The delightful interactive Sound of the Smiths

soundsmithsAnyone who is a massive fan of a band will at some point in their lives try and learn everything possible about the history of the musicians. Although in some cases we prefer to keep the artist’s personality and their music separate, there are many cases where we can’t get enough of the stories and ridiculous antics that happened behind the music we love.

Enter the new interactive timeline on the Smiths’ official website. And it really is interactive The visitor can scroll through a visual delight of important dates like ‘first gig’ (The Ritz in Manchester) and listen to the songs that were performed on the set list. You can also read about the singles and see what tracks charted in the UK.

For fans that have already read Morrissey’s Autobiography or Simon Goddard’s extremely thorough Songs That Saved Your Life, you won’t be finding any new information about the band. The timeline mostly includes information about the charts, singles, gigs and album releases. Unsurprisingly, there are a few unfortunate stories left out.  All that aside, the timeline is still a nice look through and a lovely listen to have a visual timeline.

It’s not like any of us want a reunion anyway, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

I am alive

After a very nice, long, relaxing weekend I finally feel mentally sane for the first time in three months. Welcome, Winter Break! And indeed, now that assessment week is over – this blog is in full swing again. Pesky school. Lot’s of things happened within one week: Beyonce dropped a “surprise album” (which I guess is the thing now), the Pope has been named Time’s Person of the Year, Peter O’Toole passed away and Uruguay can now legally grow weed!

This is all going somewhere.

Since the year is pretty much over, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the best and worst (and most bizarre) moments of music that happened in 2013. Feel free to share your own! Because sharing is fun:

1. Bowie drops first album in a decade
On January 8th we were all taken by surprise when the divine David Bowie’s released “Where Are We Now?” on his 66th birthday. The album “The Next Day” followed in March, but it was this single that really blew my mind. There was something about that release that made music feel magical again: there was mystery and honesty. The video brought me to tears. It set the year up to becoming one of the most promising in ages.

2. Morrissey’s Autobiography
I’m sure 90% of people with disagree with me when I say that this was a great moment. Most Smiths fans probably have a conflicted view of Mozzer, who is simultaneously brilliant and a complete wanker, but the fact that this usually elusive musician opened up enough for 457 pages is fantastic. The insight to his childhood starts to make his music make more sense, and that can be good or bad – depending upon how much you see of yourself in him.

3. The Carrie Diaries unleashes 80’s sugar
This is probably the most embarrassing one to admit, but the American television show The Carrie Diaries has the best soundtrack of any show on right now. The first few episodes are awkward as the viewer has to sit through shit cover versions of songs they don’t have enough money for the royalties to, but eventually songs like “Jetfighter” by the Three O’Clock, TV21’s “It Feels Like It’s Starting to Rain” and The Waterboys. Maybe you don’t have to watch it (unless you’re absolutely obsessed with anything that takes place in the 80’s, like me, then watch it if only to hear).

4. All those we lost
There were many great musicians lost to the world over the course of 2013. To say which ones were felt more would be unfair. We lost the young (The Child of Lov to surgery complications), the heartbreaking (my dear Lou Reed), the shocking (the murders of the Mexican vellanto band Kombo Kolombia), the beautiful (Patty Andrews), and the sweet (Junior Murvin). These are often what we remember years by: what we have lost.

5. Baby Queen Lorde was brought to Earth
This little 16-year-old is a beast. The New Zealander is someone I wish was around for me when I was that age. She’s bizarre and wears black lipstick. It’s cliche, but she’s really a breath of fresh air for the pop charts. While many musicians really come off contrived, Lorde still feels honest. Keep your fingers and toes crossed that she never forgets who she is. May she reign Lord of 2013.

In between what’s true and false

There’s something always so great about a giant music picture book. You can lie on your bed and dream about days gone by that you were never a part of, but the pictures are of history, not fiction. A Scene in Between: Tripping Through the Fashions of UK Indie Music 1980 – 1988 offers not only a incredibly long-winded titled, but a dreamy world of 80’s unsung heroes.

Author, or I guess photo-collector, Sam Knee says in his introduction that “It’s by no means an ’80s indie who’s who, purely a glimpse into the visual racket of the era and all its canoodlings. Mode over music.” What Knee gives us is actually a very sweet insight to a rather deceiving music scene. Musicians and fans alike donned 60’s vintage and anoraks. The looks were sweet and docile, but there was often more bite than the twee exterior. You may know what I’m talking about, if not just shut up and listen to the Vaseline’s “Enter the Vaselines.”

It seems strange that much of what was going on at this point in time was around that of the Hardcore scene in the States. Can you imagine a swinging party with Black Flag and Talulah Gosh? Rom-com of the year!

There are some rather nice interviews interspersed with the photographs. One of the highlights is an interview titled “A sartorial ramble with bohemian style icon Stephen Pastel.” The indie-darling/sex-symbol Stephen Pastel rambles off rather uninteresting insights about leather trousers and cord jackets, but I suppose this is what you’re asking for.

If you’re really into 80’s indie (like I used to be), you’ll probably recognize many, if not most of these photographs. But there’s always something very nice about carrying around a nice heavy book with glossy pictures. The nice touches are with the postcards written from Morrissey to photographers. They’re classic Mozzer and actually made me chuckle.

It’s not really worth buying for the droning interviews (I just would rather not read anything more written by any member of My Bloody Valentine, thank you). What A Scene does offer is an illustration of a part of music history that has mostly been skipped over.

The NME have a nice selection of the photographs on their site here.

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