Saturday, September 30, 2006

Murray in haste...

This week has seen the launch of Radio One's bemusing new In New Music We Trust schedule - where the idea seems to have been to try and plough the idea of music without boundaries into the ground by making as many tiny, genre specific shows as it's possible to cram in the early hours of the morning. The central plank in this reversal of pledging to "keep it Peel" has been the gifting of the main focus of the new schedule to Colin Murray, who gets two hours, four nights a week to do the anchor programme - which is closer to a revival of Nicky Campbell's old late-night show than anything from the Peel/Jensen/Radcliffe era.

The whole strand just feels driven more by flipchart than heart and ears - In New Music We Trust was originally a marketing slogan used to launch the Zane Lowe show. It made a lousy advert, but far worse for an explanation of what the station is all about in the late-night hours. In new music we trust? To do what? It's a rip from the US coins In God We Trust, but at least that makes some sort of sense - you can see what they might be putting their faith in, and why. But how does one trust in new music? What if it's rubbish, made by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Timmy Mallet, say? And trust it to do what?

Martin Wheatley has reported back on some of the other shows in the strand on Zapsmart, most interestingly pointing out that for "Jo Whiley An Hour Of In Live Music We Trust" (snappy name) you get a few Kooks songs (sliced up into individual chunks) scattered through some other live pieces - not entirely new, and with the watering-down of the focus by other stuff, not entirely trusting the music to be interesting enough. Martin also points out that there's now no concert programme on Radio One at all.

We had been intending to focus our review on the first Colin Murray programme, but BBC Radio's listen again feature had apparently decided it was too shamefull. So we chose the very second Colin Murray programme, from Tuesday 25th September.

To be fair, the music on the programme isn't bad, but with the likes of Ice Cube's Today Was A Good Day and the White Stripes' Hotel Yorba in the first hour, it's not exactly the freshest new music, nor marching too far from the comfort zone. We've nothing against 6Music, but we're not sure why Radio 1 would be getting so excited about a programme which could fit comfortably in its daytime schedules.

The programme - away from the playlist - is a bit of a shed. "Stand by for the Radio One Black Hole" announces Murray; it seems at first to be refreshing self-criticism, but then it turns out that it's the Big Idea. They invite listeners to send in URLS of music they've found online, and then Colin and co play it. It's not a bad idea - there is an element of "how the hell do we work YouTube and MySpace into the mix?" - but we're not entirely sure we believe that the music is actually being selected while the programme is broadcasting. How do you make sure everything is across BBC editorial standards if you're only playing it seconds after you've heard it?

Still, the segment throws up a track from Gym Class Heroes (called New Friend Request) which makes it worth the faffy coating.

There's a clunking bit of business between Murray and his producer near the start where Colin promises to play Bright Eyes for him, only to put on Art Garfunkel rather than Conor Oberst. Do you see? He does the gag again, in case you didn't. Those of you with long memories will recall Marks Radcliffe and Riley doing a similar gag back on the old Radio 5 with Russ Abbot and Joy Division's Atmosphere; perhaps it's down to acquired tastes which you found funny.

Worse: repeatedly through the programme, Murray keeps claiming the show's USP is mental illness: "we've got a schizophrenic record box", this programme has "schizophrenic honesty". To slip up once and mis-use schizophrenic to mean "liking more than one thing" would be a forgiveable clunker; to have built the entire show around misrepresenting a mental illness suggests a lack of judgement and a failing of leadership. What makes it even worse is the intention - to suggest a show full of bits of totally different things - is as misplaced as the execution is ill-advised. Like people who claim "I'm totally mad, I am", this show is nothing of the sort.

Although the Nicky Campbell night-time show is a fair model of where we are with this, there is another ghost of Radio One past hanging around this programme. Murray drops in tiny chunklets of comedy sketches - often just the punchline stripped from the build-up - without any real connection to anything before or after. It took a moment or two for us to realise what was going on, but then it all became clear: It's the bloody Adrian Juste show, isn't it?

A daytime show dressed up as a night-time show. We'd probably like it more if we liked Murray's style more; we'd like it more if it was an attempt to push the afternoon show into more eclectic territory instead of a bid to try and make evenings a little less left-field.


flaaart said...

The comedy snippet bit actually predates Radio 1 - Jack Jackson used to do it on his Light Programme show. What next - Arnold the dog ?

Aaron said...

i was quite excited about steve lamacq's hour on monday. i liked lamacq live, but always found myself forwarding to the final hour, where steve would just play the best new stuff. i thought the new programme would be like that.. sadly it's overproduced guff. and steve sounded completely miserable last week.

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