Magazine article The Spectator

Truffling Around

Magazine article The Spectator

Truffling Around

Article excerpt

Where do you find your music? Yes, I know, you go to the CD rack and there it is. Or, if you are as obsessed as some of us, you go into almost any room in the house and there is a pile of the stuff, because you can't get rid of any of it, even the longunplayed mid-period Elvis Costello CDs of everyone's worst nightmares. But that's not what I mean. Where do you find your new music, the stuff you haven't heard before?

There's a vast quantity out there, waiting to be discovered. Where do you go looking for it?

If you have very mainstream tastes, of course, you're fine. The major record labels, although collapsing in a heap around us, persist in launching new artists who they hope will appeal to millions and millions of people. Almost everyone in the world who sounds a bit like Amy Winehouse has been signed up and is currently in the studio 'laying down tracks'. But this is 'new' music only in the Radio One sense of the word, in that it's absolutely up-to-the-minute and it will have been superseded by something else entirely in a few months. (Rumour has it that unsold Robbie Williams CDs are creating landfill challenges on more than one continent. ) And because the majors are now geared to short-term profits -- as they're not sure there will be a long term -- they tend more than ever to follow trends rather than anticipate them. Which makes for some dreadfully boring music. Not for nothing is 'James Blunt' the most widely used new term in rhyming slang.

Thus is the Radio Two daytime playlist dealt with. Even though I listen to them all the time, I can't remember the last time I heard a new song on Ken Bruce or Chris Evans and thought, aw, I must get that. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Instead, we end up truffling around in the musical margins.

For me, Mike Harding's folk show and Bob Harris's country hour are particularly fruitful, even though I wouldn't particularly consider myself a folk or country fan. Radcliffe and Maconie are good for bloke-rock and Vashti Bunyan. I also like Stuart Maconie's Freakzone show on BBC 6 Music on Sundays.

You'll hear nothing else like it on radio -- weird jazz and unlistenable prog rock and dismal late-1960s noodling and most of it is unspeakable . …

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