Sunday, May 15, 2005

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: In the air tonight

"A condescending, contradictory and hypocritical piece by an ex-NME writer. I think I see a pattern. Perhaps NME journalists are programmed?" - so ponders Craig McAndrew on this week's Guardian Weekend letters page. It's been that sort of week for the NME - Conor McNicholas picked up an award for editor of the year at the PPA awards prompting the Drowned In Sound message boards to snort. "It's just Smash Hits" complained one poster, which is confusing - did they mean Smash Hits now, which seems unlikely, as even if you don't like the NME now there's no real way you can confuse it with the desperately, twisting and largely empty gloss-no-words Shits; or did they mean Smash Hits during its imperial phase, when it lovingly crafted a fully-formed universe which organised the way a generation related to its popstars? Because that would be a shit insult, really.

The cause for the waspish McAndrew to put pen to paper was last weekend's piece by former NME writer Sarah Dempster admitting she handed back her IPC epaulettes because she liked music she wasn't supposed to like. "Most of my previous, NME-driven favourites have been eclipsed - Muse, Interpol, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and countless other zeitgeist-reliant, unoriginal, ne'er-do-wells superseded by the likes of Yes, Hawkwind, Black Sabbath and Roxy Music." It's curious that Dempster felt she couldn't write for the NME and like music beyond the names which appear on the front page (the paper has always been at its best when it's had a handle on how the spurting blood of the new was pumped by the heart of rock history) - but then, the main bulk of her article is attempting to suggest that it's not such a bad thing to like the music of Phil Collins. Which isn't just something you shouldn't admit to in the NME offices; it's something you should never admit to in print, in your diary, to your friends, or at all. Saying "the bloke who did Su-su-sudio is alright, actually" is on a par with not being able to identify the current Prime Minister or get the year right when nurse asks you.

"If all people think I'm capable of is Stairway To Heaven" observes Robert Plant in the current Radio Times, "then frankly, I'm doomed."
The funny thing is, of course, that it took him too long to notice.

Kim Wilde has enjoyed one of the most bizarre journeys of our age: where once she caused outrage by appearing on the front of Smash Hits with - shock - acne, this week she's on the cover of The Lady, the paper for gentlewomen of a certain age. Which allows us to trot out again one of the first snatches of Coronation Street dialogue we remember, when Bet was picking up Mrs. Walker's weekly from the old Kabin (when it was still in Rosamund Street): "The Lady... if there was one called The Duchess, she'd take it three times a week..."

The NME, then, has got Dave Grohl, smoking, on the cover - Dave is alarming, as he seems to get younger with each passing year, which might be why he's trying cigarettes: perhaps it's in the hope that the aging effects of ciggies will cancel out the effects of whatever faustian pact it is he's made. The rest of the Foo Fighters are also on the cover - um, Tim, Tam and Tina or whatever they're called.

The Kaiser Chiefs are being flown across Europe in their own, exclusive private jet (it's chartered from BA, they're not bloody Kasabian), and they proudly show it off in a two-page spread. In three years time, when you're puzzling how the band managed to have all those hits and yet still claim to be potless, remember this moment.

Babyshambles are pictured as they reach the end of the production of their debut album. It's interesting that Adam Fieck, the drummer, seems to be doing more and more of the press interviews these days - an attempt to try and make the band seem more than just Pete Doherty in case, well, he's not on hand to push the finished product? Part of a plan to try and downplay the impression that it just one bloke and some musicians making up the backing? Or is it just that Doherty's not around to do the pre-launch press?

How record companies can't cope with new technology, part 377: The Sony response to the Oasis album appearing (apparently accidently) early on the German iTunes site was, erm, to force them to take it down. After it had been available for 24 hours. Thereby creating an instant vacuum into which unauthorised copies flowed. Great work, Sony. The only reason why the whole web hasn't collapsed under the weight of Oasis filesharing is because the new album is so lame.

Ian Brown is fulminating about Kylie being on the main stage at Glastonbury at the same time he's on the third stage from the back. "Glastonbury is supposed to be the last bastion of the alternative against the mainstream" he moaned, apparently unaware that the Orange-sponsored event, co-owned by Clear Channel, has for the last couple of years been busily promoting the likes of Oasis, Joss Stone and Norah Jones.

Peter Robinson nibbles Noddy's nut, and in return Mr. Holder is kinder to the paper than the rest of the world is: "put me on the cover... it's still got a reputation, NME. Brand names are always worth something, Peter." Mind you, these days he is advertising a brand of nuts that nobody has ever heard of.

Tammy, Tommy and Terry from the Foos trot out the standard Sleeperbloke response to the suggestion that they are little more than three extra faces eating up coverspace which otherwise could be given to Mr. Grohl: "Foo Fighters began as Dave's vision, so there is something cohesive about how the whole thing works... if we took collective decisions on everything we'd probably end up squabbling and turning into Metallica." Which is, of course, why nobody will ever give true democracy a try. Even Switzerland would turn into the Republic of Metallica if the votes really were that important. Not that Dave is, like, insanely in charge, he claims: "I'll take directions from the others every now and again." There's going to be a but. "But I'm the one that's in the driving seat."

Its quarter of a century since Ian Curtis killed himself, and to celebrate - it's what he would have wanted, a party - the NME offers 25 things you never knew about him. Amongst them: Ian never had to face his fear of flying because the band travelled to their European tour by hovercraft and under regressive hypnotism, he told Bernard (who was doing the hypnotism) that he'd been a Frenchman in the 17th Century.

the ordinary boys - southend/bournemouth - "if everyone loved their jobs as much, the world would be a happier place"
funeral for a friend - give it a name festival, london - "ass-puncturing"

coldplay - x&y - "confident, bold, ambitious", 9 (see, Sarah Dempster; you probably could have come in with But Seriously and still held your head up high)
maximo park - a certain trigger - "energetic and cleverly crafted", 7

hot hot heat - goodnight goodnight - "like the Strokes [would sound] if they gave a shit any more"
quuen adreena - medicine jar - "ho-hum goth toss"
scout niblett - kidnapped by neptune - "inane mad woman at the back of the bus"

And, finally, Napster have taken out a full page advert which is more than a little disturbing: their strange and increasingly alarming cat logo is peering over the top of a changing room where a girl wearing only a pair of knickers is apparently trying to remember why she came out clothes shopping without a bra on. Although since she's stood there with the door of her cubicle wide open, maybe she wouldn't be that bothered about a pervert digitised cat tomming over her tits anyway. It's all a bit seedy and not entirely that connected to downloading music files.

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