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Ten years of musical toil for not enough reward

Edinburgh Evening News Thursday 9th March 2017

While the current crop of Edinburgh bands are yet to really make their mark, many of their elders from the Edinburgh scene are not far off a decade since their first releases. 2007-2009 were halcyon years with releases from Withered Hand, Broken Records, eagleowl, Kid Canaveral, Emily Scott, Rob St. John, Saint Jude’s Infirmary and Meursault only the start of a long list.

With Saint Jude’s Infirmary now back together, all these artists are still playing and Emily and Rob are currently members of the “supergroup” Modern Studies whose album Swell To Great has garnered some great reviews. Out only last week was Meursault’s I Will Kill Again the latest from Neil Pennycook who essentially is Meursault. For those unfamiliar with Neil’s work, I would probably recommend 2012’s Something For The Weakened and then working forwards and backwards but the latest album does not disappoint.

What does disappoint is that most of the aforementioned artists have not really reached the much larger audience they deserve. Broken Records did sign to indie label legends 4AD and played throughout Europe and America, but generally while all have done well and even toured internationally there is a feeling that they could have done even better.

 
While artists of quality like Neil from Meursault or Dan Willson from Withered Hand plough their own furrow while happily nodding to their influences, those who simply want to “make it” will jump from one bandwagon to another as what is left of the UK music industry still look for another View or Biffy Clyro or Chvrches.

Currently post-punk is taking the mantle of alt rock and often while bands get the general sound right they simply forget to write any good songs. There is nothing wrong in getting interest in a band by describing them as “like” another band. Avalanche sold many of the Olympic Swimmers first album on the basis they were a cross between the Cocteau Twins and a Scottish Sigur Ros.

The thing was they delivered on that promise, as did Randolph’s Leap who I described as having lyrics not out of place on a Belle and Sebastian album. However recently an artist was recommended to me as a cross between The National and the Twilight Sad, two of my favourite bands. I was hugely disappointed that apart from an affected vocal not dissimilar to Matt Berninger the songs were just not remotely good enough.

For established bands it is hard to sell more music at a time when people are buying less, and for newer bands just getting established is a dream! There isn’t really enough of a Scottish music industry left to make a difference in the UK, never mind worldwide. Labels and distribution at the core of successful promotion cannot exist if artists can see no further than selling on bandcamp or through PledgeMusic.

All credit to the artists I’ve mentioned for surviving the most turbulent ten years the music industry has ever known. There are a few artists cut from the same cloth gradually coming through, of which Hamish James Hawk is probably the best, and in case you were wondering, imagine if Withered Hand had written songs for Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs album. He won’t let you down!

 

Music venues need subsidies too or Edinburgh won’t have any left

It was sad to see the Electric Circus will now be closing by the end of March, far earlier than was expected.

There are a number of factors that are affecting small and medium sized venues and it is hard to see how they will continue to survive without financial support in the same way book festivals, art galleries and cultural publications are subsidised.

It has to be recognised that like so many things these days, gig going is popular but not popular enough at the grassroots level to be in most cases commercially viable.

I appreciate this isn’t the first time I’ve said this but if something isn’t done and quickly it will just be a case of who will close next and Edinburgh simply cannot afford to lose any more venues.

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