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Primavera Sound 2010: In Review
Kev Kharas , June 4th, 2010 07:44

Kev Kharas floats twenty feet above Barcelona as the new indie mainstream sinks beneath the power of Wire, Pet Shop Boys, Atlas Sound and the Joker. Primavera picture by Lucy Johnston

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When the Mediterranean waves roll upon the beaches of Barcelona, the momentum in them detaches, becomes air to be inhaled into lungs, drink to slide down throat pipes, awe to slip into short pockets. I've never had a better time than I had in Barcelona last week. The combination of palm trees, loud music, friends and MDMA does funny things to time. It slows and slurs it, until seconds and minutes can be traced in uneven facial contortions and odd, infinite gurn. Hours drift by. Everything I ever knew seems to feel so sore. I make no apology if this reads like a diary entry dripping with jizz. It really was like that. Idiocy and privacy have been found, trapped in twilit holiday snaps, and illicits' golden glimmer has warped whatever lurked beneath skull bone before, diffusing slowly into suffering brain matter until you end up confused on the beach again, beaming as if this was the first time you ever saw the sun come up.

Thursday

For an hour or so Mark E Smith was the compere that the Primavera officials were always bound to kick off. A belligerent, yelling man too crumpled to be anything other than a fossilised warning. Before he appeared, 'Fall Sound''s slow and grinding synth slime writ havoc into the proceedings like a spell cast, and then they all arrived, the band and the wife. Then the song ('O.F.Y.C. Showcase'). Then Smith, last, as usual: suited and chin raised to the sun. The entrance was the highlight, 'O.F.Y.C.''s honking charge no more or no less compelling than a thousand other Fall songs, which is precisely where the thrill comes from now - that, and seeing an attempt at an encore thwarted by eager Catalan stagehands. Good evening Mr Smith, I hope you enjoy your sangria and your salmon burger before they return you to your brine.

There were others before Smith, actually, but they only served to highlight want an antidote the man is - Bis vomiting their pointlessness at people, Wave Pictures being overly friendly without offering much more musically than a lukewarm cup of tea reheated in the microwave. The xx's sombre tones, as helpful as they are when it's 5am and you can't sleep back home in your hovel, were no match for the sure, slow surge of our going guts, so we guided them away to watch The Smith Westerns help their gaudy glam-rock limp towards the surf. They made the light seem plum-coloured and I think they were wearing Barrymore collars.

Wasn't much thinking to be done about what followed. Someone gave Wild Beasts a code, and they tapped this code into their frets, then - with the restless chatter of trebled guitars - out, into the air, so that the stars heard and agreed with what they heard and put on their own private light show. Glimmer was what was needed at this point, and Hayden Thorpe and Ben Little have that in abundance, tangling theirs together in wailing, keening knots of import. Things reached a crux, as they always tend to, with the chiming into life of 'Devil's Crayon'. Often painted as a provincial pantomime band, there's something cosmic about them on nights like tonight. It lurks there in the spaces.

Pavement felt rather pointless at this stage, and so we leapt around for a while to Mission Of Burma's '...Revolver' before collapsing on the bleachers in front of Fuck Buttons. They started making noises that proved impossible to resist, and with bellies firing again we made our way front enough to peer up at the two men from home who always seem to cling onto their tiny machines for dear life. They always look like they're amid storm weather. Strange and strong winds swirled all around them. To the deaf it might look like a scene taken from the pages of The House On The Borderland, but those winds were noise, blissful noise: much louder than this stage had produced in the past. And the surge had never been stronger - Fuck Buttons sounded like a fleet of jets crashing into a planet made out of sherbet. Pilots collided so hard they had their eyes replaced with melted rainbow crystals.

Then they went to bed.

Friday

Most of the early part of Friday was spent avoiding the plod of the main stage; The New Pornographers, Spoon and Wilco lining up one after the other in what was, admittedly, a noble attempt to turn this setting tedious. If anyone can freeze sunshine... don't let them back in, or at least anywhere near me.

Wire were great, though - contrary men, warping old favourites into new shapes in various acts of treason against their own history, playing a lot from Object 47. Fucking everyone off, essentially, until everyone was appeased with a blistering and brilliantly bitter parting shot of '12XU'.

Les Savy Fav were a few hundred metres away, playing the same set they always play to the same people on the ATP Stage, Shellac's claws lashing out from there later as Panda Bear's set very gradually turned from ebbing nothingness into kaleidoscopic trance sound. Wire and Panda Bear share the same self-inflicted, memory-fatal flaw - they both refuse to give the crowd their Kodak moments, easy clutches for attention to grab a grip of. As such, hordes drifted as soon as it became clear that Lennox's visuals weren't working. Idiots gone, the perspective of the Animal Collective man's set fell into place, and all the tiny sounds became the middle ground, his rounded out howls vast and sudden totems, silence turned into pointless detail only his noises would let us escape from.

Spoon, Wilco, Les Savy Fav, Shellac, Panda Bear and... Joker featuring Nomad. If this year's Primavera's seleccion had a let down, it was the lack of acts prised from that diasporic post-dubstep pool that's contributed so much thrill over the last 12 months. I guess organisers must have resolved to leave club highs to Sonar, but the sound of Nomad's voice goading on those gathered by Pitchfork's stage was all the more rare and exciting for its lack of comradeship. With peels of the young Bristolian's purple sound strafing off out the tent towards the horizon, and sub bass swells rumbling the concrete beneath, Nomad's voice sounded like the coxswain of some invasive alien fleet. Miraculous. Wonder what the backstage banter was like.

Next up was Diplo and there's never much to say about Diplo, except that he's a good guy to have around when you're high and intent on having fun.

And then on going to bed, eventually.

Saturday

Two years after I found it out for the first time, I find it out again: there is no better comedown kicker than Atlas Sound. The shimmering shades Bradford Cox is able to wring from his guitar somehow manage to sooth and jolt simultaneously. It's like settling into a hot bath, which is probably a soothing and jolting thing to do if a six foot five man with Marfan Syndrome and an electric guitar is already in there waiting for you. A rendition of 'Walkabout' reminds of the first time I heard it back when I didn't know its name, and then the truth hits about how far Cox has come in his short time in mind's eye and ear. If his trajectory stays true he'll be eyeing up more generations than this one to lord it over. Bradford is loved and everyone lets him know how much he's loved with several rounds of applause sustained far longer than any other I'll be able to remember this weekend.

I've never seen Florence and the Machine before but I know she'll come onstage in her stupid white dress with no shoes on and start wailing over pop music that'd be pretty decent, actually, if it weren't for the fact she was wailing all over it. We somehow remain perched on the hill that juts out into the sea for the duration of her set, before trudging off to fall asleep listening to Grizzly Bear's performance of auditoria indie-rock. It's not bad, and - again - it's decent, and melancholic in a self-satisfied kind of way, but we haven't really been moved for a while now, so the immersive oceans of noise No Age plough headlong into are welcome, forever. If the first new song they play four in's anything to go by, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall won't be headlining their own show at the Barbican any time soon. We dab. Things look up.

The sight of everyone flooding away from Gary Numan like bad friends as soon as he's played 'Cars' is too depressing to tolerate, so it's a return to the main stage for Pet Shop Boys.

Frankly, it'd be unfair to expect me to sum up the next two hours of my life. They're two hours that will only really ever make sense to those there, and as such are only communicable in facial expressions and the wry, shared angles of eyes. Suffice to say I never realised that being snatched up by my friends and paraded like a gurning fool down a hill full of dancing people as 'West End Girls' rang out across Catalan tarmac would be so incredibly vital to my existence.

With hindsight those two hours seem to have gained a corona. The whole thing's become a mural surrounded by white light, daubed in the incommunicable and previously unseeable colours of joy. I still can't think about it too much because my brain starts to hurt and everything I ever knew begins to feel so sore. But you don't need Kodak when you have palinopsia. You don't need memory when you've got scars. Light and time trapped forever in that skull zone: bliss bruises on the bone.

Got to get back somehow.

...so The Field send us careening back.

When I got home it felt like I'd been away months.

What a refreshing experience.

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jim
Jun 4, 2010 11:55am

urgh

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manish
Jun 4, 2010 11:57am

Kev did i see you during Pet Shop Boys...?

was an ecstatic blur, nothing could really top PSB (well Shellac came close) though catching a bit of Orbital afterwards was worth it for the Belinda Carlisle sample...

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John Silver
Jun 4, 2010 12:36pm

There's nothing quite as embarrassingly naff as 'journalists' writing about taking drugs.

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been there done it....
Jun 4, 2010 12:50pm

oh c'mon, you took some pills/powder, had a great night. that's awesome, we've all been there, drugs are great, especially in june in spain, but your wretched attempt at writing about it? pointless.

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Chiu
Jun 4, 2010 1:02pm

it'd be a pretty joyless article if he wrote an in-depth review and a critical analysis regarding the performance of every band he saw, it'd be a paradox. Essentially an article for anyone who went to the festival and wanted to reminisce, nothing more.

Also Hunter S Thompson was a great (imo) journalist who wrote about his drug experiences, wasn't embarassingly naff either

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 1:06pm

In reply to Chiu:

There are very few writers that we'd let do this as it goes.

You're welcome to your own opinion on this but we'd say Kev is one of the best young music writers working today that we're aware of. And I think you'll find that a recent review of Loops2 in WIRE backs us up on this. Vive la difference though...

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 1:12pm

In reply to John Doran:

And to state the obvious as well, he doesn't really go on about drugs that much...

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charles u
Jun 4, 2010 1:18pm

In reply to John Doran:

Shocking. I'm calling Kev's sponsor.

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Chiu
Jun 4, 2010 1:24pm

In reply to John Doran:

I enjoyed the article and was in my own way, defending it.

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L.S. southerner
Jun 4, 2010 1:29pm

fuck the haterz, what a great article

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Jun 4, 2010 1:32pm

This badly-subbed drivel full of clunking look-at-me sentences, pissy preconceptions and student-newspaper overcooked bullshit is "one of the best young music writers working today?". I'd hate to read the shitty ones.

Stuff like: 'Next up was Diplo and there's never much to say about Diplo, except that he's a good guy to have around when you're high and intent on having fun.' is spot-on music journalism, is it? My mate Jeff is a good guy to have around when I'm having fun. There you go. I've told you as much about Jeff as I now know about Diplo.

I certainly don't want to read joyless and bloodless reviews. I don't want to read self-centred, over-personalised, overwrought juvenilia either.

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John Silver
Jun 4, 2010 1:38pm

In reply to L.S. southerner:

....zing! A reference to "haterz" in a comments thread about music, after only ten comments! There needs to be a new Godwin's Law formulated for music blogs...

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Angus Finlayson
Jun 4, 2010 2:06pm

In reply to John Doran:

Oh no, did they like his article about 'post-generic truths'? It was just so, so wrong. In so many ways.

Anyway, a Kharas article is always a good read, and this one is no different; but a Kharas article is also always dangerously close to the edge of self-indulgent piss (partly what makes it so entertaining). I'm not saying this is there, but it flirts.

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Bored Senseless
Jun 4, 2010 2:33pm

"Wasn't much thinking to be done about what followed". So true.

Get a life you tool.

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 2:37pm

In reply to Chiu:

I didn't mean to reply to your post. I don't know how to use my own site.

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Jun 4, 2010 2:40pm

Kev's review is about eleventy hundred times better than this pile of drunken diary guff:

http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2010/06/primavera-sound-barcelona-spain-27-29-may-2010/

Anyway, I enjoyed Kev's review a lot. As John said, I think he is one of the few writers who can do justice to drugged up hazes. Particularly enjoyed the point about Bis. Nice one.

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 2:44pm

In reply to Angus Finlayson:

Yeah, WIRE dissed Morley's Jackson piece and lauded Kev's Glo Fi article.

Quite right in this instance as well, IMHO.

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Angus Finlayson
Jun 4, 2010 2:52pm

In reply to John Doran:

Just read the review, so it does. His piece in loops may be well written, but I have to say I think most of the assertions it makes are quite wrong. Another tale for another time though I guess.

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 2:59pm

In reply to Angus Finlayson:

With my editor's head on I'm always going to assert that objective truths about music are nearly always bogus... I'm more interested in good argument and engaging writing which Kev's piece has in spades.

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Angus Finlayson
Jun 4, 2010 3:04pm

In reply to John Doran:

Fair point. I spose my beef is ideological rather than technical, there's definitely something to be said for arguing that 1+1=3, provided you do it well.

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John Silver
Jun 4, 2010 3:39pm

In reply to John Doran:

If you as an editor are indeed a fan of 'good argument and engaging writing' would you be kind enough to explain exactly what...

"Idiots gone, the perspective of the Animal Collective man's set fell into place, and all the tiny sounds became the middle ground, his rounded out howls vast and sudden totems, silence turned into pointless detail only his noises would let us escape from."

..means please?

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5onthe5
Jun 4, 2010 5:02pm

In reply to John Silver:

festivals are a great place to see bands but not a good place to be taking music seriously. you won't get good music journalism out of a festival. so luckily I wasn't looking for it here.

but yeah, reading about journalists taking drugs is fucking boring.

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 5:14pm

In reply to 5onthe5:

This entirely depends on whether you think music journalism is a base form of writing. As has been said before I've got John Niven, Hunter S Thompson, William Burroughs, Will Self, Charles Bukowski, Nick Kent, Simon Reynolds, Lester Bangs and many more in the 'can write brilliantly about drugs and music' camp.

It's good enough for me if it's done well. Regardless of Kev's piece if you have a blanket rule against it, you're just wrong. Drug and stimulant use in the consumption of music is too big a thing to ignore.

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John Calvert
Jun 4, 2010 5:50pm

impressionism guys. And anecdotal reporting on festivals (and less so gigs)can be so much more effective if its inclusive and informative. La Khavras took me there. And I don't take ecstacy.Pink skies and new sunburn. Lovely article. A picture postcard.

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John Silver
Jun 4, 2010 6:10pm

In reply to John Calvert:

Perhaps if this article had been titled: "Primavera 2010, a personal viewpoint by Kev Kharas", the monumental self-absorption might be less grating. A picture postcard? He may as well have gone to one of the sunnier Reading festivals for all the sense of place. I felt like I was in a redbrick junior common room, not breathing sea air in Catalonia.

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Adam
Jun 4, 2010 6:28pm

I had no idea there was a shit festival running alongside the amazing festival I went to.

I do wonder whether your tiring cynicism is as grating irl as it is in this 'article'.

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John Silver
Jun 4, 2010 6:45pm

In reply to Adam:

I'm sure the festival was great - I've been a few times, starting back in 2003 when it was on a much more charming and less windswept site in the Poble Espanyol. It's got some character though, and Barcelona never seems to lose its appeal. Perhaps a real journalist might be able to capture some of that, instead of churning out hackneyed oh-my-God-things-look-all-shimmery-when-you-take-drugs Gogartian arse like this article.

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John Doran
Jun 4, 2010 6:59pm

Yeah, I've got to get me one of those real journalists. I've heard of them. These conceptual, meta-journalists are doing my head in...

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trimmer
Jun 4, 2010 7:49pm

While I found the article entertaining, I did kind of *sigh* as soon he started bleating about drugs in this pseudo-Hunter S Thompson style. Drug-experience tales can be interesting,(Doors of Perception blah blah blah...) but I got a distinctly odorous juvenile vibe from this.

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Abel
Jun 4, 2010 8:25pm

Firstly, apart from The End Of The Road, Primavera still is fas better than most Bristish fests and
Secondly, stop moaning. You've been two (or three) days on holidays in Barcelonam and they may even pay you for this snob review.

If you can't choose better the bands you want to see, it's your problem. What about Japandroids, Beak>, Scout Niblett, Tortoise, Low, Hope Sandoval, The Antlers?

Oh, sorry, I already said you're a snob...

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Abel
Jun 4, 2010 8:37pm

In reply to :

Bingo!

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Kin
Jun 4, 2010 9:45pm

I thought Atlas Sound was the most boring band I saw at the festival. I kept waiting for something as amazing as Walkabout and nothing else came remotely close. Low performing The Great Destroyer was the most moving experience - sitting in a darkened auditorium listening to Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker work their catharsis out on stage. But hey I wouldn't expect that to be covered in The Quietus

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jz
Jun 5, 2010 12:24am

This story informs nothing of the experience other than "I'm on drugs," and even that perspective could've been more detailed. It presumes a lot from the reader; I guess if I've never been to Barcelona or never heard of some of these bands I shouldn't be visiting this website. I'm all for blissed-out recollections of peak experiences--I've written a fair share myself--but this leaves me believing the writer just wasn't paying attention, like most of this stuff was written before he even got to Spain. A sense of humor would've helped, too.

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cb
Jun 5, 2010 4:24pm

while I don't share much of your taste in music (bagging on Wilco?), I applaud this attempt

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John Johnson jr.
Jun 6, 2010 3:18pm

MDMA makes journos see Americans in The Fall where no Americans are for some years. Hallucinated beards, that's what you get when you take drugs. So don't, kids!

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tenbenson
Jun 6, 2010 5:42pm

load of ole wank

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5onthe5
Jun 6, 2010 6:52pm

I accept that drug experiences can make for good journalism, I just think that good music writing doesn't come out of festivals. The context of the performance and the makeup and expectations of the crowd are very different from a "normal" gig. We often hear about how the "experience" of a festival is more important, that they're "not just about the music".

But the people who didn't attend want to hear about the music. I'm interested to know what Pavement were like etc. But festivals aren't set up to offer that sort of music criticism.

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Kev Kharas
Jun 6, 2010 7:53pm

In reply to John Johnson jr.:

Ah - fixed.

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John Doran
Jun 6, 2010 10:41pm

In reply to 5onthe5:

But there's a very good reason that the Quietus will always split the vote and it's intentional. We've got a slightly older aesthetic than most music websites in that we want as many varied and distinct voices as possible, to reflect the fact that we believe there are uncountable different kinds of music consumer out there.

When we set the site up we purposefully ignored all the 'professional' advice we were given because all of it suggested that there was only one kind of reader. There are 6bn people with internet access in the world, the idea that people want just one thing from the internet is madness.

It's less important with live reviews... and you've probably noticed that we very rarely do live reviews unless we can get a think piece out of them... but regardless of this I just don't believe that there is only one thing that people reading festival reviews want.

My only rule of thumb here would not be too bothered with factual analysis because there's just too much to cover and stick to making something entertaining.

Any kind of creative trade has to have intrinsic worth... it has to be able to stand alone. I think Kev's writing, and the stuff that all of our blunts do has intrinsic worth. If you only see music journalism as a parasitic form that exists only to tell you facts about the bands, then of course this site won't be for you. And this is not to say that I think music writing is an art form or literature or anything like that... just that I should be able to read a book on a band I don't like and enjoy it regardless.

This isn't really a druggy review, it's just mentioned in a lightly stylistic way in the top and tail. So therefore the Doors Of Perception comment, whoever made that, is a bit embarrassing for the poster. He obviously never read it. Or this review.

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John Silver
Jun 7, 2010 9:38am

In reply to John Doran:

I certainly have no issue with your editorial policy and your laudable wish to give the Quietus a varied set of voices. I would also agree that live reviews are difficult beasts, and festival reviews even trickier. Of course a piece just saying "and then x played, and then y played" would be turgid, however an article which is mostly or primarily about the state of mind of the writer, and all the preconceptions he decides to take with him to Catalonia is much, much more tedious.

Journalism of any kind should communicate at least something to the reader. At least twice in this article the writer says 'sorry, can't be bothered, you had to be there'. How is that of intrinsic worth to anybody? This is apparently a review, and the big headline act gets a 'sorry, I was having a great time, you had to be there'? Like someone down the pub. You couldn't even give it a go? That's not journalism, or even writing. Even just some of Mr. Kharas's deathless descriptors might be welcome here, as would even the vaguest sense of people or place. The drug thing might not be a problem if it wasn't so Nathan Barley-ish. I'm taking drugs. Yeah, I'm taking drugs. Did I mention I had taken some drugs? I'll just quickly remind you I'm taking drugs. Jeez.

You seem to be justifying the piece based on the fact that you want something different, or you don't mind 'splitting the vote'. Fair enough, publish and be damned. I'd love to see a piece which really grasps the joyous bits of festivals, but this isn't it. And if you ignore the clunking, jejune use of English, the myriad sub-editing errors (go through it), the cliches, the previously mentioned factual inaccuracies, the occasional headfirst dive into horseshit, and the general horrible pong of self-satisfaction, then you compromise and weaken your website.

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tenbenson
Jun 7, 2010 12:59pm

In reply to John Doran:

Maybe I'm taking too black/white a stand here, but I don't think "getting" this review has any bearing on "getting" this website. I've enjoyed this site for over a year now as I really like the writing and it has got me into a few acts directly. I thought this piece was not only lazy, contemptuous and self-obsessed but also patronising. Did the guy get paid to go out there, or off his own back? If he was paid, i think he fucked you. No, he shouldn't be writing Pitchfork style fractions for every band he sees, but shouldn't he do some kind of actual JOB? If he didn't get paid, then there is nothing to differentiate this review from any shoreditch artschool spoiled drughead casualty. Quietus still rocks however.

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shy retirer
Jun 7, 2010 4:42pm

this review is totally mexico! its a 9/11 of the mind

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shy retirer
Jun 7, 2010 4:42pm

this review is totally mexico! its a 9/11 of the mind

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5onthe5
Jun 7, 2010 5:46pm

In reply to John Doran:

Don't get me wrong, I fucking LOVE the Quietus, and it completely scratches the "good music writing" itch I had before I found it.

I take your point exactly about "reading about a band I don't like and enjoy it regardless." For example, I'm not much into Sunn O))), but I'll read your reviews of them. I just didn't get that feeling of satisfaction from this article.

But the fact that its readers can have an actual conversation about it afterwards is reason enough to keep coming back. Cheers.

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Noel
Jun 8, 2010 9:33am

In reply to shy retirer:

I love it when people say something is totally Mexico as it reminds me of the sitcom 'Nathan Barley', where the phrase originated. I hope it never ends

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Carey Davies
Jun 8, 2010 11:35am

"When the Mediterranean waves roll upon the beaches of Barcelona, the momentum in them detaches, becomes air to be inhaled into lungs, drink to slide down throat pipes, awe to slip into short pockets."

Can someone tell this guy keep his metaphors under control please?

I like music journalists to experiment but big parts of this article just sound overwrought and silly. Fair play for trying, but it smacks of juvenility to me.

Has generated comments mind. Is that any indication of worth?

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Carey Davies
Jun 8, 2010 11:43am

p.s. and it needs some robust sub-editing. 'Everything I knew begins to feel sore' happens twice, for example. Just sounds stupid. I echo John Silver's comments above that this article comes across as tossed-off and indulgent and errors like that don't help the general impression

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Huw Nesbitt
Jun 8, 2010 12:33pm

Fun, entertaining stuff. Good work.

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derek m
Jun 8, 2010 4:00pm

This has to be one of the worst written reviews i have ever read.
Stay off the drugs man they obviously dont agree with you.

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Phil
Jun 10, 2010 8:18pm

Sigh.

Oh lord. Writer decides to write in a creative and slightly artistic style that suggests that he has managed to free himself of the formulaic style that you were expecting - certain sections of the general public surveys this as "poor writing". Want their predictability back.

Also, the amount of commenters sneering at Kev for being, in their view, immature and self-indulgent for taking drugs and (fleetingly) writing about it, whilst calling him a snob, with no tangible awareness of the irony, is quite depressing.

Seriously, though some of you may claim to have got a general feeling of self indulgence from this article, from you I get a general feeling of tired and pretentious condescension. People can and therefore will take drugs, and even if you deem yourself as being "above" that level of behaviour this does not mean that you cannot appreciate a piece of writing that very occasionally mentions it. Hmph.

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