Saturday, January 15, 2011

Backstreet Boys: What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

Cruising with the Backstreet Boys. It sounds like the sort of video that demands credit card details, doesn't it? But it was actually a real thing - a chance to join the low calorie NYSNC on a boat.

What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out once the cruise started the passengers were loaded, the luggage was loaded, the equipment was loaded but nothing was as loaded as AJ McClean.

Indeed, so much had McClean taken advantage of - shall we say - being international waters that cruisers were demanding to be let off and given their money back.

Even on dry land, McClean managed to alienate the crew working on a planned tour. He's now in rehab, of some sort. At least he didn't upset the ship crew, otherwise it might have been Mutiny On The Bounty all over again.

I say "at least". Sure, we'd all love to have seen the movie version.

Downloadable: Ladytron

I was thinking earlier this week, in a quiet moment, that the world was just about due some new Ladytron electropoise. And, lo, the mighty gods of RCRDLBL have furnished us with a Punks Jump Up remix of Ace Of Hz.

My thoughts, made solid. Very bad news for Noel Edmonds.

Downloadable: The Concretes

The Concretes are also back, back, back - and, splendidly, they know sound like their own band, rather than a misplaced attempt to fill the Cardigans gap.

To celebrate their just-started-a-few-hours-ago US tour, they're giving this away:

My Ways [Seconds Remix]

Downloadable: Freelance Whales

Lovely news that the Freelance Whales are back, back, back... and they've been trapped in a free download box:

Bring yourself up to date with the Whales at Green Label Sound while you're at it.

Gordon in the morning: Rihanna tries to watch the game

- Morning, Bizarre junior. Anything to pad out the bits that aren't talking about the Katie Price divorce this morning?
- Nothing much, Mr. Gordon, sir. We got some photos of Rihanna watching basketball
- Ooh, that sounds interesting
- Not really, it's just a woman watching a basketball game
- Let me see... that one's a bit dull... that's slightly out of focus... looks a bit normal... aaah! this is an interesting one...

- This one? But it's just a picture of her looking at the game like all the others, Mr. Gordon, sir.
- Ah, but don't you notice? She's been caught with a look on her face that looks like she's a bit upset.
- But that's just a single photo where she has a bit of a glum look, isn't it? And she only looks like she's going 'oh, that was an easy point missed there'.
- Rubbish, minion. By the time we've put a title on the web page which reads "Rihanna looks depressed"... and then pumped up the text around it like... this:
SULTRY R&B artist RIHANNA looks pretty close to tears as she watches a basketball game.
... we'll have her on the edge of suicide watch.
- But... but... is it...
- Is it what?
- Is it true, Mr. Gordon, sir?
- I've told you about using language like that, haven't I? Look, I hear Lady Wade is looking for some fall guys to take the heat for Coulson's phonetappers and hunters club over at the News Of The Screws, so if you don't like it here...
- No, no, sorry, Mr. Gordon, sir. You're right, sir.
- Tell you what, given that we know it's a load of old bollocks, I'll add some ironic distance by adding one of my super trademark gags, shall I? Make it clear it's all in fun.
- You do gags? I mean... erm, yes...
- Let's try this:
Maybe it was her hairdo that made her see red.
... because her hair is 'red'. Do you see?
- But why would her hair colour make her angry? And aren't we saying she's depressed and upset rather than angry? Wouldn't that be blue rather than red... ow, ow, ow, don't hit me so hard with your metal slipper.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Trish Keenan

Simon Tyers has written a beautiful tribute to Trish Keenan for the Line Of Best Fit:

While they made no secret of their primary debt to LA electronic pioneers The United States Of America, around that they created a world simultaneously at hock to 1960s retro-futurism and modern aereated circuit bending symphonic ambience in warm, gorgeous pop form. If it was Stereolab who coined the term “space age bachelor pad music”, Broadcast were rewiring the room’s electrics to match the lush mood.

Ted Nugent types some things

Much as how we should politely turn away when Sting says "you know what Trude and I did last night? I saw her titties and everything", we should also avert our eyes whenever Ted Nugent decides to share his views with us.

He's honked out some things vaguely connected to the shootings in Tuscon:

Conservatives need to turn up the political rhetoric if they want to defeat the liberal agenda with a conservative agenda that is based on the Constitution, small government, lower taxes and much less spending.

Conservatives have liberals outnumbered and surrounded. Don't play nice with liberal snakes. Don't let them escape. Instead, do America a favor and crush liberalism.
Yes, Ted, that's right. The only reason why America still has a tax system is because you haven't yet made your face red enough; your language violent enough; your veins bulge enough; your voice screech enough. It's a well-known fact that the winner in any debate is not those who have thought through their opinions and are able to argue cogently, using evidence and logic, but those who shout the loudest.

Ted Nugent is worse at politics than he was at music. And he was terrible at music.

Sting: You might want to close your eyes and switch off the computer rather than read this

Oh, good lord:

In a frank and occasionally crude interview, [Sting] said: ‘When we see each other, it’s romance. I don’t think pedestrian sex is very interesting.

‘There’s a playfulness we have; I like the theatre of sex. I like to look good. I like her to dress up. I like to dress her up.’
'Her' being Trudi Styler, of course.
And when asked the most romantic thing they have ever done for each other, Sting replied: ‘Romantic? We like tawdry.’
Tawdry? Like sacking a woman simply because she was pregnant sort of tawdry, you mean?

It should be remembered that Sting once slammed on about the tantric sex sessions - indeed, the Daily Mail does:
Much to the embarrassment of their ­children, the yoga fanatics have already infamously suggested they enjoy tantric sex, swingers parties and strip clubs.
What the Mail seems to have forgotten is that Sting later admitted he'd made the whole thing up. There's no real reason to assume he's not doing the same this time. Because if he didn't make us all gag a little by talking about his great sex life, would anyone pay him any attention at all?

Brits 2010: NME hails the Brits

Tim Chester's reaction to the Brits shortlist for says more about the NME than the Brits, to be honest:

And judging by the nominations revealed yesterday, they're off to a pretty decent start. They're the most exciting we've seen in years.

For a start, rock and indie get a great showing, which flies against the recent hand-wringing over the future of the genre. Kings Of Leon, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, Biffy Clyro, Gorillaz, The xx, Vampire Weekend and Florence all feature. And yes, Florence does count as rock (or at least in that ongoing debate about the decline of the genre she does). Mumford have three nods, while Arcade Fire bagged two. British Group sees only one pop act (Take That) in a shortlist of NME heavyweights including Biffy Clyro, Gorillaz, Mumford & Sons and The xx. A similar thing occurs in the British Album category. Whether any of these can actually trump the all-conquering manband remains to be seen, but the odds look good.
NME and Brits meet in the middle of the market and both assume they've made it across to some sort of edge.

A lot of people haven't paid for music online recently

The general reaction to the Neilsen survey into online music habits is a bit off.

Rolling Stone is a pretty good misplaced reaction:

Nielsen Music has released a new study that should make record labels very nervous: Fewer than 20 percent of internet users worldwide pay for downloads of individual songs, and even fewer pay for downloads of full albums. Americans and Europeans are the most likely to purchase downloads, while users in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East overwhelmingly favor free downloads.
The survey doesn't say that "[f]ewer than 20 percent of internet users worldwide pay for downloads of individual songs", it says that in the last three months fewer than 20 per cent had.

And that's really not a bad figure - how many people were buying a record in any three month period prior to the digital disruption? I'm working on guess and anecdote, but I'd imagine it'd be roughly one in five people, in a good month. More than that, in the UK, the 1980s would have been selling far, far more records than they actually were.

More to the point, though: if record companies are still seeing their business as selling individual files to individual consumers, they're still not really coping with their new business. Sure, it's a nice little business, a bit of side dealing to make some extra money, but really, for a record company individual sales should be treated the way petrol stations think about the sales of air fresheners. Silly not to get the sales if you can, but it's not what you're really there for.

Old faggot gets Dire Straits banned

The awkwardness of the word "faggot" turning up in Money For Nothing has taken a good quarter-century to bite Dire Straits on the buttocks. Canada has banished the song from the airwaves:

St. John’s OZ FM aired the song last year, sparking a complaint that has essentially resulted in a ban [from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council] on the word from radio airplay in any song – a victory, according to a major gay-rights group, against a slur often hurled by violent gay bashers.
What seems to have happened here is that the Straits have been used as a stalking horse to get "faggot" declared off-limits for all broadcasters, so presumably the complainants were aware the f-word was being dropped in character, but knew by kicking up this storm they could block much more unpleasant songs from appearing on the radio.

Mark Knopfler has spoken before about objections to word:
The lyrics portray the character who uses the epithets as ridiculous. But in a 1985 Rolling Stone interview, Mr. Knopfler said complaints made him wonder whether having the word spoken by a fictional character was too subtle for song. “It suggests that maybe you can't let it have so many meanings – you have to be direct,” he said.
When someone is worrying that a Dire Straits song might be "too subtle", you're in strange territory indeed.

Watching out for hatred is fair enough, but this judgement feels a bit out of line. Surely the context is important?

Electronicaobit: Trish Keenan

Sadly, it's not just a Twitterumour: Warp Records have confirmed the death of Trish Keenan from Broadcast:

It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care.

Our thoughts go out to James, Martin, her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time.

This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly - a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in Peace.
Formed in 1995, Keenan and James Cargill were the ever-presents in Broadcast, a band who sounded like the soundtrack to a movie about Stereolab. Which is, by the way, bloody brilliant.

The Keeping It Peel site has Trish talking about the first time they did a session for Radio 1, which also sums up the band wonderfully:
During a break from recording, we wondered through the corridors, peering through the windows of locked rooms, on a hunt for the Radiophonic Workshop. We came across abandoned tape machines and Shostakovich posters in the hallways and scratched our heads curiously at finding a rare EMS Vocoder sitting all lonely in the corner of a deserted foyer. It was wonderful to be free to walk around unquestioned.

"We hovered outside the locked Radiophonic room, a little disappointed by what we could see through the window - a couple of DX7s and stacked cardboard boxes. We contemplated unscrewing the Radiophonic Workshop name plate from the door and making off with it, but knew the stern-faced security guard from earlier would have been on to us."
Talking to the Milk Factory in 2003, Trish spoke about the sometimes slow process of translating the band's ideas into music:
What we also realised is that every brain filters information in a very different way. You could say to one producer something… A producer could say “yeah, I can do a wall of sound” for instance, his actual version of a wall of sound or the way he interprets it can be really different from yours. We’d end up arguing with these producers because they couldn’t do what they said they could.
But, boy, was it worth the struggle to capture it:

Trish Keenan had apparently been on life support since Christmas; H1N1 flu having turned to pneumonia.

It's a terrible loss, both for music and, more sharply, for her family and friends.

UPDATE: Just wanted to share @sarahditum's beautiful tweet:
Listening to Work & Non Work now. What a perfect collection of things to leave behind.

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Jay Reatard

Pitchfork marks a year since Jay Reatard's too-early death. It's a warm piece, with memories from those who knew with him:

Britt Daniel (Spoon): I think maybe we had to run it by the promoter in Milwaukee, but it was our idea. It was wild. His shows always were. We only ever hung out at shows really, but it was great being around him. Every time I saw him he was talkative and charismatic; sometimes he'd get on funny tangents and sometimes he was kind of chaotic, which was actually fun to be around. He was always friendly. At the New Year's Eve show he actually seemed calmer than I'd ever seen him. He seemed happy and chill and excited about playing. I think they'd driven a long way to get to that show.

[Thanks for the tip to @le_chuckb]

Gordon in the morning: Of Murs and men

So, Gordon Smart and the Bizarre team have ponied up some support for this year's Brit Awards, which must mean the Sun man will get some top access at the shortlist announcements, right?

Not so much, actually: a quick awkward snap with Tinie Tempah and Jessie J with a grabbed single line from each; but the only real face time Gordo gets is with Olly Murs. What did Murs have to say about the great honour of being shortlistmeat in the never-ending Best Single category?:

"Actually, we had the same share of the vote yesterday that Labour won with at the general election just a few months ago. So, had the Labour vote not moved, we would have brought it home. We didn't. Labour got the protest vote, they got the anti-government vote."
Oh, sorry. That was Simon Hughes being blandly positive about losing a by-election. Olly Murs being blandly positive about preparing to lose a massive phone-in vote said this:
"It's a great achievement for me just over a year after the X Factor - I didn't expect it. Last year I was on The X Factor tour, we watched JLS win Best Single and it was incredible to see. To have my name on the nominations list is amazing."
I'm sure Olly really understands that the shortlist is designed to have a lot of singles on it so that it will generate lots of phone calls and, consequently, lots of cash and so there's no real achievement here. But he's not going to say that, is he?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brits 2011: The nominations

God alone knows why ITV2 aren't bothering to show the Brits nominations programme until 9pm tomorrow night - over a day after the shortlists have been announced and been picked to pieces.

That's the way to build the tension, ITV.

So, here's what you'll have to pretend to be surprised by tomorrow:

International Group:
Arcade Fire
Black Eyed Peas
Kings Of Leon
The Script
Vampire Weekend

The Script? Are they included to make Vampire Weekend think they might not be solid bottom?

International Breakthrough Act
Bruno Mars
Justin Beiber
The National
Temper Trap

Notably, the Glee cast are a bit like the Wombles in the sense of being a made-up thing that shouldn't even be eligible; Bruno Mars is less like a Womble and more like the Hoffmeister Bear. Justin Beiber had scored Platinum records in Autumn 2009, and thus hardly "broke through" in 2010. Admittedly, only two of these points are moral objections.

International Male Solo Artist
Bruce Springsteen
Cee Lo Green
David Guetta
Kanye West

Odd company for Bruce to find himself amongst; the town sure has changed since he was a lad. Let's see who agrees to turn up before we decide who'll win. (Although even if Guetta shows up, it won't be him.)

International Female Solo Artist:
Alicia Keys
Katy Perry
Kylie Minogue

It's perhaps a sign of how dismal the BPI-version of British music is that there are so many International prizes to try and keep the interest up. This one feels like it's made up of proper pop stars, too. Let's hope Robyn pulls an upset.

British Male Solo Artist:
Mark Ronson
Paul Weller
Plan B
Robert Plant
Tinie Tempah

That's a bit of a thin mix, isn't it? Gristly chunks of Plant and Weller, Ronson - whose best work was hosting Buzzcocks - and the alright-but-overrated Tempah and B. They're going to give it to Plan B, because Strickland Banks would probably seem quite innovative if you're measuring it against a Paul Weller album.

British Female Solo Artist:
Cheryl Cole
Ellie Goulding
Laura Marling
Paloma Faith

See, compare this with the international section, and tell me that this nation shouldn't hang its head in shame. Sure, there's the splendid Laura Marling, but her inclusion performs the same function a teenager's copy of Nietzsche shoved under his arm does: an attempt to disguise a lack of vision and experience by clinging to something a few marks smarter. Paloma Faith is, at best, like an discarded Cyndi Lauper that someone was trying to pass off as a Lady GaGa. Cole advertises shampoo, and her music is the music of someone who advertises shampoo. Goulding and Rumer don't even make up the numbers if you add them together.

British Breakthrough Act:
Ellie Goulding
Mumford And Sons
Tinie Tempah
The XX

The XX's best chart position came in September 2010, admittedly. With a track released in Autumn 2009. But, to be fair, I can see how their 2010 was a breakthrough year in a way that it wasn't for, say, Justin Beiber.

British Group:
Biffy Clyro
Mumford And Sons
Take That
The XX

This shortlist is only designed to give time for Robbie Williams to be told to calm down a bit while it gets read out on the night.

The Critic's Choice
Jessie J

That's a winner, that is - The Vaccines and James Blake were also in with a chance, but Mrs J has won. Currently her official website is trying to bribe people to vote for her in the MTV New for 2011 awards; three days have garnered four pledges. Clearly had a bit more luck with the critics than people who actually buy records.

Best British Single
Alexandra Burke Ft. Pitbull - All Night Long
Cheryl Cole - Parachute
Florence + The Machine - You’ve Got The Love
Matt Cardle - When We Collide
Olly Murs - Please Don’t Let Me Go
Plan B - She Said
Scouting For Girls - This Ain’t A Love Song
Tinie Tempah - Pass Out
The Wanted - All Time Low

Remember, we all get a chance to have a vote on this. I vote Matt Cardle, Olly Murs, Scouting For Girls, The Wanted and Alex Burke are taken to one side and asked to stop. Seriously, when the only spark of creativity is a song that was better when Candi Staton did it, what's the bloody point?

International Album
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
Eminem - Recovery
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown

"Russell, the British Awards are on the phone, they want to know if we're going? ... I don't know, I can ask them... they say they're being held in Green Witch this year, Russell. What shall I tell them?... Yes, they said that's fine, as they'd bought enough statues to give them to all of Kings Of Leon instead."

British album of the year
Mumford And Sons - Sigh No More
Plan B - The Defamation Of Strickland Banks
Take That - Progress
Tinie Tempah - Disc-Overy
The XX - XX

The Brits team didn't even seemed arsed about this one, as they didn't bother to Tweet it. Does anyone really think Mumford And Sons is going to win? Three nominations they've picked up - can anyone say "unique collaboration with, ooh, lets say Ellie Goulding kicks off the evening"?

British producer
Ethan Johns
John Leckie
Markus Dravs
Mike Pela
Stuart Price

This category has been reintroduced because it's all about the music, right. Although I think they only stopped doing it because having Dave Stewart come up on stage scared the audience a bit.

So, there: pretty much as you'd expect, with the rules stretched to bursting to try and include the XX and Justin Beiber.

Remember: the actual event will be this list, with one of each getting prizes, but James Corden bunged in the middle of it. You have a month to emigrate.

Eurovision 2011: Ireland heading for minus points

Ireland does have a history of pitching unstomachable acts to Eurovision - Dustin The Turkey, for example - but surely putting Jedward in the mix is a step too far even for them?

Obviously, Ireland is bankrupt and not entirely popular with fellow Europeans at the moment, so it could be that suggesting Jedward go and represent the country is to give them a poisoned chalice which has been stirred with a shitty stick.

There are four other bands fighting for the "honour" of representing Ireland. Their names will be announced once they've had a chance to shower and get a warm meal down them.

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: 60s British Pop

Nice bit on the Oxford University Press blog about teaching the British Invasion:

The college classroom allows opportunities for reflection on many things, including how culture responds to various environmental changes (whether natural or human) with few things reacting as quickly to new contexts as popular music. Situating sixties British pop in the postwar era helps students understand the music, if not the world that shaped the lives of their parents and indirectly their own upbringing. Indeed, as the first wave of baby boomers (or what the British refer to as the “bulge” generation) approaches age 65 and retirement, the sixties ease into the category of “history.” By way of comparison, the beginning of the great depression stood in closer proximity to college students in 1964 than the Beatles’ dissolution does for students in 2011.

MySpace CEO follows herd narrative on MySpace

Boy, is Mike Jones going to be stung in his inbox today. The MySpace CEO has admitted that Murdoch might offload the fading site:

Today, MySpace CEO Mike Jones has confirmed what we’ve suspected all along: The company is looking for someone to buy the failing property before it’s too late.

“News Corp. is assessing a number of possibilities including a sale, a merger and a spinout [sic]. The process has just started,” MySpace’s Rosabel Tao recently told Bloomberg after a company-wide briefing from Jones.
You'll notice that "including", which implies there are other possibilities. If you're a band who relies on MySpace for your contact with fans, you might want to ask yourself if one of the possibilities is nailing two planks over the door and a sign reading 'Closed'. Is it really worth the effort of building your presence on a site which doesn't know where, or if, it'll be in six months?

Gordon in the morning: Brits 2011 - Statuesque

She's got an immovable face; if you pick her up you're guaranteed to get some time on-screen from ITV and although there's some sort of glitz around her, really she's coated with disappointment.

No, no, this isn't about Jordan; this morning Gordon is being thrilled by the new Brits statue:

THE Brits 2011 are just over a month away and the biggest star of the night is... the statue.
Very probably true, actually. Hasn't Gordon already announced the new statue once, though?
What will be exciting this year is the Mastercard British Album Of The Year in association with Bizarre.
No. No, it won't. In assocation with Bizarre.

And who is going to be presenting this year?
JAMES CORDEN has finally signed a three-year deal to be the man in charge after JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE ruled himself out.
James Corden? On his own? For three years?

Well, I guess we can all look forward to 2014, if nothing else.

Corden's last attempt at hosting the Brits was pretty bad - not quite as horrifying as Peter Kay's version, but it still took a team of men three days and a power scrubber to clear away the memories of Horne & Corden on the stage.

Still, at least the Brits organisers have their hearts in the right place - go with someone who, at least in theory, is a comedian, and capable of keeping the show light and the pace up, right?
The Big Dog won't be going down the comedy route of 2009, when he co-presented with MAT HORNE and KYLIE MINOGUE.

In tune with the whole new philosophy he'll be playing it straight - much like CHRIS EVANS has done in the past.
So you've hired James Corden for his presentation skills?

You've also got to wonder about that shortlist. Sure, I'm sure the Brits team said "James, gonna be straight with you, we offered it to Timberlake, but he said no." I suspect they might have then skipped telling James about ringing up Jo Whiley, Justin Beiber, David Dimbleby, Davina McCall, Ronnie Corbett, Rhod Gilbert, the knitted character from Harry Hill, the cartoon stairlift that used to appear in Stannah adverts, Steve Coogan, whoever is currently doing overnights on BBC Radio Berkshire, whoever is currently looking after the reception desk at BBC Radio Berkshire and Matthew Horne.

I suspect that if Alexander Orlov finds a slot in his diary next February, Corden might find his three year contract curtailed somewhat swiftly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bigbandobit: Margaert Whiting

Margaret Whiting, one of the first artists signed to Capitol Records, has died.

Whiting's father, Richard Whiting, was a successful songwriter and it was his connections that landed her her contract: Johnny Mercer had popped round and Whiting took the opportunity for a quick audition.

She toured extensively, singing for the troops in both the Second World and Korean Wars. She continued working into her 80s, both on stage and behind the scenes as a mentor to younger artists.

Bennett and beehive

If we're to believe The New York Post, there's an unlikely duet being set up even as we speak.

Tony Bennett ("I Left My Heart In San Francisco") is going to work with Amy Winehouse ("I left my lunch in a Camden watering hole"):

"We're working on partnering up to record a duet together," Tony said. "But it's still in the works."
Tony's people are trying to find a day when he has a gap in his diary, while Amy's people are hoping to pick a time when she won't have a gap in her memory.

One-a-month for the Lips

The Flaming Lips are doing a song-a-month throughout 2011. Which is the perfect chance for David Gedge to point out that The Wedding Present has done that, and to offer some advice:

August: If it's not working by now, stop

"They shouldn't lower their standards of songwriting and recording. We agreed that if we felt the music was suffering, we would stop because it wasn't that important to us."
The real delight is the Guardian readers slipping Weddoes song titles into the comments section.

Coldplay struggle on

Talking to the NME, Chris Martin looks at his work to date:

"We still don't think we've delivered our masterpiece, so we're still trying to do it," Martin said. "As long as we feel like that and we're hungry… that's all that matters."
I don't think Coldplay have delivered a masterpiece. On that, I'm sure we can all agree. The point of difference is that Chris Martin doesn't seem to have realised Coldplay have peaked.

Terra Firma continue to pursue lawsuit to protect valueless property

It's lovely of Guy Hands to give No Rock And Roll Fun a tenth birthday present, with a move that demonstrates everything the music industry has been doing for the past ten years: blaming someone else for its woes, blindly pursuing legal action that has failed before; tossing good money after bad; alienating the very people it needs the support of; having trouble with the twenty-first century and just generally showing an incapacity to move on. In fact, the story was only a Gennaro Castaldo short of a full house.

Terra Firma have filed an appeal against their defeat in the the lawsuit against their own bankers.

Now, it might be that there's grounds for appeal - although, to be frank, it sounds like Terra Firma have produced a list of quibbles rather than any major flaw in either judgement or process - but the appeal process could drag on for months and months. And every quarter, EMI is finding it harder to meet its financial obligations.

Doggedly fighting on might seem like a heroic action, but Guy Hands is standing in a burning boat arguing about who started the fire instead of calling the fire brigade. This is an act of vanity.

Turns out 50% of Chely Wright's audience were homophobes

There seems to be a general assumption that coming out has been good for Chely Wright - which seems to be based on little more than people not really having heard of her before. But now she's been written about outside the country music press, so that's good, right?

Not entirely, no:

"In coming out I had a feeling that it would diminish my wage earning, and that feeling was correct... It didn't help my career.

"My record sales went directly in half. If it appears from the outside in that it's helped my career, it could be because I haven't talked about the negative."
That's in addition to the green inked letters and threats, of course.

Does she regret it, though?

Nope. And there are some things bigger than selling records to people who don't like gays.

Gordon in the morning: University challenge

The surprising thing is not that there's an academic conference focusing on the Take That reunion, nor that the story is picked up the the Sun.

No, the odd thing is that it takes two writers - of illustrious pedigree - to bring the news:

By JOHN KAY, Chief Reporter
and GORDON SMART, Showbusiness Editor
Really, Dominic? A light piece about an academic conference takes your chief reporter and your showbusiness editor which consists almost entirely of copying the call for submissions?

You might expect the piece to have some fun with the idea, or even work up a spot of outrage. But that's all absent, until you get to the comments from readers:
And they wonder why we expect students to pay for their own education
Well done, Siren2, bravely commenting on a subject about which you clearly have no understanding, what with the not knowing the difference between a research conference event and a degree course. And you wonder why we think education should be free so everybody can benefit.

The two senior Sun staff, though, just report the event straight:
Entries are being invited from students and staff specialising in psychology, literature, sociology, communication, gender and music industry studies. The best papers received will be published.
It's not every day that you see a paragraph like that in Bizarre. It doesn't even have the word "undercrackers" in it.

Perhaps this is a new service Gordon will be offering. I'm sure we'll read in great depth about the call for papers for the Transforming Government weekend at Brunel.

Ten years on

Ten years ago this morning, the first post appeared on this blog.

Of course, it was always going to take bit of time to hit our stride and work out exactly what it was we were going to do with this "blog" thing. Today, we're closer than ever to having a bit of an idea. Maybe give it a couple of years, and we'll know where we're going.

There's only one way we can mark this auspicious occasion: with thanks to Sleater-Kinney, from whom we borrowed the name.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MySpace shrinks

Last time I wrote about MySpace, someone sounding very much like a MySpace employee astroturfed the comments. That's less likely to happen today, as the twilighting of MySpace sees it half the global staff is being dumped and that suggests there's going to be less time for people to complain about the clock ticking down on the site.

Most of the losses are caused by advertising sales being shuffled off to .Fox in the States; it's not exactly a ringing endorsement of a site with a glorious future.

Radio One completes the journey

Back - what, twenty five years ago? - the NME ran a front page story claiming black music in Britain didn't stand a chance, in a large part because daytime Radio One never played any black artists.

Today,'s Luke Lewis is worrying that white guitar bands are struggling to be heard, because they don't stand a chance of getting on the Radio One playlist.

Gordon in the morning: Journalism, look away now

Sometimes, you have to wish that Gordon would stick to just printing the photos of people in their skimpies. That way, at least, we'd be spared this sort of thing, where Gordon peers at a photo of Kate Moss trying to divine if there's a pregnancy:

For a supermodel there is a bit of a pot, but that could just be Christmas overindulgence.

It certainly hasn't stopped her smoking if she does have a bun in the oven.
"A bit of a pot"? Really?

Of course, Gordon wouldn't just build this story on a single photo of a woman, so he attempts to construct some context in which his musings might make sense:
According to hotel staff in Phuket - where she and partner JAMIE HINCE are on a "wellbeing" holiday - she has been talking about pregnancy.

There's an obvious language barrier so she was probably just asking if they had any more Babycham.
Yes, that's an elaborately constructed joke right there. Or an attempt at one, anyway. I say 'joke' - there's an obvious language barrier, so Gordon was probably just trying to think through the possibilities.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Downloadable: Bardo Pond

Tomorrow, lucky old America gets a new Bardo Pond album - called Bardo Pond. It sounds a bit like this: Cracker Wrist.

Dave Grohl is a bit like God

This year's Shockwaves NME Shockwaves Awards are going to give their Shockwaves Shockwaves Godlike Genius Award to Dave Grohl, it was announced about an hour ago.

Dave is pleased:

Dave Grohl says: “It's really flattering and really good company to be in. It's a nice thing to be acknowledge for doing something that you love to do, but in truth I don't consider it a body of work because I don't consider it work, I just consider it this incredible luxury that I get to play music and travel the world and feed my kids. It's pretty great. Awards and lists can get silly sometimes but I'm very appreciative of this. It's really cool to be called a godlike genius!”
Yes, nothing silly about an award sponsored by hairgrease.

Grohl always seems like a thoroughly nice bloke, and giving him a prize seems fair enough.

Not sure that 'genius' sits particularly comfortably, though. Given how he denied the link between HIV and AIDS, raising money for a group that pushed that line, muddled-headed at best might be a more apt title.
NME editor Krissi Murison says: “An NME Godlike Genius is a very rare thing. To qualify, an artist must not only be a musical visionary, have an unparalleled legacy and a decade-spanning career, but also still be meaningful to young bands and music fans today. Whether it’s headlining the world's greatest festivals, staging his own mega-gigs, releasing a series of hugely successful albums, collaborating with everyone from The Prodigy to Paul McCartney or still surprising fans with projects like Them Crooked Vultures, Dave Grohl is at the centre of everything interesting that is happening in music.
To be honest, Them Crooked Vultures, and working with Macca and Prodigy smacks of a career which has run aground - much as how the Oscars and BAFTAs will give a lifetime award to a director or actor who looks like they might not be around for the next prize night, it makes sense for the NME to try and get a prize into hands that are just starting to pull on string driving gloves for a life of trundling in the middle lane.

Also: at the centre of everything interesting happening in music? Really? Are you sure?

Indie record shops return to Cowley Road

Good news for the people of Oxford - three years after Polar Bear melted, there's going to be indie record shop on Cowley Road again. Rapture, which already has branches in Evesham and Cameronville Witney is opening a third branch. It may or may not be called Rapture; and it's going to get marketing help from the Truck Festival team.

[Rapture Owner Gary] Smith denied it was a risk to open a shop in the current economic situation. He said: “It is a risk, but when we opened in Witney six years ago, people said it was a risky business back then, but we are still here and going strong.

“Judging by the response we got when we opened for one day, there is a market for us.”

He added: “We pride ourselves on customer service and stock knowledge.

“That is what people will get, friendly staff, great stock and great customer service.”
Hey... imagine that. Do you think HMV have thought of that as a way forward?

[Thanks to @jimwaterson for the tip]

Gordon in the morning: JLS poking out at you

Let's not be too cruel pointing out that two of the "news" items in Gordon's column this morning seem to be little more than puffs for programmes on ITV2 - some stations show a testcard; ITV2 wheels on Andre and Katona.

Instead, let's pay grudging tribute to JLS, happy to always spot when their fans' parents have some money left and quick to come up with a scheme to deal with that challenge.

They've hit their Spiceworld point now, with a movie being proposed. Oh, of course it'll be in 3D - so you'll really feel as if you're having blunt objects being battered right over your head.

Even the "source" seemed to find nothing to say other than this is a cash-churning exercise:

A source said: "The boys are keen to do a movie, it's the next logical step.

"JLS have a huge fanbase who are bound to lap this up and see the film over and over again in the cinema, as well as buying it when it comes out on DVD. The lads can't wait to start shooting."
To pad out the column, Gordon starts to talk about Help!:
The Fab Four's film was a hit with critics back in the Swinging Sixties, according to my dad.
You've got to love that panicky "according to my Dad", as if Gordon was afraid someone might think that - perish the thought - he knew something about the old days.

Seriously, Gordon: you think that 'knowing about the Beatles' is something you think you need to pretend you need help with? What is going on in your head?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Allo Darlin' weekend: The Polaroid Song

[Part of Allo Darlin weekend]

Darren Hayman wants you dancing

Darren Hayman's January Songs project is looking for some help today:

For today’s January Songs I need your help with making the video. I want people to film themselves dancing. If you download this MP3 of a beat at 95 BPM then I will be able to make you all dance in time with the finished track. Make sure the track can be heard in the video.
You can get the track, and find all the other details over on Darren's Tumblr.

Allo Darlin' weekend: Tallulah

A solo performance from Elizabeth Morris in a BBC studio:

[Part of the Allo Darlin' weekend]

This week just gone

I was bored on Christmas day: what did No Rock visitors read on December 25th?

1. Tatu don't understand why people think they might be gay
2. Inevitably, the story about R Kelly filming himself having sex
3. HMV Portsmouth not exactly disabled-friendly
4. Mel B suggests being gay is a character flaw
5. Serbian pop star gives pair of pants as a reward
6. Noel Gallagher claims that, if he was gay, he'd be "gayer than Freddie Mercury"
7. AC/DC sit outside iTunes, making some sort of point
8. Summer 2010, and HMV resumes decline
9. Pope withdraws invitation to perform after finding Daniela Mercury believes condoms are useful
10. Bob Geldof unveils logo to beat climate change

The interesting releases last week - by which I mean back in the middle of December:

Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Showbiz Box Set

Download Best Of... Volume II

The Chameleons - Acoustic Sessions

Download Best Of... Volume II

Shriekback - Life In The Loading Bay

Download Life In The Loading Bay

Mylene Farmer - Bleu Noir

Download Les Mots