Wednesday, August 20, 2003

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Feeling queasy for all sorts of reasons edition

Oh, yeah, food poisoning. We've never used that one, Kelly. Writing in her diary in Heat, Kelly Osbourne, who plays the daughter in TV sitcom My Family (may need to fact check this) has claimed that it was eating shellfish at Elton John's that led to the "illness" which made her cancel her UK dates: "I went to stay at Elton John's in the South of France with Mum and Jack. We had dinner and we had shellfish. I spent the next two days with the shits and throwing up everywhere." Unpleasant, perhaps, but that's no reason to describe Elton, Sharon and Jack as "the shits", is it? Kelly confirms that she's going to push on with the whole singing thing, with grim determination (the determination hers; the grimness ours) and is going to try and spark some interest by dueting with Daddy. So, having been given a singing contract because of him, she's now going to try and use him to salvage it. Even a drugged-out shell like Ozzy has his uses.

Is it just us, or is there something a little icky about the Rolling Stone Olsen Twins cover story - "America's favourite fantasy"? We know that they're now, strictly speaking, legal in many US states, but there's just something not quite right about the way they're being sexualised. Yeah, they're legal, barely, but... maybe we could try and not start blurring the boundaries quite so much?

In Monday's Media Guardian, Jane Johnson, editor of Closer (i.e. EMAP's Heat-like product for the Mark One shopper) crows about her title's success and puts a brave face on their low place in the celeb pecking order:

"We wanted to give our readers a real insight into celebrities' lives. To tell it like it is. This doesn't mean that we spit-roast our stars, it just means we are not afraid to admonish Catherine Zeta-Jones for her vain court case or to berate George Best for pushing the self-destruct button." (Translation: Since the snooty Zeta-Jones would no more think of talking to Closer than she would serve Mellow Birds at the end of a dinner party, it doesn't matter if we piss her off or not. And George Best is going to be dead soon anyway)

"But we give praise where it's due - and we will often stick up for the underdog. When Kylie is going through the emotional wringer yet again after another disastrous romance, we want her to come out fighting. (I just hope she appreciates it!)" (Translation: Kylie's people also represent the sort of people we rely on for interviews). If Kylie Minogue is an underdog, what the hell does that make Dannii?

"We have led the way on the break-up of Sadie Frost and Jude law's relationship" (... or at least done our best to bring it about); "We broke the story that Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer were having a baby" (by reading the Australian papers?); "And it's thanks to Closer that you now know that Posh and Becks have matching jewel-encrusted whips. Yes, celebs have sex lives too - although their agents don't want us to know that." The editor of a tittle-tattle magazine thinks it's going to be a surprise to readers that Famous People Fuck Too? Isn't this like the editor of Good Food whispering with a stage wink "oh, by the way - there are calories in chocolate cake..."; and as for the belief that Posh and Derek's (yawn) jewel encrusted whips were a little secret that their agent would rather we didn't know... yeah, that's right. It's not like they would have been bought by stylists and leaked by publicists in a desperate bid to try and make them seem interesting, is it?

Perhaps the sweetest bit though is this: "In America weekly magazines like the National Enquirer and Star magazine lead the way in breaking celebrity stories..." - Jane, sweetheart: are you really suggesting that you use the Enquirer as a model for your reporting methods and journalistic standards? (Mental note: Don't believe anything Closer says ever again. Especially if it relates to Elvis.) On a crispier note, the reason why the US equivalents of the Sun, Daily Star and Mirror don't "lead the way in breaking celebrity stories" is because, erm, there aren't any. Johnson should really stick to writing for the checkout queue at Aldi.

The Radio Times attempts to answer that age-old question: Beatles or the Stones? It's produced half its print run with a portrait of the Beatles; the other half with Rolling Stones on it. (The RT is getting over-fond of these "collectable covers" - it'll be producing one of each member of the Ground Force team at this rate.) Inside, it tries to chair a debate on which of the two bands is the greatest. Here's a clue, RT: There's a show on BBC1 this weekend about the Rolling Stones. To justify giving them the cover of your magazine, you've turned half the print run over to the Beatles (who aren't on TV at all). As far as I know, no magazine has ever had to shore up sales of a Beatles cover by adding some copies with Mick Jagger on the front.

Jet are on the cover of the nme. At least they're properly interviewed inside the magazine, we suppose. The downside is they are fucking pug-ugly. No, really. It's like a convention of Liam Gallagher's stunt doubles.

When did the nme drop Bring It On, by the way? We're not that bothered, but it seems like two or three months since we've had to discard the 'me too' Fly.

Another full page advert for the Rolling Stones tour. There's also that irritating advert on the nme website - apparently blissfully unaware that the technology exists to ensure that repeated visitors don't have to sit through the same pop-up over and over again, seemingly every second nme page gets served up with the same, hugely self-deluding advert slapped over the top. The Stones - depicted as sexy young men, so the artist was working from something a bit beyond living memory - disappear beneath a pile of bras thrown, we imagine, by nubile young girls. Old men being clobbered by foundation garments being more accurate but less attractive. It's absolutely smashing that so much advertising for the Rolling Stones tour has been purchased by T-Mobile just as the nme runs so much editorial on the band, isn't it? What a charming coincidence.

News: The Strokes Albert Hammond talks about the process of writing the new album: "If we played one song that wasn't as good as the last one, we'd drop it." This, of course, is fine if you start with something great. If your first song is the Frog Chorus, the system doesn't work as well. But he's convinced the new album is great, and they made sacrifices for it: "we worked 15 hours a day." Although since most of those 15 hours would have involved sitting around waiting for the drummer to set up, it's not like it's as onerous as working as a labourer for 15 hours, is it?

They have the smart idea of getting a dream analyst to poke about in Chris Martin's dream (Cameron Diaz and swimming pools). The analyst suggests Martin dreams about the pool because he's feeling out his death, and that he saves tabloid cunt Dominic Mohan means he'll never harm his enemies. He fails to note out that there's a bigger truth, that Martin is so dull he's having to talk about his dreams to pad out press interviews now.

There's a lot of spunking over the latest circulation figures - really, making so much fuss about being the biggest selling music weekly again does just underline that, erm, you've spent the last year as the smallest selling music weekly in the world and that you managed to piss away an advantage that had seen you as the biggest seller - back when there was proper competition - for decades.

Travis are going to sing about domestic violence on their new album. We can only assume it's the result of some sort of bet to make themselves even more depressing than they were. Interesting journey from singing about underage girls to battered wives, though, innit?

Brody Armstrong denies she's on the new Ryan Adams album, denying ever having met him. Meanwhile, back on this side of the Atlantic and our home-grown confused pop stars, Pete Doherty has said he won't be playing Reading with the Libertines "unless he's invited"; likewise, we'd like to make it clear that unless Brian Molko begs, we won't be appearing with Placebo. Doherty's putting his new band Babyshambles together even as we speak, rehearsing, writing, and asking band members about their alarm systems and if they leave their bathroom windows open in this hot weather.

"There's more to Elton John than Candle in the Wind... he's a mentor to Ryan Adams" justifies the paper for giving him two pages - right, so under Elton's steady hand Ryan has gone from a alt country sex god to a unpleasant fantasist in less than two years. Mind you, Sir Elton slipped Kelly Osbourne that dodgy crab, so he's not all bad. Seriously, he's alright, is Elton - he's never lost his passion for music and it's just unfortunate that his innate ability for sucking up to posh types has lumbered him with a knighthood and a real image problem. Hint, Elt: Those Sky adverts? Not helping with the reclaiming your cred.

Hats off to Nat Watson, who carried on playing with Haven despite having Bells Palsy. Oddly, for a man whose face froze right down the right, he seems quite chipper: "I was just putting it all on one side." The left one, presumably. Also sick listed was Funeral For A Friend's Matt Davies, who had to have a throat abcess (technically a "quinsy", medical fans) which had to be, um, de-abcessed before he could be pronounced fit for Reading.

They've axed that Bowie/Bing 'comic' strip. Joy and rejoicing throughout the land.

Biffy Clyro do the CD choosing thing, and despite including Weezer, Ben Folds Five and Tetra Splendour don't select a single act with a more rubbish name than theirs.

Pretty Girls Make Graves are - smashingly - the 'Hot New Band' (although haven't they already been an On band? How many times can you be new to the nme?) PGMG have androgynous fans who look like Robert Smith and grab their asses as they pass by. Which makes Robbie Williams' fans look pretty shit, doesn't it?

The V reviews are in. Alison Goldfrapp wore some splendid dom boots at Chelmsford but the nme believes that The Distillers have the edge over Pj Harvey because they have "the explosive pummelling aggression and sheer unpredictability" Polly supposedly lacks. Hmmm. Historical perspectives count for little when you're in a front row, it's true, but... isn't it slightly easier to predict The Distiller's next move than it is to predict PJ's? One makes records with the Queens of the Stone Age and Courtney Love; the other works with anyone from a former Chesterfields bloke to Nick Cave.

There's a huge Black Rebel Motorcycle Club piece, in which Robert muses on the name they've given themselves - something which announces their presence, something which acts as an easy target; something of a curse, too, which "you think you've got to be more than..." There's also talk of another side to the band; a side not shown in the last stuff, and not in the next set, either. It's a cracking interview, and John Robinson is duly owed a pint.

Talking of beer, we're not sure how happy the executives at Carling will be, having sponsored a four page glossy pull-out in the middle, only to have it run in the middle of a feature headlined with one of their rival's slogans ('Jet don't give a XXXX' - they even use a Castlemaine-style logo for the XXXXs). This could just be something accidental, but we want to believe, and so we're hoping that it's the editorial and design sides of the paper sticking a finger up at the AOL Time Warner machine. We can but hope.

Jet try to address the little bit of fuss that blew up when they rejected political correctness and rap music last time (some readers decided they were racist, rather than just a little bit thick - anyone who complains about "political correctness" who isn't being paid per hundred words by the Daily Mail obviously has very little understanding of the term or the world). They take the opportunity to fight ire with sarcasm, which, as anyone knows, comes across really badly when it's written down. After they've tried sarcasm... well, then they try to get serious:

Nic: For me, nigger is not a term that's derogatory. Like, black people call themselves niggers [...]
Cam: I think even a black person would say [conversationally] 'Hey Nigger' or [Angry voice] 'Hey, you fucking nigger'
Chris: You know what else... stacks of our favourite musicians are black
Nic: I don't need to justify myself to someone who's gonna judge me on one sentence
Chris: [adopts South American accent] Right on, nigger, right on. I hear you, bro'

Sorry, did we say they were just a little bit thick? Incredibly, amazingly thick, as it turns out. They're playing Reading - assuming they can get a ladder to get themselves out of the hole they've just dug themselves - this weekend. I'm not sure I'd want to go and see them.

The Thrills, meanwhile, go and watch a woman shoving bananas up her cunt while the nme's Dan Martin eats it out. It's like the early days of Madchester all over again, isn't it? Amazing what AOL let you get away with on expenses. At least when Richie Manic was going to use hookers, the paper would make its excuses and leave. Again, maybe we're getting old, but we think the reporting of the incident crosses a line which would be fine in Loaded but makes us a bit unsettled in the nme.

Richard x - presents his x-factor volume 1 - "x doesn't always hit the spot", 6
paul weller - fly on the wall - "as dignified as contractual obligations get", 7

sotw - grafiti - what is the problem? - "mike skinner all over it"
brmc - stop - "sleazy, grimy, more rock than a crackhouse"

the raveonettes - charing cross - "dark, dank but danger free cinematic underworld"
ash - London somerset house - "all smiles, splayed legs and flying Vs"

and finally: there's a letter from someone from Rotherham who claims to have "got his hands on the new Andrew WK stuff." He likes it. But then, he's from Rotherham. Says it all.

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