Friday, October 04, 2002

And, on the seventh day

Seven magazine - the only weekly clubbing magazine which then turned monthly and as such suddenly had a meaningless name - has folded, according to ver Bitch. We really bet they wish they'd pulled out a while ago rather than burnt cash on the monthly "no, we're a dance lifestyle mag" effort instead. How long before Ministry of Sound decide to "concentrate on core activities"?

I AM BONO, HEAR MY ROAR: Ananova is reporting the top ten of Q's most powerful people in music list, which it reckons stacks up as follows:
1. Bono
2. Doug Morris, Head of Universal Music
3. Eminem
4. L Lowry Mays, Founder and head of American media company Clear Channel
5. Kurt Cobain
6. Thom Yorke
7. Lyor Cohen, President/CEO of Island Def Jam
8. Clive Calder: The head of Zomba music
9. Sir Paul McCartney & Yoko Ono
10. Simon Fuller.
Rrrright... so, um, Kurt being dead hasn't stopped him exerting influence, but Lennon has to be represented by his executor? That isn't in any way contradictory, is it? And how can Eminem - a here today and, if we might say, a gone tomorrow artist - already be deemed more influential than the head of Clear Channel, who has strangled all the individuality out of the American music world and is about to start on the British. Clive Calder hasn't really done anything since Britney, and since he's sold Zomba anyway (to BMG who snorted that they've paid too much) he surely belongs in the 'lucky' list rather than important. Nobody from AOL Time Warner? And... Bono at number one?
Apparenty, it's because he has the ear of World Leaders. Now, we don't buy that anyway - the fact he'll take part in a photo op for George Bush doesn't smack of influence so much as ingenue-ity - but even if he did: why does this make him a powerful person in the music industry? Let's face it, Bono's attempts to nurture talent have come to nowt - Cactus World News, where are you now? - and the main impact U2 have had on the music industry is to strangle the Irish music scene to death, casting a shadow in which other, non-pompous bands, have had to fight to get attention.

Calm yourself, Ryan

Ryan Adams tells nme that he's written a song in response to Britney Spear's Boys (um... wasn't that pretty much what the Neptunes remix was?) because he doesn't feel he should have to be chastised because Brit can't find a decent bloke. Come on, Ryan, she had to take that piece of cheese Justin yakking on about licking her nethers in return for a few spins of his disc - don't you think she has the right to be slightly pissed off with men in general?

The grown Jewels

Poor Jewel is having trouble deciding whether to support the preposterously named MUSIC (Music United for a Strong Internet Copyright - what is that? The M in MUSIC stands for MUSIC? Eh? And what exactly would a strong Internet Copyright be, then? Because if its a law to stop people from producing an internet of their own, and passing it off as their own work, we'd be happy to support that), reports Yahoo. She can see the pros, and she can see the cons, even without looking up from her Rhyming dictionary where she's currently seeking out a word to go with heart.
She says:

"There's no doubt that wholesale music theft is having an impact on the bottom line of the music industry. "It's a huge impact. A really, really, big impact."

Um, actually, Jewel, there's an awful lot of doubt, and the piracy that actually hurts is the flogging of dodgy CDs, nothing to do with the Internet at all. But no matter.
"In the long run it hurts you if you're trying to make money selling records. I haven't been able to make money selling records. I've had to tour more, which means I haven't been able to do another record."

Blimey - so, you're saying that everytime someone downloads one of your tremulous heartfelt Morrisette-lite tunes, it makes the release date of a new album from you receede another ten minutes into the future? Quick, people - to Morpheous! If everyone reading this downloads just three tracks each, we can prevent her from releasing anything this side of 2015...

Aaliyah doesn't count, being dead

Interesting piece in the now rabidly useless Scotsman, focusing on research at Napier University into the music industry. We're assuming that Dr Dryden is doing some sort of Faking It jobswap thing, as she doesn't really know what she's talking about. She says she

" would say it has never been harder for so-called ‘real’ bands to get to the top of the charts. The audience attitude has shifted and the elitism that saw manufactured groups sneered at by the likes of NME in the past, has largely gone.

Righto, so you're saying that in the 1980's, the charts were largely determined by the NME, do you? I must have missed the long string of number ones from the Bunnymen, The Smiths, and that lot. But now, apparently, nobody sneers at manufactured groups? Hear'Say are treated like they've paid their dues? Do you read the newspapers?
"It doesn’t matter so much to the MTV generation if a band’s members started as a group of friends and practised in a garage or answered an advert from a record company."

- the 'MTV generation', don't care about where the new bands come from because they're too busy arranging babysitters and worrying about their pensions. If you mean young people now, and you really want to lumber them with an ill-fitting sobriquet, you might try the MP3 generation. But anyway - what's the reason for this alleged shift in emphasis?
"With the Pop Idol series, there was audience participation from the very beginning," she added. "It wasn’t someone working away in a back room creating this image, it was all up front, and I think the audience feels less manipulated because of that.

"The Pop Idol stars are somehow more real than the previous glossy, airbrushed boy bands."

"It is important to consider who is now buying the music in the charts," she said. "It is mainly pre-pubescent girls, and they have been more or less deciding who tops the charts since the days of Take That."

Hang about a minute, if nowadays the audience don't care if the band has been put together "in a garage or through a record company advert", why would it make any difference at all that Pop Idol stars are "more real"; if the audience has, as you claim, outgrown the need to sneer at manufactured pop, then what would be wrong with "glossy, airbrushed boy bands"?

The Scotsman underlines how serious things have got:
"This year, only half a dozen "real" artists have reached No1, and three of them - George Harrison, Elvis Presley and Aaliyah - are dead.

If anyone can convincingly explain to me - besides the pulse and the fact there are three of them - the processing difference between Atomic Kitten and Aaliyah, I'll present them with a large clock; and can you hear Colonel Tom chuckling away at the suggestion that Elvis - who sang songs he was sold over the sound of backing musicians - is in some way more 'real' than Gareth Gates?

But if you're not convinced the situation is dire, here is a warning from history. Or the paper, anyway:
"The Welsh guitar band Stereophonics said members of the Popstars group Hear’Say should be ashamed of themselves.
"If this sort of thing goes on, creativity will just fly out of the window," the group’s lead singer, Kelly Jones, said.

Right, Kelly. Come over here. Here is 'Pure and Simple'; here is 'Mr. Songwriter'. Both were done by failry dull groups of people who find themselves given the spotlight. One song is a cracking poptune, written by Alison Clarkson, who, as Betty Boo, probably gave you warm, damp thoughts late at night. Can you explain to me in what way her writing that song involves no creativity? Elvis Presley didn't write Heartbreak Hotel, you know - does that make it shit? Does it make it uncreative? Does the fact you wrote the dirge you sing make it any more a piece of art? And, are you seriously telling me that if we have two or three more seasons of Popstars, people like you will stop writing music altogether?

Because that's the first positive thing I've heard about them.

Music of totally straight origins

Of course, most of the UK press couldn't find space amongst the 'Danni Behr has to spend a couple of minutes waiting for mob to disperse' stories to cover the nasty scenes outside the Mobo awards themselves (The Guardian being one of the few to note the disturbances.)

Now, we personally think that Tatchell is a pain in the arse - invading a Cathedral Service on that religion's holiest day isn't a political statement, it's senseless bullying - but this time, you can't really argue with his theory that homophobic tunes are making some of the listeners of that music think that it's okay to queer-bash, and we don't really think that the MOBO organisers shrugging and saying "well, we don't pick the records that win" is anything like good enough.

I know moral equivalence is the last refuge of the writer with a deadline, but if Skrewdriver did well at next year's Brit Awards, would we happily sit by and say "well, the industry voted that way, so what could they do?" For Tatchell - a man who's been punched by the best of them - to say it was the most scared he's ever been is quite something; how can the MOBOs want to celebrate and laud queerbashing?

Regardless, Peter, you're probably overstating it a bit to claim on the Outrage site that the awards were marred by anti-gay violence.
Interesting to read the report from the Jamaica Observer, which is headline "Jamaican artistes heckled by gay rights group" - a little bit 'postman wedges arse in dog's mouth', that - but then goes on to examine the reasons for the protests in a bit more depth - which is more than you'd expect The Sun to do.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

FREEVIEW LINE-UP: So, the BBC/BSkyB replacement for ITV Digital has finally announced what its contents are going to be, and the most interesting aspects from No Rock's corner are the new Radio & TV music services. On TV, the single EMAP station and single MTV station (The Hits and Music Factory respectively) smacks a little of a compromise; intrestingly, neither are currently on Sky Digital, presumably to work around the "no subscription" clause; on radio, Smash Hits and Kerrang are both being brand extended to full national radio services for the first time - I think its probably clear what they'll both be doing.
So, some sort of service, but very much a second-class one, with nothing especially exciting.
(Away from music, the fudgetogether of the UK TV family into F tn looks like a nightmare; while N24, Sky, ITV News (ne ITN News) and CNN might seem to be slightly over newsing the pie - still, nobody will be upset with everyone getting a slice, will they? Apart from the viewers, of course).
The line-up in full [BBC] - what more Blue Peter spin offs can we come up with?

More rock economics

Following the implosion of Hearsay, MediaGuardian sat down with a pen and a calculator and worked out that, under the controversial deal struck when Popstars was being put together, London Weekend Television have made a million quid out of the band's sales. Not from Pure and Simple - because that was heavily promoted on ITV programming, it would have been against the rules - but from the subsequent singles and albums (apparently, by then, the series' influence must have mysteriously evaporated). The Hearsay thinkspeople are miffed, saying that the "band's managers" should have been allowed to negotiate the deal after they'd been chosen, rather than just being presented with a signed deal from before the competition had started.

Thud. Let's go through this again, shall we? The people in Hearsay had no part in putting the band together. They had no part in choosing their own role, or others. They didn't od the marketing; they didn't write the songs. They didn't choose the name. They didn't play instruments. And as soon as the protective coccoon of LWT was withdrawn, the band first flopped, and then fell apart. The outrage is not that the company that spawned Hearsay made twice as much as the original members, but that the likes of Suzanne and Mylene made half a million each for being little more than the modern equivalent of Fogwell Flax.

IT'S NOT STRICTLY SPEAKING MUSIC-RELATED BUT: The BBC aren't going to call their new speech station 4Word at all, but Radio 7 instead. Excellent. And, best of all, it sounds a lot like the old, proper Radio 5. Hurrah.

PICK A PRICE THAT WORKS: Writing in PC Mag [US], John Dvorak floats the idea that the true retail price of a CD should be USD1.40. Now, we're as quick as the next man to point at the price label on a new release and snort "how much?", but we think he might be erring a little on the low side. "If pirates can produce CDs for thirty-five cents, then why can't the labels?" he asks. Um... look, that sort of logic makes me wonder if he's an industry stooge. The screamingly obvious answer - because the labels are having to book studios, pay artists, distribute product (pirates tend to not cart their stuff much further than the nearest boot sale), write off sums when they sign a Northside and so on - seems to have passed him by. Dvorak tries to kick off by using a metaphor based on the auto industry, so let's try and explain it to him in those terms: If a car thief can sell a Ford Ka for £500, why can't a Ford Dealer?
We don't dispute - indeed, we argue here - that the record industry charges supernormal profit-level prices on their CDs, but to suggest that the market price be set by Del Boy Trotter is just madness in itself. Its suggestions like this that start to make the RIAA look like the sane side in the debate - and you just know that's got to be wrong.
We feel in our guts that the correct price for a CD would be nearer GBP7-50, leaving a small slice for the store, the label and the distro, covering costs and paying the artists a living wage. Sure, we've plucked the figure out the air a bit, but then, really, that's what the Virgin Megastore seems to be doing as well these days.

OFFICIAL! BMG CAN'T EVEN ORGANISE A PISS-UP: Jesus on a bicycle, what's wrong with the big record companies these days? They haven't a clue how to exist in the modern age without looking like unevolved but amusing fish; they can't sell records to save their share prices, and now they can't even throw a small party without it turning into an abject PR shambles. Apart from anything, they invite Danni Behr.

GREAT SCOTT: Interesting to hear Bob Scott on Today this morning bemoaning the way that Coronation Street and Lowry was a "hindrence" to his team when bidding for Manchester on the world stage, as it presented an image of the city "pickled in aspic"? Is this the same Bob Scott whose stewardship of the Liverpool City of Culture 'bid' has relied on chanting "Beatles... Beatles... Beatles" over and over again?

PLEASE PRESS 'STOP': Who knew that DataPlay, that rubbishy new format record labels had hoped to dupe us into getting so we could buy our collections all over again, again, would be a dead duck? Only it's gone now, so your chance to be the first kid in your street lumbered with the audio version of Video2000 has gone west.
What I find astonishing is that they ever thought it could work - the leap forwards in recording technology - vinyl, 33 and 45s, tape, CD, MP3 - they've all offered the consumer something tangible - portability, recordability, not being made from crushed-up bugs, the opportunity to ransack the back catalogue of EMI without paying. DataPlay was basing its entire business proposal on people being too daft to notice that they were buying a whole new load of equipment that wouldn't play their old stuff, and which would do everything their old stuff would do, except for the bits the labels didn't want them to do anymore. Yeah, all they needed was to add the words "lower than 50-50 risk of causing life-threatening cancers" into the advertising strap and they may just have had the perfect product.
I see David Crosby had been persuaded to investment in them. I thought he was straight these days?

WOULD THAT IT WERE: We really do wish that - as The Minor Fall, The Major Lift suggests - a duet between Craig David and Sting would mark the end of Craig David, but sadly, it probably won't. Sting is the cockroach of pop, somehow managing to survive into the future that has no place for him, getting involved in all manner of projects that should kill him off, once and for all, only getting stronger and larger and blonder the whole time. Jesus, the old hypocrite got away with advertising a gas-guzzling car full of wood and driven along by the combustion of the tears of small children, and he still gets mistaken for someone who "cares".
UB40 are another case in point - we tuned in to Buzzcocks on Monday, fully expecting to see the last remnants of their dignity getting shredded, woven into sackcloth clothes, and then sold back to them. Instead, the brothers Campbell came across as well-meaning and warm, and people in this office were talking about how wonderful the band are as a result. And not just the ones who like the Beautiful South.
Robin Campbell, of course, was asked recently about Top of the Pops, and he said "The dressing rooms are like the ones used in restart scheme interviews, but without the defence cages." Excuse me? When were you last in an employment services office, Robin? Surely back when they were still painted orange outside; certainly not since Restart interviews have come in. Actually, come to that - when did you last see a Top of the Pops dressing room?

Get orf mi land

The good thing about the Countryside Alliance is that it's really shaking out people and making them choose sides - now comes the news that Roger Waters out of Pink Floyd, Sheila Ferguson from the Three Degrees, Christopher Biggins and Nicholas Parsons are going to put on a show to raise awareness of the problems of stalled careers, um, sorry, countryside matters.

Well, I must say, this glittering bunch of talent might make me change my mind about the whole fox hunting thing.

There's no hidden agenda behind the CA, of course - it's all out in the open:

"Concert organiser Maggie Heath told BBC News Online: "We want to keep the profile high of the Countryside Alliance.We in the countryside should be left to run the countryside without interference from people in the cities. It is about liberty and democracy."

Hmm - I should point out to our overseas readers that, despite what this may suggest, people in the UK countryside actually have votes at the moment, and the 'people in the cities' (they mean Parliament) they complain about were, um, democratically elected. It's funny that during the two decades of Tory rule, there were never any complaints about 'people in the cities' sticking their nose in rural affairs back then; maybe democracy only actually counts when the people you vote for wins the election.

This comes hot on the heels of Keith Richards getting a path moved from his Sussex home - just like Nicholas VanHoogstraten, then. The sickening sycophancy of the chair of West Sussex County Council Rights of Way Committee may upset some readers:

Chairman of the committee, Bill Acraman said: "Someone well known is more vulnerable than you or me. We are well aware of what the paparazzi do. We are well aware of what nutters can do. Whether they be Prime Minster or pop star, they are more vulnerable than your or I. I strongly feel we should be able to go the extra mile."

Well, walkers are going to have to go an extra mile now the bloody footpath's been re-rerouted, that's for certain, but what the starstruck Mr. Acraman was actually saying was a pop star is more important than a centuries-old right of way. Apart from anything, how is re-routing a footpath going to protect Richards from what the sensitively described "nutters" - do West Sussex County Council dismiss the mentally ill in these terms all the time? - I'm no expert, but I believe the determined stalker is not going to be put off by the lack of a stile and a fingerpost pointing in the direction of a private house. I await the building of giant tube in Chichester City Centre to save Mr Richards from being photographed when he goes to the shops, too.

Digital Download Day

There's a site up for Digital Download Day which, um, hardly inspires confidence in the project - it's telling me right now that there's minus 1 day, 13 hours, 7 minutes and 33 seconds until 3/10/2002 - and yet it's counting down still. Plus, it's ten to midday, which makes the whole thing dubious. If they can't make a clock work, where's the hope they can sort out their downloads? And that's without pointing out the site says "School project in progress". Anyway, let's click...

"Wow!" It says "There's a lot of you wanting to use this site... come back later if its running slow" - um, surely you should have some sort of market research that would have told you how many to expect? Then you have to click on your choice of retailer - MSN (Gates? No way); Ministry of Sound (Palumbo? Chinless wonders? No thanks); Freeserve (I'm sure I must have some sort of moral objection to them too), so we'll go with HMV...

And this is where it goes tits-up:

"The site you have tried to enter requires Internet Explorer 5 (or better) with Windows Media Player 7 (or better) on Windows XP, 2000, Me or 98. Click Here to use our Doctor Download application to help you check your configuration alternatively Email Dr Download.

So, first up - you can't celebrate Download day if you use the professional musician's choice of computer system? No macs? Rrright. Then: the downloads are in crappy Windows Media format anyway? Not MP3? Thirdly, when I attempt to "Email DrDownload" it throws up a an email addressed to a greater than symbol.

So, in short: I was excited and thrilled to attempt to use legal, cheap downloads. They're telling me that I can't, because my computer is 'wrong', and even if I can, I won't be able to use my paid-for downloads with my current player, or integrate them into my current collection?

Oh, and Mac-heads amongst us will love this bit:
" So to give you the widest choice of music possible we would recommend that you upgrade your operating system to one which will support more modern DRMs (i.e. to Windows 98, 2000, ME or XP)

- yes, they're suggesting you should 'upgrade' from Mac OS X to Windows 98. Okay, I'll do that just as soon as I've replaced my Widescreen telly with a Black and White one, and smashed my face up with a giant hammer to allow me to look like a more standard person.
What a pile of rubbish. What a total shambles. What a fantastic metaphor for the UK music industry.

NOT BAD FOR A GUY WHO WORKS DOWN THE CHIPSHOP: - although it's pretty depressing that Elvis is at number one in seventeen bloody countries right now. No wonder David Bowie revived Ziggy Stardust last night - dead guys seem more popular.

MORE SPLITS: If you're still reeling from the Hear"say split: Get a bloody grip. Meanwhile, hot on the Bob-quits-Idlewild (apparently he felt the new direction of the band is "gay" - lets hope the Blogpolice don't catch up with him and berate him the way some online diarists have been for using the g-word as an arch-ironic putdown) comes the demise of Seagull Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her, the Japanese band who were just about to become the biggest Japanese thing this side of Badtz Maru. Now we'll never get to see them live.

COMING IN FROM THE COLD: We've long held the belief here that The Delgados are a good thing, and so we've been purring like a cat what's been given a whole heap of fishies - yes, head and all - with the jukebox thingy give-it-away download off Playlouder. It's got some music, a video, and a bit of blether, and it's got listings for next week's Peel Session (all cover versions) so it's worth the bandwidth. (It's in new-generation Flash, so we were left fiddling about with CarbonLib 1.6 to make it work, but that's probably just us.)

IT'S NOT FESTIVE, AND THERE'S NOT FIFTY OF THEM: Interesting project in train over at oh, manchester, so much to answer for, in the shape of Tom's Top 90 of the 90's. More than a run-down, Tom's delivering the chart in chunks, day-by-day, with snappy commentary - including comparisons of the running lengths of various versions of the same song. Tell me this isn't a man who used to write the Festive Fifty down in some kind of a book as Peel revealed it, and I'll show you a fish that can swim in brick. We're about to hit the Top 40, and I can't wait...

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Life on Mars edition
Modern Painters may like to try their reader's patience from time to time - Tracy Emin springs to mind - but at least their Ian MacMillan isn't fooled by Fischerspooner - "to the gentry with too much time on their hands, Fischerspooner must appear shocking... while to anyone with a half-decent record collection they represent nothing so much as the revival of a three-week period when Sigue Sigue Sputnik were in the charts, on the cover of the nme, and already on the road to nowhere... The bridging refrain in Emerge contains the words 'hypermediocrity' and 'uh-hu, that's right'. The phrase 'own best critic' comes to mind." Macmillan comes not to bury electroclash, but more to try and avert the gaze from the sadness that "its most prominent practitioner is also its weakest."...

For Electroclash with a lopsided grin rather than a furrowed brow, there's Ladytron in Sleaze Nation. However much Fischerspooner think they're playing with people's expectations by wearing wigs, Danny 'Trons claims that his favourite Pop Star is John Lennon is a lot more effective. Fischerspooner seem hell-bent on creating turmoil without purpose, while Ladytron (along with Miss Kittin and Peaches) hold firm to the first rule of pop revolutions - do it for fun...

Talking of revolutions, in Modern Painters, MacMillan posits the theory that the great changes iin music comes every 13 years - Beatles '63, Punk '76, rave '89 - so electroclash is the 2002 turning point. Now, is it just me or has there been a version of this that 'proves' every year since 1980 has been the one which is meant to be the Big Turning Point? I'm sure in 1996, for example, people braced themselves on the belief that the -6 years were significant. Pop doesn't work like that, it's nothing like as predictable...

Which is pretty much what Prospect's conclusion to its 'Gone Pop: Whatever happened to Britrock'? coverline. That they asked the drummer out of Gay Dad to turn in six pages on this question throws doubt on to the ability of their other contributors - is Elena Lappin the terrorism equivalent of getting the bassist from Menswear in? The problem with Nick Crowe is that his perspective isn't anything like unbiased enough to make any sense - he can't accept that what did for Gay Dad wasn't major shifts in the industry forcing the band to go before they were ready, but that they were shite, and the stupid flyposting campaign didn't create a public desperate to buy Gay Dad records, but massive numbers of people who'd decided they were overhyped shite and wouldn't have accepted anything less than at least halfway decent from them. Crowe's journalism is as shaky as his music - EMI, we're told, "missed out on the wave of international mergers that has seen labels like Island, Virgin, MCA, Atlantic and Epic wind up in the pocket of one corporation or other" - um, EMI bought up Virgin, didn't they?; he bases a claim around "with the rise of MTV and the internet", as if these things were contemperaneous - MTV came to Europe in 1987, well over a decade before the internet transformed into a mass medium. In effect, we're left with a couple of tales of having champagne pinched by Jarvis Cocker, and a vague feeling that its all because of that there Interweb. Even while stating that global sales are worth USD33billion, Crowe suggests that "twenty years since its decline began, the age of rock & roll really is dead." Then he suggests that it's only dead in Britain. It's all very confusing...

But not as confusing as Alex James piece in the New Statesman - he's also trying to see the big picture, commenting how Blur arrived in America the day Nevermind was released, and how by the time of Parklife "all the music papers had either Blur's singer or Kurt Cobain on the cover. A month after that, one of them was dead and suddenly there was something fully formed and British that was cool." And, um, this month, Blur are in pieces, Q has got Kurt on the cover, and the world is more excited about a duff old Nirvana rarity than any of the soon-come new Blur stuff. So, your point, Alex? The page ends with some odd wittering about spaceships that may or mayn't make any actual sense. And somehow all this is meant to be weighted somehow to the Labor Party Conference. of course, last week, Mariella Frostrup's diary in the same magazine had reported on spying James wearing a thick coat in the British summer, because he was living in Claridges and they had their own climate. Maybe this is why his political writing is about Mars and Noel Gallagher than things people care about...

It's Bring It On time again, as the NME knocks out its kneehigh listings supplement, choosing Interpol as the must-see new band of the month, and Coldplay as the tour of the month...

The Datsuns are on the front of nme proper - is it just me, or do they look like four people doing Senseless Things on Stars In Their Eyes?

News - New Nirvana album by Christmas; new Yeah Yeah Yeahs single by November - the latter is the more exciting prospect, don't you think?; there's that line-up for the 1Love charity album, which is expecting to raise more than GBP1.25m with its cover versions of number ones; Coldplay's love of the cover version is explored in full (Flying Without Wings? Jesus); that bloke who married Roy and Hayley beat Radiohead in the Halon Menswear Awards 2002 (Mark and Lard injoke, don't ask); Fatboy Slim has invested half a million in Brighton and Hove Albion in order to make sure he can always get a car parking space at Withdean Stadium - jesus christ, man, park at Mill Road and walk like every other fucker, why don't you? Shall we have swan sandwiches for you, too?; Asher D says that going to prison saved him from a coffin, apparently. We knew the So Solids were violent, but...; Australia apparently not that thrilled by the Vines homecoming; a quite nice spread of Courtney, Strokes and Ryan is ruined by some sub-Private Eye cover speech balloons; Thom Yorkes says Radiohead aren't trying to overthink the new album; John Squire appears to commit suicide in his new video - clearly heard the new album on playback, then; Marilyn Manson's paintings - look, they're rubbish. Their only saving grace is they stop him from making music for the two minutes it must take him to knock them off. Let's stop treating it like he's got another string to his bow, shall we? This is akin to Craig Vines sploshing about in his local swimming pool and the nme treating it like he's the new David Wilkie, okay?; The Libertines take the nme through the new album track by track, variously: cock, darkness; heroin; fairytale; singalong; abysmal; frustration; stereophonics; piss; stonerish; vikings and knees-up; Andrew WK (remember him? The Simon Dee of rock?) has made a video with the Jackass team (remember them? Candid Camera only thick?); there's a free cooper temple clause cd you can text away for - how modern...

new found glory do the ten track cd thing - they might be giants is included. "Don't judge them on that Malcolm in the Middle song" says Chad "that's cheesy, quick and easy." Um, but you've chosen Birdhouse In Your Soul...

on bands - the jeevas (didn't we have crispian 'swastikas are great' mills when we torched Kula Shaker?) and Q and Not U (Television Scrabble meets emo)...

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - are they worth the effort it takes to type their bloody name out? Do they have ideas? Did they really get reborn on New Year's Eve 1999? "We don't really care if people don't know what we're talking about" spouts Guy. Lucky, that...

Dave Grohl reckons "The Datsuns are what the world needs" - what, not love, sweet love, Dave? Oh, hang on, you probably wouldn't reckon on that, would you? The Datsuns also turn out to talk a lot of confusion, but it worries them more - "this interview is falling apart. We're arguing about water and cups and bullshits." This could actually be a problem for the then-weekly nme - this new generation don't do anecdotes, don't do philosophy; for a team of writers forced to write short, one-hook pieces, a future where the main topics they're given to write about don't have much to say could prove a challenge...

reviews - lps: jj72 - i to sky ("don't expect glitter storms", 7); various - trash companion 1 ("rather fun", 7); the eighties matchbox b-line disaster - horse of the dog ("potential cult-status lies ahead", 7); royal trux - hand of glory ("a tough listen", 5)...

sotw is the vines - outtathaway ("don't get even, get MAD"); not richard ashcroft - check in the morning ("unbelievably bad"); the coral - dreaming of you ("worthy of our undying love"); cabaret voltaire - nag nag nag ("impressively peverse")...

live - jarvis cocker and friends, south bank royal festival hall ("Cocker'll need to be nimble to avoid being the subject of a psychiatric report"); queens of the stone age ("keep getting stronger") and ... trail of dead ("crowd baying for blood") in new york; sleater-kinney in LA ("un-jaded as ever")...

And, something interesting from Angst (for once) - apparently, when Ms Dynamite won the Mercury, Virgin Radio played the snatch of her accepting the prize with the words "Do you know who this is? If you're a real music fan, then probably not...". Now, there's something the nme should have been running on its news pages instead of pisspoor courtney gags (we'll do those, ta). That would be your stinking attitude. No wonder nobody listens to Virgin anymore.

PUT UP IN A PARKING LOT: The full version of the Primal Scream Miss Lucifer video is available for you to decide if you're that easily corrupted on the web. The track is bloody fantastic (as is the next single, Autobahn 66 - out October 28th) but the video is one part pretention, one part lack of ideas, and one part too much money. I'd imagine they think it never got played in full because of the car-top devil shaggage; more likely it's because the TV companies were being kind.

BLIMEY - SOMETHING GOOD ON BLOGCRITICS: Okay, we're being harsh on them, but they're a shadowy cabal, dammit. Anyway, this by Al Barger is rather a fine take-apart of 21st Century Springsteen - a man who, No Rock has no doubt, plans on being the first President also in the R&R Hall of Fame. Barger seems convinced, too: "Indeed, Springsteen has become a politician instead of an artist. He speaks for his audience- not himself. None of this album comes across to an objective listener as the heartfelt personal reaction of an artist. Rather, these are the carefully calculated and extremely predictable responses of a politician looking for votes.

DANCE STANCE: Sigur Ros are, apparently, following in the footsteps of The Fall and doing the music for a ballet. They're working with Merce Cunningham on a new dance extravaganza which should debut in New York next October.

CHATROOM OF THE WEEK: Don't worry, it's not a Tim Dowling one, but a transcript of No Rock's New Pop Hero Pink. It's worth sticking with, as she flames back when she gets flamed. Have we mentioned that we love Pink? Oh, good.

LADIES, MANN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: The story is Barenaked Ladies and Aimee Mann to appear in The West Wing; we just wanted to do the headline.

EIGHTY MILLION POUND MAN: It doesn't take a genius to see that the Robbie Williams deal with EMI isn't about flogging records in the UK, but turning him into a Transatlantic Star. I wonder if Robbie paused to watch last night's Showbiz Set before inking the deal, and wondered if he was going to be another Tom Jones or - as seems more likely - merely the new Englebert Humperdink, trying desperately to please Boise and Bath and landing "with a splash in the mid-Atlantic"?
Apparently (which means 'we read on popbitch'), the struggling and desperate EMI tried to use the example of Kylie as a demonstration that they can be relied upon to break a UK name through to the American audience. Hmmm, really? We could have sworn that Kylie was broken in America because she was embraced by the gay market - more down to QAF than EMI. Are we supposed to believe that Mr. Williams is going to be retooled to appeal to San Fran as a leaping-off point for the wider US market? Can't see that working in the same way, somehow.

REALISM IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY: We must say we're slightly surprised that the music industry, after years of moaning that free music downloads have created a culture where people have come to expect to get music for nothing, they've now declared Digital Download Day and are going to, um, give away downloads. This time, though, its all in order to promote the existence of the new, legal download service for Europe, based at HMV and a few other sites.
Even more encouraging is the realistic pricing structure the new service has for when you've used up your freebies - while a quid to burn a track to CD seems a bit steep, downloading a track for ten pence and streaming for a penny is the first official download regime we've heard which doesn't sound like a rip-off. Our CD prices may be outrageous, but in Europe, at least our digital music is fairly-priced. Let's just hope the tracks on offer are good, and the format they're offered in is one that works.

YOU WEREN'T THE ONLY ONE, MARK: Mark Knopfler - who is looking more and more like Bill from King of the Hill - has told Reuters that whenever his music used to come on TV or Radio, he'd immediatley switch channels. Which makes you wonder why he carried on inflicting stuff that caused him pain on us as well. Surely, the most basic criterion we should expect artists to hold up to their work is "Do I want to listen to this?" - okay, maybe nobody wants to think Britney stays at home, DVD on auto-shuffle, touching her moisty innerself (no we don't), but you'd hope that at least she can get through hearing Boys on MTV without feeling queasy.
Maybe the Court of Pop should force musicians to spend a day in a room with their music on a constant loop.

RIAA SUES RADIO STATIONS: It's only a matter of time [The Onion]
Thanks for the link: Becky

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

A DANCING DEMON? NO, SOMETHING ISN'T RIGHT THERE: At long last, Rounder Records has brought us what we've been waiting for: Once More With Feeling, the Buffy Musical Soundtrack album. Not only is it worth buying, but its worth buying because it's almost a political act after the way the episode got fudged out the running for an Emmy. (In a move worthy of Jeb Bush's gerrymandering in Miami-Dade, they 'forgot' to put Buffy on the ballot; they tried to tell people of their error but, by then, it was too late.) I'm not sure how much sense the CD would make without seeing the episode itself, but most of the songs work abstracted from their context. Amber Benson's I'm Under Your Spell - the most mainstream and explicit lesbian-shag song in recorded history, surely? - and Emma and Nicholas' cornball I'll Never Tell - the only song to ever approach a line like "his penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe" and carry it off- certainly. If they had their wits about them at the NME, they'd have got a bunch of bands to cover these for their charity effort. We hope they release a single, if only to get to see Giles on Top of the Pops.

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SING SING: They say they want it spread far and wide, so rather than send out sing sing's ecard, we're just hanging it on the web for your delectation.

OTHER CHANNELS: While one of their rivals disappears, it's unlikely that they'll be popping open the champagne down at Camden Lock, as Media Guardian are reporting that BSkyB is trying to reduce the price it pays for the MTV portfolio by half. As MTV's biggest audience provider and paymaster, the sudden withdrawal of ten million quid is going to be a shock to the network's system. It could mean that MTV Europe produces less original programming - not that it makes a great deal here as it is - leading to a lot more showings of Shania Twain Behind The Music on VH1, or, if we're lucky, more videos, less flim-flammery like Undressed.
Anyone who thinks there may be some link between the treatment of MTV and BSkyB's plans to launch own-brand pop channels may need to call the DTI.

NO MORE PLAY: As their website says, Play UK has gone off the air - supposedly because of the closure of ITV Digital, which we think has the air of twang about it - lack of viewers, bad place in the Sky Digiguide, confusing comedy and music proposition, endearing but commercially suicidal habit of running evenings of non-stop Larry Sanders, constant rotation of a small collection of shows - did none of these things play a part?
Anyway, for what it's worth, we'll miss Play.
So, once more for my baby:
For letting us be in your house every night to entertain you. It's an honor and, uh, to tell you the truth, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do without you. Thank you so much.
God bless you, and you may now flip.

NO MORE PLAY: As their website says, Play UK has gone off the air - supposedly because of the closure of ITV Digital, which we think has the air of twang about it - lack of viewers, bad place in the Sky Digiguide, confusing comedy and music proposition, endearing but commercially suicidal habit of running evenings of non-stop Larry Sanders, constant rotation of a small collection of shows - did none of these things play a part?
Anyway, for what it's worth, we'll miss Play.
So, once more for my baby:
For letting us be in your house every night to entertain you. It's an honor and, uh, to tell you the truth, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do without you. Thank you so much.
God bless you, and you may now flip.

NO MORE PLAY: As their website says, Play UK has gone off the air - supposedly because of the closure of ITV Digital, which we think has the air of twang about it - lack of viewers, bad place in the Sky Digiguide, confusing comedy and music proposition, endearing but commercially suicidal habit of running evenings of non-stop Larry Sanders, constant rotation of a small collection of shows - did none of these things play a part?
Anyway, for what it's worth, we'll miss Play.
So, once more for my baby:
For letting us be in your house every night to entertain you. It's an honor and, uh, to tell you the truth, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do without you. Thank you so much.
God bless you, and you may now flip.

DISC COMPACT: Last week, you might recall, we coughed politely as the UK Music Industry (in the form of the BPI and Music Week) slapped itself on the back and preened that only some of their Cds were more expensive than the same item in Europe. We pointed out that that's still loads more than they are in the US. Well, this week, the labels and the US government have come to a payment schedule after the agreement that the record companies won't any more use their near-quinopoly to keep prices in North America artificially high. So, to make it simple for the people at Chrysalis: We're paying more in the UK for items in the US that are officially recognised as being overpriced. Tell us why we should be happy.

MORE HEARSAY: Bet they wish they'd listened to Mel C now, don't you?

STUDIO WET DREAMS: Will Smith. Jennifer Lopez. A Star Is Born - what could possibly go wrong?

IF WE HAVE ANY NEW YORK READERS: nme reckons there's a free White Stripes gig in New York Union Square Park today - October 1st - at noon. Go down and shout something about bras for us.

BLIMEY - IT ACTUALLY WORKS: We thought sitting here being snippy about under-performing wastes of vinyl was merely cathartic, but Hear'Say - in their valedictory interview with The Sun tell us that it actually works. The now-defunct band whine "they're tired of getting abuse from the public, which makes their lives "hell".:
Hmmm, the odd spot of snark and some people not liking you - who knew that popstars had to undergo that, eh? The thing is, this exposes the problem in flinging together bands and acts as a side-business to TV game shows: it's like buying cheap furniture - you get what you pay for, and what you're paying for isn't a group of people hungry for fame, determined to make music, desperate to sing to people. Those people don't use shortcuts like PopStars, as they'll have been out with guitars and tamborines since they were fourteen; those people don't get all flustered when someone goes "boo" when they walk on stage, as having a proper career arc would have toughened them up - you can cope better with rejection when an entire room has emptied when you've come on stage a few times.
Hear'Say, basically, won fame rather than worked for it, and they've treated it pretty much like Viv Nicholson handled her pools win - easy come, easy go. Roy Castle - a man who knew a thing or too about working your way up - used to observe that Dedication was what you needed. Without that, and getting your hands calloused on the way up, it's clear that you ain't gonna last long at the top.
Two months ago we were held up by a gunman and the next day people thought we had made it up as a publicity stunt.
"What kind of people think we would make that up?" wails Danny. Danny, sweetheart - you're popstars. Popstars pretend to be in love with Chris Evans, or Rod Stewart's ex, or that their bosses forced them to abort Robbie Williams Jr; or else the tabloids make up claims they've cut their dog's vocal chords or do it six times a night, or eight hours at a throw. Why should we believe you just because you've been on telly? It's probably best you give it up now.
Who knew, eh? There's no substitute for graft after all.

LIFE WITHOUT LIFE WITHOUT BUILDINGS: It may look fishy after Wisdom Goof are kind about us to link straight to a piece from them, but we hadn't heard that Life Without Buildings had split; and from the same five things, we can match their overheard comment about Ash - we were on a bus home last week when we heard someone say "They're okay, but they've got teenage hair. They've been going for about ten years with teenage hair. Teenage hair is alright when you're teenaged, but... they'll probably still have it when they're about forty...

Monday, September 30, 2002

NAPSTER TWANG: Napster mulling offers in the region of USD10million? Oh yeah?

CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER: More on the evil that Clear Channel do from the MusicDish , who report that the US radio conglomerate have announced that, in future, they'll deal only with three plugging companies for its black music stations. In the entire country. Now, you don't have to be a genius to see what the implications for local, new acts will be if a nationwide company is going to accept pitches from only three plugging companies. Nor, of course, that if this works in R&B, it'll be a policy adopted across all of Clear's stations in all genres. The knock-on effect has been the chosen lucky three promtion companies have celebrated their good fortune at this exclusive access by ramping up the prices they charge for their services. Naturally.
This is good for music... how, precisely? Again, this is the sort of thing that you'd imagine the RIAA would be up in arms about, but - of course - they're too busy fretting about Kenny T Student and his mix CD of Radiohead tracks to do anything about something that could royally screw their members up in a very short space of time.
Meanwhile, they'll be coming for us soon - MediaGuardian reports on the first stage in the next era in UK radio, where Chrysallis has just taken over LBC; the first move in the post-White Paper rationalisation.

TEN YEARS AFTER: The NME has just announced the tracklisting for One Love, the 50th anniversary CD where stars cover number ones from the last umpteen years in aid of charity. Here, elegantly cut and pasted from their website, is the rundown:
Starsailor - 'All Or Nothing' (The Small Faces, 1966)
Feeder - 'The Power Of Love' (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 1984)
Sugababes - 'Killer' (Adamski, 1990)
The Muse - 'House Of The Rising Son' (The Animals, 1964)
Stereophonics - 'Nothing Compares 2 U' (Sinead O' Connor, 1990)
Faithless/Dido - 'Dub Be Good 2 Me' (Beats International, 1990)
Oasis - 'Merry Xmas Everybody' (Slade, 1973)
Elbow 'Something In The Air' (Thunderclap Newman, 1969)
Ms Dynamite - 'Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) (Soul II Soul, 1989)
Manic Street Preachers - 'Out Of Time' (Chris Farlowe, 1966)
Badly Drawn Boy - 'Come On Eileen' (Dexy's Midnight Runners, 1982)
Prodigy - 'Ghost Town' (The Specials, 1981)
Jimmy Eat World - 'Firestarter' (Prodigy, 1996)
McAlmont And Butler - 'Back For Good' (Take That, 1995)
Darius - 'Pretty Flamingo' (Manfred Mann, 1966)
More Fire Crew -'Dreams' (Gabrielle, 1993)

Now, there's a couple of things there we'd like to hear - particularly the McAlmont/Butler Back For Good and we're curious to see what the More Fire Crew do to Gabrielle - but there's a sense of disappointment about the whole project - Oasis covering Slade isn't an event, it's almost their career; the Stereophonics are probably going to batter the life out of Prince's song and still think they're being emotionally raw; and Darius being there at all feels wrong (probably guarantee a few extra quid for charity, but even so...)

Compare this, though, with the NME's Ruby Trax, same idea, only ten years ago. Firstly, the ambition was greater - a triple album, featuring a range more top drawer acts than the new effort, and more space for surprises and delights - like the Mission taking on Atomic, EMF battering Joe Dolce and the Neds Never Being To Me. Indeed, the fact that so many artists chose to try and find the sublime in the throwaway suggests that the artists of the 90's were more attached to the charts and music in general back then; embracing the Top 40 for the quirks it used to throw up rather than scouring the list of number ones for something they could do which came with the credibility hard-wired. Yes, Sugababes doing Killer will be worth hearing, and their people have chosen a great tune for them, but wouldn't it have been better to get them doing Una Paloma Blanca? And yes, Ms Dynamite, you know your r&b history choosing Back To Life, but couldn't you have found space in your schedule to serve up The Chicken Song for charity?
Suggestion for your 60th, NME - get the bands, and put the songs in a hat. The random element will make for a spicier listen.
(That Ruby Trax listing in full:)
Disc 1
1. the wonder stuff - coz i luv you
2. billy bragg - when will i see you again?
3. the jesus and mary chain - little red rooster
4. the mission - atomic
5. the fatima mansions - (everything i do) i do it for you
6. st etienne - stranger in paradise
7. the wedding present - cumberland gap
8. aztec camera / andy fairweather-low - (if paradise is) half as nice
9. dannii minogue - show you the way to go
10. welfare heroine - where do you go to my lovely?
11. the blue aeroplanes - bad moon rising
12. senseless things - apache
13. teenage fanclub - mr tambourine man

Disc 2
1. another brick in the wall - carter usm
2. maggie may - blur
3. ashes to ashes - tears for fears
4. rock your baby - the house of love
5. i'm a believer - the frank & walters
6. shaddap you face - emf
7. brass in pocket - suede
8. ring my bell - tori amos
9. lady madonna - kingmaker
10. like a prayer - marc almond
11. don't you want me? - the farm
12. i've never been to me - ned's atomic dustbin
13. my sweet lord - boy george

Disc 3
1. jesus jones - voodoo chile
2. bob geldof - sunny afternoon
3. johhny marr & billy duffy - the good, the bad and the ugly
4. cud - down down
5. the fall - legend of xanadu
6. sinead o'connor - secret love
7. world party - world without love
8. inspiral carpets - tainted love
9. elektric music - baby come back
10. ride - the model
11. vic reeves - vienna
12. tin machine - go now
13. curve - i feel love
14. manic street preachers - suicide is painless

DEAF AS A POST: Phil Collins has announced he's pulling out of touring, as he fears unpleasant loud noises could make him go permanently deaf. The punchlines pretty much write themselves, don't they?

NO WAY, NO WAY: Last week, we were watching VH1's 100 Worst Videos of All Time (the winner, unfairly, was Wired For Sound by Cliff Richard - come on, it was 1981; technology was so low-fi we were excited by Walkmen, for crying out loud - it might look creaky now, but it stacks up besides most stuff from the time pretty well) and we came across a track called No Way, No Way by a band called Vanilla. Now, this is more like it - 1997, and still stuck with no ideas other than pointing a camera at a group of girls in horrid clothes (day glo crop tops and bikini bottoms; nobody matching anybody - nobody matching themselves); stood by a swimming pool singing a piece of fluffy nothing that was built around "mna-mna" from the muppets. Like gallstones, we found it hard to get the pain out of our bodies, and so just iddly googled on them, discovering that not only are they still around, but - perhaps shrewdly as it turned out - the band discovered Marx and announced they weren't in pop to make money. Bizarre publicity seekers? Really 'riot grrls on a pop platform'? Really about to re-release No Way No Way? Now, we're curious...

HOW CAN YOU BLAME THIS ON PEER TO PEER: Evidence from the Denver Post that this year's concert ticket sales have been worse than rubbish gives more creedence to the popular belief that the decline in record sales has been because the music has been less than inspiring ratehr than due to any downloading by the kids. If concert sales were rising while record sales were falling, then there'd be something wrong. However, falling ticket sales, and less recorded music being bought... that might suggest that the industry and not the consumers is at fault. Again.
We keep saying this, and we'll keep saying it.

IN ANOTHER CITY: By all accounts this year's Tony Wilson music yakfest In The City was the duffest since the start of the UK's answer to Midem, SXSW and the rest was created. Hmmm, you wonder why record execs can sytill find the cash for a jaunt to Cannes or New York but just can't scrape the readies together for a September weekend in Salford. Anyway, another attempt to get the British Music Industry to stop from standing outside PC World with placards is coming up in the form of Music Works, which kicks off at Halloween in Glasgow. While the seminars planned are interesting-enough sounding - why tracks get chosen for TV ads, who killed music TV - the confirmed participants don't really sound like they're going to persuade people to run the risk of Virgin West Coast come the clocks going back - £175 to hear the Shadow Minister for Culture. Does anyone actually know who he is?
There probably is room for one good UK music conference. There doesn't seem to be demand or material to keep two going.

THE GOOD DOG: Apparently, the Labour Party have been known to ring Damon Albarn up and asked him to not make the political statements he's been making (this according to Alex, writing in this week's New Statesman.) So, are we to conclude that the Blair machine would rather our popstars behave like this, instead: "I don't understand all these pop stars saying 'We should have a democratic debate about the war' opinion means nothing. The people in the White House can change this, I play guitar in a band and we're really good. Arsed about anything else."
Gallagher Brothers, Inc - the good men willing to do nothing:

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