Wednesday, April 07, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Kurt's still dead - but Morrissey isn't - edition
Billie Holiday is making a comeback - obviously not an actual one, although it is Easter, and so everything is possible. But her career is up for one of those periodic reinventions, as what the New Statesman calls “a new generation of artists” bring her work into a new context. Well, they say “a new generation of artists”, but it’s neither Amy Winehouse or Jamie Callum who offer any interesting comment on their newly discovered heroine: Cullum sounds like an estate agent showing us around her artistry: “her readings of many standards have become the definitive ones, and the aga is still under guarantee”, while Winehouse blusters like a fourth grader caught unprepared in her book review: “Her range of skills are vast and mostly overlooked.” No, it’s former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke who manages to sound like an enthusiast - like someone for whom music means more than what they do at the office. There’s something of the true fan in his careful decision that “Billie is my favourite jazz singer, slightly edging out Bessie Smith.” No wonder the Tories fucked the economy - Clarke clearly was spending his nights drawing up lists of the ten best jazz standards about the weather, and the ten most ill-fated collaborations.

We try to avoid mentioning the Radio Times letters page much - indeed, we often try and replicate that spell that Willow did when she tried to make everyone forget that she and Tara had had a big row, hoping it will allow us to live in a world where nobody has a recollection that Gill Hudson ever bothers compiling a bunch of letters into the sort of ill-tempered, pedantic whinefest which would make the editors of a freesheet feel ashamed. However, there’s actually a letter making quite a good point this week - that without Mark and Lard, Radio One is going to be even more tightly focused on it’s 15-34 demographic mission (and closer to the youth end at that) and a lot of people who otherwise would have heard some of this modern pop will be completely divorced from the delights of the Radio One playlist. Hudson, of course, misses the point, trilling that Lard’s on 6 and Mark is on Radio 2. Perhaps she was just so thrown by a letter that wasn’t moaning like a wanker in a porn cinema that she paniced. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with someone complaining that Pete Townshend featured in the programme about police catching paedophiles - this was, apparently, “gratuitious villification of a good man by association and innuendo.” Which is odd: we could have sworn that it was actual footage of a man who used a credit card to buy child porn, admitted using his credit card to buy child porn, accepted a police caution for using his credit card to buy child porn, and signed the Sexual Offenders Register as a result of using his credit card to buy child porn.

The NME is headlined “Special Commemorative Issue” - No, really, I know it’s a big day in the paper’s history but - this is just too... oh, it’s commeroration of Kurt’s death? Oh. The masthead is made from flowers; it’s quite sweet.

The paper has its findings from its online poll about file-sharing. Although it has to be stressed the poll was an online survey of self-selecting respondents, the figures are still grim reading for the BPI: 85% of people don’t think downloading harms artists; 89% say downloading doesn’t stop them buying music; only 6% saying the BPI’s bullying tactics will stop them from downloading in the future. The NME then runs off to see Matt Phillips, from the BPI. He’s wearing a tshirt, see, because he’s down with the kids. Or maybe he can’t wear a suit because of his forked tail, we’re not sure. Older NME readers will recall when Thrills used to run a feature written by The Man. This week, he’s back, and his name is Matt Phillips. How does he feel about the 12 year old getting sued in the States? It’s a good thing - it brings the message home to parents that they could get sued for what their kids are doing. (Actually, they can’t.) Asked if he’s worried that the BPI are putting a barrier between the Industry and the Music, the Man don’t give a fuck: “people don’t see it as stealing” he trots out, which isn’t answering the question at all. We wonder if the BPI are all like this: “Hello, love, would you like chips or roast potatoes today?” “If people continue to download, there will be no potatoes.” But Matt’s keen to stress that we must pay for our downloads, because without it, the industry would have no money: “the cost [of a CD] is funding the artist, recording the album, paying me to speak to you.” Yes, kids, if you carry on downloading, there’s a very real risk there will be no more BPI to lecture us. A horriffying prospect - at a stroke, that right clicking and “Save as’ dialogue box might as well read ‘Put all the people working in the BPI out of work.’ Have that picture in your mind. And now go and get Bittorrent.

Michael Eavis or Glastonbury or someone says the Glasto ticket debacle will never happen again - every Glastonbury promises the last of something: last itched battle with police; last pillaging of Pilton village; last time Ian McCulloch will be allowed to wear white trousers...

In an extraordinary week, something totally unexpected. A Morrissey interview. In the NME. Actually with the NME. For real. (Unless it was Mike Joyce putting on a silly voice and pretending, but there’s no bit about how “the other guys in the Smiths were the best”, so we’re thinking its genuine.) The only downside is some of the new lyrics are so ropey, you could pull a car out a swamp with them - “where the president is never black, female or gay/and until that day you’ve got nothing to say to me...” Pity Billie Holiday’s dead, then. More Mozzer next week, when he’s even - for the zillionth time - on the cover.

Method Man don’t do karaoke. In fact, he tries to kid Peter Robinson that he doesn’t even know for sure karaoke bars exist. Yeah, right.

Durrty Doogz - that’s two ‘r’s, and two ‘o’s. And a z. And... oh, it’s just mispelled. They’re new, and they’re grime, this month’s short lived new genre.

So, that Kurt pull-out memorial in brief: “this issue is for Kurt... 60 of the aspirin-sized Rohypnol pills... grimly awaited news... assassination of JFK... I was backstage at a Wonderstuff gig... Sylvia Plath... he was lactating... inspired me to check out Deep Purple.” One highlight is then-NME editor Steve Sutherland recalling the way the paper dealt with the news - tellingly, “no-one was surprised”; and how it booted Primal Scream from the cover. “It feels like Kurt’s depression is dragging NME and all its readers down with him. But on page 40 [this is the second issue, with the Courtney cover] there’s a review of Parklife...”; another highspot is a glossy reprint of some of the artwork from Godspeed, the Cobain picture book. The phrase “collector’s edition” is thrown around really easily in the magazine world these days, often signalling nothing more than two different Hollyoaks girls in their knickers on the cover, but this really does feel like something you’ll be putting to one side for the grandchildren.

snow patrol - befast mandela hall - “the bands new material outstrips the old by a long way”, 9
shellac (how odd that albini pops up in the cobain edition) - kings cross scala - “endearingly unpleasant”, 8

albums - is it just me, or do the albums reviewers at the nme seem so much (cough, cough) brighter and dazzling this week?
young heart attack - mouthful of love - “stuffed to the gussets with guitars which sound like laughing kazoos”, 8
tears for fears - everybody loves a happy ending - “MAKE IT MORE LIKE GARY!”, 2
xiu xiu - fabulous muscles - “MBV colliding with Interpol”, 7

sotw - the beta band - assessment - “it’s a joy to have them back”
amplifier - drowned in neon - “sounding fucking mighty these days”

and, finally: we guess it had to be Nirvana in the ‘Why I Love’ column this week; and the band have chosen to explain their love of Jo Wylie. Oh, alright, the other way round. But we’d quite like to see Dave Grohl talking about Jo: “Her way of presenting television without wearing shoes was quite unlike anything we’d ever seen before...”

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