WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Bloody late, aren't you?
Okay, this is very late, which I put down to having spent the last week feeling like crap. Hopefully, in the New Year, pop papers will be back in its regular, cozy, Wednesday night slot. (In the next couple of weeks, though, god alone knows when or where it'll turn up).
Still, it means the Observer Music Monthly has drifted by in time to make the shortlist: they, like the NME, are placing their girdle around the year and running down what was best and worst about 2004. And the Top 10 rock scrooges, which rightly picks on usher for his credit card business, but finds no space for Bowie turning himself - briefly - into a bloody Bank (sorry, Banc).
There's a letter from Chris Campion grumbling about John Peel being "out of his depth" when he played grime music - which must be some sort of pinacle moment in rock journalism: a writer on a magazine using the letters column to score points off someone who died the month before. About grime music. Still, what matters is the record, eh, Chris?
And so what do st Etienne get in return for giving him the honour of immortality in song? Not bloody much - Forsyth (given the saints by the Record Doctor) complains that he can't hear "one bloody word." He did like an album of Radiohead covers, though, which surely means on the next Strictly Come Dancing we're going to have to see someone off Coronation Street dancing to Paranoid Android. (Talking of SCD, while we're here: the highlight of the finals was watching Malcolm Hebden trying not to look too upset that Tess Daly kept calling him "Norris" as if that was his real name.)
Laurence Donegan files a diary about his tour with the now-resurrected Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. He's taking a risk - Donegan, of course, is now a Guardian journalist, and back when one of his other bands, the Bluebells, reformed off the back of the Young At Heart car ad, he did a similar piece about being back on the road then. The band didn't like his frankness, and he was quickly returned to the status of an ex-member of the Bluebells again.
For some reason, there's a story about a dog written by Sharon Osbourne, filling two pages which could have been used for a photo of some wire, or a list of some sort.
So, onto 2004, then. The Scissor Sisters are "the band of the year" - the OMM reckons that they're also "the people's band of the year", too, which we're not entirely convinced by. Certainly, everyone likes the Scissor Sisters, but we've not really met anyone who absolutely loves them: a band to change plans for rather than a band to change lives.
The single of the year - Milkshake by Kelis - is an equally surprising choice; the whole chart seems kind of odd. Fuck You at four? Really? Of course, that's the trouble with lists like this: choose stuff that people agree with, and it's all "oh, that's such a safe list"; claim with a straight face that Milkshake was the best record of the year, and people will look at you as if you're mad.
Over at the albums, it's a list that could have been drawn up by someone choosing the albums to be scattered on a table in a Better Homes photoshoot: The Streets at one; Dizzee Rascal's Showtime at two; then Youssou N'Dour. N'Dour's album - 'We'd Better Have A World One In And Fela Kuti's Dead' is good enough, but it's not outstanding either in terms of his back catalogue or the new CDs in the bit they keep locked in a special room at the Virgin Megastore.
Bob Dylan is the man of the year - for the knicker ads, presumably; Britney is woman of the year while - and here prepare to laugh your hardest - Gwen Stefani is the "fashion icon of the year." It's bemusing: we enjoy the OMM most months, as compared to, say, the Telegraph's Thursday music thing, it seems to be written by people who enjoy music on a regular basis. And yet this best of appears to have been put together by people who've used Google and articles translated from Dutch to form their opinions. It's fair to say that nobody dresses like Gwen Stefani (aside, maybe, from blind people with very cruel friends) but that doesn't make her a fashion icon.
Back onto the feature articles and things start to feel better: Craig McLean puts stuff up on Ebay and then contacts the buyers, which is an interesting premise even if it never quite brings anything very fascinating to light in the end. Most people tend to buy music on eBay because they like the band, in other words, although he does shake out someone who prefers Goodbye Mr MacKenzie to Garbage.
They extract a final piece of John Peel's writing from a soon-to-be-published book on Grindcore (which is slightly puzzling: he wrote lots of brilliant stuff for the Observer; it's like Quiznos sending out for a sandwich).
Paul Morley reviews Jonathon Ross' punk programme for BBC Three, correctly pointing out that 312FU is probably exactly what proper punks had in mind when they knew what they didn't want to be. It's got Simon Schama in it, apparently, though not - and for this we must be grateful - not singing White Riot.
Peter Robinson dissects the Band Aid video: (Caption to picture of Busted) - "Tonight, thank god, it's them, instead of Blue..."
Aled Jones interviews Goldie Lookin' Chain, which could have been interesting, if it had been anyone other than GLC, as Aled clearly is up for a bit of japery but the Chain don't really have the improvisational skills to keep up.
I'm not sure if this is the earliest the NME has ever done its annual review - although you can see there's a certain logic to it, as it's been badged "the ultimate Xmas Buyer's guide", so presumably it could be used by The Kids like those H. Samuel catalogues in the adverts: all over Britain, young people are sellotaping the cover of Selfish Cunt's No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper (album, 49) to the inside of their gran's birdcages.
But like an office party too early in December, there's that awkward feeling you get when one bunch of people are already sweeping through the company-funded Tesco Gin and the others are still trying to order kidneys and pills for the patients. So, while you've got Muse's Butterflies and Hurricanes being twirled around to up one end of the paper (tracks, 39), at the other you've got Peter Robinson giving them hard stares in the hope they'll keep the noise down while he interviews Nikki Six (he doesn't know the difference between mittens and gloves but, hey, he's straight, man, totally straight...)
And as The Day Today (Comedy DVD, 5) makes a hat of tinsel and prawn sandwiches, you've got Natasha Vromen from Drugscope saying that - hey - calling Pete Doherty the coolest guy of the year isn't a bad thing at all ("he's a successful musician... he disproves the myth that if you start using drugs you will always be taken over by them.") No, Natasha, he proves the truism that if you've got someone to underwrite your habit, clean up and issue apologies after you, you can carry on blundering up your own arse. He's been kicked out of his own band, fucked his relationship with his best mate and got - at best - a shaky reputation. Let's not hold him up as an example of living well on crack.
The albums of the year, by the way, are The Streets at 3; The Libertines at 2 and the Frannies at one. I'm no expert, but I bet this is the first time ever that the top two slots have been held by self-titled albums. Over in the Tracks department, the dog-on-hind-legs principle must be responsible for The Pixies Bam Thwok scraping in at 48; the top three were the same bands with The Libs' Can't Stand Me Now edging out Franz F's Take Me Out. Two things stopped Pete Doherty's Killamangiro making it to the top ten: it was released too late for the voting period, and it was rubbish.
there's a scientific comparison of excitement levels at Embrace and Thrills gigs, with Keane as the control. There are graphs.
art brut - camden barfly - "your country needs you"
the magic numbers - london borderline - "one of the most amazing shows this writer has ever seen"
manic street preachers - the holy bible 10th anniversary cash-in - "the idea that somebody would want to wallow so intently in such sheer, abject misery - let alone that a major label would fund the whole endeavour - seems almost quaint", 10
various - team kitty-yo - "in need of a star striker or two", 7
totw - the radio department - "pure heartache at zero degrees celsius"
pnau - again - "cheese-free, unapologetic dance record"
And finally: No, it's not double edition day next Wednesday.
Monday, December 13, 2004
WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Bloody late, aren't you?