Saturday, April 06, 2013

Gennaro Castaldo watch as HMV lurches into another new start

So the last sighting in the public prints of Gennaro Castaldo came a couple of weeks back as Bracknell's HMV shut down. He'd taken on the role of the sad-eyed uncle at a funeral:

Gennaro Castaldo, head of PR for the entertainment chain, said that he is "very, very sad" to see the store go.

He told the News: "With a number of the stores Deloitte decided to bring the closure forward. Obviously it's not totally unexpected, it's more or less in the time frame they [Deloitte] spoke about of four-six weeks.

"I met the staff there [at Bracknell] before Christmas and it was a real pleasure, they're a fantastic group of kids and we wish them the very best.

"We'd also like to thank our customers in Bracknell who've shopped with us for years."
At the same time, Gennaro predicted that there would be a buyer for HMV in "the next week or so" and, indeed, more or less on cue Hilco picked up the remaining stores in the chain. And Fopp, too. No independent Fopp, then, at least not yet.

This means that - once again - HMV is set for a revamp of format:
The sale of T-shirts and other artist memorabilia are expected to be at the heart of an optimistic "we are entertainment" revival plan for HMV, which was rescued by a turnaround firm in a £50m deal that has secured about 2,500 jobs at 141 of the retailer's stores.

Hilco, the new owner, plans to concentrate on selling music and film and step away from selling consumer electronics. Music labels and film studios, keen to ensure that a major entertainment retailer remains on the high street, are understood to have agreed to support HMV with new supply terms.
In Hilco's favour, then, are new agreements with landlords and suppliers, and a dumping of a lot of the outstanding debt and underperforming stores.

Dumping the foolish desire to flog iPads and overpriced headphones makes sense, too. Trying to nudge the store into a different declining High Street niche never made sense.

And Hilco do at least have a track record they can point to - their Canadian variant had a really great Christmas, albeit relying as much on tshirts with the word "Bazinga" on them as selling records.

Whether it'll work in the UK, I'm not so sure. I suspect what Hilco have bought is a business from which they'll be reaping a dwindling profit across its declining years. But that's a better fate than the proposal which would have seen HMV become a brand slapped over the DVD rack in the corner of an Asda.

Chris Brown says company named after him isn't about him

Let's take a moment to look beyond the fact that Chris Brown is a thuggish perpetrator of domestic violence who a lot of people seem keen to give a free pass to, and spend some time examining another way he sucks, shall we?

He's got his own vanity label, you know. It's called CBE, which means Chris Brown Entertainment.

But, hey, don't focus on Chris Brown here. That would be wrong:

"I don't even like to say, 'Yo, they're my artists,' " Brown told [MTV] of Sevyn Streeter, pop singer Sabrina Antoinette and rock band U.G.L.Y. "Most of the time you get stuck in a box where people don't give them a shot because they're getting co-signed by another artist. For me all the artists that are signed under me — or that are working with me — are phenomenal."
These are just acts that he says he loves - which is bad news for them, as Brown has a track record of beating to a bloody pulp people he claims to love.

It's curious, isn't it, being worried about the artists on your label being pegged as pets of that artist, and yet naming the label they've been signed to with your own name.

It might be a mixed message.

Ah, but Chris Brown has thought about that. He suggests CBE could mean other things as well:
The label's acronym breaks down to Chris Brown Entertainment, but the multiplatinum singer doesn't want to make it all about him so he has come up with two other meanings behind his imprint: Culture Beyond Your Evolution and/or Culture Beyond Your Experience.
Hang on a moment, though. Unless I'm mistaken, don't both those come out as CBYE?

Brown seems to think his illiterate wordplay is part of a continuum related to his genius:
"I always use the metaphors and the different meanings. I like to be weird like that," he said.
There's nothing weird about using metaphors.

There might be something weird about not knowing the difference between reversing out a new meaning for an abbreviation and a metaphor, though.

Bobby Gillespie pops in to TopShop to complain about the world

Here's the new Primal Scream single, 2013:

What's it all about, Bobby Gillespie?

The first single from the new album, entitled ‘2013’, Gillespie describes as “a critique of youth culture”, and it’s a theme he feels strongly about, the album is running live with anger. Talking to us at the bands tiny North London recording studio he explained further.

"We're living in very extreme times, but that doesn't seem to be reflected in the music that I hear or the art that I see. It seems that people are kind of asleep or they've anaesthetised or they just don't care. It just seems that there's no sense of revolt or resistance in art at the moment, whether it be music or the visual arts. Hollywood - it's like a propaganda machine for the USA, but the thing is; we're not writing albums against America or anything like that. Our country is heading towards being more right-wing and countries all around the world are getting more and more right-wing. There's less rationality, less liberalism, less love around. There was always a lot of love around, but it seems to be we're heading towards unenlightened times and nobody's talking about it or writing about it or even noticing it. It's like people are asleep or anaesthetised."
Two things here. First, Bobby Gillespie is fifty years old, so his idea of what happens in youth culture is on a par with my understanding of Boulogne municipal politics.

Secondly, where has Bobby Gillespie chosen to stand and wail about the harsh, right-wing, cultureless culture we live in?

TopMan Generation.

A web publication which describes itself thusly:
Topman GENERATION is a daily digital men’s magazine providing a unique cultural insight into the worlds of fashion, film, music and art.

Featuring exclusive editorial from writers and editors at the likes of NME, GQ, Blast, Undercurrent, AnOther Magazine, Art Review and Re-Bel, and headed up by editor Alistair Mulhall, Topman GENERATION is informed, irreverent and utterly irascible.

Welcome to Topman GENERATION, talking about your GENERATION…
Yeah, it's a spin-off of TopShop.

So Gillespie is wailing about how shit youth culture is in a publication which represents itself as creating, reflecting and celebrating that culture.

And that horrid right-wing world we live in? Remind me again who owns TopMan?

That's right, it's tax-avoiding Philip Green, a man to whom David Cameron has cosied up during his time in government; a man targeted by the 2011 anti-cuts movement (a movement which, by the way, suggests that Gillespie's take on youthful apathy is misplaced to begin with.)

So if Gillespie really does believe that the culture is bland and right-wing, what the hell is he doing taking part in a marketing campaign for the people making money out of that?

EDIT: In response to a comment below, I've added in the first paragraph of the first quote from Bobby Gillespie to make it clear that he was talking about youth culture.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Rick Ross tries an apology for pro-rape song; denies it's a pro-rape song; fails to apologise

Here's Rick Ross, then, saying sorry for... well, for what, exactly, Rick?

You'll note that Ross isn't apologising for writing a lyric about rape, but for the interpretation of a lyric as being about rape.

Let's take a look at the lyric, shall we?
Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/
I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.
This is from Ross' UOENO. So, he drugged a woman, kidnapped her, and in some way "enjoyed" her. But that's not rape, unless, hey, you choose to interpret it that way.

Ross has tried to explain it to us thickies before, during an interview on Q93:
The rapper said he had been misunderstood, pointing out “the word rape wasn’t used.”
Hey, why didn't you say so before? Clearly, if you drug someone and fuck them without their consent, there's not a territory on the planet that would define that as rape, unless the bragging rapist actually used the word "rape" at some point.

It's hard to even understand why Ross is apologising for writing a song about raping someone which people are unfairly interpreting as being about rape when it doesn't even have the word rape in at.

Who, Rick, who are the real victims here?:

I wouldn't worry Rick. Sure, a lot of people might call for your sponsors to sever all ties with you, but I'm sure nobody will use the word "boycott".

Gordon in the morning: Man plays dull sport with "friends"

You might not believe it, but, for what feels like the 190th year in succession, Gordon Smart has spent a day playing golf to promote a computer game, and then written about it.

It's still not entirely clear why, if the computer golf game is so good, the producers pay for Gordon and his rag-tag band to play real golf on a proper golf course.

Gordon ends with an "I'll be back" warning:

The biggest tournament in golf will be back next year at Gleneagles.
Sweetie, your website will be behind a paywall this time next year. You might find PR teams less willing to pay for hijinks by then.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Great news! Apparently we've got money to piss away

You might have got the impression that the government has no money. Why, things are so bad poor people can't have... well, anything much, apparently. Spare rooms, control over their shopping, dignity. There simply isn't the cash.

Except it turns out there's thousands of pounds swooshing about with so little call on them, Vince Cable's department is pissing away £200,000 on anti-piracy measures that won't work.

£83,000 is being spent on getting the University Of Surrey to develop a new form of DRM, presumably signed off by someone who doesn't understand that DRM as a category has failed, but hopes it just needs yet another form of DRM to make it work this time.

The rest of the money, though, is really being wasted. Torrent Freak calls it:

The lion’s share of the money – £113,000 – went to a company called ‘WhiteBullet’. If you’ve not heard of them, you’re not alone. Started less than 3 months ago, its big idea is that websites really need a colour-coding system so people can tell how ‘legitimate’ it is. Called the “IP Infringement Index”, or IPI, it’s a red/amber/green rating for sites based on how ‘infringing’ they think a site is.
That's right. People who went to the Pirate Bay, and saw a giant pirate ship, and searched for music they were somehow going to take ownership of without an intervening payment: they wouldn't have done that if there was a big red circle in their browser address bar warning them that this wasn't part of the HMV website.

It would be an offensive waste of money if we were Qatar; to toss money away on such an obviously stupid endeavour while bleating about how we're broke is Antoinette-level brassneck.

Headline carries too much information all on its own


Meat Loaf invites Robbie Williams on Charlie Chaplin ghost hunt

Protecting subcultures

I'm listening to Today reporting on Greater Manchester Police's plans to record attacks on people for being part of subculture as hate crimes.

John Humphrys, talking to Sophie Lancaster's mother, pointed out that it's not a measure which would have saved her daughter from the horrible, hateful attack that killed her.

Perhaps. But it was a hateful attack, and should be recognised as that.

And yet...

I'm just not sure how practical the measure is. When I used to have bottles and stones bounce off me on County Road in Liverpool, the hurlers were assuming that I was some sort of hippy. They weren't attacking me because I was an indie kid; they were attacking me because I wasn't one of them. I would still have been dodging bottles if I had been a hippy, or a banker, or indeed anyone who wasn't wearing sportswear with their socks rolled down.

The violence wasn't motivated by any subculture to which I belonged, but the subculture to which I wasn't.

How do you account for that?

And those times when Merseyside Police pulled me over and searched me, cheerfully admitting it was because I wasn't dressed like the other people round those parts and that made me look suspicious: If attacking people because they're dressed in black is worth recording, should the police also be looking at why they use 'wearing other clothes' as a basis for a stop and search?

At the moment, the proposal seems to be more about gathering data than making a difference, so it's a first step. But it's been half a decade since Sophie Lancaster was murdered; you'd have hoped five years would have been time for something a bit more thought-through to have be proposed.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Unfinished monkey business

Apparently Justin Bieber has taken to carting a poor monkey around with him, breaking animal movement laws as he does so.

The NME read about it somewhere:

A source told The Sun: "Justin has been acting like a right diva. He is out of control and lives in an alternative reality to the rest of us. He didn’t think about the potential risks of flying a monkey from one continent to another. He and Mally go everywhere together. He will be heartbroken it has been put in quarantine. He seems as fond of Mally as Michael Jackson was of his chimp Bubbles."
Given that Bubbles ended up in an animal sanctuary, unvisited by Jacko and pining so much he apparently tried to kill himself, lets hope that Bieber likes Mally a little bit more than that.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Morrissey returns to announcing tour dates

These days, Morrissey tends not to play shows, but he's great at announcing them. He's issued a statement alerting fans in South America to look forward to a series of cancellations due to ill health this summer:

Morrissey is scheduled to play shows in seven cities in Mexico in June, rounding-off at the National Auditorium in Mexico City. Morrissey will also appear on two national television shows. The dates in Mexico will be followed by concerts in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile. Details will be announced shortly.
Recently, Morrissey was advised to take a break from arranging dates to cancel in the future to allow his body to heal, but as he said at the time: "it’s difficult for me because, it’s very engrained within me. I know it’s the best of life … when you issue a bunch of dates and when you suddenly feel ill and when you post the 'contact venue for details for refunds' announcement … There is nothing better. Can you think of anything?”

Rock mags find new home

Classic Rock and Metal Hammer have changed hands, with the spectacularly named Team Rock purchasing the titles from Future.

Team Rock is led by John Myers:

Myers is executive chairman of the new company, TeamRock, which will create and distribute content to what it describes as the "large but under-served community" of rock music fans.

The new business is expected to announce more acquisitions in the next few days.
Under-served community? With the two titles here, plus a bunch of spin-off sister publications, and Bauer's Kerrang empire, and the Download Festival, and Absolute Classic Rock, I'm not sure I'd identify this as a market segment that is especially neglected, but good luck to anyone trying to build a magazine brand. You... you are interested in the print product, right?
TeamRock describes itself as a "new international multimedia content creation and distribution business" to "provide and create premium content to rock-music fans across the world via digital platforms and through the Classic Rock and Metal Hammer titles".

Radio 2 repeat 6Music Coldplay experiment; get identical results

Earlier this year, 6Music presented listener with a list of songs and asked them for their favourite. Disappointingly, it ended up with Coldplay winning.

So when Radio 2 presented listeners with a list of "most-played albums" and asked them to rank them?

It's no surprises:

1 Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
2 Keane - Hopes & Fears
3 Duran Duran - Rio
4 Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon
5 Dido - No Angel
6 The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
7 Pet Shop Boys - Actually
8 The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
9 U2 - The Joshua Tree
10 Queen - A Night At The Opera
I know that we should take seriously no list which clears its throat by announcing that A Fit Of Vapours In The Bentley is the best anything, but just look at that. I'm no Beatles acolyte - I think you'd have spotted that - but even I know that Dido's No Angel is not a finer body of work that Sergeant Pepper's.

Interesting to see Actually, there, though. Actually.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Gordon in the morning: Mensch wants to take Bieber to end of garden, spank his little bottom

So yesterday was interesting, talking with Louise Mensch on Twitter about how she was the hardest questioner of the Murdochs at the DCMS select committee, while at the same time admitting that she'd already decided James had nothing to answer the second time round before he'd even given his testimony (you know, like a judge wouldn't and a jury shouldn't). Then it got a bit odd, when somebody else asked who the two people who'd misled the committee were Louise decided that his lack of knowledge proved that I was someone who didn't care about phonehacking and just wanted to "get Murdoch". (Yeah, thinking the person who runs the company should take responsibility for the criminality of his organisation - what a crazy thought.)(She'd also assumed that I wasn't aware of Myler and Crone. A lot of assumptions going on. It was like it was August 15th.)

Anyway, Louise is now a Sun columnist - on the News Of The World Whoops No It Isn't Called That Any More - something which her colleague colleague Gordon Smart shoehorns in to a piece about her husband.

Peter Mensch, it turns out, is no less strident in his opinions:

Peter Mensch, hubby of Sun columnist and ex-Tory MP Louise Mensch, said: “I’d take Bieber to the woodshed and spank him.”
Interesting. And number two, what is your idea of a great date?

Actually, Mensch is only suggesting physical chastisement here, not anything kinky.
Peter, 60, who manages stadium bands Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers, warned the 19-year-old singer will soon be on the scrapheap unless he shows his fans and management more respect.

He said: “His manager Scooter Braun is scared s***less. I don’t know what Bieber’s problem is. His career is over in three years anyway.”
Because let's not forget that the way to earn someone's respect is to take them to one side and physically assault them.

What's especially confusing is that Mensch manages the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which is a bit like someone who runs a bear-fighting pit complaining that zoos are cruel, surely?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kraftwerk: Robots v Communists

Kraftwerk had been due to play a festival in China...

Hang about, let's just pause there. China does full-on, three-day, Reading-Leeds style festivals these days. Remember when Wham! playing a gig there was a news item in itself?

So, Kraftwerk was supposed to be at this festival. But they've had their invitation withdrawn. Why?

Tibet. It's always Tibet. The Guardian reports:

According to reports in Beijing, the ministry of culture denied the German quartet a visa because they were scheduled to perform at a pro-Tibetan independence concert in 1999. In fact, Kraftwerk's performance at the Washington DC fundraiser was ultimately cancelled because of a lightning storm.
So what will the organisers do now?
The festival has replaced Kraftwerk with the British pop band Travis.
You see, China? Censorship only ends up hurting the censors.

And if you're thinking "blimey, swapping out Kraftwerk for Travis is a bit like replacing an iMac with a ten year-old Nokia phone", well... even the Chinese realise that:
"I can't say we are 100% confident with Travis as headliners," Zang Keyu, Modern Sky's director of performance and operations, told the state-run Global Times newspaper. "But it's a fact we have to accept."
I bet Zang Keyu is desperately combing online biographies of Fran Healy in the hope he might have called for independence for Macau.

[Thanks to Gary White for the tip]

This week just gone

The most read stories in March:

1. Lennon musical plans come together
2. Bruno Mars sings to your vagina
3. Men's rights activists have problems with small dicks
4. Pandora believes there's good times round the corner
5. Robbie Williams has a go at Salad and Shed 7
6. Listen: Sweet Baboo's new single
7. Azealia Banks believes the Stone Roses are out to get her
8. Blur and Oasis bury the hatchet... again
9. Noel Gallagher doesn't write songs for anyone else
10. The Cheeky Girls have views on immigration

These were this week's interesting releases:

The House Of Love - She Paints Words In Red

Download She Paints Words In Red

Wire - Change Becomes Us

Download Change Becomes Us

Edwyn Collins - Understated

Download Understated

Crime And The City Solution - American Twilight

Download American Twilight

Depeche Mode - Delta Machine

Download Delta Machine

The Primitives - Everything's Shining Bright

Download The Best Of...

The Strokes - Comedown Machine