Wednesday, December 03, 2003

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: English edition

So, it came a couple of weeks ago but the late appearance of the NME stopped us from giving the last Observer Music Monthly its full dues. They'd done Pop's 10 Strangest Duets, which ranged from the genuinely strange (Pavarotti & Skunk Anansie or Bing & Bowie) to the obvious attempts to go "hey, never saw that coming, did you?" such as Elton & Eminem, but also finds space for a lot less surprising pairings - Madonna & Missy was a matter of time, Prince & Sheena Easton oddly apt (and, actually, Sheena was not "the product of a BBC star search", as any pedant kno - she was the subject of The Big Time, a totally different format). Weakest of all is the inclusion of The Smiths & Sandie Shaw, a pairing that had the inevitability of Kelly & Ozzy.

But we're not alone in having problems with these charts, although we're not sure we want to be in the company of Jonathan King, who writes from the nonce wing at HMP Elmley in a huff at being left out of the Pops Greatest Eccentrics run down the month before. Maybe it's time to focus on getting parole, King?

The Secret Life of Chris Martin does manage to raise an interesting question about coldplay boy - how can you have sex with a Hollywood a-lister like Gwyneth Paltrow (okay, mid b-lister) and yet still be so dull?

Michelle Ryan, who plays Zoe Slater in Eastenders, listens to Phil Collins and Tracy Chapman in the car. And yet its mobile phone using drivers who get fined. Where's the justice, eh?

Dr Music prescribes Ruth Rogers from the River Cafe Tindersticks and the Handsome Family. They both go down well, and the River Cafe menu will now consist of broken hearted wine and heartbreak soup.

Understatement: "in the last few weeks" Courtney Love's life has threatened to spin out of control. And after she'd held it together so well for the last ten, eh?

Razorlight - the new band - seem to have been constructed, like the last half of the Bible - almost totally out of visions and madness.

The guts of the magazine were a celebration of 100 years of the Blues - that's a damn lot of women done us wrong, in a collective sense - and Pop Star Mums and their bairns, which veers slightly towards Hello-town with Cerys Matthews showing off Glenys Pearl - great for dressing up in shoes - and Skye from Morcheeba, who tells an amusing and telling story about playing Lillith fair and being made to leave her kids back in the hotel. Lisa Maffia, meanwhile, claims she took Chelsea out of the nursery because "everyone kept getting her to sing 21 seconds over and over again." Even if true, surely got to be better than The Wheels on the Bus?

Tom Cox, curiously, became a fanzine editor when his Plan A - to become a golfer - failed. Just think, Tiger - you could be pursuing a lucrative evening hauling a Tescos bag with copies of a poorly photocopied stapled A5 mag from gig to gig instead of wasting your life with playing pitch and putt. Cox concludes that Popbitch is the new fanzine, which sort of suggests that everyone who posts on ver Bitch is a paranoid virgin incapable of stringing together two words unless they get the safety barrier of letraset and a keyboard between them and their audience. Which isn't true, is it?

Simon LeBon takes a trip down memory lane to the day he stared into the eyes of the Big D, when Drum rolled.

"Dr Fox is extremely faithful to the DJ's Savillocratic Oath," observes Paul Morley in monthly highlight Music on TV, "which enshrines the DJ's right to use music as an excuse to get as close as possible to members of the opposite sex."

Writing in the New Statesman diary, Boy George tries to take the bad reviews of the Broadway debut for Taboo on the (badly inked in) chin. Well, not quite. He tries to pretend "la la la, I'm not listening" but clearly he is; then he tries to write them all off to being inspired by the critics hatred of exec producer Rosie O'Donnell. Maybe, George, but then why would they be tearing the book, and your acting, and the whole damn lot up too? Eventually, Boy attempts to push off the bad reviews as being proof that critics know nothing - it's selling out, isn't it? - but, as the packed houses for Ben Elton's Rod Stewart show (surely the first plot ever to have left space on the back of the envelope for a shopping list and a doodle as well) and - yikes - even Kid Creole's Oh What A Night show, the number of greenbacks in the till has very little to do with the quality of what's on the handbill.

Mojo comes with a free Best of 2003 CD (so does Uncut) - being Mojo, of course, the cream of the year has been Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer and Diana Ross. There's a big feature on 1969, an unquestionably pivotal year in pop history, Hawksley Worksman album gets just two stars and there's a strange little news report of a riot in Montreal. Eight cars were trashed and burned because of the cancellation of... an Exploited gig.

Another reason to love Pink: she knocked back playing William's 21st birthday, she tells Elle Girl, because he ignored her letter asking him why he got off on hunting. Of course, she could have also knocked him back because he's the new face (albeit chinless) of an unacceptable political system, but nobody's perfect.

Also in Elle Girl, Dannii Minogue is invited to list her favourite websites. One is her own - presumably she checks in regularly to see if her management are trying to dig her out of any 'foreign people are bad' shaped holes - and another is BT Yahoo Broadband, which reads scarily like she's lifted it from a press release. Maybe she's planning for her next job, trying to interest callers in an upgrade to Broadband?

Peter Brame, the indie one off Fame Academy, likes: The Libertines, The Darkness, Dolly Parton, erm, Aled Jones and "a new band" called Mew. Surely older than both the Libs and the ness?

Oh, and Justin Timberlake loves Coldplay...

... which is why last week's NME was such a travesty. It was the Cool Issue, and it got it wrong on so many counts. What it did get right was the list being almost totally different to last years - which we think also reflects a noticeable shift in what the paper values, actually, and that's welcome - but what it gets wrong... like choosing Mutya as the cool Sugababe - no, she's just pissy. Or having Christina Aguilera in the list because of her "call me a slag if that means being a strong woman" quote - which they seem to think is "reclaiming the word 'slag' for women who enjoy sex." Ahem. Women who enjoy sex have been having a pretty good three decades of it (at the very least, but we're arbitrarily dating it from the launch of British Cosmopolitan.) Here we are again: what comes from Christina is not the air of a woman who loves fucking and is in control, but a woman so desperate to be liked she'll do stuff she doesn't really feel comfortable. It's telling that Britney's new album is all about the hump and grind, while Christina is usually to be found warbling about the real her inside.

Wayne Coyne should be far higher than 42.

But the biggest question mark hangs over the choice of Justin Timberlake as the Coolest Person in music. Timberlake? Really? If only you'd been around ten years ago and seen his Daddy, Evan Dando, in action. Timberlake hangs around other, hipper acts, begging to be allowed to dress up as a dolphin for them with all the self-respect of a chess team geek hoping if he huddled by the Mini Bus Garage the smell of the bad boy's fags might rub off on him. We had the misfortune to catch his Saturday Night Live show last week, along with a couple of other live performances, and, frankly, we wish our stepfather-in-law had kept his 24-Hour Golfing Network on. Every time he did Cry Me A River - which kind of suggests he's a bit of a one-song wanda; worse, it's a song which he needs to have at least four backing singers to make it through. And every time he danced. And boy, how he danced. Like a lemur trying to edge a banana out of tree. Is this what you call cool?

A further puzzlement: Trying to find someone to speak up for Michael Jackson, the paper troops off to HMV. They can't find a person to say a nice word about him. "All of which suggests that while Michael Jackson still has his fans, he can't inspire them enough to speak up for him." Hmmm. Even supposing that the international outbreaks of "Jacko is innocent" placard waving hadn't managed to break into the consciousness of Kings Reach Tower, hadn't anyone heard the paper's boss on 'Today' over a week before where he shared the microphone with... erm, a stridently pro-Jackson fan rubbishing the whole thrust of the State of California's claims?

This week's NME comes laden with stuff - stickers (a Chain With No Name festive promotion, not quite as cool as last year's advent calendar); a radiohead tour pullout souvenier thingy and a calendar, which is a very nice thing indeed (we're not sure if this comes with the newsstand edition, though, as it isn't mentioned on the cover of the magazine.)

The Big Picture is some stuff from Kurt's journal, really just a massive trailer for another slew of new material from the dead guy's cupboard next week - although we could have sworn that we've seen the list of the top 50 albums somewhere before.

Anthony Minghella believes Jack White is a "tremendous actor." Maybe that's why he had the stupid moustache.

Coldplay are bringing their deathly cold feet to trample over The Streets second album.

Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand chooses CD tracks - The Fall, Sparks and - oh, my, you're throwing us for a loop here, Mr. Alex - Outkast.

"If you write anything horrible I'll come and kick your face in" threatens Will Young, settling down for a bout with Peter Robinson. Sadly, Young's flat, I'm-a-pretty-straight-guy refusal to say anything interesting makes the meeting a bit less exciting than that would make it seem.

Radar band is My Chemical Romance, a post September 11th 2001 band from, of course, New York.

"The way Thom shakes his ass... or Jonny spends the night humping a series of demented squeaks out of his guitar... it's not just filthy, it's X-Rated" reports Tim Jonze, breathless from the Manchester and Newcastle dates.

The Thrills are interviewed one-by-one, as if acknowledging that a lot of the current slew of acts don't really stand out as a bunch of guys but become more of an amorphous blob. The attempt to project spice girl style personalities on the Thrills won't take, we fear, but in case it does, meet Prankster, Scatty, Lothario, Bladdered and Daydreaming Thrill - Daniel, Conor, Kevin, Padraic and Ben in that order.

There's some sort of horrible mish-mash monster of cool rock star pieces. The cock comes from Jack White which, if he keeps on the way he's going, won't be a problem as he won't need it much longer.

reviews
live
my morning jacket - mean fiddler - "our hearts tell us to grow our hair", 9
mars volta - glasgow barrowlands - "even bepermed, cosmic, space-prog journeymen have to return to earth occassionally", 7

rufus wainwright, new york - "he charms when his music can't."

albums
johnny cash - unearthed - "in his hands, You'll never Walk Alone's funeral majesty carries it well beyond a hammy terrace anthem", 10
korn - "the medium is bloated, played out and steeped in self-parody", 3
ja rule - blood in my eye - "dark ghetto hip-hop and old soul beats", 8

singles
sotw - selfish cunt - britain is shit/ fuck the poor - "they're going to disappoint you, eventually, but for now..."
nelly furtardo - powerless - "shania twain meets Riverdance"

and finally, Stuart Murdoch loves the Cocteau Twins - not least because they were "the closest I came to sex for a long time."


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