NME, Sound Of Rum and Poetry

Earlier this week I wrote a rant about NME’s review about Sound of Rum’s album ‘Balance’. It is not a nice review. Even the puffiest, greenest, rotting, stinky, wouldn’t-be-touched-by-houseflies Lemon fruit would flinch at the harshness of it. As a fan of Sound of Rum I felt a duty to stand up and do something beyond private growling with fellow poets on twitter. I’ve taken it down now, because a rant is the blog equivalent of barking at the sea. Instead, here’s this blog where I try to turn my disgust into sense. Enjoy.

If I haven’t said it enough times already, SOR’s Balance is a very good album. It shows potential; there’s immense depth in Kate Tempest’s lyrics and you just have to respect her breathless flow, and Archie/Ferry’s sonic palette embraces jazz, rock, and hip hop whilst sounding very much like their own vibe. These traits alone should be applauded. NME’s Noel Gardner disagrees. (Personally, I think the moment you find yourself typing ‘imagining Lady Sovereign tackling Frank Turner’s worst songs would still be giving this grating, urchinous mockney squawk surplus credit’ you need to get off the laptop and go listen to Elbow/Have loads of sex/Smoke something, anything; your grandma’s socks, your useless university degree, because wank like that just makes you look like a massive red faced cock.)

But hey, everyone humans are entitled to their own opinion, no? And look, here’s a much nicer review, here’s a fairer one, and another bad one so NME don’t feel like the only sour grape on the bunch. Why should anyone care? Not Sound of Rum, who casually brushed it off on their fb page, saying ‘well I guess because we don’t play the game and follow trends that gets people’s backs up and they don’t know where to put us….’ Not NME, seeing as they’ve moved on to another brand spanking new issue with a whole new heap of bands to praise/villify.

Perhaps I’m being a poet and looking too deeply into what is the relatively simple matter of a marmite album getting all the shades of its due. Can’t be ‘yourself,’ the real, really really real, honest to goodness, complex and difficult and beautifully ugly yourself and expect everyone to like you, as Niall O’ Sullivan brilliantly pointed out in one of our guest blogs.

Or perhaps Sound of Rum’s Balance is an important release in the London spoken word calendar. It represents a notable label -Sunday Best- taking a chance on one of the scene’s brightest stars, and their success is not only deserved, but neccesary. SOR doing well will be of immense benefit/exposure to the scene, especially in the way it’s perceived. To strike off that off handed response labels give like ‘it’s too underground/no one gets it/it’s for people who are too scared to rap.’ I mean, seriously, it’s 2011 and David J is still the greatest spoken word artist/MC without a single
audio release, Polarbear has yet to be recognised despite the utter brilliance of his ouput with Session and the Bear and Afrobear. Hollie Mcnish, Greeds, Poeticat, Ventriloquist, El Crisis; the list of amazing, amaaaaazing poets who’ve proven their worth time and time again in front of live audiences and could really give something fresh, heartfelt, commerically viable to UK music is longer than Nick Clegg’s backsliding routine, who could all benefit from a positive, openminded outlook from ‘Tha Musiz Und Mediah Indastree’. I’ve seen so many accomplished artists with so much humour, deft storytelling, brilliant wordplay to offer and probably would if they weren’t up against so much discrimination.

At the very least SOR have produced a wicked album. Not perfect by any means (words are rushed on some of the tracks, and it is to be honest an old EP fed some new tunes) but neither is Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockaveli, an album which I can only describe as what Soulja’s ‘Superman’ technique would sound like if it were recorded, ampified and played back in reverse, (seriously, go and find it) and that was given 9/10 in NME, more than ‘Original Pirate Material’ Kanye West’s Late Registration, Jay Z’s blueprint 3 and Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (all 8/10s) Which says more about NME than I ever could, but I digress.

So yes I’m a fan; confessed. This is me saying a band I like deserves a fair shake, not to be dismissed like some Reality TV vanity release. People beyond the scene need to hear Balance, because it’s a very good album, the kind that doesn’t need a passing knowledge of shakespeare to appreciate. And 2/10 is, unfair, untrue, and in all honestly, shameful.


About idehen

Poet, Frontman to alt hip hop band Benin City. Founder of Poem inbetween People. Co Founder of Spoken word/music night Poejazzi. Workshopper. Lover of all things horror/scifi/fantasy/tech related. Host. Semi bad man.
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2 Responses to NME, Sound Of Rum and Poetry

  1. Great blog sir though I did enjoy its evil predecessor too. Gardner’s review is just smug, mean and lacking in any real argument. He doesn’t seem to know what a mockney is either, seeing as he gets people that talk in a contrived cockney accent mixed up with inner city London white women that talk in a way you would expect them to ( like people of many different backgrounds that live in inner city London). I have a sneaking suspicion that he grew up in a very nice hamlet so maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on him.

    In a way though, I’m thankful for NME journalists. They make us poets look like serious, hardboiled and pragmatic scribes in comparison.

  2. Lee says:

    I have been meaning for a while to check out reviews of Balance, just out of curiosity more than anything else. I had heard a lot of Kate Tempest’s spoken word and seen SOR live on numerous occasions. I did feel that the album needed a few listens to really get into. In all fairness how many people can say they listened to a radiohead album once and decide it was a classic album. I basically feel that Gardner gave it a quick scan over, and didn’t bother to listen to it lyrically and musically. The more you listen to it the more you hear the complexity of what is going on. It isn’t an easy album to listen to straight away, but why should it be?
    It seems Gardner likes music that is either Lyrically empty or a bit of rock, either way, he is just someone that is paid to voice an opinion, and an opinion that isn’t worth much.
    Maybe he isn’t clever enough to understand the poetry of someone from South East London, which he calls a Mockney, he obviously made no attempt to listen to any of the lyrical content of the tracks, otherwise he would have realised that there is context to New Cross, an area near to where Kate grew up, and still lives.
    It just proves that some people are getting paid for work that they are not researching. Maybe NME should be informed that one of their reviewers is making drastic statements about someones work without actually listening to the music.
    I have little respect for reviewers as it is personal taste, and you can’t take one mans opinion on wether something is a good album, especially such a review without any research on the band beforehand. It is just a shame that someone like Noel Gardner gets paid to be so lazy. These people are no more experts on music than anyone else, they just studied journalism, and feel like they can make or break bands. I feel any intelligent human will now realise that their jobs are slightly pointless.
    Maybe Noel Gardner will soon realise that what he does as a career as a reviewer is of no importance to humanity and feel that he will be better off emptying our bins instead.

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