Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kings Of Leon: something exciting happens during set

Last night, Kings Of Leon were playing St Louis, when an unexpected and interesting event happened: A pigeon pooped in Jared Fallowill's mouth.

Now, however funny that might be, it's clearly not pleasant. You might want to nip off stage, have a quick gargle, maybe drink something to take the taste away. A brief intermission - or possibly just leave the other guys to get on with it while you took care of the mouth.

The Kings Of Leon, though, decided that this was such a terrible thing they trooped off the stage, and didn't come back on.

Three songs in to the set, mind. This Is Fake DIY reports they took to Twitter:

“So sorry St. Louis. We had to bail, pigeons shitting in jareds mouth and it was too unsanitary to continue,”
“Don't take it out on Jared, it's the ****ing venues fault. You may enjoy being shit on but we don't. Sorry for all who travelled many miles.”
Was the band really convinced that if they'd stayed on stage, they would have continued to eat bird poo? If things were that bad, wouldn't they have spotted it during soundcheck?

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Come to the festivals with HMV

HMV is desperate to offer more chances for shopping at festivals. Because that's what festivals are all about, right? The shopping?

Gennaro Castaldo, HMV's outdoorsman, explained why HMV shops are heading for the festivals:
Gennaro Castaldo, a spokesperson for the company, told Quest Search & Selection, although no approach has yet been made, the business is exploring ways it can expand this set-up in the future - potentially at Glastonbury and the Reading/Leeds festivals.
The HMV representative said: “It is a great commercial opportunity for us - we are keen to appear in the spaces where young people are. Festivals are a natural place for a company like us to be.”
And, frankly, what could be more Glastonbury-esque than seeing it as a commercially opportune space where young people are? In fact, they should think about dropping the "festival of the performing arts" tagline and use that instead, right?

Pizzicato Five Weekend: Baby Love Child

From their Made In USA album, and able to claim a guesting role on a Futurama soundtrack:

[Part of Pizzicato Five weekend]

Latitude: Police appeal for witnesses

Suffolk police investigating the rape at Latitude are keen to talk to anyone who can help with the investigation:

DCI David Cutler, who is overseeing the investigation into the rape, said: “We know there will be people with information that can help this enquiry and we are appealing directly to the group of males who met up with the young woman on Thursday night around 10pm - 10.30pm.

“There will be several men in this group who were not present when the rape occurred and we need you to come forward to give an account of what happened. We are working to trace those involved and we will do everything we can to locate you so if you are reading this appeal please do the right thing and come forward.

“If you were at Latitude on Thursday night, and particularly if you were in the red campsite area around this time you may also be able to help our enquiries. If you saw a young woman wearing denim leggings, a yellow and white check shirt, a black cardigan and Wellington boots you may well have seen the victim of this incident and it is important that we hear from you too.”
Suffolk Police are on 01473 613500.

Embed and breakfast man: Pizzicato Five

Inspired, totally, by Marc Riley replaying an old Radcliffe-evening-slot session on 6Music this week (you can catch up on iPlayer for the next few days), let's dip into the video back catalogue of the Pizzicato Five.

There weren't five of them, and they weren't played by plucking. Actually, briefly, they were a five-piece, but not for very long. In the US and the UK, they were pretty much pegged as a quirky, indiesque offering - a Shonen Knife that took breaths - but their Japanese origins had seen as much interference by the record label as you'd expect to find Olly Murs enduring.

By the time of their split in 2001, they were a two-piece. Singer Maki Nomiya returned to the solo work she'd abandoned in 1981 and Yasuharu Konishi, the founding member who clung on to the end, produces, remixes and composes. He also runs his own label, 524 Records, which is apparently a hilarious pun if you speak Japanese.

Let's get to what they sounded like, eh?

Twiggy Twiggy is probably the closest thing to a big hit:

Happy End Of The World
Made In USA
The Quickie EP

More P5 online
Pizzicato Five on Last FM
Makino Miya official site
Pizzicato Five on Spotify

More to come across the weekend
Baby Love Child
Happy Sad
Maki does a medley

Gordon in the morning: Myths of the near future

Back in March, James Murdoch - one of Gordon's bosses - gave a speech in which he stoutly defended the sacrosanct nature of copyright:

Murdoch, who stressed that future growth would come from original content production, took the toughest line on piracy.

"We need enforcement mechanisms and we need governments to play ball … There is no difference with going into a store and stealing Pringles or a handbag and taking this stuff. It's a basic condition for investment and economic growth and there should be the same level of property rights whether it's a house or a movie," he said.

"The idea that there's a new consumer class and you have to be consumer-friendly when they're stealing stuff. No. There should be the same level of sanctity as there is around property. Content is no different. They're not crazy kids. No. Punish them."
Borrowing content is like stealing Pringles or a handbag. People who do it must be punished.

Bear that in mind, then, as you read Gordon's story about The Klaxons this morning:
KLAXONS found a drastic cure for their writers' block - a mind-bending psychedelic session.

They got their juices flowing by drinking a powerful hallucinogenic Amazonian potion under the eyes of a shaman - a spiritual healer.
If that sounds familiar, it might be because it's the focus of the band's big interview with NME this week.

Familiar down to the quotes:
Jamie said: "Everybody goes to these sessions with questions.

"Mine was 'How do I write this new album?'

"And it gave me the answer. 'You don't need anything. Just go and do it.' So we did."
Just as the NME reported.

It is possible that The Sun has licensed the content from IPC to reuse - although you'd normally expect to see an acknowledgment if that's happened. But it can't be that Gordon's just lifted the whole thing without permission or even a mention of the NME, can it? Because that would be like stealing a handbag stuffed full of Pringles, wouldn't it? And whatever would James Murdoch (a fully licensed copy of Rupert) say about that?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Saturdays try cheapening product to attract audience

Oh, dear. It turns out that there is something more dispiriting than a pop group doing a soft porn photoshoot to try and boost their career. A pop group desperately dropping hints that they'd love to drop their skirts:

The Saturdays have reportedly admitted that they would consider posing naked for Playboy.

"We always say, 'Never say never,'" said Rochelle Wiseman[...]

Una Healy added: "I would consider it if there was a way of sneakily covering your bits."

Yes. That might be missing the point a little. You're confusing 'being in a cheeky WI calendar' with 'appearing in a masturbatory aid'.

Frankie - who is probably the closest thing The Saturdays have to someone who could probably get a proper job doing something useful - appears to have missed the band meeting:
"Oh my God, no! I’d never do it. Definitely not nude. Never."

Not only did nobody seem to have told Frankie they were going to try and raunch up their image, but they forgot to fill her in on the band motto being 'never say never'.
She added: "I do think it can look nice if it’s done tastefully."

... when she realised that the rest of the band were giving her the look they usually wheel out during the 'who is this band's Jason Orange' game.

Venuewatch: Cross Kings and Stags Head

Sad news from Snipe: The Cross Kings in, erm, Kings Cross has shut itself down in protest at the behaviour of the brewery:

it’s now boarded up after a dispute with Enterprise Inns, the Cross Kings’ management complaining about being “bled dry” by the firm on its Facebook page.
Despite the Cross Kings’ busy diary of events, they say they were given just a week’s notice before the bailiffs’ arrival on 9 July.

Snipe's Darryl Chamberlain also says that things are looking grim for the Stags Head in Hoxton, another Enterprise-owned venue whose management are finding things sticky.

Richard Desmond plots an impossible dream

With his hands almost certainly to grab Channel Five, Richard Desmond has plans. The former wankmagnate and current owner of porn TV channels has a dream, according to MediaGuardian:

Richard Desmond has told colleagues he would like to revive Top of the Pops, which was shelved by the BBC in 2006 after 42 years, if he buys Five. He wants to create a series of landmark shows in peak time and believes a live music programme would win a big audience.

Except, of course, Top Of The Pops didn't win a big audience, which was why the BBC shelved it. Mind you, what was underperformance for BBC One and Two might look like a golden jewel amongst... whatever it is that Channel Five does these days. Is it still showing Fast Forward?

The other problem is that Top Of The Pops isn't actually in play. MediaGuardian speculates:
If he does press ahead with plans for a music show, Desmond may simply dust down the format and choose a different name.

Ah. So rather than brining back Top Of The Pops, effectively Desmond is planning to rebuild The Roxy.

Backo Jacko

What do you do when your musical hero dies? Perhaps make a small corner of your bedroom into a memorial, with posters and the odd candle? Feel sad for a day or two before moving on?

Or should you have a massive tattoo done instead?

Guess what Mandy Taylor went with:

The 43-year-old of Shelley Close, Lewes, was left devastated when Michael Jackson suffered a heart attack and died at his Los Angeles home in June 2009.

Ever since, she has been plotting how to pay homage to the moonwalking, crotch-grabbing star.

And after going under the needle at Lewes tattoo parlour Tizzs, life-long fan Mandy says she is thrilled with the results.

You spend a year thinking it through, and you still can't come up with a reason not to have a massive face drawn on your back.

Still, it's a stunning likeness. Not, admittedly, much of a likeness of Michael Jackson, but it's certainly a stunning likeness of somebody.

Hobgoblin off: Mary Anne Hobbes quits Radio One

Let's hope that whoever replaces Mary Anne in the small hours on Radio One picks up where she's been leading, and isn't just another Vernon Kaye/Scott Mills grin-with-headphones.

Mary is leaving with her head held high:

Yesterday i resigned from BBC Radio1, after an amazing multi-dimensional 14 year career.

The great freedoms the BBC have given in me as a broadcaster, have allowed me to help break so many confrontational artists as diverse as Slipknot and Skream, and of course, the whole genre of Dubstep in recent times.

My current Experimental show is in peak condition, it’s never been stronger. And although it’s a very emotional decision to leave the show that I love so much, it’s also an optimum moment to bow out, at the very top of my game.

My work for Radio1 on the Breezeblock, Rock Show, many fascinating documentaries about everything from David Bowie to Dubstep, on daytime, at festivals and award ceremonies, has been exceptionally rewarding. These have been glory days not just for me, but for all the artists who have shared my BBC platform, and of course, the listeners everywhere from Beijing to Berlin, Baltimore to Blackpool, who shared a great passion for future sound.

I will continue to DJ live, work in film, and curate at Sonar festival in Barcelona.

I have also accepted a new job mentoring and teaching students at the University of Sheffield’s Union Of Students radio station, TV station and the newspaper that operate out of their superb Forge Media Hub, which presents me with a really exciting new challenge.

My last show on BBC Radio1 will be broadcast:
September 8th>>9th … Wednesday night >> Thursday morning… 2-4am

Thank you so much for listening...

Truly, Sheffield's gain is our loss. I wish it hadn't have taken me quite so long to warm to her - although given she used to do the rock show, perhaps the fault wasn't entirely mine or hers, so much as her parish.

Olly Murs: they've made a programme about him

There's going to be a big programme on ITV2 about Olly Murs.

I know what you're thinking: who the hell even remembers Olly Murs, never mind would want to make a programme about him?

Funny you should ask:

A source said: "Sony really wants Olly to be a success so they have funded a documentary about him for ITV2.

"The idea is for fans to get to know the real Olly so, hopefully, they will buy his album."

Unless I'm missing something, doesn't that sound like advertising rather than a "documentary"? I'm sure ITV2 won't be showing this programme without a massive 'advertising promotion' caption all over it, right?

Billy Corgan falls down

Naturally, when Billy Corgan swoons on stage, he doesn't just swoon. He emotes as he collapses:

"For those that saw me fall last night during 'Bullet [With Butterfly Wings]' that wasn't a stage move or clumsiness," Corgan wrote on his Twitter page - "That was me blacking out and wiping out."

He added: "I have no memory of falling against the drum riser and my guitar cabinet, but I can tell you I've got quite a good bruise + am moving slow."

Doctors report that it's likely that the sheer intenseness of Corgan's intensity might have caused his brow to be come intellectually over-furrowed, cutting off the flow of pure muse to his central self-belief.

Anything that keeps hen parties off the streets is to be applauded

Given that most restaurants seem to have given up on serving adults and just turned their seating over to providing parties for six year-olds, it's unsurprising that people who run businesses that are aimed at preteens are recalibrating their offerings to attract the displaced grown-up parties.

So it is that a company which offers you the chance to make your own pop video - by which they mean mime to someone else's song while the horror is documented by someone whose career plan has shrunk back somewhat from the original 'be the new Scorsese' - is going after the hen party market.

Ms Hamilton said the 1980s is currently a popular theme with Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper a common choice.

I'm not entirely sure "the 1980s" is a theme, is it? Not unless while someone mimes the "my father yells what you gonna do with your life" bit, the bridesmaid and the bride's sister re-enact Orgreave in the background.

But there are other videos on offer:
“Single Ladies by Beyoncé is also very popular with the hen groups and some go crazy with a full-on leotard,” she added.

Presumably the rest do it with half-off leotards, then?

Still: these are difficult times, businesses must do all they can to adapt. There's a luxury package available, where for an extra £50 the tapes are destroyed and the company promises nothing will be put onto YouTube.

Gordon in the morning: JLS and N-Dubz - it's like gossip goes to Chuck E Cheese

Thin pickings today, with Gordon forced to fall back on JLS and N-Dubz to fill the yawning acres. And JLS haven't even done anything, either, apart from Aston leaving a nightclub at the same time as a woman.

For those of you who have trouble telling the members of JLS apart, Aston is the one whose blank stare appears to go into the middle distance.

There's some claim that he plays Paper, Scissors, Stone as his "chat-up" technique, which seems a bit odd. You'd think JLS would never have been introduced to the game:

Friend: Hey, Aston, do you want to play Paper, Scissors, Stone?
Aston: No, my mum says I'm not to play with scissors.

The suggestion appears only to have been made to allow the headline:


No, it doesn't work. A-stone might have been better to go with, although 'not putting this in a newspaper' would have been the best call.

Meanwhile, how goes the success of N-Dubz in America? You'll remember they've been picked up for a five year tax write-off for DefJam ("five album deal with DefJam") - so let's check in with them, shall we?
N-DUBZ' bid for US stardom has hit a problem within weeks of inking a five-album deal with Def Jam.

They spent three weeks in a Surrey studio and emerged with just one new track.

From the point of view of the rest of the world, it's more worrying that they've slapped together a new track, but given this was supposed to be the chance for them to show Island what they can do, it probably won't go down well. Def Jam will probably call the band in to HQ for a dressing down.
Fazer still hasn't sorted out a visa for the States.

Or sending someone over to dress them down, then.

Gordon's verdict?
It's never dull with N-Dubz.

But "dull" is surely the word?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fran Healy has been busy

It's been two years since the last Travis album; seven, if you measure it since the last one that people noticed. This has created a Travis-like hole in Britain's cultural life.

Holes aren't, to be honest, all that bad. And this is a hole that you really don't mind.

Nevertheless, Fran Healy has decided to try and plug that hole with a solo record. (Yes, it seems that Travis consisted of more than one person.)

There's an excited press release:

Artists such as Coldplay, Noel Gallagher, The Doves and Gomez have cited Healy's sophisticated and atmospheric arrangements as a major influence on their own sound.

Coldplay... well, yes, Coldplay you could believe.
Recorded in Berlin, New York and Vermont, the 10 tracks that make up [the album] are as exceptionally literate as they are emotionally challenging.

Yes. I suspect they will be.

As an idea of how "exceptionally literate" they are, the album is being called Wreckorder. Which is the clumsy sort-of pun that you'd expect from a bunch of 15 year-olds hoping to get a mention in Kerrang, not a "literate" album from a man you're claiming is - oh yes - "a quintessential pop songwriter".

Can you make the album seem even more depressingly assembled-from-mail-order-parts?
features Paul McCartney on bass

That would do it.
The end result is the sound of a songwriter who embodied the spirit of Britpop and continues to artistically evolve.

If he's artistically evolved, why would you need to mention that he embodied the spirit of a music scene that was looking dated fifteen years ago. When humans developed opposable thumbs, I'm pretty certain they dropped banging on about 'now walking on two legs' from their press releases.

Not that Healy did embody Britpop anyway - even Wikipedia just lobs Travis in at the end of a "second wave", which is a polite way of saying 'turned up after closing time in the hope of getting to cop off with people who haven't realised the party is over'.

I'm just wondering, though: could this press release make Healy sound any more like a caricature of himself?
Healy is currently on a North American tour with Keane.

Yes. That would do it.

There is, though, one phrase that will bruise your heart:
The collection of songs includes the Neko Case duet "Sing Me To Sleep" which bounces over warm melodies and a syncopated drum loop.

Neko Case has no business appearing on a song which will be described as "syncopated". Can a drum loop actually be syncopated? Isn't a loop by its very nature the opposite of syncopation?

Sharkey and the woolsack: Feargal in the Lords?

You'd have never put money on it when he was singing about wanking and chocolate, but Feargal Sharkey is being seriously talked about as a possible addition to the House Of Lords:

Allies of David Cameron say the PM is considering offering the former Undertones singer a life peerage for his efforts to support the music ­industry.

That's from the Daily Mirror, but it's one of their dwindling band of actual journalists who's written it.

Increasingly, 'singer in a punk band' is looking like the outlier in Feargal Sharkey's career, as shown by his time with the Radio Authority and later work as whatever his job title is trying to pretend musicians' interests are identical to those of multinational industrialists. Turning up on the red benches would make a kind of sense, however horrifying it would be for anyone seeing a copyright-tightener being wheeled in to government.

(Isn't this sort of celebrity-business-approved patronage the 'old politics' that Cameron was supposed to... oh, hang about, election's been over months, hasn't it? We've stopped pretending that.)

When he heard another DJ playing Teenage Kicks, John Peel had to pull over to the side of the road because he was crying so much. Whenever we hear what Sharkey's being lined up for next, I kind of worry I might lose control of a motor vehicle and it'll all end in tears, too.

[Thanks to both James M and Michael M for pointing at this one]

Casiokids expecting large cheque from Morten Harket

A somewhat bemusing email arrives from Casiokids' press people:

Casiokids Win! Receive 1 Million Kroner Grant from a-ha

It's not so much that Casiokids have won something, it's more the idea of A-Ha going round handing out grants. Can the press release shed any light on this?
Thanks to your votes, Casiokids won 1 million kroner (approx. $160,000) of legendary Norwegian pop band a-ha's money on July 14 as part of a competition set up to award four of Norway's most promising up-and-coming artists with the funds necessary to continue their international careers.

Blimey. It's not unheard of for a successful band to give a leg-up to a struggling act - only this week, Take That have helped out Robbie Williams - but you'd have to applaud A-Ha for using some of their spare cash to help new acts build their own careers. Might not be quite ready for an 'old bands are the new record labels' theory, but it would be nice to think some others who have been well treated by rock and roll might adopt this way of giving something back.

Embed and breakfast man: Metric

Here's a lovely way to start the day: Metric on The All-New Tonight Show With Jay Leno And Crazylegs Crane:

NME to relaunch radio station

Having only just shut down NME Radio, the plan now is to, erm, revive NME Radio:

NME has signed a deal with Town & Country Broadcasting which will see the station return to presenter-led shows as of September.

The station can currently be heard on Sky Channel 0184 and via NME.COM/radio, with DAB and a new iPhone app set to follow soon.

That makes sense. Invest a load of cash in setting up a radio station. Do promotional stints on FM licences. Take it to DAB. Shut the thing down and get rid of the presenters. Take it off DAB. Switch to just streaming music like a Last FM you don't control. Give it a couple of months. Announce a new service, but be a bit a vague about.

That's the way to build an audience, right there.

The Beach Boys reunite. Possibly.

The NME has set a great deal of store in Al Jardine's insistence that there's to be a 50th anniversary reunion of The Beach Boys:

The Beach Boys to reform for 50th anniversary show

Brian Wilson an co to reunite in 2011

What's surprising about this certainty is that it's lifted from a Rolling Stone piece - hell, it even links to a Rolling Stone piece which is a little less certain:
Beach Boys Consider Reunion For 50th Anniversary

And you can see why they are perhaps less certain of their scoop than the NME is. Because they thought better of just taking Jardine's word for it:
A source close to Mike Love says there have been discussions for a reunion concert, but nothing is set. Brian Wilson's manager, Jean Sievers, says she's unfamiliar with reunion plans. "Brian has a big new album coming out in August [Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin]," says Sievers, "and that's what he's a hundred percent focused on."

Funnily enough, Jardine has a product he's trying to find a label for:
While [his A Postcard From California] album is available on iTunes, Jardine hopes to find a distributor to put it out on proper CD. "Beach Boys fans would rather have something they can touch," he says. "I thought I'd get it out now and then take advantage of the second opportunity when the anniversary kicks in next year."

So this 'done deal' for a reunion looks a bit more like an attempt to leverage some money out of a record label by talking up the chances that the release could be timed to hook-up with a big party. It might have been handy for the NME readership to have been told that before they went off to queue for tickets.

Gordon in the morning: Dry

The green room at Take That dates is going to be quite sober. Actually sober, as Gordon explains:

GARY BARLOW and the lads have agreed to ban booze backstage when they hit the road next year.

Enforced close-quartering with Robbie Williams and not even a Pernod and Orange to help you through? There's only one possible response to that:
GARY Barlow is planning to hike to the North Pole to raise cash for charity.

Yes, I think I probably would, too.

In other news, Gordon happily details the increased security Cheryl Tweedy is buying in, apparently unaware it's people trying to grab photos for people like him that are many of the people she's trying to make herself secure against.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drug music

It had to happen. After sixty years of rock and roll being the gateway drug to get kids into drugs, now it's stopped being an introducer and turned into drugs all by itself.

According to credulous sources, anyway:

Schools and drug experts are warning parents to beware of "digital drugs" that Mustang High School students blamed for their apparent intoxication.

Three students were sent to the principal's office when they appeared to be high on drugs or alcohol in March, said Mustang School District Superintendent Bonnie Lightfoot. She said the kids explained that they had tried something called "i-dosers."

Young people plug into i-dosers through putting on headphones and downloading music and tones that create a supposed drug-like euphoria.

It's terrible. Not only are people listening to drugs through their ears, but dealers are cutting the sound-drug with cheaper ingredients like Robbie Williams' last album - a mix which could lead to brains turning inside out and literally boiling from the neck down.

Just because music isn't actually that sort of drug doesn't mean we shouldn't be panicing:
"I think it's very dangerous," said Karina Forrest-Perkins, chief operating officer of Gateway to Prevention and Recovery in Shawnee. While there are no known neurological effects from digital drugs, they encourage kids to pursue mood altering substances, she said.

"This music isn't making my brain doodle unicorns. This sucks, I'm gonna go and get some crack instead. Where do I download that?" asked a student.
Some parents have called the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control worried about i-dosing, said OBN spokesman Mark Woodward. He said the i-dosing effect is likely sort of a placebo rather than a valid threat to children's brain waves.

"The bigger concern is if you have a kid wanting to explore this, you probably have a kid that may end up smoking marijuana or looking for bigger things," Woodward said.

"It's just like if you listen to the sound of the sea in a shell" explained Woodward, wishing he'd never given up smoking, "because then the next thing you know, you'll be jumping off a boat in the middle of the ocean."
[ Mustang School District Superintendent Bonnie] Lightfoot said like Mustang High School parents, she's shocked over the digital drugs.

"What worries me is the ease in which some people can sell things to kids by saying that it's supposed to be mood altering," she said. "It's a real moneymaker out there."

Yes - imagine that. A product that's advertised by claiming it will make you feel better. Thank god proper products like Coca-Cola or Kelloggs cereals would never do anything like that.

Let's make more Muses

Harvey Goldsmith has got a plea - apparently we need more Muses. As in the band, he doesn't want Pierus to be getting all busy again:

"The only kind of stadium star or arena-plus star act that has come through recently is Muse. That’s it. Both here in Britain and in America. We need more of them.

"We need to have, as I have said time and time again, new promoters with new ideas, building new acts up so they become the new superstars. Without that, within five years’ time, there will not be a business."

Harvey Goldsmith, manager of Jeff Beck, promoter since England last won the world cup, suggesting the problem is old promoters with stale ideas. Whoever would have thought?

And his big idea is to clone an already successful band. "Let's make more of these, as they're already popular" isn't the most obvious way of encouraging "new ideas" in the music industry, is it?

Still, Goldsmith's warning should make all our blood run cold. If there aren't a dozen or so Matt Bellamies wandering about by 2015, there won't be any oversized gigs in inappropriate venues where you can only 'watch' by staring over people's heads at a giant TV screen that is out of sync with when the music reaches you. No more £45-plus gig tickets, plus parking, plus two quid bottles of water because you can't bring your own in. No more tailbacks on motorways as thousands try to cram up a road to a temporary stage in a country house back garden. Do you want to live in such a world, people? Because that's what will happen. Harvey Goldsmith says so.

Gordon in the morning: The coxless fives

For their first now-with-added-gurning video, Take That have shot a video with them messing about in a boat. Or, as Gordon puts it:

Back with Rob... and they've already had their first row

Row - do you see? Like rowing with oars, not rowing with angry words.

The video - which, Gordon insists, is "wacky" - has them pretending to be oarsmen. And what would the costumes be, Mr. Smart?
[they are] dressed as olden-day oarsmen

Olden-days? Olden-days?

Meanwhile, Gordon suggests - as he does every three days - that we're about to see a massive chart battle between Take That and Robbie Williams:
TAKE That have deliberately timed the release of their new album to force a Christmas chart battle with Robbie Williams, according to their record company boss.

So, they're coming out in the same week, are they?
The band bring out theirs in November - a month after Robbie's greatest hits collection In And Out Of Consciousness hits the shops.

That's not really a chart battle, is it? That's 'being available in shops which are already selling the other record' - in which case, Take That are having a chart battle with The White Album and Thriller, too.

Clearly, the timing of the records have nothing to do with a cunning chart battle, and everything to do with trying to hit the Christmas market, and nothing to do with picking a pointless fight.
Polydor Records president Ferdy Unger-Hamilton said: "The plan was put together by the band. It is brilliant."

Yes. By the band. Brilliant. Because when else would the records have come out, exactly?

"Let's not release a record which is mainly going to be bought as a gift in the middle of March."
"Jason Orange, you a genius."

Only a fool would fall for that. Gordon gives it a column all to itself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Women told 'take care' at Festival Republic events

I think Melvin Benn's upset at the reports of two rapes at Latitude over the weekend is quite genuine, but the official response is a bit poorly thought out:

Melvyn Benn, the chief executive of Festival Republic which runs Latitude, said the organisation was planning to raise awareness of the potential dangers faced by female festival-goers at all its events, which include Reading, Leeds and the Big Chill. "It is fair to say that in the future we will be making much more high profile the issues of being alone at night, particularly if you are a girl – definitely," said Benn.

Hmm. I'm sure the intention isn't to imply that it's in any way the woman to blame for walking round a festival site on their own at night, but there's certainly a whiff of that coming across in the advice. The focus should be on making rapists unwelcome in the first place, not on telling women there are no-go areas and times for them.

Downloadable: Tracey Thorn

Thanks to Michael M for the tip that Tracey Thorn is swapping free remixes of Kentish Town Walls for email addresses. Good harvest.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: The Mercury Shortlist

The list of bands who'll be playing the little event prior to Jools Holland announcing the winner of the Mercury Music Prize has been published. The Guardian's got the latest odds:

Dizzee Rascal – Tongue N' Cheek (4/1)
The xx – xx (4/1)
Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation (6/1)
Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea (6/1)
Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More (6/1)
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can (6/1)
Foals – Total Life Forever (8/1)
Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (8/1)
Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions (8/1)
Villagers – Becoming a Jackal (10/1)
Kit Downes Trio – Golden (10/1)
I Am Kloot – Sky at Night (10/1)

The subtle shift from throwing a spotlight on overlooked acts, into being an echo chamber for the broadsheet reviews pages, seems to have been completed.

It's a list without very much that you can say about it - and that's just the sort of vacuum that Gennaro Castaldo exists to fill:
Gennaro Castaldo, of entertainment retailer HMV, said: "If you look back at the Mercury awards over the years, the most successful nominated and winning albums tend to be the ones that have been 'bubbling under' for a while and building great word of mouth and critical acclaim, so that, when the judges do shine the spotlight on them, sales can take off in a very significant way.

"If the winner is a little too obscure or their music a bit too left field, as was arguably the case last year with Speech Debelle, then it may prove difficult to make that all-important connection with a wider, more mainstream audience.

"Equally, if the winner is already very well-known and has already enjoyed substantial sales, then any increase in sales and interest may also be more modest.

"It's really about finding just the right balance - so that an album is chosen both because it's a truly outstanding recording, but also because, in being selected, it has the potential to 'cross over' and go on to reach a much wider audience - as we saw with the 2008 winners Elbow."

If you nodded off during that, allow me to summarise: on behalf of people who sell records, Gennaro Castaldo stared madly at them and growled through unsmiling teeth "if you pick someone like Speech Debelle this year, we will hunt you down and pelt you with boxes of unsold copies of Speech Therapy - got it?"

Bassobit: Andy Hummel

Andy Hummel, original bassist with Big Star, has died at the age of 59.

Although the immediate cause of death was a heart attack, Hummel had been fighting cancer for quite a period. He'd recently had a hip operation, during which doctors had discovered the cancer had advanced, diagnosing that it was probably terminal.

Although beset with health problems, Hummel played as part of a Big Star tribute at this year's SXSW festival.

A founder member of Big Star, Hummel had quit in the mid-1970s; he'd been reluctant to join any of the recent revivals of the band.

Chart horizon: Big Champagne list the Most Popular In Some Way Things

Are charts really all that useful any more? Isn't the pile of data we could be getting from record sales and downloads and streams capable of doing more than producing a 1950s-era ranking of popularity without any indication of how much more popular 37 is than 38?

Big Champagne think not - they think the trouble with charts is that they don't combine enough data, so they've pulled together "song and Album Sales, Radio Airplay, Online Audio and Video Plays, and Fans/Friends/Followers".

The result is the Ultimate Chart, which throws up the sort of Eminem/Katy Perry/Shakira chart you'd probably have got if you'd based it on 'who is on the cover of 17 this week'; you can get a little bit more information about each track's work to achieve the position. So here's how Eminem got to number one:

Ultimate Score



Watching & Listening

Fans, Friends & Followers

Those numbers are, you see, "out of 100". So what does that, you know, actually mean?

The Ultimate Chart tries to explain how it works, but ends up just saying "look, it's shiny and uses computers":
How did we reach the Ultimate?

By standing on the shoulders of giants. The Ultimate Chart is an unprecedented aggregation of timely, relevant metrics and a product of our friends' and partners' hard work and well-deserved success. We analyze and integrate information about music everywhere -- from Amazon and iTunes and YouTube and VEVO and Pandora and Clear Channel and Myspace and Facebook and Yahoo and AOL and many, many others.

So that's a slightly vague list - just American sales and plays? Or global? It sounds like radio plays are only coming from the US, but maybe not - and if some of the data is from only one territory, is it weighted? Or is there a way to tell from available data where the end user of a MySpace stream is?

And what are these "many, many others"? It'd be handy to know that.

So, you get data. Then what?
The Ultimate Chart is a chart for the 21st century...

Hey - that's the century that we're in. That can't just be coincidence.
...based on a scalable technology platform developed over more than ten years.

If it's been being developed for over ten years, doesn't that mean it's based on 20th century technology?
We collect billions of points of data, online and off.

Hmm. And this data somehow comes out to Eminem=100? How do you do that?
Our machines are very clever but our analysts are too. Real people grade the computers' work to ensure accuracy.

I love the idea of a computer being given its work back with an "F - see me" scrawled on the top.

I might have missed something here, but I'm a little lost - you collect all this data, which is good, and then people decide if what the computer is doing with it is "accurate". (A person more accurate at crunching numbers than a computer, of course.) But what are the computers doing?
We collect more relevant information from more sources than anyone ever has, by our count.

But... what are you doing with it?

The ultimate chart, then, appears to be just as opaque as the 1952 NME top 12 - more opaque, actually, as at least it was clear exactly what they were measuring in the 1950s.

All those billions of points of data, and they end up with something Dick Clarke would recognise. I can't help feeling it's an opportunity missed.

Gordon in the morning: Special Brew

The front of Bizarre trumpets a surprising tie-up:

Lady Char Char: GaGa's monster deal with Twinings tea

Can this be? Has GaGa taken the slightly tiresome teapot motif and flogged off branding rights?

Not really, it turns out:
LADY GAGA is at the centre of a bidding war - to save tea from hot water.

With sales of the traditional form of the drink falling, oddball GaGa - who famously loves a cuppa - has firms fighting to sign her as a brand ambassador.

Ah. So this hasn't actually happened.
In the past few weeks GaGa's management have received offers from all the major tea brands. But at the moment it's old English firm Twinings who seem most determined to sign her.

The company, which dates back 300 years, has made GaGa a multi-million-pound offer to be the face of their specialist teas.

In other words: Twinings have made up a story that they're going to give GaGa a big deal, and got it reported by someone who looks a bit like a journalist. You couldn't buy coverage like that.

Well, you could buy it, but why bother when you can merely pretend you're going to buy it, and The Sun will run stories just as if you had?

In other news, Cheryl Tweedy is bored and 'can't wait' to get back to work. Or at least to being on the X Factor. For this news, we must thank Simon Cowell, who really is just worried about Cheryl, and not merely using someone's serious illness as a way of promoting his television programme.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Andy Kershaw's dog sparks council tax enquiry

It's not often you see the phrase "Radio 3 DJ" written down but it turns up in a Telegraph headline reporting that a new Liberal Democrat/Conservative MP is being investigated by her local council after Andy Kershaw turned out to be registered to vote at her address:

Tessa Munt, the MP for Wells claimed a single resident’s discount on her council tax, telling her local council she lived alone in her constituency home.

However, the electoral register shows that Mrs Munt is one of three people registered to vote at the Somerset address.

Ms Munt's explanation is that she looked after Andy Kershaw's dog, and he used her house to register to vote as he had no permanent UK home - that's within the rules, of course. There's also a doctor who used her address in the same way:
The MP said she was co-operating with the council on the issue: “I fully support Sedgemoor doing this check and it’s right that they follow up any cases where the two don’t match up.”

The council declined to comment on Mrs Munt’s case, saying only that it was reviewing more than 700 “irregularities” in its council tax register that were revealed by its cross-check of the electoral roll.

An MP under suspicion of financial misdeeds and a BBC connection - if they could have found a way to work in a photo of blonde twins collection A-Level results, it would have been the perfect Telegraph story.

Downloadable: School Of Seven Bells

So, then, here's some of that giving-away mp3 action:

Milo Yiannopoulos: Give mp3s away for nothing

You wouldn't normally expect the Telegraph to be talking up ideas involving loosening of property rights, but we do live in strange times. Milo Yiannopoulos, Telegraph tech blogger, has considered the staggering figures that the US music industry has burned through $16million to reclaim $391,000 pursuing unlicensed music through the courts. And comes to a conclusion:

So if we accept that file-sharing is unstoppable, and that attempts to curb it might leave us with something even worse, wouldn’t the logical consequence would be to make MP3s free, and freely shareable? Yeah, I know. But take a deep breath and think about it for a second. And yes, I do realise I'm not remotely the first person to come up with this. But I'm perhaps the latest person to be won over to it.

Giving MP3s away would require that record labels basically give up on studio recordings as a revenue channel. On the face of it, it sounds heretical and preposterous. I mean, they’re record companies because they make records, right?

Physical product, streaming services, live sales - these are the areas where Yiannopoulos sees those who want to make money from music actually doing so. To be fair, I think Apple and Amazon have shown that there is money to be made selling mp3s, too - although what they sell is ease of discovery (and, I guess, if they added virtual storage too, so you'd no longer lose your collection if you computer got taken off you by the police, they'd have an even more compelling product).

But the general point - you can't stop people copying and pasting, accept that it's part of the landscape - is a tune that long-term readers of No Rock won't be surprised to hear has me nodding along.

Today, even The Telegraph gets it. How many more years will be lost before the RIAA catches up?

[Thanks to Michael M]

Metal Hammer ratchet up price for Ozzy special

Metal Hammer is hoping to repeat the trick it managed with its Slash special back in April by lobbing out an Ozzy special for a healthy premium price.

The Slash one cost fifteen quid - in effect, it was an album that came with a free magazine - but the Ozzy issue is only going to be eight pounds; for that you get a "music download card".

What's interesting is the quote from Future's Chris Langham. Not that Chris Langham:

"I don't subscribe to the free music model, I don't think it sits very easily with hardcore rock fans," he said. "If people want to steal music online, they will. But there is a hard core group that want products they can touch and they are willing to pay for it."

Perhaps he was speaking in, I don't know, Greek and something got lost in translation? There's the suggestion that somehow liking Black Sabbath means you wouldn't support the idea of music being delivered without having to pay for it is confusing - presumably Kerrang Radio listeners send a cheque off whenever they hear a track?

Then the sudden leap that 'stealing music' is the opposite of having a physical product - what does that mean? That people who buy downloads online are somehow still stealing because they don't have a plastic box? He surely can't mean that? Does he not understand that online music sales are a large market, and there are people who don't want plastic records who also think that artists should get paid?

And, if there is a hardcore of an audience who want something physical, erm, why are you giving away a download card with the Ozzy pack?

The special issue is interesting in its own right, but why try and launch it by suggesting it has something to do with unlicensed filesharing? If anything, isn't this more about people not being as interested in having a physical magazine and finding ways to engage them?

Gordon in the morning: Is this about the football?

Apparently confusing the showbusiness remit with being the sports pages, Gordon Smart gives acres of space over to footballers this morning.

Still, he must have something really important to share with us if he's taken that move, right?

TANNED COLEEN ROONEY soaks up the sun in Las Vegas - next to pale footie hubby WAYNE.

England ace Roo, 24, hasn't turned brown in the sun - TWO WEEKS into the holiday.

Wayne Rooney is a bit pale and has avoided getting a tan? Why, yes, I can see how that would require clearing a page for in the paper.

There's also something incredibly dull about Lionel Messi doing a fashion range which reads like the sort of thing you'd find wrapped round a freesheet with a little box saying 'advertising feature - your usual paper is inside' slapped on the top.

Naturally, there's another non-story about Cheryl Tweedy - she's ill, did you know? - as Lucy Connolly files a piece about how her management don't want her getting ill again:
A source said: "It's important now she's out of hospital her condition doesn't get worse again."

Whoever would have thought? It's easy to mock the vacuous coverage of Tweedy's illness, but without it, we'd never have had that sort of medical insight into her condition.

Last week, by the way, Gordon's empire might have shrunk slightly - the Sun's decision to axe it's "internet radio" station SunTalk looks like it will have brought down Gordon's programme alongside Jon Gaunt's.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Venuewatch: Brighton Hippodrome

Some good-ish venue-related news for a change: The Academy Group are considering converting the Brighton Hippodrome back into a theatre. Although, as it'll cost £9million, it's not clear if they can do it. The Evening Argus says they're hopeful:

Terry Carnes, UK property services director for Live Nation, which is working with AMG on the Hippodrome, said that so far £500,000 had been spent investigating howit could be turned into a music venue.

He said: “Simply making it soundproofed would cost an estimated £3 million and in total we would expect the project to cost around £9.5 million.

“We are only in the early stages at the moment but we would like to be the company that pulls it off.”

I guess you wouldn't sink half a million in unless you had a certain commitment. Before it fell to the bingo craze in 1967, it had hosted The Beatles and The Stones, so it's got some heritage heft to the case. Strictly speaking, though, it was built as an ice rink, so it's not quite going back to its original purpose.

Fan hit by A. Glass at Latitude

Violence is never the answer. But if someone in the audience had been groping Alice Glass during last night's Crystal Castles set at Latitude, her reaction is understandable:

Glass responded by appearing to aim repeated downward blows at the culprit, telling the crowd: "You touch my tits, I kick you in the fucking head." She then spat in their direction, and yelled "Bitch".

Violence is never the answer. But if it stops arseholes from ruining everyone's fun by treating moshpits as a way to cop a feel, it might be a wrong answer you can support. It's not just the band who have to put up with that sort of shit. But nobody should have to just take it.

This week just gone

The most-read stories so far from this year:

1. Sunday Express gets Twitter all wrong
2. Pro-family Tipper Gore no longer pro-her-own-family
3. Grammys present tacky 3D Michael Jackson tribute - 'it's what he would have wanted'
4. Liveblog: Brits 2010
5. RIP: Leon Villalba and Tim Kennelly
6. NME Awards shortlist
7. RIP: Ann Vervoort
8. Black Francis writes a few words
9. Adam Ant comeback gig not a major success
10. RIP: Daniel Cho

These were the interesting releases:

Autechre - Move Of Ten

Download Move Of Ten

Various - Broken Hearts And Dirty Windows: The Songs Of John Prine
[Lambchop, Drive-By Truckers, Conor Oberst...]

Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws

Download I Had The Blues...

Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson - Gifts

Download Gifts

Dangermouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul

Download Dark Night Of The Soul

Tired Pony - The Place We Ran From

Download Point Me At Lost Islands FOR FREE

The Strawbs - Live At The BBC

Download The Broken Hearted Bride

MIA - Forward slash backslash Forward slash backslash Forward slash backslash Y Forward slash backslash

Download LOLZZZ!!!!1!!!:-)

The Teardrop Expolodes - Kilimanjaro Deluxe reissue

Download Kilimanjaro