24 April 2014

Record Store Day 2014 and Why It's Hard To Feel Sorry For The Indies.

It emerged today that Paul Weller was feeling a little disheartened by eBay touts after his Record Store Day 'Brand New Toy' limited vinyl was spotted being flogged on eBay at inflated prices. Weller, a supporter of Record Store Day and independent record shops has said that he will not be taking part next year as he feels the day’s message has been well and truly lost.
Some RSD purchases.
I completely agree with the man. Far too often, genuine fans lose out on rarities and front row seats to touts hoping to make a pretty penny in their PayPal accounts and this year’s event was no exception, causing a lot of musos to go home empty handed and blurring the sentiment that RSD was designed to promote.
However, it’s not just touts that stand to ruin all that is good about this musical day, as I found when I ventured into Liverpool last Saturday.
Unlike many of the early risers this year, I was not in line for any exclusive, multi-coloured, 1 in no chance of getting one, releases. I was simply there just to soak up some genuine atmosphere and maybe pick up some CD’s I have been meaning to fill my overflowing shelf with.
Yet when my sister and I plodded on into a couple of the city’s prime vinyl hotspots, it was hard to shake the feeling of ‘you don’t belong here.’
Call me paranoid, but for years now I have felt the same shudder numerous times when entering specialist shops. It’s not just records either, comic shops, instruments and retro gaming stores give off the exact same vibe to anyone who dares ask a question or simply just wants to have a look around.
‘What?! You want to be served in this shop?!’ – well actually no not really, which is precisely why I proudly went to music giant HMV and pretty much emptied my purse. Hardly a victory but giving in to ‘the man’ somehow felt more fulfilling.
For so long now, specialist shops have cried out for help when their businesses crumble and slowly but surely every city centre begins to look exactly the same as the last - the reason the day was set up in the first place in 2008.
It’s a crying shame – but no wonder! Lose the attitude, throw on a less obscure t shirt and you might actually sell something.
At Christmas, I searched all over for a present, a copy of Misfits’ Famous Monsters. Not exactly an obscure title but a vinyl copy proved as hard to find as a smile in Dawsons (NB: The same store in which I asked to by a capo and the store assistant said “Erm do you know what this is?”). I checked in every local store I could find and eventually started emailing around to see if any stores might be able to source it. Hardly any bothered to reply and the ones that did proceeded to patronise me as if I thought I was asking for a common copy of Now That’s What I Call Music 85. ‘You do know this is really hard to find?’ Oh wow really? I hadn’t realised that when I wrote to you saying ‘I know this is incredibly difficult to find.’
It’s this exertion of knowledge and ability to talk to those only in the inner circle that puts me off spending a penny in these places.
It’s worth noting there are still a few that seem genuinely interested in engaging with the public, and in my search for Famous Monsters I came across a couple of lovely, clued up folk, that were more than willing to help without making me feel like a nuisance.  
I would have loved to have gone out on RSD and proudly sported my RSD 2014 carrier bag on the train home. But unfortunately HMV, you know, the big evil giant which contributed to the indies dying out, got some free advertising on my arm. I believe you can be successful and be a specialist all you want. And you don’t be a snob to do so.
 
Laura x

25 March 2014

The Social CV – How have you been?


Professional resumes, the bane of the unemployed’s existence. A mere snapshot into a person’s life and one that will judge whether or not an employer will welcome you into their co-op. However, there’s an even trickier application form that we are faced to acknowledge almost daily, the one that concentrates more on who we know, our hobbies and if we’re getting enough exercise – our social CV.
We have all come across a friend from a thousand years B.U. (that’s, Before Uni) who has caught us with the dreaded question of ‘What have you been up to?’ These occasions usually appear when we’re running an errand in yesterday’s clothes and worse at a time when we don’t have a lot to say for ourselves except ‘not much’.
This happened to me quite recently. I was out shopping and a girl who I knew from high school clocked me as I was perusing the three quid rom coms in Tesco. The inevitable happened and before I could even begin to think of an interesting way to say ‘sales assistant’ I was asking her how her life was instead.
‘I’m a school teacher,’ bam! ‘I’m married,’ bam! ‘We’ve just bought a house together,’ bam! ‘My knitting blog’s getting really popular,’ bam! Every box ticked.
For me there are various categories we can fill in order to make up our personal CV. There’s work, relationships and of course the often neglected, hobbies section. Similar to the Greek theory of the Four Humours, when these elements are out of balance we feel at a loss or attempt to justify ourselves by making up our own equations of what equals public happiness.
These days everyone has a blog, can bake a decent cupcake, play guitar and so it becomes increasingly difficult to separate yourself from others and as a result some of us simply can’t be bothered to shout about the things we do that make us interesting.
My dad once told me that if you play a musical instrument you will be the life and soul of the party. I believed him until the indie wave of 2005 hit and it just so happened that every relative in existence could belt out a semi decent rendition of Wonderwall.
Likewise, if we don’t have these things to shout about we’re equally quiet and left to feel bad about not pushing some quirky side project.
In a world where everyone seems to dabble in everything, it becomes even harder to let yourself relax and be okay with simply going to work and happily coming home to cram an entire season of Breaking Bad into one evening.
Soon after my old school friend and I had finished our conversation and I had gotten over my initial irrational quarter-life panic, I stopped to think about the things I should have said.
Sometimes, as with any good CV, you have to get over the fear of being too confident. Of course no one likes a show off and sure you might not be the only member of your family who can pull off four chords, but it’s good to show that you can.

29 January 2013

Help! I Got Notebooked!

Oh lord.
Boy meets girl. Girl is a workaholic. Boy is sexy but romantic. Boy woos girl. Girl is resilient. Boy goes away. Something bad happens. Boy saves girl. Girl realises feelings. Boy publically declares love. Boy and girl live happily ever after. Roll credits.
Damn Hollywood, it’s no wonder we’re all so confused.
I have seen countless chick flicks and girly movies. You may recall I enjoythese films because they’re safe, easy and don’t take a lot of brain power. But recently I have realised, these movies are some of the most complicated and dangerous films of them all.
I remember the first time I watched The Notebook. I was 15, carefree and more impressed with how well a boy could skateboard rather than their ability to recite Shakespeare. Back then the film did absolutely nothing for me. I thought it was soppy, unrealistic and I cringed at the thought of a boy being so obsessed with me he would send me 365 letters and build me my Barbie Dream House.
Moving on seven years to a conversation with my boyfriend of 5 years about how recently I just want to be silly and romantic, and how it’s nice to be constantly told how amazing I am (because that’s how the relationship started; him showering me with affection whilst I told him to stop being ridiculous). I was shocked by his response.
He said: ‘You drummed that out of me a long time ago, baby’.
Yes, that’s right ladies. I, Miss I-don’t-need-no-man-to-tell-me-I’m-pretty, had successfully managed to break my very own Noah Calhoun.
Over time I have been conditioned to believe that I will end up living in New York in a crummy apartment that I miraculously makeover with quirky multi-coloured cushions. I will somehow make my way up my chosen career ladder even though there are better candidates but not before I stick it out in a badly paid job that somehow pays for this far from humble abode in the middle of Manhattan. I will end up with some stupidly gorgeous guy who is so desperate to be with me that he will publically declare his love for me with some sort of spontaneous speech or flash mob resulting in some major PDA. Dum dum da dum dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum dummmm (The wedding march can’t really written phonetically can it?)
This, all from the girl who at one time in her life used to use the excuse that she had hay fever just so a boy would not buy her flowers. What the hell happened?!
I believe this lot may have something to do with it.
Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Ashton Kutcher, Zac Efron, Gerard Butler and their evil sidekicks Rachel McAdams, Anne Hathaway, Sandra Bullock, Catherine Heigl and Reese Witherspoon.
I feel sorry for guys, I really do because the men in these movies have set the bar to such an unrealistic height that women are bound to be disappointed with the reality. These poor blokes clearly don’t have any idea where they stand because in one breath we’re telling them that we don’t want them to be perfect and dancing in the street is just too much fromage to stomach. Yet we are more than happy to sit with a bar of Dairy Milk and swoon over Jake Gyllenhaal’s abs and Ashton’s persistence to get the girl of his dreams.
I feel sorry for us too! Why should we expect less than the geeky girl who trumped a bet involving the hottest boy in school? Why aren’t we enchanting the eternal bachelor to become our soul mate? Why hasn’t our childhood sweetheart shown up later in life with a six pack and a successful business ready to sweep us off our feet? And why oh why have we not stopped torturing ourselves and turned off the TV?
My only suggestion ladies to cure yourself of this terrible illness – the dreaded 'Notebooked' - is a hard dose of the beautiful Blue Valentine. Because it’s the closest nod to a romantic reality the cinema’s got (And Gosling still takes his shirt off. So it’s not all bad.)