Friday, 17 December 2010

Sold Out For Christmas: Sean's Review of this Years X-Mas Chart

Last year, for the first time in my life, I genuinely got excited about the charts (apart from in 2001 when Slipknot's second album hit the top. . .but more on that later).  Despite the murky ideological entanglements of Rage Against The Machine sharing the same label as last year's X Factor winner, it was a sweet, sweet moment of christmas cheer over the SiCo stronghold: Rage Against the Machine reform, sell half a million singles, donate the proceeds to charity and play a free victory gig?  Amazing!  Perhaps the band slightly over-egged the eggnog with suggestions of a revolutionary shift in popular politics, but there have been some long-lasting benefits, aside from raising money for charity.  Although it's nearly twenty years since their debut, Rage opened a window onto interesting, innovative, excellent music.  It's a telling feat given the bland banality of mainstream 'rock' today.  So with this in mind, let's take a look at the Christmas number one hopefuls, in solidarity with the spirit of forward thinking music, charity and sticking it to the man, man.

Firstly, of course, there is the miserly ghost of Christmas two-years-past; Simon Cowell and the X Factor's Matt Cardle with 'When We Collide'.  Now, it goes without saying that this is very bad.  Musically it's a lift-music version of our ex-label mates Biffy Clyro's original 'Many of Horror', only it's patently the case that it's being sung by a painter/decorator from Essex.  Is this perhaps Cowells' attempt at winning a rock audience for the show, after Rage's coup last year?  Who knows.   We need dwell on this no longer.  The mainstay of my argument here is to look at whether this constitutes as Biffy Clyro 'selling out', which more often than not is a fickle, protectionist criticism.  Their blend of angular emotional turmoil through progressive pop metal along with an intense gigging schedule throughout Scotland and the UK made them an underground sensation.  They landed themselves in it though with their forth album, Puzzle, which achieved moderate mainstream success.  Despite this, it was by no means an easy, chart conscious album; it's arguable their darkest.  After this came 'Only Revolutions'.  Undoubtedly, the album was written with the the radio in mind, however it's mostly satisfying collection of shiny rock anthems, with moments of genuine maturity and craftsmanship.  I still feel as I did when the album came out – Biffy have changed their sound, but on the whole the quality of songwriting has developed, and it's by no means slapdash or cynical.  The saddest thing for me is that 'Many of Horror' is probably the laziest song on 'Revolutions' and in this sense will only help to quicken the final nail in their coffin as a 'credible' band.    I hope not though.  Evidently I'm not alone: there's already a facebook group been set up to try and get 'real Biffy' to No. 1. 

Which brings us to our second contender.  Biffy.  It's a good song, and obviously better than the cover.  To be honest though, I wouldn't bother.  The truth of the matter is that Warner Bros. own the rights to use the song, as well as the cover, similarly to Rage, however Biffy haven't pledged to donate any money to charity.  If you want to download it merely as a jibe then there are better things to get behind, and if you're doing it as a 'real' Biffy fan, presumably you have the album already?  Biffy are a band who've got where they are today through critical acclaim, as well as an intense relationship with their live crowd.  I'd be interested to hear whether 40,000 Slipknot fans have their back, when Biffy play the metal festivals of next summer.  Which brings us to Slipknot,  a band who I believe have truly 'sold out'.  On the contrary to Biffy, Slipknot's fan base seem to think they have never been better.  Bred out of an almost religious devotion to 'the 9', there seems on the surface to be few detractors in the 'maggot corps'.  I know, as someone who has been in denial about their downward curve for a few years now.  It's not easy for me to admit, but an exploitation of a devoted core-fan-base, coupled with an increasingly lame pedestrian sound; confused and churlish lyrics chugging along to pretty unremarkable heavy metal guitar are the hallmarks of Slipknot's decline.        

That and lead singer Corey Taylor that is.  The third contender for the top spot is this guy's debut solo single 'X-M@$'.  Oh dear.  And you thought Stone Sour were terrible?  Light years more depressing than our televised karaoke competition (for me at least), Corey Taylor it seems must be the only person who still believes his own hype.  He looks and sounds an absolute joke.  The macho swearing, the trailer trash drunkenness, the boring half-baked consumerist cynicism, the dreary punk-rock swagger, the sheer self-importance of the man.  He's Axel Rose's grumpy, washed up uncle who works as a marketing executive and has worked out a way to sell x-mas singles to disenchanted, unimaginative metal-heads.  He's not a hundredth of the man who once fronted the most emotionally wrought, dangerous, inventive metal band of all time.  Still, he's giving the money to a cancer charity, so in one sense it's at least a little more christmassy an investment than Matt Cowell.

As if things couldn't get any worse, we now arrive at a deluge, no, a reservoir of shit, namely 'Bird is the Word'. . .by The Trashmen, via Family Guy. . .the cartoon.  I don't want to dwell long on this, it's not worth it.  Suffice to say that I believe this is ideologically worse than anything Si has ever been involved with, and that includes Mr Blobby.  Not content with a glorified Butlins showcase, the people of Great Britain have, of their own accord, 'randomly' elected to lower standards further than previously thought possible, by promoting this inane, tedious, out of context parody of a 1960's Trashmen rock n roll number, which culminates in a baby blowing his own head off.  LOL.  It's empty facile nonsense for empty moronic people. The sad irony is that anyone brain dead enough to download this is playing into the hands of the X Factor's grand project; to plunge expectations and standards to such a depth,  that we will loose the ability to judge music in any constructive, valued way.   We will buy absolutely anything from the compost heap of 'talent' that ITV et al. foster.  Merry Christmas. LMAO.

Which brings us to the angel atop the tree, the shining star of hope that is Cage Against The Machine.  We've come full circle here, to something of genuine merit and quality.  As my bandmate Al previously commented, John Cage's 4'33” goes further than a sonic joke.  Cage's point is that all noise is music, and therefore music is impossible to escape.  We have become desensitised to the organised sounds of western chords progressions, scales and instrumentation.  When this is all stripped away, how do artist and audience alike takle 4 minutes 33 seconds of 'silence'?  The piece has been performed at the Proms and by Frank Zappa, but Cage Against The Machine is unlike any performance attempted of the work so far.  A room stuffed full of celebrity egos - one take.  And as the tape rolls, things start to take shape.  A bemused but earnest looking Kook.  A serious Suggs.  A cough from Scroobius Pip.  One stares confused at an empty score.  Another holds his hand aloft a power chord.  Dan le Sac imitates a scratch on a turntable.  Some of this is probably premeditated, but the situationism and strangeness of the whole thing makes none of them look as cool as they'd like.  As they ease in a spontaneous swaying of hands begins.  They've been Caged.  Imogen Heap did an overdub and Billy Bragg recorded his part on his phone from a bus.  Fantastic!
This will be lucky to make the top ten, but it's by far the most exciting, provocative single of the year.  Download it!  Proceeds go to charity.

So as Rage kicked our charts into gear last year solidifying sales through an anti-bland, anti-greed campaign, this years split vote puts our collective imagination of spontaneous rebellion into context.    All in all it's a shame that the spirit of Rage hasn't been recreated – a spontaneous celebration of great music.  Cage if the only christmas song this year which doesn't treat it's audience like a child.  With this in mind it would be a triumph if Cage gets higher in the charts than any of the aforementioned.

Aforementioned indeed, because there's one more contender: White Heath with their magnificent free single 'GG'.  Download it here:

They aren't even on a major label yet so they're much cooler than Rage and Biffy put together.  Get the original now before it features as the X Factor winner's song Xmas 2011.

To round things up, here's a few all time greats.

Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Totally Addicted to Bass

Exciting news, folks! Over the next month or so, White Heath will be undergoing a change.

We've come to the conclusion at long last that our current set up is inadequate. I know that many people have praised us for it's unconventional nature, but if we're being honest, it was only brought about by necessity. More importantly, it doesn't really have anything to do with the originality of our music: you don't go to concerts based on the size of an orchestra, but on the merit of the composer they've decided to perform. It became apparent during the course of recording the album that the constraints imposed on us by our live line-up were impeding the musical imagination of the band, and with the time afforded us in the studio we were able to explore avenues we wouldn't have previously considered. We've had ideas we can't physically re-create with the instrumentation available to our current live sound, and with this in mind we've decided to get ourselves a rhythm section.

Apart from the utter arse-ache of organising seven people to be in a given place at one time, we're all really excited about it: Adz and I in particular are going to be freed up immensely by not having to have one eye on always covering the bottom end, and I think Sean and Shou are quite relieved at being able to concentrate on what they do best. We're by no means going to turn into a 4/4 rock outfit or attempt to sideline our heavily percussive sound: it's just a way of giving the music more options, dynamics and textures.  It's going to be awesome.

So please give a warm welcome to the excellent Craig Salter, who will be joining as our bassist this very week. We're very lucky that he happens to not only be a damn fine musician, but also a very close friend. And, music aside, it's going to be great to have someone else to piss about with on the train to Glasgow. Everyone loves him; we're sure you will too.

We'll be playing our first ever gig as a six-piece this Friday (17th) in Henry's Cellar Bar at exactly 8pm. Please do come down and give your support. If Craig's lovely face (above) wasn't enough to get you in a tizzy, then remember we're supporting Tom Hingley, the voice of The Inspiral Carpets.

And for god's sake download our single.

Awesome! See you there!

Saturday, 11 December 2010


As 2010 draws to a close the White Heath camp is beginning to pack up shop for Christmas.  The album’s recorded and pretty much mixed; we’ve one last day of final editing to go before we can call it a wrap, but all in all it’s pretty much there.  We’ve seen the last of the really big creative decisions, and the only thing left is a little polishing to make it perfect.  It’s nice that it’ll be completed to see the beginning of the New Year; it’s strange how there’s something about that festival in particular which encourages this kind of sentimentality.  For some reason Hogmanay really feels like it has some bearing on how you organise your life, even to the least traditional and superstitious among us.

Anyway, before that happens, we’ve a couple of shows lined up in Edinburgh and Glasgow if you want to see us play one last time before the holidays.

This Sunday (12th) we’ll be heading through to Glasgow to play at the Captain’s Rest with The Red Show and Rollor, both fantastic examples of interesting modern rock and roll, full of an energy and intelligence that drives their music forward.  Oh, and to play the charity card: it’s a fundraiser for children’s care.

As to our home city, we’re playing Henry’s Cellar Bar on Black Friday (17th).  We’ll be supporting Tom Hingley, the legendary frontman of The Inspiral Carpets, one of Manchester’s most revered and influential bands.  This gig’s going to be off the hook, so make sure you get there quite early as other commitments have meant we’ve had to request one of the earlier slots.

Cool!  See you there!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Opening the Cage: 4’33” for Christmas Number 1

“The All Sound Music of the Future” is a phrase taken from the writings of John Cage.  Though our music is perhaps not what Cage would have imagined when he coined it, we feel at home with his enterprising spirit and dramatic, unreserved approach to exploring the boundaries of what music can be.  We’d like to think he wouldn’t be too mad at us appropriating the phrase for the title of our blog.

We came across it on the train to our first ever session of studio recording.  Shu had borrowed a couple of his books from the music library and we were flicking through them to pass the time.  We’re not music scholars, and it came as a great surprise at how electrifying Cage is as a writer.  History is full of figures who were famous for their superhuman efforts as composers, but failed miserably at translating this into words: Wagner’s pompous and flowery essays when compared to the all-encompassing magic of his music is a case in point.  For Cage, however, there is not really a dividing line between where his philosophy ends and his music begin: it's all geared at daring you to imagine further than you already can.

There is something about Cage’s music which seems to surpass the tradition of experimentalism that the 20th century is so famous for.  For a long time I couldn’t quite work out why, but last night I stumbled on a youtube comment that seemed to hit the nail on the head.  It was a remark that considered how in 4’33” you could see “the twinkle in his eye”.

And there it is: there is an innate playfulness about Cage’s approach to the often bewildering world of the avant-garde that makes it so infectious and compelling.  His fiddling with pianos to transform their possibilities and create fascinating tunes is a good example of the composer’s combination of childlike, hands-on excitement and sublime, technical wisdom.  Here, as in so much of Cage’s music, is an example of the tension between tactile fun and otherworldly beauty.

The same can be said of 4’33”.  There are obviously a huge many aspects to this piece/idea that folk much smarter and better prepared have discussed in depth, so I’m not going to lecture anyone.  I just wanted to say that here you can see that wonderful tension again: even watching the recorded performance, you’re not sure whether you want to burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation or be drawn into a very poignant and affecting emotional experience.

Because though in many ways it is a fantastic joke, it is also demonstrates a really cool idea.  4’33” is an illustration of how much of ourselves we put into music, and an argument for the necessity of space and reflection to digest it’s awesome power.  Now, of course this is an obvious point and not even the most pertinent argument that piece presents, but I feel that with Suggs & Co recording it for Christmas number 1, it is a important one to consider.  How much of music today is set to 11 and compressed enough to remain there, with the gaps filled by the inane mutterings of radio DJ’s to help us feel like we are never alone?  More than a chance to batter SyCo again, it is an opportunity for clean space to triumph over landfill noise, and for experimentalism to beat similitude.

But the potential of a high profile mainstream recording extends far wider than a mere political statement.  Perhaps the most exciting thing about 4’33” being widely available on the airwaves will be the possibilities that repeated radio broadcast will give to the piece.  Cage’s whole point was that there was no such thing as silence; 4’33” is supposed to include the surrounding noise of the listeners own individual experience.  With repeated hearings throughout the wide variety of situations that you would expect to hear a number one single in, 4”33 will become more dynamic and exciting than ever before.

This Christmas we will see a fantastic opportunity for the world of the avant-garde to meet that of the mainstream.  It’s a momentous occasion, if you think about it.  Let’s make it happen.  Buy Cage Against The Machine’s 4’33”.

Oh, and while your at it, download our noisy, highly-compressed, tonally simple, radio-friendly and totally awesome single for free here



For fun: here’s a poem based on one of his anecdotes by another man who delighted in exploration and playfulness as grounds to a serious and affecting art, the greatly missed Edwin Morgan.

Opening the Cage: 14 Variations on 14 Words
"I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry." — John Cage

I have to say poetry and is that nothing and am I saying it
I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it
I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it
I that am saying poetry have nothing and it is I and to say
And I say that I am to have poetry and saying it is nothing
I am poetry and nothing and saying it is to say that I have
To have nothing is poetry and I am saying that and I say it
Poetry is saying I have nothing and I am to say that and it
Saying nothing I am poetry and I have to say that and it is
It is and I am and I have poetry saying say that to nothing
It is saying poetry to nothing and I say I have and am that
Poetry is saying I have it and I am nothing and to say that
And that nothing is poetry I am saying and I have to say it
Saying poetry is nothing and to that I say I am and have it
— Edwin MorganThe Second Life
Edinburgh University Press, 1968

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Debut Single "GG" Released: Download For Free

Hello, and welcome to the White Heath blog.  We've already mucked our fingers in the various dirt of Myspace, Twitter and Facebook; I suppose it was only a matter of time before we started on this angle as well.  I hope it's a good idea, but I'm aware that the internet often makes you unsure of exactly where to stop.  Humor us.

We've had a pretty amazing year, what with the Electric Honey machine beginning to hiss, tick and whir, as well the opportunity of spending extensive studio time with the truly wonderful Jim Sutherland and Graeme Steel.  But enough.  More on this later: we have exciting news that can't bear to wait through a year-long retrospective.

Last Friday saw the release of our debut single, "GG", and we'd like you to have it for free.  You can download it here: feel free to spread it round the net as much as you can.  It was originally only going to be released as a double A-side white vinyl with our label-mates Woodenbox and a Fistful of Fivers; but after the Sunday Mail included it in it's list of essential downloads alongside the likes of Michael Jackson and Kylie Minogue, we figured that the least we could would be to make it readily available.

Here it is below as well; we hope you enjoy it.  My serving suggestion would be: loud and with dancing.  As the wonderful MC Lars once said: Download This Song!

GG by whiteheathmusic

All the best,