Saturday, June 28, 2003

IT'S GREAT WHEN YOU'RE KATE... YEAH...: Curse the stripping and stranding fetish at Channel 4 - a combination of nightly Graham Nortons, Big Brothers and Time Team: The Big Dig (and, it has to be admitted, an awful lot of swearage) conspired to push Reality Check back into the 11.15 slot, which means that the attempt to bring modern group management techniques to that most dysfunctional of corporate bodies, the scouse indie band.

Kate Marlow - the Group Dynamics expert who flushes when confronting - came face to face with Cassidy. Those of us who've trawled around the Liverpool music scene between the Bunnymen and the Coral will recognise the band; and, really, singling out Cassidy was a bit unfair - there are literally dozens of bands like this in the city; playing fairly standard but often touching guitar rock, usually comprising of three well-meaning, laid back blokes and one messiah complex singer. In the past, many of them have had their advice dripped into them by Noel Gallagher; which has had the effect to making the situation worse rather than better. Kate, of course, wasn't about to stand there and say "Fookin' massive, la. Yous'll be massive."

So, with a room in LIPA, Kate tried to get to grips with the band dynamic - which quickly shows itself: the band sits around waiting for Paul, the singer, to stop showing off for long enough for them to be able to get some work done. Kate makes suggestions, Paul cavils on the ninth part of a hair. A row develops. The rest of the band sit around looking half bored, half embarrassed, checking watches. Paul storms out. They get a days studio time at the mighty Parr Street (the place where Coldplay's records were made, largely while Coldplay were out of the room); Paul turns up whining that his voice hurts so he can't sing properly. Kate makes suggestions, Paul rejects them all (Gargle with salt water? But that would make me be sick. Gargle with TCP? But that would really make me sick, and so on). Band sit around looking half bored, etc. And so on.

The highlight comes when Kate tries to get Paul to show his commitment to the process, making him sign a contract that commits him to taking cold baths. Bounced into it by the others, Paul behaves as if he's being asked to bathe in hydrochloric acid (and, of course, insists on having an audience to watch him do it).

Later, trying to put together ideas for a big entrance for a showcase date in London, the others have a brainstorming session. Their ideas aren't exceptionally original, but they show a desire to mark Cassidy out from the indie cliche. Paul sees his role as rejecting everything in an "I know best, why do we need to make an entrance, we're a brilliant band and don't need to do anything other than play our instruments and they'll fall at our feet, la" way. Kate and Reality Check may have failed to sort out the band (only shooting Paul would do that), but they did inadvertently manage to make a programme that answered one of the big mysteries of British music in the 1990's - why, when Manchester and even Oxford managed to develop a steady stream of popular talent did the formerly fertile Liverpool fail to keep up? Looking at Paul, with his refusal to accept any advice that wasn't praise, his inability to compromise with his other band members, his childishness and petulance when asked to do something that wasn't his idea, you were looking at the default stance of every lead singer in nearly every scouse guitar band for a decade. Shamefully, they were more interested in getting a thumbs up from the Gallaghers than pleasing their audience; training and arts organistaions wasted thousands of hours and millions of pounds trying to offer help and advice to a bunch of people who already knew it all.

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