my #mwe experience: how a hashtag inspired me to explore other genres

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At the beginning of February I spotted a few tweets from other music writers which used the hashtag "mwe". It turned out that they were talking about a twitter project (#mwe) called Music Writer Exercise. It was the brainchild of Gary Suarez (@noyokoono) and the idea was a simple one - pick an album you've never heard, listen to it once, and then review it in a single tweet.
I was interested. It sounded like a challenge - my regular reviews are 500 words after all - and even better, it would break my listening away from the constant deluge of new releases which arrive daily. I didn't start properly until Feb 2nd, and although I included the new Disappears album on Feb 1st as I got it that day, I resolved to steer clear of new releases and explore some older music which I had missed.

Now, a dumb thing to do would be to collate the succinct tweets composed as part of #mwe into a single blog post, as that would destroy the whole point of the project, so instead I decided to write about what I gained from the task.
I resolved to explore not just bands which I hadn't heard, but whole genres that I was in the dark about. So indie-rock, post-punk, psych-folk and electronica were side-stepped in favour of some classic albums plucked out of the 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die book (due to time factor they had to be on Spotify), and a pile of cheap CDs that I got last year in an HMV which was closing down. I reckon I can die happy without hearing a Frank Sinatra or Red Hot Chili Peppers album all the way through, so I did use some quality control when selecting items from the book, although ultimately I felt I needed to explore the worlds of country, soul, R'n'B as well some classic "names" who I was ignorant of (Rundgren, Fairport, The Dead).

Over the course of the month, I put my previous prejudices to one side and opened my ears, as I discovered that Alice Cooper was once the name of the band not the frontman and they sounded a bit like Syd Barrett, that the Electric Prunes and the Style Council were both worse than I expected, and that Circle Jerks were a way better punk band than Bad Brains - in my knee-jerk twitter opinion that is, of course. Slowdive's Pygmalion did not come across as the classic which I was led to believe it was, but Zappa's Lumpy Gravy, Madvillain's Madvillainy and Dr John's Gris-gris had me scratching my head, thinking why had I never heard these albums before? Loads of twitter folk joined in with the challenge, and I hope they all had as much fun as I did.

Listening order below, tweets at

1. Irreal - Disappears (2015)
2. Phaedra – Tangerine Dream (1974)
3. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You – Aretha Franklin (1967)
4. Gris Gris – Dr John (1968)
5. I Against I – Bad Brains (1986)
6. Something/Anything? - Todd Rundgren (1972)
7. Eternally Yours – the Saints (1978)
8. Group sex- Circle Jerks (1980)
9. Pygmalion - Slowdive (1995)
10. Phrenology – the Roots (2002)
11. I Know What Love Isn't - Jens Lekman (2013)
12. Jack Frost - Jack Frost (1991)
13. Trust Now - Prince Rama (2011)
14. Krull Bol - This is the Kit (2008)
15. The Electric Prunes - The Electric Prunes (1967)
16. De-loused in the Crematorium – Mars Volta (2003)
17. Get Lost - Mark McGuire (2011)
18. Eden - Everything but the Girl (1984)
19. Wave Like Home - Future Islands (2008)
20. Unhalfbricking – Fairport Convention (1969)
21. Talking Timbuktu – Al Farka Toure & Ry Cooder (1994)
22. Mama’s Gun – Erykah Badu (2000)
23. Pretties for You - Alice Cooper (1969)
24. American Beauty - the Grateful Dead (1970)
25. Café Bleu – Style Council (1984)
26. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road – Lucinda Williams (1998)
27. Madvillainy - Madvillain (2004)
28. Lumpy Gravy - Frank Zappa (1967)

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