Friday, May 22, 2009
I'm very sad to hear that Plan B magazine is to close. As others have pointed out, it wasn't the web that necessarily did for Plan B: the advertising recession meant it was no longer possible to keep the magazine going without cutting staff, pages and print quality. They did the right thing to quit while they were ahead: nobody would want something as special as Plan B to fall into terminal decline like Melody Maker or other magazines. It's a serious blow for music journalism. Plan B allowed its contributors the kind of freedom that had all but disappeared from the mainstream music press, and its passion, wit and intelligence was a joy to behold, even when you disagreed strongly with a writers' opinion. It looked amazing too, with beautiful photographs and illustrations that captured the personality of the music.
This feels like the end of an era. I first picked up Plan B's predecessor, Careless Talk Costs Lives, when I moved to Glasgow to study journalism in 2002. Increasingly frustrated by the NME and a bit bored of Mojo's dad rockness, I needed something that directed me to the world of possibilities I sensed was surely out there. Meeting my Beard co-conspirator Neil Jacques, and discovering Stephen Pastel's then recently opened Monorail record store were important factors in my awakening, but CTLC played a huge role in my exploration of unknown realms. At first it seemed infuriating. I'd never really been a big Melody Maker reader, so I was perhaps unprepared for Everett True's wildly opinionated and personal writing. This was not how we were being told to write in journalism class! But I soon came to love the magazine's approach, and came to trust its writers' integrity and passion. CTCL tore the retrogressive bullshit of NME's trumpeted New Rock Revolution to pieces, all the while pointing me to the good shit. The magazine also had a strong sense of underground music history, and with Neil's record collection and a shop like Monorail at hand, it wasn't difficult to access the likes of Daniel Johnston or Jad Fair - indeed, both artists performed wonderful shows in Glasgow during the summer of 2003. CTCL was the first place I read about Peter Brotzmann, thanks to a free jazz roundup by the excellent Jon Dale. The striking illustration (apologies, I don't have a copy at hand to credit the artist) of a walrus 'tasched bezerker made me think, 'I wanna check that crazy motherfucker out'. I didn't actually get round to that for another few of years, but a seed was planted.
Plan B continued what CTCL had started, but thanks to the direction of Frances Morgan, developed its own personality. It was broader in scope, perhaps a little less cranky, but still hugely characterful. While indie-rock focused, it had the confidence to cover grime, techno, dubstep, noise, metal, experimental music and pop in a passionate, knowledgeable manner. As a poster on the Plan B forum put it, a magazine that can write about Keiji Haino alongside Britney is right up my street. I'm really proud to have contributed to recent issues, albeit in a minor way, and have my modest efforts placed alongside pieces by such intimidatingly great writers as Frances, Neil Kulkarni, Everett True, Joseph Stannard, Petra Davis, Kicking K, Lauren Strain, Miss AMP, Richard Stacey, George Taylor, Nicola Meighan, Daniel Barrow, Euan Andrews, Louis Pattison, John Doran, Matt Evans, Melissa Bradshaw et al.
The CTCL and Plan B forums have been lively and friendly places over the years, helping me through several crappy temp jobs and various episodes of personal angst. The forums introduced me to all kinds of amazing music, books and films, and, most importantly, to some wonderful people. It began for me when a few of us Glasgow posters realised we were all going to the same gigs. A meet up was surely in order. Good times and great friendships ensued, and various ATP's, Green Man's and other festivals brought posters from further afield together. We even ended up meeting some of the Plan B staff, who turned out to be as generous, friendly and righteous as their writing suggests. This open and good natured spirit continues. It's no great exaggeration to say that CTCL and Plan changed my life.
As the staff have pointed out, this is not the end, but an opportunity for new beginnings. I can't wait to see what its staff and contributors get up to next and wish them all the best for the future.
Finally, let me direct you to some excellent posts by Everett True, Daniel Barrow, Jon Dale and Ned Ragget.