Wednesday, January 15, 2003

What the pop papers say: Eccentrics and guns edition

The real shame of the GQ retouching of Kate Winslet's picture, of course, is that instead of noticing the wonderful corset, we can't help but wonder why her leg appears to have been twisted - has she had an accident with a threshing machine? Was it some bizarre punishment for that terrible, terrible single she inflicted on us last Christmas?

We do think that David Lister might need to calm down a bit, though. Writing in the Independent about Kategate, he pondered "What would Stalin have done if he'd had access to photoshop?" Possibly locked the Adobe staff up in a gulag, or maybe spent his days peacefully pasting flat caps onto kittens for the delight of visitors? Who can say?

The new Mojo is supposed to be dedicated to English eccentrics, but the most nuts statement comes from an American, Chuck D: "Losing Jam Master Jay to a murder was, maybe, not quite John Lennon, but it was like as if Ringo and George Harrison both got hit at the same time." Prizes on offer for anyone able to use the Chuck D formula to express the death of Maurice Gibb in terms of members of the Velvet Underground.

Talking of whom, Lou Reed reveals how he stays heroin-thin now he's off the skag: Chen Tai Chi. We could make a snark, but he might hit us.

"Girls would come into our hotel room and leave, bored" claims Carlos Santana. Maybe you should have tried shagging them rather than playing your dreary music to them?

There's a nice retrospective on Lonnie Donegan, who based his career on having "a nymphomaniac girlfriend whose Dad owned a pub" - although, to be honest, we can't work out where he found the time to make music with that combination on offer. One of his colleagues complains "When Lonnie had the hits, kids jumped on the bandwagon thinking it was easy [while] Lonnie went on to become an all-round entertainer. That's why skiffle died." Proving that not only did skiffle create the template for british rock music for the following fifty years, but also invented the whiney indie-kid who hates His Music getting popular.

The parade of bonkers English people is a joy. The fifty best eccentric english albums includes Viv Stanshall, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Robin Gibb, XTC, Pulp and the Auteurs, while the artists featured are almost guaranteed top copy. Jarvis Cocker claims "as far as the English love of cross-dressing, I've never dressed up as a woman" before going on to hymn the delights of Reg Varney in drag and describe The Last Day of the Miners Strike as a John Lennon song he dreamed; XTC's Andy Partridge snorts in disgust at Robbie Williams - "basically Norman Wisdom" he reckons; in a rare appearance in interview - or, indeed, daylight - Lawrence from Felt/Denim tells of his struggle with rock: "I couldn't even say 'rock and roll' for years." There's a piece on Vashti Bunyan who "failed completely to bring my own quiet songs into pop music" so she ran away. When Ewan MacColl heard her demo, he told her to "beware of the ephemeral", which scared her because she really believed he was talking about a monster; The Coral reveal they're a six piece because they kept adding members until they reached the size of the Beachs Boys and Love.

The main English Nutter, of course, is Kate Bush, who gives a revealing interview to go with the racy swimsuit-and-corsetry photosession that makes the cover. Okay, maybe not, but there's lots of good use of archive (EMAP finally wising up to the value of the Record Mirror and Sounds archive they bought when they took 'em over and closed 'em down) and some nice stories - Baboshka and Breathing took a week each to record, Kate singing them over and over until they were right. David Munns of EMI is probably already being carpeted for saying "She's precious - I want her to be the way she is" rather than insisting she delivers a new album now and gets herself in shape for FHM. Great, one person in the entire fucking music industry who cares about the artists and their work, and he has to be the one dealing with Kate Bush.

Mojo's reviews include glimpses of 4,766 seconds (a Teenage Fanclub retrospective) and Pavement's magnificently loopy 2-CD reissue of Slanted and Enchanted - the Luxe and Reduxe edition. See, not all Froot Loops come from Albion.

Heat's lead story - its cover - is that Jade (who won Big Brother about a lifetime ago) had changed her hair colour. As a magazine, you can just smell the microwave meals for one when you pick it up, can't you?

Like Liberty X, NME comes clad in tight plastic; like Liberty X, its for no real reason. Yes, it's Bring It On week again - The Thrills are on the cover; The Raveonettes reveal they signed the biggest deal for a Danish band, ever (eclipsing, um, probably Hans Christian Andersen); The Bandits... they're just scary, aren't they?; Taproot and Raging Speedhorn make up the numbers and the arrival of Electric 6 is heralded by them admitting Danger High Voltage is, indeed, about kissing and touching and asking how much money they can make while they're here. It's actually quite a nice edition, actually, but the question is: How come the whole of the next month's gigs are considered, and there's not a single non-white face in the entire magazine?

Thank God for Eminem. He's not black, of course, but he's got black friends, right? And he's on the cover of the nme proper. Looking about twelve years old, actually.

The news pages - now living in a terrible interregnum while the woman from the Daily Star finishes up over there; they've not even bothered to give Julian Marshall "acting news editor" status - start with a picture of a music shop with the entire Hip Hop Vinyl section removed. "Is this the future?" asks a doom-ladened headline. Um... no? The paper then goes on to challenge us to imagine a world with no hip-hop. It isn't hard to do, of course - you can just flip through Bring It On. There is, of course, a serious assault on music freedom gathering on the fringes of the Home Office and in the garden suburbs. It's a pity the nme feels the need to sensationalise the issue - 'David Blunkett said he wanted a hand in deciding "what is and isn't acceptable" subject matter for artists to record songs about' claims page three; on page four the full quote (from Jeremy Vine's show) shows he didn't actually say that, just that he wants to open a debate with record producers, distributors and "those actually engaged in the music business about what is and isn't acceptable" - you could argue that expressing (out of touch) views is what a Home Secretary exists to do, but to suggest that that's on a par with Blunkett calling for the power to veto tracks is just misreporting. A sidebar lists "what Blunkett Might Introduce" - including restriction of sales of certain albums to certain age groups; 'Parental advisory stickers tailored exclusively for the UK market' and "a law outlawing the release of any records that aren't 'acceptable.'" Well, yes, Blunkett might introduce those measures. He might also introduce imprisonment for possession of a stereo system with more than one turntable, a law banning the use of Sting samples on records, and stop and search for people suspected to packing CDs. But he hasn't actually proposed any of these things, either. What's worse is that one of the things "Blunkett might introduce" according to nme - the parental advisory stickers - erm, is already here, and has been for years. The music industry operates a voluntary code of stickering product with saucy or violent material - just like in the states. The paper snorts at Jay-Z being held up as an example of the danger to our youths - "Jay-Z's the Blueprint 2: The gift and the curse [...] peaked in the UK charts at 56 and dropped out of the Top 100 within a fortnight... such a showing would be seem unlikely (sic) to influence a cultural shift in britain." In which case, should we forget what we read about that new rock revolution, then, until those bands sell in Houston-like quantities?

In effect, its nice to see that the nme can still work up a fuss; it's just a pity that it's tilting at a tabloid obsession that has already rolled on - ricin is the new guns, people - and by exaggerating just what the threat is. There's no doubt that Blunkett would probably happily accept powers to veto every record released in the UK, and we know for a fact that every Sunday Kim Howells sits down and decides which records he'd put on Top of the Pops, but there's more than enough reason to attack Blair and his b-list without Making Things Up. As editor Conor McNicholas points out - in a beautiful, photo-bylined "The editor speaks" column insisting that "this possible future cannot be allowed to happen" - "it's also entirely unworkable", what with the internet and all. Right. Well, then, let's just ensure that this future - simultaneously possible and impossible - must never happen, in this or any other possible universe.

Other news: 3D is planning to take more adverts out in the NME against war in Iraq - doubtless IPC will try and persuade him to take over sponsorship of Bring It On as well; Lamacq's replacement "a hit with listeners", says copied-out news release from Radio One press office; "girls distraught over rumours of Fabrizio Moretti's engagament to Drew Barrymore" - true, there's a hell of a lot broken hearted lesbians at the moment; Ian Brown is going to appear in the next Harry Potter movie - "he's doing a screen test for a speaking role, but if that doesn't work out he'll get a bit part" - so, that's a bit part, then; Mock Turtles reforming off the back of Vodaphone campaign - which means, I'm afraid, that Mitsubishi ad with 'Joy' on it will probably lead to Gay Dad getting back together; "I won't wear skanky clothes that show off my booty, my belly or boobs" says avril Lavigne - nicely run next to a picture of her at the MTV Video Awards with her crop top and bar showing through (good work, picture department)

Wayne Coyne is this week's CD making man - Bowie doing Heroes; jackson doing Beat It; Missy doing Work It.

"The most hotly anticipated movie of the year" proclaims nme of 8 Mile, forgetting the third lord of the rings, the new harry potter, two Matrix flicks, chicago and, the Bridget Jones follow-up. The Gangs of New York, Star Trek Nemesis and Chicago. Oh, and Maid In Manhattan. Hilariously, the paper then tries to find Britain's 8 Mile - "where the 'Hood ends and Suburbia begins" - Princes Park Avenue is nominated for Liverpool, which means either we live in Suburbia or the hood. Hmmm.

There's a pull out and keep Hot List of the Greatest New Bands - and remember, the kids, under new nme rules, anything less than two weeks in the lower reaches of the album chart constitutes Failure - plugging Kings of Leon (hair rock); The Kills (the Kills); Dashboard Confessional ("thoroughbred emo"); The Hiss ("we're attacking rock and roll like invincible zombies"); Jet ("the antipodean Oasis"); The Warlocks ("music to take drugs to" - the drugs, alas, are not specified); The Sleepy Jackson (more australiana - remember, this is the year of New Ayers Rock or something); AFI (dom-rock); Clipse (token non-white act - erm, sorry "hustlers of hip-hop"); The Basement (on the basis that if Oz rock doesn't take off, there's always The New New New Merseybeat to fall back on). They ask stars who'd they'd like to see on the cover of the nme - strangely and delightfully, Mozzer answers (The Thrills, as it turns out) which surely must be the first time he's spoken to the NME in years, apart from screaming "He's not at home, stop calling" down the phone? Roddy Woomble wants to see Conor Oberst on the cover of the nme. We want to see Roddy and Conor, stripped and naked, writhing as they struggle to pleasure each other using hands, mouths, feet, in a small glen, bathed in sunlight and filled with whipping cream and jam. We suspect we may come closer to getting our wish. There's a summary of how they did last year - pretty well, it has to be admitted (The Streets, BRMC, Coral. Ms Dynamite, The Vines and, um, Fischerspooner) - but it just makes this year's models seem even more single note than ever.

the raveonettes - whip it on "its clammy blues will give you shivers too", 7
kula shaker - kollected - the best of - "[their] back catalogue means precisely nothing", 1

sotw - jay-z - '03 bonny and clyde - hang about, where were we reading that Jay-Z was "unlikely to influence a cultural shift in britain" recently? Oh, yeah, page 4.
the flaming lips - yoshimi battles the pink robots -"a beauty"
tiga - man hrdina - "departs from the formula into hard and slightly dull spooky electro-house"

the music - middlesborough town hall - "destined for even greater stages"
the libertines - valencia roxy discoteca - "out of this world"

and, finally, back to the gun debates with nme-mail. The most pressing argument in favour of everyone being armed is the look of fear on Jarvis' face when he's being kissed by a strange stalky woman in that sub-Smash Hits "pictures of me and someone famous i once met" bit.

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