion section of your record and or CD collection. Next stop facial hair and Camel albums you tedious old hippy. Jazz fusion and prog rock were very similar except for the fans who never seemed to be able to assimilate Steely Dan and Tolkein or a funk influence and anything or anyone involved in Gentle Giant. It’s like the best guitarists belonging to jazz or metal – there’s a long way to go between an alto sax and bloody Saxon. Back to the samples, the obligatory hard to find funk bits are all now easy to find thanks to this album and its fans not being willing to let things lie. Oddly they didn’t explore the entire recorded output of, say, the actual bass player of that funky line in ‘Safe From Harm’. The best-selling album that he appeared on was probably ‘No Jacket Required’ (sadly he’s not on ‘Sussudio’, the Philster saved that for himself) and his best-selling single probably Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’. What a guy Lee Sklar was and is. He is one of those session musicians who appeared on seemingly anything and everything. No pretension of cool and hip for this guy, just look at him:

Yes, the man who gave you what you thought was the ultimate in cool, original and impressive basslines did also play bass on a Leo Sayer album! HE’s on Rod’s ‘Atlantic Crossing’! His session appearances also include Jackson Browne’s most successful work, David Cassidy, 2 Phil Collins albums and live recordings too, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Donovan, Hall & Oates, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Roger McGuinn, 4 Dolly Parton albums, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross, Neil Sedaka, James Taylor’s regular bass player throughout his entire career, The Weather Girls (!), Robbie Williams, Warren Zevon and, while ‘Safe from Harm’ became a cool club hit, Richard bloody Marx.

What exactly has dated the album in the last 20 odd years? Well, ‘Hymn of the Big Wheel’ sounded naive at the time and just because Enigma were around didn’t mean that some of us were not impressed by the use of dolphin song for an environmentally themed song. Some keyboard sounds seem a little out of place seeming to exist in a world in-between analogue and digital that had surely passed by the time of the album’s release. Some of the lyrical references seem a little corny now ‘spliff in the ashtray’, please! Also, whatever did ‘happen to the niceties of my childhood days’? What on earth were they talking about? To my mind, not a lot has dated other than the more primitive methods used when compared to today’s building of similar albums by an individual like Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd. He has gone straight into the world of alternative samples by using Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cocteau Twins and Beach House. Massive Attack would only later venture into less urban samples such as Smashing Pumpkins and less urban vocalists like herself out of The Cocteau Twins again.

After ‘Blue Lines’, Massive Attack continued to rise in reputation but failed to really deliver on it. 1994’s ‘Protection’ seemed rather formulaic in structure and the warmth had gone as Tracey Thorn arrived, mind you the instrumentals were somewhat reminiscent of Paul Hardcastle’s work that wasn’t either ’19’ or the Top of the Pops theme. ‘Mezzanine’ followed a long time later and reflected a much darker and louder band that wouldn’t sound uncomfortable in stadiums. Professional and proper moody it was though it’s opening 4 songs work wonderfully together. ‘100th Window’ as already mentioned was like a duller version of ‘Mezzanine’ as the ideas seemed to have run out as mine for commenting on it surely have. That’s one interpretation, another would point to greater commercial success for those last two albums and a more developed band rather than a loose collective. Both interpretations seemed to come together for their most recent album, 2010’s ‘Heligoland’. However, this seemed to be more roundly ignored than previous work (there had been an 8 year gap mind) and the group seem to now be seen as part of the establishment and rather dull. ‘Heligoland’ was not played at many middle class dinner parties.Mind you, originally, I’m not sure the dinner party holders knew much about Budokan headsets but they had read up on Studio One’s role in Jamaican musical history and they were all desperately pretending to have cared more about Subbuteo when they were younger than they ever really did. It could have been worse, they could have put ‘What’s the Story, Morning Glory?’ on and started singing along to ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and pretended to be a bit more Northern than they really were, I mean, just because Northampton’s got ‘North’ in the name doesn’t mean you can call yourself a scally, young man. Some people did come out of this very 90s obsession with a much better and more diverse understanding of music or at least a more developed relationship with music after ‘Blue Lines’ than before. The real worry seems to be that Massive Attack themselves got lost in this 90s blancmange of style which ultimately led to very little style. Mushroom and Daddy G seemed to vote with their feet and showed diminishing interest in the project before ultimately leaving Robert Del Naja to his own devices.

Ultimately though, writing about ‘Blue Lines’ should not be about missed chances. When it came out, it was just the debut album by a promising Britsoul artist. It didn’t go top ten, it didn’t produce massive hits but was instead a slow burner that developed a stronger reputation each year until suddenly it lost its edge to some ears but not these. Listening again after all this time, I have decided that I do not need a remastered edition that cleans up the sound. The original album still shines through its muddy early 90s digital mastering and may even have added darkness or bluntedness from this effect. Muddy production on some rather clubwise material created the Massive Attack image, but in seeking to develop that sound more authentically they lost a lot of charm as things became overblown, a criticism that could be made of almost any band that appeared when they did and peaked in popularity when they did – see The Verve, Manic Street Preachers even Blur – the other option might have been to either disappear into Acid Jazz obscurity or turn into Jamiroquai. Maybe Shara Nelson could have had a massive career as a soul singer, but these never seem to last in British soul singers and also her protective lyrics from ‘Blue Lines’ can easily be read in light of her subsequent problems of her own which led to Pete Tong having to get a restraining order against her.

So, I guess I can write about Massive Attack without too many of the usual references or at least a fresh view on them. What makes it so difficult is the music journalism of the past that creates the self-consciousness of any sincere appreciation of the music. I have tried to shed that load in getting this piece completed, I hope that I have at least partially succeeded. Regardless of the Massive Attack’s development since ‘Blue Lines’, I still enjoyed their gig in Mexico at the Auditorio Nacional and they even came back within 9 months of it to play again in 2010. ‘Heligoland’ seemed a partial return to form and may point towards better things to come but nothing on it matches ‘Blue Lines’, a fan also has to wonder exactly how long it will take to get another album release together on this occasion.

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Goths at the beach.

This short article picks up the thread of previous articles ‘Music of a More Innocent Time’, ‘Heavy Metal and I’, ’84-86: The Lost Years’ and ‘My Gran’s Contribution to the Lost Years’. I promise that the music gets better from here on in but only if ‘here’ is the end of this article rather than the beginning.

Did I ever seriously believe myself to be a Goth? The curly hair didn’t help. It would require daily ironing and thus, in becoming a Goth, I would be committing myself to a lifetime looking awkward waiting my turn for straightening  sessions in hairdressers. Where did it all start or nearly start? I think the Damned’s ‘Grimly Fiendish’ incarnation are to blame. Sort of cartoon Goth, Addams Familyesque almost.  For the sake of I don’t really know what, this article will refer to things being Goth rather than Gothic as that would suggest a more architectural and generally 19th century image as opposed to the poor quality copy affected by 80s teenagers, sort of like a tidy Woolworths opening next door to Harrods.

I certainly owned a few of the records and even some of my earliest CDs were Goth in nature. In fact, the first CD I ever purchased almost a month before I could play it on the CD midi hi-fi I would eventually own. ‘Floodland’ by The Sisters of Mercy in all its Jim Steinman produced glory. In fact, I think it was this superior production that persuaded me to buy the album on CD and simply wait for my Xmas 87 present. ‘Children’ and ‘God’s Own Medicine’ by The Mission were my only other Goth CD. They really weren’t very good. They were also my only Goth live experience at the Manchester Apollo. They split on stage though this may have been rehearsed for the occasion. I travelled there and back in the boot of a Vauxhall Cavalier, thankfully it was an estate. The Mission did serve some purpose in my future listening as their cover of ‘Like a Hurricane’ may have been my earliest exposure to Neil Young.

Typical Goth gig transport?

I also liked Siouxsie and the Banshees who had certainly gone a bit Goth by the mid 80s and also The Cocteau Twins who were liked by Goths though never really considered proper Goth. Mind you, their early pre-greatness material does suggest big Goth influences. Maybe, Goths used to buy the later releases in all their ethereal beauty and complain about the lack of misery and spiders.

The Cure also had a role to play. I think I developed a love of The Cure around the same time as my lifelong love of The Smiths developed. One inspired me to read and write literature. The other inspired me to consider lipstick, not comb or wash and to like insects. I recall discussing The Cure quite regularly during biology lessons along with Siouxsie and the Banshees, obviously I mean that Siouxsie and the Banshees were also discussed rather than they, Siouxsie and the Banshees, were my lab partners. That would have been interesting though.

So why did Goth not really take a hold of me? I guess that The Smiths handled the awkward teenage years far more suitably to my tastes. I also considered horror a little childish and the Gothic obsession with spiders could have been an almost boyish draw towards playing with insects. It must also be said, that a humorous disposition and inability to take things seriously would never sit well in the Goth world. As doom-laden introductory music would announce A Goth band’s arrival on stage, I would be thinking that things just seemed like the beginning to a Simpsons ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episode rather than the more existential attitude that pure Goths may have thought that they gave off. How could one ever take this movement seriously? Dracula has always had the allure of the exotic but, coupled with the setting of Whitby and the fact that the name itself comes across as a proto-Joycean pun, it does all seem rather ridiculous.

What remains of the unfortunate yet ultimately half-hearted Goth flirtation? I think black is still my colour though these days that might only serve to highlight my grey hairs. The Goths that I stumbled across often liked The Cocteau Twins and I still do. There’s the ‘witch house’ that’s around at the moment. I’m sure my enjoyment of Zola Jesus and Grimes stretch back to Goth. Post-Goth I also briefly liked Cranes but not for long before I cottoned on to the irrefutable truth: that they were shit. I also once fell asleep in a graveyard on top of a burial vault but it was no deliberate pilgrimage of doom, the graveyard was merely equidistant between the bar and the kebab van. It also happened in Reading and that’s not very ‘Goth’ at all really.

The first Death Grips album cover

Warning: This article may contain vocabulary inappropriate for the kind of asshole who works at Epic, votes Romney and possibly children although I hate to associate the innocent with the two prior examples.

Death Grips have got rather a lot of negative feedback for their recent actions concerning their own personal leak of their new album which their label paid for. It seems that disrespecting a major label in the music industry is considered childish by a lot of the people writing comments under the various articles on the current situation. That it amounts to theft seems to be a bridge to far for many of the children of parents who may have been less judgemental in the 1980s OR their parents are all tedious suburbanites who would also prudishly disapprove of a cock on a cover. However, Death Grips are a breath of fresh air in what seems a rather bland time for music that actually sells well. Career suicide is one interpretation, ‘it’s better to burn out than fade away’ is another.

To recap, Death Grips appeared in 2011 with a free mixtape which was also sold over iTunes called ‘Ex-Military’. It was a raw slice of hardcore rap or hardcore and rap. It featured samples from Pink Floyd, 13th Floor Elevators and many others which would presumably be impossible to clear for an official release. It seemed surprising to me that Epic, the label which brought us Wham, would take a chance on the group. This music was an abrasive noise that may have caused me no end of delight, but was hardly going to translate into massive sales. Surely someone at Epic must have realised that this was a high risk situation? Surely they realised that the music was fiercely anti-commercial? Maybe, someone at the company actually realised that a lot of the current options for an alternative to the mainstream sounded quite bland and here was something fresh and violent that demanded to be heard? Or maybe, they noticed that there was a trend for major labels to pick up black music after a mixtape had appeared and picked up momentum underground to the extent that more people seemed to like the free music on offer than that offered for money. If tap water tasted better than bottled, you’d be a fool to buy the bottle, right? But if you can take that tap water, put in bottles and then sell it to people you’re laughing.

The second Death Grips album cover.

In February of this year the group signed to Epic records and announced that they would release 2 albums in 2012. Did a major label approve the marketing 2 albums by the same artist in the same year but separately? Surely this would not run smoothly and surely a major record label would realise this. The first album appeared at the end of April with Bomb Squad production. If anything, it sounded less commercial and even more abrasive than the mixtape, possibly a result of not being able to humanise some of the relentless noise with familiar 60s samples. I for one still prefer the mixtape but enjoyed and still enjoy the album on regular rotation. Again, surely someone at Epic must have realised that it sounded like a step further away from commercial success in terms of sound and therefore classified Death Grips as a problem or a potential loss that may need adjusting. At some point in May, the people at Epic must have been wondering how to get out of their responsibilities to Death Grips in such an uncertain economic climate in the industry. They were doomed after that first album failed to take off and both the group and Epic knew it. Epic weren’t going to bust their balls for this lot and Death Grips would know that they stood a good chance of being buried as has happened to so many groups in the past. ‘The Money Store’ is a very good album, it did get a lot of attention on the various alternative music blogs but that doesn’t really generate enough dough for a greedy paymaster like Epic, just ask George Michael.

By October, I was still slowly wondering when ‘The Money Store’ would lodge in my consciousness to the extent that ‘Ex-Military’ did. In fact, I’d pretty much figured that it wouldn’t. What better time to hook the wavering fan with a sudden rush released album for free appearing on October 1st. It seems Epic had funded ‘No Love Deep Web’ but even without the press, it was fairly obvious that they would not want to see it given away. Even if they had, it’s unlikely that they would have approved of the cover art which is basically a penis with the album title written on it with a Sharpie Permanent Marker. Sharpie may not want this free promotion either unless of course they wish to corner the market for temporary penis tattoos. Like the cover star, Epic quickly realised that they wanted to remove it but no amount of bleach or scrubbing would do that, yes, I’m mixing up talking about the cock with talking about the album. I think that may be the point. However, it seems that unlike the cover star’s penis writing, this would not go away after a couple of showers. Corporate types were not pleased to see 3 cheeky cocks wasting their money on albums promoted by a photo of a cock; if they made anything from it then they would be sucking that cock like a golden teat. Hmm…now the metaphors are getting mixed. They may also have remembered the Dead Kennedys’ ‘Penis Landscape’ obscenity law suit of the 1980s. However, that lawsuit was brought against Jello Biafra of the band rather than the label and the label wasn’t corporate to begin with.

Not the third album cover!

The group also stated that they had finished the album, no-one at Epic had heard it but they had pushed the release date back to 2013 and so they declared that both Death Grips’ fans and bosses would hear the album at the same time. You know, that could become quite a revolutionary idea in itself. After all, didn’t A&R people hear Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and Death Grips through self-released mixtapes that had already created a buzz? The public had already scouted out these artists and guaranteed a certain level of exposure for them before they had even signed a deal.

Initially, numerous people were sceptical about what was happening. After all, a tour had been announced around the same time and the album was getting free promotion all over Twitter and a considerable amount from the band themselves. Surely this was just a publicity stunt? I was a little suspicious as I downloaded the album without paying attention to the cover, but then, as a cock appeared in my iTunes cover art, I realised that there was no way a major label was going to get behind that…so to speak. This was clearly a move born out of either frustration or complete and utter disdain for major labels and the way they expect to do business based on the laws that they had created to protect themselves. This album was funded by money from a big business and the group turned around and told that big business to go fuck itself. This makes a change as over the past 4 years, it has become apparent that big business has fucked everybody else. This is why this is no mere childish gesture, it certainly is childish and all the more powerful for it. Whether this statement was intended or not, it has certainly hit home and reminds us that we can all control our own music. However, surely Epic would get lawyers involved over such a flagrant breach of contract?

A month of silence ensued while passive aggressive emails were sent to the band which makes Epic sound like the handwringing parents of out of control ASBO youths. “What can we do about our Death Grips?” they wailed, but to be fair, he never seemed like a particularly nice little boy, did he? “Epic has done nothing but wholeheartedly supported the band” – translates as we gave them everything, we were very loving parents, “Epic is extremely upset and disappointed” – again, we are ashamed of you for getting caught smoking crack at school, what will the neighbours think? I wonder who Epic’s neighbours are. How many other helpfully supportive music nurturers live on Madison Avenue??? You can still see this email on Death Grips’ Facebook page. They posted it with a comment: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NOW FUCK OFF” – if only Prince and George Michael (third reference in an article about Death Grips!!!) had gone about things this way in the 90s. Mind you, it must be said that Death Grips have neither crashed their car into a corner shop (4!) nor become Jehovah’s Witnesses yet. That’s still to come!

Anyway, Thursday 1st November was the day that Epic announced they had dropped the band. Well, ‘working to dissolve their relationship’. What could this phrase mean? Are Epic looking for a return of the recording costs? Are Epic seeking guarantees that Death Grips won’t just pull a Sex Pistols and end up on a rival label? Will they sue? Or does this situation suit both sides and, if Epic are honest, the group have given their label every chance to justifiably get rid of them allowing the group to return to the freedom they previously enjoyed. Maybe the group just wanted to go out with a bang at the end of their current tour. Epic also stated that “when marketing and publicity stunts trump the actual music, we must remind ourselves of our core values” which certainly sounds very sincere. I for one have always felt that music publicity never, ever seems to come at the expense of quality music and can think of no examples where the promotion of an album is not levelled out by the quality of the music recorded. Did that last sentence come across as a tad sarcastic?

Either way, precedents may be set and boundaries broken. Neither Epic nor Death Grips come out of this leaving a bad taste in the mouth. For me, the attitude of numerous people grumbling about contract abuse belongs in business and should stay the fuck away from the glorious noise that music can make when set free of common sense. Only time will tell if this was intended as a political gesture of protest or whether it was just an extended bout of stupidity. However, I feel intention and effect may work in harmony even if they are not aware of it. Maybe Death Grips’ collective sub-consciousness was at work here to get them out of turning their talents into a grim slog through major label hell. I wish them luck in everything they do. I wish the guy who signed them luck in his Monday morning meeting with his boss, I hope this person starts their own independent label but would recommend that they might want to avoid Death Grips for a little while at least.