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Like a Sheep to the Flame (Influencers, Part 1)

January 28, 2017

To a great extent, when it comes to my music listening habits, I am a product of the influence of various persons who leveraged my respect, love or admiration towards them to foist upon me their own likes and dislikes.  Sometimes this was a purposeful effort to preach their truth and bring me to their light.  Other times, the role of these influencers was passive; I shared some connection or looked up to them and therefore was drawn to their predilections.  Going all the way back to childhood, there is also the pure nostalgia effect of relating good feelings or happy times to specific music.  For example, Mom gave me hours spinning and memorizing Chuck Berry, while Dad gave me fishing for trout to the songs of Johnny Cash (as described here).

Sure, I like to think I also discovered a lot of the music I listen to on my own.  But even then, my influencers certainly have played a large role in determining how I set my sails as I cast off on my journeys of exploration.  I’ve written quite a bit on this site about individual bands and albums and the people who steered me toward them. The truth is, however, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is my long-standing, and ongoing, followership.

In what is clearly a moment of delusion given my less-than-prolific posting schedule, I’ve resolved to start an occasional series specifically acknowledging the various Jim Joneses that have served me my musical kool-aid.  I’ve also decided to honor my blogging-as-social-interaction fantasy by beginning with a look at a few of the most blatantly manipulative of all my influencers, my fellow bloggers.  What follows are just a few examples of the many successful efforts by determined blog-evangelists to wrestle funds from my wallet.  In each case below, I had been completely oblivious to the existence of the musical drug on offer before finding myself targeted, only to become hopelessly hooked afterward.

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The Bevis Frond - White NumbersLetting loose phrases like “psychedelic-infused, guitar-driven” and “two solos multi-tracked so that they interweave and dance,” Vinyl Connection (VC) was clearly on the offensive when he aimed his review of the album White Numbers by the previously-unknown to-me band The Bevis Frond right between my eyes.  His unabashed, premeditated attack on my proclivities was further evidenced by his “casual” mention in the review’s very last line of the fact that Bevis Frond leader and guitarist extraordinaire Nick Saloman had at one point auditioned “for Procol Harum.”  VC knew damn well that my adoration of former Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower meant I would be defenseless against any volleyed connection no matter how tenuous.  Sure enough, I bought White Numbers almost immediately and have since added two more Frond albums to my collection.  Listening to the 42-minute “Homemade Traditional Electric Jam” as I type this, I cannot imagine how I ever survived without having Mr. Saloman’s smoothly jagged six-string vulnerability in my life.  Well played, VC, well played.

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Tinariwen - Aman ImanWhere some would choose full frontal assault, 1537 instead opted for long-term siege interspersed with sporadic barrage in his ultimately successful effort to force me into expanding my musical map to include the troubled sub-Saharan nation of Mali.  He started way back in May 2013 with what seemed initially to be just another in his steady stream of well-written, humor-filled reviews of his eclectic LP holdings.  As he described the album Amam Iman by Malian band Tinariwen he knew what he was doing however, injecting lines about “sorrow, regret, anger and hope” delivered via “intertwining traditional instruments and guitars; lots of beautifully played guitars” that were crafted just so as to ensure their being forever carved into the tissues of my mind.  I mean, just look at his skill with a semicolon, for God’s sake.

After allowing yours truly to stew in those juices for a while – Over three years!  What magnificent patience! – 1537 let loose a fresh bombardment in September 2016 via a review of a separate Tinariwen EP, this time combining the prose artillery with a precision-guided video of a Tinariwen-soundtracked melancholy road trip through Joshua Tree National Park.  I was obviously powerless to stand against the onslaught any longer and out came the checkbook.  As Aman Iman plays now and I marvel at the unique guitar, drum, and vocal stylings of bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and his Touareg collective, I can only joyfully embrace my inner desert nomad and offer kudos to 1537 for his relentless mission focus.

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Ulver - KveldssangerHeavy Metal Overload (HMO) proved himself a master of misdirection and the subliminal in his subtle, nuanced and impressively effective quest to get me to lay out for – and subsequently be entranced by – the album Kveldssanger by Norwegian black metallers Ulver.  Knowing well my knee-jerk aversion to black metal’s guttural growls and/or puked vocals, HMO invested years into wearing me down by regularly featuring hell-spawned Scandinavian extremist Beelzebub-fronted bands in between ingratiatingly adorable internet-spanning commentary in defense of KISS’s atrocious Unmasked album.  I couldn’t help but pine for each new post.  So, when he finally launched his review of Ulver’s 1995 debut, Bergtatt, in May 2016, I was putty in his endearingly Satanic, Glaswegian hands.

Realizing I’d be wary of any direct hard-sell, HMO adroitly avoided any mention of Kveldssanger in the Bergtatt post itself.  Instead, he carefully employed phrases such as “seductive, alluring, and magical” while emphasizing the debut album’s “dreamy acoustic guitars.”  Embedding a song from Bergtatt without scary vocals was his masterstroke.  Still cautious but also intrigued, I inquired via a comment into the representativeness of the soothing embedded song, at which point HMO deftly pulled the trigger via a seemingly cast-off aside about Ulver’s second album Kveldssanger in which “they went full-on folk” with “No gruff vocals at all!”  Just as HMO had foreseen when crafting his diabolical plan, I was immediately onto the Spotify whereupon Kveldssanger’s spell was cast and my credit card number lept into the ether.  Even now from the first gorgeously-plucked notes of album opener “Østenfor sol og vestenfor maane” I have to physically restrain myself from taking a hammer to the piggy bank.

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The above are only a tiny sliver of the vast mass of taste tampering effected upon me by multiple musical mentors, both physical and virtual, over the course of my susceptible life’s journey.  I hope to add many more like stories via this occasional series in the future.  You know me though, so don’t hold your breath.  At minimum I’ll hopefully manage to post at least a few more before my homeland implodes.  (Smile)

From → Music

19 Comments
  1. Honoured to be included amongst such movers-and-shakers as Mrs. VC

    • Bloody ‘ell that went all wrong! Pressed send on my phone by mistake and also suggested that Vinyl Connection is a woman! Good going! Can I start again?

      Honoured to be included alongside the venerable Mr VC and Mr 1537. Really enjoyed reading about all our manipulative ways of parting you with your cash. Great idea for a series.

      I’ll be sure to include Robin Trower references in all my reviews from now on! And the campaign for Unmasked will NEVER END until every living human is humming Shandi.

      • Phew! Thought you’d blown my cover there HMO. If word got out that it was actually a female who administered the ridiculous VC collection, irreparable damage on a US election-sized scale would be done to gender politics. Oops, it has. Still, I think, you dodged a notched, blood-daubed medieval axe there, my friend.

      • You know the truth is that I have to give props to the Ace songs on Unmasked. That said, even if you were to claim a Troweresque groove to “She’s So European,” I would not come around. So I guess there is a limit to my Pavlovian responses to you all’s manipulations.

        It really is a joy to discover new gems via the joyful advocacy of bloggers like yourself. Thanks, man!

  2. Meanwhile, delighted to be included in this heart-warming piece, Vic, and further tickled that Nick Saloman has insinuated himself into your ears-brain-heart.

    • Yep, he’s definitely in there and neither unhealthy digging with Q-tip nor massive Omega-3 Fish Oil doses seem able to dislodge him. In fact, I couldn’t stop myself from picking up Inner Marshland during my most recent trip Stateside.

  3. Nice idea for a post – these lads are great influences for discovering music but like you said, perhaps not the best for our bank accounts!

    • Indeed, they and others — like yourself — seem determined to redistribute my already quite limited wealth. Communists? I don’t know, but I certainly make no accusations along those lines…

  4. Haha, thank you very much indeed for the flattery, I was very happy to play a long game with Tinariwen; because I knew the end result would be worth it for you.

    I am a big fan of the semi-colon, I will admit to that.

    • You led me to water and made me drink in a demonstration of “intertwining traditional manipulation and skills; loads of beautifully played skills.” And then, you got me to actually thank you for it. Witch!

  5. I can’t I’m afraid, it’s a Welsh tribal thing. The secrets are passed down from father to eldest son only.

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