Wednesday, July 30, 2003

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: The ghost of Paul Weller edition

It's taken us a while to get round to the current edition of Word, because of Paul Weller being on the cover. There's a place for Paul Weller, a place where he fits and is right and proper; it's the 1980's. Ever since then he's had the air of a crossbencher in the House of Lords - still hanging about in the corridors of power, but without a real role; existing purely on the victories of the past. There is not a Jam or Style Council track that isn't worth a barroom fight to defend the honour of; there isn't a solo release that wouldn't have been put to better use had the plastic been turned into a bottle.

The rest of Word is larded with gems, though: Kristanna Loken is asked if she recognises herself on the cover of Maxim - the terminator three star is pretty fine with undoing her shirt and whacking her tits out, she knows that it's all part of the marketing game. Although she does seem to think it makes a difference that she's on the Movie spin-off of Maxim and not the ordinary edition; maybe it might have a little more about itself, but it's hardly Cahiers Du Cinema, is it?

Shaun Ryder pins down an important difference between Old Pop and New Pop - without realising it - when he says "we never wanted to be famous, we wanted to be in a band" - the precise opposite, you just know, of Cheryl Tweedy.

Clare Grogan tells of why she wasn't in the later seasons of Red Dwarf - after series six, the producers sent her a note suggesting that they felt "kochanski should remain forever young" - it's interesting that this wasn't felt necessary for Craig Charles, or indeed the scripts, which aged quite terribly from that point.

It turns out that buskers on London Underground are now "official" and "sponsored by Carling." While it's kind of nice that the Underground has at least stopped trying to hound them off the network, there's something depressing about corporate sponsorship reaching down into the sounds of the street.

Candace Bushnell believes that what makes Sex & The City so popular is that it tells stories which could only happen in New York; a rare case of a writer not having any idea what she's tapping into. If her tales resonated only within the area covered by JFK, then her series would only hit ratings gold in New York. We wonder if she simply doesn't realise that people fuck in other places, too; and that even in Boise, Idaho, men behave like shits.

"The biggest trap of bands from Nashville" sigh Venus Hum "is the pressure to pretend they're not from here." Contrast with Gillian Welch, who's not from Nashville, but moved there because it "held this romantic appeal for me... never mind that [I arrived] forty years too late."

Word knows why its important that Holly Golightly really is called that. This is why we like Word.

Marina Topley-Bird reads His Dark Materials; Emilia Fox loves Cake (the band); and Michelle Heaton from Liberty X thinks "2 Fast 2 Furious is fantastic. the last thing she read was Sweet Valley High. When she was fifteen. You just sob.

Barry Manilow's rider stipulates that, on the day of a gig, his fan club will be allowed to come in at eleven in the morning to decorate the dressing room. We've often thought that being a Manilow-maniac is on a par with being in a church; it now turns out they have a flower rota too, then.

On a similar note, Destiny's Child actually have an official preacher. Blimey. In his appreciation of Beyonce, Ross Jones suggests that those who call Beyonce a diva are wrong; he invokes Harold ayes description for her: an unknowable.

Over in the New Statesman, there's that walking example of the difference between diva and unknowable; Boy George files the diary. "I always find the most interesting programmes are on very late" he trills "when most civilised people are sleeping. Does Channel 4 know that insomniacs are mostly homosexual?" George has been watching repeats, apparently totally unaware of the fact. His entire diary - what I watched on telly, oooh, I'm so gay, I am - read like the sort of popbitch post that deserves to get the 'wanker' backing slapped on him for all eternity.

The NME has The Darkness on the cover. For the second time in a handful of months, it turns out that there isn't actually an interview to go with this - the Darkness weren't impressed with Mr. Conor begging forgiveness in Glastonbury and are refusing to speak to them. So it is that the issue is lead with a bunch of bits knocked up from the cuttings and a shit - no, actually, that's being too kind - 'how to dress like Justin' feature. It's a pity, isn't it? They can swan in and get access to Andrew WK or Har Mar, and nobody gives a shit. The kids want to read about The Darkness, and there they have a problem.

Mind you, it's not obvious that the paper would want an interview anyway - the main news this week is apparently "Jack White Goes Out With His Girlfriend Rennee Zwelleger"; there's an equally sub-Heat full page given to Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, dressed up as an investigation into whether Chris is "cracking up" (clue: No, no he isn't). The craparazi overtones are augmented by a piece on Kate Moss. Now, we love Kate Moss, but 'Kate hangs out with indie stars" isn't much of a story, you know - now, the one about her, one indie rock star and a nearly-star and the bottom, that would be a story. Otherwise? It's Kate Likes Indie. Pretty much Select circa 1993, then. Except they're not calling them "indie stars" any more; the obsession with nme branding has lead to the ridiculous phrase "rising NME stars" making an appearance in the reportage, as if bands are there because of the NME, and not vice-versa; any week this would be laughable, in the week of the No Exclusive Darkness Interview, it's wearing-a-novelty-jersey pathetic.

The absolute nadir of the 'news' this week is a report which is, basically, this:

Chris Cester had sex!!!! With a lady!!!!!!!!!!! In an aeroplane!!!!!!!!!!!

... oh, and we're supposed to believe that people thought that Ell and Bow, the Elbow-promoting statues, were aliens. No, we rather think they were taken down from the side of the motorway because they were distracting drivers, not because passers-by thought the good people of Mars had come to town.

There are a couple saving graces: a preview of the soon-come Cooper Temple Clause album, and a fascinating interview with a (probably pissed) Fran Healy as he turns thirty. He starts off plain wrong - "if New York was a character in a TV show, it'd be the Fonz" and then talks about Travis' exciting new political direction. He believes that "if you're an artist, all you can be is the coal miner's canary; you're the early warning system." So, what is Fran giving us an early warning about? That Bush is bad. Thanks for the heads-up, Fran - good job someone brought that to our attention before he did something bad. "The people who've not understood Travis seem to be pretenders; pretending they're cool" claims Healy. This is a wonderful piece of solipsism: note how it's not people who don't like Travis; they are merely people who don't understand. Splendidly, Fran still bears a massiv egrudge against mark beaumont, for a review he wrote of the Man Who three thousand years ago. Healy still goes online to read it from time to time, to stoke his ire anew. That's Healy at thirty: a man divorced of reality; building up a little stockpot of bitterness and totally out of his depth. Smashing.

Please, nme, if you do nothing else, stop the Bing Crosby/David Bowie "comic strip". I've been hoping that if I ignore it, it'll go away. Clearly it won't. It's not even misfiring; it's just devoid of any element of humour at all. Make it stop.

NME readers "claim the Mercury Prize is the new Brits" says a splash. This is apparently because, erm, 80s Matchbox B-Line disaster weren't nominated. The suggestion that the award is like the Brits - an obvious and safe way of slapping the backs of the cash-successful - would make a little more sense if the same page didn't also have a piece complaining about the inclusion of acts nobody's ever heard of. So what is it: too mainstream, or not mainstream enough?

The Futureheads do the CD - Loudon Wainwright III, the Velvet Underground and Kate Bush.

The Bumblebeez piece is little more than a list of famous people they know, but Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba is given a bit more consideration - "I live life to the fullest, butI also relive life to the fullest" he claims. He's read 1984 and Brave New Word a dozen times teach, which suggests its time someone bought him a copy of Farenheit 451.

The Hiss article has got a fascinating story at its heart - how the strain of producing the debut album and being the only girl in a boy's band led to Mahjula having a breakdown (in Gatwick's HMV of all places), but beyond the details, the humanity is lost; the headline '£800 a week on coke, a psycho bassist and Oasis' producer' sums up how the human interest has been thrown out to make way for the 'phew, rock and roll' angle.

soledad brothers - voice of treason - "forget jack white and his sore finger", 8
various - gone fishing (the wichita birthday compilation) -"all for under three quid", 7
the faint - danse macarbe remixes - "mostly, it's a success", 7
martina topley-bird - quixotic - "dinner parties", 5
the clientele - the violet hour - "music to take drugs to make music to take drugs to", 8

sotw - the raveonettes - that great love sound - "the art of attaining an erection"

supergrass - rush hour soul - "still very 1974"
ten speed racer - fifteen - "wasted potential, like a man with a ten inch penis suffering from impotence"

duran duran - LA Roxy - "still the coolest band on Planet Earth - Duran the way god intended"
holly golightly - oxford bullingdon arms - "people actualy dancing and smiling"

the stupid picture of a slack-jawed reader and a micro celeb feature is still running, even although Vodaphone has got bored with sponsoring it and given up.

And finally: the London Centre of Contemporary Music (who we shall call "the shadowy" LCCM until such time as we are told different) is looking for a band to use as the heart of its projects for the coming year - they'll get studio time, promotion and many support slots. Hey, it worked for Belle and Sebastian.

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