Wednesday, October 22, 2003

What the pop papers say: Bumper big box edition

Firstly, a belated welcome to The London News Review - which we should have done this time last week but we'd actually mislaid our notes. We'd say imagine how Private Eye would have been if Ian Hislop hadn't been born as a forty-five year old man, but that would almost certainly be wrong. It's a great read anyway - jeanette winterson, richard herring, Jeremy hardy, all edited up by the evil Google loving Paul Carr - but it's also got of music stuff in it, too.

So, you get Chrissie Hynde offering her alternative to the Atkins Diet ("don't be a big fat pig in the first place") and explaining that the main reason she keeps her profile up is so she can use it for PETA. There's a piece about the Australian Federal Police raiding a kid's house at 6 am at the behest of Universal, Sony, Warner, BMG, EMI and Festival Mushroom who claimed his online mixtapes had cost them AUSD 60m; some sleight of hand by Channel 4 has seen them commission a 17 part music series from an independent company fronted by the chap who makes their music links - despite telling another company they had no budget left and, interestingly, the nugget that that Robbie Williams concert was given to the Channel for free - in other words, it was paid-for programming and, as such, a curious advertorial for his products.

Dr. Keely Fisher - lecturer in English at Oxford University - gets to spend some time with the 'street' acts to see just how 'urban' they really are - she blows apart Blazin Squads faux-urban stylings with little effort, and congratulates Sean Paul for being "not so aggressively rude to be perceived as threatening, but just rude enough to titillate the Guardian."

The highlight, though, is Just The Gist, the Google-proof music quiz. You're given not lyrics, but a summary of, well, the gist of them - "a young man gets drunk at a woman's home, hoping to seduce her. When she rebuffs him, he sleeps uneasily before burning down her house" - to identify the song from.

It's a great magazine, right the way through to the Roger Woddis style poem on the back page. (It's his stuff for the Statesman we're thinking of here, not the Radio Times slot). The only slightly disconcerting thing is that visually it looks like it's bought the design templates of ill-fated but well-meaning 80s youth-frown title Fairly Serious Monthly. Subscribe, and be ready for when it launches properly:

Timely, of course, for Julie Burchill to remind us of the last major pop star beating up a random person incident in her Guardian Weekend piece on Saturday, when Skat D of the So Solid Crew smashed a fifteen year old's jaw because she turned down his offer of sex. Julie allows herself a wry smile at the way people who object to the So Solid swagger are accused of demonising the group - "how do you demonise that?" We hate the Saturdays we find ourselves agreeing with her, you know.

Meanwhile, Rickie Lee Jones is interviewed in the same issue, and says an extraordinary thing: "I would probably have made my peace with the idea of this rightwing Republican Presidency if, at any point after we were bombed - because we were devastated, we were terrified and broken-hearted - if he had said 'I'm so pissed off I'm going to go and blow up the whole Middle East' we would have gone 'OK, right on', but he didn't, he said 'We're looking for Bin laden and we're bringing democracy.' Every single aspect of his response has been evil." Can anyone - anyone at all - explain to us why it would be any less evil to fly around smashing people to death at total random in a blind act of angry vengeance than to try and at least make some attempt to pretend that you want to make the world a better place?

The Observer Music Monthly is back - jeez, that spun by quickly, didn't it? - choosing ten eccentrics, including Joe Meek, Kevin Rowland and Julian Cope. They're on shaky ground suggesting Kate Bush is the most eccentric rock person ever - in fact, we'd suggest turning your back on a potential career of interest drooping as your tits go might be the sanest thing a woman can do; if you've seen Debbie Harry propping up a dreadful script for some cuttings and flour-paste rock history on Discovery, you'll know where we're coming from.

CW Ridley of Bodmin Folk Club has written to claim folk music is "the national back cloth to all music performed in this country" - which makes a change from the letters you get in the NME, but is a scary thought; he seems to be suggesting that there's a Morris Dancer lurking inside everyone - yes, even the Cooper Temple Clause.

The "secret life" of Beyonce includes that she advertises L'Oreal and danced on Ulysses S Grant's grave - secrets, indeed, if you've spent the last year having so much sex you've not switched on the TV at all. And if that was the case, why would you be reading the OMM?

Is GAY really so credible? They reckon it is, but - to be frank - it doesn't seem to exercise any real sense of quality control over who plays there any more; and although the Observer proper may think the idea of - gasp - gay people to be just so exciting (this week's Review leads with a long piece about 'My son has come out', the subtext of which is 'I'm the mother of a gay son, aren't I thrillingly modern?') but, frankly, if gay people were any sort of cultural arbiters, Graham Norton would be presenting a new series of CrossWits and they'd have got out of dance music, en masse, three years ago.

Lost tribes of pop considers the Rave Mums - "she hopes she will be the Mum [her children's] friends think of as the hippest." Heartbreaking for so many reasons - were social services not so overstretched already, what with the trying to remember where they left the At Risk register and the fretting over whether keeping little girls in the bath and stubbing fags out on them might not just be part of someone's cultural identity, we'd ask them to pop round.

Record Doctor suggests Paul Smith tries Pavement and Billy Childish & Holly Golightly - he loves them both, which strikes us as a victory for the column but a bit odd.

We really wish that the idea for covering Nudestock - what it sounds like, I'm afraid - had been left on the flipchart at the brainstorming meeting. The people pictured made Har Mar look like a good use of no clothes, frankly - and if you're going to run pictures of a nudist rock festival, then run them; don't stick coy little patches over the cocks and nipples. Although, really, you're just better off not running them at all.

MC Shystie is the new act of the month; her main claim to fame so far is reviving the lost art of the answer record (I Love You to Dizee Rascak's I Luv U) which is probably better than being known for pulling a gun on a traffic warden, although both acts make me afraid about where society is heading).

The Pop Commandments of the Pet Shop Boys is amusing, but ultimately it doesn't mean very much - it's like listening to Jimmy Greaves talking about the Premiership; very different game now, innit, Saint? Neil Tennant also suggests "the contemporary idea of brand didn't exist when we started", which is a bit rich from someone who worked on Human League and Duran era Smash Hits.

Talking of whom, a bouncer at a gay night club remembers his bosses were concerned for him: "they warned me that I'd be shocked by what I'd see in the club - men kissing men, that sort of thing. In fact, i did get a shock - I had no idea how big the 80s revival had become."

This months "Mother, cancel the Wire subscription" piece is about Gilberto Gil, the Brazilian culture minister. At the opposite end, they give the URL of Holy Moly, which feels a bit like someone saying the name Yahweh.

Song of the Month is Amy Winehouse's Stronger Than Me, which seems to have thrilled the OMM with is "political incorrectness" - although why a song should be considered worthwhile when it uses "are you gay?" as the best taunt it can come up with isn't really explained.

In the middle of Paul Morley's column, we discover that Walter Werzowa, who wrote the Intel jingle, was a member of Edelweiss. Morley chooses not to remind us that Edelweiss' hit was created using the KLF's How To Have A Number One hit manual.

Review maths: Chicks on Speed = Kylie. Meanwhile, bobby Gillespie reviews John Phillip's drug-era classic The Wolf King of LA.

The main piece is Peter Robinson's lead article, which seems to us like a article with one thesis being crammed into a totally different shaped magazine hole. Because while it reads like it's a celebration of new, young pop finding a voice and a market, it's dressed up as being "a new generation of Britpop". Despite covering the likes of Tatu, Christina and so on. (Christina is the new Madonna, it seems - yep, once she ran out of classic pop, she fell back on the bra-as-top and 'guess what I've put in my fanny' to revive interest.)

That aside, there's an inspection of the Sugababes, although both their CD:UK and Glastonbury appearances obviously played better when you were there than they did on the TV, it seems - the first looked risible and choreographed when viewed from the sofa; the outdoor date just woefully ill-advised, under-rehearsed and conducted by three singers who appeared to be be pissed off they were missing a Saturday afternoon hanging about in a shopping centre somewhere. This is, of course, not a real problem - the Sugababes don't really need to play Glastonbury or even carry a tune; they're there to provide a context for the sale of musical ringtones to Nokia users, and they're exceptionally good at that.

The other main focus of Robinson's piece is Busted, who, the more he champions, the more seem like they might just have a life inside them beyond the breakfast cereal and "that's after these cartoons" circuit. If their third (or maybe fourth) album earns them a review from Q which uses the phrase "once the jokers at the back of the class, Busted have come of age and are now challenging Blur for the music dollar of the intellectually secure", they'll have his ability to see past their Top of the Pops head-bobbler figures to thank, in a great part.

Britpop also turns up in Word, when Sophie Ellis Bextor is asked What Did The Britpop Years Do For Us?: "It wasn't geared towards achieving anything very much - it was charming but a little bit unaspirational. I think it's a bit unsexy to have no ambition. So, i think Britpop is a disappointment looking back, it didn't achieve very much or get anywhere." This would also be another reason why Busted and the 'babes are Britpop II - whatever you accuse Heidi Range of, it's not a lack of aspiration. Later in the same magazine, Paul Heaton throws another interesting perspective on the early 90s generation: that fear of the dole queue makes for conservative music - in other words, it's the fear of slipping back to Burnage and every second thursday that makes Oasis churn out the same sort of thing over and over again, while Radiohead will take the risks and experiment because they're secure in what they're doing. Since Thom Yorke and Noel Gallagher must both be worth roughly the same, we'd suggest it's not so much fear but stupidity that drives Noel to keep reoffending, but we can see Heaton's point.

Robert Carlyle says everyone wants to do a film of Porno (trainspotting II) but "one vital cog" probably won't want to. A couple more movies like Down With Love, and we should imagine it'll be Ewan begging for the chance.

Nigella Lawson's dad (i.e. Nigel) used to tell her when she'd say something more left-wing than his politics (along the lines of "let's not burn the poor, Daddy,can't we just send them to the woods to starve", we'd imagine) "It's quite right that you think those things at your age" - which is at least reassuring to know that he really was as big a patronising cunt at home as he seemed on the telly. Nigella believes Smiths Crisps "just disappeared", though, whereas any real food expert knows they became Walkers.

Andy Kershaw contributes an appreciation of Johnny Cash: "The fact is Johnny Cash was too big a subject to just compress into a one liner."

Paul Heaton, again: "People [on Pop idol and Fame Academy] never seem to ask themselves what they want out of fame. Saying you want to be famous is like saying to your careers advisor 'I want to stand in front of the Stretford End at Manchester United' H esays 'Do you want to be a footballer or referee?' and you say 'I just want to wave.'" He's looking more like Ron dixon than ever, mind.

Conor McNicholas thinks Jet is "totally exciting" and Blu Cantrell recommends Mariah Carey's Glitter ("a real good concept.")

Usher - allegedly David Beckham's favourite act - is managed by his Mum, which seems extraordinary in itself (even Gary Numan only let his as far as the fan club) but turns out to be even odder: asked when she reverts to being a mother, he says "Never. As a mom, I love her, but as a manager, I hate it." Later he withdraws the hate, but we suspect that's just because he's afraid what'll happen when his mam reads the piece. Extraordinary.

Stuart Murdoch talks about having ME - "it's character forming, it almost becomes like a class thing because you are lower class of citizen, to an extent" - and reaching other worlds - "the worlds I want to live in - the Felt worlds, the Morrissey worlds - come naturally from those guys, because they can't do anything else."

Bowie turns up here, too, of course - really, David, you're in danger of losing some allure if you make yourself so available - this time talking about the way the world is; fretting about what the Project for the new American Century actually means and suggesting that we're about to hit this generation's Bay of Pigs, a geopolitical, edge-clinging low.

Maybe he's been wise to stay an outsider all these years - he's kept some sort of perspective, which becomes all the more apparent when compared with Bob Geldof. The man who once harangued Thatcher has become cosily establishment, and somewhat self-important: "this generation of world leaders are 'band aid babies' and they're very informed by that experience" - now, while we're sure Blair watched, thrilled, as Phil Collins made his way from Wembley to JFK, we find Geldof's boast that "Bush, apparently, watched two or three hours of it" preposterous - apart from anything, back in the early 80s wasn't Bush so tanked up on moonshine he'd have had no way of telling if he was watching Status Quo or a re-run of I Love Lucy? And we're betting Putin wasn't sipping a Coke wondering if Duran Duran would be on before he had to go to bed, either. More important than if they watched it or not is the claim that "they're very informed by the experience" - if Live Aid had any influence over the political process in twenty-first century western democracy, it's surely only in the realisation that you need a snappy, singalong tune if you want to snag the votes. Which is why Ethiopians are starving again, but everyone will always associate Things Can Only Get Better with Blair. Not that Bob seems to have realised this, but then he's a little bit starstruck: "I can talk to Blair, but I never forget that he's the Prime Minister." Geldof also believes that if Blair could do anything about starvation in Africa, he would. Oh yeah? We suspect that he could, he just chooses not to. But then we don't get to go to tea with him. Curiously, Word - in the form oh John Walsh - doesn't seem to want to challenge Bob on any of this, but then he also says that Britain got support from the Marshall Plan, which is one of those little errors that actually are bloody important. Far from helping Britain rebuild her economy after World War II, the US deliberately crushed it - the exact bloody opposite.

Talking of being crushed by the Americans, the NME has got another Strokes cover while the news big picture is a pretty good one this week (Karen O arriving onstage in a wheelchair).

Scarily, Avril Lavigne's choices for her car stereo almost match Conor McEditor's selections for Word.

News: Pete Libertine's apparently keeping it straight and the band are delighted to be back together. But, worryingly, they've just signed with Alan Mcgee's management company - and after he'd kept the Liam out of trouble so well over the years, too.

Janes Addiction are planning flashmob gigs - bloody hell, there was a fad that dated quickly, wasn't there? Makes Blaine-in-a-box seem positively up to the minute.

The Von Bondies are desperate to play down the supposed feud with the White Stripes - here's a hint, guys: you're probably better off keeping it going. In a busy marketplace, not being mates with Jack and Meg is a unique selling point.

Radiohead and Sigur Ros provided an improv soundtrack for Merce Cunningham Dance Company's 50th Anniversary. We'd imagine the dancers for the radiohead piece weren't expecting to have to find instant moves for The Sun has Got Its Hat On, somehow.

Stellastarr choose CD tracks: Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan and David Bowie.

Peter Robinson takes on Guy Garvey, persuading him to reveal that if he had a remote control Julian Casablancas, he;d stick a couple of solenoids in his groin and make him fuck his friend Becky. We think this would make her happy, although there's always a risk of waking up and finding he's left a big oilstain on your duvet.

Jet's Chris Cester chooses My new favourite band, picking a lesbian bhangra act from Bradford. No, of course not - white guys with guitars.

Radar Band is Kasabian, who claim they're not really into serial killers, despite being named after the Manson Family getaway driver. if they're not that fond of them right now, they'll be really sick of serial killers by the time they've explained their name origin to every publication from here to Practical Yet Attractive Goats.

Another excellent photo - almost as if this issue they remembered the promise at relaunch about making better use of images - accompanies the Strokes in Philly piece; a gorgeous shot of Julian looking oddly like a young Bobby Gillespie. Nikolai, meanwhile, learned there's a point beyond which even a great band can outwear their welcome - and he learned it the hard way: "I once saw Parliament Funkadelic and it went on for four hours..."

Still not getting a Darkness interview, the nme this week is reduced to hanging out with the support band. At this rate, they'll be giving blow jobs to the roadies by Christmas.

According to Electric 6, radio gaga wasn't a hit in the states, so they were spooked when the played it in the UK and everyone started to do the handclaps. [their story isn't backed up by our resident American, who claims the video was constantly on MTV.]

The Warlocks say playing Detroit is like pulling teeth.

For some reason, the pull-out posters are 60's themed - or at least, the sort of 60's that you'd imagine if you had been born in the 80's: Twiggy, A Hard Day's Night, Ali, Jagger, the 66 World Cup Team, the Velvet Underground and Dylan.

Rufus wainwright is also thinking about the Strokes: "I love [them] and they're really nice guys, but they were lauded as this instant classic band and I had put a lot of work in and I was still... poor."

Meanwhile, do the Kills get jealous when they see groupies flirting with their bandmates? After a long pause, VV says "Yes. I don't want to talk about it, but I do." The rest of the band seem surprised. It might not have been a front-page interview, but you suspect the nme might just have shifted this band's dynamic forever.

franz ferdinand - cambridge boat race - "cooler than bombs", 8
hundred reasons - ica -"heavier, hairier, more tattooed", 10
duran duran - forum - "bet your mum had a bitch of a hangover", 8

rem - in time -"a two thirds decent record", 6
the gin palace - kill-grief - "fearsome", 8
the handsome family - singing bones - "few surprises for those desensitised to ghostly tales", 7


sotw - eastern lane - feed your addiction - "bladder-burstingly urgent yelping"
scissor sisters - laura - "gay: the new punk"
chikinki - assassinator 13 -"dirty, but not in an Xtina way"

and, finally: Perry Farrell loves... Iggy Pop. A nation doesn't express surprise.

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