Jan 09

10 Years Of Freaky Trigger: March 1999

FT11 comments • 961 views

Original FT Logo 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.


  1. 1
    byebyepride on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Tom invented Freaky Trigger on a bus journey in the mid-90s. Typically, it took him 5 years to do anything about it.

    Now if I’m thinking of the same bus journey, it was in Edinburgh, riding along Princes St, on a very wet day. And if taking 5 years to do something about it is typical for you, I don’t think I’ve gotten around to doing anything yet!! Still maybe in another ten years…

    Long live Freaky Trigger.

  2. 2
    Matthew on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Though in a way I hope there is an 11-year cyclical basis to rock history, because that would mean we were due for something interesting in a year or two!

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 29 Jan 2009 #

    So what was the mindblowing development in 1999/2000?

  4. 4
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Freaky Trigger! Do keep up!

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Ah. Yes. And there was me thinking it might have something to do with the Vengaboys.

  6. 6
    Tom on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Not many people were into the Vengaboys in 1999 – but everyone who heard them formed a band.

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, a glance at the top 40 new entries for March 1999 suggests this was a pretty inauspicious time to launch a pop site, so it’s a good thing the first things I wrote about were Jim O’Rourke and the Auteurs. Ahem.

  7. 7
    Tom on 29 Jan 2009 #

    More from the vaults:

    1. I can’t remotely remember who did us this logo, and I’m not totally sure we ever actually used it!

    2. I discovered that my original HTML template – since I’d never once ‘coded’ anything in my life before – was Simon Reynolds’ “Unfaves Of 1998” (#1 – Broken Beats). So thanks to Simon there!

  8. 8
    Kat but logged out innit on 29 Jan 2009 #

    So what was the mindblowing development in 1999/2000?

    Er, starts with ‘B’, ends in ‘ritney’?

    (Or more accurately, starts with M and ends in Ax Martin – I know he did lots of stuff beforehand but by 1999 EVERYONE seemed to be copying him…)

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Good call Kat. How about starts with ‘H’, ends in ‘earsay’ (or earache)? Popstars debuted in New Zealand in ’99. Not quite mindblowing, but it did lead to the best British pop group of this decade.

  10. 10
    Kat but logged out innit on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Absolutely. And Will Young! (I heart Will Young.)

    I would dearly love to hear Will Young singing over a banging Max Martin production.

  11. 11
    mike on 30 Jan 2009 #

    So what was the mindblowing development in 1999/2000?

    Napster launched in June 1999.

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