Monday, 18 February 2008

TD Rants: The Observer Music Monthly

Is there any more frustrating music publication than the Observer Music Monthly? I'd argue not. While knee-jerk reaction bibles like the NME have always been upfront about their preference for the new over the old, the OMM likes to pretend it's both down with the kids and up with the dads (or should that be the other way round?). The result is an awkward mix of Q/Mojo style dad band interviews (U2, for the umpteenth time), genuinely weighty music journalism, Guardianista coverage of urban music ("wow, this new thing called dubstep is amazing" etc) and the odd blast of I-D/Face-ish Nathan Barley-ism.

Of course, we'd expect nothing less from a magazine that comes with a Sunday newspaper, whose audience spans several generations (students and teens at one end of the scale, aging baby boomers at the other). But that still doesn't excuse its poor coverage of dance music, which it seems to see - like many mainstream music publications - as devoid of musical merit. On the rare occasions the OMM does cover dance/electronic music, it usually does so badly. Witness Miranda Sawyer's rambling nu-rave rant last year, which started off by defending dance music (making similar points to this piece, ironically) before wandering off into a celebration of the throwaway nature of dance music. Damming with feint praise, basically. Aside from these sorts of opinion pieces and the odd review, electronic music is pretty much ignored - unless, of course, they can get some pictures of Shoreditch teens wearing silly clothes out of it. Touche.

It was interesting to note that yesterday's edition of the OMM proudly predicted that 2008 would see "the return of the Bristol sound". Their justification for all this, of course, was their cover feature with Portishead. On the back of the release of their forthcoming album - and those by Tricky and Massive Attack - the OMM boldly predicted a big year for "the Bristol sound".

There is no doubt that all those album releases are big news, and it is great that Bristol's most famous artists are returning, but the city has not been a haven for stoned trip-hop producers - or even particularly hip-hop producers - for the last half decade at least. If the Observer Music Monthly did some digging, they'd find that the Bristol scene is as healthy and vibrant as it's ever been - and that no-one sound dominates. Our dubstep producers - most notably Pinch, Appleblim and Peverelist - are renowned the world over, the city's techno community is thriving (see Emptyset and others), we boast some of the best grime and garage DJs and MCs around (Joker, Blazey) and drum & bass is still big news. Hell, we've even got a small but dedicated community of disco nerds.

2008 does feel like a big year for Bristol, but it's not because of a few million-selling artists who haven't released records in donkeys. It's because we have some of the most exciting, up and coming producers around, a gaggle of dedicated DJs and promoters, and a massive student population. If anyone from the OMM is reading this, we'll happily fill you in - come on down to Bristol and we'll show you around.

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