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WE LOVE US - A MANCUNIAN ROMANCE much to answer for – those immortal lines written and sung by the often infamous but much loved local boy Morrissey. He was right though. Manchester, built on the spoils of the industrial revolution and Victorian commerce has always thrived on its struggle to survive. It took a bomb to reset the clock and since then we’ve emerged as a 21st century city with a heritage to live for. But like many other UK cities, it’s the self destruction and abandonment of loyalty from a minority of its citizens that has sought to undo this new order.

We love Manchester and we always have. From being a teenage boy in a punk band to having the luck and fortune to be involved in its first music website, Manchester has been my magnet and my inspiration. I’ve lived, like many fellow citizens, under the M postcode for all of my life and eventually fulfilled a long ambition to work in the city and better still, to be involved in its music.

The best thing about Manchester is that it’s small enough to be familiar and to create inclusive communities, yet big enough to shine like a beacon and cheekily declare itself to be England’s second city. Yet to many and to ourselves, we are the best city in the world.

Whilst Factory Records was inspired by America and London, it became a self fulfilling inspiration for the regional modern music scene. The Music scene in Manchester is a true leveller - a sub-culture that exists outside of the mainstream and where bigotry and discrimination are effectively absent. It’s a vein of culture that has been instrumental in re-inventing and re-establishing the city centre as a place to live and play.

For me and others involved in ManchesterMusic, there is an undying love for our city and an unshakable belief that its music remains the best in the world with a heritage as rich and colourful as that of its founding fathers and mothers.

We love Manchester and like all good things, it loves us back

Jon Ashley
August 2011

Check out: We Love Manchester - Facebook

Cath Aubergine

~ In December 2009 a social networking campaign gathered enough momentum to challenge a 'talent' show TV show winner - one who had enjoyed prime time terrestrial exposure for two whole months. Music fans had one perefct chance to show their muscle and prove that maybe just for once, the music fan knows best's what happened, observed from the eyes and ears of Cath ~ JA

If anyone had told me three weeks ago I would be spending actual money on a download single by Rage Against The Machine - and one so old it's got barnacles on it at that - I'd have looked at them like they were a bit weird. Granted, it was a half decent dancefloor filler way back in my student disco days, but I didn't think I ever needed to hear it again: file next to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "I Am The Resurrection" in the "I prefer not to be reminded how old I am" box. To be honest, I still don't, but it's currently sitting somewhat incongruously in my music folder. It is only the third time in my life I have paid for a download. I'm kind of old-fashioned in that respect: if I am paying money for a record I want a record for my money, not some computer file that I only "own" until my hard drive falls over; the previous two occasions were tracks which were unavailable in physical format and moreover the work of a friend whose single releases I wanted to actively support. Mind you, two years ago I had never taken an interest in Facebook, and even since joining I'd never backed a campaign there. Apart from the Campaign To Force Bendy Buses To Make Accordion Noises When They Go Round Corners, but I don't think anyone could disagree with that one, could they?

At first, I was typically cynical - but several things changed my mind. The lining up of idiots from Cheryl Cole to, um, some other orange plastic "celebs" I can't even remember the names of, to bleat about how awful it was that people were exercising choice, not between their various contestants but between their chosen winner and something they had no control over. The possibility - at the time of writing at least - that the campaign might actually be successful. I actually caught a few seconds of the "talent" contest winner's hideous syrup-fest on breakfast news this morning. And then I read a Facebook status from a mate whom I actually know, originally, through shared music taste. Someone who goes to gigs and buys records and used to run a small indie label, and back in the 80s played in a decent sounding if never exactly successful electropop band. It said "Joe for Christmas number one. He's a nice northern lad, and to buy RATM is like kicking a puppy" - and I was stunned into action.

It's all a question of outlook, I suppose. He says kicking a puppy, I say exterminating vermin; he sees a sweet northern lad, I see a vapid production-line clone. Yes, everyone knows it's on the same label as the X Factor single, everyone worked that out last week, yawn, thanks. One of the red-top tabloids ran with this as a front page splash yesterday as if they'd only just deduced this. Perhaps they had. And yes, it's an old record, and - in my opinion at least - rap-metal is one of the most hideous mutant genres ever conceived (although Tom, Zack & co can't really be held any more culpable for Limp Bizkit than Joy Division can be held culpable for White Lies). This isn't about that. This is about a protest, pure and simple.

A protest that the once hallowed Christmas number one has effectively been annexed by a business which receives 12 weeks' almost continuous advertising not only on TV but across all the newspapers (I was pretty disgusted to see even my intelligent broadsheet of choice giving it coverage on Sunday) and everywhere you fucking go, basically.

A protest against karaoke being recognised as a valid form of music. It isn't. It's something you do at the works do, and being good at it does not constitute musical talent in any recognisable form. The appropriate prize for a karaoke contest winner is a meal for two at the local chain restaurant, not a fucking record deal. In addition, the rise of karaoke pop means major labels rarely invest in bands these days, as it's a lot easier to make money out of some ready-made telly star; a trickle down effect is that the larger indies have a whole load more bands to choose from and it's less likely that your favourite up-and-coming band will ever get signed and heard.

A protest against the homogenised production line which promotes conformity - at which point I refer you to an editorial piece written for Clash Magazine* by Maps' James Chapman, one of this country's most passionate musician / songwriter / music obsessives: "Let me just ask you this: if a scientist somewhere was to develop a gene which produced a baby who, when sixteen years old, could perform perfectly, sing perfectly, look fantastic, make the boys/girls out there scream for more, please every reality talent show judge every time all of the time and give the tabloids a non-stop rollercoaster of gritty gossip, would that gene be ‘the X factor’? I think it would be fascism.”

The man has a point. At the time of writing this, it's a little over an hour since I saw the vacant-eyed muppet winner faux-emoting his cover-version prize on the breakfast news and I honestly couldn't pick him out of a line-up of similar. I almost wonder if they actually did isolate said gene a couple of decades ago (freakish twin boy-band Bros would have been in the charts at the time, so I can see where they might have got the idea from) and this Joe Whatever is its first fully-grown result. Has anyone actually tried the Turing Test** on him? Having felt increasingly like an alien in my own country these past few months and watched in dismay as even people I know through music fell victim to TV's latest cynical opiate, it gladdens my heart to see there are almost a million people who feel the same.

And a few who still don't, despite being on the right side of the music vs non-music fence. Let's look at their arguments:

Some say why not "back" a more worthy cause, a British up-and-coming artist, an official alternative Christmas classic or something new maybe. As a longtime Half Man Half Biscuit fan I joined the group advocating "It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas" (their typically Biscuits aspiration being to get it to number two) but that's as far as it went. The fact is that the Rage campaign is ONLY working because it's a song everyone can get behind. Yes of course it would be amazing if the Christmas number one slot went to Sufjan Stevens or whatever, but much like Malcolm Middleton's valiant attempt last year, even a "big" indie/alternative artist is just never going to capture the public attention. So if we have to have a mainstream, major label anthem to rally behind, why not have one you can dance to that's chock-full of swearing?

Oh yes, the swearing. "Killing In The Name"'s signature, its call to arms and its millstone. Veteran music journalist Simon Price (one of the few remaing professionals in this area for whom I have the utmost respect) - backing the campaign for Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” - called it "Fuck you, I won’t tidy my bedroom". I smiled; it's been known as that (or "won't do my homework") in our house for years. But again, I don't think Rage Against The Machine can really be blamed for the appropriation over the years of their fiercely political and controversial song by millions of fat white teenage boys in big shorts raging against nothing much in particular. As my MM colleague Jon Ashley points out, if you like that sort of thing (and he does, which is good, because it saves me having to bother with it normally) "it defined an important genre of rock whilst promoting a strong political message and ramming it down the throat of America. It makes 'American Idiot' sound like Busted."

A further counter-opinion came from another real musician, Lancashire singer-songwriter Glyn Bailey: "It's a bit like deciding to buy some extra shopping at Morrisons that you wouldn't have normally bought, in order to stop Tesco being the number one supermarket for a week - what's the point?" I thought about this for a while. Maybe he had a point. But after some consideration I would say that rather than this supermarket analogy, it's more like when people who are completely disillusioned with the mainstream political parties to the point where they would rather not vote for any of them, grit their teeth and put a cross in the ballot box for the "least worst" because there is a neo-Nazi candidate standing in their ward and they wish to vote against this. If you love real music in any form (even chart-pop doesn't have to be cloned to perfection: look at Lady Gaga, or even if you'd rather not, you can't deny she's a true one-off) 79p isn't much to spare in order to show it, is it? Make sure you donate to Shelter at the same time though, even if you can only afford another 79p. The current total of over £50,000 is going to make a real difference to the lives of many homeless people, whilst RATM's Tom Morello is donating royalties to Music Is Power***, a British charity helping disadvantaged kids learn about and learn to make music.

Time, then, to stand down from our worthy campaigns for the minority candidates. Biscuits, Darlene, Sufjan, I respect you all but this is not your time. Music fans and musicians everywhere, stand up and be counted. Yes, you'll end up with a dodgy old American alt-rock track on your computer, but that's what the delete button's for. You have until tomorrow night (Saturday 19th December 23:59pm) to buy the tune; if you missed it but agree with some of the points in this article then you can still donate to the Shelter fund.

~ After writing this piece, Cath dedicated it to everyone who loves music. A week later, Rage Against The Machine became the official 2009 Christmas Number one, breaking a four year deadlock of X Factor singles, general pop factory nonsense and before that novelty records based on the general themes first established by the "Birdie Song". In fact, "Killing In The Name Of" is probably the most sensible piece of music to grace the seasonal top spot since Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall". Real music fans everywhere - MM salutes you...~

Check out: Shelter - Direct Donations

I'm just putting on my coat for this year's ITC (2009) - then Ted from Cloud Sounds comes knocking on the social Networking door, asking me for some comments about the whole ITC thang...more news to follow on Ted's published piece as and when, but here's how I answered some of his questions...

"Hi Jon" - Hi Ted......

* Has ITC changed since 1992? If so, how?

I think the question here, is not how ITC has changed but how Manchester has changed.

Let’s take the city first. 1992 found Manchester drawing the last fumes and vapours of Madchester. After a flurry of industry activity (local Label offices, regional A&R, promoters, designers and a new round of independent music industry businesses), the city was soon stripped of this infrastructure – London binned Manchester, stereoptyped it and abandoned it as a relevant city almost once and for all.

The city (obviously pre-bomb) was a shadow of what it is now – just a few venues (The Roadhouse was just about to open and Night & day was a run down café bar with no proper music facilities) including PJ Bells, The Hacienda (living on borrowed time) and the Boardwalk.

Manchester had a lot to do. But despite this Yvette Livsey and Tony Wilson were the figureheads for an ambitious idea – In The City. To begin with, it established an identity almost immediately and I don’t think it took that long for it get the key players in the industry (at international levels) to pencil it into their calendars.

In those days, the unsigned event was actually a judged competition with formal winners, but today it has become, more sensibly, a decent shop window that includes both the hyped and the completely unknown.

The big difference these days is the landscape of Manchester – refurbished, rejuvenated and still living off the financial boom of the mid-noughties. On the fringe side, there is a new generation of promoters and clubbers – I don’t think the ethics and level of innovation is as good these days and it has all become very money orientated and I think a lot of the young entrepreneurs have lost the sense of collectiveness and self support there used to be. Thankfully it means that the more meaningful movers and shakers are easy to spot - these people invest in the emerging musical infrastructure of Manchester – think Blowout, Red Deer, Friends of Mine, aA, Timbreland, High Voltage, FictionNonFiction, WotGodForgot, TJE, Little Red Rabbit, Humble Soul - With string previous ITC fringe identities (Rich from HV was on this years ITC judging panel), these people care about the things they’re building and they endure – the reason I mention them (and apologies for perhaps missing one or two out) , is that I think they embrace what ITC is all about – being supportive and sustainable, rather than a quick buck.

The digital age – the MyTwitFace generation, have broken down those regional borders. It’s even more important to establish your city as city of music. I think only three have successfully done it. Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds and of course London (although the Capital counts as a county rather than a city).

ITC has changed with the times, embracing digital downloads, ensuring that its conference is at the cutting edge of essential debate. The one thing it did do in more recent years, was to focus its live functions around Peter St, a lifeless, soulless part of the city lined with desperate, expensive abars. The best ITC’s have always been around the northern quarter, the city’s musical saviour – now home to world renowned and established clubs like The Roadhouse and Night & Day, Dry Bar. Moho Live and Ruby Lounge.

* Does ITC inform the music industry or is it the other way round?

My view is that ITC provides the platform for debate and discussion by bringing all the right speakers and players together.

ITC set the agenda and more than often get it right – this, I think is where they excel. The debate on downloads was put on the table years ago at ITC and yet the industry has only just taken its eyes out the headlights.

It seems to me that given the keynote speakers and subject matters, the industry wants to be there – ITC plays a mischievous host but invites the music sector to talk amongst itselves whilst ITC coyly observe whilst throwing in a few hand grenade sized sound bites.

* Is ITC right to claim that it has 'launched the careers' of bands such as Oasis, Suede, Coldplay and the Arctic Monkeys?

That’s a good question. For Suede and Oasis, perhaps yes, although they’d already been scouted and probably signed by then, but what an important platform it was then for shoving them in front of the assembled press, publishers and labels. Coldplay had already been discovered but ITC was definitely a crucial player in their gradual ascent.

Arctic Monkeys however are a product of the new social networking age and I heard about them along with thousands of others via the web - They snowballed very quickly as bands do these days, completing circuits of the UK within the year, hitting places like Night & day just a few times, before exploding. That was definitely a new phenomena – a band who are obviously writing brilliant tunes don’t stay secret for long these days. ITC has a role now for seeking out the bands that are less obvious, but who could possibly change the world. In 1978 no-major in their right mind would have signed Joy Division – ITC is obviously built on that and writes “Ground Breaking” on its T-Shirts rather than “Sell-Out”.

* To what extent would playing ITC Unsigned or ITC Live help / hinder an emerging band?

It used to be a fact that playing ITC and not-getting signed was your death knell – you’d not be invited to play again. These days the fringe events and a more open minded show casing strategy mean that a band can get a good few years out of ITC – Oddly, I think that whilst some acts come and go far too quickly, those with more substance thrive and develop over a few years, using the web to propagate. Good music is good music.

From my experience, most things happen as a result of co-incidence and luck and utilising ITC provides a chance just to be spotted. That’s something you’d never attain, without driving your tour bus through every label’s London office with you playing live in the back.

* In a more general sense, what are your opinions of ITC? Is it groundbreaking? Is it influential? Is it important, or even essential? How does it compare to other local events such as Sounds From The Other City and international ones like SXSW?


Two good comparisons though. SFTOC is I think Manchester’s (or should I say Salford’s!) best ever unsigned event. It’s eclectic, spontaneous and experimental and is run with only the very best of intentions. I think it stands for everything we should be proud of. It runs over one day and you’ll see and hear more interesting things in non-regular venues than you’ll see all year. It really is the most amazing thing in this town.

SXSW is by contrast massive. It’s hometown has a lot of parallels with Manchester, but it is so big - I think you would have to be very selective and careful, but then there is absolutely something for everyone. It is of course in America which sort of makes it a little pointless for unsigned UK bands, but as a UK music fan it’s basically a brilliant holiday set to 11.

World music is primarily dominated by three markets – America, The Uk and Japan. I think we should always remember that we could argue that our domestic music scene has been (and always will be !) the most innovative…

Check out: In The City Official
Take a look at: MM's ITC Blog

U2, a post punk product of the new wave scene are now ridiculously successful. We’re talking 140 million album sales and 22 Grammys to date ; that’s not a band - that’s a global corporation.

2006’s Vertigo world tour racked up $389 million in gross ticket receipts which were then apparently funnelled through a variety of tax avoidance vehicles. The band, also signed a 12 year deal with Live Nation worth an estimated $100 million in 2008 – a year in which they released no records.

So, whilst U2 paint themselves in a humanitarian gloss and generate plenty of benevolent headlines via Bono’s press releases, there’s also an apparent lack of subscription to taxation systems in general. Those are social mechanisms, that are meant to encourage greater contributions from the immensely rich, which helps sustain civilisations for all of us leading ordinary lives and to also directly assist the poorer members of society (health care, eductation etc). Ironically state funding for various social programmes is intended to stop people getting into humanitarian trouble and thus should avoid the need to then invite pop stars with sunglasses and cowboy hats, to make a statement on ‘how bad it all is’ and “what WE must do about it”.

In the US, total, individual actual unpaid taxes amounted to a missing sum of $345 billion in 2007. That excludes avoidance schemes. Enough, outside of a credit crisis to actually fund social reform.

In 2006 Bono, a campaigner against third-world debt, asked the Irish government to contribute more to Africa. At the same time, he actively avoided making tax payments that could help finance that aid.

After Ireland said it would scrap a break that lets musicians and artists avoid paying taxes on royalties, Bono and his fellow U2 band members moved their music publishing company to the Netherlands. The group, which Forbes estimated earned $110 million in 2005, paid about a 5 percent tax on their royalties in the Netherlands, less than half the Irish rate.


Richard Murphy runs an informative blog on the website Tax Research UK and recently published a few of his own observations;

“...Bono’s shift of his tax affairs from Ireland to the Netherlands (is) all the more difficult to understand. As I’ve said before....and will say again, Ireland is a tax haven. And amongst the absurd benefits it has offered is tax free status to artists. U2 have apparently exploited this to ensure that no tax has been paid on the royalties they have earned from their songs.

Bono has accumulated a personal worth of hundreds of millions (chose your currency, I think the answer is similar in dollars, euros or sterling). And many (perhaps most) people still think wealth comes with responsibility, especially when the owner asks for that responsibility from others.

What he proves is that for some people (and especially those with considerable wealth) the only acceptable rate of tax is no tax. However low the rate of tax a country offers, and contrary to all the arguments put forward by those who promote flat taxes, so long as any tax is charged some will try to avoid or evade them in denial of responsibility to the societies in which they live.

In essence this proves that all the arguments that cutting taxes will increase tax revenues are based on a myth. Only 0% is acceptable to tax avoiders. And the result is obvious. In this case the state fails, and one can only presume that this is what those who promote this argument really want.

And yet the reaction to Bono’s actions prove something else is happening in parallel. The outrage suggests that tax planning continues to carry with it a reputational risk. His actions are seen as unacceptable. He is not accepting his responsibility to society. The message is simple. Paying tax is a moral imperative....”

The Tax Justice Network has another view :

“Bono participates in the worldwide offshore tax-evasion system that is to a large extent responsible for the poverty of Africa,” the organization said in a written release. “The African Union says tax dodging by foreign companies costs it $150 billion a year – three times what it receives in aid.”

Closer to home Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary has been quoted as saying : "Tax avoidance is hollowing out the tax system. With the rest of us having to fill the tax gap left by Britain's most wealthy, there is a real threat to the future of public services - especially as the recession takes its toll on normal tax flows….” (Bono is of course Irish with homes on several continents, but the impact on developing nations is the same regardless of the tax avoiders residence).

So with that backdrop to consider, U2’s latest affair, two years in the making has the resources of a Hollywood production behind it. U2 have studied hard and ensured that “No Line On The Horizon” has enough contemporary singles to keep the money mill turning for the rest of 2009 and well into 2010 too. U2 make great records and this album is infinitely better than “All That You Can’t leave Behind” and the “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”, the latter of which seemed to suggest that the band had struggled to redefine themselves for the noughties.

U2 should be rock gods – they are brilliant musicians and have redefined 21st Century stadium shows. But for heroes, Bono, a Forbes magazine major shareholder, at least seems to have evolved into some kind of cross between Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair – it leaves a bitter taste when a group of such cultural stature refuses to make a full and equitable financial contribution to society, whilst wallowing in hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth.

The world is now dealing with the effects of greedy minorities and those who can manipulate and navigate the complex legal world of tax avoidance. It leaves many people quite angry – especially if you consider the current responsibilities of the hundreds of millions of people in the Western World who have no choice but to pay full tax contributions cut directly from their employers pay system. Why should someone in a Call centre have over 30% of their pay deducted at source when millionaires are getting away with 5% if not less ? Now that IS worthy of a rock song, but somehow I can’t see U2 writing about that.

Bono has also stated that U2 would release another album by the end of the year consisting of material recorded during the sessions for No Line on the Horizon. Bono says it will be "a more meditative album on the theme of pilgrimage. His financial advisor is no doubt more excited than most about the next crop of U2 records.

It makes sense that people in our own democratic, yet fully taxed state make up their own minds, but I for one will not be encouraging anyone to physically buy this album. In fact maybe you should take a note out of U2’s book and reduce those liabilities by being absolutely motivated to ‘avoid’ paying for it by any means possible. Legally of course.

Check out: U2

Manchester Music interviews Stuart Mackay who is the organiser of the popular Indietracks Festival which takes place on the weekend of 26/27 July 2008 at Midland Railway in Butterley, Derbyshire


This is indietracks second year. I'm not able to get to as many gigs as I used to so there's quite a big list of bands I'm looking forward to seeing, but three in particular stand out: The Kabeedies as there's a lot of buzz about them; Pocketbooks who are one of my favourites and I haven't yet seen their new line-up; and The Deirdres who are amazingly good fun and have never failed to impress anyone I've dragged along to see them.


There are not a lot of other 'big' indiepop events worldwide so it's become an important event to a lot of people, and we do indeed have people attending from all over the UK and also from Europe & the USA, possibly from elsewhere.


It's not really a conscious effort as I was never one for listening to the radio, I think I only ever heard about three Peel shows I'm ashamed to say- it's more because indiepop as a genre would fit into the stuff that he played.


I'd like to be able to afford to bring over some more American bands, it's sometimes fells like there's two independent indiepop scenes that rarely mix, in fact there's also a great little scene in Indonesia of all places which deserves a wider audience. The festival will always be mainly about the small names from the vibrant indiepop scene playing the small clubs & bars that deserve bigger exposure.


I'm constantly amazed at the continual flow of new bands that keep indiepop alive exciting. It makes picking bands for the festival very difficult! I don't read N.M.E. (or any other mag) so I don't worry too much about what they say.


I'm sure the press team have tried to get exposure whether it's mainstream exposure or not. We're not deliberately being independent in that respect. We want a bigger audience for the bands, if more people enjoy indiepop then brilliant, the style of music will still be the same great indiepop it is.


Indietracks will always remain an indiepop festival. What will happen here is that now that the venue (the steam railway) has the experience in hosting this, it'll possibly diversify into other music events. If any other promoters want to use it, it's available, steam trains and all.


There's quite a few!


Oh, there's so many - try Town Bike, The Just Joans and Mexican Kids At Home these three should give you an idea of the range of sounds you can expect to hear at the festival! We've put 45 of them on a double CD festival compilation you can get now for just £6 inc p&p from


Cheapest booking fee (£2 per booking) is by calling the railway on 01773 747 674 (7 days 9am - 5pm), or online at or Weekend tickets are £45, day tickets £25.

Unlimited steam train rides included - the bands are playing in a loco shed, in a railwayman's church, a little outdoor stage, and some on the trains. Camping has to be booked separately at the neighbouring campsite.

Full details at There's also an excellent blog at featuring interviews, competitions & quizzes.

Check out: Indietracks!!

The starting point for this entry begins with Cath’s post from last year, typed up in the aftermath of another bloody, glorious FictionNonFiction. In The City is back this year but of course there is a slightly different complexion to the whole affair.

ITC is eminently well organised and justifiably renowned but of course it’s co-founder will be missing. There’s been talks of statues and plaques and other form of recognition which I’m sure have been of massive importance to his family, partner and friends. But surely the whole ITC legacy is one that we all share, year on year and which has done much to ensure that Manchester created its own spotlight, regardless of whether the NME or any other London-centric organ was saying it was a shit city.

We never believed that, neither did its loyal residents and population and more importantly neither did Tony Wilson. In The City is THE event in the Manchester and UK music calendar, possessing enough muscle to get the best names in the world and small enough to be accessible and digestible whilst still providing an impressive corporate platform.

But it’s at a grass roots level that it’s pulled the master stroke. Manchester, like it’s industrial past is a hotbed of obsessive fans, musicians, photographers, designers, promoters and writers, who create an ideal embraced by its indigenous and transient populations. Every one buys into it and computers, CD burners and photocopiers slave through the night to bring together the cottage industry independents into one big scalable voice of industrial passion.

From the mills of Salford and Ancoats, the revolutionaries march. Tabloid indie nights rub shoulders with gritty, dynamic pioneering basement events. You know who they are- and the thing is, this isn’t all new. Alternative indie was reborn in Manchester in the year 2000 and whilst no-one cared to noticed outside of the M postcodes, the world has actually just caught up with us....

Check out: In The City Official
Take a look at: MM In The City MicroSite

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged Too - A Critique of the Critic
Music reviewers see words when someone plays music but often unable to simply articulate opinions, they are forced to write them down in an appetizing form. Like any medium, reviewing is surrounded by pitfalls. For example, repeatedly using hackneyed phrases like 'pitfalls' and, well, 'hackneyed'. When hacking your way into writing it is necessary to build up a portfolio of published works, and for many people (including myself) reviewing is an excellent way to start. There is no shortage of bands to channel onto the page and experiment with in style and tone.

Ironically, this glut of subject matter can have the opposite effect on the scribbling masses. Instead of approaching each review differently, they create their own band-wagon. How many times have you seen a familiar formula mixing on the page you're reading? The reviewer waits for the band. The warm up are shit but show promise. The main act charge in with a new track, but - unless something incredible and wholly original pops up - they all ultimately succumb to the critic's poison pen. The reason for this is often because many writers lack the imagination required to make a typical evening of underground music come alive. A reviewer can easily slip in to default mode, savaging the act in front of him/her.

Worse still is the reviewer who lets loose his home-made arsenal of bastardised verbs and collective nouns, leaving the reader with a stack of words that make less sense than an acid flashback. Amongst ambiguous language we come across phrases such as 'boot-stomping beats' and 'thundering riffs'. My personal favourite is the tendency of even the best reviewer towards food/genre-related metaphors, for example; '[the Band] mix up a jazz funk soup with reggae croutons'. The practice of any craft involves churning out mangled works. The hardest part is forcing them out of your private world in to the realm of the public, into the face of the music listener. So don't take it too badly when you read a bad review, because you have the final word. In the end, everyone's a critic.

Steven Lalley

Opportunism Knocks
ANYONE that has read Dante's 'Inferno' will know of a place that exists on the edges of hell called 'The Vestibule'. Here the opportunists are housed. Neither good nor bad in their lives they were a fair-weather bunch, mainly engrossed in their own concerns. Thus the afterlife punishes them as they endlessly chase a banner that constantly changes shape and direction.

Ok. So we all want recognition and comfortable lives. It's just seems that some of us with fewer scruples are prepared to compromise principals to achieve that. Fashion moves faster than a cheetah on crystal meth and watching people chase it so purposefully is pretty depressing. When this is done under the guise of 'art', like music, it seems doubly pathetic. This year's current fad for 80s-influenced post-punk has seen countless number of acts remodel their sounds. One particular act realising that aping last year's flavour was no longer as likely to score them 'success', decided to tack on some trendy new wave beats. It seems too that this mentality has spread to certain local promoters too who appear more concerned with having a hand in who the London A & R brigade thinks will be 'the next big thing' rather than the actual quality of who the acts they showcase.

Of course this paints a rather negative picture. There are plenty of quality artists, labels and indeed promoters that will champion quality no matter what the sonic climate or risk is. For an artist to succeed, 'being there at the right' is certainly a contributory factor but there are other elements like hard work, sticking to your guns and creating something you can truly call your own. If honesty and independent thought isn't at the forefront of your music it will appear painfully transparent. Of course you can ignore my advice, bin your ethics and jump on the new bandwagon. But be careful. It may have already moved on.

Dave Himelfield

Square Pegs, Round Holes.
The saying "a watched kettle never boils" is obviously bollocks because I watch mine bubble away all the time. But, the saying "square pegs don't fit in round holes" is definitely a universal truth and the fact that you can file down a square peg or smash it in with a hammer doesn't make it a perfect fit. Between these old adages, you may be able to find a neat metaphor for the chicken coup that is the music industry and the headless chickens that squawk around within it looking for the next big thing. The endless conveyor belt of "next big things", branded with all the hallmarks of an underdeveloped sixth form band forced into a rock god's clothing, is nothing short of boring and frankly tragic. Manchester itself has found itself guilty of flogging the nation a wardrobe full of Emperor's New Clothes in the past two or three years, simply because the city can't wait to show the world how clued up it still is, and yet most of the recent Mancunian buzz bands have been forced to find their feet in the glare of public scrutiny as their ascent stuttered to a crawl. Why did we not just let them be until they were good enough? The same reason that the media are so quick to brand an emerging scene, because collectives, labels, A&R, journalists and entire cities have to be seen to get there first, because second place is just not good enough. The slightest hint of talent is cashable and ultimately disposable. It can shift mp3s and CDs in sufficient quantities to keep your job in a rotting A&R office for another six months at least. We are sold inflatable heroes that, as soon as a new act needs breaking, can be easily deflated and stored away, and maybe never seen again. The demand for the next big thing means our new idols are short term and the industry is forcing square pegs into your pretty round holes, and they fully expect you to be grateful. As a wise man once said, "Don't believe the hype".

Rob Allen

BAND AID 20 - It's Christmas record time, and there's every need to be afraid...
Hm. "It's cliched to be cynical at Christmas" as the wise sage Nigel from Half Man Half Biscuit once said. Thing is, it's also kind of hard to avoid, especially when faced with the prospect of yet more primadonnas caterwauling in the name of charity or at least having a Look, I'm A Caring Person Me stamp in their files. And I'd rather not be made to feel ancient by being continuously reminded of 1984 by people who were barely out of the womb then...

Chris Martin I'll let off as his exceptional work publicising the Make Trade Fair campaign coupled with his band's massive general populist appeal has probably led to the concept of fair trade being introduced into households that wouldn't let a New Internationalist half way through the letterbox without screaming about lentil-eating commies. Tesco's online shopping site even has a section dedicated to fair trade foods nowadays - a far cry from the days when you had to find a large Oxfam to get a battered packet of CafeDirect. Nice one Chris, and I'll even forgive you Gwynnie and "Yellow" come the revolution for that.

Things have changed so much since 1984. At the time, people older and more clued up than me (I was only 12 after all) often whispered about how the group name was appropriate as it was like sticking a Band-aid on a cancer. Yet I went out and bought it, and everybody did. You've got one somewhere, haven't you? Or your parents have. At school the day after it was released, anyone whose household hadn't got at least one was spurned as some kind of tightwad. And there is no doubt countless lives were saved in Africa that year as a direct result of the record. But it wasn't long before my political education - spearheaded by the music I was listening to, from Easterhouse lyrics to U2's discussion of human rights issues in interviews - led me to ask questions. Like... why are there rarely neo-genocidal famines in politically stable countries? What exactly is this Third World Debt and where did it come from? And how does the entire total of cash given willingly by ordinary people during Band Aid and Live Aid compare numerically with, say, the American "defence" budget? Remember this was the height of the Cold War, and the Band Aid generation were also the generation who knew what the four minute warning was and genuinely believed it could come any minute. The more I found out, the more disgusted I was that it had taken a fading pop star and his randomly gathered bunch of well meaning but inexperienced helpers months of hard slog to do what the superpower governments of the day could have done with a flick of their big fat fingers, had they actually given enough of a shit.

So what does the record actually sound like then? Who cares? It's a cover of a 20 year old hit by contemporary mainstream artists - so, much like the rest of the Top 20 then. Keane, Snow Patrol and Dizzee Rascal have clearly been drafted in on the credibility tip, which is probably less relevant than the organisers think. It's a cheese-fest of a tune knocked together in fifteen minutes by the purveyors of I Don't Like Mondays and Vienna for fuck's sake, it would struggle for credibility if they got Wolfman, D Double E, 65daysofstatic, Nine Black Alps and Tom Vek to do it. Has there ever actually been a good charity record? Well come to think of it The Fall's "A Day In The Life" on NME's 80s Sergeant Pepper covers album in aid of Childline should be in any discerning record collection, but beyond that I'm struggling. From a music fan's point of view, many of the worst things ever recorded were done in a good cause. You don't buy a Band Aid record to listen to any more than you buy a breast cancer ribbon to wear or the six-year-olds' home-made biscuits at the local hospice open day to eat.

Another problem though, as with any Telethon or Big Charity Event, is that statistics show they have a negative effect on other charitable giving. People only have so much. High street tin-rattlers and sellers of raffle tickets to workmates will feel the pinch. This wasn't quite so noticeable with the original Band Aid because Michael Buerk's report, and the acres of news coverage which followed it - god, those pictures - were so shocking, so unlike anything we had seen, even in the Blue Peter Appeals of our childhood. Old ladies were digging savings out from mattresses, children emptying piggy banks, companies cancelling Christmas dinner and handing over the equivalent cost - there was a lot of extra money poured into charity that year.
Yet these days, what shocks? "And it's true we are immune, when fact is fiction and TV reality" sang Bono in 1983 - ironic really, because it wasn't really the case then. Yet now? Planes crashing into towers, the wide-eyed boy on the Gaza Strip shot dead in his cowering father's arms, Iraqi roads strewn with severed limbs, hospital wards of Aids orphans in Uganda, the harrowed faces of emaciated raped villagers in the former Yugoslavia's refugee camps. We've got crisis on tap 24/7, beamed in off the satellites. Who actually watches News At Ten these days? The only thing you'll find everyone at work watched at the same time last night will be some celebrities-in-a-jungle show. Michael Buerk could survey the dawn desolation of a country today and most of us wouldn't even see it.

Band Aid was of its time. It will not have that all-encompassing omnipresence this year. It will probably go to number one because let's face it it only takes about three and a half copies to do that these days. At least they've let some black people join in this time. It will save lives, which can't be a bad thing in anyone's book. It may revive the flagging careers of some people we thought we had seen the last of such as Travis, which probably is a bad thing.

But... it's cliched to be cynical at Christmas. Buy a copy or don't, whatever, but just make sure you dish some dosh in a deserving direction or two. Consider that the alternative Christmas Number One could have been yet another terrifying effort from Sir Cliff - or Girls Aloud doing the Pretenders' I'll Stand By You, which in the cover-to-original quality-ratio stakes is a different kettle of fish entirely. Buy it and amuse yourself testing out all those bad things they used to say you could do to a CD and it would still play.

But first and foremost, lobby for the cancellation of the Third World "Debt" - and maybe we'll never have to listen to the chart stars of the day doing end-of-term singalong ever again.

Cath Aubergine

The early 00’s will be seen in history as a period of profound retrospection. More than ever before in the mainstream are we seeing a huge proportion of acts regurgitating ideas from times long gone.

Now nobody is asking people to block out their favourite influences but it seems that the whole package has been copied wholesale. The entire sound, image and ethos has been barely shuffled and repackaged in a nice new box. One only needs 20 seconds exposure to Franz Ferdinand to be transported back some 20 years. Similarly one brief blast of The Libertines later and the image of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones won’t go away. No one here is debating that some of these artists are anything less than adept at what they do. Many of them are unquestionably entertaining. But this isn’t 1979 and when such a rehash of ideas – someone else’s old ideas – is touted as ‘life-changing’ or ‘vital’ it’s time to ask a few questions.

It seems that the mainstream music press has lost the way. One paper (and one of my writer friends has seen this) appears to be run by apathetic thirty-somethings who are increasingly out of touch with what is going on around them. Not for one minute am I suggesting that there is no longer music of value anymore. It’s either that the industry and media is unaware of it or just simply isn’t interested. Sales of the NME have plummeted and their attempts to resurrect it them have become increasingly desperate and what better way to rescue them than with a tested formula. Did Franz Ferdinand really change your life as they once suggested? Only if you’d never heard music before.

The NME are delighted with The Libertines for three reasons. 1) They’re from London, of course. 2) They fit in nicely with the whole Strokes/White Stripes garage rehash. 3) They have a singer that’s continually on the verge of a rock n roll burnout reminiscent of Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious etc – the emphasis on which the media focuses on.

In the past when artists were given the kind of treatment that The Libertines have received it was because they offered something new, something different, a new way of thinking and something relevant to the times. How anyone can compare Doherty and Barat to Cobain, Curtis, Stipe or even their own idols is ridiculous.

Such music may have made these apathetic 30-40 year-olds tick when they were our age but this is now and so they and the look-back music they champion misses the point. In that era such music meant something else, something much more important. Rock n roll was a rebellion against the rigid constraints of society. Similarly punk rock was a reaction to all that was false, tired and rotten about society; the words of punk Godfather Iggy Pop for fuck’s sake. Punk rock was about not being afraid to do your own thing. It was not simply about three chords and a repugnant sense of dress. Listen to what John Lydon says in the first line of his first song after leaving The Sex Pistols. “You never listened to a word that I said. You only knew for the clothes I wear.” The whole ‘rock n roll’ philosophy is a philosophy of past generations and it is largely irrelevant to modern life. It in itself, is a clichéd and unproductive lifestyle available to very few.

Our indie discos are increasingly filled with tunes that our parents would have danced to and if feels odd. Not because the music is bad but because it says nothing about the world we live in today. Overall with little input from our generation and it feels alienating and above all second hand.

Our generation seems more apathetic than any before it and having inherited a shite world full of Thatcherite egotism and shattered dreams who can blame us? But the fact that we’re prepared to lie down and say that all the best music and art has already been created shows a depressing lack of imagination, more specifically it shows a lack of faith in humanity. Pure retrospection is a comfortable, lazy option that prefers to bury its head in the sand rather than confront modern issues or strive for something to truly call its own.

Countless acts like Radiohead, Modest Mouse and Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies have proved the Luddites wrong. We’re capable of more and we deserve better.

Dave Himelfield

Old Man Weller once sang “the kids know where it's at” in his Incendiary anthem “In The City”, and quite conveniently the music convention of the same name proves this long tested theory to be correct. Posing the question “What is In The City?” doesn’t have a simple answer, the free party that is laid on for the marauding A&R collective will mean something quite different to them, than a band traveling for hours from Hull in a battered Transit for their shot at fame. With an expense account to be squandered at the hotel bar, the weekend can become an absolute riot, with your band’s career in the balance it can be the nerve jangling focal point of your entire year.

What In The City is, is whatever you make of it and the bands and audiences who go out and do it every night regardless of who might be in the audience will hold their memories dearest. Truly, the power to make In The City successful lies with the kids who know where it’s at, shunning the careerism and hype that the weekend inevitably brings and having an absolute ball watching the industry big heads chase their tails.

Respect must be due, if not to the industry, then to the In The City organisers for the continued privilege of having the nation’s finest (and not so fine) bands making their way to Manchester so that we can enjoy a years worth of new music in one weekend. We can nit-pick about the credentials of ITC Unsigned as a worthy showcase for new talent (that’s the OFFICIAL line-up), but what revolves around the weekend in random fringe events is a remarkable prospect for any music fan. Amongst the live music nights knuckling down at this year’s ITC will be Akoustik Anarkhy, Blowout and Electric Circus which should be enough quality music to fill the month, but with Northern Ambition, High Voltage and Club Fandango also preparing special events nobody can avoid the optimistic wave of talented new acts.

The last twelve months has seen Manchester become something of a hunting ground for both record labels and the press in the search for tomorrow’s heroes, whether they found any worthy of your attention or not is debatable.

But, we have come alive to the fact that our streets are still crowded with musicians, labels and promoters working towards an end to the sterile conveyor belt of one hit wonders and polished pop tarts that our “professional” visitors this weekend will gleefully endorse. They aren’t in it for the right reasons, and thankfully they will return to Hoxton largely unfulfilled having missed the point again. But for those in attendance who will be willing to find out where it’s at, will inevitably take value in sharing this experience with individuals and bands that are doing it because they must.

Rob Allen

A and Arse
Running your own little record label is like sticking two massive fucking fingers up at the capital. Fuck you. We can do things just as well if not better. The sad irony is that the people from The Smoke come up here anyway, wrench whatever profitable propositions they can from our creative hands and then proceed to screw and rape whatever they can from it over their media giant boardroom tables.

As news of relatively unknown local acts commanding £600k contracts seeps out (but just how much of that will they immediately see ?), gaggles of A&R juniors begin to saturate our streets once more. Promoted from brewing up and suddenly given an expense budget, they fit in “ground work” with shopping, getting pissed and - I have actually seen this - slap up 4 star hotel meals.

But with Manchester now teeming with would be promoters and self styled music buffs, it’s never been so easy. Demos are already pre-A&R’d by those in the know in the citys venues and bars. Readily handed over for the cred’ of “hanging out with the industry” the suckers who think they may be movers and shakers are doing the labels job for them. And I mean “Doing their job for them…”. Removing the need to investigate, uncover and understand what’s happening, their demo bag is full on day one and the rest of a weekend visits is spent hanging with hangers on.

If someone’s sent on a regular recon’ mission to Manchester, don’t believe them when they say “I Signed up.. [Insert Obscure Band Name]”. The only thing they most probably got to sign was the tea and coffee delivery note. Think harder if they also think “Dogs Die In Hot Cars” are a great band.

Manchester bred some great labels during the dance boom, many of which are still around. Twisted Nerve, whilst returning to its indie roots, nurtured the acts that bridged the cold war years from post Madchester to the overcoming of the Oasis mania hangover. The other loger term indie seem to have generated their own resurgence, but there’s often the feeling that its just an A&R front for a major. The one remaining major label to maintain a label / publishing presence in Manchester doesn’t seem to do its research and lives in some sort of London style stupor that alienates itself from the grass roots scene.

I fucking hate these people that come up here trying to swing some sort of credibility, when all they want to do is cream off the fruits of creativity for themselves. Storm records have come on to the scene with private money and a passion and a willingness to make the effort with proper budgets and a professional attitude – a change so refreshing that it causes soiled trousers in Camden. But look at the real, classic / cult labels that are beginning to cut commercially. Northern Ambition, Dead Digital and Stolen Wine are creating their own cults with properly manufactured releases and talented rostas.

Subscribe to them and do it quickly – because that idiot surrounded by cronies is currently the only door into the wider world of the music business. Until proper border controls are in place, the only really viable option is to DO IT YOURSELF. . .


Rubbish Removal
As debates rage about the gentrification of Inner City Manchester and it’s suburbs, the cultural heart of the region is, as you read this, being priced out and regarded as a nuisance.

But before you vote for your Councillor in the next set of elections, have a think about the fact that corporate and commercial developments may actually be robbing you of your music.

Since the early 90’s , most of Manchester, and indeed it’s suburbs, were regarded as Shit tips. The crowning glories of Tory under-investment and deliberate neglect. But commercial outfits, bigger, stronger and more powerful since the reign of Herr Thatcher and Eva Major were happy to step in.

A great plan. Deprive an area of any investment and regeneration for nearly 20 years and then let Property Developer Co Ltd step in – Peanuts for the capital acquisition, plenty of regional development money and maybe all sorts of public concessions. Don’t be under any illusions. Some developers are PAID to take over and develop buildings.

But the moneyed youth (the new Yuppie for the 21c) invading the city, want to live in a cool neighbourhood. They need some "cool" to rub off on them (not too much mind) . Ideal then, that these low rent and now blooming pastures have been populated by creative venues and buildings. Many helped drive the ’86-’89 revolution and the growth of art, creative manufacturing and most importantly music. They have even single handedly created the identify of a Cultural “Northern Quarter”.

But it’s all set to end. Derelict lofts and rooms are being turned into housing. Not a bad thing. But these are predominantly transient investors, single and able to buy into the £250,000 dream. Ancoats with many of it’s families existing on £90 a week is 400 yards round the corner. Social exclusion is something that surely springs to mind.

Whilst the loyal tenants of the City Council around the Oldham Street area have toughed out the violence, sex trade and crime rates for over a decade, music punters and promoters have also braved the most challenging prospect of making the district a place worth visiting.

When four members of a Residents Association represent over £1m in property and incomes that probably equate to a combined value of £200k p.a., then suddenly the agenda changes.

…It’s too noisy. People are drunk outside a club / pub / bar. There’s too much traffic. Values previously reserved for tree lined detached houses in Wilmslow are thrust into the doorways and bus stops of a busy city centre.

Just be aware. Manchester is great because of the people, who mainly unassisted, created new landscapes in cheap derelict areas. Unfunded, unsupported by their civic peers, they are todays council marketing material. Yet the next generation of creatives are running the risk of being obliterated in the name of progress. Or a new apartment block.

But, the best may yet be to come. As venues inevitably close and prices rise and activities are restricted, then maybe things should move out of town again. Remember Hulme, Miles Platting, Gorton in the 70’s. Full of legendary past venues.

So lo-rent, hard but honest areas – you made Manchester what it is today. But what do we do when none are left ?

more on this summer04

We at MM are almost always grateful for any review that we receive. The perspiration and toil expended is a rarely matched feat of altruism driven (usually) by the love of music and the unsung heroes that make it. For this reason we’d gladly run anything that somebody has taken the time to write out providing it doesn’t contravene libel and obscenity laws. However, for reasons that explain themselves below we have been unable to print a small number. In retrospect, MM now pays overdue tribute to the reviews that didn’t quite make it. Please note that all names have been substituted to avoid embarrassment.

“It’s a busy night at The Rook. Frowning Christmas Tree is about to play on the stage. The band walks onto the stage. John the singer stands in the centre. Bob the guitarist stands on the right and Bill the bass player stands on the left. Alex the drummer sits at the back on the stage but is nearer to Bob than Bill or John. The band plays the first song. John sings and Bob and Bill play their instruments. It is very good. The audience like the song and clap for a long time. The band plays another song. It is a real foot-tapper and it gets the attention of the audience. Bob starts it by playing some chords on his guitar. Then John comes in. Then Bill and Alex come in. The song is good and the audience clap again.

…(This carries on on the same tact for several paragraphs)…

…The band finally finish playing and everyone claps and also cheers for a long time. The band gets off the stage and celebrates with a pint for each member of the band. The band should be proud of every note plucked/strummed/hit/singed. Then they go home.”

…from the book report style to the overly concise

“Cautious Lollypop aren’t really my kind of thing. Some may like them but I didn’t”

…to the irrelevant…

“Arriving at the venue I went to the bar to purchase a pint. I bought a pint of Stella. A very reasonable £2.00. I enjoyed it though it was a bit flat.”

…or the downright useless…

“Unfortunately I was being sick in toilet so I missed Calum Stoke’s set. I was later told that it was a set that should not have been missed.”

…and the plain unintelligible…

“There they were good here and there they were not.”

…or obscure…

“Regardless like a Cornish pasty you have to eat it even if you have no fingers.”


“I wanted him to play (this song), (this song) and (this song), but he played (this song), (this song) and (this song). Disappointing.”

…and x-rated…

“Sour Cream are raw sex! Like getting slammed with 12 inches of throbbing…”

If any of these were yours we salute you!

Music IS Dead* / Shit * (* delete as appropriate)
If you’ve heard the latest material by McFly, there’s probably no doubt in your mind that this is yet just another facsimile of Busted. That’s Busted who are a band and who write all of their own material….. ? Is this a band, most probably put together by a team of people old enough to be their parents ? Stranger still that live, they use a backing band…

More frightening still is that McFly could even partly claim to be Mancunian. Their singer gave up his junior clerks post at Bury College to go and join the band and enjoy the best pre-pubescent gift ever – A number One record ! Harking from the harsh streets of a Middle Class Bolton suburb, there will be some real anthems for the kids –like “When Can I Have An I-Pod Mummy ?” and “My Girlfriend Dumped Me To Go To University” or potential classics such as “It’s Great Having Two Parents”.

Endemic of a music industry that are happy to buy in the most popular product, stack it high and flog it - until there’s nothing left - It’s jam today, bullshit tomorrow. But look at the greatest acts ever of recent years. Radiohead, U2, REM, Stereophonics (only kidding…) – all alt.indie acts that formed in basements and grew in might and influence on the back of their talents, credibility and performance – factors which overshadow any advertising budget or media plugging campaign.

As the search for new acts continues, labels are dipping their toe into the waters of live, original bands once more. But the success rate and commitment looks bleak. Young bands plucked from obscurity are given just a couple of years to prove their worth before being dumped. All set within an ever crowded “newly signed” sector full of frustratingly average and mediocre bands.

When did you last buy a record that set the hairs on the back of you neck on end – that you couldn’t get out of your head and couldn’t wait to buy – because you loved it ? Odds are, it was some obscure underground band. You could always try Ryan Adams latest, pretentious version of “Wonderwall”. A transformation that’s almost as staggering as Adams’ mutation from plaid shirted lumberjack lookalike to Jack White clone.

They’re all after your $$$’s – don’t let them have your hard earned cash. Instead, check out that little unknown band that might just guarantee you pleasure. Listen to Peel, check the web…..go to that gig for £3 where only 30 people turn up..

Music isn’t dead yet. Despite it’s own best efforts….

Check out: Ryan BEFORE
Take a look at: Ryan AFTER

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