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Business End

Listen & Learn From Reader Tracks By Various
Published November 2004

Business End enables you to have your demo reviewed by a panel of producers, songwriters, musicians and managers.

OK Junior

Audio icon okjunior.mp3 Track 1 - 3Mb

Sam Stubbings (SS): "It seems like they're going for an Ian Brown/Happy Mondays sort of vibe. I can't hear a word that they're singing, though. I know that goes with the style of music they're doing but I don't think I'm ever going to really love a band where I just can't hear what they're saying. I think the one thing that the Stone Roses and the Mondays have is an incredible groove — a really strong groove which just carries everything else and I don't think this has got enough of that to get away with mumbling vocals. I don't think the songs are strong enough as instrumentals to get away with having such quiet vocals. They could do with a good producer, they need to be mixed properly — it's kind of hard to judge them as it is. Considering the speakers we're listening to this on, it sounds pretty murky and muddy and very poorly mixed.

"They've obviously got a good idea of where they want to go and it sounds like their songs might be OK if you could hear them properly. You can imagine them making quite a relaxing album that could have quite major appeal; people love the Beta Band and Ian Brown and there aren't that many bands like that around. There's no reason why they couldn't do really well if only you could hear them properly."

Business End Lauren Bloxham (LB): "I really like it actually. When it started it was quite funky and it's got a summery West-Coast feel to it. I agree with Sam about the vocals being too quiet. I think the sort of people who would like this kind of thing would want to know what they're saying. It'd be nice to hear them really rock out occasionally — like the Beta Band do live. Some serious drumming would go down really well, maybe they do that live, I don't know, but it'd be good if they did it on record.

"It's cool, it's non-offensive, it's easy to listen to and I think there would definitely be people who would be interested in this commercially. Despite the fact that the Beta Band or whoever have a similar sound I think that there's room for new bands doing this sort of style."

SS: "The occasional lyrics that you can hear are OK — they sound fairly poetic, it wasn't just a love song or whatever — not the sort of thing you want to be hiding."

LB: "You really think 'I want to be able to hear what he's saying' and it's a shame that so much of it is just lost."

Howard New (HN): "The tracks sound great, the melodies are good, I think they need to look at their arrangements a bit though — it's a little bit 'verse, chorus, back to the verse and then pedal for eight bars because we don't know what to do'. From a writing point of view they need to dig a bit deeper. Considering the constraints that they've got this sounds good, good enough for a demo anyway, but the vocals are just lost. It sounds like all you're hearing is the return of the reverb and no dry signal. From a purely sonic point of view the vocals just aren't engaging and because of that you go looking for something else to listen to.

"I was pleasantly surprised when it started because it's actually quite good. There are elements of the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, a bit of Beck — there's definitely a lot of potential, it just hasn't been realised properly yet and that's largely because of how the singer comes across. He's a lot clearer in the third track than in the first two."

Neil Tucker (NT): "I think the third song sounds a bit too choppy — everything kind of breaking down and then building back up again. It almost seems that they haven't put that much thought into their arrangement. I definitely want the vocals to be a lot louder and not so distant. I'm used to hearing vocals really up front in the mix — so it's almost like the person's singing to you — and I don't get that at all from this performance. I agree with Howard about the arrangements, it all sounds a bit linear really. It doesn't sound like the singer's that excited about what he's doing, it sounds like he's just reading the lyrics off a sheet of paper and not really feeling it."

Raising Sand

Audio icon raisingsand.mp3 Track 1 - 2.9Mb

LB: "I like this, I think it's funny — it's cool. I bet they're good live, you can really imagine them being a really great live band. I kept expecting them to do that Justin Hawkins falsetto thing though. They've got loads of energy, they're a lot of fun, it could be a good night out if you want to go and hear a live band. I'd definitely go and see them play live. I think there's a lot of stuff to work on here, it's fun and there's definitely potential. They have to keep trying!"

HN: "The thing about the Darkness is that they're a shit-hot band and they're as tight as two coats of paint, as they say. The same thing's true with Led Zep or AC/DC. If you listen to something like 'Black Dog', not only are the rhythm section tight as fuck but the guitar and bass are inseparable. This sounds like it was recorded at a gig — it was all over the place. Because they're not selling themselves on their songs — and there are sections where there's no song for 30 seconds and it's just riffs — I don't think it's up to the competition. If you're going to go out and just rip it up you need to be shit-hot. They need to play more and rehearse more because they're just not tight enough to be doing what they're doing. To be doing that you've got to be great and at the moment they're just good.

"When it first started it was exciting and great, even down to the EQing on the guitars. But the melodies were very generic and sometimes the vocalist sounds like someone doing a Lemmy impression at a karaoke night. It's a shame they haven't sent a photograph, I want to see if they wear Lycra."

SS: "The thing that all the bands Howard mentioned — Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and even the Darkness — have in common is cracking choruses. Their tracks build up to those choruses where the singer lets go and it's euphoric and everything. With the first track of this I got it into my head that it was going to go into a really big chorus. It kept building up and up and up and then it just didn't amount to anything.

"They sound they're decent musicians and it sounds like they're having a lot of fun with what they're doing. If they're going to take this really seriously they're going to need choruses. The Darkness have got wonderful choruses and wonderful melodies — I'm not a fan of theirs at all, but I recognise that about them. At the moment these guys would make a great pub band but they're not going to sell a million CDs."

NT: "It's very exciting at the beginning but after a while it starts to seem like one long jam session. Like Sam said, you're waiting for the pay-off, the killer chorus, but it just doesn't happen.

"The recording's very good; the first track starts with real oomph and you're like 'Fucking hell!' It's very well mixed and it's been really well put together, you can hear everything and there's some great separation with the guitars."

Audrey

Audio icon audrey.mp3 Track 1 - 2.6Mb

LB: "I think these guys are Coldplay wannabes. It's jumping on the whole Snow Patrol/Keane bandwagon. I think that market's saturated with this sort of thing at the moment and I don't think that there's room for any more. The lyrics on the first track are self-indulgent and boring and I'm just not interested in this sort of thing any more. Maybe I was when Coldplay first started, but not now, I think it's passed its peak really. They're called Audrey, right? I think they should be called Dreary...

Business End"I'm interested in lyrics and I think music like this should have something to say, and this doesn't. It really feels like they've just latched onto something because it's quite commercial."

NT: "The mix sounds good, it's a lot clearer than the first band, but, like Lauren, I've heard it all before — I find myself switching off. Technically, it's very adept, I mean it sounds like it could have been done in a studio like this [ie. Metropolis] and they say in their letter they say that it was recorded on to a PC in a rehearsal room. That's very impressive. It's nice when you don't have to struggle to hear everything."

SS: "I like it. It's very well produced and I think they could be quite a nice band to see live. You can see that they really care about what they do. I don't think they'll ever make it but they could be a good live band. They're good songs, they're well crafted, they obviously think about what they do and they're good musicians — they're just missing that 'special something'. There's just nothing original there, there's nothing that's going to make me remember them tomorrow. It's not just that they sound like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, they also sound like thousands of other bands — it's just fairly bland guitar-rock. As I said, they're good musicians and maybe if they got together three killer tracks then they could be the next Coldplay or whoever, but, from what we've heard they haven't got them at the moment. They're in a very competitive market and they're also fighting against about 30 years of very, very good music."

HN: "This is very well put together from a mix and song-arrangement point of view, they've thought very hard about it. It sounds like it's been very well mastered as well — just the sheer volume of it for a start, it's so much louder than the first CD and we haven't touched the volume knob.

"There's nothing original about it, though, and there's nothing that sets them out as being a band that's going to do well in 2004 or 2005. There's just nothing fresh about any of it."

This Month's MPG Panel

Sam Stubbings is the Senior Producer for the DVD division of Metropolis. He began his career five years ago at Abbey Road and has since worked with artists ranging from Paul McCartney to Muse. More recently he has produced both the first DVD single (Bjork's 'All Is Full Of Love') and the first commercial DVD-Audio disc (Holst's The Planets). He also has his own act, Redstar, who are currently recording an album and gigging in London.

Howard New has experienced both sides of the music business. Signed to Parlophone from '93 to '97 he has seen what it takes to make, tour and promote a record. He opened for Tina Turner on her European stadium tour, playing Wembley six times. More recently he has been writing and producing for the likes of Gareth Gates, Louise, BBMak, Beverley Knight and Boyzone. He still performs on his own and also lectures and runs courses on songwriting.

Neil Tucker's recording career began at a small studio in north London which he helped to wire and set up while attending SAE. After successfully completing his diploma course he began work at Metropolis Studios as an in-house engineer and programmer specialising in Pro Tools and Logic. He has since worked with a range of artists including Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Elton John, Tom Jones, Mis-Teeq and Liberty X.

Lauren Bloxham works in sales promotions for EMI and is closely involved with the EMI field team, indie retailers and regional clubs and venues in promoting acts across the EMI, Virgin and Parlophone labels. Lauren's interest in music began at an early age and she later went on to study Music and Music Business at university. After graduating Lauren worked for MTV Networks Europe in Talent & Music before going on to EMI.

Many thanks to Sam Stubbings and Metropolis Studios (www.metropolis-group.co.uk) for organising and hosting the session.

Published November 2004