Wednesday, March 30, 2005

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Underage obsession

Suzanne Shaw stands in a bikini on the cover of Reveal, promising to share with us how she managed to lose so much weight so quickly. I'm sorry, but even if the only trousers I could fit into were once worn by Cyril Smith, I don't think I'd want to embark on any diet that would require me to have sex with Darren Day and then split up with him.

The Guardian Friday Review on 18th March had a curious encounter with Beck - pretty much most of what you'd expect (mild mannered, quirky, etc), but then, for no apparent reason, there's a tiny deviation into religion. After mentioning his mother and father were members of the made-up religion, there's a brief paragraph:

"Beck has recently become a Scientologist. His wife, the actor Marissa Ribisi, is a member of the church-cult and some hold that Beck was brought up as a Scientologist before lapsing for a decade in his 20s. But he hasn't led a secluded life.

And then we're back onto the new album. All this is very curious - why would there suddenly be a mention of Beck's religion without any real motivation - and if it was worth mentioning, shouldn't there have been some sort of question about it? (Like "it's a cult, isn't it?") Surely the interview wasn't given solely on the promise there would be a quick, unquestioning plug for L Ron Hubbard's quiz-waving adminstrators?

(If that was the case, even then someone managed to be unhappy about it - this week's Review carried a letter from a scientoligist, indignant at that "he hasn't led a secluded life" bit. "I am a scientologist and my life has been anything but secluded" protested the letter writer.)

The Saturday Review gave Hywel Williams the task of ploughing through Boy George's Straight. (And if, as George protested to the Daily Mirror, he isn't obsessed with being gay, how come both volumes of his autobiography have had "I'm gay, me" puns as their titles?). Williams, unwittingly, puts his finger on George's modern problem: "George's gayness was an admirably frightening commodity..." - that's exactly it; but nowadays surplus supply has left that commodity struggling to find a place in the market.

And, while we're working our way through the Guardian supplements, yesterday's MediaGuardian gave space to Jonathan King to moan about the way his case was covered. It's interesting that the man seemed so put-out about press coverage yesterday, but today on his release King was playing up to the same journalists to try and plug his awful, ill-judged record. If you want to be a dancing bear, you can't complain when the chain is yanked, can you?

To be fair to him: when he points out that things would have been different had he been fucking underage girls instead of boys, you only have to think of Bill Wyman to agree; and a prosecution lead by Max Clifford seems to be a victory for prurience rather than jurisprudence. Clifford is very frank about his role in King's downfall: "Yes, I would plead guilty. I've done everything I could to show up Jonathan King for what he really is. I'm very happy to have succeeded in some small way. The men who came to see me [about King] went to the police and I have a letter in my office from the chief of police in Surrey thanking me for my help in bringing him to justice. In my experience, paedophiles always try to justify themselves and never show remorse. I spent a great deal of time with his victims. They all came to me, I never went looking."

Although, is it just us, or is there something a little odd about someone deciding to report being abused to a publicist rather than the police? Not that any of this excuses what King did - and, indeed, King doesn't even seem to want to have his transgressions excuse - but the whole thing winds up as that saddest of things: a victorless crime.

The Observer's March Music Monthly led with Jerry Lee Lewis, taking us back to a time when even heterosexual underage sex was frowned upon: It was 1957 when the public learnt that the 22-year old star's third wife Myra was also his 13-year-old cousin. Jerry Lewis tried to assuage the anger, explaining the marriage might not be valid as he had never divorced his first wife. Meanwhile, they bring the whole having sex with minors thing up to date by asking the people holding the big "We love you Michael" signs up outside Santa Barabara courthouse what drives their devotion. Apparently, "this is serious. It's going to affect how the world sees America." Well, yes. With oil-drilling about to start in the Arctic circle, tax cuts for the richest and misery for the poorest, not to mention the whole Iraq adventure, that so many people are prepared to throw their jobs in to protest about someone receiving what appears to be a perfectly fair trial does, indeed, lend some colour to how the rest of the world views the US. Luckily, though, we do know you're not all like that.

Tom Waits nominates his 20 favourite albums of all time: Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours, Cohen's I'm Your Man and, just when you think it's going to all a bit predictable, Bohemian-Moravian Bands by Texas-Czech.

The magazine takes Johnny Borrell to meet Dr Brian Wells, a pop psychiatrist - in the sense of he works with musicians, that is. Borrell is stroppy; while psychologist Nancy Sobel tries to claim that bands see taking a psych on tour as "a sign that they've made it" - we'd rather go with the groupies and toilet seat flunkies ourselves - Borrell seems a bit jumpy about opening his mind up to anyone. Understandable, given recent events. And he's not entirely sure about the OMM, either, as Paul Morley described Razorlight as being like Radiohead vomitting up Busted.

The rest of the band open up more easily, though. Bjorn Agren, especially, seems to sing just a little too much: 'It's not like we're bestest friends in the world,' he says. 'We are four individuals ... sometimes it feels like four freaks, because we each have our own idiosyncrasies. There was a lot of resentment to start with because there would be interviews and we'd not even be mentioned, and sometimes I feel like a marionette on stage because Johnny will decide to finish a song and we all have to stop. Compare and contrast with Borrell's statement: 'I try to explain to people that I do write all the lyrics,' he says. 'I do write all the melodies and I do write all the songs but it's not Johnny Borrell, it's Razorlight and Razorlight is Johnny Borrell but Razorlight is something else as well ...'

Fast-Forward artist is MIA. Do you think we'll be able to get through a piece on her without mentioning the Elastica connection? Arulpragasam ended up designing the sleeve for Elastica’s final album, The Menace, and she went on tour with the band in the US as a documentary maker. It's a worrying sign that almost a year in, and she's still having to rely on the Elastica link for writers to have any sort of hook to hang a piece on.

What is Piers Morgan listening to? Surely a man with his head so far up his own arse would only be able to hear internal organs gurgling away? Oh, apparently he likes Jamie Cullum. The sound of a bubbling spleen would be preferable.

Over at the NME, Gwen Stefani is on the cover, looking as usual - like Tussaurds had to get their partially melted Madonna doll dressed in a bomb-damaged Mark One.

There's some splendid pictures of the Ian Brown violence gig in Frisco.

Peter Robinson meets Casey Spooner, the Brian Kracow lookalike from Fischerspooner. Spooner once took a Scientology test and although "I can't remember what my chart was like I would imagine creatively I was off the Richter scale." Yes, we'd imagine so - after all, an earthquake off the richter scale would be frightening, destructive, heartbreakingly pointless and completely without a sense of its own horror.

There's an update on the state of Bez's finances: pretty poor, as most of it goes to the taxman, but not as bad as those of Shaun Ryder. Alvin Hall suggests the pair of them do more reality TV, as it's where the money is "for those with no skillset."

The disturbing KidzBop - MiniPops without the TV programme to draw attention to their paedo-playground-plans - gets a profiling, and probably a slot on the Jackson tour (acquital permitting).

Gwen Steffani claims the "tick-tock" refrain of What You Waiting For was "the intense clattering of her biological clock" (and you pity the poor sod who had to mic that up).

"Is this man the new Jarvis?" asks the headline on an interview with Eddie Argos from Art Brut. If they mean is he going to replace the shockingly inept rail maintance-to-PFI company as a public hate figure, it's possible. If they're suggesting he's going to replace Mr. Cocker, we have a spot of laughing out of town to do.

razorlight - manchester apollo - "the spotlight barely leaves Borrell"
camden crawl - tom vek is "naggingly addictive"; towers of london are "evil" and The Buzzcocks are "drunk as lords."

bassment jaxx - the singles - "should have called the remixers in", 4
do me bad things - yes - "could be the yts queens of the stone age", 6

totw - yeti - never lose our sense of wonder - "you have made my week sing"

and that's it. Just in time for next week's nme. This week's nme. Whatever. Royal Mail permitting.


Anonymous said...

The Beck thing is odd; there's actually quite a bit of evidence to indicate that he's *always* been a Scientologist, rather than a recent convert; the only thing is that only now is he admitting it. His mother is definitely one, and Beck's name appears in 1980s Scientology literature when he took certain courses. There seems to be a break from the late 80s until the late 90s, but since then, he's come back to the fold, and now contributes to the cause...

(or so they say - reading too much about Scientology is bad for you, as all the texts read like something out of a badly-translated Japanese videogame)

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

All Your Family Income Is Belong To Us?

Simon said...

Reading Pitchfork's piece about pop culture's response to 9/11 it occurred to me that there's a curious difference in how MIA is seen in America to her UK profile. In the US she's probably a bigger name (Interscope deal, big newspaper profiles) and every piece about her goes into some detail about how her civil war upbringing feeds into her music and attitude, while here, including that OMM profile, it's filed as of passing interesting background detail so the writer can go on at length about St Martins' College and Justine instead.

Anonymous said...

It does seem a little weird; there's a megathread on a music board that goes through all of M.I.A.'s hype for the past couple of months, pausing only to tear Simon Reynolds to shreds for his attack on her (in which he pulls out the art school/Elastica connection; perhaps it's a peculiarly British thing). After all the talking, I would like Arular to be a hit; I was rather sad to see Anniemal sink without trace.

(Googling OT3: I do wonder - when Scientologists spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to reach that level, why do supposedly sane people not instantly snap out of it? "GIANT SPACE BUGS? THAT'S IT?")

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