Friday, February 22, 2002

INDIE PORN: According to Epitonic's Indie board, indie porn and pornography are similar. They say its because you can't describe what they are, but you know them when you see them. But t could just be because they're both slightly seedy and made by sweaty old men for wankers. Boom boom.

THEY'RE NOT GRRRRRR-EAT: So, there on Wednesday night was Elton John, popping up on Newsnight to describe modern pop as being like boxes of cereal, and to suggest he should never have done that greatest hits album last year, since its the Best Of culture that's strangling the industry. Really, Elton? What on earth could have persuaded you to make the record, then? Nothing to do with having large sums of money rubbed into your face, presumably? The thing about Elton is that, ever since he discovered Ryan Adams, he's been getting more and more po-faced and tending to talk about credibility and art. It's fine if he thinks that Songs from the west coast is a serious minded piece of art, but being lectured by the man who was responsible for the unarguable nadir of rock music (of course we're talking about that Car Crash of a car crash memorial), the sudden outrage sits uneasily.
Not that we'd say that Elton's attack on the Kellogisation of pop is wrong; in fact his "cereals" taunt is well considered: Breakfast cereals have stopped being inventive, and fallen back onto re-arranging the same basic elements in different ways - Corn Flake + chocolate; rice + chocolate; weetabix + fruit pieces; corn flake + frosting + fruit pieces; so has pop - Destiny's Child divided by Atomic Kitten equals MisTeeq. But if Elton is coming to save us, we surely must be fucked. His plan includes closing down the video channels, which manages to be doubly hypocritical - not only did he drag his career out of the dolequeue by embracing MTV (I'm still standing video, anyone?) but the cheeky old dog is making a cameo appearance in his big chum Ryan Adam's new video. Or is it okay to make a video if you're "serious", Elton?
Elt on Newsnight - probably considered too highbrow for News At Ten
Ryan Adams and chums - let's hope this helping hand from Elton doesn't carry the price Robbie paid...

CODE BROKEN: One of the joys of being young and giddy in the 1980s was Cath Carroll's music and writing for the the nme, so it was a delight to discover that, while she has now become American (not that there's anything wrong with it...), she's still writing and still making music. Her includes a piece on the and the decline of British pop press in general; still a delight to read.

QUICK UPDATE: Eavis has been clambering in and out of bed with the Mean Fiddler; when the music stopped, he was in. So for the next five years, Vince Power will be slipping a portion of the profits into his trousers, Eavis pledging this won't mean any difference to the Glastonbury experience. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

YOU'RE DAMNED IF YOU DO...: You could almost feel sorry for Michael Eavis. No sooner had music fans, The Times and others been on his back about his deal with Mean Fiddler (Reading-Leeds owning London behemoth were to get twenty per cent of the festival, in return for providing structural assistance, rising to firty per cent and then, presumably, a total take over when Eavis finally hangs up his big hat), than Mendip Council starts to threaten to pull Glasto's licence if he doesn't let MF run the security and logistics. Here is a rock, here is a hard place.
Of course, MF would love to get its greasy mits on Glasto - that would pretty much give it if not a monopoly, then at least a seriously destabilsing share of the UK festival scene - England becoming a Virgin/Fiddler duopoly. Gig-goers in London who've watched the Mean Fiddler swallow and ruin a range of venues over the years - don't tell me you don't miss the Town & Country Club - will probably feel a but queasy at the thought of a direct choice between one of Power's or one of Branson's. The thought of an MF-run Glasto is probably more depressing than the recent Glasto-run Glastos - Reading/Leeds has always tasted of a supermarket festival (albeit with Harrods Food Hall prices), while even as Glastonbury has got more and more commercialised over the past few years (when the markets started to turn into some sort of Small Town High Street, and then into Big City Mall) it's still managed to keep a sense of being in touch with the land on which it stands. Offering space for people who want to camp, picnic and play rather than minibreak, shop and consume has been what's kept Glasto's identity, and it seems hard to imagine that a Vince Power controlled one would want to preserve the concept of people paying just for their tickets and nothing more.
Plus, of course - The Mean Fiddler hardly has much of a record in the sort of environmental issues traditionally supported from Glasto revenues. In 1998, they held a "legal rave" on a site of special scientific interest, ignoring and belittling the complaints of nearby residents. Is this really the people Mendip Council want to take over the Pilton Pops?

YOU CAN'T STOP THEM, THEY ARE ROCK: There's an interview with the Charlatan's Tony Rogers in today's Belfast Newsletter, which explains how Tim 'all that is sex god' Burgess' new falsetto came about almost by accident:
‘Tim’s vocals actually came about when we were recording the B-Side for Impossible (from Us and Us Only)’’, says Tony. ‘‘The song was A Man Needs To Be Told, which ended up being the first song for Wonderland. Tim just started singing like that, which set the Curtis Maysfield-vibe for the album and changed the way we played the instruments.
"A lot of the songs were written on the piano or Hammond," says Tony, "but Tim’s vocals allowed for a bigger range of styles on the guitar and keyboards.’’
But despite the success of Wonderland, the band did experience more bad news prior to its release. In August last year, Tony was diagnosed as having testicular cancer. He has been for 12 scans to date and received treatment in December and is due for more soon, but he refused to let his illness effect the release of the album.
"The last thing I wanted was for Wonderland to be held back," says Tony. "It needed to be released when it was still fresh to us.
"The rest of the band tried to get me to slow down and take some time off, but the album was the only positive thing I had and I needed to keep working."
Tony says that he is feeling ‘fine’ at the moment and that he is trying to keep his health and fitness up to scratch.
It would be easy to imagine that the general feeling within The Charlatans camp would be one of doom and gloom, considering all that has happened to them over the years, but Tony insists that this is not the case.
“You just have to overcome these things like people do in all walks of life,’’ says Tony. ‘‘We don’t have a bad outlook on life, that’s just the way it’s been documented.
"We actually see ourselves as lone of the luckiest bands because we’ve managed to carry on with the music," he says.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

I WAS IN THE SHOWER THIS MORNING and I was thinking that, perhaps, it was time I posted some positive stuff to XRRF, what with having done a fair bit of knocking in the last couple of weeks. It was starting to sound like I didn't even like music. And with the news that Mercury Rev are coming to Liverpool, and Michael Eavis has come to his senses and is thinking again about letting the Mean Fiddler start to creep towards taking over Glastonbury, and an AC Acoustics album now and a Clinic album soon gave lots of reasons to be smiley.
And then this happened.
Oasis have announced a new single, and right away everything about it stinks. It's called The Hindu Times, for Vishnu's sake. (Doubtless if it had been Ringo and not Harrison who died last year it would have been called Percy the Angry Engine.) And offers a sample of the lyrics: " The song includes the lines ‘I get up when I'm down/ I can't swim but my soul won't drown/ I do believe I've got flare/ I got speed and I walk on air.’ The chorus is: ‘Cos God give me a soul/ In your rock ‘n' roll band/ I can get so high I just can't feel it.’ "I'm in a rock and roll band, me, look, I have taken drugs." The fresh, new sound of a bright new century. How far has the group moved on since "all your dreams are made/ when you're chained to the mirror and the razorblade"? Apart from sliding backwards in the lyric writing stakes.
A lot of rubbish was written after Sepven about how nothing would be the same again, how art and culture would have to reform to cope with a world where thousands of people can die almost instantly, for no reason. But while it was bollocks, and poems about the Queen Mother and songs about fucking were just dwarfed by the moment, not rendered extinct, in the middle of it all los Bros Gallaghers popped up in an nme interview, yammering about nothing. When even the most strictly-policed internet fanfic lists abandoned their usual structures to try and absorb what we'd seen, the Gallaghers appeared as unaffected as babes in arms. This is, of course, the mark of their failiure; as a songwriter, Noel appears to have no interest beyond his guitar; the band appear incapable of absorbing their surroundings. It's not merely that they cannot turn their experiences into great, age-defining music; they seem unable to experience in the first place. And unless they can learn how to, Oasis' future is one of releasing records that are the aural equivalent of names marker-penned on walls by bus-stops: "Noel was 'ere." But for no reason, to no end; for no purpose.

Monday, February 18, 2002

The Shape Of Things To Come?

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME?: Charlie Chester stopped taking holidays after the time he returned from a short spell at the seaside to discover his Saturday and Sunday evening show on Radio 2 had become a Sunday evening show alone. So, what should we make of the news that Radio One is to have a four week "holiday" from John Peel, with other shows being summoned from their middle of the night slumber to take over his slot while The Great Man has a rest?

In the past, famously, Peel shows always turned up when they were meant to - on tape, if he was off looking at chickens; in fact, until the night of his fiftieth birthday when the late John Walters presented to allow Peel to go off to a surprise party, nobody had ever sat in for him. Since then, there have been breaks - the longest when "The Pig" was quite seriously ill - but this is of a different order. Chris Evans sized breaking. Some of the replacements - Fabio and Grooverider and the Rock Show, not to mention plugs for the soon come urban station they're still calling Network X - suggests that this could be the Radio One equivalent of Operation Lion. (Operation Lion being the dry-runs the BBC hold to practice what they'd do in the event of the demise of the Queen Mother - like she's gonna die).

The usual assumption - that Lammo has been groomed as a dauphin - is looking shakier now. One-watchers have thought that R1 would want to keep a Peel-like show, if only out of some commitment to public service, but the increasingly zoned and genre-bound nature of the network (Pop till six, chart dance till eight, indie, then rock or whatever) suggests that creating a new show which plays Zambian and Jamaican alongside the Brentford and Seattle sounds may not be the first choice of the station; nor is it obvious why Lammo would want to swap from doing the Evening Session into a lowlier slot, however revered its previous occupant.

And you just know that any attempt to question what's going on would lead to Broadcasting House sending a flier for Radio Six in response. Of course, at the moment, it's speculation, but the last intelligent show on Radio One could be looking like it's increasingly playing at the wrong speed.

Those fill-in showcases in full - or try-outs, as it could be...

[Updated 23/08/08 to reflect current layout of site; content unchanged]

ALSO 80'S: Nice to see Limahl popping up to do Too Shy and Never Ending Story on the otherwise nostalgia-by-simple-numbers Class of 1984 on Saturday night, especially after the Trouble at Top detailing the struggles for Bucks Fizz between Bobby Gee and David Van Day. Limahl, of course, got kicked out of KajaGooGoo (what was it? Too gay? Not Christian enough? Prettier than the others?) and seems to have got the balance right between being Christopher Hamill when he wants to be, and doing Limahl when someone will pay him too - his 80s personna being like a glove, or perhaps some sort of hat. Meanwhile, what happened to his nemesis, Nick 'big bubbles no troubles' Beggs?
His website suggests that, as well as a career as a session musician (the musical equivalent of emptying ashtrays), he's started illustrating children's books. Mind you, the news page was last updated in 2000 - it's that ability to make annual changes that makes the web so flexible, of course.

YOU LIKE A LITTLE BOY GEORGE?: Was it our imagination or did Boy George attempt to shed the 'Boy' tag and image a few years back? I could have sworn - like Kid Jensen and Peter Pan before him - the Boy became a man, reverted to George O'Dowd, and stopped wearing stupid hats.
Maybe we did dream this, because now he's back on Play UK, doing a chat show - with hat, with Boy, with the same eye make-up he wore in the 80's. In addition, he's got Taboo, the musical of his life, playing away down in London, and he's doing the tour of chat shows himself - not always to acclaim, as trudging through piles of internet reaction, it becomes clear that some people are starting to get sick of the schtick - after all, part of the fall-out of his making blokes in slap commonplace in the 80's was to ensure that we're less than shocked by his appearance in 2001. Double entendres about back entrances? Why bother, when even Hollyoaks does male rape and Queer as Folk has made watching men shag the number one spectator sport for straight women. And did you hear the version of Karma Chameleon he made with people who'd won some sort of phonebox karaoke competition? The funny thing is, on Boy George One on One, he complained about how people come up to him and sing Karma Chameleon, giving the impression that he considers that's part of his past, when clearly he's stuck firmly in a kind of perpetual gift shop flogging memory-tat based on that one track.
The chat show itself isn't that bad - although it's not the lion-mauls-gazelle its trailers try to promise - more spot of two fisted pleasuring; and clearly the thing gets edited to buggery, presumably to ensure that the guests (of the order of Patsy Palmer and Jonathon Ross and his wife - one on two?) are able to get a word in edgeway between the Boy's rambling self-plumping anecdotage. However, the character chatshow is usually the sign of a personna hitting the edge of it's atmosphere - where is Mrs Merton now? Gone to Harold Shipman, we presume; Dame Edna is now stuck dancing like a bear for Ally McBeal. Having first tried to slew off Boy, George has now embraced him. The prospect is one of self-parody, rereleases and cabaret. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me re-recorded with Jayne McDonald by Christmas, we reckon.

ADVICE FOR FLAGGING INDIE BANDS: Hey, are you an indie band in desperate need of a quick hit? Why not secure your career by knocking out a quick cover version of the Buffy Once More With Feeling musical tunes? In fact, it's a pity that Elastica have split - the stop-starty Life would have been perfect for them to give the once-over, while I think Belle & Seb would relish the chance to throw off the milky-milky image by doing Spike's Rest In Piece. With fireworks and smoke, natch. And possibly Patricia Morrisson-alikes dancing in the background. Maybe someone should put together a small tribute album project. Any takers?