And I don’t care about morals / ‘cos the world’s insane and we’re all to blame anyway

On Sat­ur­day night last I spent about four hours stand­ing side of stage in a park in cen­tral Den­pasar, here in Bali. The event in ques­tion was a fundrais­er for the quick­ly for­got­ten (by the world at large, unlike say, Kat­ri­na, which still seems to get a men­tion most nights on the tel­ly in one place or anoth­er) Jog­ja quake of a month or so ago.

There were, I’m told, between four and sev­en thou­sand kids there, and (although to be hon­est, I didn’t ven­ture much from the back­stage are), to the best of my knowl­edge, there were only three non-Indone­sians in the place. Maybe that’s why, in the south­ern tri­an­gle of this isle, I enjoy Den­pasar far more than the tourist haunts cen­tred on the often less than pleas­ant strip from Kuta through to Kere­bokan. If you are going to be here, at least be here. I like being out of my com­fort zone and if I want to be in Pon­son­by or Dar­linghurst I’ll get on an aero­plane.

But, that’s all beside the point.

I stood on Sat­ur­day night and watched four bands. There was a reg­gae act, and yeah, they were ok, not my per­son­al thing but ok. But these guys have a res­i­den­cy at a local Legian reg­gae club so thus deserve mas­sive respect for putting up with the ugli­est crowd on the plan­et – drunk­en Aus­tralians. There was band whose lead singer stood like a late sev­en­ties Joe Strum­mer and sang a post punky set in Bali­nese which I thought was kin­da fun. I had no idea what he was say­ing, but I did – if you get the gist. The lan­guage of rock’n’roll rebel­lion is uni­ver­sal and no great mys­tery.

They were fol­lowed by (and I wish I had names for these bands) a crew from Jakar­ta who were both slick and enter­tain­ing in an almost nu-met­al meets hard­core style. Seri­ous­ly slick actu­al­ly, with a mas­sive pres­ence and they worked the crowd like the local stars they clear­ly were and deserved to be. I enjoyed them, even though, musi­cal­ly they’re not my thing.

The last band were the one I’d come to see. I’d seen Super­man is Dead (S.I.D. to their fans. The name is, I believe a ref­er­ence to the demise of Suhar­to. Young Indone­sians are keen­ly aware of the rather unfor­tu­nate lega­cy of the man and proud of their baru democ­ra­cy … this is a nation on the rise) on TV a cou­ple of times. Just acoustic takes on the local Bali TV chan­nel and I’d had a quick lis­ten to their new album, which I’d been giv­en. Some­thing intrigued me, some­thing made per­fect sense. Even with the sound off on the TV, the sec­ond time the per­for­mance came on, I couldn’t take my eyes off them and found the songs going around in my head lat­er

Live I wasn’t dis­ap­point­ed. I stood trans­fixed through­out the set. I was absolute­ly blown away by the drummer’s solo spot out front. And by the other’s cheeky know­ing grins and by the way they bounced musi­cal­ly off each oth­er in a way I’ve always assumed Lennon and McCart­ney did at the Star Club. Made, who was giv­ing me a lift on his motor­bike back to my car, came up to me half way through and asked if I want­ed to leave. No, no I explained, I want to watch this through to the very end. I love watch­ing a band, a musi­cian, or a DJ with such an obvi­ous empa­thy with their audi­ence, feed­ing off each oth­er, as SID and these thou­sands, who knew every word of their anthemic songs and trav­elled through the set as par­tic­i­pants rather than sim­ply an audi­ence, did.

And I thought about the tyran­ny of loca­tion, some­thing I’d men­tioned in some long for­got­ten review of a for­got­ten album twen­ty five years ago when I was a reg­u­lar review­er in Mur­ray Cam­mick’s Rip It Up. About how loca­tion is every­thing, how any aver­age band in the UK or the US has the odds stacked so strong­ly in its favour; that the record­ing indus­try has ensured that it has a vast­ly greater chance of play­ing to a glob­al audi­ence that the best band or artist from a less favoured nation, say, Indone­sia or New Zealand; nations that are deemed by the sys­tem to sim­ply not mat­ter as sources of mar­ketable music.

And yet Super­man Is Dead leave many of the acts with large con­tracts, and the big chance, in the prover­bial grav­el. Any­way you look at it they’re bet­ter than the swathe of mediocre mid­dle Amer­i­can rock acts foist­ed upon the kids by a the entrenched sys­tem, the MTV shite that you find pri­ori­tised by glob­al mul­ti-nation­als.

And I thought about the rev­o­lu­tion at hand. Pop­u­lar music is dri­ven by rev­o­lu­tions, and always has been. From Bill Haley to Hip hop to The Bea­t­les to House, we’ve had half a cen­tu­ry of youth dri­ven rev­o­lu­tions, all of which have crept up those in a posi­tion of pow­er in the enter­tain­ment indus­try and slammed them with­out warn­ing as they strug­gle to make some sense of it all. The last decade or so has been a lit­tle staid, although con­sid­er­ing what we’ve had released, per­formed and record­ed in the last few years that term is a lit­tle unfair. How­ev­er that music has worked with­in the para­me­ters estab­lished over the past decade or two, and to my mind can’t be con­sid­ered rev­o­lu­tion­ary as such, fine as much of it is.

There has of course been the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion but that has a been a rev­o­lu­tion in deliv­ery mech­a­nisms, a rev­o­lu­tion that, whilst it has con­fused and bemused the major record com­pa­nies (to the extent that they have made such major mis­steps as the glar­ing stu­pid­i­ty of DRM, the Sony BMG spy­ware mess, and the RIAA’s insane law­suits against down­load­ers: rule num­ber one has to be, and always has been, that you don’t assault and attack your cus­tomers, espe­cial­ly when they already think you are vague­ly, no make that total­ly, evil) they have, as they did with the LP and the CD, after much flus­ter­ing, tried to run with.

No, the deliv­ery mech­a­nism is not the rev­o­lu­tion but it cer­tain­ly made pos­si­ble the rev­o­lu­tion. The rev­o­lu­tion which has crept up on the Indus­try as such is the new democ­ra­cy, the grow­ing real­i­sa­tion that the untamed aspects of the inter­net are slow­ly pulling the pow­er, the con­trol, away from the estab­lished pow­er struc­ture and hand­ing it over the end user or those close to the end user. It’s a pass­ing of the baton from the record com­pa­nies to the peo­ple. Its best seen in New Zealand with the Fat Fred­die’s phe­nom­e­na, who one year on are still dom­i­nat­ing an indus­try that real­ly had noth­ing to do with their rise. And I’m not talk­ing Rupert Murdoch’s MySpace which still feels like walk­ing into the foy­er of Sky TV to me; but I am talk­ing, amongst oth­er things, about the count­less MP3 blogs which dis­sem­i­nate tracks viral­ly around the plan­et, and from which I’ve per­son­al­ly dis­cov­ered (and sub­se­quent­ly pur­chased) many dig­i­tal audio files, some long for­got­ten (how many killer Bil­ly Pre­ston tracks were doing the rounds after he snuffed it – I’d for­got­ten how great the title track from his Encour­ag­ing Words album on Apple was) and so many new acts that would nev­er have got­ten any expo­sure under the “sys­tem” as it was, even with iTunes or its equiv­a­lent.

The pow­er instead is begin­ning to sit with some blog­ger some­where in nowhere land who has tak­en it upon them­selves to espouse the great­ness of some mar­gin­al act that would oth­er­wise have slipped through the sys­tem. In its own way, the pira­cy of the music via the p2ps adds to the ten­ta­cles of this rev­o­lu­tion in a way the major com­pa­nies, obsessed with max­imis­ing the sales of their pri­or­i­ty acts, to the despair of the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of their (non-pri­or­i­ty) acts who won­der why their songs sim­ply don’t get any real expo­sure, still don’t seem to grasp.

The MP3 blog­ging world has recent­ly been abuzz with the likes of the won­der­ful Simi­an Mobile Dis­co, and Toronto’s noisy tech­noids, MSTRKRFT, nei­ther of which would get a look in via the old sys­tem but are worth track­ing down. Right now, whether EMI buys Warn­ers or Warn­ers buys EMI seems to be increas­ing­ly irrel­e­vant to this busi­ness that has always refused to con­form to accept­ed norms, a busi­ness that the kids have only just, in ways we can’t imag­ine yet, begun to claw back.

Oh and check out SID…they real­ly are fan­tas­tic….

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