Thursday, July 14, 2005


Sloan's A Sides Win (Koch Music), Super Furry Animals' Love Kraft (XL Recordings), and Supergrass' Road to Rouen (Capitol Records)

Critical acclaim won’t pay the bills and a cult following won’t sign the checks. In fact, I’m sure that cult following doesn’t even own a checkbook. Yet, every time you read about Supergrass, the Super Furry Animals and Sloan, the article or review makes mention of their special status as if struggling stateside was a badge of honor, something that these bands have worked years to achieve. Sloan is huge in Canada but they couldn’t be happier about being semi-obscure in America! The Super Furry Animals are one of the most innovative bands in existence and even Paul McCartney loves them but they’re just a tad too kooky for us. And Supergrass—man, they’re like huge in England but over here…well, c’mon, have you seen them? They’re not a very good-looking group of guys.

Generally speaking, every time the two aforementioned terms—critically acclaimed and cult following— are used, it means that there’s a degree of inaccessibility involved and more energy will be required for the process of “getting it.” Critics assume it will never catch on in the mainstream because there’s a distinct, palpable ingredient that prevents the album or movie or book from being digested en masse. And in respect to all three of these bands, this could not be further from the truth and labeling them as such reinforces an unfortunate handicap. If these bands don’t sell well it’s because we’re alienating them from the potential fans because Supergrass, Sloan and the Super Furry Animals all write some of the most accessible music out there.

Nothing proves this more than Sloan’s newest release, A Sides Win. The immensely enjoyable compilation is the first greatest hits package that the band has released in its fourteen years of existence. Consider that the Canadian foursome’s individual albums are all hearty feasts of power pop; it should therefore come as no surprise that their singles collection acts as a rock and roll schooling for the uninformed. Admiringly, the sixteen tracks are compiled in chronological order taking us through Sloan’s development from eager Sonic Youth’s fans to sincere Kiss emulators (and everything in between). “Money City Maniacs” is a classic rock hit written twenty years too late and “If It Feels Good Do It” is an anthem destined for arenas. There’s nothing “cult” about a band that could rock your underwear and socks off.

Both Supergrass and the Super Furry Animals have recently released their greatest hit packages respectively entitled Supergrass is 10 and Songbook making both Love Kraft and Road to Rouen their first post-compilation release. Ostensibly, both bands are starting from scratch and are now embarking on Phase Two. Super Furry Animals, the prolific Welsh collective, gets more interesting and progressive as time goes on. Their last proper album Phantom Phorce came accompanied with a DVD of animated videos for every song. For the tour behind Rings Around the World, SFA traveled with enormous 5.1 surround sound speakers to place around every venue they played in. But now with Super Furry Animals’ seventh album, it seems the shtick is over as they sing,” Lets get our s*** together.” Love Kraft, the first time all five members contribute to the songwriting process, is another notable step in their psychedelic pop journey and despite the multiple contributors, this feels like their most consistent record yet. Songs like “Ohio Heat” and “Back On A Roll” are both charming acoustic clap-alongs and “Psychlone!” and “Frequency” are harmony-heavy trips into violin city. While in the past the band has exploited those towering speakers as animals, this time they seem more interested in just being super.

The Manchurian trio Supergrass began as sloppy and spirited upstarts but developed into skilled and honed musicians as their careers progressed. They even have a pair of classic and quintessential British recordings under their belts (I Should Coco and In It For the Money) placing them in the rarest of categories: a Britpop band with longevity. And even though Gaz Coombes, Mickey Quinn and Danny Geoffrey have matured as musicians doesn't necessarily mean they've matured as people. Their first song off the album cheekily entitled “Tales of Endurance, Parts 4, 5, 6” starts off with an unprecedented casually strummed guitar and the accompanying piano of a once-hyper band now on Ritalin. There are violins and flugelhorns aplenty, all suggesting a group that’s developed a serene confidence with being a classic rock band in the year 2005. That’s not to say they’re stuck in the past; towards the end of the song, the ‘Grass ventures into Franz riffing their amped guitar into “Take Me Out” territory. Serious rock with a wink is what you find throughout the album (on “Kick In The Teeth,” they Gaz asks, “does a kick in the teeth make it hard to smile?”) making Road to Rouen the path less traveled with the mix playing Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Small Faces along the way.

Ultimately, these are three albums that lead me to the conclusion that maybe cults aren’t all that bad.


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Tip Of The Day
Click Fraud and How to Deter It

Pay per click (PPC) advertising continues to gain popularity in the online marketing world as an effective and inexpensive way to drive targeted visitors to web sites. Research firm eMarketer reported that between 2002 and 2003 the paid search listing market grew 175 percent.

Major trusted search properties such as Google, Overture, FindWhat, Search123 and Kanoodle, all offer PPC campaigns in which you pay only when someone clicks through your banner ad or link. But PPC also has an enemy--click fraud--and understanding what it is and what to do about it should also be a key part of your PPC campaign.

What is Click Fraud?
Click fraud is when someone or something generates illegitimate hits on your banner or text advertisement causing you to pay for worthless clicks. AS PPC campaigns have grown in popularity and keyword prices and bidding have become more competetive, click fraud is on the rise.

Online marketers are becoming increasingly worried about the prospect of click fraud. According to CNET News, some marketing executives estimate that "up to 20 percent of fees in certain advertising categories continue to be based on nonexistent consumers in today's search industry."

This estimate is certainly unsettling for advertisers who, recently, have been paying hefty amounts bidding on desirable search terms. Financial analysts report that in the year 2004 advertisers are paying an average of 45 cents per click. Compare this to 40 cents in 2003 and 30 cents in 2002 the bidding wars continue to rise.

Who's Doing it and Why?
Click fraud perpetrators are most often motivated by trying to increase revenues from affiliate networks or attempting to damage competitors' revenues by forcing them to pay for worthless clicks. The Google Adsense program, in which affiliates receive payment for clicks whether they are real or not, has caused great concern for Google and has intensified its focus on click fraud.

Those engaged in click fraud use a variety of techniques to generate false clicks. Low cost international workers from all over the world are hired to locate and click on ads. The Times of India provided investigative reporting on payment for manual click fraud happening in India. Unethical companies may pay their own employees to click on competitor ads. Last but not least, click fraud can be generated by online robots programmed to click on advertiser or affiliate ads. Some companies go to great lengths creating intricate software that allows for this to happen.

How Can You Deter It?
Many advertisers know about the possibility of click fraud but generally haven't done much in the past to prevent it. Some feel that if they complain to any of the search conglomerates, it could ruin their free listings. Others feel like the problem is beyond them.

"It is a bigger problem, but folks just don't want to take the time to track it down because it's a complex problem," stated John Squire, of web analytics firm Coremetrics, to CNET. "Given that some of the largest marketers manage up to 1 million keywords in a campaign the data can be difficult to crunch."

Companies who do understand and report click fraud to search engine properties have had success receiving refunds for fraudulent clicks. For those advertisers who want to address the possibility of click fraud in PPC campaigns, good option do exists. At the most basic level, advertisers can use general auditing many have been known to compile lists of sites that generate high numbers of clicks but not sales. This will indeed put up a red flag.

On the other hand, because click fraud is advancing at such frequency, click fraud detection companies and software have been popping up all over the country. Let's take a look at some of the options:

- - This fraud detector tracks all PPC search engines, detects multiple IP's, and even pops up a "ClickMinder" after a potential abuser clicks repeatedly over five times.
- ClickDetective - ClickDetective allows you to track return visitors to your site and alerts you if there is evidence that your site may be under attack. Its reports show you every click in real time rather than a summary hours later.
- BogusClick - BogusClick can help advertisers determine competitor IP addresses, originating PPC search engines and/or partner sites involved, as well as keywords used.
- Clicklab - Clicklab employs a score-based click fraud detection system that applies a series of tests to each visitor session and assigns scores. Calculations are made to indicate bad/good sessions to show an advertiser the quality of traffic.

Click fraud is a big problem in search engine marketing that's only going to get bigger in the future. It is wise for any online advertiser to implement some auditing system. Why continue to waste precious campaign money?!

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