31 July 2011

Milestones: Noel Gardner

Milestones is a feature looking to gain an insight into the tastes of a particular character of the music 'industry'. We ask them a few questions and they kindly answer.



Noel Gardner is one rocking dude. A regular writer for Drowned In Sound, The Quietus, and the BBC album reviews site, and music editor for Cardiff independent magazine Buzz, Noel is a genuine inspiration of mine for the consistently high quality of his writing, how amazingly prolific he is at it, and his pretty incredible knowledge of such a wide range of music. Any regular gig-goer in Cardiff will recognise him, often found swaying back and forth at the front of gigs or stood to the side with a notepad in hand - or promoting them under his (and friends') Lesson No. 1 guise - and to learn about the development of his music taste is something I've found fascinating to read. Find Noel's responses to the generic Milestones questions below.


The album that first got you into music:

I guess there are about ten or 12 albums from say late 1993 to a year after which all make an equal claim for the above but I’m pretty sure the first album I bought (on cassette) with my own money was What Hits!?, which was a Red Hot Chili Peppers compilation with only one actual hit song on it. When I was 14 I thought that RHCP were just the coolest a band could be, which was a result of having almost no social context for what ‘cool music’ might be. (I grew up in Cornwall, where older people who looked, to me, like they’d figured out how to live dressed more or less like the Chili Peppers.) By the time I found out that the members of the band actually had ‘cool’ and ‘acceptable’ taste in music, eg old LA punk and Neu! and stuff like that, I found the Red Hot Chili Peppers pretty hard to listen to.

This song ‘Backwoods’ off of it is a good and typical 80s RHCP song, I think. It is quite sweet how they attempt to educate their listeners about the old music they love (see the lyrics) but do it in a completely excruciating way.


Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Backwoods


The band that dominated your teenage years:

Real talk: from the ages of I think 10 to 13 (until I bought the above album) the only band I liked or listened to was Status Quo. Honestly I think my mum and stepdad were pretty disappointed in me. After that however it went something like – 13-15: RHCP, Faith No More, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Blur, Portishead, Smashing Pumpkins; 16 and 17 Stereolab, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, DJ Shadow, Chemical Brothers, Radiohead; 18 and 19 Underworld, Orbital, Flying Saucer Attack (and the whole area of badly recorded drone rock in general), Tool, Fugazi, Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Godspeed! plus shit tons of old records by (mostly punk) bands that didn’t exist anymore. Almost all those bands are still AOK with me.

I feel like you can see the evolution from hapless dipshit willing himself to like grunge music so he’d be more popular at school, to NME-reading entry level alt with a small A-level student grant, to annoying indie dork who thought writing for the student newspaper would be the best decision he’d ever make. In answer to your question, there isn’t one band really.


Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit


Sonic Youth - 100%


Fugazi - Waiting Room


The album in your parents' collection that made a lasting impression:

I could write, like, an essay on the music that was round the house when I was growing up. Maybe one day I will, but the long and short of it is that most of it was really good and interesting stuff that is held in pretty high regard by ‘tastemakers’ today. I don’t think my parents (and stepdad) were in any way the 80s equivalent of ‘hipsters’ or whatever so I think it’s just kind of a coincidence, and/or the result of archivist/nostalgist culture reassessing absolutely everything.

Anyway, in my preteen years there was an effort to have me (and my brother and sister) listen to stuff from their collections that was kind of wacky in a way kids would like, which incorporated singing ‘Rocky Raccoon’ and ‘Sloop John B’ in the car, and a bit later things like Ivor Cutler, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Tom Lehrer. If anyone reading this has kids, playing all the aforementioned to them is a totally awesome idea, although there is a necrophilia joke on one of the Tom Lehrer records. I have a really high tolerance for stupid novelty bullshit music today which I think pretty definitely traces back to that.

When I finally got into borrowing my folks’ LPs, the one that jumped out as being obviously rad and made by heroic people was Vincebus Eruptum by Blue Cheer. It belonged to my dad and was definitely the heaviest thing he owned. This album fucking rules and has one of the best guitar sounds ever. Listen to ‘Parchment Farm’ which incidentally I never knew was a cover until just now.


Blue Cheer - Parchment Room


The album that has dominated your last 12 months listening:

I have a problem, albeit one that results from a situation I appreciate, with not listening to albums for long enough. This is mainly cos people send me free shit in the post/email all the time, so like I say, not complaining, but it does mean that loads of good things get short shrift. The three things I’ve probably listened to the most in the last year (with links to me writing about them cos I’m a fuckin narcissist OK) are Made Fles by Extra Life; New Brigade by Iceage and On A Mission by Katy B. The last two of those are doing perfectly well for themselves as far as I can see but the Extra Life album really deserves more love.


Extra Life - Head Shrinker


The most exciting new band you've heard recently:

This would probably be Iceage again, especially if ‘exciting’ for you incorporates “this band have the potential to reach the audience their excellent music deserves”. I am completely terrible at recognising if a band has ‘commercial potential’ or is going to get big somehow, and very rarely invested in it happening, but when I first heard Iceage in January of this year that was something that really struck me about them. There does now appear to be a pathway being created for them to be successful, ie selling about 5,000 albums and having 50,000 people illegally download their album, so hats off to me and my 1% success rate of prediction.


Iceage - Broken Bone

Of other, less blogged-about stuff, I think The Lowest Form are maybe the best new band in the UK. Or my favourite because it’s not a competition, man. Anyway they just put out a 7” that will kill you if you like stuff like Void and Die Kreuzen and Double Negative.

The Lowest Form - "7.4.3"


And the one song that best represents what it is that you do:

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