Ah criticism. That age-old art of spouting your opinion to the general masses, hoping that it doesn’t cause too much controversy or spark a revolution. Our latest interviewee is none-other than Oliver Cobbin, who has been making his mark on the review section of ‘I’m Not From London’. I sat down with him to discuss the practice of talking to performers and dissecting their work, whilst also discovering what makes him tick.
So, Oliver, can you give us a bit of background info about yourself and how you got into the reviewing game?
Well, I hadn’t originally envisaged ever doing something like this. I studied ‘Audio Production’ at the ‘University of Lincoln’ and had hoped to be a world-class producer/musician extraordinaire by now, but that had to be put on hold unfortunately. I got into contact with Will Robinson and found myself a nice little niche in ‘I’m Not From London’, being able to review gigs and talk to artists. It’s a great opportunity and I thoroughly enjoy it.
Now, the readers may be asking ‘What makes his opinion so special?’ Thoughts?
Good question and I’ll respond with a bloody good answer. In truth, there is very little that separates me from the next human being. I’m just an average Joe; I’m awoken at 11am by my bloody alarm, then serves myself toast and caviar, before bathing in the finest scented oils that Milan has to offer. Once midday strikes I’m ready to nit-pick all art that comes my way. I often stare at a self-portrait whilst listening, just so I don’t lose sight of myself. You see, I’m just a normal man.
What makes me eligible however, is that I’m an enthusiastic music fan (nerd, if you will) and possess a lyrical flair that most can only dream of. It would be such a shame to waste my talents as a writer and a critic. I know for a fact that the readers would be outraged if my keen intellect and advanced vocabulary were to suddenly go missing. There would be rioting in the streets, or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe. A woman approached me the other day and this a direct quote of what she said: “Your reviews are the only thing that make me want to wake up in the morning. You could rival Dickens or Shakespeare with the writings you produce.” Her words, not mine.
A little birdy informs me that you’re also a musician yourself. Care to elaborate?
With pleasure. Yes, I’m a musician alright, playing everything from guitar to mandolin. “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s a lyric of mine that I wrote all by myself. I’m no stranger to rapturous applause either, the brittle sound of hands clapping is one of delight to my ears. Just last week at an open mic I played at, I received a standing ovation that went on for so long that the following performers had to cancel their sets. Look it up, it made the front-page national news I’m told.
Wow, you certainly have a high opinion of yourself. Perhaps to bring you back down to earth and to deflate your ego a little, you could detail some of your favourite artists and bands?
Certainly, it’s always good to know where one is coming from. I myself am mainly a rock fan, although there are so many branches that come off that. If I had to list my favourite artists, they would be:
- The Beatles – No prizes for originality I know. I’m a self-confessed expert having wrote my dissertation on them. So many great albums to pick from but I’d have to say that ‘Revolver’ is my personal favourite. My song pick would have to be ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’
- R.E.M. – A fine band whose first 7 albums I treasure. ‘Automatic For the People’ is my second favourite ever album. Michael Stipe was a big vocal influence for me too when I was first starting out. ‘Find the River’ is the song I’d choose.
- Oasis – The gateway drug into so many other great artists. Their first three records were my musical education growing up and still hold a dear place in my heart to this day. It may only have been a b-side but ‘Acquiesce’ is a personal favourite of mine.
- David Bowie – One of the most flawless discographies of the 1970s (not to mention a few great albums in other decades). The ever-changing musician who adapted well to all the genres he attempted. ‘Ziggy Stardust’ is probably my favourite just because it’s the first one I got into. So many other great ones I could name though. It may be an obvious one but ‘Life on Mars’ is a great song.
- Bob Dylan – The man who got me into complex lyricism and all things folky. ‘Blonde on Blonde’ is my favourite album, but so many of his 1963-1975 releases could rival it. ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ is a lyrical tour-de-force of a song.
- Arctic Monkeys – The band who I’ve grown up with and have seen live. Alex Turner is lyrical genius and a personal hero of mine. ‘Suck it and See’ is an underrated album which deserves more recognition for its great songs. ‘Piledriver Waltz’ is a fine deep cut which I’d choose.
- The Smiths – Johnny Marr is my biggest guitar influence and Morrissey is a wonderful lyricist, both of whom I’ve seen live separately. They have such a great discography for such a short career. ‘The Queen is Dead’ is their magnum opus. I’ve been to seen a fantastic tribute band ‘The Smythes’ several times too. ‘I Know It’s Over’ is a fantastically morbid song by them, but also a great one.
- Nirvana – The band that made me want to play guitar. Simple riffs, catchy melodies, personal/abstract lyrics. What more could you want? ‘Nevermind’ is my #1 album of all time and ‘In Utero’ is in my top 10. Cobain was a great songwriter and was backed up by a great rhythm section of Novoselic and Grohl. ‘Lithium’ is the song of theirs that I’d highlight in their canon.
Other artists I like: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Jeff Buckley, The Last Shadow Puppets, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Father John Misty, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The White Stripes, Guns N’ Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Roy Orbison, U2, Iron Maiden, St. Vincent, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Temples, The Doors, Aerosmith, Eminem, The War on Drugs, Scott Walker, Kanye West, Blur, The Stone Roses, Bruce Springsteen, Rush, Pixies, The Rolling Stones, Alice in Chains, Genesis, Elvis Presley, Pulp, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Beck, Talking Heads, Queen, Leonard Cohen, Manic Street Preachers, Stevie Wonder, Richard Hawley
5 Recent Song Picks:
Father John Misty – Château Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
Temples – Move with the Season
King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard – Rattlesnake
The Last Shadow Puppets – The Bourne Identity
Tame Impala – The Less I Know the Better
An impressive list Oliver! Who have been your highlights in your brief career as a critic so far?
I’ve seen a lot of acts and have enjoyed talking to a lot of them. The ones that have stood out for me though are:
- The Shrives – They were my first interviewees and were a good laugh. They played a blinder of a set too, with their brand of catchy punk rock.
- Michael Reddington – I haven’t met him personally but I loved his song ‘The Choices of Few’, which really appealed to me as a Beatles fan
- Putin & the Dolphin – The blend of their harmonies was lovely and a joy too. Not to mention both girls’ on-stage banter is hilarious to witness
- False Heads – Kicked up quite a storm with their raucous set at ‘Nightfish’. I enjoyed their EP too, which confirmed how good they were!
- Bloody knives – The Texan shoe-gazers were a joy to interview and their off-beat sense of humour really came through. Their pummelling set was mesmerising and left many-an-ear ringing the next day!
- Foule – Their set of chilled psychedelia really impressed me and showcased their proficiency as musicians
- Christopher Moody – He was a really friendly fellow and his Americana-infused set was heartfelt and warm.
- The Edi Johnston Bit – His mix of ukulele and comedy went down really well at ‘Wire & Wool’ and made this reviewer giggle a few times.
Well this interview has certainly been interesting Oliver, but we must leave it there. I imagine you have some poetry recital or something like that to attend.
No, it’s a life drawing class actually. Photos to follow.
If this article has piqued your interest, then why not head over to our official Facebook page and give us a like. If you’ve got any upcoming releases that you’d like to submit for review then feel free to drop us a message on the page or get into direct contact with either myself or Will Robinson.
By Oliver Cobbin