Fantastic cover to this month’s mag (although my scanner has given it an odd colouration – don’t know why). The cover article, “Unofficial Channels – A Tour of Music’s Unauthorised Domains”, seems like an opportunity botched to me. It’s a collection of short articles about music produced and heard outside of the normal album / gig parameters – spontaneous performance, mix tapes, cassette culture, CDRs, file-sharing, blogs etc, and is a real mixed bag. Rob Young’s piece on the early English pub folk scene is very good, and there are interesting pieces by Joseph Stannard on home-made compilation tapes and Simon Reynolds on MP3 blogs. But there is also the usual pseudo-intellectual twaddle by the likes of Mark Fisher and David Keenan, and so-what? personal reminiscences by Clive Bell and Byron Coley.
What there isn’t, is any input from the sort of musicians, bloggers, labels and fans who are actively seeking to find new ways to get music across. Which would be a hell of a lot more useful, but obviously requires more effort than a 2000 word space filler.
At its worst, the Wire can come across like Mojo for the intelligentsia. Instead of the reams of paper given over to ‘heritage rock’ acts like the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan and the Clash, you get the same kind of fan-boy frothing over Cecil Taylor (check the ridiculous Masthead by Tony Herrington), the Grateful Dead, Derek Bailey, Throbbing Gristle et al.
At its best, of course, it still provides the finest coverage of new music, and moments to inspire the reader to investigate music hitherto unknown to him/her. What’s disappointing about this month’s issue is that it promises much of the latter, but delivers a surfeit of the former.