Sunday, July 08, 2012

What the pop papers say: Heaton rifled

So, welcome, then, new NME editor Mike Williams. He officially put on the eyeshade on Monday 25th, so this week's edition is his first one.

It marks a complete change from Krissi Murison's reign. Her last issue was dedicated to The Stone Roses reunion, while the first edition of the Williams era, erm, was dedicated to The Stone Roses reunion.

There was a period when The Stone Roses were, arguably, the most interesting band in such parts of the world as NME had on its radar. Even then, they never got two NME covers back-to-back.

Perhaps the incoming and outgoing editor didn't talk through their plans?

Maybe the picture on the cover was just so amazing as to have blown away any other possible choice of front page.

Not really. By any measure, that's a lousy cover. Admittedly, Heaton park was a hostile place for photographers, but was this really the best photo from the night?

Obviously, it's nice to see Reni's one-man tribute to BD from Doonesbury, but... really? There wasn't one where you could say for sure it was John Squire and not a stunt double?

I'm sure it was a moment, but a cover? Really?

And the cover lines themselves, how do they stack up?

Eight pages isn't "massive" for a poster section, although given the magazine runs to just 68 pages these days, many of which are adverts for Bruce Springsteen ebooks and Uncut, it's quite a high percentage.

Liam sings the classics isn't really Oasis reborn, is it? And given that the audience consists mainly of people who haven't bought a record since the Golden Jubilee, what else was he going to do but some songs they might have heard before?

Amazing stories and pics? I suppose "amazing" in the sense that a paid-for publication has filled two pages with a cross-section of bad Instagram snaps and random tweets, but is
"great gig last night"
really an "amazing" story?

How about
"bunch of dicks, haha"

There's a slightly odd photo of some random people outside Salford Lad's Club, but mainly the feature just seems to be designed to reassure people who didn't go that staying at home was the best option. It looks like the writing team did their best to find a "character":
"I came down from Liverpool with a couple of mates; one of them is a proper drug addict. I couldn't be arsed wearing me top today. [...] I'm not arsed, really. I just wanna get fucked up! Have you got any drugs?"
Still, nice to hear Bobby Gillespie enjoying himself, eh?

Actually, that was "Crazy Dave" from Liverpool. There's a Crazy Dave at every gathering of any size. You just don't need to put him in the newspaper.

And the claim that The Stone Roses made history? It wasn't the biggest gig ever; it wasn't their comeback; it wasn't the first gig in Heaton Park. It wasn't the first comeback of a band from that era. It was a success in financial terms, and the crowd who turned up expecting to enjoy themselves went away happy. But does that stack up the NME's claim that
[A]fter all the hype, the excitement, the years of waiting, it's finally happened. And it felt a lot like history.
You'd have hoped for a little more perspective.

The swamping of the issue with Roses makes it hard to get a sense of what the Williams NME will be like - and next week, it's another treading-water issue with the T in the Park review, so we'll still be waiting.

There's still the odd hint of the sort of direction that Krissi tried to take the magazine towards like a generous feature on Haim, which doesn't even get mentioned on the cover.

And there's a considered piece about Gove's attempts to bring back CSEs and O-Levels. The political pieces the Murison returned to the magazine were the highlights of her era, but always felt a bit tacked on to the rest of the content rather than part of a radical thread running through the editorial; never more so in a magazine aimed solidly at solid, middle-aged men carrying a 'won't someone think of the 14 year-olds' bit on exams in the middle.

This, you might think, is as good a summation of the choice Williams faces in the weeks to come - slapping commercially-friendly unchallenging nod-a-long stuff on, issue after issue, or finding a stance and a battle and a voice.

Murison seemed to start with the latter approach, but by the end was reaching for the Gallagher-then-a-list-issue forumula way too often.

That could be the problem, though: in order to sell enough issues to keep going, the NME might have to lose what remains of its heart. The chase for the newsagent casual pick-up could be at the cost of the audience.

Good luck, Mike Williams. Lets hope you can make history.

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