Wednesday, February 19, 2003

What the pop papers say: Anglo-American edition

Working through the pile of American magazines on the sidetable:

There’s something slightly sweet about Hilary Rosen’s attempts through Wired to make us hate her slightly less. Firstly, she tries to prove that she’s not an enemy of the music fan by saying that she’s good mates with, amongst other people, Tipper Gore - well, that’s me won over then. I had assumed Rosen merely to be a slightly neurotic fool doing the wrong thing but believing it to be right. But if she’s hanging out with Tipper, the woman who founded the bloody PMRC, then I have to coclude she’s actually some sort of robotic monster who is set about pulling the world to pieces. There’s an attempt to suggest that there’s something homophobic about the attacks on Rosen; this might be but - genuinely - I had no idea up until now that she was capable of love at all, much less the one that has trouble speaking its name. The vignette of Rosen’s partner sitting at home throwing things at the TV the night Hil hung out with Eminem at the Grammys is interesting, too - I don’t personally think that Eminem is the gay basher many would hope he is, and so I don’t agree with her objections, but what does it say about a person who cares so little for lover’s opinion that she’d go and shake hands with someone who reduced that lover to a impotent rage? That Hilary can happily leave her siggy other to break bread with the enemy gives a glimpse into the Commerce-First mind of a woman who wants to prosecute individuals for file sharing. The sooner she goes, the happier the music world will be.

Copyright is the focus of the rather wonderful Stay Free. Its curious how a title which teaches ‘beware of big media’ is so quick to accept as fact some of the curious claims of the wilder edges of the press - to support the Stay Free contention that we’re all having our minds sucked by the media, press cuttings are trotted out ‘proving’ the case. At least two of them are nonesense - one which says that in that terrible Manchester case where the girl was tortured and burned to death by a gang, one of the gang members kept repeating the Childs Play “I’m Chucky - wanna play?” mantra (actually, the court heard that the rave track which sampled the line had been played constantly to the girl while she was tortured - although not any more pleasant, it rather removes the causal link between film and violence) and another which reports, oddly, that fourteen people died in England copying two rugby stars shown in an advert leaping off a waterfall. Really? The summer of waterfall death jumps seems to have passed me by somehow. The rest I can’t comment on, but...

Still, that’s quibbling with what is otherwise an impressive study of the bid to stop information being free like it wants to. Most fascinating is the suggestion that the glut of rap tracks which lazily take an entire riff and sing some new lyrics over it - think Puff Daddy’s Every Breath You Take, Sam Mumba’s demolition derby of Ashes to Ashes - are also the fault of copyright tightening - it’s just too much effort to clear any track which attempts to build a new song from snatches of dozens of tunes, the old new art of sampling, so what actually gets through is stuff that requires little more than a single phone call and one contract being faxed.

Of course, copyrights and wrongs are one thing; but its sex that’s exercising the minds of the true Punk and Goth thinkers right now. Punk Planet’s cover story is ‘Punk Porn’, an investigation into the profileration of ‘alternative’ nude sites on the web. “Is it really punk” worries Jim Horwatt “or is it just a load of girls with red hair and their tits out?” Of course, what the likes of really represent is about as punk as those postcards of Matt Belgrano are punk. Jim misses the point and frets too much about how punk the girls are, when really the question should be: how punk is the distribution? The worry is not so much that women are taking their clothes off - c’mon, surely we’re past the idea that cunts and breasts shouldn’t be shared if their owners so choose? - but that even while a DIY route is perfectly possible through the internet, something akin to an AOL Time Warner has sprung up. What we should be seeing is a website which doesn’t select girls, but just stands there and says “we’ll provide a search engine, and a billing and paying mechanism; anyone - boy, girl, other - can use our service.” The place to be angry isn’t that suicidegirls and others are pretending their valley girls are punk or goth when they might actually be Avril fans, but that they’re setting down the rules about who should be seen. Surely what we need is a true punk erotica - one which is open to anyone who wants to take part; not a system which would have been the musical equivalent of The Damned being told “come back when you can play.”

Clamour also has its g-string up its butt about sex, as apparently people have been cancelling subscriptions over the cover of its “lets talk about sex” issue. I think they got it wrong, but for reasons other than they seem to think. “Putting sexy, appealing women on the cover is a controversy. it is certainly un-PC... are we stooping to the level of Maxim and Hustler? Are we attempting to sell with sex?” Well... yes. See, there’s thousands of sexy images you could have used for your mission to reclaim sexiness and celebrate the joy of the moist and shaggy. Choosing two scantily clad, conventionally pretty women - ooh, with piercings - is a lame cop out. If you really wanted to say “it’s okay to be sexual”, how about selecting an image from the ranks of people who never get their sexual selves validated by magazines covers - the people who don’t have pert tits and/or six packs?

Elsewhere in Clamour, Chuck D pops up to tallk about how he doesn’t believe in albums anymore, dismissing his soon-come album project as something done to “comply with the offline option.” Really, if the RIAA had its wits about them, they’d be begging Chuck to take a small office in their organisation.

Knee-jerking elsewhere, Bust probably have a Quark Xpress file saved on their hard drive which says “Music Issue” and always opens with a Le Tigre cover. While Kathleen Hanna must have inspired thousands of women to rock, you have to wonder if the apparent monopoly that Le Tigre now have on Feminist Rock is starting to work against that effect - that Le Tigre is all, and all that can be known? In short, have Le Tigre become the Beatles to Women-In-Rock’s Liverpool? There’s also a curiosity - asked why they think so many women are getting involved in electronic music, rather than snort back “because the producers like to face up dance tracks with girls in short skirts” or say “because they like it”, Jo’s response is “because it doesn’t have to be produced live.” Her point seems to be that it leaves you time to dance to concentrate on your performance art, but it comes across sounding a lot more like “... because you only have to press a button.”

It also turns out Joan Jett has a ‘what would Joan Jett do?” tshirt and they talk to Marianne Faithfull and Missy Elliot too. It’s not a bad issue at all, just relying on Le Tigre is a bit over-obvious.

Venus, meanwhile, gives its cover space to Aimee Mann but then suggests that the Gore Gore Dolls are “one of the few stick it to the male acts in rock and roll” - as someone said about someone else, yes, because the way men stop young girls wearing short skirts is so unfair. Miss Kittin reports how she refused GM the rights to use one of her tracks because she didn’t want to be playing music that had its roots in detroit while taking cash from the company that fucked the motor industry and the city up. Venus also found a more interesting point at which women, punk and the web intersect - Rocking Rina’s World of 1970’s Women in Punk.

Oddly, Resonance might come from Seattle, but its main interviews (Badly Drawn Boy and Doves) gives it an eerie feel of being a better resourced City Life. There’s also space for Sing-Sing, though, which is more than you can say of most British magazines, although Emma tries to make a brave face when she observes that the band have never quite fitted into any one of the NME’s ever-changing scenes.

Filter give five pages to Coldplay. Naturally, a lot of photography is called for to fill the thinky-gaps this leaves. Meanwhile, Johnny Marr announces “I’ve seen the death of idealism masquerading as pragmatism while Siouxsie contradicts the Le Tigre party line by enthusing about the current tour - she might “come off [stage] like a wet rag” but “there’s something liberating about not having to rely on backing. Tapes or loops or samples... you’re restricted by those. They can be a crutch.” But Siouxsie, they set you free to concentrate on your mime...

Anyway, back to Britain - The Big Issue has got a lumpen piece on Mel C; we’re pleased to see her back but would someone please try and talk to her like she’s intelligent rather than treating her like she’s Emma Bunton?

And the NME. The cover is Chris Martin and Noel Gallagher. Yes, it’s the awards special, and as ever the awards makes me feel like Pop Papers is badly missing the point - if this is what the readers value, why waste effort worrying about the quality of a magazine whose readers have such lumpen tastes?

News is mainly awards-flavoured: Noel damned Ryan as a “fucking lightweight” because he was too ill to perform - although Gallagher insisted he’d only play if a string quartet backed him, which suggests that he’s some sort of ponce to us. Graham Coxon expressed mild surprise that he’s been replaced by someone from the Verve as a member of Blur; Nas defends the violence of rap because it “reflects a violent world” and praised Eminem for educating us - which is true, I’d never have thought of just tying my girlfriend up in the trunk so as to increase her suffering when i drove off the bridge; Tenacious D are making a movie - oh, good. I really can’t wait. Hendrix’s body has been moved to a giant marble dome to mark what would have been his sixtieth birthday - that’s going to give the 27th Century archaeologists something to puzzle over - “some sort of space emperor, we think”; Courtney is going to go after Eminem for being “stupid and sexist” - it’s unclear if she’ll do this naked or dressed as a giant duck, of course, but you can look at several pictures of her in her underwear in the news pages while you guess. Clearly, importing a news editor from the stable that produces half of Britain’s pornography mountain was an inspired choice for the nme; Spector’s defence is going to be that it was all a terrible accident - I didn’t realise my skull was loaded, presumably...

Turin Brakes do the CD choicey choicey - Cranebuilders, Neil Young, Talk Talk

Hot Hot Heat are asked to choose what’s Hot or Not - because of their name, see? If you’re a band, you might want to call yourself Pick of the Whores on this basis. Hot things include Bandages (their album) and coffee; Not is all television and the Bob Dylan debate. Got that?

The Sights worry that a lot of bands are jumping on the rock bandwagon. Really?

Those awards, then: Hero - ozzy; TV show - The Osbournes; best live venue - the astoria; haircut - liam; dressed - thye hives; website - (you really have no shame); event - reading/leeds

Oasis get nme artist of the year and best Uk band - Noel picks the Stands as a band to watch for next year, thereby giving the “Gallagher kiss of death” that has claimed so many acts over the years, and is the only reason why Digsy and Smaller aren’t picking up one of the finger-shaped awards this year, we reckon.

Coldplay’s Rush of blood picks up nme album and best album (it’s worth having the two awards, isn’t it?)

Libertines are best new band (“we’re just a bit bewildered” - well, a poll that values the Tines and Coldfuckingplay is a bit of a headfuck, isn’t it?)

Ryan ‘earache’ Adams is best solo artist - this year, he says, “my head has been so far up my ass” but this isn’t self awareness of what a twat he’s turned into, just that he thinks he’s been paying too much attention to his album to see what else is out there.

The Vines get best single, but don’t turn up - see! Cracking up, aren’t they? Ha! But Doves get best nme single but wandered off before the award was presented, which is cooler

Polyphonic Spree got the ‘fuck me award for innovation’ - but then a paper impressed by Andrew WK will stand with its jaw agape at anything from a monkey on a bicycle upwards

On Band ... sorry, Hot New Band of the year are the yeah yeah yeahs - with them and the Libertines getting the “new” prizes, why will we be here next year reporting Gallagher and Martin picking up the big prizes again?

Godlike geniuses the rest of the Clash showed up, and tutted over the way the bands on the night had had a great platform and, um, didn’t do anything with it. “Bands today have no consciences” fretted Mick. Doesn’t Kate Moss look like Shirley Manson these days?

The Jackass people were there, but I’m afraid thats the sort of thing we have to put up with these days.

50 cent - get rich or die tryin’ - “grimy, fearelessly boastful tales of new york street hustling”, 8
appleton - everything’s eventual - “utterly absorbing... whether the world will listen is another matter”, 7
echoboy - giraffe - “the cure being eaten by a dalek”, 5

sotw - junior senior - move your feet - “pure pop sunshine”
zwan - honestly - “dreamy bauble of psychdelia”
nick cave - bring it on - “nick delivers the word ‘chrysanthemums’ like there’s a pack of wolves at his heels”
the darkness - get your hands off my woman - “welcome them like sons”

nme awards shows:
afi - there isn’t a dark soul wihtout their hands in the air”
face tomorrow - “polite angst”
80s matchbox bline disaster - “shouldn’t be out allowed their cages”
idlewild - “the band they always promised they could be”
ladytron - “they officially rock, then”
ikara colt - “you don’t have to talk common to talk rock and roll”

and, that’s it. Next week, it’s the White Stripes. Maybe 2003 can get going, then...
[slightly delayed - the google takeover of blogger seems to have slowed things down a bit...]

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