I am becoming aware that recently I’ve been giving every podcast the maximum 5 brain rating. I’m worried that if I just keep saying “yes, this is great ” then there’s no benchmark. Not everything can be perfect all the time can it? So in the interest of balance and not giving everything top marks, here is one that is something of a problem child. I hope you’ll understand my reasons here and give it a go anyway. Well as much as you can. Read on and I’ll explain this rather cryptic introduction.
So what’s it about?
Disgraceland is a podcast covering the various scandals and misdemeanors of music’s great and good (and bad). Each episode covers a different story and they run the whole gamut of decades and genres. There are some wild tales to be found here, and also some heartbreaking ones too, but each is told with the amount of respect deserved. Just because someone is famous, doesn’t make them an exhibit to be held up for public amusement does it? Or maybe you think it does. Maybe you like to read the paparazzi infested gossip magazines. Whatever, I’m not your dad. I can’t tell you what to do.
The show is narrated by Jake Brennan. He also writes, produces and composes the music, so the credits list is rather short. I first heard Jake on his other podcast Dead And Gone, about people who disappeared following The Grateful Dead around the country. This true crime podcast is on my “to review” list, and will be getting 600 or so words dedicated to it very soon.
Jake has the kind of achingly cool American voice that you would expect someone who narrates rock music podcasts to have. His voice sounds like sunshine, surf wax, petrol and pot (at least to a Welsh nerd anyway). I don’t mean any disrespect here. He’s not just someone who sounds the part. He has a deep knowledge of musical history and he has a real talent for bringing any story to life, regardless of the era. This is purely down to his skill as a writer, and he avoids the usual cut and paste from Wikipedia problems that other shows on music history (by much more well known presenters) have fallen into.
Is it any good?
Yes and no.
Now, I’m a massive music fan and I’m not really fussy about what I listen to. The playlist on my phone runs from Dixieland Jazz, to Death Metal, Psy-trance to 1970s Japanese Funk with some traditional West African music and Musique Concrete thrown in for good measure. There aren’t many stories told that I’m not familiar with, although there are a few. Because of this, I could rate it low and say “well, there aren’t any new stories here, I’ve heard them all before”. That’s not how I do things though. Just because I know something doesn’t mean that you will, so I keep powder dry and save my penalties for other things.
Want to hear about the time Jerry Lee Lewis wanted to murder Elvis? Or maybe you want to learn about Syd Barrett’s psychological fall from grace. Maybe you’re interested in the sorry story of Britney Spears’ lost childhood and subsequent mistreatment. If so, this is the show for you. Unfortunately, this is about all you’ll learn because this podcast seems to be subscription only. Or rather, you can listen for “free” on subscription based platforms. You can get the full thing on Amazon, or Apple podcasts, but I dont use them. There are very few episodes that are truly freely available, and the ones that are are brilliant. This makes the situation all the more annoying because I really want to rate this show higher.
Jake’s style of writing is like a (much) better version of the journalist Mick Wall. He puts himself in the situations that occur, and that really makes for an exciting story. For my money, Jake is a way better writer than Mr. Wall anyway. I’d love to read a full length biography written by him, or even better an audiobook narrated by him.
As you know, and are probably bored of me telling you now, I only like to review podcasts that are freely available to everyone. This is certainly a good show, and very interesting, but I feel I can’t rate it higher purely because of the lack of available episodes. Even some that show up in my podcatcher won’t actually play.
The more cynical of you may well think that I’m picking on this podcast just to give it a poor rating, but I’m really not. I love this series and it’s a real shame when a new episode shows up in my list and it won’t play. Jake has his reasons and I’m not going to be all millennial (apart from the fact I’m too old) and expect everything for free all the time. It’s just disappointing that I get teased with such good content, and not get the whole shebang.
This is unfortunately a fatal flaw in an otherwise brilliant series.
You can get disgraceland here:
Or a few episodes from your usual podcatcher.