Friday, February 14, 2003

The end of the crappy floating menu is a cause for celebration has redesigned! It's much better! No pop-ups (so far) and that useless floating menu has disappeared! And they've finally realised that what people want is the paper's news service, which has been given prominence on the front page. Thanks, beer and vouchers for the buffet to the gang there.

The No Rock Review

Philip Scowen - who we hope won't mind being described as "our man in Japan" - offers us a taste of Doves at Tokyo's Club Quattro on the 2nd of Feb:
After a day spent at the swimming pool and Denny's, I make my way to a hot and poky Quattro in the heart of Shibuya's neon sleaze. The venue is five floors up in a department store. There's a promotional stall set up for the upcoming Magic Rockout Festival here (Vines cancelled, but Foo Fighters and Death in Vegas topped the bill, and Goldie is coming along to do a small-hours DJ set, the lucky sod, "yeah, just off to Tokyo to drop a few choons", do they still put it like that??), and a neatly folded bunch of flyers is handed to me as I enter the club. Sonic Youth, Massive Attack and Johnny Marr are all headed this way soon, as is Avril L, booked in at the Budokan - the first foreign artist ever to play there after releasing only one album, which has sold a million here.

There's no support for Doves, but they put on a film before their entrance. It is weird: the band are dressed up in funny costumes, a boy follows a trail to the end of the rainbow. I can't make sense of it, I'm probably not meant to.

The chaps walk on and greet us, Jimi, Jez and Andy and a younger man in a red teeshirt on keyboards (I wonder if it's Martin Rebelski who does keyboards on the album) who looks like a youthful Stuart Pearce. Doves. Three main geezers with the demeanour of amiable pub barmen. Two sport black tees and Jimi wears a military-style dark jacket. Doves give us shy smiles, sincere greetings and thanks all night, and as a first blast, "Pounding", which is like a good lost New Order song off "Brotherhood" or "Get ready".

"Pounding" and "There goes the fear" is a brilliant opening gambit but I can't help feeling they've played their aces too early. Doves are so wistful and soaring when they hit the heights - all minor keys and mournful anthems. It's an insanely uplifting start, and they do "Sea song" and "Rise" after that and the excitement factor drops a tad, and then I lose track because I am bouncing too much and the beer is kicking in somewhat.

There's a film on the backdrop to every song which is a nice touch. Scenes of suns rising, rivers, the band in anoraks, guitars, darkness and stuff like that. "NY" is powerful and ace over film of ocean liners and burning airships. "Caught by the river" is yearning and reminds my colleague C of life back home in Yorkshire. Is it the lyrics, I ask him, is there a river you recall back there? No he says, it's just the feeling of the song. He knows the first album better than I do, and he tells me the titles. "Satellites" has a line about how we have to "hold on", as all ageing rock bands are bound in their contracts to do, but it is an affecting number nonetheless as we in the crowd hold on to something indefinable,don't give up the fight and love it when the lights go off and the band do a beautiful acoustic bit of the song. That was one of the night's highlights.

"Cedar Room" is the closer and they've upped the volume by now. They disappear for less than five minutes before they saunter back onstage, cans of Asahi Super Dry beer and fags on the go. Jimi takes over on drums and the drummer ventures forward on harmonica and tambourine, but Jimi still does the vocals on a brilliantly languid "Here it comes" over inspiring and interesting slow-mo footage of Wigan's Casino Club and the Northern Soul dancers inside. Man can those guys and girls shake it. The final song is an excursion where the guys reinvent Italo House by taking it into a room and introducing it to an early New Order instrumental and the results rock the house. I think it's called "Space Face" but I can't guarantee that. More uplifting tunes like that, please, chaps.

House duly rocked, the dreamy wistful floorshaking Doves depart to sing in the Shibuya streets and the screen shows the words "All these worlds are yours." And now 12 days later as I type this and Bill Drummond's "45" book settles itself into my mind, I know what they mean. I would definitely go and see them again.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Kelly Osbourne Rock Rating: 2, and falling

Aaah... diddums. Kelly has cancelled her British engagements because she's apparently the only person in the entire fucking world who's been scared of the terrorist alert.

Kelly Osbourne Rock Rating: 3, and falling

While we're ragging on manufactured teen acts, we're still waiting for anyone to try and buttress the belief that Kelly Osbourne is a real deal rocker rather than a slightly louder pop poppett. On the other hand, the latest Elle Girl has Kelly sharing the cover with her friend, um, Mandy Moore.

No Booty, No Belly, No Boobs

NO BOOTY, NO BELLY, NO BOOBS: We're working with Avril Lavigne to smarten up and sauce down the way girls dress in this here modern age - we hope that by allowing Avril to show how her firm and proud insistence that she won't wear clothes designed to show her off tits, ass or tummy, we may even one day live in a world where it's not neccessary to force Courtney to wear a massive duck costume to stop her waving her curious innards at us.

Thanks, then, to Alan Connor of the mighty theFridayThing (make sure you use, and not .com) who has brought these to our attention:

Yes - it's a timepiece with Avril's lovely face on it, to make sure that you're never L8 (see?). And absolutely no way could you argue that that's a girl using foundation garments and a strategic piece of neckwear to boost her assets, could you?

Again, again, again.

Those of you curious as to why Avril isn't going to fall in with that skanky ho dressing party, but is happy to use a lot of slap every day, may like to consider the unalloyed avril to come up with a short list of reasons.

I collect, I reject

The undeclared war between Mogwai and Belle & Sebby carries on. B&S auctioned their car, and may have thought their position as Weirdest Indie Online Auction champs was safe. Mogwai's Martin Bulloch has upped the stakes, though by putting his old pacemaker up to the highest bidder, in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

Yes, yes, Brett Anderson may be trying to flog his knickers for charity, but surely this is the only time you've actually been able to possess something taken from the heart of a rock star?

[Thanks to Popism for the lead on this.]

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Call... response

And no sooner had we placed the new Pop Papers on the griddle than Rachel Ravey - owner of the most lovely hair - got in touch to say that not only does she read and enjoy Jack, but the "never before on CD" track Rock and Roll Suicide turned up on the Art of Driving CD single.

What the pop papers say: best grab a pot of coffee, it's a large edition

There’s only one question on everyone’s minds at the moment, but only the Daily Star Sunday had the balls to ask it: splashed across the front page - “Is Christina Aguilera the sexiest rock star on the planet?” Trouble is, they seemed to be expecting a ‘yes’ response, as if unaware that the sort of people who think that her show-me-your-ass posturing and singing about doing the rude is sexy are on a par with the sadsacks who drive home thinking “she doesn’t just sleep with me for the money... I really mean something to her.”

Christina has got one fan, though - talking to the Guardian Friday Review Wes Butters sighed that, if he was going to exploit his new position as presenter of the official UK Top 40, he’d make Christina Number One every week. The interview with the zero-to-hero chap - we can only assume the head of Radio One was misheard requesting some spread for his morning croissant, and “I want butter” was interpreted as an instruction to pluck him from Century FM - got even more depressing after that. He basically rubbished the whole concept of having the chart for its own sake which means, frankly, he’s the wrong choice for the job. The great chart presenters are like the best readers of the Classified Football results - whether its the chart position of It Bites, or Rushden and Diamond’s pool panel judgement, you’ve got to convince people that it’s important, or else what is the point of even bothering? I doubt if ‘Fluff’ Freeman ever lost any sleep over Herman Hermit’s record sales, but he made you feel like ‘I’m into something good’ sliding two to number six was of vital significance in all our lives. If you can’t make people feel like the ordering of the records you’re playng has some sort of significance, then you’re just driving another show with just another playlist. “I’ll be calling stars up on air to let them know they’re number one” drawls Wes, excited at the prospect of being the one to break the news to Christina that her record has sold a few more than the Teletubbies. I look forward to that - “You got me out of bed at what time to tell me something that the Chart People had already faxed through to my people hours ago?”

Also living in a fantasy land, though for different reasons, is Syd Barrett, who has a more than walk-on part in David Flusfeder’s novel The Gift, received by Hugo Barnacle for review in the New Statesman - Syd becomes the ultimate prize, apparently, in a battle between two couples to give the best, the biggest, the most extravagant gift. Keeping to the Floyd theme, poet Celia Brayfield uses her diary to remember a spat between Roshan Doug and Sean O’Brien over whether Pink Floyd was a better poet than the writer of Mystery Train. Celia wants to hold an Eminem versus Eliot rematch, but can’t find a poet prepared to take TS’ side against Slim in public.

Elsewhere in the Statesman, Darcus Howe trots out the predictable line on why jackson has buggered his face up - it’s not because he’s nuts, it’s because “he was a prisoner of the global corporations”, you see. Apparently Jackson was the first black person to successfully market music to non-blacks, claims Howe. It’s funny how a columnist usually quick enough to point when non-white faces are being painted out of history for convenience manages to do the same thing to Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzergerald, Billie Holliday, Harry Belafonte (and so on) when it makes an easy shot that bit easier. And if the White Entertainment Industry put the Wacko into Jacko, then why is it still possible to have a sensible conversation with Lionel Ritchie and Stevie Wonder?

Equally dimwitted on the same subject - but of course - comes Amanda Platell. Look, I’m not one to often direct my conversation directly to Murdoch employees, but couldn’t someone at Wapping please give her a full time job there to save us from her half-formed thoughts on media week in, week out? She conflates - admittedly quite deftly - the Bashir-Jackson bout with the Benn-Saddam meeting, but then falls apart. “Benn and Bashir proved they are to journalism what Sophie Wessex is to the monarchy - a complete disgrace.” Eh? Why on earth Sophie was dragged into the sentence isn’t clear - it’s hardly a very topical reference; like making a Will Carling joke, and the analogy makes precious little sense. In fact, the charge makes little sense, either. Whatever the shortcomings of Benn’s meeting with one of the top ten mass murderers of our age, he never pretended he was going as journalist - although the meeting was taped, it was a meeting rather than an interview. Maybe Amanda thinks when her butcher says “Ya alright, Manda, love? Scraps for the dog again, is it?” she’s being subjected to a journalistic cross-examination. “One man murders children, the other sleeps with them. How either interviewer could shake hands with these individuals is beyond me - let alone give them an international platform.” Righto, then, that’s clear. You must never run an interview with someone who’s done wrong. Otherwise, presumably, Amanda fears journalism might start to contribute to some sort of understanding about the world we live in and why people sometimes do bad things - and that would never do. More puzzling is that Amanda objects to the Jackson film - an endeavour which has led the Californian social services opening an investigation into what exactly goes on at neverland. Without Bashir’s access, Jackson would never have been given the opportunity to condemn himself out of his own mouth and his rehabilitation would have been continued. Surely Bashir’s handshake for the man has done more to protect Jackson’s sleepover buddies than if he’d just turned his back? Or does Platell believe that the public are too dim witted to pay attention to the words and arguments, and would just have been staring at Jackson’s face? [Not that that would have helped him much, either, come to think of it]

A new title this week, Word, which is (roughly speaking) an attempt to do for the monthlies what Careless Talk Costs Lives is trying to do for the alt-rock magazine market - put the quality of writing and the quality of the subject back at the heart of the magazine industry. It’s probably the desire to make the words count - “Something to read” promises the front page - that it looks so poorly designed; as if the team behind it (Ellen, DuNoyer, Hepworth) had pinched a quark template before they left EMAP and, with only that and the Telegraph Sunday Magazine as a guide, decided that was all the design they needed. In other words, it looks an awful lot like Mojo. The strapline “Music and entertainment now” recalls Q’s issue one clarion call “The modern guide to music and more.” But the writing, it has to be said, is more engaging than either.

In the opening letter Mark Ellen (who, as if declaring an interest, I should admit I would have when he was doing Whistle Test and, in fact, still would) proudly claims the launch has been put together totally free of market research. And that makes sense to a certain extent - the number of years service on consumer magazines clocked up by the team gives their gut instincts about what to publish a credibility no amount of Bourbon-munching focus groupers could claim - but the danger of publishing everything “because we wanted to read it” is demonstrated by the debut issue - presumably as a result of the sudden break from the Rule By Pie Chart EMAP empire, what Word wants to talk about turns out to be magazines more often than music - so Felix ‘Maxim’ Dennis is the very first interview off the block; there’s a feature on Found Magazine; the death of Strummer is approached through the NME picture shoot of Pennie Smith; Magazine of the Month is a regular column; Neil Tennant is introduced with the words “We first met Neil Tennant at Smash Hits in 1981...”; the report on the charts is used to scorn the new Smash Hits chart and the evil machinations of EMAP; Battle and Valiant stories getting re-run in Judge Dredd Magazine is reported upon, as is the reshaping of Kate Winslet to make her legs less offensive to GQ readers; Andrew Collins’ ‘how I got to write for nme’ memoir is reviewed in the Books section, and then Collins hi’self turns up to talk about what it’s like writing Eastenders, which gives him the chance to shoehorn in his anecdote about telling Mal Young he wrote for Q and as such couldn’t write for Brookside and the fabulous reviews section is introduced by comparisons with other magazines - rejecting the “200 albums reviewed and rated” approach (um... didn’t you guys invent and introduce the ‘more reviews than you’ inflation with the first Q magazine?). Next month, we’re promised an interview with Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. Even one of the advertisers - Jack - is a magazine. (Interestingly, Jack boasts about all sorts of awards, and yet, apart from me, I’ve never seen anyone reading a copy. Not even buying; I mean, standing in Smiths flicking through a copy - nobdy. Ever. is it a title that nobody else can see?) Now, this focus on writing about writing is fine by me - especially when it’s done as well as this - but I do wonder if Word isn’t in danger of lurching into being some sort of Trade Magazine for the Music Press. (Incidently, Mr. Ellen, if you are, and you’re looking for a poorly written digest of the music press for each issue...)

To return to the central Tennant, he’s asked if the music industry is going to hell in a handbasket; he laughs that when he got his contract for internet downloads they were trying to charge him a packaging deduction. Pointing at Robbie William’s contract, Neil concludes that while Cds are turning into just another bit of merchandise, the future of music might not be just in the recordings. Curiously, this means that by 2010 the basic truth of the music industry could be stood on its head - no more would tours be the loss-leader to flog the album; it could be the other way round.

Miranda Sawyer (oh, there’s that declaration of interest again) meets Mel C, who apologises for the Pop Idol “anyone can have a number one” wash that has trailed after the Spice Girls. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who was in what was - back when jokes about Sophie Wessex were cutting edge - in the biggest band in pop could remain so human and humble, and able to tell a story about being so drunk that Liam Gallagher was embarrassed, without sounding like a Gucci-toting spanker. We - officially - love Mel C.

Another long standing bunch of bsn favourites - Clare Grogan, Kim Wilde, Steve Strange and the Human League - all turn up in the Here & Now tour report. “Altered Images” on the tour are actually Clare Grogan solo, and she jumps out a cake. Steve Strange, for some reason, is dressed like a mid-ranking officer of the Greek Navy.

The big draw for issue one is Nick Cave, whose interview is fleshed out with wonderfully well researched nuggets of information - such as ‘And the ass saw the angel’ got an enthusiastic review from the Daily Mail. Curiously, Cave claims that he’s always felt an imposter in the music world but feels a lot more confident with his writing, while admitting the process that produced ‘Ass’ was taking a rejected film script and a thesaurus to Berlin.

So, in all, Word makes an impressive debut, but we’re not sure if it’s mix is going to be appealing to readers in large enough quantities to keep it as a going concern (how big was the crossover between the Human League and the Bad Seeds?). But we hope it finds a niche that will support it.

With a new kid on the rack, are the others lifting their game? Uncut have given themselves a shiny glam masthead and a free CD (something Word have said they won’t be doing) - the Uncut covermounts have really been interesting in the last few months, going beyond the usual rag-baggage and theming the tracklisting in more inventive ways - hence, to go with the Ziggy Special, we get Best Bowie Covers - Blondie, Ian McCulloch, Langley Schools Project. Oddly, on the cover Midge Ure’s solo effort is credited to Ultravox. Best of all, Black Box Recorder’s Rock and Roll Suicide is in there - “never previously available on CD” they say, though I’m sure it has been.

Joe Strummer is memorialised and Nick Cave is interviewed here as well. Loud Reed is his usual grumpy self, refusing to allow his interview to wander off the topic of music - you’d have thought that the man who recorded the ‘New York’ album might at least be able to offer a perspective on the city since You-Know-What in the context of his own work, but nope; instead he decides to say “I’m no critic, but The Strokes and The White Stripes aren’t as exciting as we were because we were new... what’s new now is the technology. I couldn’t comment on what the songs are saying as its very hard to understand the words.” Lou Reed - the man who made Metal Music Machine - is now saying“All this new music is made on computers, and why can’t you hear the lyrics?” It might be heartfelt but - hey, Lou - my dad was doing that back in the seventies.

The Ziggy restrospective is, as you’d expect, rather well done but, really, not quite as much fun as watching Velvet Goldmine.

Uncut’s album of the month is Ed Harcourt’s From Every Sphere.

Still leading the perfect bound crowd from the front, of course, is Q. This month, because its Edition 200 (is there ever a time when Q isn’t celebrating? It passes milestones the way my grandfather used to pass kidneystones - with a lot of fuss and attention, probably out of proportion to the event itself. There’s a photo book with this months, of course, which means the magazine comes sealed in a plastic bag. Which is a sweet relief, as the cover rpoepr is Courtney Love on a naked rampage. Only a superfluous barcode saves us from the first full-frontal Q cover since Terence Trent D’arby scared nearly every copy of Neither Fish Nor Flesh back into the warehouses.

Krist Novoselic offers to answer reader’s questions, but being the One That Didn’t Die and Isn’t In the Foo Fighters has obviously turned him into a Lou-in-waiting. Diana Flint, for example, is told to fuck off for asking if Kurt “had any bad habits.” Another one for the list of Bitter Men in pop.

Still, even that’s nicer than the spread of a naked Courtney - small child tits and ‘give her a pie’ ribcage writhing in a London street on Christmas Eve (the ghost of credibility past, we presume). Since this was a few hours after the never-quite-balanced Love had heard about Strummer’s death, you might ask whether it’s entirely ethical of the magazine to have run the resulting photos. Although, gloriously, after three pages of naked courtney, the next page is an advert headlined “Look what I picked up in the sex lottery - genital herpes”, which is either inspired, wicked, or proof of a god with a sense of humour.

Where are they now this month is Whigfield. She’s now doing tours of Finland and Estonia, you know.

To mark Q200, there’s dozens of single page interviews with the stars. So, we learn that it is possible to make Marilyn manson squirm - the self-appointed god of fuck said “enough” when his mum started telling him about his dad tying her up and fucking her; Keith richards thinks that mobile phones are microwave ovens (er... right - we think he means they’re dangerous. Because you know Keith treats his body with respect); Jay-Z doesn’t want to see naked men - we presume that means he’d rather they were behind him, sliding their fat cocks in between his saucy butt-cheeks; Ricky Gervais’ highlight of the last sixteen years was fighting Grant Bovey on the telly; The Clown from Slipknow thinks hell would be never being able to sleep; Craig Nicholls thinks Richard Ashcroft is the greatest living englishman; Justin Timberlake - when asked what side he dresses to - replies “a little to the left”, which either means he’s got a flexible one, or a tiny one; David Bowie thinks The Office is one of the funniest things he’s seen in ages (admittedly, he doesn’t get Angie writing poems for him anymore); Christina Aguilera wants to punch girls who talk shit about her in the press - she’ll need to set aside a very, very long time - and hates people who try to chat her up by saying “You’re so much better than Britney Spears” - well, who wants a relationship with someone whose opening line is a blatant lie?; Steven Tyler’s ire is for the executive who decided that that Bee Gees Sergeant Pepper movie should go into production; Johnny Knoxville’s father told him “the best part of you ran down your mother’s crack”; Moby most wants to punch himself - you know what, Moby? We’re right behind you on that one. We’d suggest following up by using a brick in a handbag; Jack White - who in the photo recreates Cher on a Navy Gun using an aeroplane propeller - suggests that God is a mirror; Avril Lavigne says that you can tell a Canadian from an American because the Canadians are more relaxed - which is curious, considering they share a land border with the maddest nuclear power on Earth - if I was Canadian, I’d be seriously digging a fucking huge trench along the coasts of the great Lakes, and filling it with explosives. Norman Cook spent last New Years Eve getting pissed with Bono and The Edge. It makes you see why Zoe left him, even if the alternative was that bloke with the teeth like Shane McGowan; Nelly nominates Paul McCartney as the greatest living Englishman, although, disturbingly for Liverpool’s tourist board, has to confirm that he’s english before he does so; Craig David gets snippy when Q makes the “what’s your flava”/ice cream joke; Dave grohl has never sent a text or done two girls at once; Beyonce Knowles made her own turkey last Christmas and Anthony Keidis really wants to punch Mayor McCheese.

Spookily, Q quite likes the new Appleton album.

Q comes sealed with the eventual cover strumpy Courtney shots. This weeks NME comes sealed with... yes, Courtney inside. Not naked, but dressed as Donald Duck. “The interview everyone wanted” pledges the banner headline - the words “after Michael Jackson and Phil Spector; oh, and probably Craig Vines” must be too small for the human eye. The issue is sealed to allow a CD to be slipped our way - it’s pretty good: Ryan Adams, BRMC; Radiohead; Ash and, um, Oasis. This week its £1.60 - is this a price rise or just another pointless fucking about with the readers?

As is apparently the new tradition, the cover story spreads over the first few pages of the magazine. Apparently the whole plane thing was a stewardess on a power trip “after September 11” - really? wasn’t an - ahem - emotional rich woman throwing a strop because she was too tight to buy her friend a first class ticket, then? The Q pictures are apparently the subject of legal emails - she feels they were published “out of context”, although we’re not quite sure what the context would have been in the first place; talking of photos, the nme gets inexplicably excited about its “exclusive” picture of Starsailor standing next to Phil Spector - as if, say Starsailor had denied ever working with him, or it was vital evidence in the murder case. Really, “Band have studio photo taken with producer” isn’t much to get excited over; the new White Stripes look is “dying country stars” because, um, there’s no honesty left in country music. apparently; “Eventually Eminem and 50 Cent will be considered the two biggest artists - period” predicts, predictably, 50 Cent - file next to “T’pau will never be forgotten, claims Decker”; Steve O is perhaps the most rubbish person in the world; Tom Morello reports the “anti-war movement is growing fast” as the NME publishes the results of their online, and as such not really worthwhile, survey of readers (we presume the promised War Special has been held back to make room for the NME awards specials?); Willie McCool, one of the Space Shuttle people, had taken a copy of a Weezer album into space with him; Polly Harvey is going to work with Queens of the Stone Age - oh, good, I really can’t wait. let’s hope nobody slips the master tapes into a NASA flight.

We’d like to extend a welcome to new NME news editor Mel Myers, by the way - or at least, her name has finally appeared on the pages. So far, no great change. But give her time...

Hats off to ITV who are trying to bark up an audience for the Brits by running photos of John Prescott in a sou’wester - yes, we know why, but in trying to pass the event off as exciting and dangerous you’ve spent a fortune placing full page ads of an ugly old man wearing the only clothing not even Cerys matthews could make sexy.

Ryan Adams does the CD thing - Don Henley; Slayer and Bonnie Raitt

Justin Timberlake continues his “Please like me - but seriously” tour of the world. But still, the only time he touches base with interesting is when someone asks him about Britney.

Because its Valentines Day, the NME lists the ten cutest couples in rock - Bert McCracken and Kelly Osbourne? Angus Andrew and Karen O?; Har Mar Superstar (yes, they’re still hoping we’ll care) gives his top ten Valentine Tips, though why anyone would want advice from a man whose left hand won’t even return his calls is anyone’s guess.

Better, though, is How To Shag A Rock Star: Karen O goes for big dick and ‘Pussy Dont Fail Me Now’ gets her in the mood - bad news for us, we don’t own a Missy Elliot record; Carl from the Libertines seems to be pretty open for anything, apart from cooking breakfast in case it’s flatmate’s food; Sharin from the Raveonettes finds bad kissers a turn-off and likes the Kinky Viking position and Dick Valentine from Electric Six would offer an assortment of pies before shagging, and a choice of bagels in the morning.

Charlotte Ash and - ahem - casey Spooner offer love advice while Harry (from Dirty Harry as was, until Clint got grumpy) has to choose between members of - yes - The Darkness.

The Polyphonic Spree have a dark side - but its not on the next record. Actually, we suspect that making another record is pretty much an act of willfull evil...

singles... singles first? how they play with our perceptions
sotw - the hiss - triumph - “it sounds like the future”
the rain band - easy rider - “the tunes to bolster the bravado”
the music - the truth is no words - “like the datsuns, but not sexy”

the sleepy jackson - the sleepy jackson - “between the Spree and Nick Cave”, 9
the go betweens - bright yellow, bright orange - “the work of indie pop royalty”, 8
good charlotte - the young and the hopeless - “Jimmy Eat World with something to say”, 8

jay-z - london wembley arena - “rhymes over a tape. and really, that’s enough”
starsailor - london astoria - “a glorious future”
electric six - cardiff barfly - “can electric six transcend trhe novelty of their triumphant opening fanfare?”

and finally:in response to a “cut Craig some slack” letter, Simon Lewis trumpets “but we have to report... The TRUTH!” Maybe. But over five pages? With graphics? Sure, there’s the truth. And we’re all nosey. But it does all smack a little of “we need another Kurt.”

Maybe she'd had her suitcase stolen and had to borrow clothes from Courtney?

We're full of gratitude to the rather wonderful strangefruit - not only because they've changed their colourscheme to make reading their stuff easier on the rods and cones, but for being first to respond to our request for more photos demonstrating Avril Lavigne's strict rules of not wearing clothes which show off her booty, belly or boobs:

As strangefruit point out - clothing rules are, indeed, complicated:

Spandau Bullets

Does anyone want to hear about Spandau Ballet? About how the British Boxing Board of Control has stopped the forthcoming bout between Tony Hadley and John Piennar, on the grounds that someone could get hurt (this, of course, is the same BBBC which is quite happy, indeed encourages, schools to hold boxing matches between little boys whose heads are all still soft.

But Tony will get a high profile scrap anyway, as the Kemp Brothers are taking him and Keeble and Norman back to court for another row over the name - they're objecting to Keeble, Norman and Hadley having used "ex-Spandau Ballet" in their billing for the Here & Now tour last year - jesus, let it go, you bitter old men. What is it - did Martin Kemp nearly lose the ability to humiliate himself in that bank advert because Tony Hadley mentioned "I was in that Spandau Ballet" to a bunch of Belle Star fans?

And Gary, of course, is related to the current Second-drawer Star Gossip of the Day, having fathered one of Sadie Frost's kids before she stopped shaving for Jude Law.

Why are Spandau Ballet suddenly everywhere - could someone check the Book of Revelation to see if they're mentioned?

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

One's Walt, the other Disney

When Disney were busy lobbying for an extension of the copyright to ninety years after death in the US, we were vaguely surprised at the slightly less greedy than they could have been term they were seeking: since anything much over twenty years is pretty inexcusable, we wondered why they were drawing a barrier round Steamboat Willy that will need to be lobbied upwards again in a few years rather than go for a anything longer.

Then we realised Robert Louis Stevenson died in 1894, and if the copyright protection fence was moved too far back, the already expensive debacle that is Treasure Planet would have become totally unworkable. Maybe, though, this could be the way to fight for the public domain - since the principle that Disney established could be used to threaten them, maybe its time someone tried to get copyright extended for the length of three lifetimes? It would be interesting to see how Disney could argue against such a proposition and for the current length...

Spinning sales according to the wind

Doing the rounds of the news outlets yesterday, BPI experts attempted to do the impossible, and try to blame the fall in sales of singles last year on piracy, while acknowledging that album sales, erm, actually rose.

This in itself is curious - the BPI spokesperson kept saying "ah, but people will download a single, but not an album." The sense contained in that statement could be fed to a gnat and the gnat would still starve - how exactly would that work? "I have my highspeed dial up and Limewire is running, but what would be the point of downloading an entire album when I could go and purchase it from town, not thirty miles away; more importantly, the only real revenue-threatening piracy, that of blokes selling copies of Top 40 records from the back of white vans at car boot sales and most council offices near you deals exclusively in albums, so if the problem of loss of sales to shady operators was as great as we're told, you'd expect the singles market to hold up, and the albums to be in collapse.

But the sales figures themselves are more curious still, as the BPI admits that, while they fell, singles sales fell less sharply in the last quarter of 2002 than in "the seven previous quarters." In other words, with the number of files being shared and swapped over the various systems still increasing, the singles market is steadying. Indeed, although the number of singles sold last year did drop, they're only now at the same level as in 1992, when they were much, much cheaper in real terms.


We're delighted to offer our support to the serious-minded Avril Lavigne and her determination to be true to herself. Remember, kids, Avril "won't wear skanky clothes that show my booty, my belly or my boobs."
Here's another picture from the current NME of Avril sticking to at least two of those pledges:

If any No Rock readers have other examples of Avril being very strict about some of her self-created rules, please email us at

'I suppose I'd better get round to saying something, then'

'I SUPPOSE I'D BETTER GET ROUND TO SAYING SOMETHING, THEN': Roger Daltrey has strolled up to the support of his bandmate Peter Townshend. Barely weeks after the story first broke, Daltrey has helped out by raking over the ashes and making the whole thing, which had started to die down, return to the headlines again.

Pete must be drafting the 'thank you' card now - "Cheers for reminding everyone that I paid money to a kiddie porn site, Rog; choosing the middle of the furore of 'Is jacko a kiddie-tickler' to make your move has really helped me."

Interestingly, Roger says this is the worst thing he's ever had to deal with - which must piss off Entwistle that 'bloke admits to downloading porn' is harder to cope with than 'friend dies shagging hooker while on massive coke binge' a bit, and then says that "the least police and our society owes Townshend is to make [his case] a priority and get it dealt with as quickly as possible."

It's not quite clear why we, as a society, owe Townshend this speedy treatment. Since Pete says he wasn't doing anything wrong, why should the prospect of going to court cause him any worry? And if he hates child porn with all the passion he claims, wouldn't he rather than devoting their attention to his case, the police prioritised instead the investigations into the other names on their list of kiddie porn subscribers?

After all, it took Mr T several years from punching in his credit card details and looking at the pictures of naked kids to get round to telling the police about the shocking discovery - why should the police suddenly start to get a wriggle on now?

Probably just a coincidence

Members of the Primal Scream Yahoogroup may or may not agree that the band have a bit of a cheek charging one pound fifty to watch a video on their website, as an email person suggested.

They may also pause to note the complaint came from someone with an '' address - and wonder if there could be any reason why an employee of the same organisation that operates MTV could be complaining about bands selling their videos direct to the fans?

Monday, February 10, 2003

At long last: The shortest corporate suicide note in history

For some reason, Liverpool City Council thought their City of Culture bid needed a song. At a time when mersey-sided music is actually enjoying a rare spot of credibility, you would have thought that any number of well-placed acts could have been called upon to come up with something. Or maybe pulled in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to create something distinguished. No. Instead, we get this:

Got the go, got the get,
Got the will, got the want,
Got the skill, got the scope,
Got the range, got the reach,
Got the life, got the love,
Got the urge, got the edge!

Yes. I can see them all singing that for years to come, can't you? Sounds like an advert for Haven Holiday Centres crossed with the corporate theme for Wernham and Hogg.

They wouldn't have toyed with us, would they?

There was so much frothing over the midweek positioning of Songbird - an Oasis song, apparently - being in the number one slot, we find ourselves wondering just how that could have happened.

After all, even by the standards of late-period (oh, and let us pray we're in late period) Oasis, Songbird is a bit strained, and the chances of it outselling both the saucy lolita lipstick lesbipop of Tatu and the Completely Straight Timberlake must always have been a bit slim.

Surely - in the week that Radio One was relaunching its chart show - there wasn't jiggery and/or pokery behind the scenes with the midweeks to make a chart that was not merely cut and dried but totally jerkey'ed up seem more interesting? Surely not?

More Morag

Last Monday, Teenage Fanclub in Manchester:

I made huge efforts to get to the uni (oops. Sorry academy 2) early because I've got a crush on vera cruse. Because i'm so early I loiter and talk to the guy on the door who hollered 'alright trouble. i didnt think it was country and western night tonight' and then I'm pissed off when I realise they started at 7.45 but that soon evaporates when I realise its becuase there's going to be a Eugene Kelly set too. Wooooooo-hooooooooo!

I catch the last couple of vera cruse songs and find it hard to explain to myself just why they matter to me. Its another Scottish guitar band who like nirvana?but so what? They are more than that and I love them for that special something that means they do it for me. Pure and simple.

Next up its Eugene Kelly, an unexpected and quite wonderful treat.
Vera Cruse are his backing band for a set of what he calls `old man's blues' He ploughs his usual miserable, melodic and wittily perceptive furrow. I love him. When he walked on stage a few people cheered very loudly - I was one of them - but most people ignored him. He shrugs and says "that's showbiz". The first song is my favourite, I think it's new. It begins "stop the press/ I'm in a mess/ I kissed a girl to shut her up/ it didn't work." He declines requests to play any captain America tunes but does tell us he used to be in a band called the vaselines. Someone cheers and he
says "Was it really that great? I don't think so." He plays a
fantastic version of 'Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam' and an audible murmur goes up from the crowd "listen. He's playing a nirvana song" Bah. Try opening your ears. No matter; I feel smug and deeply content. If only the bmx bandits were here too I'd be in heaven.

It's easy to forget just how brilliant the fannies can be. I mean they've been putting out consistently great records for so long I kind of take them for granted; they always hover just outside my top ten. Perhaps it's because, whilst they always delight, they tend to lack the ability to surprise and awe. This means they can appear a bit workmanlike on occasion - they do so tonight once or twice - but truly I think it's a case of they know what they like and what they
can do. And they really do do it pretty fucking well. I wish critics would get over the Byrds comparisons; yes they clearly love west coast harmonies but they turn them into touchy and poignant songs about northern Britain. And that means more to me than mr tambourine man ever will.

Within a minute of appearing on stage `God knows it's true' kicks in and all at once my faith is restored; what a fantastic record. Timeless and with a hook that buries itself deep into your heart.

Norman promises us songs from every album; by the time they reach the final sparky's dream they have more than fulfilled the promise. I think it was perhaps skewed towards earlier stuff but maybe that's just me, because these are the songs I cherish most. Nothing disappointed. They did a cracking version of verisimilitude, which is my favourite fannies song, and when they sang "what you do to me' I felt an unexpected lump in my throat: memories of indie discos of yore when boys looked like girls and girls all looked pretty.

The biggest problem was finding a space to dance and a gap in the setlist so I could nip to the bar. The room was packed; busier than I've seen for ages, its good to see they inspire such love. I was at the front for a long time but eventually moved back and was very irritated by someone talking VERY LOUDLY behind me. I wondered why no-one asked them to shut up but then realised the culprit looked suspiciously like Manchester's number one twat in hat and mindful of what happened last time I simply moved again.

Of course there was an encore - it was obvious not least because the most requested song hadn't been played yet -so they returned after Norman had `nipped out for a wee'. Everything flows was majestic, and then, finally, came a singalonga version of The Concept. It's got to be a contender for best opening lines ever:
"she wears demin wherever she goes/ I think she's gonna get a record by the status quo/ oh yeah. Oh yeah. Says she won't be forced against her will/ she don't do drugs but she's on the pill/ oh yeah / Oh yeah. I din't mean to hurt you ooooh yeah..."

fucking genius.

I leg it out quickly, I don't want to have a taxi battle, and at the bottom of the stairs some smiley people are giving out flyers. I take one and think nowt; then I look again; its vera cruse and of course I have to say something. The singer is nearest so I say "excuse me, I think you're brilliant"; he looks deeply bemused when, for some reason, I start wittering on about how I got here really early and still missed half the set but saw them on the loose tour and really loved the album', I realise he now looks a wee bit
scared so I say `aw, don't worry. I'm just super geeky indie girl' and then he looks relieved and thanks me and says I'm not a geek. And then I run off.

Outside there is a blanket of snow. I had no idea. It looks
beautiful and I start laughing but then think oh fuck. There's hardly any cars about. How am I going to get home? I start trudging up oxford road and by chance a cab pulls up. It seems to be the only taxi running in Manchester. I go home feeling deeply content with
being alive.

The No Rock Review

We've been sat on the latest batch or Morag-from-Twang reviews so long we're surprised they've not hatched or migrated to Nervous In Suburbia. But here we are, then... first up, Delgados and friends in Manchester:

I can't believe I thought about not coming here tonight; somehow I forgot how wonderful the Delgado's are. But here they are to remind me, complete with flutes, violins and a huge bag of fan-bloody-tastic tunes. They played a lot of stuff off hate and the great eastern and a smattering of other favourites, mixed up with some entertaining between songs banter. The show last night in leeds was
bollocks apparently (I find that hard to believe) and its not wanky for them to wear there own t-shirts cos they don't have the band name on them. It was so good I forgot my foot hurt. The bus stop lady said the encore was an elo song; I was too busy disbelieving this was it; they played for a little over and hour which isn't a lot considering how big their bag of magic is. This is a night of wonderous things; crashing guitars and beautiful sounds and haunting
voices and clever, true and haunting words. The acoustics were perfect and I leave re-enlightened. All you need is hate indeed.

the spinning fields and the mountain goats, manchester, saturday. I sat next to someone from the fall you know

It's not often I see band so bad I have to leave the room: the Spinning Fields may well take pride in achieving this. The room was so small and empty I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable; I didn't want to be a hypocrite and clap. Later we came to the conclusion its good to dislike things; it gives you something to fight against and means when I like something and say nice things (as I do most reviews) well then I mean it. So what was wrong? Hmmmm. It's wrong to judge on appearances I know. But when the singer appears to be a geography teacher who thinks he is a cheeky chappy super wacky macca thumbs aloft type chancer, and the bass/ keyboard guy has the kind of bum fluff moustache usually associated with 15 years olds tan
middle, then...?The first song was dull nonsense about cemetery road in denton (Tameside not texas) and then the second was called meet me at the harvester. And it wasn't a joke?um. When I came back they were talking about `the woking wonders' and launched into a tragic
take on that's entertainment. Never has a song been so misplaced.

I had filed the mountain goats away with the palace brothers and how I quit smoking era lambchop. That is, records I only ever heard at the houses of indie kids who were too cool to like country, and whose music I loved at the time but never cared enough to own. So I went out of a spirit of vague nostalgia and curiosity and remembered
fondness. Plus the pop art tag on a gig is a pretty reliable stamp of quality. I'm glad I made the effort. Their songs are richer and more varied than I remembered, quiet and thoughtful and tuneful and quite, quite lovely. Apologies are made that they won't be doing their rock thang today; the singer has a sore throat and no matter how he pleads is not be given a cigarette. I'm kind of glad; I'm in a reflective mood and it's a small room best suited to acoustica.
John says he got sick of love songs and started writing about junkies instead; it's a refreshing change. He also says how delighted he is to be in Manchester because as a teenager closer changed his life and how his wife loves the smiths and is jealous that he is standing in places where morrissey once walked. These influences show a little in his songs, they are more than simply country or Americana or whatever its called this week. The final
song is the finest, `the best death metal band in denton' (texas not Tameside as someone shouts out) How can you not love a chorus of "hail satan"s? They come back to do one more song; they say if you claim to not know it you are a poseur and that we are all genetically wired to love it and must all join in with the chorus?
The song in question is the sign by ace of base. And yes, a fair few of the miserable alt.cunt crowd do singalong, myself included.
Blimey; people are smiling and laughing and everything. I never dreamt I'd see the day.

Fighting fire with ire

At this rate, we might have to spin off a separate Michael Jackson Mad service. So, today's Jacko news is that he's supposedly about to release video of Martin Bashir praising him on how he looked after his kids. We want to see this, if only to find what words Bashir uses - "well done for not dropping him"; "actually, they're so ugly you're doing well to keep their faces covered up"; "I see you've not chopped the children into small pieces and dropped their remains, chunk by chunk, into the lion cage at the local zoo - well done"? But the trouble is Jackson is badly missing the point - Bashir could appear in the middle of the Superbowl presenting Jacko with one of those 'World's Greatest Dad' mugs you can buy in Hallmark, and it wouldn't matter.

There's a split between people who think Jackson might be fiddly-kid man and those who don't, certainly, but everyone No Rock has come across has expressed a lack of conviction in his parenting skills. And that's not because of anything Bashir said or did; if Michael wants to blame the person whose words condemned him, he should buy a mirror. Although we can think of reasons why he wouldn't want to.

Oh, actually, to be fair, didn't the surrogate mother of Blanket say that she thought that jackson was a wonderful dad? So at least we know the cheque cleared.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Exploitation of children continued?

The mother of the kid in the Jackson documentary may be relatively relaxed about her son sharing a bedroom with a fortysomething man, but she gets all protective when Martin Bashir interviews him without permission.

Mind you, if it's true that Granada didn't get approval for the boy to appear they could be in trouble.
Maybe this'll stay ITV's hand in squeezing the milky teat any more - they've worn their exclusive rather thin, with almost a solid block of last Monday night's programming across ITV1 and ITV News followed by seemingly endless repetitions across ITV2; now next Friday they've penciled in a Highlights Programme.

Considering that on first outing it was the highest-rated documentary for years, can there be anyone left interested who hasn't seen it?