Saturday, August 13, 2005

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Ten years after, what news of Britpop now?

It's been a while since the last pop papers, and even longer since we last got hold of a copy of Sound Nation, the Welsh music magazine which has been reformated in our time apart as a sexy little A5, giving it an even greater feel of having tons of stuff going on. Apparently Huw Stephens is going to be taking on the mantle of Lamacq as Reading Festival main stage compere - that's in the same year as he took over Peel's show as well. If we were Andy Kershaw, we'd be keeping an eye...

There's a handy guide to how to plug your music to Wales' commercial radio stations - GTFM are especially generous in the information they provide, despite having a daytime policy of targeting the over 30s. (NB: After 30, you cease to listen to new music and just replay the same four songs over and over again: the one you lost your virginity to, the one you got dumped to, the one playing the day you discovered your first grey hair, and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.) There's another useful guide to setting up your own record label, and to getting registered with the Video royalties people, which are useful even if you don't intend to set yourself up in Wales.

The Super Furries line up for an interview - in keeping with the magazine's remit, it's more about the process than the product; the band defend recording in Spain and Brazil on the grounds that that's where their producer had gone to live. Daf points out that the costs of doing this worked out cheaper than recording in Rockfield, which might not be quite the pro-Welsh industry line you'd expect him to toe.

Ceri Sherlock is the commissioning editor of S4C - which is now, of course, the only "domestic, indigenous" TV network in the country; he finds himself with a similar problem being faced by BBC TWO and ITV, in that their flagship music shows are under-performing. In his case, the programme is Bandit, and, admits Sherlock "it's worrying that even its core audience doesn't feel committed to tuning in."

Talking of Pop TV, the Magic Numbers' Top of the Pops walkout has already doomed their career to have them forever tagged as 'the band who walked out on the fat remark'; adding insult to, well, perceived insult, The Guardian even got Anne Widdecombe in to offer an opinion - she advised them they'd be better off disarming critics by embracing playground taunts. "I answer the telephone 'Karloff speaking'," she trilled - although being a Tory MP is a job where you expect to be ridiculed, whereas creating pop music... oh, hang on a minute...

It's ten years since the great Blur versus Oasis battle, when the release dates of Roll With It and Country House were brought together to decide, once and for all, who the greatest Britpop band was. (Pulp, it turned out, according to our paperwork.) It seems odd to be celebrating a decade since a thing that wasn't really all that important in the first place, but it gives us something to do while preparing for August 2015 and "The Weight Of The Years: Magic Numbers, Bacon and TOTP ten years on" edition of the Sunday Telegraph magazine.

The Guardian's Friday Review calls in Britpop's Boswell John Harris to consider what the world might have been like without Britpop. A grim place, he reckons (presumably on the basis that he wouldn't get commissions to write articles like this): "The world these people built, however, has endured... the idea there was ever an underground, where bands could ply their trade wihtout paying any attention to commerce, seems almost laughable." We're not so sure - yeah, the Kaiser Chiefs might have blossomed overnight, but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on beneath your radar, Mr. Harris.

Graham Coxon rolls up to be less than impressed with the whole thing - "there is some sort of dealing with the devil" and the horrors of "self-congratulating, coke and champagne people."

Harris also hits McGee with the Oppenheimeresque 'destroyer of worlds' charge - that Oasis, trying to scrable back ground after being bested in the Britpop head-to-head, changed British music by releasing Wonderwall: "From hereon in," opines Harris, "the lighter-than-air ballad became obligatory and the leather trousers era of rock & roll was over." McGee is horrified: "I don't think you can blame Noel Gallagher for Coldplay. And you can't blame him for Athlete..."

The NME, of course, was there, and pulls some plums out of its archive: the two covers it produced to run the day after the chart was announced (one proclaiming 'Two-Nil' in case Oasis came out on top; the 'Top Dogs' used in the event); a screengrab of a pissed-off John Humphrys reduced to doing the Blur-Oasis battle on the Nine O'Clock News. Steve Sutherland drags back to recall that it was Tommy Udo, then the NME's news editor, who first spotted that the release dates coincided. (Indeed, at the time, The Sunday Times ran an editorial suggesting that the whole thing had been drawn up by the bands in cahoots - cahoots, they say - with the NME.) To be honest, we're always slightly surprised when the issue trumpeting the battle fails to make any sort of list of the worst NME covers ever - it was supposedly tricked out as a boxing poster, but it didn't work either as a magazine front page or as an announcement of a forthcoming bout. Sutherland slightly overplays the importance of the battle, asking us to imagine how it would be if the story of two bands releasing singles shared news space with the current stories of suicide bombs in London; of course, the fact there was no such compelling home news at the time helped create the atmosphere in which the all-important Top 40 did become, sort-of all-important for a week.

There seems to be a general consensus that Oasis won the long-term war, because they are playing to enormous venues around the world. I suppose it all depends how you judge victory, doesn't it?

Back to 2005, and back to another spat - although Kele from Bloc Party and Eddie Argos from Art Brut having a fight at indie club Catch doesn't seem to have troubled Huw Edward's running order, to be honest. Oddly, it seems that Bloc Party calling Argos "fat" while talking to Edith Bowman had kicked off the rumpus - "it's the kind of comment which killed Karen Carpenter," sniffs Argos. ("She said, 'Eddie, you look so underfed', indeed). Of course, this kind of girth-related name-calling is quite the thing right now, what with the Magic Numbers TOTP walkout, and its the Numbers who are on the front of this week's NME.

Of course, the interview predates the Bacon Fat Spat. Paul Moody describes the band as "four asylum seekers from Middle Earth", but not to their faces. Presciently, Moody ended the interview asking about the weight thing: Romeo says "it gets to the girls a bit, but, y'know, it comes with the territory. I'll just remember what Brian Wilson said to us. We went into catering at a festival and he looked over and said 'eat all you want'. If anyone says anything about it again, I'll just say we're obeying Brian's orders."

Or perhaps not.

The really refreshing thing about this week's NME, though, is it's got girls in it. For the first time in years, a Radar/On peice about a new scene - in this case the New Yorkshire - has managed to find a whole bunch of bands which have more than a token female presence. Long term pop papers readers will remember how we used to despairingly work out the proportion of women in the annointed new bands, but with The Long Blondes, the Research, the Ivories, and Forward Russia amongst the bands making "Yorkshire the hottest place for new music, clubs and labels" it's almost like there's change in the air.

More ladies: Alison Goldfrapp is wrestled by Peter Robinson. She predicts the eight Goldfrapp album will sound slow and out of tune "because by then we'll be old and deaf."

The Bravery - in Japan - [Dirt reports] "today i was in the crowd, and the Japanese were just very lightly touching me. In the UK, I'd be lucky to leave with my pants."
veto silver - kings cross water rats - "a pile-up between Fischerspooner, Busted and Razorlight"
mew - london ICA - "accompanied by a talking puppet of the young Fred Durst"
nastyfest in Leeds: "he's playing the drums with his cock" (apparently the drummer from Electric Eel Shock, so at least they're aptly named)

supergrass - road to rouen - "Floyd flavour; Smashing Pumpkins 1979 bled of any wankery", 7
the prcolaimers - restless soul - "at least one pure pop nugget", 7
alfie - crying at teatime - "patchy, leaden, clogged up with overstated string sections", 5

totw - franz ferdinand - do you want to ("on the radio now" but otherwise unobtainable legally until September) - "a dash of sexual intrigue"
sons and daughters - taste the last girl - "chugging quo-esque riff"
broadcast - america's boy - "like Alison Goldfrapp, but melancholy rather than horny"

And, finally, in the pages of the rather-fine Zembla magazine (Asia Argento on the cover, and you really can seldom say fairer than that) they've got the Marilyn Manson ads for Vivienne Westwood. It's the perfect marriage - two old tarts who got rich off denaturing and repackaging teen rebellion and selling it back to them.