Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester; Manchester, England

It's the side details that really sting; how for many last night this was a Christmas gift; children calling their parents during the interval, thanking Mum for letting them go.

Last night would have been the first gig for so many there; the first real gig; the first gig without a parental chaperone. Becoming an adult; becoming grown-up.

Learning to be in a different sort of crowd; in the dark, sharing an experience. Learning to be.

It should have been a story; a throwaway line on a first date ten years hence - "my first gig was Ariana Grande... I know, I know... there were massive pink balloons bouncing off people's heads". It shouldn't have been a horror story.

Ten years hence, it should have been a half-defiant smile at the musical taste of your younger self - because you never really lose that love for the songs that carry you through your teenage years, because there's always a debt there; because those songs, those moments, those gigs are part of you. Your warp. Your weft.

In the dark, in those clubs and arenas, you learn who you are. You learn how you are. You feel your wings spreading. You feel lifted.

And not everyone in those spaces is pure and honest, but alliances are formed. Strangers look out for each other. People you will never speak to, whose names you will never know, will form partnerships with you to push back the bullies and the louts.

You learn who you are. You learn how you are.

There's no shortage of love letters to Manchester in popular culture. Hell, a lot of popular culture is a love letter to Manchester, and its environs. And seeing Manchester rallying in the face of the unimaginable, you're reminded why.

The families of 22 people are waking up to a world changed, unexpectedly, inexorably. Thousands more have many dark and difficult times ahead.

But listening to the radio; reading Facebook and Twitter, you could see Mancunians coming together to help - small acts of kindness; amazing acts of generosity. Caring. Helping.

Alliances with strangers. Partnerships to push back the horror.

In the dark, you learn who you are. You learn how you are.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eurovision 2017: The Liveblog

6.58
An empty room. A figure enters, a cloud of dust billowing up in the light of their torch. They tug at a dustsheet, revealing one of those big old tape-driven computers underneath.

They push a button.

Nothing.

They push more firmly.

"Come on, come on."

The tape spins a half-turn.

The figure pushes the button once again.

This time, the tapes spin, and, slowly, the lights go on in the room. The figure pulls another dustsheet off a computer terminal, sits down and types a sentence:

NO ROCK AND ROLL FUN - BACK FOR THE EUROVISION LIVEBLOG 2017.

They make a mental note to never do this in the NHS IT nervecentre again, though.

7.25
According to the Daily Record, despite Brexit, the UK should clean up tonight:

That's because it's been predicted the United Kingdom will wow its European neighbours and not finish last, for once.
Yay! Not finishing last "for once"

(Although the last time we actually came last was 2010, so... that's not exactly a great leap forward.)

Meanwhile, that same mean spirit of Brexit which is going to drag us out of the EU and into the 1950s is showing up elsewhere. BBC News reports:
The poll of 1,650 Britons by YouGov found 56% would quit the competition.
And it found those who backed Leave in the EU referendum were most likely to want to drop out, with 76% to 21% in favour of quitting. Remain voters were 65% to 35% in favour of competing.
Good god, how shrivelled must your face be to think that Brexit has to mean an end to singing with our nearest neighbours? Jesus, it's even got Australians in it. Australia is happy to be part of it, and they've never even thought about joining the Euro.

7.35
If you're trying to avoid Doctor Who to save it for later, this is worth a few minutes of your time - Paul Cotterill on his Dad and Eurovision:
From childhood memory, dad did not speak not much at home, and spent free time alone on the hills or on his bike, though he always took us out when he could, to show us how to navigate in the mist, and how to “just get up that one last hill, son.”

Yet for one night every year, this strong, silent man — a man who might even be described as drab and fun-free — would be glued to the most undad-like glintz of Euro Song on TV (well, as soon as we had TV — I think we were late adopters); I can still remember his utterly confident prediction of an ABBA win in 1974 as soon as he heard it.

7.45
Meanwhile, in Eastern Ukraine, the Russians have blocked Eurovision, as France 24 reports:
But not all Donetsk musicians are sorry to see Eurovision skirt them by.

Yevgeny Ryba is the lead singer of a popular local rock band called Duglas and treats the pop extravaganza with a big dose of disdain.

"That is not real music," the 40-year-old huffed while taking a break in a local music cafe.

"There is no Eurovision on TV? Fine. They do not show Indian cricket here either," he said with a sarcastic grin.

Ryba's band performed in Donetsk during Eurovision's opening gala ceremony in Kiev last Sunday.

He argued that shows such as his have created a "cultural renaissance" out of the ruins of war and alleviated the constant sense of crisis in the region.

Chkhan agreed that "no one really knows what country we will end up living in".

But she also laughed off the suggestion that the music scene in Donetsk had risen to international standards.

7.55
We were robbed of the chance of seeing Kazakstan taking part this year - they got really, really close. Wikipedia reckons:
Kazakhstan – Khabar Agency became an associate member of the EBU on 1 January 2016, opening up the possibility of a future participation. However, the EBU announced on 28 September that while Khabar Agency were unable to debut in the 2016 contest because they did not have active membership, they are reviewing the rules for the 2017 contest, which may include opening up the possibility of Khabar Agency making its début in the contest. However, Kazakhstan was not on the final list of participating countries announced by the EBU on 31 October 2016.
Not to be. Maybe they can take our place next year.

8.00
And we're off

8.01
Children running through the not-war-torn bits of Ukraine. Ooh, and a beautiful doggy. Isn't Ukraine beautiful (apart from the war-torn bits?)

8.02
Looks like the Ukrainian lottery machine has broken and spilled its balls everywhere.

They're doing a flag parade - "a new tradition" says Graham Norton, although something is either a tradition or its new. Don't pull that Elf On The Shelf shit with us, Eurovision.


8.03
The professional juries have already voted; Norton explains who our jury were - none of them household names.

The flag parade isn't really a parade; it's just the singers emerging from the darkness to wave and walk towards a baying crowd.

The Americans aren't watching live this year, apparently. Despite all that hoopla last year when Logo signed up for it.

8.08
The three presenters are very diverse - one has a beard, one has a glittery jacket and one looks like a cowboy from a low-rent Westworld.

8.09
Seymour is a Euro fact machine, which is like a love machine. But with facts. What? What does that mean?

8.11
And we're off, again, but now properly.

Israel IMRI "I Feel Alive"

Imri is having all kinds of fun in the into video.

He feels alive everytime we come around, apparently. This sounds like the sort of moribund corpse that you find in the darker corpse of a Ellie Goulding album. It doesn't quite ever get as uptempo as it needs to.

8.14
And to be fair, Goulding can usually bring something like this off; Imri, though, sings with the conviction of a man who knows that his chorus isn't really a chorus.

Poland Kasia Moś "Flashlight"

For a moment I thought that was Fleshlight, which would have been interesting.

Poland are being represented by Eva from Coronation Street.

"Fire... like a burning desire"

Really? Fire like a burning desire? Really?

8.17
Hold on, though, the giant light dog in the background is interesting. Or is it a stag? Hard to keep track.

"HAAAAAYYYY-AYYYYY-AYYYY-OOOOOOH-OOOH-OOOOOH-OWWWWWW"

Norton's suggesting the Polish diaspora might carry it for Eva and Her Giant Dog.

8,20
Belarus Naviband "Story of My Life"
"This is a bit Mumford and Sons" says Norton, and not in the tone of voice you'd usually use for a dire warning.

Oh, god. They look like Persil Automatic have tried to recreate the White Stripes for an advert.

The song is... artisan. In other words, it sounds like it's been made with dirty hands. My suspicion with most things from Eastern Europe that sound jolly and folky is that they're actually singing about the crushing destruction of other nations, and the success of collectivisation.

There's even some yodelling. That should see them sent back to the State Farm.

8.25
Austria Nathan Trent "Running on Air"

The preview vid shows Nathan (who has chosen this name, apparently) in "the studio" nodding along to "the mix".

He's sitting on a half moon, like he's the Dreamworks logo.

Did he just say "if you let me down I'll drown like an edelweiss"

Did he just say "I can't dream of tacos, even if your life's a mess"?

"If you put me down, I'll just get up again" says Nathan confidently. Yeah, I've had cats tell me that in the past.

"I'm sure there'll be good times, there'll be bad times..." Well, you're half right.

8.27
Armenia Artsvik "Fly with Me"

Ooh, I like the billowing smoke monster on the edge of the stage.

This is what the Banarama reunion would be like if Shakespeares Sister had been in charge.

"I'm not sure these ethnic instruments have a Goth setting, captain, but I'll see what I can do".

8.30
Netherlands O'G3NE "Lights and Shadows"

The Netherlands team are out doing some shopping, which is an incredible insight into their life. Three sisters, apparently, and two of them are twins, which sounds like a "brothers and sisters have I none" type riddle.

Two are wearing short skirts and one of them doesn't think they need to do that sort of thing to win.

Kudos for crowbarring the phrase "on a scale of one to ten" into a pop lyric, although the song is more "show us on the doll where he hurt you".

8.35
Looks like the other channels have gone to adverts, lucky sods. We're left with people karaoking an awful version of Volare.

Back to the music:

Moldova Sunstroke Project "Hey, Mamma!"

This band are almost identical to the trio of presenters. Apparently they delighted us in 2010 as well. Moldova isn't a big country, so I guess it's like jury service and you can end up having to do it repeatedly.

This sounds like the sort of track they'd use to advertise tape cassettes in the 80s. Complete with cool guy playing a saxophone.

You're grown men, stop hassling your mothers, dudes.

See you in 2024...

It felt like it was over, but they've decided to go "Hey Mama, hey ma ma ma" until we all die of old age.


8.41
Hungary Joci Pápai "Origo"

He's bringing a milk churn on stage. To play. Like he's a rural version of Stomp!

Joci is dressed like he's recently been cashiered from a 19th century army.

He's got a perturbed face; as if he's not entirely sure why he's been sent to a song contest when he was meant to be ensuring the cannon were fully charged.

Spot of Hungarian rapping, which shows that it's not a language that naturally embraces hip-hop styling.

8.45
Italy Francesco Gabbani "Occidentali's Karma"

This was an early favourite,

Francesco accompanied by the grandchildren of the Spinners, in matching sweaters.

This has been a big radio hit right across Europe, which to be honest makes me feel a bit better about Brexit for the first time since June 23rd. Maybe UKIP had a point.

A man dressed as a gorilla on stage now, which - if memory serves - was one of the gimmicks End Of Part One proposed for Party Political Broadcasts. The monkey is meant to be the best choreographer in Italy, but he's not even very good at wearing a gorilla suit.

8.49
Denmark Anja "Where I Am"

"Your love is repeating".

Try Gaviscon, love.

This song very much stuff which would be better thrashed out with your mates over a third bottle of wine rather than performed at Eurovision.



8.52
Portugal Salvador Sobral "Amar Pelos Dois"

The restaurant is closing; just a couple of tables left; the pianist loosens his bowtie and tries something he's written for himself. The barman stops wiping the glasses and listens; his mind drifts to a forgotten time, and a lost love.

I'll bet Salvador's spent ages desperately trying to work out how to crowbar a man dressed as a gorilla into this, though.

8.57
Bit of business between the presenters. They're reading out tweets.

Azerbaijan Dihaj "Skeletons"

Right, so they're in a schoolroom; she's got goth make-up and a cheap mac over an even cheaper negligee.

In the intor video they looked more like a third-string Indie Top 20 act (a Salad, or something in that order).

Oh! It's that guy with the horse head who used to do Big Brother's Little Brother with Russell Brand. I never thought he'd work again.

Blackboard's over. This is the most kickass detention since the Breakfast Club.

It's not quite as interesting as they thought it was.

9.01
Croatia Jacques Houdek "My Friend"

Instant conspiracy theory in the room is that this is the Hungarian again in a different poorly chosen jacket. There's a reason for this jacket, though - half formal, half rock. He's a shapeshifter, see?

Jacques is doing something that is half 70s MOR, half the Three Tenors. "Do your best, take a test" he appears to be singing.





9.06
Australia Isaiah "Don't Come Easy"

Well, yeah, nobody wants that.

Lovely head of hair. He's clearly been carried a long way on his hair alone.

"It don't come easy; it don't come cheap" he emotes, like a man singing about IT security in the health sector.

9.10
More business from the side of the stage. "Give yourself a cheer" encourages whichever one of the three presenters was hanging about. "People here don't even have to wear shoes" he explains.

9.12
Greece Demy "This Is Love"

She's got massive hands. You could clear a septic tank with those hands.

This sounds like the sort of song you'd write if you wanted to write a song that sounded like a Eurovision winner.

Half naked men have just popped up from the ground. Maybe they were having a look at the tank while they were down there.



9.16
Spain Manel Navarro "Do It for Your Lover"

The run of 'Don't come easy, this is love; do it for your lover' suggest Eurovision doing one of those Spotify playlists

There is a dancing VW camper in the background of this; you would be able to extrapolate the rest of the look and act from that one detail alone.

"Hey, we've bought our guitars to the beach, and we've got a song to sing..."

They've now been superimposed onto surfboards.

Disaster! His voice broke halfway through the performance.

9.20
"Wrong notes there; I wonder if something's going wrong technically" says Norton, generously. Yes, something's technically wrong. These people aren't technically singers.

9.21
Norway JOWST5 "Grab the Moment"

Fucking hell, it's the ghost of Jim Diamond.

"I'm going to kill that boy" sings ghost Jim, which surely should have been enough to have him detained.

Oh, he's going to kill the voice in his head, not a boy.

Wish he'd kill the voice in our heads, which is his voice.

9.25
There's still two hours of this to go.

9.28
There's been a comedy insert. Let's all of us pretend it didn't happen.

United Kingdom Lucie Jones "Never Give Up on You"

Started out at 28-1, you'll recall. So very much the Corbyn of this particular battle.

Stacey Soloman, this could have been you.

Lucie singing like there's a really bad smell under her nose.

One of her eyebrows is a lot higher than the other, and I can't tell if this is acting or just how she came out the box.

"Don't let go when you're so close". How many songs in this Eurovision sound like the lyrics have been cribbed off a poster in an HR office?

You expect the song to burst into something bigger, bolder, better but when it hits the point where that should happen, the gauge is just turned up to Slightly Less Mild.

9.32
Cyprus Hovig "Gravity"

The intro film for this makes Hovig sound so dull they're superimposing a warning about flashing lights to try and inject some danger into proceedings

He's a rip-off Rag And Bone Man.

Gravity is the force which drags you down. Never has a song been so aptly named.

BREAKING: Wish I'd known this important detail before:


9.37
Romania Ilinca and Alex Florea "Yodel It!"

Rap meets yodelling.

Words like 'small children meet chipping machine'

In a strange twist, the yodelling is actually the best bit of the song; the rapping is horrible. Who would have put money on that?

There's canons on stage; hope the guy from Hungary is secure backstage, otherwise we could be in for a tragedy.

9.40
Germany Levina "Perfect Life"

First lying down on the stage of the evening

The lighting makes it look like her head's on fire.

This. Song. Has. Emph. Atic. Beats.



9.50
Ukraine O.Torvald "Time"
Was feeding the cats during this, but could see it was a band going "we're a proper group and we do proper music", with all the late period Ocean Colour Scene that implies.

Belgium Blanche "City Lights"

Was so hoping this was going to be a tribute to Blanche from Corrie.

Blanche looks terrified. More rabbit in headlights than city lights.

Hang on... she's starting to seem a little more confident. "Hey, this isn't so bad, is it? It's going well. I AM going to get through this. Thank god I took the rescue remedy before going on stage."

I bet she's hoping she doesn't win and have to go through that again, ever.

9.54
Sweden Robin Bengtsson "I Can't Go On"

You and all of Europe, Robin.

THEY SHOULD HAVE MADE HIM WEAR UNDERPANTS.

It's like a meerkat in a shopping bag.

Graham Norton warned us about the Australian's eyebrows, and yet didn't mention the cock flapping about like a codfish in a drained ocean?



9.59
Bulgaria Kristian Kostov "Beautiful Mess"

"Born in this century", making us all feel like Bulgaria's Great Uncles.

Kristian is like a baby Michael Mcintyre.

Oh, hang on, he's singing, isn't he? I spent so long wondering if there was some sort of structure holding up his hair, I didn't notice.

10.05
France Alma "Requiem"

Was so hoping this was going to be a tribute to Alma from Corrie

Instead, it turns out to be Kym Marsh marching across a European wasteland. Just shaded into some jaunty marching, but still marching.

Just been discovering how fucking hard-to-get Luxembourg played this year:
While RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg (RTL) announced on 25 May 2016 that they would not participate in the contest, the Petitions Committee of the Luxembourgish Government announced on 21 June that they had received a petition calling on RTL to return to the contest. The Luxembourgish Government have decided to debate the proposals set out in the petition, and the possibility of Luxembourg returning to the contest in future. RTL reiterated its intention not to participate on 22 August.

Meanwhile, Turkey's not here for reasons:
Turkey withdrew after last participating in 2012, due to their discontent at the introduction of a mixed voting system to the contest and the automatic qualification of the Big Five for the final.
Yeah, because if we've learned one thing this year it's how much Turkey values democracy.


Anyway, all the songs are now over, and Europe as one is heading to the toilet. And then will hit the phones, and vote vote vote.

10.08
Oh god, they've dragged back that Biggins-in-space performer from some years back, like a drunk glam teletubby.

10.16
They're brought us Ruslana, who might be the last Great Winner of Eurovision. This is better than pishy Timberlake last year.

And she's wearing Chain Mail.

Can we write-in this as a winner?



10.22


10.25
They're now going to bring together the traditional and contemporary sounds of Ukraine, which I bet sounded like a brilliant idea at the breakfast meeting where they came up with it.

Actually... this is pretty cool. Mainly because they're dressed like sexy Stormtroopers.

In the 'halloween costume' sense of 'sexy Stormtrooper', and the Star Wars sense. Except Halloween costumes never pay to licence brands, so they'd be Sexy Space War Fighters.

10.32
They're talking to a fan. It's hard to say who looks more uncomfortable.

10.33
Presenters have done a costume change, but as you can't remember what they were wearing earlier it's a moot point.

The winner of Junior Eurovision is on, despite it being way past her bedtime. She's a better presenter than the actual presenters. She's not a good presenter, but she's better than them.

10.36
Recap of the contestants again.

Meanwhile, a message to Europe:


10.41
Jamala's on now. Of course, last year Russia moped about her winning song, because they thought it was critical of Russia. Which it was.

Graham Norton's just apologised for a glimpse of a "bare bottom" during this performance.

10.45
Choosing a Eurovision winner, says one of the hosts, is like choosing a chocolate from a box. Difficult, because there's so many delicious ones to choose from. Clearly they've never had Dairy Milk.

10.46
The voting is about to begin.

"The grand wizard" might not be who the Ukrainian hosts think he is.

Off we go to collect the points from the juries...

Sweden first... 12 to Portugal

Azerbaijan has turned up in a tshirt. Cool. 12 to Belarus.

San Marino are hiding behind a giant carboard cut out for some reason. 12 to Portugal.

UK currently have just six points, but that's midtable right now

Latvia have spent the entire budget on hair extensions. 12 to Portugal.

10.50

Israel are showing off their skills at languages, and running through the times they've won. IBA are closing down, says their host, and won't be taking part any more. That's brought things down a bit. They give 12 to Portugal before sliding off into the night.


Montenegro give 12 to Greece, which is a surprise.

Albania have the Very Best Waiter in Tirana giving the scores. 12 goes to Italy.

But Portugal still way out in front.

10.53
Malta pass 12 across the sea to Italy.

Macedonia's evil magician gives 12 to Bulgaria.

10.55
"Greetings from Denmark... where I am". Yes, that's the point. 12 to Sweden.

Austria are very excited. 12 to Netherlands.

Portugal have broken 100.

Evil twins from Norway stop floating and knocking on windows long enough to give 12 to Bulgaria.

10.57
Spain's jury leader looks so regal, she can barely bring herself to talk to us. 12 to Portugal.

Germany are on zero. That's a fucking outrage, Europe.

Finland have been independent for 100 years. Putin's sitting at home saying "that's enough". 12 to Sweden,

France have obviously got the Eufeel tower in the background and won't shut up. 12 to Portugal

11.00
Greece have borrowed the white jacket, but must try to stop getting grass stains on it. 12 to Cyprus.

Lithuania give 12 to Portugal

Estonia have nipped out of a wedding to give 12 to Bulgaria

Moldova say "you've done a great job, really." Clearly being sarcastic. 12 to Romania.

It's unlikely the split voting is going to overturn Portugal's lead.

Armenia could only afford 3/4 of her dress. 12 to Portugal.

11.04
UK languishing in the middle of the table.

Oh, god, they've had to fit in an ad break which means the awful scoring procession has been stopped for some really horrible comedy dancing.

11.06
Bulgaria says "looks like you're having a lot of fun over there", so clearly can't see a TV screen. 12 to Austria.

Iceland's votes being shared by Edward from the League of Gentlemen. 12 to Portugal.

Serbia are smiling too much. Portugal have broken 200.

11.09
A human/koala hybrid from Australia now. 12 to the UK. That's because Australia don't give a shit about Brexit.

Italy is sharing their good karma with us, and if she leans forward in that dress, we'll be sharing a lot more. 12 to Azerbaijan.

Germany giving votes despite still being on a flat zero. The hosts have just made the crowd cheer for Germany, which is a bit patronising. 12 to Norway.

Portugal appear to be wearing a halloween nurse's outfit. 12 to Azerbaijan (nothing to Spain, you note)

Switzerland's boy-man gives 12 to Portugal.

Netherlands have brought a puppy. "This is Tammy, the most wonderful girl in the world." Ukranian host seems as disturbed as the rest of us. 12 to Portugal.

Nicky Byrne is doing the Ireland votes but he doesn't have a puppy. 12 to Belguim. Nothing for the UK.

11.15
Georgia is sleeping in his car right now, but just until things get sorted out, right? 12 to Portugal.

Cyprus is wearing those funny Groucho Marx glasses. 12 to Greece.

Sounds like some booing in the audience for that.

Belarus give 12 to Bulgaria.

Romania refreshingly wipe-clean tonight - it's not a sexy dress, looks more like something you'd wear for woodworking. 12 to Netherlands.

Hungary give their 12 to Portugal, and take them past 300.

Slovenia pass 10 to the UK, and make a joke about the pub. 12 to Portugal.

Belguim got their hair done at Audrey Roberts. 12 to Sweden.

Spain on nul still

Poland give 12 to Portugal.

11.20
Katrina out the Waves reminds us she won 20 years ago; the hosts say "the year I was born". Katrina glowers. 12 to Portugal.

Croatia's dress is a tribute to architecture. If not morality. 12 to Hungary.

Czech give 12 to Portugal.

Last jury is Ukraine, 12 go to Belarus.

It seems unlikely that the popular votes will overturn Portugal's lead.

Norton suggests our indistinguished middle table position is "going quite well".

11.25
NEWS NOW LATE KLAXON.

They're trying to explain the voting system. It still doesn't make much sense.

Host is behind the judges table saying he wants to touch everything. Judges looking scared.

11.26
They're milking this.

Spain have finally got some points.

12 to the UK, which isn't good news at this point of the show.

They ought to be counting down how many available points remain on the screen.

11.30
Hungary have bounced from near bottom to quite high up.

Actually, this is quite tense after all.

Until they start milking it again.

11.32
Belgium did really well in the popular vote for someone who was terrified.

Portugal win.

Hang on, which one was Portugal? Oh, yes. That one. Closing time song.

He's been given a giant glass microphone and jesus was that a gunshot?

11.35
They want "even something" from Salvador. He says something tart about bringing back real music.

"The amazing year comes to an end" says one of the hosts. They don't want to hand over so they're talking and talking and talking.

Salvador is going to do his song all over again. Appropriately, they're going to roll the credits over it, aren't they?

His sister is singing a bit - she's got a better voice than he has.



Obviously, if his sister had sung it for the competition Portugal would have super-won it.

PROGRAMME AFTER THE NEWS NOW LATE TOO KLAXON

11.43
Well, that's that for another year. What have we learned? Only how much the guy from Netherlands loves his dog. And that, perhaps, is enough.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kerrang find a new home

Mixmag media, who own, erm, Mixmag, have bought Kerrang! from Bauer and have big plans for the UK's last rock weekly (No, the NME no longer counts). The plan involves it ceasing to be a rock weekly.

Campaing Live reports:

Jerry Perkins, who runs Mixmag Media, plans to turn Kerrang! from a print weekly to a monthly in the UK and focus on building its global, digital audience.

"Mixmag and Kerrang! are quite similar – they’re ‘f*** it’ audiences," Perkins said. "They like what they like and don’t care about what anyone else thinks."
I think this is a polite way of saying "they're clinging to their unfashionable music tastes, and prepared to pay".

Bauer keeps the Kerrang brand for TV and radio - which isn't going to be easy; the K! radio playlist has drifted quite a way from the K! paper worldview even under the same roof. (Kerrang Radio is less 'fuck it' and more 'gosh, if we must'.)

As part of the deal, Mixmag have also bought the Face brand, with plans to revive it online, and maybe in print. At the time it closed in 2004, The Face had managed to slot itself into self-mythologised irrelevance, so it'll be interesting to see how that works online.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Noel Gallagher is worse than his brother at fashion

To be honest, we'd assumed that Pretty Green set the bar so high for 'terrible Oasis related fashion activity' that it was a record which would never be beaten. Like Seb Coe's 800 metres in 1981, it looked like we'd found a marker in human endeavour that would endure.

But like Seb Coe's record, nothing lasts forever.

There's something worse just round the corner:

Noel Gallagher has partnered with Adidas for a new signature shoe.

The former Oasis guitarist has designed his version of the Garwen SPZL trainers as part of Adidas’ 2017 spring SPEZIAL range.
Hang on a moment, though. It's not just Noel Gallagher Has Designed A Plimsole. Because that would be worthy of being terrible in its own right. But it's the design he's come up with that really lifts this to 'world-beatingly godawful':
The shoe comes in indigo leather and is said to be 70s-inspired, featuring a picture of Noel on the shoe’s tongue and his date of birth inside.
Ninety Nine Pounds. For a shoe that only really functions as a way that Liam can remember when he's meant to send Noel a birthday card.

Some of the Adidas celeb tie-ups now are so bad, I suspect they're just an elaborate trolling activity on the part of a company which has frankly grown bored of fiddling with the sleeve length on football jerseys.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Liveblog: Brits 2017

6.25
You can't keep a good blog down. You're equally unable, it appears, to keep a terrible blog down, and into that latter category falls the 2017 No Rock & Roll Fun Brits liveblog. Hello, everybody.


6.30
This year, we're back at the cavernous, soulless O2, but there's been a change onstage. Out goes Ant n Dec - let's hope they took the Brits Head of Antics with them too. In their place comes Dermot O'Leary. Dermot is a surprising choice of host for the Brits, in that he's a good presenter, charming company and - although he's going to be made to do a bit of business during the show - he'll be able to carry it off.

Oh, and Emma Willis is there too.

(Actually, although Emma Willis isn't the greatest presenter, at least someone at Brits HQ has remembered that women are capable of holding a microphone - there hasn't been a female presenter since Kylie in 2009.)

It wasn't meant to be Dermot though, with or without Emma. The original plan had been for Michael Buble to host. Buble cancelled because his son is seriously ill, which cramps the opportunity to be snarky about it.

Buble could have worked as a host - like James Blunt and Josh Groban, regardless of what you think about their ability to clear a room with their music - they're entertaining when being themselves. But two and a half hours of warm self-deprecation might have been pushing it.

6.31
The "Red carpet" is just starting on ITV2 - which is the sort of phrase that drains the soul, isn't it?

There's an hour of red carpet, so they're going to have to hassle them down the pathway.

6.32
ITV2 show a lot of adverts, don't they?

6.35
They're showing a look back at last year's Brits, "in case you've forgotten". In the way it's possible some people have forgotten the Blitz.

They nearly cut Ant & Dec out of it entirely.

6.36
Ed Sheeran is being grilled about what's going to be in store for his performance. "I've got a few things up my sleeve" he says, not especially mysteriously.

6.38
Ed's looking forward to seeing Skepta. This is as dull an interview as you'd expect.

On another part of the carpet, James Arthur is also being dull. He'd never have thought it would have been possible. And something or other is "one million per cent".

6.41
It's Little Mix. They can't believe how many nominations they've got. It's mental, apparently.

The Mix are promising "a completely different thing we've never done before". Singing in tune, maybe.

Are the dance routines going to be "quite saucy"?

They won't say.

This is illuminating stuff.

It's odd that the Brits have stuck with ITV, isn't it? ITV isn't really the home of Top Quality Awards any more - they've never had the Oscars; gave up on the BAFTAs and even the British Comedy Awards has gone elsehwere. The Brits now sits alongside that one where Carol Vorderman gives prizes to sick kiddies and what feels like a dozen events sponsored by third-tier TV listings mags which exist to give an excuse for Kym Marsh to squeeze into a couture boob tube, and for Helen Flanagan to fall out of similar.

6.45
Crisps, says an ad, are a big deal at Asda. That's the biggest newsline so far this evening.

They're talking about the Zaha Hadid Brits statues now, because you know how an ITV2 audience loves architectural talk.

6.50
Ellie Goulding's turned up and actually is trying to talk about music.

Along the corridor, Craig David is showing off his trainers. It's been sixteen years since he was last nominated and he hasn't really come up with anything to say in the meantime. "It's a prestigious award - as a kid growing up you always dreamed of the awards." Really? Kids dreaming of playing a poorly laid-out cave full of elderly men eating beef wellington? That's the dream?

6.55
Rag N Bone man now - "I don't usually wear a whistle, normally". Yeah, judging by the state of the jacket, that's a safe bet.

This, though, is a suit:



Rag N Bone is now talking about Ian Beale. That's how magic this evening is.

Next up, Blossoms - who look like The Wonder Stuff have just been released from six weeks being held hostage. They look a bit awkward.

7.00
More ads.

7.05
Christine And The Queens - "I'm expecting a great show" she says. Clearly they've never shown this in France, then.

"I'm just happy to be nominated" she says, "it's already winning to be amongst the category of powerful ladies."

The Category Of Powerful Ladies is a Alan Moore book waiting to be written.

Rita Ora trots up, four times nominated and never a win. She says her outfit is "emerald queen of the forest" but it looks like a Vajazzled ill-fitting camo jacket.

7.09
Emeli Sande, like all the other performers, is refusing to reveal the secret for her performance this evening. It's a parade of wait and see.

A note on diversity: this year's shortlist seems a little more adventurous than in previous years, but still less diverse than, for example, the Top 40 is. You can see they've tried, though. Sadly, it's like when Donald Trump finally manages to denounce anti-Semitism - knowing how hard the world had to push to get them there rather undermines the power of the message.

7.11
Stormzy actually looks really good in his suit. If you're going to do a suit, people, do a suit. Don't do it apologetically or ironically. That's the rule.

He's been challenged to get a selfie with Little Mix, which is a bit like challenging someone shoeless in the Arctic to get frostbite.

7.15
For fucks sake, the 1975 have turned up cosplaying Interview With The Vampire.

7.22
I'm frying eggs while Whiley is being very excited about being on TV - he's the first person who seems genuniely thrilled to be here.

7.27
Katy Perry is a consumate professional - she says as little as most of the other guests, but is able to disguise it.

She's into a rambling story about snot and Natalie Imbruglia.

7.30
Somehow the Red Carpet programme has managed to over run. Lets shoot over to ITV...

Robbie's star has sunk so low he's reduced to doing the Mastercard break bumpers this year.

7.33
Dermot O'Leary (and Emma Willis) is stood on top of the O2 to start the programme. With Williams, Mars and Sande in the line-up, you might choose to stay there, mate.

Little Mix are being carried onto the stage by what looks like those people who paint themselves silver and stand around at Covent Garden. The band themselves are wearing what would happen if Kwik Fit tried to make Beyonce's outfits out of used tyres.

This is Shout Out My Ex, which is one of the last year's best pop songs, to be fair.

And it's not The Saturdays.

Dermot's doing that thing where he sucks his finger and looks puzzled. And Emma's reading an autocue.

All everyone's love is being sent to Michael Buble - there was some genuine applause but in the cavernous O2 it sounded a little underwhelming.

Dermot's doing that thing where he shoves his fist into his mouth.

They're doing the social voting thing for best artist again this year, which is touching faith in democracy in the year we've just had.

7.41
David Tennant. Swoon. He's doing the female solo artist. Not like that.

Nom list:
Ellie Goulding
Anohni
Emeli Sandé
Lianne La Havas
Nao

Emeli Sande has won, which suggests we're in for a night of the dullest lack of surprises ever.

7.42
That's a long walk to the stage for everyone tonight. Lots of coverage of walking.

Emeli mumbles something about the journey. She's brought her sister on stage with her, and thanks the rest of the family for good measure.

Actually maybe everyone else is getting thanked.

7.45
Oh. Already on to the adverts.

God, I despise that #fooddancing thing - you just know the phrase "the Great British Public" was uttered while it was being thought-swamped out of an advertising meeting

7.49
They're trailing The Voice during this. The words "are you a glutton for punishment" are implied.

Dermot just said the O2 is one of the great music venues, except it's not, is it? Apart from being the only place that size with a roof, it's not got much going for it.

Bruno Mars is dressed as New Edition tonight. We've got it if we want it, he tells us. Actually we're lumbered with it whether we like it or not.

7.54
Is "that's not showy" a compliment? If it is, that's the nicest thing I can say about this.

Mars is now telling the ladies he's going to break it down, because it's that part of the song.

7.55
Emma Willis loves Bruno Mars.

Maisie Williams and Romesh Ranganathan are here for the best band. Maisie has apparently come from touching up the paint in the bathrooms.

Noms:
The 1975
Bastille
Biffy Clyro
Little Mix
Radiohead

Little Mix versus Thom Yorke.

It's hard to say who'll win out the two bands playing tonight.

The 1975 win it.

This is, it turns out, mental. "The reason we're here is because of our album." Well, yes, that's how it works.

It's been fifteen minutes since the adverts. So lets have some more, then.

Samsung are showing the quality assurance process their phones go through. Even the ones which catch fire, presumably.

8.03
Just two hours left, everyone. Just two hours. Just...

Dermot is in the crowd of (probably) Brits School kids

Oh, yes, that is who they are.

Emma's been left on the stage to cue up Zane Lowe doing male solo artist. Zane Lowe!

Noms:
Kano
David Bowie
Craig David
Michael Kiwanuka
Skepta

David Bowie has won it. He hasn't turned up. "If David Bowie was here tonight, he wouldn't be here tonight" says Michael C Hall, picking up the prize.

8.08
"Lovely stuff" says Dermot, uncertain how to segue into Emeli Sande playing live.

They keep insisting that Emeli Sande has been away for four years, but she seems to have been everywhere all the time, and this song seems to be the same one she was doing during the Olympics, so how does that work?

8.11
Sande has dressed her dancers in the frumpiest outfits I have ever seen anyone dance in, and that includes that time one of Queen dressed up as Ena Sharples.

8.12
The clock says it was four minutes, but that felt a lot more like half of my remaining life dripping away during it.

"She is a firecracker" says Emma Willis, confusing competence with incandescence.

Oh, another break.

8.17
Breakthrough Award time. Rita Ora is doing the honours for this one, accompanied by The Sliding Rajar himself, Nick Grimshaw.

Noms:
Anne-Marie
Blossoms
Rag'n'Bone Man
Skepta
Stormzy

It should either be Skepta or Stormzy, but the dunderheads at the Brits are going to give it to Raggedy Boneman, aren't they?

Yes. Inevitably they do.

8.20
Apparently Ragged Bowman spent ten weeks at number one in Germany, which probably isn't going to help us with the Brexit negotiations.

He's unable to busk a thank you speech.

Back on the floor, Dermot is sitting at Ed Sheeran's table for a little chitty-chat.

And now The 1975 are taking to the stage to literally earn the award they've been given. They've brought a large gospel choir with them to... well, really, just to make the sides of stage seem a lot less empty as they're not really high enough in the mix to do anything much else. They could have done pot plants and lamps for a third of the budget.

They're flashing up some critical messages on a disgusting salmon pink background - I suspect it's intended as a 'ha! fuck you' to anyone who's criticised them in the past, but it actually comes across a little needy. "Trying too hard" reads one of the cards - and, yeah, that's actually valid criticism here.

A couple might have been wry, but spending so much time throwing them on the screen felt a little... well... like this:
"And now we move onto the liars..."

8.26
"It's time for a break." Of course it is.

8.27
The Brits, traditionally, doesn't have a 'those we have lost' section - presumably because back in the early days, pop star death was still quite rare and it was still a (relatively) young person's game, so there simply weren't enough stiffs to populate a three minute montage over Annie Lennox doing 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone'.

The movie industry - and the more classic-inclusive Grammys - have always had enough losses to justify a special departure gate.

This year, with Bowie and Leonard Cohen amongst the nominees, should be the one that makes the organisers realise it's time for a pause to remember those who died during the year. At the moment, we get the odd splash for very big names, but many significant figures are allowed to slip away without even a mention. It's right to give thanks for George Michael, but there should be room for Rick Parfitt, too.

8.31
If you must celebrate a rag & bone man... try this:


8.32
And they have done a full memorial section. Although the names are crowded on the screen so it's more like a video game than a moment of reflection.

8.34
Ridgeley, Pepsi and Shirley have come on stage to pay tribute to George. Andrew looks more like Philip Green these days, it turns out.

It's nice to see all three of them on stage together again. It's easy to forget there was a time that Wham were presented as a four-piece....

8.37
Shirley talking about how a label gave the young band a chance, although the way Michael was screwed over by the labels probably not the best of memories.

Shirley's breaking down a bit.

This is quite a long talky bit.

They're bringing on Chris Martin to do A Different Corner, which is a bit like a tribute to Red Rum ending with the pantomime horse from Rentaghost running about the stage.

Martin is murdering this.

8.42
Chris Martin is pouring All The Emotions(TM) into this, like a man who bought a big tub of Emotions at Costco and is prepared to use it in one go.

8.44
"If I could, I would, I swear" says Chris Martin. But you can't, so you shouldn't, I'm afraid.

8.45
Ghostly bit of Prince saying "George Michael" on the big screen.

And then it's off to more adverts.

8.47
Meanwhile, it turns out that The 1975 might not have the smartest fans:







Yeah. Not hacked. Not really that edgy, either, come to that.



8.50
British single time...

Here's the noms:
Alan Walker – "Faded"
Calum Scott - "Dancing On My Own"
Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna – "This Is What You Came For"
Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – "Rockabye"
Coldplay – "Hymn for the Weekend"
James Arthur – "Say You Won't Let Go"
Jonas Blue featuring Dakota – "Fast Car"
Little Mix – "Shout Out to My Ex"
Tinie Tempah featuring Zara Larsson – "Girls Like"
ZAYN – "Pillowtalk"

Holly and Fearne are on ("both named after plants" says Emma helpfully) to do the honours.

8.52
Little Mix have won it. I suspect based on the options available, that's as good as it could be.

They manage to get lost heading from the audience to the stage, which is quite a feat.

A shot of Cowell sitting in the gloom, chewing and nodding.

8.55
Katy Perry being thrown on to stop people turning over at the 9pm programme junction. She appears to have got trapped in Bekconscot Model Village.

The houses are dancing with her which is at least better than just throwing human dancers at the stage in a bid to fill the space. Visually, it works pretty well.

Pretty the song is like half a No Doubt b-side masquerading as Romania's Eurovision entry.

There's two enormous dancing skeletons on the stage with her now. And Skip Marley, who isn't a giant skeleton.

Now the houses have legs.

9.00
Jonathan Ross - remember him? - has come on to give the Special Prize Allowing Us To Give A Prize To Someone We Like Award.

(Adele, and Global Success.)

Adele picks up the prize on video because she's a global success and doesn't need to turn up to shit like this.

9.04
Emma Willis is down at the table with Rog n Bowlmen. Dermot is also there. Remember the name - Rag n Bone Man will be the subject of 2022 Where Are The Now pieces.

9.05
Skepta is taking to the stage. No dancing houses. Oh, and ITV are muting the swearing which kind of misses the point of showing the programme.

They are putting 'Audio muted' on the screen, though, so 1975 fans don't think its ITV being hacked again.

So far, he's responding to the massive stage by moving around it and being good.

9.08
No dancing houses. No choir. Just lights and charisma.

9.09
British video vote is now closed. Your chance to shape destiny is over, unless the House Of Lords can slip something into the Article 50 Bill before it returns to the Commons.

9.10
Oh... the skeletons with Katy Perry were meant to be Trump and May? Missed that little bit of politics there; I assumed it was some sort of oblique reference to Pink Floyd.

9.13
It's international male awards time - Clara Amfo, Alice Levine & Laura Jackson, who had been doing the red carpet earlier. "You're doing a great job" they tell Dermot and Emma. Like being applauded by the B-team.

Noms:
Bon Iver
Bruno Mars
Drake
Leonard Cohen
The Weeknd

Drake has won it. Not Bruno Mars. Not Mars, who turned up and did a song. Drake isn't even in the O2. He's not even in Greenwich. This is the closest thing we have to an upset.

The same trio do international female and international group - they don't even bother to read the nominations out.

Beyoncé
Christine and the Queens
Rihanna
Sia
Solange

and then

A Tribe Called Quest
Drake and Future
Kings of Leon
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Twenty One Pilots

Beyonce and Tribe win. Not even a VT of them pretending to be delighted.

And before you can even go 'A Tribe Called...', it's the big reveal of the secret collaboration.

Coldplay and Chainsmokers. "We had to sign the official secrets act" trills Emma, apparently unaware that Stereogum announced the collaboration an hour ago.

9.20
Chris Martin gets mobbed by the crowd. But they let him go to finish the song.

This is as dull as you'd expect it to be.

Let's just focus on how they gave an award to Beyonce and didn't play a single fucking note of her music, shall we? Why the hell did the Best International Male get their nominations treated like a proper award and the female shortlist didn't even have their names read out?

Did Christine And The Queens know that was going to happen when she suffered the foolish Red Carpet interview earlier?

9.25

When you see it like that, it makes sense.

9.27
Video award time. Remember, it was our votes that counted. If we voted.

Simon Cowell and Nicole out the yoghurt ads are presenting this one. Neither of them really seem to know what they're meant to be doing.

Here's the shortlist:
Adele – "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)"
Coldplay – "Hymn for the Weekend"
James Arthur – "Say You Won't Let Go"
Little Mix featuring Sean Paul – "Hair"
One Direction – "History"
ZAYN – "Pillowtalk"
Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – "Rockabye"
Jonas Blue featuring Dakota – "Fast Car"
Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna – "This Is What You Came For"
Tinie Tempah featuring Zara Larsson – "Girls Like"

The winner is... One Direction. Of course. It might be a surprise for those of us who assumed they'd already been broken up for parts.

9.30
Simon Cowell starts bellowing thank yous over the top, forgetting that he's meant to be awarding, not accepting. How did ITV get him to present in a category where there was a chance one of his puppety figures would win?

9.32
Ed Sheeran's here to sing us all a song now. As usual, he's so bland he's making James Blunt sound like Little Richard.

9.36
Stormzy's joined him. It's not really helped. Like putting horseradish sauce on a bit of luncheon meat.

9.37
There doesn't really feel like there's any forward motion to this show - it's not just they're building to Robbie Williams as if that was a big finish, but there's not really any energy. Even when one of the acts manages to spark life into the O2, it vanishes before they make it to the next ad break.

9.40

This is as credible as his claim he was making love by Wednesday.

9.41
Well, we're in the final stretch. Lets hold it together.

Last award is for Album of the year...

The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It
David Bowie – Blackstar
Kano – Made in the Manor
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
Skepta – Konnichiwa

Oh, just when you thought it couldn't get worse, Noel Gallagher (a "stick it to the man rockstar" according to Emma) shuffles on to do the prize giving bit.

David Bowie wins it, and Duncan Jones comes to pick up his Dad's prize.

"He's always been there for people who think they're a little bit strange" says Duncan of his Dad. (And there for Craig David,too)

It's Emma's turn to fumble the switch from a heartfelt tribute to next award.

We're now moving to hearing why Robbie Williams won the third-ever Icon award. It would be a stretch at any time, but straight after a prize for an album fizzling with ideas which David Bowie recorded while he was dying, it's a hollow joke.

9.47
Look at him, sauntering along the catwalk with a smug grin, like British Music's own Nigel Farage.

9.49
"It's nearly over, you can nearly go home" says Williams, although the smarter attendees will already be halfway down the North Greenwich Station stairs by now.

"I love my life - I am powerful; I am beautiful; I am free" honks Williams. Half expecting him to end with "dial this number and ask me how".

Robbie Williams' last single peaked at 22. That's not really icon-esque.

His performance fizzles out and, oddly - for the first time in living memory - the Brits has under-run. So they're playing Shout Out To My Ex for the 16,223rd time this evening.

9.54
The standout moment, I think, was Duncan Jones tribute to his dad. The Wham bit was heartfelt, and a bit rough around the edges, and it's not often you see something so genuine at the Brits.

The lowlights are too numerous to revisit, but a double dose of Chris Martin stands out as inexplicably cruel.

But the worst thing is the shoddy treatment of the International Women prize. I know giving an award to Beyonce just throws shade over many of the other prize winners - like a glass of brandy surrounded by a table of shandies - but couldn't they at least have made a little more of it?

Thanks for reading. Back for Eurovision, if not before.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bono praises Pence and presumably not for a bet

No Rock And Roll Fun isn't - you might have noticed - as busy as it has been traditionally, mainly because who the hell has the energy to write about an ecosystem that has somehow evolved Rag N Bone Man and everyone takes him seriously?

But the blog remains open, and from time to time I'll be posting here when there's something that warrants it. And something that warrants it is... well, this:


Yes, that's long-time friend of the unpleasant Bono shaking warmly the hand of Mike Pence, enabler-in-chief to Donald Trump. This was during a meeting yesterday in Munich.

Bono also took the chance to praise Pence. He lauded Pence for "hitting the ground running", which is a bit like applauding bird flu for being especially virulent. Then tried to find a reason for touching the man that would play well to the liberal audience Bono believes still values him:
According to a pool report, the two men shared an exchange about the 2003 passage of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief and its 2008 renewal, which Pence advocated for as an Indiana congressman.

"Twice on the House floor you defended that. That’s how we know you," Bono, who has been a vocal proponent of the fight against AIDS, told Pence.

"And we really appreciate it," he added.
It's true, Pence DID support the Emergency Plan back in 2008. However, this was the same Pence who - in 2000 - tried to derail the Ryan White Care Act:
“Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus,” read an LGBT section of Pence’s website, called Strengthening the American Family.
So had he changed his mind since then, and is he helping the fight against AIDS?

Well, no. He's making it worse, and singlehandedly helped create an HIV crisis in Indiana:
Pence first laid the groundwork for Indiana’s HIV outbreak as a congressman back in 2011, when the House passed his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. Then in 2013, Pence’s first year as governor of Indiana, Scott County’s one Planned Parenthood closed in the wake of public health spending cuts. Since that particular Planned Parenthood was also the county’s only HIV testing center, there was no longer a place for the county’s 24,000 residents to get tested.

Nearly 20 percent of Scott County residents live below the poverty line. Injection drug use there is a major problem, increasing the risk of HIV outbreak.

Fast-forward to 2015. Local health officials began to report HIV cases linked to intravenous prescription opioid use in Scott County. Scott County residents were sharing needles to inject their opioids, and nobody was getting tested.

The situation quickly spiraled out of control. At the height of the outbreak, 20 new cases of HIV were being diagnosed each week, reaching a total of nearly 200 cases by the time the outbreak was finally under control.
Maybe if Bono had a spine, or perhaps didn't need to be loved so much, he might have mentioned this.

Maybe if Bono had a spine, he'd have drawn the link between the defunding of sexual health providers in Indiana, and the Trump-Pence White House's first executive order. That's the one which pulls funding from any organisation working overseas which mentions abortions as an option.

The executive order was restoring an older, Bush-era rule. And how did that work out?
Implementation of the global gag rule went well beyond abortion to effectively limit all discussions of family planning, including condom use to prevent HIV infection and multiyear spacing of pregnancies to avoid maternal deaths. Organizations as diverse as the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and Family Health International lost millions of dollars in support from the US government during the years the gag rule was enforced.
Bono - who is such a useful idiot he's more the Swiss Army Knife of Idiots - is shaking the hand of a man who has created an HIV crisis in his home state, and is part of a White House that's making rules that will stop condom use and education overseas, and praising him as a great warrior in the fight against HIV.

After this meeting, Bono moved on to take a selfie with Famine, noting that the famous Horseman had really "cut through and found a way to persuade people to eat up their leftovers."


Monday, January 09, 2017

Hammer won't fall: Team Rock saved

Before Christmas, it looked like Metal Hammer and stablemates Classic Rock and Prog had published their last.

Good news for the new year, though, because Future Publishing, the previous owners of the titles, has stepped in to acquire Team Rock, the magazines and the websites:

“The acquisition of these classic rock brands with their associated magazines, events and websites marks a further step in our buy and build strategy,” said Zillah Byng-Thorne, chief executive of Future.

“It further reinforces our creation of a leading global specialist media platform with data at its heart, which we are monetising through diversified revenue streams. We look forward to developing further these iconic and much-loved brands and to continuing to serve their communities of dedicated enthusiasts around the world.”
Future has scooped the lot - including a radio licence - for just £800,000. Back in 2013, Future had sold just the magazines for £10.2million.

So, not perhaps a totally happy ending, as the business clearly isn't in a great shape - but there's hope, and in 2017, we need all the hope we can get.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Boy George giggles his way through biphobia

When it comes to attitudes to bi people, some gay people can be the worst.

Boy George has performed a public service by reminding us of this.

That tweet - that saying "I'm bisexual" is a lie - is bad enough.

The way George has dealt with being called on this is worse.

He's fallen back on a "how can I be biphobic when I'm so fabulous defence" and to chunter on about "steaming white rice" when anyone tries to call him on it.

Anyone who nods along with George, though, gets a thumbs up:

Oh, gee, thanks, Mr Boy, for allowing that some people might not be lying about being bi - although perhaps even that is undermined by doing it while agreeing with this:

This, it seems, was "George's point" all along. Some people might identify as bi as their sexual identity pulses through towards something else; but the reverse can be true - back in the 80s, the lack of bi role models and dismissiveness of bisexuality made it easier to identify as gay as a halfway house to being able to identify as bi. I know this from experience, not as a theory.

I understand that George thought he was making a joke; I also think when George insists he doesn't believe he's biphobic that he's probably genuine. Like a lot of gay people, he thinks that simply allowing bi people on his bus is enough.

But it's not. If you're first thought when someone tells you they're bi is that they're only half-baked, a person whose souffle has yet to rise, you've got a problem.

We wouldn't let someone telling gay-attacking jokes get away by calling "bantz." We shouldn't let Boy George off with the same defence, no matter how much glitter he throws behind it.


They're Justified, and they're Modern

New news of Mu Mu, according to posters all around London:

2017: What The Fuck Is Going On?

It is almost 23 years since the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu announced a self imposed and self important 23 year moratorium. The reasons for the moratorium have now been lost in time, space, and a rusting shipping container somewhere near Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station.

What is known is:

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu have zero involvement with any video clips, films, recorded music, documentary productions, biographies, West End musicals or social media chatter relating to the letters K L or F, now or at any other time over the previous 23 years.

Furthermore:

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu have no interest in anything that seeks to comment on, bounce off, glorify, debunk or resurrect their historical work.

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu are currently at work in their light industrial unit. This work will not be made public until the 23rd August 2017.

For more information contact the K2 Plant Hire Ltd.
"self-imposed and self-important". Nice touch.

Welcome back. I'm sure there's lawyers on standby in record labels around the nation.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Twittergem: Spector

Spector released a single last year called Born In The EU.

Go on, admit it, you hadn't thought about Spector for a long time, had you?

Funnily enough, they've just had a minor role to play in politics in 2017 already. Or at least political journalism:



Friday, December 23, 2016

Won't somebody think of the Nickelback?

At this time of year, it's good that someone is prepared to make a stand for a cause that they believe in. Even if that person is Avril Lavigne, and the cause is fucking awful.

A few days ago, Mark Zuckerburg - The Riddler of the Information Age - made a funny video in which, in part, he made a joke at the expense of Nickelback. Avril Lavigne wasn't having that:


The first paragraph isn't even coherent, and I suspect a whole sentence got forgotten to try and link 'people not liking Facebook' with 'Zuckerberg not liking Nickelback'.

At the other end of the notelet, why is Lavigne putting hashtags into something she's going to share as a screenshot?

In the middle... in the middle, that's where it's really rough. If 'selling lots of records' makes someone worthwhile or significant, based on the wheezy figures achieved globally by Avril Lavigne's most recent album, Lavigne has effectively been invisible since about 2011. Selling lots of a thing doesn't mean you're doing anything worthwhile; not selling lots of a thing doesn't make you worthless.

But if that crude dollar-equivalent basis of cultural value is the one Lavigne's going for, then Zuckerberg - having persuaded millions upon millions to seal their online experience inside his unlovely scroll-jail - would be in a position to pass judgement on nearly every artist or musician in known history.

Let's set that aside, though, and just focus on the core claim that Lavigne is making - that criticism of a musician is akin to bullying.

The joke was Zuckerberg asked his AI to play a good Nickelback song; the AI replied that there were no good Nickelback songs.

Lavigne has done a lot of really good work to promote anti-bullying charities online, and it's sweet that she's defending her ex-husband in this way. But it undermines real victims of bullying to try and conflate a weak gag about a band's music with bullying. Music is immensely personal and music fans are incredibly tribal and - clearly - it's not unknown for that to boil over into actual bullying. But Zuckerberg's joke is no more than the equivalent of giving an album one star in a review and, really, if you don't want to be told that some people don't like what you make, you probably are in the wrong business.

My Mum used to say 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all', but she never let that stop her having a go at Cliff Richard whenever he appeared on the radio.

Presumably the royalty cheques help soothe the pain a little, but what really should count isn't the people who don't like Nickelback, but the people who do. If you're making something that you care about and want to make a connection, you'll understand that sometimes it's a passionate connection, and sometimes it's going to be a firm rejection. That's the whole point of artistry.

Unless of course you don't really care about your music and just value the number of units shifted.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Folding magazines: Classic Rock & Metal Hammer

This would be grim news at any time, but just before Christmas amplifies the grimness: Team Rock have Team Rock, who publish Classic Rock and Metal Hammer magazines, have called in the administrators:

Thomas Campbell MacLennan, Alexander Iain Fraser and Jason Daniel Baker of FRP Advisory LLP were appointed as Joint Administrators of Team Rock Limited (“the Company”) on 19 December 2016.

The affairs, business and property of the Company are being managed by the Joint Administrators, who act as agents of the Company and without personal liability.

The Company is being managed on a care and maintenance basis only whilst a buyer for the assets is sought. Accordingly, the TeamRock website will be unavailable for the foreseeable future.

The administrators are assessing the position regarding publication of magazines. If you are a subscriber to the Company’s publications the administrators can be contacted via email at teamrock.subscribers@frpadvisory.com.
27 people in Scotland and 46 in London have lost their jobs. According to the BBC report, Team Rock had been losing money for quite a while; they're hopeful the brands will find a buyer - and so hopefully some of those staff will be rehired.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Marie Nixon takes on Next

Next have decided they could flog young girls tshirts based on their interest in music.

Next didn't make a great choice, though. They came up with this:

Yep. Rather than 'bassist' or 'singer' or even 'drummer', they went with 'groupie'.

Marie Nixon has been talking to the Newcastle Chronicle about how awful this is:
“It made me absolutely furious, it is a T-shirt little girls aged three to 16 and by the time I was 15 I was in a band.

“Emma reminded me that when we often used to turn up to gigs guys used to say ‘are you with the band’, it used to really annoy us that girls often get treated like accessories and that people can’t see them in fact as the creative ones.

“Some people might say it is just a T-shirt but it is an important issue, there is a drip drip drip of negativity that undermines a woman’s self belief.”

Marie also pointed out that ‘I’m with the band’ is the title of a famous 2005 novel by Pamela Des Barres - a former rock ‘n’ roll groupie.

She added: “The term Next have used on the T-shirt is synonymous with groupiesism which is arguably a culture of sexual explotation.

“I know there has been some suggestion that the phrase could mean they are managing the band or are producing the band but when I managed bands that would never be a phrase used by me or about me so I don’t accept that.”
Yep, there has been a weak attempt at 'perhaps the phrase means the person is part of the structure of support underpinning the band from a business point of view'. Because band accountants would definitely wear a glitter 'with the band' tshirt.

I can't think of a single manager I've ever met who would wear describe themselves as being "with the band". Quite a few might say "the band's with me", but not the other way round.

Next's response is a shrug:
A series of tweets sent from the company’s official account read: “The T-shirt will remain on sale as there are only a few weeks left till the end of the season.

“But we will take on board your comments for future designs.”

A spokesman added: “It certainly wasn’t our intention to produce something that might be perceived as sexist, so we apologise for any offence caused.”
Good to know that Next don't have a whiteboard with the words 'sexist tees' written at the top, I suppose.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Chairlift will leave us dangling

Chairlift doing their bit to make Christmas a little less jolly:


Monday, December 05, 2016

Unfolding magazines: Paste is coming back

It's six years since Paste abandoned its print edition and became web-only.

Next year, though, crowdfunding permitting, it's coming back as a physical product:

With its large 12"-by-12"-inch format, thick paper and rich colors, it'll be unlike any magazine you've seen. We're sparing no expense from production quality to all the best writers, photographers and illustrators. We're bringing back the Paste Sampler, but this time it's a 150-gram colored vinyl album with exclusive tracks recorded at the Paste Studio in New York. We'll be working with our original designer, Jose Reyes, and his award-winning design team Metaleap Creative. And we're eschewing traditional distribution to deliver it directly to you.
(To be fair, a 12x12 magazine with a vinyl record isn't quite like 'any magazine you've seen', as there was that one in the 80s which was exactly like that - was it Debut?)


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beverley Martyn's having a tough time

A couple of years back, things were going quite well for Beverley Martyn - The Guardian caught up with her and celebrating her survival after the turbulence of her life with John Martyn, and excesses you might not always associate with the folk music scene:

Though she was shocked and distressed at the time, following John's death from pneumonia in January 2009 she felt "things opened up for me again. Something changed."

The Phoenix and the Turtle, recorded with former members of Los Lobos and Counting Crows, is an affirming testament to her survival instinct. "It's been the best thing for a long time," she says. "It's good to work, it's a great way of escaping your everyday troubles. I'm enjoying this time of my life. I just turned 67, I'm still here, and I think I know who I am now." She taps the album on the table between us. "This is what I do."
It's not clear what's happened since then, but it doesn't look like the last couple of years have been kind to her.

One of her friends has shared this message on Facebook:
Dear friends of Beverley Martyn. In case you were worried about what's going on with her, she has been Sectioned for 6 months and is currently in Millview hospital in Hove. Her physical health is being neglected and is worsening. Any help with arranging access to better care would be much appreciated. Happy to pass on your messages to her and do my best to arrange contact. Thank you. "Love and Peace. Bev"

#beverleymartyn #johnmartyn #nickdrake

Please retweet, reblog etc. She wants her friends to know what's going on. I don't know who her friends are so spreading this as far and wide as possible is essential.
If you can help, or just want to send a message of support, Beverley's friend Jessica can be contacted via that Facebook link.


Kate Bush: the darling's bad; for May

Kate Bush doesn't give a lot of interviews. After the last twenty-four hours, she might figure she'll do rather fewer in future.

As part of a wide-ranging discussion with Elio Iannacci for Macleans Magazine, the conversation turned to politics - and, in particular, Hillary Clinton's inability to seize the White House. It was here that Kate uttered the words which curdled many a morning yoghurt:

We have a female prime minister here in the UK. I actually really like her and think she’s wonderful. I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time. She’s a very intelligent woman but I don’t see much to fear. I will say it is great to have a woman in charge of the country. She’s very sensible and I think that’s a good thing at this point in time.
Now, Kate Bush talking warmly about a Tory prime minister might be disappointing, but surely at a time when we've got actual fascists about to take office space in the White House, the small mercy that she wasn't bellowing "Brexit now" and bigging up the Farage must count for something.

More importantly, if you're going to quote the reply, you should probably look at the question, too:
A track called “Waking the Witch”—which was released in 1985—was performed for Before The Dawn. You once said that the song was about “the fear of women’s power.” With regards to Hillary Clinton’s recent defeat, do you think that this fear is stronger than ever?
So when Kate was talking about not having any reason to fear, she wasn't saying from May's policies, but fear of the idea of a woman leading a nation. Her comment was about temperament and gender, not policy and manifesto.

That's still disappointing - she seems to have confused May's caught in the headlights paralysis for a softly, softly caution - but reading Twitter over the last 24 hours you might have thought that Bush had been found negotiating the sale of NHS hospitals direct to Richard Branson.

And it's possible that Kate Bush does wholeheartedly embrace the Tory government, from the strange smell leaking out of Jeremy Hunt, through the slithering of Boris Johnson, to the chums of Liam Fox. And, let's face it, she's comfortably off and clearly had a lot of piano lessons as a small child, neither of which are signifiers of dyed-in-the-wool socialism.

But this interview doesn't really give much evidence one way or the other.

The really problematic bit of the interview was this exchange:
Q: Stephen Hawking recently said the Earth only has 1,000 years left. As someone who has written about environmental issues, does that alarm you?

A: Well, nobody really knows, do they? They told Stephen Hawking he only had a year left to live and how many years ago was that? You can’t know it all. If ever there’s been somebody to hold as an icon of sheer determination and willpower, it’s that guy, let alone any of the things he’s done scientifically. I’m sure that’s his driving force, but he’s a miracle and an aspiration.
For "someone who has written about environmental issues", giving an answer which ignores the environment and instead focuses on how Stephen Hawking didn't accept a diagnosis is heartbreaking. It seems to be implying that all we need to do abotu climate change is pop over to the burning fires of Siberia, stick up a couple of motivational posters, tell the planet to believe in itself and everything will be fine.

In all the coverage of Bush's interview yesterday, BBC News came up with the oddest angle:
Bush previously wrote a song for a sketch on a 1990 episode of TV series The Comic Strip, about the former Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

The lyrics included: "Look to the left and to the right. We need help and there's nobody in sight. Where is the man that we all need? Well tell him he's to come and rescue me. Ken is the man that we all need. Ken is the leader of the GLC."
The track also describes Livingstone as "a sex machine".
This isn't wrong, but it doesn't really make much sense in the context of something she actually said about a politician - the Ken song was a soundtrack to an imaginary Hollywood movie about the GLC and part of that framing. If you really wanted to make something relevant out of it, you might have mentioned how both the movie and the satire gleefully cast Thatcher as the villain of the piece, and the gender politics around the last female Prime Minister. But I suppose 'has she written a song about a politician' was the only box they were looking to tick.


Monday, November 07, 2016

Twittergem: Unimpressed by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire do Bruce Spingsteen:


Not everyone is impressed:


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Songwriterobit: Curly Putman

Curly Putman, songwriter, has died at the age of 85.

Yes, Green Green Grass of Home. Yes, DIVORCE. But, mostly, this is his masterwork:

Bobby Braddock remembered how Putnam breathed life into DIVORCE:

"I said, 'Curly, why is it that we don't have any takers on this song?' Nobody was jumping on board with it. He said, 'I think it seems a little bit too happy for such a sad song.' I said, 'Do you think it needs a new melody?' He said, Well, just in a couple of places. The last line of the verse and the last line of the chorus.' What I had, looking back, it sounded kind of like a soap commercial... I thought we should split the writer's share on the song, and he didn't want to take it, so we compromised. He took 25 percent, and we put his name on there. If we'd done it today, we probably would have split it right down the middle because the song had been sitting around and nothing had happened with it. Then, Curly made that little change and it made so much difference."

Putman, like the Waltons, spent his early years living on a mountain which bore the family name.

As if his own work wasn't immortality enough, he's also recorded in a Paul McCartney song, Junior's Farm - written after Putman had rented his farm to Paul and Linda for a period in the early 1970s.