Saturday, October 25, 2003

ROCKING ALL OVER THE WORLD: You can't help but feel that British music has lost its edge when "sugababes make a botched attempt to smash equipment, thow it down, pout off" is seen as being a bit edgy. It's a lot edgier elsewhere, you know.

In Bahrain, a massive riot kicked off outside a gig by Nancy Ajram. Hundreds of Muslims had gathered to protest at the un-islamic acts due to take place inside the Conference Centre, and it spilled over into a smash and crash and burn during the course of which things were burned, police cars smashed and masked youths threatened people to make them turn back from going to the concert. Rumours that the organisers could be seen shouting "No, we said she was Lebanese, not a Lesbian..." remain unconfirmed. So, what does Nancy do that caused this outbreak of bother? Well, she's raunchy, isn't she? As Al Bawaba reports "She is best-known for a clip that shows her swaying her hips and shaking her shoulders while serving customers at an all-male cafe." Let's hope Bahrain never gets to see episodes of Corrie from the period when Hayley was serving at Roy's Rolls. Their country might not be left standing.

Over in Cambodia - a country which has never quite recovered from the impact of the Kim Wilde song of the same name - Touch Sunnich has been shot in the face by four motorcyclists and is, not surprisingly, in a bit of a bad way in hospital. It's thought the shooting was a punishment for her playing a gig for the nation's rulers - you know, like Atomic Kitten and Ozzy Osbourne did during the Jubilee (not that we'd want to put ideas in your head) - and might give the So Solids something to think about the next time they try to jusitfy why they took to carrying guns round with them.

Crossing to the Punjab, and Daler Mehndi is up in court facing allegations that he's been using his enormously successful musical career as a front for running a people smuggling operation. During the course of the trial, it's turned out that he's big chums with underworld don Abu Salem. Which makes Cheryl Tweedy's troubles look very minor league in comparison.

Even bloody Chico Debarge manages to take time out of starring a gospel musical to get himself stabbed by the splendidly named John "Johnny Gongs" Casasanto. And what do we get? The most outrageous thing to happen in music in the British Isles this week was Stepehn gateley and his husband having a bit of a tiff in the street. Our music isn't just dull, it's lost its scale.

RAVEONETTES' BOXERS OFF: The Boxer Rebellion has had to be put down as a support for The Raveonettes after Nathan Nicholson got rushed to hospital. Apparently it's all about burst cysts, keyhole surgery and near-fatalities, which frankly is a bit much for us to stomach before lunch on a Saturday. He's going to be fine, but not up on his feet in time to allow his band to take their place as warm up for the sexjesus and sexmary sexchain.

VICOTRIA VALUES: We're not a big fan of Victoria Beckham, as you'd probably guessed (although we do miss the thighs she had in the Wannabe video), but we have to tip our hat to her for not going to the Pantene awards. The Evening Standard seems to imply that by going out for a glass of Perrier and some lettuce with her hangers-on ("to dine with friends at fashionable Mayfair restaurant Nobu") instead she was shirking her responsibilities but... come on, wouldn't we have laid into her if she was so desperate she'd go to some dismal shampoo promotion? What next - headlines laying into Madonna for ignoring the woman demonstrating Shake and Vac in John Lewis?

The paper also describes her as "the former Posh Spice", which sort of implies she's ceased to be Posh.

Anyway, cracking down to her career: "However, sources at her record label Telstar claim that although they are desperate meet her, their phone calls are not returned. The firm is stalling on releasing her new album because of rows over her new mentor, rap producer Damon Dash. Telstar refuses to pay Dash for the work he has done with Victoria, believing the album will be a flop. It is trying to reach agreement for her to release a pop album she recorded before meeting Dash, but she is refusing. 'Nothing is happening with the album at the moment because we can't come to an agreement,' said a Telstar insider. 'We are in the middle of a legal wrangle with Dash over money and we have tried to get Victoria to join in the meetings so we can sort it out, but she won't come.'

We're not smart enough to work for a record label, but we'd suggest that leaking how shit the record is to the papers might not be the best way to tempt your - ahem - talent in for a little chat about how things are going, is it? But we're delighted to hear that Telstar thinks that its okay not to pay a chap because the resulting record isn't very good - if we inflate this principle to its fullest, woudn't it make downloading music that isn't commercially successful okay? So, say, Mariah Carey's Glitter soundtrack is fair game on Kazaa, because it was a flop and therefore, the royalities which would normally be generated by the sales don't apparently have to be paid.

We hope the album does get released, though, simply because we want to hear a record so shite even the label writes it off commercially before anyone gets to hear it.

TUNE IN: We're starting to think that Kelvin McKenzie might have a point about the Rajar methodology (although it pains us to admit that he's right about anything), as we're not sure that the new set of listening figures makes any sort of sense. They claim that Capital has just been unseated as number one commercial station in London after 30 years and, oddly, that the station's breakfast station has lost a fifth of listeners in a year. Now, it could be that all those people have switched off because Chris Tarrant keeps taking long holidays - but how many of the listeners are down to the people filling out their diairies not hearing Chris' voice and assuming they're on some other station? And we're not entirely sure the figures for Digital stations really bear anything other than a passing glance at the actual figures. Can Rajar really claim their panel has the same proportion of people who regularly tune into web, Dsat and DAB radio as you find in the general population?

But even if we take the figures as being genuine, we're a little curious as to why Media Guardian is being so grumpy about what they're reporting. 1Xtra has a reach of a third of a million and the Asian Network is pulling a half million, which isn't bad when you consider that neither has a national analogue radio platform, and are aimed at highly targetted audiences - Virgin has got an AM network, a broad-appeal format and only manages 1.4 after a decade on air.

Having said which, 154 000 weekly listeners for 6Music would be a bit of a blow, but it's not a figure we can believe in, I'm afraid. Either we know, personally, every single 6Music listener, or else they've fucked up the count badly, and my instinct says that it's the latter. What's curious is that the commercial digital channels run by EMAP are returing far more solid audience figures - and, strangely, Rajar's commercial figures are based on samples double the size. If the company really want to be taken seriously as the arbiter of audience figures for 21st century radio, they're going to have to make some serious changes to the way they produce their surveys.

Friday, October 24, 2003

DISTRESS: Britney's stalker is suing her for the distress she's caused him, what with the restraining order and the court case and all. His solicitor says that it's all a cultural misunderstanding, and Masahiko Shizawa was - simply - in love with Britney Spears. Of course, we're no expert on Japanese courtship rituals but we're far from convinced sending creepy notes and appearing outside houses is the traditional way young Japanese people cop off; if it is, we're happy to be corrected.

We're not quite sure why he's gone to all this bother, really - he should take a lesson from Spike's Buffybot, and get himself one of these:

apparently it breathes as well

GREAT NEWS FOR EMI: As if they weren't enough in the mire, EMI will be delighted to hear that Radiohead are pissed off with making albums and are feeling quite tempted to try and do something a bit more random for their next musical journey. So, thats one of their few transatlantic successes hinting that they're not going to be renewing the multi-album contract that's just ended with Parlophone. I'm guessing the projections on which the mooted EMI-Warner marriage was based are being recalculated right now...

WHENEVER, WHEREVER: Wonderful news that Shakira has been appointed a goodwill ambassador by UNICEF, a role that will sit incredibly well with her other ambassadorial role - that of the one as Reebok's representative on planet pop. The UNICEF side of her will be able to get exclusive access to the Reebok side of her, and ask such pertinent questions as how the conditons of workers in Reebok's El Salvador factories will be improved by being forced to join company-run puppet unions instead of proper, freedom of association unions; or - equally pertinently - how a company can happily try and flog glorified pumps directly to children , and isn't there something a little bit unsavoury about a goodwill ambassador also being the purveyor of over-priced tat to kids?

We're guessing that the picture only looks like it should be captioned "Shakira receives new product from one of the senior workers on a Reebok production line, yesterday."

LAST CHANCE TO SEE: Terrible, shocking, sad news. No, not the plans of Shed Seven to split, but that they're going to do one last tour before they finish. We're sure most people - certainly those aged under 24 and those aged over, probably, 25 - will either be surprised that Shed Seven are still going, or else that they existed at all. But we do know for a few people, they'll be savouring the bitter irony that they left us on Friday, and ruined our weekend.

It's certainly ruined our weekend - losing Shed Seven is like losing one of your great comedy staples. We're putting Starsailor on fair warning that they'll have to take over the role as 'not-bad-but-something-not-quite-right' journeymen of pop.

RECORD COMPANY ACCEPTS INEVITABLE: EMI have just signed up most of their catalogue to Wippit, the legal MP3 download service. We've not used it ourselves, but now they've got a good weight of stuff on offer we have to say their offering looks pretty good - it's a prix fixe, but GBP30 for a year of unlimited, burnable stuff seems to be pretty good value if you're the sort of person who stacks up music the way Charles Ingram stacks up tearfull court appearances. If you buy music at the rate of a song every six months, you'd probably be best off sticking with (or waiting for) iTunes, mind. We've probably missed something very fundamental that makes the system suck.

KYLIE'S ARSE: Kylie Minogue has decided to stop flashing her butt: "The cost to the record company of painstakingly photoshopping out the imperfections in my bottom from every scene of the videos is starting to make me look less cost-effective" ("I'm a 35-year-old woman. I kept everything covered in my video.")

Winningly, though, she's made it clear that just because she's buying slacks now, Christina and Britney don't have to: "There's always competition and it doesn't worry me. They are free to strip down if they want." I'm sure Christina will be pleased she has Kylie's blessing to get her rack out.

ELLIOTT SMITH - 1969-2003: Some memories of Elliott, first from Aaron Scullion:

Quite sad about Elliott Smith (sharp intake of breath sad, not weeping or anything). Used to really like him - went to a gig in Edinburgh once that was just crazy, really fanatical support there. One guy was so taken by it he stole one of Elliott's guitar pedals, literally unplugging it, lifting it from the stage, and nipping out the door, in the break between songs.

Elliott seemed genuinely hurt by it all, and bleated throughout the encores, "who comes to a gig and steals stuff, man...".

I was reviewing the gig at th time, and wrote this line

"You'd think the music industry would have toughened him up by now"

Sad it didn't, I guess.

Next, Becky Bamboo:

A few weeks before Good Will Hunting came out, I read a bunch of articles about it and each one mentioned how beautiful the music in the movie was. The name Elliott Smith was lauded over and over. I started to get that feeling; the feeling that this is someone on whom I should take a chance. I've learned to trust that instinct, so I went out and bought Either/Or without having heard a note of it. The next day I bought everything else of his I could find.

There are certain things that just resonate, you know? Songs, poems, books, whatever. They hit you deep and hard and you feel them in your soul. And when you manage to find them you hold them close and they become a part of who you are. Elliott Smith's songs resonated with me. He managed to find hidden corners of my heart and illuminated and defined them for me. The music was intricate and delicately beautiful and his hushed voice perfectly suited his recurring themes of loneliness and isolation.

I had the privilege of seeing him perform twice. They were two very different shows. The first was an hour long set at Glastonbury in 2000. It was a confident, intense, and utterly riveting performance. The rest of the audience seemed to fade away and it was just me and him in a tent, in the cold. There was no banter, no wasted time, no hesitation. Just song after beautiful song that ripped into me and left me wrung out. The second time I saw him was two years later in San Francisco. It was a shambles. He looked tired and worn out. Songs were started and not finished, lyrics were forgotten. He seemed embarrassed and out of place up on stage. The audience sang along to each song under their breath, getting louder and carrying him when he'd forget where he was going. There was such a feeling of support and love from everyone there that I haven't felt before or since. I left, once again, wrung out.

I didn't go home last night and put on any of his albums. I couldn't. I don't know how long it will be before I will be able to listen to "Alameda" without sobbing. I don't know how long it will be until I can talk about him without my eyes filling and spilling over. I don't know how long I'll be on the headache-y edge of tears. But I bet Elliott would've known.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

WANNA BUY A VENUE?: It's been decided: The Trades Union Centre in Liverpool is being flogged off, and with it the Picket venue. While it might make an excellent music venue, we can't help but feel it'd also make some gorgeous city centre flats.

DEER MEDICAL BILLS: After a swerving-to-avoid a deer accident, Calvin Johnson has been hospitalised with broken ribs, concussion and a dislocated shoulder. The other members of Dub Narcotic Sound System were also hurt. Being in America, the costs of the medical bills are causing problems, and so K Records have established a medical fund to help with bills. There's no word on how the deer is.

GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS, BUT TRANSPARENT, WAYS: He hates POD so much that he makes the building they play in fall down in a bid to stop them. Talking at a Press Conference after the collapse of the ceiling, God said: "I must make it clear that I wasn't trying to kill them, only stop them from honouring me with their rock music. Goodness me, I don't want them dead, turning up at the Gates expecting to be let in because they spent the last few years banging away at their drum kits going on about how great I am. I mean, really, I created the entire bloody universe and all that swims and frolics on every planet - if people aren't going to throw their weight behind me after that lot do they really think some pale Limp Bizkit style shapes are going to turn sceptics into believers? I sent my only son to be crucified in a bid to save the world, didn't I? He had to perform miracles and make the ultimate sacrifice, and still I couldn't persuade any of you lot to give the old Commandments a try - why do POD think that making an ungodly racket is somehow going to make a difference? Frankly, I find it a little patronising that they seem to think that a couple of poorly-performed tracks from an underwhelming album is going to do more for my image than I can manage for myself." God then adjourned the Press Conference, to keep an appointment he had made for creating a torrential rainstorm in wherever Evervesance ihappen to be.

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.

TALKING OF KITTENS: As they watch The Sugababes effortlessly overtake them, and head off into the distance, Atomic Kitten do a webchat for the Sun. Watch as Jenny, um, visibly relaxes during the course of the chattering:

Tash – The Spice Girls and The Supremes are the only other girl bands who've actually had the No1 single and album at the same time so we went down in history there.

Gone down in history like those other famous thirds, like the third person to swim the channel and the third person to reach the South Pole…

It's such a great achievement to come from being the band that people didn't have any faith in to being one of the country's biggest exports.

Really? Are we exporting more Atomic Kitten singles than we are steel? Doubtless George Bush will be looking at bringing in some sort of quota.

Liz – Everyone back in Liverpool is so proud of us. Anywhere else in Britain people walk up to you and say "can I have your autograph?" But when you're walking down the street in Liverpool people you don't know shout out, "alright Liz, nice one girl" and give you the thumbs up.

Clearly, things have changed in the last six weeks since we left Liverpool. Back when we moved away, people would certainly shout at the band, but not "nice one girl." And we're not sure its thumbs that would be stuck up there.

Tash – Why did you have a boob job I thought you looked great before? Dennis, Fulham
Tash - I had the boob job because I personally felt like I wanted it and it makes me feel a lot better.

Well, that's cleared that up then. Um… better than what?

Tash - I'm very proud of them, but not in the way that I'm going to be going out with my bra off and flashing them to the world.
Jenny - We have fun on the tour bus. When you have a boob job you've got to massage them you see - so we take turns!
Tash - And my boyfriend is very happy.

Yes. Well done for being proud of having fake breasts. You want to try getting a false leg next; you'll be simply swelling up with your sense of achievement. Mind you, if we were Tash's boyfriend, we'd be delighted that Jenny was massaging her plastic bags for her - it would free us up time to get on with scrubbing ourselves with carbolic soap…

What's it like being sex symbols and are you as sexy in private as you are in public? Dave, Newcastle
Tash – Of course!

Since they're about as sexy as the huddle outside a Scunthorpe comp at Home Time, we certainly believe this one. Interestingly, the band don't answer the bit about being sex symbols, presumably because they elected to stick to subjects they might know something about.

How is baby Josh doing? What effect has he had on the group and does he like your music? Emma, Kent
Tash – Josh loves any sort of music. He even dances to TV jingles.
Liz – He was getting down to Pink the other day in the car and even danced to the EastEnders theme tune.
Tash – His favourite Atomic Kitten song is our new single If You Come To Me, which is out next month. It's going to be the first single from the album.

So, having established that the baby will dance to any old shit at all, they then suggest that we should buy their single on his say-so.

Hi Tash – I heard you're dating one of your backing dancers, Gavin. What's he like and how did you guys get together? Is it true you asked your ex-boyfriend – and Josh's father - Fran's permission? Michael, Leeds
Tash – Gav is gorgeous and we've been going out about seven months now. We work together which is a bonus, and that's how we met. Everything is going really well.
It's so not true that I got Fran's permission.
Jenny – What woman in their right mind would ask her ex for permission to date her next boyfriend?
Tash – Of course me and Fran had only just split up so I did tell him but that's as far as it went – I TOLD him.
Liz – And Tash has definitely got it right with Gav, you need a boyfriend who can dance. Someone with a bit of rhythm.

Oooh… that's your girl power right there, then. We wonder why you'd need to tell - or TELL - someone anyway because "you'd just split up"? We suspect the chronology went something like:
- eye the dancing bloke in his tights
- decide going to date dancing bloke
- announce to Fran you've split up
- announce to Fran you're dating Gav before he has a chance to say "let's give it another go…"
And while we wouldn't want to stereotype any career choice, we're now understanding why Tash has to get the rest of the band to do the breast business…

Tash – Do you still speak to Fran and what do you think about him seeing Jodie Marsh? Lee, Brighton
Tash – I don't really see Fran that much and what he does with his life is his choice.

… and now we start to see why having bigger tits makes her "feel better." Doubtless if it had been Fran who had run off with Gav, Tash would now be making herself feel better by buying a large strap on.

Hey girls. My question is for Jenny. When are you and Dom getting married? Anastasia Matveeva
Jenny – Our plans are no further along, I have no idea when the wedding is going to be. There's no rush - we've been together for four years now and engaged for two of those – we're very happy as we are.

And, indeed, what's the point of booking a church for the summer after next when you don't know who's going to be your backing dancers between then and now?

Liz. Now that you're single again how can I win you over? Richard, Docklands
Tash – Send her a cheque for £1million.

… and he said "we've already estalished what you are; now we're just haggling about price."

Kittens – I need your help. I've just started seeing a gorgeous girl and need a big romantic gesture to win her over. What do you suggest and what have men done to win your hearts? Alex, Reading

Some of these questions, we suspect, may have been prepared by journalists.

Liz – Have a nice romantic evening in. Cook for her, put candles around and have some nice music. You don't have to spend lots of money to make a big gesture.
Jenny – Put clues round the house so when she opens the door she sees rose petals and little clues saying "walk this way" and just be sat there with a great meal.
Tash – But don't set the table and then you can get jiggy on it afterwards.
Liz – I've had a lot of romantic things done for me, but I think the ones that mean the most are when someone tells you that you're beautiful and you can tell they really mean it.

Awww… bless their sweet little hearts. And there was you thinking they'd just suggest you never make her chop her own line out.

I love the song that Kylie wrote for you. What was she like to work with and how do you think she compares to Atomic Kitten? Dan, Manchester
Liz – We didn't actually get to work with her in person because she was on her Australian tour.
Tash – She demoed the track for us so we had to learn it with Kylie singing, which was just wicked. We loved the song so much that we actually ended up using it as the title track for our last album. When we saw Kylie after the album had been out for a little while she was just so overwhelmed and said that it was a pleasure to write a song for us. And who knows, hopefully we might be able to write a song together in the future. Kylie's just the ultimate pop star, she's like Madonna in that she always re-invents herself, but we love Dannii as well.
Jenny – Neon Nights is a fantastic album and whenever we do a concert and Dannii is playing we all have a boogie and try and copy her dance routines.

Why the sudden sucking up to Dannii at the end of that response? Curious, isn't it? What we do love, though, is the idea that Kylie sat down at a big desk with her thinking head on saying "Today I'll write a song for Atomic Kitten." What probably really happened was Kylie wrote a song, played it to her people who - after they'd stopped laughing - said "Well, you might be able to offload it onto a band who aren't that fussy any more." And Girls Aloud were too busy getting stories straight to use it.

If you could be any other pop babe for a day who would you choose? Robbie, Glasgow
Jenny – I'd be Dannii and just snog myself all day!

Right, so Jenny would want to snog herself - that makes sense, because it's so much easier to wait until you turn into someone else and then try to make your lips fold over each other. Jenny… is there something you're trying to tell us?

I read a fantastic story about you giving your profits from the milk ads you will be appearing in to a young cancer sufferer. Can you tell me more about it?
Jennifer, Hartlepool
Jenny – There's a little girl called Robyn Brooks who is having treatment at the moment in America. She's got neuroblastoma - a rare form of cancer which affects about 80 kids in the UK each year – and this country refuses to pay for her treatment.
Even though Tony Blair said about six months ago that any treatment not available in this country would be paid for, he's still not honoured that.
Liz – So Robyn's family have to raise the money themselves and it costs an absolute fortune.
Jenny – So far the family are in around £500,000 worth of debt. And sadly Robyn has just had a relapse, but she started a new course of treatment yesterday and is in good spirits.
You can check out her website at and it would really help if people can raise awareness or give any donation, however small.
Tash – If every person who reads The Sun Online donated £1 that would cover the rest of her treatment.

Oooh, a little bit of politics there - for just a second, there was a glimmer of Atomic Kitten taking on the government. Seriously, things must be bad for Blair when even a bunch of uber-drilled offence-avoiders forget to smile and say 'great.' This actually makes Atomic Kitten more radical than Bono, if you think about it.

What was it like meeting Prince Charles and did he see your raunchy performance at this year's Party In The Park? Will, Norwich
Liz – Prince Charles is lovely.
Tash – I'm sure he saw our performance.
Jenny – I've heard he's got it on video and watches it when Camilla is away.

Having slobbered over Dannii and slagged off Blair, now Jenny is slapping down the heir to the throne and his shag partner. I mean, seriously, we know that even if Charles had been around for the Atomic Kitten set, he'd have astrally projected himself to some happier place in his mind's eye - like the third chamber of hell or the courtyard of the new British Library building, but even so… we can't help but notice that Jenny is starting to forget she's meant to be in a girl band…

What's the most bizarre – or embarrassing – position you've found yourselves in since becoming famous? Andy, North London
Jenny – The most bizarre one is private! What sort of thing do you mean?

Um… which part of the question does she not quite grasp?

Hey girls. I can't wait to hear your new album, what's it like?
Leanne Bellamy
Jenny – Our new album is bigger and better than the last one. But we've not moved too far away from we've done before, it's the same style of eclectic pop with some R&B and ballads.
Tash – There are 15 tracks on there so there's plenty of value for money this time.

Interesting that the claim that the album is 'bigger and better' is suddenly thought to make it sound like she's suggesting they've tried something different - "it's still actually pretty small and shit, though." And nice obsession with what Jimmy Young used to call VFM - you can take the girls out of Argos, but you can't take the Argos out of the girls…

Have you written any of your new songs yourselves, and if so which ones are most personal to you? Joanne, Belfast

Joanne clearly taking the piss. She should have asked "and what were the words you changed to qualify for the credits?

What's your favourite biscuit and chocolate bar? Kitty, Wigan
Jenny – My favourite chocolate bars are Curly Wurlys, Whole Nut, anything with strawberry in the middle and Kit Kats with cheese wrapped around them. I like chocolate Hob Nob biscuits.
Tash – I love those pink wafers you used to get in selection tins and cookies. My favourite chocolate is Galaxy.
Liz – My faves are Galaxy, Rich Tea and caramel digestives.
Jenny – But all chocolate has to be kept in the fridge.
Tash – I've got a good tip. You know you have those polystyrene bottle carriers for babies that keep the bottle at the temperature you put it in at? Well buy a few of them and stick your chocolate in that, it won't get warmer or go dead cold. They're only £1.

Kit Kats with cheese wrapped around them? Oh Jesus. This webchat apparently sponsored by the good people at Poundland.

THE KITTENS IN WINTER: We're a little puzzled by Atomic Kitten insisting they don't agree with the lyrics of their new single - not, we're sure, that they're a bunch of muppets chanting out whatever they're told to, of course: "We don't really agree with the lyrics of the single. It's about a girl saying to a man 'I'll give you a second chance' and there are no second chances with Atomic Kitten." Kind of rich from a band that's already on its third line-up and actually got dropped before Whole Again somehow lumbered to the top of the charts, isn't it?

A haiku album
the godforsaken concept -
twenty tracks too long

STOLE SURVIVOR: That's what this guy is claiming Beyonce did. Only it was called glorious back then.

ROCKOBIT: Undercover is reporting the death of Elliott Smith from an apparent suicide.

ROCK TODAY: We're almost starting to warm to Conor McNicholas, the NME editor; he popped up on Today a few minutes ago talking about the rebirth of rock (yes, The Darkness has landed on Radio 4's flagship) and who couldn't but be charmed by his exclamations of "fun", like an aunt in a PG Wodehouse novel. His take on the Darkness is that they're exhibiting a "nostalgia for a history they've never had" - which possibly underestimates Justin's age by a good five years, to be honest, but makes a kind of sense.

The other guest was Paul Morley, who suggested they were 'End of the Pier Metal', comprising little bits of every metal act ever. "They're essentially conservative; yearning for an unrecoverable past - it's like when people go and sing along to the Sound of Music or the Rocky Horror Show" he claimed, suggesting their big test was going to be if they have the machismo to crack America. So their longevity is going to come down to whether the Americans see the cat suit or hear the rock.

Almost as soon as the piece finished, this pinged into our inbox:

I thought you'd be pleased to know that, on Wed's today programme, they did a feature on the return of rawk. I'm sure it'll be on the listen again page, if you want to hear. Anyway, they used a clip of the Darkness, 'Get your Hands Off My Woman' and, they presumably thought they were being very clever, sampling a bit without any swearing..

..except they used the bit where the singer yelps 'you cuuuuuuunt'.

Top stuff. No one even seemed to notice..

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

TOP OF THE POPS... WITH CRAZYLEGS CRANE: There had been a sense of anticipation when Andi Peters took control of Top of the Pops, and announced his revamp. Now he's had a meeting with BPI to give them a sneak preview of his plans and anticipation has got red hot. Anticipating the show is going to go the way of This Is Your Life, that is. We're guessing that when he looked in the ideas cupboard, Peters found it was empty and so he scraped some up from other shows. So, while we applaud the axing of the Star Bar, we can only roll our eyes at the other innovations:

More backstage footage - because who wants to see your favourite band performing, when you could see them standing around looking bored in a corridor?

New presenters - blonde? can'thardly string twowors teggever? Your time is now

A new logo - Yes, that'll bring the audiences back from Corrie

and, best of all... a new name:

The All-New Top of the Pops.

Like The All New Flintstones, or the new Leave It to Beaver. We wish we were joking. We really wish we were.

WE'RE ALL GREAT FRIENDS, US: What we find stradling the funny-tragic fence is that it's always Heidi who's denying the other two Sugababes hate her - "no, honest, we get on great, we do, they love me..." - and that they're about to split. Apart from anything else, the rumours of interband hatred aren't what make people countdown the days the band have left - it's more the way their stage presence gives the impression of people waiting for trains to Scunthorpe to arrive.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE - SO LONG AS IT'S WINDOWS: Meet David Fester, who has the thankless task of trying to persuade the kids that iTunes sucks and that you'd be far, far better off waiting for Bill Gates to tell you what to do:

PressPass [Microsoft's in-house news puppy]: We've heard that Apple will be launching a Windows-based version of iTunes. Do you see that as impacting Napster or other Windows-based services?
Fester: iTunes captured some early media interest with their store on the Mac...

And something over ten million song sales, too, even when they were only available to five percent of American computer users. Bit more than "early media interest." We notice from Google News that they're continuing to attract media interest, too...

... but I think the Windows platform will be a significant challenge for them. Unless Apple decides to make radical changes to their service model, a Windows-based version of iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.

This is a lovely piece of doublethink - what he means is other services are using their own proprietary formats rather than MP3, so while he's telling the truth, it's not as if it's Apple who are refusing to let iTunes users access other services - it's the choices made by other services.

Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store. As I mentioned earlier, this is a drawback for Windows users, who expect choice in music services, choice in devices, and choice in music from a wide-variety of music services to burn to a CD or put on a portable device.

Windows users, it seem, expect a lot of choice, except when it comes to Internet Browsers or operating systems, or email applications. It's kind of funny that they only seem to want lots and lots of choice when they're choosing amongst stuff Microsoft don't supply themselves, isn't it? And choice in music services? They may want initially to ip-dip-dog-shit between providers, but what everyone wants is one place they can get everything from. Nobody laments when buying books off Amazon that they don't have to visit thirteen different book sites to get the title they want. And even if people do want choice in music services, why would having iTunes cause them a problem? If I order the lasagne verde, it doesn't mean I've given up the option of the Pizza with egg on it, does it? Likewise, if I choose to buy my shoes in Dolcis, it won't mean I'm going to rule out going to Freeman, Hardy and Willis next time - although (and this is where Microsoft are presumably frit) if Dolcis serve me the shoes I want, at an affordable price, and do so politely, I'm probably going to go back to them next time rather than take a risk on a different shop. Microsoft, of course, have been big winners from the lethargy of consumers in the past and so it's little wonder they're worried their system might lose out this time round for exactly the same reason.

Lastly, if you use Apple's music store along with iTunes, you don't have the ability of using the over 40 different Windows Media-compatible portable music devices. When I'm paying for music, I want to know that I have choices today and in the future.

Yes, you have the choice of using an awful lot of crappier devices. Having said which, I'm quite happily using a Rio MP3 player with iTunes (although not, admittedly, Apple downloads). As I understand it, I couldn't use it with all the Microsoft formatty-stuff, could I?

PressPass: How do the current Windows-based services differ from iTunes?
Fester: As I mentioned, there are lots of choices in Windows music services. The service that offers consumers the most tracks and best experience will win the hearts and minds of consumers. If you look at Napster, it will launch as the world's largest online service with over half a million tracks from all the major labels and hundreds of independents on October 29. Napster goes way beyond individual downloads, offering advanced services such as unlimited downloads, customized radio, shared playlists, music videos and more. Music fans can use dozens of devices with Napster, and can even enjoy this service in the convenience of their living room with a remote control and Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004.

Isn't this pretending that people are going to benefit from having things they don't really want? 'Unlimited downloads' is just marketing speak for 'pay up front for more than you actually want'? Customised radio is already with us - you can poke about with Launch at Yahoo or tune in to Live365 for that. Shared playlists maybe, but you can't actually share the tracks, can you? We are amused that the final sentence gives the lie to the claims that Microsoft is interested in consumer choice - it's all part of their bid to take control of your TV, isn't it?

All told, music fans should look for services that offer the best experience and take advantage of the best digital media platform available on Windows. With Windows Media 9 Series, you get faster starts, better quality music, and support for the most devices.

Yes! Use Windows Media 9, when the tunes will start playing a little bit faster than on a Mac - erm, admittedly, you have to wait a couple of weeks until the service launches, and so instead of waiting a half-second to hear Bobby McFerrin you'll have to wait about 1.2 million seconds, but you'll find the wait worth it in the end. Otherwise you might find yourself leaving the fold... and if you don't have your stereo driven by Microsoft... you might start to wonder why you have to have your computer powered by Microsoft... come back, come back...

Further perspectives on this from The Register.

IT'S ALL LEGAL STUFF AT THE MOMENT, ISN'T IT: The splendidly named Henry Lorenzo Haynes claims that Enrique pinched one of his songs. We really hope that Enrique turns up in court and says he found it in a basket outside henry's house with an honesty box and a sign saying "Songs. 10cents" with a badly drawn arrow pointing to the box. It'd be more amusing than the song ever was.

THAT MAKES IT CLEARER: Geeta from the original soundtrack writes to answer our question from yesterday:

"although we're curious as to what shop would be playing pere ubu"

it was in the rather awful 'hip' chain store urban outfitters, sometime last year.

Monday, October 20, 2003

MORE COURT: So, Cheryl isn't spending the evening trying to settle down under scratchy blankets wearing knickers that belong to the queen, and she must be wondering quite where this all leaves her.

It was suggested to us early on during the trial that she'd taken a massive gamble - if she'd chosen to plead guilty to ABH, it's probable the racially aggravated charge would have been dropped and she'd not have been looking at a possible seven years inside. That she decided to go for the not guilty plea to both suggests that any sort of conviction was unacceptable, which might be worth considering while reading Polydor's words of support for her: "We are pleased Cheryl has been found not guilty of the main charge against her," a spokeswoman said. "In light of this decision, Cheryl's position in Girls Aloud is unaffected." So, the beating of a woman over lollipops isn't a problem for Polydor.

Which is kind of curious - this wasn't some tussle on a plane like Ian Brown had (bad, but airtravel's stresses do offer mitigating circumstances - and Brown had had a drink or two; remember Cheryl testified she'd not had that much to drink); here, a jury have accepted that Tweedy punched the crap out of a toilet attendant, and decided that both Tweedy and Nicola Roberts lied about what had happened under oath to try and wriggle out of it. The defence had managed to throw enough reasonable doubt on the race charges to get those rejected by the jury, but even while Max Clifford mutters that all this might give the band some hitherto missing "edge", you've got to wonder if Nestle, for example, are sucking a thoughtful tooth at the cash they've just pumped in to a promotion for their Box Tops For Education scheme with Cheryl and Nicola all over it. Because, Cheryl, while you've not been found guilty of being a racially motivated thug, you've still been found guilty of acting like a thug. It's hard to see how the current set-up of the band can really continue to function on the teenies circuit with a thug and her mate in the line-up - but equally, you can't see them shifting over to appeal to a So Solid market.

Of course, we're also a little surprised that Cheryl could beat a woman so badly she had a puffy eye for three weeks and yet manage to escape a custodial sentence, even while refusing to plead guilty and, as the judge observed, showing no remorse for what she'd done. Pete Doherty pinches an NME award and gets sent down for two months, even after an appeal and fessing up; Tweedy causes someone serious injury, refuses to admit her guilt and yet has a relatively light community sentence passed over to her. Curious that even in 2003, stuff is still considered more important than people, isn't it? If Cheryl had actually got away with the lolipops, she'd probably have got a harsher sentence for the theft.

COURT ACTION: The judge who threw out the Bailey lawsuit against Eminem chose to deliver her verdict in rap form - loosely speaking:
Mr Bailey complains that his (Eminem's) rap is trash
So he's seeking compensation in the form of cash
Bailey thinks he's entitled to some monetary gain
Because Eminem used his name in vain
The lyrics are stories no-one would take as fact
They're an exaggeration of a childish act
It is therefore this court's ultimate position
That Eminem is entitled to summary disposition

Clearly, not since The Judge who came up with the arrangement which lead to My Two Dads has there been such a down-with-the-kids arbiter on the bench. We're not entirely sure rapping is really the way to deliver legal verdicts, though - can the interests of justice really be served when the judge is going for the rhyme? Anyone up for a hearing called Mr. Stilty is going to be at a disadvantage.

[For this story, we are inedbted to CFB of CFBgoespop]

UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR: Guilty of ABH - five hundred quid compo to the lady she beat up and 120 hours community work. Let's hope its not singing.

REASONABLE DOUBT: The Jury has just cleared Cheryl Tweedy of the racially aggravated charges; they're still deliberating on the other charge.

NEWS OF LITTLE OR NO INTEREST TO ANYONE: Fischerspooner are "almost" ready with their second album. Funnily enough, we're almost interested. Warren Spooner (the back half, then, of the pantomime horse) reckons "We don't want an album that goes pop song to pop song. This will be an album with themes that flow from one to another. Pink Floyd is a reference, but it's not as down and introspective, though it takes you on a journey. It's the record I always wanted to make as a kid, something that feels substantial." Unless you're the sort of kid who wears a bow tie and calls your father's father Grandpapa, you don't want to make a substantial album - anymore than a kid would want to write a story which rivals A Tale of Two Cities in scope and themes. Give a kid a Casio and a pile of tapes, he won't give you The Wall, he'll give you The Chicken Song, only with a few extra cuss-words and a chorus that uses the imagery of the willy to its full potential. Still, it's interesting to see after the world gave the cold shoulder to their attempts to make pop - something they clearly don't understand - the no-ring circus has moved on to trying something else. Warren, thank you for your interest in the music industry. We have kept your details on file in case The Pet Shop Boys position ever does become vacant.

THROAT NODULES REALLY GROWING ON ME: So, interesting chronology for that cancellation of the Darkness gig in Liverpool. Justin had gone to see the doctor to find something to get him past the throat problems he was having; the doctor checked him out and said he couldn't go on stage. Nothing too unusual there - but the gig wasn't actually axed until an hour after the support band had finished their set - which would suggest one bloody thorough medical examination, wouldn't it?

SOMETHING TO START THE WEEK: The original soundtrack on hearing music you like in stores - although we're curious as to what shop would be playing Pere Ubu.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

IT'S PIRATES. IT'S THE PIRATES: We're a little bit puzzled as to how Universal records can say that it's all the pirates and the downloaders that have lead them to do the laying off of hundreds of staff - the implication being that were it not for the existence of CD burners, they'd not be having to throw people off onto the scrapheap.

Except the whole of Vivendi-Universal has been in trouble for the last few years, hasn't it? There's been a whole soap opera of payments to axed chief Jean-Marie Messier for a start; they've had to flog off large chunks to General Electric, and the whole company has been a nipple tweak away from going tits-up. So, we're expected to believe in a company with problems in every single one of its arms, the record company alone was a model of perfect management and a well-executed, watertight business plan?

WIN KATE MOSS: Or, at least a 12" version of Primal Scream and Kate Moss doing Some Velvet Morning, by filling out a thinly disguised mobile-number harvesting form and pressing submit.

Talking of Kate Moss, who knew that the only way The White Stripes could follow up her pole-gyrating exercise was with the new video, in which Jack is sporting a moustache of the type not seen on British television since Alan Partridge guest-judged the Miss Norwich finals.

NOW... IT'S GOOGLELEAK: We sort-of-suspect that this story which came from our Google News Alert may well have been a bit jumping the gun - the actual story had been deleted when we went to see, which adds to the feeling that they were trying to keep the wraps on this:

ADVANCE/ ``Is It Chicken or is It Tuna?'' Pop Star Jessica ... Business Wire (press release) Simpson May Sing Famous Jingle: "Ask Any Mermaid You Happen to Sea ...
What's the Best Tuna? Chicken of the Sea". Please Do Not Release ...

Of course, on the other hand it could just be Jessica Simpson realised that as well as advertising America's favourite tuna, it would also be advertising the end of her life as a serious artist.