Continuous Hit Music: Graham Nash – Songs For Beginners

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Graham Nash
Title: Songs For Beginners
Original Release: 1971
Label: Atlantic
Store: Landspeed Records, 30 Garema Place Canberra ACT 2601
Price: $10

Poor Canberra. There doesn’t seem to be much going on in terms of records. It used to be quite a place – until many of it’s indie stores sold up, and JB Hi-Fi rolled into town. It seems like the only place to get decent records is the last indie shop in town – Landspeed Records.

Landspeed is quite a cool shop. They do more than just CDs and records – they have clothes and some merch. It’s kind of the way of the future for music retail. There’s not a big collection of records, but there is some nice second hand stuff. It is pretty much the only record stop in Canberra.

And poor Graham Nash. I used to love this record but it hasn’t dated well. I saw Crosby, Stills & Nash live a few years ago, and it descended into parody. Outdated 60s ideals – still peddled. It was an oldies show. It sounds pretty good, but Military Madness, We Can Change The World and Chicago have dated badly. He’s stuck in the 60s, and it’s too bad.

But then there’s Sleep Song. A classic. So very Graham Nash. I would say it’s his best song. It’s yet another song he wrote for Joni Mitchell. And I love Joni and Graham together. I think they inspired the best out of each other. Probably the best two people have ever inspired eachother in the history of music.

The tender moments on this record are still great. Rightly so, this was Nash’s biggest solo album, and came right at the peak of his career. He never really achieved solo success again after this, and rolled happily into the plomp and bombast of endless CSN reunions.

It’s not a terribly uncommon vinyl find, but an original European pressing, with the classic Atlantic label, is definitely worth the $10.

Continuous Hit Music: The Big Chill – Soundtrack

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Soundtrack
Title: The Big Chill
Original Release: 1983
Label: Motown
Store: Dirty Jeans Emporium & Antique Market, Bowral
5/391-397 Bong Bong Street, Bowral NSW 2576
Price: $15

A summer drive around country NSW, and an attempt to find records in the Southern Highlands, finally led to a decent find. The Dirty Jeans Emporium & Antique Market in Bowral is a big old warehouse full of antiques. It’s split into individual stalls, and there is a decent selection of good records, well bagged and graded. It was the only place I really found with a decent vinyl collection in the area. Some really big collection of records here and there, but usually badly looked after, low rent titles. I could have walked away with plenty of pieces.

I have never seen the Big Chill, but I love this soundtrack. It was my teenage entry point into Motown (and surrounding suburbs). It is simply a collection of some of the biggest 60s singles of all time. My Girl by The Temptations. I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin. And my favourite song of the lot, A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum.

In the CD era, it’s extra running time was packed with extra Motown hits (the original album being released on Motown), but it’s stripped back to just ten timeless tracks on the LP.

I used to listen to this album all the time. And like a good compilation that you love, I still hear this tracklisting running in order. Yet, I’ve bought more comprehensive Motown collections, Aretha Franklin albums and even Procol Harum best ofs. So it’s been a while since I reconnected with this compilation. I’m not even sure I even have the CD of this anymore. And certainly not the several CD reissues of this album.

So I’m happy to have found this on vinyl. I don’t usually make my way through the soundtrack section of a record store. Maybe I should do it more. Did they ever put the Forrest Gump soundtrack on vinyl?

Best Albums of 2011 part 3: 2 & 1

1. The Damnwells – No One Listens To the Band Anymore
(Pledge Music)

An incredible, incredible record. One that hits immediately, and never lets up. The best songs I’ve heard, roaring impassionately from my mp3 player, breaking your heart, making you dance, stealing your breath and opening your mind – sometimes all in one song.

And what an origin. Three albums in with no deal, the band went onto crowd sourcing site PledgeMusic, and put a call out to their fans directly. The fans funded the album, and gave the band the freedom to do what they wanted. What they wanted was to make a straight, thrilling, rock ‘n’ roll record.

The way I feel about this record is the same way I feel about some of my favourite albums ever. I’ve been walking around the streets of Sydney with these songs swirling in my head. I’ve been listening to tales of sad eyed girls and big scary cities. And how it’s us against them, and we have the music and the smarts. We are talking rock ‘n’ roll fundamentals here.

For a self funded recording, it sounds like a million bucks. It never gets too clever, but it’s never dumb and easy. Contemporary trickery is thrown out for the timelss wonder of a great chrous, a sweet lyric, and a killer singer in main Damnwell Alex Dezen.

At this point, I can just list songs, because there’s no better way to describe this feeling. If you want a place to start, I recommend “Werewolves”, “The Great Unknown”, “Feast Of Hearts” and, well, all of them.

Look, I know no one knows this band. I was afraid of putting this number one for fear of looking-like-a-cock reasons. But it’s pretty undeniable that I kept returning to this album all year. And when I saw the bloggers at Popdose pour their love into this album, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

What else can be said. There’s no way that a number one album of the year is not just tied in with personal feelings and events in the year that no amount of explaining can make sense of. That’s what’s this album does, so I’ll leave it there.

Except! That being self funded, all the film clips are shit. Here are two, both terrible, for great songs.

She Goes Around

The Great Unknown

Werewolves acoustic


2. Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full Of Holes
(Yep Roc)

Two little snippets before I start.

One. Around the “Born To Run” era, Springsteen said he put behind childish notions of love behind for something more rounded and sophisticated. It set him onto a path to write 10 or so albums filled with character studies.

The other. In Barney Hoskin’s authorative biography on the Band, he makes a strange case in the beginning that goes something like this – pop music and all that is fine when you’re young. But it’s natural to grow out of it, like growing out of junk food, and lean towards a musical diet of more timeless nutrition. Meals like the Band, Hoskyns would claim.

I’ve known a lot of older music fans/snobs. For them, it had to be a little country, or a little soul, to be a little timeless. Pop music has always been throwaway – a snack. They don’t write about adult things. And when you look at bands who are stuck in their youth (hello Smithereens), they still cover the same old grils, cars, blah and blah.

It’s very slow, but pop music is finally growing up. I point to people like Aimee Mann, the production work of Jon Brion, and people who are making excellent pop music, without being simplistic. And that’s a very, very long trip to get to this Fountains Of Wayne record, their 6th since 1996.

Sky Full Of Holes is number 2 on this list (in fact, last week it was number 1). I have been living in this album and wearing it out. It’s a perfect pop record – finely recorded, but not pro-tooled to death. The choruses, the sounds, the feel – all top notch.

But it’s the songs – they unwrap over each listen. I guess any chance of commercial radio play at this point, so the guys are just writing what they want. Stories of amazing characters – the scamsters in “Richie And Ruben”, the poor middle age woman in “The Summer Place” – mix with some straight ahead sentiment done right – the holiday freedom feeling of “A Dip In the Ocean”, the lonely tour ballad “A Road Song”.

Importantly, the wit is still there, but no huge jokes. No “Stacy’s Mum”. No note perfect country pastiches. Just perfect, refined songwriting.

It probably isn’t for everyone. Not everyone loves lyrics, or story-telling, in their music (especially, say, Australian radio). But at some point you have to put away childish notions, and eat a decent meal.

Here’s “A Road Song”, a wry smile on the lonely highway.

..and The Summer Place.

Best Albums of 2011 part 2: 5-3

3. Noah And the Whale – Last Night On Earth

I didn’t expect much from this album. I picked up N&TW’s first two albums, listened to them a few times, and dumped them. And isn’t it lovely about music, and the world of music, that the only reason I gave this band another chance was I thought the album cover was kick-ass. Just look at it. Looks so cool. (It looks like Jim Jarmusch’s “Night On Earth” actually) It’s metropolitan. It’s modern. It’s exciting. That’s just the album cover.

Then the music. It’s basically Springsteen mixed with LCD Soundsystem. And yes, that sounds like high praise, but it’s true. The Springsteen thing is that rock ‘n’ roll escapism. “Tonight’s the kind of night where everything could change”. The idea that your dream is in reach, it’s just around the corner, and lets sing anthemic rock songs until we get there.

Then there’s the samples, the bubbles of synths and clatter of beats that gives the songs such urgency and excitement. It’s a long way from the folk rock of their first album. At 10 songs, it’s a short sharp adrenaline hit. The kind of album that would make a pop fan leave their home town and start a band.

And then an extra special mention to “Just Before We Met“. Every line is killer. The best song on this fine, fine album. You should hear it.

So these guys might still be second rate. Good records happen to bad bands all the time. But maybe not. I feel like the world needs more records like these. I know I do. If there’s one thing I need music for, it’s to remind me about the the greatness that is life if you’re brave enough to grab it.


4. Nick Lowe – The Old Magic
(Yep Roc)

For those not paying attention, Nick Lowe has been making some of the best music in the world for the last twenty years. Feeling his age, and not wanting to be an old man with long punk rock hair and reliving past glories, he decided to use his age to advantage. With silver hair, nice suits and classy, jazzy, dramatic songs – it is about as hip as music ever gets.

It is all about the songs. Gorgeous torch ballads about broken characters, shuffling through the rain, falling out of love, dealing with loneliness and joy in equal measure. Lowe has always been a great wit, and his lyrics continue to amaze. The stunning opener, “Stoplight Roses”, is a masterwork in paired down lyrics. It’s a vivid character study in 3 minute pop – and maybe the best song all year.

Like Gillian Welch, he’s found a sound and does it better than anyone else. It’s at once familiar and new. It’s retro, but hip. It’s old, but new. It’s all part of a reinvention that started with 1994’s “The Impossible Bird”, and Yep Roc saw it and reissued three albums from this period into a box set. I will even say that when the dust is settled, Lowe will be mainly remembered for his work in the last decade, not his 70s stuff. That’s how good this album is.


5. Laura Marling A Creature I Don’t Know

My favourite album of 2010 was Laura Marling’s “I Speak Because I Can”. Another single (the far out cover of Jackson C Frank’s “Blues Run the Game”, produced by Jack White) and a whole new album came in 2011. It’s quite a pace, but maybe that’s right. Laura (or as I call her, Lozza), seems like the kind of artist that should have 20 albums under her belt.

This certainly feels like a “late-era” kind of album. Everyone compares her to Joni Micthell, but it took Mitchell til about album album number 8 (“Hejira”) before she gave up on writing pop hits in favour of following who restless muse. Marling has done it in three.

Sure, it’s weird. But wonderful. That muted organ, trumpet and cello that opens “I Was Just A Card” leads into a beautiful, jazzy place. Its one of many songs that occasionally stops dead. I hate reviews that talk about scales and keys and deep musicology – but if you like that stuff, this album is a banquet.

And she is still singing songs as if she is at the end of her life. She sings of children, old ladies and life’s biggest questions. And I guess that’s what makes her an important artist. But more interesting is how intimate these songs are. If you’ve not jumped on the Marling bandwagon, I suggest you start with “I Speak Because I Can”, and I’ll meet you at album 4 some time next year.

Best Albums of 2011 part 1: 6-10

6. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
(Xtra Mile)

This, and the next 5, all swapped and changed for number one. As I re-listen to this album to write this, I just feel like this is a perfect record by an artist at the very top of his game. I started my year watching him at the Annandale. He’s finishing it playing Wembley Arena. That’s quite a year Frank Turner has had.

It’s part Clash, parts Bragg, but all brought up to date. He is the only musician today who has anything interesting to say about the themes of punk (ok, maybe Craig Finn) – but he long ago left the shackles of punk behind. This record is his most eclectic – mixing up folk, gospel, power pop and more.

Line after amazing line, idea after amazing idea. The straight-to-the-point-ness of ‘I Still Believe’ contrasts ‘Glory Hallelujah’, a gospel song celebrating the lack of God. It’s all about believing in the right things.

The other big thread in this album is England. The idea of home, and writing about England, is all over this record. “Wessex Boy”, the a capella “English Curse” and “Rivers” do for England what Springsteen did for Jersey. “If I Stray” seems to sum up both halfs of the record quite nicely.

7. Gillian Welch – Harrow & Harvest

8 years? For this? That’s almost a year a song. It probably says more about how amazing their sounds and songs are that in 8 years away, they are still the top of their game, despite many duos popping up and trying to fill the gap. It helps that they always sounded out of time.

It really is business as usual. Even the nice left turn of drums found on 2003’s ‘Soul Journey’ has gone. Rawlings is still one the best guitarists of his generation. The songs are dark and spooky. Their voices still sound great.

So yeah – more of the same, but that same is still pretty special. “Dark Turn Of Mind” is a highlight. ‘Hard Times’ is perhaps the sweetest thing they’ve ever done. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 8 years for more.

8. Leader Cheetah – Lotus Skies

Only one Australian album made my top ten this year. Probably my fault – I wasn’t really paying attention. (And I don’t put mate’s records on these lists, so that discounts a couple….) And amazingly – it’s from Adelaide!

They fit quite clearly in the world that My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Beachwood Sparks and the more experimental rootsy stuff lives. A long, lonesome voice out front recalls Neil Young. But this is far from retro postering. The record is amazingly modern.

And it’s epic. Huge guitars. Big choruses. Clever arrangements. All tied down by that slide guitar. I don’t know why everyone makes a fuss over bands like Boy & Bear, who sound like wannabes, when we have great original country indie rock right here. Oh well.

One of my faves – “Our Lives

9. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See

I just like this band. According to, out of all the albums from 2011, I’ve listened to this one the most. So they’ve lost none of the magic for me, although I am aware that people have kind of written them off.

In parts it’s almost fun. It’s pretty much the most pop the Arctic Monkeys have ever been. There’s nothing to prove now, and they are just kicking out tunes that interest them.

The first five tracks are just back to back radio hits (in another world). I’m guessing Turner just craps out 3 minute rockers this good all the time. Clever riffs, great lyrics – it’s all there, and never boring. As usual, there are a couple of pretty ballads on here – Piledriver Waltz is the best amongst them.

It might not have the highs of a ‘Crying Lightning’ or something as straightly gorgeous as ‘Cornerstone’, but it’s a sharp consistent record throughout.

10. Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What

Every year a really old guy seems to sneak into my top 10. The Dylans and Youngs and the like. 5 years ago it was Simon again – with his fantastic, Eno-produced, ‘Surprise’. That 2006 album was a lively return from his worst record to date (2000’s ‘You’re the One’), and that reinvention continues. Interesting sonics, electric instruments, but a return to songs over rhythm.

On ‘Surprise’, Simon made a concious decision to abandon love songs (no one wants to hear about an old guy having sex, he said), and write about bigger things. God has returned to his song writing in a big way. Big meaning-of-life songs that recall ‘America’, or ‘Sound Of Silence’.

The best song of the lot, the one that has been getting quite a bit of attention, is “Questions For the Angels”. Just a beautifully plucked guitar, and the amazing image of a pilgrim walking over the Brooklyn bridge, and pondering at Jay-Z on a billboard.

At times funny, at times beautiful, we now have a roadmap for the fourth phase of Simon’s career, and the return of a great songwriter.

What we do is secret: Usernames and passwords part 1.

Are we trapped by passwords?

Usernames and passwords. It’s the price of being online. It’s our key into many websites. We have been using them or decades. Or maybe we’ve been a slave to them. Having to come up with new passwords all the time is a pain. Usernames are a shit fight too. And it’s not getting easier.

In the next two weeks we are going to look at them both – passwords and usernames.

The News of the World controversy came down to passwords. In all the furore over the “hacking” of people’s voicemail, the fall of am empire and the tabloid juice, an under reported question has been – HOW did these people get into voicemails.

Turns out it was the easiest thing in the world – so easy even Paris Hilton worked it out once. Turns out UK phone carriers give you a default voicemail passcode. It’s quite a bit of hoop jumping to change it. Faking your caller ID, trying the default password and bam! You’re in.

Passwords are important, but they are a pain. Technology should make life easier, yet password tech gets more complicated. There’s a tension there. We want to be lazier with our passwords. But we are asked to he more devout than ever.

Whats going to win? The fight for easier acces? Or tougher privacy.

What I wish for is a say. Some simple band forums ask for difficult passwords that are beyond what that site needs. It seems every few years security gets tougher and tougher. The standard these days seems to be more than 8 characters and throw in some numbers.

OK, some sane password practises are good. Don’t use the same password everywhere, for one. But not all sites are equal and not all sites need an insane password combination. Especially when you’re asked to sign up to something.

Facebook are trying to solve this with their “connect” technology. If a site allows, you can just use your Facebook profile to log into other sites. But Facebook is a scary key – I would say Facebook needs a level one password.

So what we need is level two passwords. And a company that makes them. And if that security is breached, then that guy can see my Bob Dylan forum posts, and maybe sign me up to get some more news from my local cinema. And make it work like Facebook Connect – tie it to my browser, and I can easily hop through simple sites that need simple protection.

And then maybe I need a work key. Internal intranets. Mailing list programs. Any array of sites. I have my Apple ID, my Google ID, my Facebook, my work one….seems like a lot. But imagine a window that pops up when you need a password and you can choose which “key” you used. Some saved in your browser – some not.

You wouldn’t have one key for everything in your life. But you wouldn’t be happy to have 100 of them either.

But we are not even having these conversations because hackers are getting better at what they do. Who knows what they can do with my Bob Dylan forum password? It’s fucking annoying, and hackers are cunts. And it seems it’s better to be safe than sorry.

And how scary is it that most operating systems saves your passwords? A stolen computer could destroy every aspect of your life. I am pretty happy my bank does all sorts of crazy things before I can get in.

And it seems passwords are an arms race. They get harder and more complex, and hackers get better at cracking them. There is such minimal work done in shutting down hackers (and spammers) that I don’t see this arms race stopping.

Then there is going beyond passwords.

Retina scanning and all that seems to be the stuff of sci fi, but it might be getting closer than we think. But the question is this – what can we use other than passwords to show the internet that we are really us?

There’s talk of all sorts of scanning. Your touch screen technology on your phone, your camera on your computer could all come into play. Facial recognition software has advanced plenty in the last few years. It’s still a while off, but there is certainly talk of it.

It’s a recurring theme in these columns. If something isn’t working it will be replaced. And I don’t know a single person who thinks passwords work for the internet. Something has to change.

I don’t want to be hacked. No one does. But I have literally hundreds of passwords in my life, due to the fact I have set up accounts for many people. And more often than not, I’m clicking on that little link that says “forgot your password?”.

Lets make it easier for people. If only one step. And not lose security. Surely we are smart enough to do that. A level two password technology that can get me into simple things.

Because technology is supposed to make our lives better, and that better life seems to be locked away. And I’m still waiting for that email to come through to remind me of my password.

Continuous Hit Music: The Only Ones – Special View

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds.

Artist: The Only Ones
Title: Special View
Original Release: 1979
Label: Epic
Store: Egg Records, Newtown, Sydney
Price: $24.99

Eggs Records has become an essential part of the Newtown record scene. It has the biggest range of second hand vinyl, and a fine selection it is. Plenty of 70s and 80s stuff – I picked up lots of Replacements vinyl here. Also the originals of all the Wilco records and other great finds. The only shame about Egg is that they certainly know how to price a record.

It’s old school vinyl-ing. The guys go on buying trips around the world. They are always at the record fairs. They sponsor trivia prizes and are generally part of the record community of Sydney, of Australia and beyond.

But onto this record. The Only Ones.

There was actually several years where the first thing I did in a record store was go to the “O” section. Because I was looking for this album and Oasis’s What’s the Story Morning Glory. I have clear memories of finding one with Isabelle in Perth in 1999 or so. I wanted one ever since.

Special View is not actually an album, but a compilation compiled from two albums, and marketed as an album to the US market (they did the same thing for Robbie WilliamsThe Ego Has Landed). And because of that, it is by far the best Only Ones album.

I loved this band for a while. They were looped into the punk scene, but had a great guitar player and a snarly singer, and didn’t seem to just be angry. I always loved the melodic, new wave-y side of punk best, and this was one of the very first albums that started me down that road.

Of course, I came to them through Another Girl, Another Planet, their timeless hit, probably on a compilation like ‘The World’s Greatest Punk Album Ever’. Then everyone seemed to cover the song – most famously for me, the Replacements. The Reservations covered Another Girl, Another Planet many times.

It is just a blistering song. The sly build up, that rush of guitar soloing, and that snarl! Something about girls, something about planets, and maybe something about drugs. It was endlessly hip.

It is by far the best song on the record, but there are some excellent songs that fill this record out. The Whole Of the Law is a very pretty tropicalia love song. Peter And the Pets should have been a hit. And some decent new wave fare in Out There In the Night, City Of Fun and more. It’s better than, say, Blondie.

So after over a decade of hunting for it, I was pretty happy to find this on vinyl, finally. I don’t really listen to the band anymore, but was really happy to revisit it. As far as I know, this record has never been reissued and so this is an original Epic printing (with the awesome Epic label on the record). $24.99 is a pretty Egg records price. Expensive but where else are you going to get it?

Special View has now been superceded by deluxe editions of their three albums, a hits collection and a complete collection. Shame, because lots of American fans, and myself, know and love this album in this order and sequence. And this album cover – once again great.

Oh well. They can erase it from history. I have my copy now.

PS. I saw a reuinited Only Ones on telly a couple of years ago and they looked awful. I could not even fake interest to go.

Wk32: I predict a riot – technology in the age of protest.

I wanna riot...

I make lists of topics for this blog, and more for months I have been sitting on the idea of writing about technology’s use in events of social unrest. Well, looks like the events in London will bring this one forward.

Although this might get a tad polotical, it’s political about the technology and how people feel about it rather than the events of the actual riots.

It was only recently that technology played a part in social unrest and political protest. It happened mainly in the middle east. People in Egypt organised themselves using social media. They were so effective that the government actually shut the internet down.

That didn’t deter people. Through clever use of phone lines linked to twitter, people could say tweets and still spread the word. People could actually speak their tweets. ( In the wider world, we applauded the people of the middle east for not letting a facist government shut them down. They were called innovators.

That was January. And the technology world moves fast.

The role of social media has gotten quite a lot of attention in the London Riots. I am going to be forgiving and suggest it’s because we all want answers, and in this 24 hour news cycle, everything is being picked apart. Some poor editor out there is going for new angles to try and save their business.

But it’s the uneasy vibe of these headlines. As if Social Media is helping these kids wreck this city. People are talking about Blackberry messenger as if it was some new system that thugs have made up to hide from the public.

It reveals, for me, the darker side of the public perception of social media. Or maybe it’s just the right wing, insecure part of the public. But let’s not forget that a lot of people are scared of new technology, and social media is one of the big ones.

Following people’s comments on twitter, there were plenty of people calling for the shutdown of the Blackberry messenger service, and lesser so, Twitter and Facebook. The fact they were saying this on Twitter seemed to be lost on them.

These people come from the same insanity that Murbarak did. Looking at the riots and thinking, isn’t there an off switch for this? Has Apple made an App for that? Murbarak actually managed to turn the internet off. People calling for Blackberry to step in were left having to scream at a wall.

So what actually happened?

So, to the surprise of no one, all these kids have phones. And they talk to eachother with them. Then, to the surprise of no one with half a brain, they use Blackberry messenger. Like a lot of people. I’ve used it a lot. Why? Because it’s free.

Blackberry started life as a business tool. Sending emails and a phone together. They added, in the background, a little chat service. But what it really turned out to be was more like Twitter – leaving short messages. But direct to one user – NOT public.

Lots of people in my world use Blackberry Messenger. And so do these kids, it seems. They also use Facebook and Twitter. And god knows what else. This is not a new thing. To imagine that these gangs learnt a whole new broadcast and chat program just so they can riot is insane. That they chose one that is pretty secure is only half luck. Blackberry’s technology is old, cumbersome and on the descent. No one has even tried to crack it. No one gave a shit.

Social Media is a broadcast network – and it’s filled by the words of people. We cannot and should not censor it.

It has made it easier for people from all walks of life to gather. Be it protesters or rioters, of even the nutjobs who attended that recent Christ rally in the US. Social media unites people with similar interests.

And lets not forget the good social media did at the same time. So much information and communication about trouble areas, what the avoid and even on the basic level, how dangerous it was. God knows how many more idiots would have hit the streets thinking that it was an over reaction if not for the sea of Facebook and Twitter updates.

Google Maps of fires popped up within minutes. People were checking of friends and family. And the clean up project has been powered by social media. Using the same technology, strangers of all walks of life and gathering to clean up this mess. Should we kick them off Twitter too?

In the coming days, the British Conservatives will ask Blackberry to hand over the data. It will be a sad day if they do. Especially as they took such a stand in Egypt and the Middle East. And it will set a precedent. Will goverments be able to get private data from undesirables.

There will be a price to pay for the riots. People will hate kids even more. The fires of racism will rise and the BNP will probably win a few extra seats. And in the tech world, we might see tighter controls, censorship, big brother-ism and more mistrust. It will take a pretty extraordinary people and government to not go down that scared route. And David Cameron is the last person in the world to be extraordinary.

And yes, there are lots of important issues surrounding these riots to consider. But this is a digital culture blog. So shut up.

Technology doesn’t choose politics. The rioters in London and the protesters in Egypt are different people. But they were both better served by our advances in technology. That’s the way the world is now.

Don’t let the irrationally scared set policy. Because this is going to happen again.

In our fractured world, people are going to want to stop people gathering in groups, and letting ideas take shape. And technology brings us together and helps us develop ideas. If anything, the clash is going to get bigger. And then we’ll have a real fight on our hands.

Continuous Hit Music: Radio Birdman – Radios Appear

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds.

Artist: Radio Birdman
Title: Radios Appear
Original Release: July 1977 (1978)
Label: Trafalgar
Reissue Label: 4 Men With Beards (2010)
Store: Hum on King Street, Newtown, Sydney
Price: $24.99

Newtown in Sydney, the part of town I’ve been drawn to for all my years in Sydney, has been pretty good with record stores. Even with the fall of CD stores left and right, the three on King Street survived the last five years. Pretty amazing.

HUM is a small chain store, but a pretty hip one. The Newtown store stocks a healthy shelf of new release vinyl, and they keep some in their store window to entice passers by. It’s a good place to pick up something new, say an Arctic Monkeys record. They order a lot and not all of it moves. I found this album in a small pile of lightly discounted new records. The price sticker for $34.99 crossed out and it cost $24.99.

Radio Birdman. You know, of all those underground 80s Australian bands, the Birdman are not my favourites. I guess I leaned towards the wussier side of things – Go-Betweens and that. But they are as good a raw and dirty rock band as any produced, anywhere in the world. And this album, their debut, has some of their signature songs – New Race and Aloha Steve & Danno are probably the ones people have heard of. Both blistering pieces of rock. But there are longer, dirge-ier moments and I have to confess, that stuff loses me sometimes.

Still, this is the record I reach for when I want to hear Birdman. Anglo Girl Desire. Their cover of You’re Gonna Miss Me. Non Stop Girls. Damn this is a good record. I would even say this album is a better introduction than any of the best-ofs out there.

I discovered Birdman, along with 50 other important bands, from Clinton Walker‘s wonderful book Stranded. They are given great importance in that book as being pioneers. Pretty interesting that they missed out completely from Triple J’s recent Hottest 100 Australian albums poll. It made number 13 in the book The 100 Greatest Australian Albums.

This version is actually the international tracklisting and cover. I want to be a stickler for the original Australian version – but I just can’t. Just look at that beautiful album sleeve. It is just the best. Possibly the best Australian album cover ever. And whoever looks after their catalogue should be shot. It takes Americans to reissue and take care of their music. The original might be a bit more pure, but this version cuts out a stooges cover and adds Aloha… so as sacrilegious as it sounds, this is my version of this record. And it’s the one I grew up with.

4 Men With Beards are an interesting vinyl reissue label. I am seeing their logo on more and more releases. And they have pretty great tastes. Velvets, Gainsbourg, Burrito Brothers – really evergreen stuff. Their stuff also sounds really great, their records are sturdy and their print work is top notch. This record comes with an insert – I don’t know if it’s a recreation of the original but it’s nice. Pretty happy that there’s a lot of 4 Men stuff getting into the country. (The sleeve says the record is manufactured by Rhino – so perhaps 4 Men are really just facilitators?)

I don’t think this record, this reissue is particularly rare. But I’m pretty thrilled to own this record on vinyl – if only for that awesome album cover looking in all it’s glory. Let the Birdman fly, eh?

Wk31: Wait A Minute Mr Postman – The Problem With Email

Is this really the best way to deliver your mail?

Have you ever sat in a corporate seminar that taught you how to email? I have. Many times.

One time, the instructor told us this: that emails are legally binding documents, like mail. And should be treated like mail. Like legal documents.

This is, of course, bullshit.

Email is like language itself. We, the people, define it. And we have decided that the formal document is just one of it’s many uses.

But when we divide up what we use email for, we see that other alternatives are creeping up.

The crux of all this is that email serves a lot of purposes. And some people treat it like one thing.

It can be quick sharp text messaging.
It can be short notes and banter
It can be a long letter
It can be a 40 page report.
It can be….anything.

With links and attachments, emails can be absolutely anything.

And we send 107,000,000,000 of them a year.

But are they the best at everything? It’s quickly seeming like a no.

It seems insane that email might become redundant. And maybe we will replace it in parts.

Email has it’s limits and it’s drawbacks.

Spam is a problem. I hate keeping track of people’s changing emails. Both those problems are solved in Facebook’s message system. Some universities don’t give their new students email addresses. They get a social media account.

I don’t have to update my Facebook address book when someone changes work. It’s constantly updated for me. In a way, Sean Parker’s failed dream of Plaxo has come true.

Think about it. Before Facebook, there was still a chance you could lose track of someone. If you don’t have their email address, then what?

Spam is less of a problem on Facebook too. A Spam Robot can’t trawl the net for your Facebook inbox and send you a message. Those message are protected.

Ok, yes, there’s limits. No attachments. And maybe you want the odd unsolicited message. And more.

Let’s get to those.

Why else do people use email?

I subscribe to things. Band newsletters, site updates etc. And Twitter is just far better for that. And more instant. Most mailing list send outs have a link to read them online. And they will never go to spam if I just follow the headlines from Twitter.

No attachments? Plenty of sites to store files. As we head into an era of could computing, why send me that mp3? Why not just share it with me on my the cloud? Who needs downloads?

The irony, of course, is that most of these services take an email to sign up to. Facebook’s Connect service is a big challenge to that. Some sites like Rootmusic allow you sign in from your Facebook account – no email required EVER.

Emails are easier to store, and easier to file. But not THAT easy. I’ve been dragging certain emails around for years. And have lost many more. My gmail account, almost a decade old, is unsearchable, full of crap.

The fact it’s supposed to be everything is one of it’s problems. Useless notifications about some WordPress setting are mixed in with important receipts. Newsletters mixed with work figures. Personal emails mixed with links to jokes.

Everyone has thousands of emails under their belt. Thousands is probably cutting it short by a long way. Millions is more like it. Being a desk jockey, my whole job is just pushing emails around. Is this really the best way to communicate?

Google Wave is considered now a failure, but I thought it was interesting. The Google team obviously thought about what was wrong with emails tried to address them. Instead of twenty mails back and forth about one thing, it all sits in one “conversation”. It wasn’t perfect, but they tried to address the way people loop in others or exclude people as email trails grow and grow.

It might sound like a small issue but all that crap you get at the top when you reply to an email – the “to” and “from” stuff. Useless. Sometimes I have something to send but cannot be fucked coming up with a subject title all the time.

Email has not really developed the way just about everything else online has. I can’t embed videos. File sizes are still a problem.It is a formatting nightmare all around. And they aren’t as instant as they first seemed. God knows how many times I’ve asked someone if they have my email yet.

Spam and security are still issues. I still have to manually allow graphics in my emails in most cases. Most identity fraud and hack jobs use email as their way in. Yet we still hang on to email as our main means of communicating with eachother.

It’s one of the nice things about technology. If what you have isn’t perfect, and not improving, then someone somewhere is quietly reinventing it.

And email is far from perfect, and definitely not improving.

A few years ago, friends of mine started to abandon the landline. It was a bit risky, but they felt like they never used it. They will learn to live without it.

Maybe that day is coming for email. Not soon, but it’s coming.

It’s an interesting experiment to think about. Can a person survive without an email address these days? And if not, are we getting closer to the point where that can be true?

It’s obviously unfeasible right now. But not so impossible as we once thought.