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Following postings come from Dominion mailing list, where straight after the tour a discussion of press and fans attitudes towards the band started and went the same way most Dominion threads do -- died without saying much to the point. Mildly interesting stuff, mostly because there isn't anything better. All of this was written in 1997 -- something might have changed in years since then.
Talking of the tour, I was reading that scurrilous rag The Tang Hall and Fulford Curmudgeon (http://www.pheasnt.demon.co.uk/MUDGE/ISS3/SISCUB.HTM) at the weekend, issue 3 of which contains a review of the Manchester Apollo gig. Once again I was hit by huge disparity of response in reviews of the tour from the ecstatic ejaculations of the diehards, through the more detached, uninvolved reaction from the casual fans, to downright hostile ranting from the gentlemen of the press. How do we reconcile this?
Now counting myself as a diehard, I'd say I know a decent Sisters gig from a ropey one and, Joseph's Well apart, the band were on top form this summer. They've certainly improved since last summer, and I think they were better than the 93 Overbombing tour. I also think that it's a promising sign that Eldritch is taking enough interest in the Sisters to play 10 dates, and I certainly wasn't expecting a couple of new songs. So it's all cool and froody then? Errr, no.
The savagery of the press reaction surprised me. I can't really get a grip on why this is, and the reviews themselves, frequently bordering on incoherence, offer no insight. In their haste to get in a few laboured puns at the expense of the Goth crowd, the Maker and NME fail to even attempt anything like constructive criticism. I've recently started buying the weekly music press after a break of about 3 years, and I'm staggered at how bad they've become. I believe this is partially caused by the commercialisation and corresponding dilution of the alternative that has happened in the 90s: there's no longer anything to react against, the counter-culture has been incorporated into the mainstream in a post-modernist confusion of styles. The Brats are the same as the Brits. It's deeply ironic that the Sisters are derided as being out of date when Oasis are the current press darlings (anyone else get a thrilling schadenfreude hit when their new single (D'ya Know What I Mean) turned out to be a monster turkey?) It would be nice to say "Fuck Them", but one suspects that the weekly press are still necessary as a promotional tool (as an aside did anyone cop that 15 minute piece on Portishead on the C4 news last night? There's a marketing team that's doing its job). When the Sisters are talking to promoters about gigs, the first two questions asked are "When's the album out" and "When are you going to be on the cover of the NME". Usual result is no gig, and I think thanks are due to Messrs Storm and Ferret for showing that the Sisters can still sell tickets without being on the cover of the NME or having an album out. I hear Maker circulation is down to 30,000. Make that 29,999.
I think I'm losing the plot here.
Back to the real reason for writing this: I'm worried by the middle category. I'd have thought the casual Sisters fan on seeing the band in some sort of form and with a sprinkling of new songs would have been well up for the recent gigs. I don't understand why the earth didn't move for you, Messrs Rixon and Whittaker. Is it just a seven year itch that has Ade eulogising the appalling Mansun at the expense of the Sisters? Does Whit really think Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers are the most important bands on the planet? Does Firestarter make the current generation of 18 year old's souls sing like Nine While Nine did mine? Somehow I doubt it.
The Sisters may have proved too intransigent for the industry to handle: industry's problem, our loss. But I refuse to believe that the opposition are any better, or even more vital, at the moment. Is everyone so desperate for something new that they're willing to believe the hype?
Written by Oliver Duke-Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Dominion mailing list
Chris Sampson wrote:
> Now counting myself as a diehard, I'd say I know a decent Sisters gig
Obviously, I speak as a fair-weather fan, having only seen them three times on this tour, but I think your separation of gigs into 'good' and 'bad' glosses over an important point, that the band were generally improving over the tour. Certainly, I thought Dour was better than the British gigs I saw, and by all accounts (bar those of the press, of course) that was topped by Rendsburg. A facile observation? Hopefully not. I don't think the band is (musically) at the heights reached by the VT touring line up (if only we could have surgically removed Andreas' desire to play solos...) but is fast improving. If rumours of more gigs later in the year coalesce into fact, and the line up remains stable, then it can only be hoped that this upward direction continues. On the other hand, perhaps we'll have to wait until next summer, and get another under-rehearsed cabinet reshuffle. Andrew has suggested that the Sisters live revue is a Saturday job. Ever noticed that the Saturday staff in Tescos are crap at operating the tills and recognising one confectionery fancy from another? Oh, and before I forget: having recently listened to some Overbombing era tapes, we should remind ourselves that the non-appearance of the backing singers was a Good Thing.
> It's deeply ironic that the Sisters are derided as being out of date
The irony cuts two ways. The Sisters forged their early career on toying with cliche: their records, and to a greater extent their live performances a grab bag of rock'n'roll affectation. That they themselves have become trapped inside a cliche is possibly a cause of considerable mirth to independent observers. In the review that you mention, the writer reacts with some consternation when overhearing someone suggesting that the Sisters are 'pantomime'. Isn't that the point? The fact that AE got bored about 15 years ago with pantomime being the only point, and started to wonder what it would be a like to appear in panto written by Ibsen or Shakey, is perhaps a separate issue; it remains panto. Few rock'n'roll bands realise the absurdity of what they do, fewer still see it as a position of strength from which to build. Oasis and the Sisters both mix musical influences from the late sixties and the late seventies, but with differing intentions, and differing levels of archness.
Back to panto: the important question is 'is the joke still funny?'.
> It would be nice to say "Fuck Them", but one suspects that the weekly
Quite so, and pausing only to point out that Portishead did actually have an album to promote, you will recall that their manager agreed that the cost of the NYC show and the associated media junket was close to L500,000 - the band's own money? Go! Discs' money? who knows, but you can't see either EastWest or the Sisters stumping up that much, can you? But talking of bands being pigeonholed, note how often the words 'trip hop' were used during the film.
> When the Sisters are talking to promoters about gigs, the first two
Here we have the crux of the argument. A variety of bands can sell out reasonably sized venues with no new material or publicity. But who is interested, apart from fans locked in the past? Nostalgia is a four letter word.
As you correctly say, the key point to note from the tour is Eldritch's apparent renewed interest in the Sisters; if this is built upon then it would indeed be cause for optimism.
> Is it just a seven year itch that has Ade eulogising the appalling
I put it down to some sort of illness on Ade's part.
> Does Whit really think Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers are the most
You're not comparing like with like. In terms of pop music, then the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers are almost certainly more important now than the Sisters. Possibly more important (in the sense of being influential) that the Sisters ever have been, if you measure impact in terms of records sales and size of venue being played. Which the pop realm does. I'm not suggesting that the bands operate in entirely different milieux, but that pop/rock/whatever is a broad (but unified) church, and the comparisons that are suggested aren't terribly useful. Getting to number one may appeal to Andrew, but if it was the only thing he was interested in then he'd probably have realised by now that there are easier ways of doing it. Although the suspiciously Glitter Band drums of 'Come Together' suggest that he might have his eye on the Christmas number one slot, so I could be talking bollocks.
'Firestarter' may not make young scamps souls sing in the way you suggest, but rather more Enrageds of Tunbrige Wells phoned the BBC to complain about the 'Firestarter' video that they ever did about, say, the 'Dominion' video, even though one of them contained footage of a bunch of young men dancing in a tunnel, and the other contained footage of someone waving a swordstick around. In a world where the alternative has become the mainstream, it was reassuring to see a number one that grown ups neither liked nor understood. The fact that it was the most utterly bastard groovy single in years was an added bonus.
> But I refuse to believe that the opposition are any better, or even
Some hype you should believe, some you shouldn't - it's as simple as that, surely? You want songs with taut lyrics and music with inventive recombinations of acknowledged influences? Listen to Radiohead. You want chemically enhanced Stooges influenced songs? Listen to Spiritualized. You want a load of shite? Listen to Mansun.
Mr. Sampson wrote:
> Talking of the tour, I was reading that scurrilous rag The Tang Hall and
I am wondering about the disparity as well. I would consider myself a diehard Sisters fan (I flew to London from the States to see them at Brixton), and I was disappointed in the show. As I posted when I got home, I thought the show was mediocre technically, but I wouldn't have cared about that if there had been passion in the music pouring out. I felt it lacked soul and believe that the group on stage was merely going through the motions.
Why such conflicting reviews? Who knows, maybe there were big differences in the show depending on where you stood, or your frame of mind. It is undeniable that there were differences between shows, and I can't speak to those.
Also, opinions are subjective. 20 people hear the same thing and have 20 differing opinions of it. Maybe that's just the answer.
When I read some of the gleeful reviews from posters, I wondered (silently until now) if SOME of the posters were so bonkers over Andrew that he could have walked on stage and just stood there silently and received the same "Great show!". OK, that's overboard, but I'm trying to make a point. I think that fans can become so enamored that they become blind (or in this case deaf) to some of the imperfections before them. I will always worship the SoM music, but I also saw some pretty big flaws in the show I attended. Once again, this is my opinion and no one else has to buy into it.
I confess that I may be critical because I expected a lot from Andrew, at least in part because I believe that he expects a lot from himself and others.
On a lighter note that I don't believe will get me flamed, I was in a dance club in London and chatting it up with some friendly locals. I mentioned that I was going to the SoM concert to one chap and he laughed outright. When he settled down, he leaned over to his friend and told her, and she commenced to laughing. When she settled down, she said "WHY?" I thought that was pretty rude.
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