Freaky Trigger is ten years old this March. We’re going to have a few things celebrating that fact – some kind of party, some other bits of special content – but this is also a really good opportunity for me to revisit some of the stuff we’ve published over the last decade. Hence this series, which will showcase one post from every month we’ve been around. If you want to just follow the showcased material without my linking waffle, this is the page for you! Go there right now and enjoy it as we add things to it, bit by bit.
This may seem monstrously self-indulgent, and indeed it is. But there’s three good reasons for doing it.
First, ten years is a long time on the Internet.
Second, we’ve been modestly influential – as a music blog especially – and so a history of Freaky Trigger will also be an oblique history of “the blogosphere”: the trends, schisms, enthusiasms, changes and follies of blogging and pop criticism in the 00s.
Third – and most important – we’ve printed loads of really terrific criticism and even if you read it at the time you’ve probably forgotten about it. Of course, not everything I link to will be terrific – certainly not everything by me! – but a lot will be.
So here’s the first post: Triggerism. I wrote this the day I started Freaky Trigger: I don’t remember writing it. The prehistory of FT is fairly straightforward – I talked about doing a fanzine with Alex Thomson on a bus journey in London once, and then we never did it. Freaky Trigger is what it would have been called. When I started getting involved in USENET in the late 90s I took the name with me, and it turned into a series of emails. In early 99 I decided to start a website, and this is it: initially nobody outside my usual haunts read it. (Here’s me spamming a.m.a. with it).
What I actually listened to at this point was mostly indie, with some techno and experimental music. I was paying attention to pop and R&B but it wasn’t driving my taste in the way it came to. From arguing on a.m.a. though I realised I was more pro-pop than most, and had more to say about pop than most people, and so there was always a sense that this would be what set Freaky Trigger apart.
You can see that in this statement of intent: reading it now I’m a little surprised at how combative bits are, I guess because I was writing for an audience of alt.music.alternative regulars who I already wrangled with on a regular basis. The fiery bits are, characteristically, balanced by equivocation – maybe, probably, it’s up to you…. I have never been an especially convincing crusader.
What was I crusading against? A pretty limited range of things: Uncut magazine, Mojo, the lack of good online music sites… back in 1999 there was USENET, which was already drowning in spam. There were a few classic rock dudes like Mark Prindle and alt.rockers like Perfect Sound Forever. There were Glenn MacDonald and Pitchfork, but I didn’t know about them yet. There wasn’t a blogosphere. There wasn’t anything like Last FM. In that essay I’m contrasting the reception of Radiohead with 2 Bad Mice and Dionne Warwick: OK, R’head still get more credit now but 2 Bad Mice and Dionne certainly get their due. And truth be told in 1999 the picture wasn’t so different, except the Internet hadn’t caught up. So there was an opportunity to dust off some stances that had served pop critics well in the past and deploy them on the net. And that, pretty much, is what I was doing here.