Tuesday, April 18, 2006

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Mummys and the Middle East

Motherhood, Louise Wener told readers of G2, better than playing at Brixton Academy. There's something telling about the career of an indie starlet that their highest onstage high comes at a smaller venue than the traditional Wembley or Shea Stadium. It was a lovely piece - written partially in response to Lionel Shriver's depiction of motherhood as being akin to self-removal from the human race, but also standing as useful corrective to the other current popular view of maternity: that it's something you can do, providing you start work straight away to get your figure back. She's doing well as an author, of course, so this wasn't quite a "don't worry whatever happened to..., I'm fine" piece, but it certainly looked that way.

But good god, we'd imagine that not only must motherhood be better than playing Brixton, it must have wrapped up in itself its own blessing that you no longer have to traipse round semi-converted Victorian theatres in the provinces.

The music industry, you'll have gathered, is a nasty place. But it's not the nastiest thing imaginable, as Unknown To Anyone One (UTN1, I'm very much afraid) could probably attest. They're a boyband from Iraq; they're having their career underwritten by an American millionaire who was probably hoping to make a large pile of cash but probably has just bought himself into a doomed commitment that can only cause pain and misery, which might be poetic in so many ways. At least singer Hamid Ali feels he's prepared:

"I don't think the music business can be any worse than Saddam Hussein, that's for sure."

Their manager is trying to get them a gig at the White House for the fourth of july.

More middle-east politics in this week's NME, where coverstar Bobby Gillespie is given a gentle grilling over his actions at last year's Glastonbury - he changed a Make Poverty History banner into a Make Isreal History one; and was perceived by some to be giving Nazi salutes. It provides an opening for some searching questions - "aren't you worried it all adds up to you looking like an anti-Semite" (Bobby: "Because you oppose one country's government's policies doesn't mean you hate all the people from that country") and "don't you support Hamas?"

It's frustrating that the first time NME's come close to placing music into some sort of actual geopolitical context (beyond the Mr. Benn Live8/Chris Martin version, of course) had to be with Gillespie right at the time he's swinging back to playing the musical version of the Stellar Street Jagger. So Gillespie's response isn't debate, it's closue:

"No, I support Celtic. I'm not here to talk about the politics of the Middle East. This is NME and you're asking me if I support Hamas! You don't ask Ian Brown that, or the guy from the Arctic Monkeys."

Which is true - although Ian Brown didn't alter a MPH poster to convey what was obviously meant as inflammatory, if not defamatory, attack on a nation; and it's not clear where Gillespie thinks would be an appropriate forum for him to be asked these questions - is he waiting for David Dimbleby to invite him to Question Time?

If Gillespie was that bothered about the fate of the Palestinains, surely his biggest interview of the year should be just the place to talk about it? Instead, he baulks, and the conversation returns to years-old rumours about not playing Top of the Pops because they'd have had to fly into Luton and so on. As with the band's music, every time Gillespie looks like he's going to get interesting and threatens to take us some place, he gives up and falls back on the rock and roll cliche.

The NME, meanwhile, seems to have reacted badly to the last set of circulation figures which suggested that Kerrang is about to overtake it for the world's biggest selling rock weekly title. Again. This week's issue comes with a three-feet tall poster of Fall Out Boy; next week's (or tomorrow's, more accurately) has got a My Chemical Romance poster in it. In a futher bid to tempt Kerrannnng readers over the NME, they're going to axe the column where people advertise for girlfriends, as that would seem to just be rubbing it in.

gnarls barkley - st elsewhere - "a song that appears to be about having sex with someone while they die of an overdose", 8
jody wildgoose - afterlife - "needs to cut down on the music theory", 6
nick rhodes and john taylor present only after dark - "the battle against the Stereophonics of this world"

totw - dirty pretty things - bang bang you're dead - "200 seconds of pure troubadour swagger"
goodbooks - walk with me - "blur reinterpreting Grandmaster Flash"
giant drag - this isn't it - "a scuzzy ball of unrequited love"

patrick wolf - bloomsbury theatre - "he's been able to develop in the hinterlands"
hope of the states - manchester late room - "lunges for the jugular. And mauls."

And finally, while the NME rocks up to try and shore the bottom line, a threat comes from the other end. Mixmag, in what might be a final signal from the sinking dance music market, has gone indie. The latest issue has got Hard-Fi on the cover.

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