Lanterns on the Lake
When I set this blog I decided to write it in English, to get to more people as possible. What I cannot do, and I would like to, is to insert Italian bits in it because there are some gems (this wants to sound ironic).
In a recent, embarrassing piece, a longstanding Italian music journalist *cough* wrote a piece that created a storm in the Italian online music-zine world.
Lanterns on the Lake? Yes you read it right. If you follow me, I’ll get to this beautiful Newcastle band, whose second very beautiful album, Until The Colours Run, has just been published by the ultra-beautiful indie label Bella Union. Lanterns on the Lake are the perfect example to dismount the utterly ridiculous thesis of the music journalist. A thesis which sadly gathers some following in Italy.
Max Stefani (this is the name that must be shamed) states that he (and few of his friends) is among the few journalist that can write about music. His piece Google-translates like this (parenthesis are mine and are meant to put humour in a pretentious piece of crap) he goes:
“…Having said that these guys (the young music writers) write well and they studied a lot, unfortunately, they have a knowledge of rock based exclusively on books and, of course, on listening to records. It is a knowledge in a way cold, detached , a bit like a surgeon who graduated with honours and has not yet seen a real human body…”
“…For example, I’ve seen Led Zeppelin on stage in 1972 (how cool), I lived in London (wow really!?), in Paris. I toured the States (only youuuu), met everyone, went for dinner with them, sharing experiences and women. (Yes, he really wrote this. Sexism as a cultural baggage. Gathering groupies discarded by rockstars, something to be very proud of).
The same applies to Giancarlo Trombley or Alberto Castelli (these, I guess, are his friends). In short, while living on the borders of the empire (this being Italy compared to USA and UK, where has the Italian pride gone?) we have a knowledge of rock in all its many aspects including the real one. (He is a “4real” man. RIP Richey Edward)
“…Almost all of these bold young men (the Italian music writers), instead, they never crossed the border (he knows them all, apparently). All have a Lester Bangs myth (does he have connection to the NSA?) but do not have a shred of his irreverence and humour or provocation (he indeed has, oh yeah). Those features that have so far spared the criticism it deserved when he (still talking of Lester Bangs, the one and only music writer an Italian journalist will always mention to look cool because they know no other) took its unforgettable and inevitable patches too… the new recruits are academics and I think this will always make the difference. (Difference from him? Young illiterates looking for rockstars’ women versus academics? Call it evolution, man)
“… Unfortunately I think the distance will never recover (you hope otherwise you are out of business, Max) because this is prohibited by the market and its history (call it magic thinking): now the golden years of rock have passed (this is an Italian rigmarole told by every other music journalists everywhere. It must be read as: ‘my golden years are passed, even groupies rejected by Robert Plant ignore me nowadays. If I have to sink I will sink the whole boat’. Suggested soundtrack Grinderman – No Pussy Blues).
“…Even if they could get around with The National, Strypes not greatly enrich their background. Even we, who took the train at the right time… (he hasn’t realize it jumped on the one heading to the dead-end siding)
This same figure has written a book which is titled “Wild Thing”. In an interview he gave to the Italian TV, he (yes him, the author llucky you it is in Italian) translates his book title as “Think wild”. He may have travelled USA with the Zep but clearly hasn’t spend any time trying to understand what they said.
This story would be a farce if there weren’t consequences which are tangible. Those young people good at writing about music cannot find a place as writers because individuals as Max Stefani (and there are a few) have occupied the same seats with incompetence for the last 40 years. As Italian politicians, Italian entrepreneurs, Italian professors, doctors… everything.
Italian music journalism hasn’t seen a generational change in … ever… Sadly, these journalists stopped to listen to music in the early 80s and the cultural consequence is put in words by the man himself in the closing remark of his piece advertising his new music magazine.
“Regarding this November issue there is something for all tastes (ready? I said ready?… let’s go): David Bowie (I must confess that I have never loved him a lot, but the choice confirms that this newspaper is 360 degrees, subject to quality)(this last parenthesis wasn’t mine, but his), Johnny Cash, Dr. Feelgood , Caravan, Editors. And then adding Devo, Gov’t Mule, The Beatles, Sly And The Family Stone, Dylan we almost reach perfection.”
Got it? 360 degrees is such a short-sighted list that not even a niche magazine as Classic Rock would be able to put together. You go from Bowie to Dylan through the Beatles and Sly and Family Stone. Avant-Garde! The only band below their late sixties are Editors. A band that only in Italy is still vaguely recognised.
Thanks if you got up to here. Time for the headliners, Ladies and Gentlemen: Lanterns on the Lake !
Despite what these “journalists” think, rock music has never been so florid and good as today.
Despite they are convinced to be leftist, anti-oligopolistic, against majors they can’t accept that today scene is much more open, democratic and effervescente than ever. They regret when there were only few bands in the hands of few producers.
With about 50 LPs out every week, few thousands a year, not counting all the self-produced stuff online often fantastic, the music scene is at a creative peak.
Lanterns on the Lake, with many more bands, ride one of the branches of this luxurious tree which is rock music in the 21st century. Either you label them symphonic folk, alt.folk, indie-rock. Tags don’t mind. Music does.
The soft atmospheres they play remind me of Low. The violin and accordion adding complexity to the songs is inspired by the “stronger-than-its-strong-flour” Canadian scene, from Arcade Fire to Wilderness of Manitoba.
The sonic excursion dig into the milder Post-Rock, as Warren Ellis’ Dirty Three. The bucolic atmospheres got the expected influence of Bella Union heavyweights: Fleet Foxes, Midlake and more.
There is more rock and less stadium rock. There are more musicians and less rockstars. And it is a good thing. Musicians today are friendly, approachable by anyone without being as lucky as Max Stefani.
There is not as much drug in rock as there was, and there is more passion. Because there are less money. And it’s a good thing.
It’s hard work, with a very high risk of failure, very low chances of getting an income for more than 3 years.
To emerge you have to be good, you have to be consistent, you have to deliver over time. One-single wonders nowadays have what they deserve. Glory for a month. The time of a single.
And this is good. Boomtown Rats would never exist beyond few blog posts. Like them many band disappears, fade, give pace to other. If you scroll the list of 230+ bands I posted in the last 6 years on this blog, you’ll see names that deserved their fate as J&JJJs. Some were quite big Enemy , Glasvegas and still vanished. Some did good albums but are now out of the radar. If you are good you will emerge or even comeback to stay, in the end.
There may be downside of this, there may be great music that will never be discovered but this is how competition, free market, internet democracy works. If you want to be seen, you have to be consistently good and good does not mean only good at composing music.
And this is what Lanterns on the Lake do. Without bombastic without stardom but with commitment and enthusiasm. And, of course, with many great young writers that instead of dreaming to shag them, dream of interviewing them and listening to their stories.
It’s a wonderful world, dear Max Stefani, but you have just become a grumpy old man that cannot enjoy it anymore.
I stay on the theme. I shift from music to photography. I recently attended to a Steve McCurry talk at Southbank in London. The most famous travel photographer gave a (disappointing) lecture about the stories behind his photos.
I asked the first of the questions in the following Q&A session. Wanted to know how McCurry sees travel photography in an era (today) when photography is ubiquitous and the world is all mapped and available at a click. How this differs from the golden age of National Geographic.
McCurry answer was boring and predictable. He said that this is the golden age of photography. The reason of the conclusion being that, compared to the times when photographers have to be with agencies to have photos seen and published, today anyone can shoot and post on the internet and their images are instantly available to the whole world.
Very marginally true, Dear Mr. McCurry.
To be on the internet and to be accessible is the greatest of today’s misunderstanding.
In the middle there is an obscure acronym known as SEO and an obscure algorithm behind a website called Google that makes the whole difference.
If a photo doesn’t come out from a Google search, because poor at SEO, it is invisible as the photographer, no matter if it’s online or on a desk drawer.
I am not planning to explain how SEO works and what to do, the guys at Photoshelter have published a free and useful guide to SEO for photographers.
I want to make a point on commitment.
To be out there as a photographer, full time or even partially, today, is not only a question of being good at shooting. There is much more to take into account.
Time spent to build relationship with clients. Time spent to improve your technique. Time spent to know what’s the news and the trends. Time spent marketing yourself and your products. Building social network, not only virtual.
Then you have to put all of this in the mix, put all of this in a website and its satellites. All with the right filenames, the right captions, the right tools.
And when people starts to find it, you have to be good at keeping in touch, replying their messages, comments, e-mails.
After years and years of commitment, satisfactions will arrive. In the process there must be an almost obsessional attitude that often prevents from sleeping and from eating to get it done and done properly.
It’s a tough world out there since Internet spread the concept of free. For musicians, for photographers and for music writers. But it is not impossible to succeed. It requires commitment and passion.
Devaluating anyone else but yourself, Dear Max Stefani is a sign of fear and it is not getting you a better following, it’s putting you out of the game.