Wednesday, May 12, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Where did the Nation go to edition
Gill Hudson manages to restrain her desire to point out that she doesn't care much for the Kat-shagging-Andy-to-pay-off-Alfie's debts storyline in this week's Radio Times - last week she devoted three separate articles to the plot, apparently unaware that the whole point of EastEnders is to discover increasingly unpleasant ways of making its characters even more miserable, and railing against it is like complaining that Manchester is a bit windy. Anyway, this week, the magazine you just know she's pitching as being renamed 'Gill Hudson's Radio Times' has got Abba on the cover, because it's Eurovision weekend and thirty years since Abba won on stage at the Brighton Dome. They point out that the United Kingdom jury gave Waterloo no points at all back in 1974, and then go on to suggest that James Fox will win because, erm, if you add up all the marks ever given and divide them by the number of contests, the UK comes out top. This piece of math ignores the awkward fact that if you did this last year, the UK would have come out even further ahead, and yet got nothing. Even more rubbish, there's no big grid with the flags and names in which we can keep our own scores as the programme unfolds, which is a real let down.

Other listings magazines are available, of course. Time Out marks the 150th edition of one of the two survivng bits of the much-missed Late Show with a bit of a kicking for Later. "Worse still is the hubristic belief that even the best music can be improved by the presence of [Holland's] stilted barrel-house boogie-woogie piano... Holland used to signify a sly, buttoned down rebellion, he's now become one of those 'comic' celebrities..."

How many magazines have successfully changed their name? The Musical Express & Accordian Times did, of course; Record Mirror's bids to rebrand as both New Record Mirror and then RM didn't work as well. New Socialist tried turning into NS, and had only a few issues before dying. And let's not even look over the water at the fate of Rosie. So, Sleaze Nation's rebirth as Sleaze - not even an apologetic, small text 'nation' hanging about - is a bit of a risk. It feels a bit half-hearted: if this is a whole new magazine, why not give it a new name? And if it's just a relaunch and you don't want to throw away the heritage, why dump half the name? 'Sleaze' is nowhere near as interesting as 'Sleaze nation' as a title, and the content also seems slightly more eager to please, 'please like me enough not to yawn at my attempts to be outrageous.' So, the verdict on the American Presidency is "the race will be won by a guy with Tourettes or an asexual Louis Vuitton handbag", a big thing about how, like, work sucks and what could have been a prescient piece about Man United taking on Al Qaeda, only, of course, there never was any terrorist plot to blow up Old Trafford. Instead, the magazine suggests that since Man U has more supporters than Al Qaeda worldwide, why not use Man U to fight the war on terror? It's not a bad package, but the whole magazine feels corporate in a way its predeccesor didn't - not quite as bad as The Sunday Times Style section, perhaps, but there's a sense of restraint. Sleaze Nation would leap boundaries; Sleaze feels like its keeping one foot still in the garden. Hey, if it was totally new, we'd be loving it, but this is like getting a Bella Italia on the site of a family-run Italian bistro.

Talking of new magazines, we've got hold of a copy of Clash - this is number two, we never saw the first one. It's quite an exciting little monkey - almost square, very glossy and really well designed: actually, we'd be tempted to say it's the best designed British music magazine we've ever seen, but that could be the fumes affecting us (did we mention it smells great?). It describes itself as "essentially independent", which is up there with "smatterings of pregnancy" and grew out of Vibe - not the Vibe still on the shelves, mind. This month they've got The Charlatans on the cover, although everyone's pretending not to notice that James Iha has returned in place of Tim Burgess.

The Delays choose three seaside resorts: "Blackpool, although I've never been there; Weymouth... and Lulworth Cove."

Phantom Planet are asked about doing the theme for The OC - "The only thing I gave any consideration to was not to be credited, just cos the last thing any band wants to be is 'the band from the TV show'"

There's a bunch of Beatles pictures, and the Beta Band forget that Ringo is still alive - one is a forgivable mistake, the other less so.

Sometimes it gets a little bit too much One Two Testing - James Mercer of the Shins is asked about what software packages he uses, which is of as little interest to anyone as what sort of string wax Coldplay put on their guitars.

Tim Burgess speaks up for the Rolling stone's disco period, lauding 'Undercover' and 'Emotional Rescue' - but then The Charlatans are starting to adjust to life as a two-decade act, with the big 20 not that far off now.

Miss Kittin describes herself as "a product that came at the righ time", which is a bit more grim sounding than we think she meant it to; she ponders that if she wasn't what she is, she'd be doing radio or writing a book - she's done two chapters of a novel in the last year, so could have one finished by the time the oil runs out.

There's a fashion section, which we suspect falls just this side of "excuse to have women in their pants in the magazine without having to feign an interest in Hollyoaks"; there's also a three page "attempt" at a Who career overview, which would seem to be doing little more (along with the Beatles snaps) of attempting to persuade readers to hurry along and try Mojo. And then, it goes horrible wrong - pages and pages and pages about Ayrton Senna, who died somewhere between Kurt Cobain and John Smith, and seems to have driven some sort of cars. Then there's a page about the Gumball Rally, which is like CB radio: nobody was interested at the time, except for people trying to pretend they weren't gay, and it has no place in 2004.

Petrolhead obsession apart, it's quite a nice magazine; we hope that it manages to thrive - although with Bang and X-Ray both flopping, we're not sure the prospects look good. Enjoy it while it's there.

So, to the NME, then, which has Thom Yorke on the cover, marking the end of the Hail To The Thief tour. The issue is American themed - we're not sure if this genuinely American flavoured, or if it's like those Tescos American style products which our genuine in-house American claims are about as accurate American as Dick VanDyke was cockney.

So, coachella: big photo of Wayne Coyne in a giant bubble. Radiohead "at their best"; Steve Sutherland pops up to warn Conor Oberst that he might want to cheer up lest he be out-moaned by the resurgent Morrissey, and, oddly, the Pixies review seems to be being held over for two weeks. Nice posters, mind: Brody Dalle looking like Debbie Harry, Matt Bellamy, Thom Yorke, and Balthazar from the 'Bad Girls' episode of Buffy. Oh... Frank Black. Four pages of the posters are given over to a reader survey, though, which seems to be an odd use of glossy paper.

There's a very nice picture of Meg and Jack going to the Coffee and Cigarettes premiere; apparently RZA was also there, but he's not as photogenic as Meg in the dress she married Jack in. Less lovely is Alex Kapranos and Noel Gallagher - it's meant to be some sort of beatification of Franz Ferdinand by Oasis, but Alex is smirking like a child who's just heard his grandma fart, and Noel just looks like his face has been replaced with a shrinky-dink of his face. He also appears to have invested in a genuine Beatles Wig.

Hey, the kids - meet Brad Duea, the President of Napster. Brad is faced with the difficult task of trying to convince people that the new Napster - available in Dixons - is true to the "brand" of the old Napster. Curiously, when he's asked about why you should pay for downloads, he says that "You get what you pay for, and what you might get is viruses, spyware, improperly labelled tracks, inconsistent encoding." Which is true, but that was present in old Napster; so, if those things are such turn-offs, how can there be any value in the Napster brand name?

Delays are here, too, doing the CD thing - Sonic Youth, Morrissey, and Neil Diamond.

Peter Robinson has his trickiest task to date, taking on Mick Jones. Peter suggests that a large chunk of Mick's beer money must come from rereleases of Clash material, an option lost to future directions. Mick suggests they could repackage their MP3s. Helpfully.

Radar band is The Others, plus details of free downloads from yourcodenameismilo, explosions in the sky and the secret machines, which is pretty good value. (We're kind of surprised that the nme really is just giving these away - not even some sort of secret code word for you to at least pretend you've bought the magazine or whatever. We can't decide if its trusting or just madness run riot.)

The attempt to try and keep Shroomadelica going is an interview with Dios, who suggest the genre should really be called "psychedelic thriftstore punk" instead, like in the old days.

morrissey - wiltern theatre, LA - "you always go back to Morrissey in the end", 9
the Live 24 in London - "9.01 Feeder take to the stage. 9.02 Under such severe circumstances, NME decides to call it a day on the No Drugs front too."
the walkmen - highbury garage - "emotional directness", 7

ash - meltdown - "dave grohl will be looking over his shoulder", 8
deerhoof - milk man - "pure girl-pop magic", 9
klang - no sound is heard - "donna matthews mumbling like an estuary patti smith", 7

sotw - the others - "so close to being terrible, but..."
M83 - America - "white noise and stuttering electronica"

and finally, we were delighted to see an advert from David Miedzianik in the classifieds. Back when we were young, before Tesco did Value brands, David used to pop up week in, week out, in the Record Mirror personals. Each time, the message was the same - write to a named dj and ask him (or her) to play more Bob Dylan, along with the address of the dj of the week. One week Janice Long, one week Paul Gambaccini. We'd not seen anything from him for ages, but this week, he's back. His advert wishes Bob Dylan a happy birthday, and asks for Bob to do a song for him. If Bob has any heart in his trousers, he would do - there aren't many artists who could call on the unflinching support of someone to the extent that David M has done his best by Bob; doing a little something in return would be a sweet and touching gesture - not one as lucrative or titilating as a Victoria Secrets ad, but it would mean a hell of a lot more. Failing that, maybe The Charlatans could do him one?

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