Thursday, March 05, 2015

What the pop papers say: Ails to the chief

Noel Gallagher's on the cover of the NME this week, which can mean only one thing. (And, yes, it does - Pete Doherty's on the cover next week.)

Noel on the cover; and inside, there's an amusing interview with a grouchy, funny giant of the Manchester music scene.

No, not Noel; Mark E Smith:

I mean, the Arctic Monkeys, come on. They've been to music college [this is not true]. They've got degrees in tock music [this isn't true, either]. I think some of them have got passes in The Fall.
I get sent magazines with all this advice for new bands... and it's 'Number one, get a decent bank account.' It's like applying to university. There was always privilege in music, but nowadays you don't have a chance in hell."
That's the way you do it. But then Smith doesn't have the problem Gallagher does - he's not trying to square a working class hero image with struggling with paying to send his kids to school; his anecdotes are about Pixies fans trying to take selfies rather than (as Noel does) stories about being on the red carpet at the BAFTAs.

The NME is still calling Noel "the chief"; I'm hoping this is ironic, given his timorous, weak new album - the way men in their 80s who were something in the Raj were still called The Major long after the sun had set on the Empire they once bestrode and the career they once had.

There's six pages of Noel, and Tom Howard gives him an easy ride. Especially when there's a strand of his thinking that's a little disturbing.

First, Gallagher trots through the Ali G defence for sending his kid to private school. We've heard this before, of course:
Good for you that you don't have to go to fucking school and come home talking like fucking Ali G, because, believe me, I would beat that out of you
Let's hope that Noel's using "beat that out of you" as a figure of speech. Let's hope that.

But - as the last time he used 'I don't want my kids to sound like Ali G' justification for swerving the local comprehensive - what does "sounding like Ali G" mean?

It could be that he simply means that he doesn't want his children to sound like working class kids do these days - a strange position for a man who has made his money out of tales of working class upbringing. Suddenly, Gallagher is concerned about "speaking proper", is he?

Or it could be that "talking like Ali G" means "talking like Ali G" - co-opting the speech patterns and slang of young black men?

Later on, Gallagher is talking about his support for the Teenage Cancer Trust - one of the things that reflects really well on him. It's a great cause, and Noel has really gone above and beyond in the work he does for them.

There's a but.
I like it because it's a charity for British kids, and it's real, you know
Not a charity for kids who are unwell; not that they're facing a massive challenge at a time of their lives when they should just be enjoying themselves.

It's a charity for British kids.

As opposed to what, exactly, Noel?

It's not as if Noel hasn't helped charities aiding people cursed with the misfortune to not have been born British on top of their other problems - Oasis were one of the main attractions for War Child, for a start. It makes the phrase even more puzzling.

Like the Ali G remark, it feels less like a racist stance and more a throwback to Victorian charity-begins-at-home Little Englanderism; a faint whiff of the UKIPs that Noel himself would probably be surprised to notice.

Maybe The Chief has more in common with The Major than we'd first expect.

Elsewhere, Laura Snapes watches Sleater-Kinney, deftly linking Carrie's claim that their music is an "obliteration of the sacred" with their presence as "some sort of religious totem".

Emily McKay talks to Kim Deal, making a game attempt to get to the bottom of the Pixies split but deciding it's better to hear about the Breeders than it is to pursue the matter.

You do wonder, though: The Fall, Noel Gallagher; Sleater-Kinney; a Radiohead The Bends feature; Mark E Smith; The Breeders... why on earth are young people not buying the NME? Is it because they're not really much in the NME these days?

One last thing: Between page 52 and page 59, Pete Doherty has morphed in Peter Doherty. Might want to decide on which it is before you lay out next week's cover, guys.


Ben said...

Frankly I've got better things to do than get outraged at stuff Noel Gallagher says, but it's difficult to find a non-racist interpretation of the patterns of speech he doesn't wish his kids to be exposed to whilst Dad is happily dropping "fucking" twice in the same sentence and threatening to beat them, isn't it?

Robin Carmody said...

And it's by no means unknown for even private school kids in London to assimilate elements of Multicultural London English now, just like they did with Estuary when the world was at Noel's feet and people actually listened to him. Wonder how he'd react if *that* ever happened.

Isn't it telling that NG is still playing this card - an utter travesty of everything the Beatles ever stood for - when even Paul McCartney, who twenty years ago he could have mocked with some authority as a Mailite Middle Englander, has decisively broken away from it?

Can't say I'm *particularly* inspired by the words and thoughts of Mark E. Smith either, mind; obviously a more substantial and considerable talent (although I still wonder whether NG would have burnt what he had out so quickly had John Smith lived; as Alex Niven argued, Definitely Maybe became an end-of-history album in a way not really considered when the songs had been written), but I'd quite like to get a degree in Mark E. Smith, Anthony O'Hear and the Horseshoe Theory - perhaps whichever institution has replaced Dartington College of Arts could give me one - and perhaps he might find plenty of musicians who are in no way privileged or dependant on established financial support if he started listening to music not actually made by bands.

Smith is imperfect, even when set alongside Gallagher, in the same way reactionary socialists generally are when set alongside Blairites. You can relate up to a certain point, but then comes the crash, the realisation.

Robin Carmody said...

And I don't think Q were still leading on Mark Knopfler in 2005. Which, believe it or not, is the chronological equivalent in terms of absolute cultural peak. Talk about the end of some people's history.

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