Saturday, June 14, 2003

SPECIFIC REQUEST: People are very clear what they want from search engines, aren't they? pictures of the band Tatu having sex at home, for example. You don't want any old Tatu, and for you them diddling each other's skiddles in a hotel room won't do. I'm guessing the sex isn't important, but you want to have a nose at their house. I'm guessing you're Lloyd Grossman.

STOP THE WORDS: Another week, another kicking for the music fan, as the Musical Industrial Complex clangs into action again.
This time round, it's like this:
You're wandering about singing 'Fake Plastic Trees' to yourself. And you suddenly realise that half the lyric you've just been copying Thom and going "narrrhhhh" when you don't know what the actual words are. So, what do you do?
Yup, of course, you do a quick google and find the words on ateaseweb or some other passionate fan site. You discover what the words, and go away happy.
Ah, but what if there was no Internet? Or those sites weren't there?
My guess is you'd wait until you could ask your mates, or maybe you'd peek in the CD case at a store next time you were there to see if there was a lyric sheet.
What Radiohead's publishers believe you would do is get on a bus into town and buy the sheet music - probably in a book form, costing about fourteen quid. On this basis, they've decided to send threatening legal letters to some of the more popular Radiohead sites demanding they stop hurting their "sales" like this. Right.

By the way:
her green plastic wateringcan
for her fake chinese rubberplant
in the fake plastic earth
that she bought from a rubber man
in a town full of rubber plans
to get rid of itself
it wears her out
it wears her out
it wears her out
it wears her out

she lives with a broken man
a cracked polystyrene man
who just crumbles and burns
he used to do surgery for girls in the eighties
but gravity always wins
and it wears him out
and it wears him out
and it wears him out

she looks like the real thing
she tastes like the real thing
my fake plastic love
but i can't help the feeling
i could blow through the ceiling
if i just turn and run
and it wears me out
it wears me out
and it wears me out
if i could be who you wanted
if i could be who you wanted all the time

[Thanks to Aaron for bringing this to our attention -and apologies that we'd spent so long trying to sort out the blogger problems it's almost a week old now]

GONGS FOR THE GONKS: There's been a whole heap of awards hurled at elderly music folk in the Queen's birthday honours list: Gerry Marsden, the never-as-successful-as-the-Beatles scouser, gets an MBE. Jools Holland gets an OBE for his services to, um, persuading The Donnas, Fela Kuti and Radiohead to jam together or something. Errol Brown, the alien-meeting Hot Chocolate singer will now be able to add MBE to his application forms, a sign that he's forgiven the Palace for that awful sight a few years back when Prince Charles did a Full Monty style dance to You Sexy Thing. And, to top an odd list, Sting has become a CBE. Quite how the decision to give Jools an O, Sting a C and Brown an M isn't clear - maybe they just shake a bag out to decide what medal they get. Or maybe they start with the CBE, and open the Grove at random to decide who gets them?

By the way: How come the Mail got away with breaking the embargo on the list to blah on about David Beckham getting an OBE last week? They tried to make it sound like they'd heard a rumour, but clearly every newsroom in the country had a copy of the names by then and so it would suggest they either peeked, or else don't care that it looks like they did.

Friday, June 13, 2003

ANOTHER TIME WE CAN'T ADD ANYTHING AT ALL: Ananova have this report:
Liam Gallagher has formed an Abba-style band with fiancée Nicole Appleton, her sister Natalie and husband Liam Howlett.
The foursome have recorded a song as NLLN - representing their initials.
But they only ever perform at the home of Prodigy star Liam, according to Nicole, who does backing vocals with Natalie.
Nicole told The Sun: "We did a song together called Drop The Gun. Liam screamed so loud we couldn't hear.
"We came up with the name just like Abba. But we only do gigs at Liam's house."

MORE UNWANTED REUNIONS: Headline writers across America struggle to come up with reverse puns on 'smashed to Smithereens'

BRITNEY'S FAKE TITS: We're not entirely sure the extent to which it's realistic to give Britney inflatable breasts and have dance round a pole; but this is what Madame Tussaurds are going to do with her waxwork. I mean, I can see the poledancing thing, even if that smells slightly more of fanfic/that dream I had the other night than What She Actually Does, but breast size that increases and decreases according to if someone's watching? That's hardly reflecting the real world, is it? Oh, hang on a minute...
The question remains: if Britney is inflated to pole-dancer, what are they going to have to do to inflate Christian Aguilera to the same degree? I'm awaiting the news that Madame Tussaurds are sourcing fifteen models of lumerjacks and three gross of sextoys with interest.

JENNY FROM THE CHOPPING BLOCK: Sky News aren't being knowing, we suspect, when they say "[Jennifer] Lopez is said to be sick of being labelled a diva, so she is clearing out the team which guided her career." Because nothing says 'I'm no primadonna' like sacking the people who made you the most famous ass in the world, does it?

WE'D QUITE LIKE TO APOLOGISE: AFI suggest fans might want to return potentially valuable mispressings for replacement, ordinary copies. We suggest otherwise.

CHIPPING AWAY AT YOUR FRIDAY EFFECTIVENESS: The girl singers quiz, which presents you with a line up of names, faces and song titles. Only one line is actually the right person, matched with their face and their own song. It's not as easy as it sounds - sure, Natalie Imbruglia is hard to miss, but who the hell knows what Meredith Brookes looks like?

MY NAME IS OZYMANDIAS. AND THIS IS MY LOVELY WIFE, VICTORIA: Funny as it may sound, presenting the all-important Transatlantic Breakthrough award at the MTV Movie Awards hasn't turned Posh and David 'Sold like a slave' Beckham into household names in America. It seems the US wants to know exactly what it is they, well, do, before giving them a second glance.
Even the supermarket-brand-battery-bright Burchill has turned against the pair, suggesting that David is pussy-whipped by Victoria or something... really, it didn't make much sense to me, apart from the odd realisation that Julie believes that when David goes to Barcelona, we'll never hear of them again.#
None of this explains, of course, the insane judgement of the usually-reliable Channel 4 News to lead with the Beckham transfer the other night - it was like Harold Pinter writing a play about Will Young.

HANG ON JUST A MOMENT HERE...: Metallica are calling for fans who have videos, interviews and audio recordings from their early days to send it in to be used in a forthcoming documentary. Now, they've obviously already seen the danger of their making such a request, as they say you have to be the rightful owner of the footage to submit it, but isn't this a bit mealy-mouthed? Because if there are, say, videos circulating of them playing small clubs or audiotapes made by smuggling in dictaphones under heavy jumpers, wouldn't that mean that, in effect, the person with the equipment would have been making an illegal copy of copyright material? So are Metallica now saying its okay to record their stuff without permission providing it fits in with their need for an archive? Or is this merely a sting operation, designed to catch the unwary? There's an email address, something like or thereabouts.

YOU COULD SEE HIS DIDDLY QUA QUA AND EVERYTHING: Another peg in the sad decline of a former national icon as Adam Ant is arrested for... well, streaking, apparently. Probably no less demeaning than going on Reborn In The USA and wanking for coins, but a shame nevertheless.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. UNFORTUNATELY, IT CAME ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO: We're not entirely sure it is the first in the world like they claim, but a store is being piloted in Lubceck, Germany allowing people to mix, match and burn their own CDs. Opened by no less a pop princess than Indira (ex-of BroSis; that's the level we're dealing with here) you get a PDA and can choose from 20,000 odd tracks for 99 cents each. Oh, and then you have to pay an extra EUR2 for the CD itself, and the box.
Yeah, this is a really tempting proposition, isn't it? Slightly more expensive than the price level of online services, and you have to pay a ridiculous mark-up on the blank media; the range is limited; and you have to take a bus into town, stand around while you compile your CD, wait in a queue to pay for your finished disc, take a bus home and then you can play the tunes, right there and then. Yeah, I can see the advantages over doing it all online... you might get to meet one of BroSis while you're doing it. Neat.
They've had the technology to offer these services for years. And if they'd got those booths into shops when they were talking about it, they might have had something. As it is, as with many of the legitimate services - way, way, too little; way, way, way too late.

'MAN BITES DOG' EDGED OUT IN THE 'DUH, NO SHIT?' AWARDS: 'Avril contradicts herself' shock. This time, it's because she's been spotted shaggy-snog-touching with one of her band, something that she swore she would never, ever, ever do a month or so ago. This was, erm, eleven months into an on-off thing with Jesse Colburn.
What's wonderful about this is that the fact she fibbed about the relationship at all isn't the worst of it. Avril - who you'll remember has often maintained that nobody tells her what to do, no way, no sir, not her - has been forced by the record label to keep her K-I-S-S-I-N-G ways secret, because - ta-da! - her having a squeeze would sit badly with her 'image'. When they say "jump", she says "how high? really? that high? thast's funny, that's exactly how high I was going to jump anyway. For myself. So I will, then."

REBELLION IS - IN CASE YOU MISSED THE MEMO - THE NEW CONFORMITY: - so says the Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick, anyway. Obviously columns about popular music in the telegraph are designed to provide an excuse for pictures of female popstars, rather than to offer any perspective on the music scene, but did he stop to think his thoughts through? Rebellion is in, except its manufactured. Righto. So, erm, being told to pretend to rebel would be - what's the word? - conformity, wouldn't it? Sweetly, he suggests Girls Aloud 'Sound of the Underground' was 'counter-culture referencing.' But if the target audience all assumed it 'the sound of the underground' was that woosh you get a few seconds before the tube arrives, can that be the case?
As if realising that he was stumbling over himself, Neil frets "When even an old-school svengali like Girls Aloud impresario Louis Walsh (the brains behind Boyzone, Westlife and Samantha Mumba) embraces rebellion, what is left to rebel against?" Erm... how about old-school svengalis like Louis Walsh trying to package rebellion and sell it back to the kids for a start?
Gonna make a tshirt out of your dreams...

MORTEN HARKET MUST BE HARD UP: Because he kneads the dough. [Joke supplied by The Dandy, circa 1958]. Yes, it's true, him out of A-Ha is going into the day goods business.

QUICK... ANOTHER QUICK PAY-OFF: We really don't want to be cynical about the sudden out of court settlement of another Michael Jackson lawsuit; this one about his personal financial affairs. We're not going to wonder in whose interests it would be to avoid having a chap who's going round saying 'He's virtually broke' appear on oath, and to avoid having Mr. Jackson answer questions about exactly how much cash he has in public. We're sure it's all for the best, in this, the best of all possible worlds.

THOM YORKE CLAIMS ANOTHER SCALP: From Simon Waldman's blog: Christ that new Radiohead album is depressing. Yes, I know I shouldn't be surprised...but I heard Thom Yorke being interviewed, and he sounded quite I thought I'd give it a try. You can gaurantee, though, that in about ten years time Robbie Williams will be on some late night documentary saying 'Everyone says Radiohead are depressing, but I think Thom's really funny...'

[Geeknote:] Simon has taken the opposite route to TMFTML, and moved from Movable Type to Blogger. Which, at the moment [glances sideways at the missing arcive file] can best be described as Quixotic.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Extra free booklet madness edition
The Face comes with a special extra magazine (in a lovely cardboard box) to, um, mark something - it's not like a birthday or anything; it could be tied in with the redesign, or maybe it's purely a way of delivering the Levis advertising inside it. It's a sobering read, though, reminding us of the days when the Face felt like it had second sight on youth culture, leapng on trends seconds before they even arrived.

Nowadays, of course, the title is more like the Accident Group - turning up after something has happened; desperate to try and make a huge claim for it. And we know how much credibility and success the Accident Group had. [NB: For American readers: they sacked all their staff by text message last week]. Claims are made that the new edition marks a remix, but to be honest, if they weren't making a fuss about it, you'd probably not even realise this was meant to be the start of a new chapter. Sure, the masthead is now Pink, and the typography has been tweaked - but headlines on the Face are always changing, um, their face. You might have wondered why the layout was so poor this month, but you wouldn't have realised this was the culmination of months of design-level and above meetings. More probably, you'd have assumed that the design team had been down with the trots at deadline time.

It's not all bad, though: the photography is stunning - pages where the images have control look really good; and there's a sequel to the 2000 visit to Baghdad by Andrew Mueller. But that echo of the past, together with the Greatest Hits booklet, just add to the feeling that the 'new' Face is trading on what it was. The remix is nowhere near radical enough to save the title, I'm afraid.

Another two-edition magazine this month, it's FHM's 100 Sexiest edition. And here, too, we see the signs of a magazine on the wane. Sure, it still sells by the bucket, and sure, the 100 is an event as always, but the number of people who exist solely because of men's magazines - Hollyoaks babes, Jordan and her ilk; even the bloody woman who won 'Common Girls In Their Pants' or whatever it was - that comprise the bulk of the rundown is a depressing sign that the days when the FHM readership was a broad church has gone; if the magazine seems to be a little less witty, a little more crude these days, it's clearly reflecting a similar shift in its readership. The days when Cerys Matthews, Janeanne Garafolo and so on could crop up in the list are way behind us. And: The Olsen Twins? Do you know no editorial judgement, you sick fucks? For the record: Halle Berry is number one.

Even the nme has an extra booklet this week - best festival pictures ever or something, which ignores the simple fact that the best festival photo is never going to be as gorgeous as a nice one in a studio. Ah well, it's okay.

The nme proper has got Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on the cover again (it's clearly their plan to get featured in this slow news period between spring and festivals, almost ensuring a cover). The band are replicating the Cameron Diaz Loaded cover, by standing in a swimming pool.

The big news this week is: the nme has a picture of Jack White in swimming trunks. That's their news values, not ours.

They talk to this alterego of Jarvis Cockers, but their intro talking of Jarvis' 'increasingly bizarre behaviour' suggests that the nme doesn't actually see it as a pisstake, either.

Shane Neil's lawyer suggests that Kim Howells and David Blunkett's foaming about the So Solids being involved in gun crime may have prejudiced his client's trial and mutters darkly about legal action - erm, except, since Shane was found not guilty, it didn't, did it? And wouldn't a better lawyer have raised this concern at the trial to help his client's case? And while the Culture and Home Secretaries interventions weren't helpful, shouldn't the real ire - and possible malicious prosecution suits - be directed at the police who pushed forward with legal action on the lamest of evidence (they found no drugs, no guns - hey, but a lip-reader reckoned they'd seen Shane say something. On CCTV.)

Karen O has turned down Playboy, but kept the option open for the future, but warns "there won't be any titties, dicks or fannies." So, the bad news is she won't do full-frontal. The good news is we're not in Crying Game territory, then.

Lars Ulrich loves the White Stripes and claims to have been a champion of the datsuns - having Lars fight your corner must be great - his word carries a lot of weight. Like the way nobody downloads music now. Talking of which, you know we all made Lars cry inside back during the Napster wars? "I was certainly more hurt than i let on" he whispers. But now "there's no victory claimed, there's no gloating." Erm, yeah, that's really magnaminous of you Lars, since you lost - I don't know if you realise, mate, but since your stupid and clumsy intervention, illegal music downloads have grown by about a million times in size. And we could download your new record now, it's just we respect our ears too much.

Evanesence are pissed off that they've been marketed as a Christian band - Amy Lee fumed "I guarantee that if the Christian bookstore owners listened to the CD, they wouldn't sell it." Unfortuantely for her, they took her up on her challenge. The label, miffed that the band are now trying to deny their part in the targetting of a soft market, have pulled the bands records from the Christian sector. Cheer up; there's always the burgeoning satanist market.

Grandaddy do the CD thing - Ween, Bad Brains and - no, say it aint so - ELO.

He looks like Lemmy and has a self-confessed 'irrational' fear of driving. He's Devndra Banhart.

Talking about the track US government on the first album, Peter Black rebel motorcycle club say "it's understandable why someone at a record company would feel [they should leave it off] - the horrible truth is the US has made everybody too paranoid to talk about the government. The next thing is someoen's going to get shot over it."

Har Mar Superstar observes that having Shingles sucked. Last year's comedy novelty act Liam Lynch, meanwhile, pops up to plug his album of Phil Pope style parodies - opps, sorry: "these are valentines, not parodies" he fumes.

Queens of the Stone Age are so painfully dull the quote that the paper has to pull out is "sleep when you're old; sleep when you're dead." Presumably they edited out those other tshirt staples 'I'm with stupid' and 'reality is an illusion caused by lack of alcohol."

the mars volta - deloused in the crematorium - "not even the loss of such a good friend can stop them now", 9
John Power - happening for love - "flat, cliche ridden [self] parody", 4
bill hicks - shock and awe - :includes snooker, hooliganism and small regional towns", 8

sotw - colder - shiny star - "a punk-funk lothario"
placebo - this picture - "only those with ill-applied black nail varnish are still listening"

alfie - brighton pavillion theatre - "where the charlatans meet the beach boys"
pink grease - dovebridge studios - "hell, yeah"

in what we assume is what should be called intertextuality, anthony thornton edits nmemail, but also appears in that stupid 'famous people and their stalkers' feature

and finally The Works offers advice to bands on putting a website together: "Make sure you sign up for the neccesary megabytes of storage." It doesn't say if this would be 2, 18, 3000, or ten million...

KURT IS THE NEW LENNON: VH1 have cooked up a list of the 100 best songs of the last 25 years, which is going to prove difficult when they try to re-run the show constantly into the next couple of years, isn't it?
Anyway, Smells Like Teen Spirit is number one, which confirms exactly who is in charge at VH-1 these days, if nothing else. Viacom is the home of the tidied up grunge survivors. The rest of the chart is slightly chilling, though: Billie Jean at number 2? That's not even the best Michael Jackson song of the last 25 years, surely? Madonna is represented by Like A Virgin at ten and Ray of Light at 100, which book-ends her career fairly nicely - the point where people first took notice of her; the last place where people did so. There's space found for Celine's My Heart Will Go On, and Whitney's I Will Always Love You; this seems hard on Mariah Carey who has also pumped out ridiculously overblown bombast and has been cruelly ignored. Or rather, properly ignored. Sweet Child O'Mine at three? Eminem has one track in the top 20 - but its Lose Yourself, for crying out loud. And space is made for The Knack's My Sharona. However, Heart of Glass, The Message and Hit Me Baby, One More Time all make it in, and the chart is at least more varied than this sort of thing tends to be. It's fluff, but at least it's fun fluff...

THE LATEST FROM THE DOWNLOAD FRONTIER: AOL stutter out plans with the dead-eyed phrase "We were focusing, until 2003, on programming, discovering and experiencing (music). This year we are focused on ownership and consumption" falling from the lips from general manager of AOL Entertainment Bill Wilson. This might come as a bit of a shock to most people - AOL haven't been all about ownership and consumption in an area? Since when could you discover and experience music without consuming it? Is this a tacit announcement that hitherto AOL hasn't been much interested in who owns the music its been programming? And where exactly does the 'discovering' bit come from? Have AOL had talent scouts out, seeking the best new music? Or are they suggesting that they've had to bring music - as an artform - to the attention of their customers? Is this an irritating Connie advert we've missed? "Music is sounds, arranged to be pleasant. And with AOL, you can have singing as well. Free, on top of the music."

AOL's plans are to develop a confusing second tier to allow a la carte burning of tracks to CD, to run alongside its current subscription service which allows ten tracks to be copied to CD. It's also going to allow users - get this - to buy the real CD. Selling records online, eh? What crazy ideas will they come up with next at AOL?

GAH: You spend ages worshipping someone as a demi-goddess, and then they turn round and reward you by marrying one of Papa Roach. Mia Tyler, how could you do this to us?

AS IF AIRPORTS WEREN'T BAD ENOUGH AS IT IS: This summer, as well as delays caused by French airtraffic control strikes and the ever-present stench of Securior staff trying to avoid another slip-up like the one their sister company made at Boston that time, there's the Cheeky Girls tour of UK airports to contend with. They're covering Boney M's Hooray, Hooray, It's A Holi-Holi-Day, in case you're wondering. If the've covered Cats UK Luton Airport for the b-side, we might be prepared to cut them some slack.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

WE DISAGREE, BUT: We had to link to Anthony Easton's review of Tatu at the MTV Movie awards. Try as we might, we can't see them as revolutionaires; more young conservatives as scripted by Eastenders...

SEARCH FOR SOME STARS: We've got a little sick of the whole Pop Idol Academy Fame thing, and the constant focus on the looks of singers that it brings with it. And the obsession with looks over talent that marks out much of the stuff aimed at charts these days. Not, we should add quickly, because we want out popstars to be ugly - far from it; our problem is the stars just look so rubbish. Blue? Avril Lavigne? These are meant to be turning our legs to jelly? As if. Meanwhile, there are acts like the dreadful Akash who claim to be the most erotic band in the world, but clearly aren't.
So, we're launching the world's first totally shallow search for the sexiest unknown band or singer in the world. It could be you. Just email the evidence to and we'll consider you for our short list. Remember, the important thing here isn't talent, it's a lot more trivial than that. Of course, on the other hand, we might get bored and drop the whole contest, but we'll give a namecheck and plug to all the entries. Along with a critique. The overall winner will be given enthusiastic support and, I dunno, some sweets or something. Bring it on...

WHERE EGOS DARE: Dave Gahan is getting a bit grumpy about not getting to write many songs for Depeche Mode. He's threatening to leave unless Martin Gore 'changes his ways.' See, this is the trouble you get when a singer goes and does his first solo work - no matter how dire it is, they come away thinking "peice of piss, that - I should be doing all the songs all the time. I'm great me"; blissfully unaware that their management is thinking "right, let's get them back to normal now he's got that vanity project out the way."
Dave believes he's as good a songwriter as Martin. Dave writes things like this:
We laughed so hard it caused some pain
Two strangers standing in the rain
We smoked our cigarettes
(It's kind of wonderful)
Exchanging our regrets
(Strange but beautiful)

While Martin writes things like this:
Here is a plea
From my heart to you
Nobody knows me
As well as you do
You know how hard it is for me
To shake the disease
That takes hold of my tongue
In situations like these

I suppose the choice here would have to be a personal one...

IS THIS WHAT YOU MEAN BY DIMINISHING RETURNS, PROF?: The return of The Osbournes in the US looks set to be a hugely underwhelming non-event, as even the fans of the first two seasons are struggling to see the point in a half-hour dedicated to what Kelly thinks about Christina Aguilera. As David Hinckley observes Let's be honest here: This is a discussion that would empty out an Internet chat room. Like, who cares? But maybe being on TV gives the exchange a kind of subliminal validation, as if it must be interesting because famous people are having it.

ON LIVING IN A CAPITAL OF CULTURE: No Rock was, as we keep banging on about, in Hull rather than Liverpool when our home base was picked to be the 2008 European Capital of Culture, so luckily we missed out on a lot of the mindless triumphalism that goes with this, erm, honour. Apparently within seconds of Tessa Jowells naming da Pool as the CoC, men on stilts and jugglers were unleashed from all corners of the city centre.

At the same time, the culture of the city took a minor blow with the public announcement that The Lomax was going into liquidation. The club, once the steam engine of the Liverpool music scene, had been struggling following a bizarre merger/takeover type deal of the failed Braveheart project. Braveheart had been created by Trevor Burke as some sort of stage school with knobs on, built around the scary Jezebelle act. Jezebelle were a kind of Atomic Kitten style act supposed to represent 'the spirit of Liverpool' (the choice of name - one of the most famous harlots in history - we're sure was never intended as an ironic statement on the women from the city). More than just dim singers, the Jezebelle project cast them as Edutainers; presumably bringing enlightenment through the use of boobtubes. Of course, the whole thing went -ahem - tits up despite the pouring in of large sums of public cash; hence the Lomax-Braveheart link-up. Nobody, it seemed, thought through the dynamics of linking a rock and roll venue with a dance school, a decision on shared branding only a few inches away from bringing together an opium den and a Pittman secretarial college under the same banner. Added to the uncertainty caused by the second relocation of the Lomax - this time to the empty husk of the old Cream venue; and the massive challenge offered by the appearance in the city of the Barfly Club flexing their brand strength - and the place was going to struggle no matter what it did.

"The bid's strength was stressing that there was more to the city than football and the Beatles" - Yorkshire Post report
"It's as if Liverpool won the Champions League, Everton won the double and The Beatles reformed, all on the same day" - Council Leader Mike Storey, quoted in the same report. (Having said that: has nobody explained to him quite how tricky a Beatles reformation might actually be?)

GOING HOME AGAIN: The news that Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary are about to re-activate their Whiskeytown project will come as great relief for all those people who've pretended they liked them all along, as they might actually get a chance to bring their claims into line with reality really going to see them. Adams feels the wheels have come off his solo career and that he needs a bit of good publicity to counter the increasingly boorish and petulant press he's been getting of late (I'm sorry, that should be "wants to hold a reunion while they're still young and vibrant").

Monday, June 09, 2003

THIS CHARMING MAN: Okay, so that might not have been the most original headline for a review of the Morrissey show, but then again 'the importance of being morrissey' was hardly a massive leap of originality on the part of Channel 4, was it?
Tucked away to the end of the a busy Sunday night for the channel - programming getting forced out the way by the force that is Big Brother - the documentary made a fairly good hand of cantering through the Moz life, paying the price for its access in spades of sycophancy. Not that Morrissey gave very much of himself in this ("first TV interview in sixteen years"), but he played ball for long enough to ensure that he didn't get a Heather Mills-style working over. Not from the filmmakers, anyway.
It's not so much that the documentary tried to duck the tricky subjects, just that it more than sugared the pills with a string of curious celeb endorsments - JK Rowling, Will Self, Kathy Burke. The music industry was represented by Bono and Noel Gallagher, which is like getting Colonel Saunders and Ronald McDonald in to pass judgement on Gordon Ramsay.
Bono trotted out the standard new-judgement on Morrissey, that, actually, you know, he's very funny. This is the thing people say when they want to dazzle us with how much deeper their insight is into the man than other people's, and I suspect it has it roots in something Peel said about fifteen years ago. Peel's judgement - that the audience tend to overlook Morrissey - has been twisted over the years into the ridiculous claim made by Bono that "people say Morrissey is miserable, but he's not. He's very funny." Mr. Vox illustrated this claim by telling us he nearly crashed his car when he heard Girlfriend In A Coma for the first time (oh, so close). The 'Actually-Morrissey-is-funny' line is the musical equivalent of the way English teachers do that false laugh when they take you to see a Shakespeare play and it gets to a jokey part: the idea is not that they find the thing humourous, but they want you to think they're clever enough to see that there is a joke there. But saying 'Morrissey is actually a funny guy' is as wrong as suggesting he's a giant gloom-octopus. The man who wrote Suffer The Children, the Headmaster Ritual, Sing Me To Sleep is not a pop version of Spike from Hi-De-Hi.
After all these years, Morrissey finally got round to addressing the taint of racism that's been with him since Madstock. He seemed bemused - "why would I be racist?" he asked, in the manner that an OAP might ask what he'd want with email. Later, he enthused about how much he likes Mexican. It was a failure to engage coupled with overcompensation. The trouble is that those of us who never set out believing those old NME worries after Madstock found his inability to defend himself while the National Front Discos and the Bengali in Platforms started to lay thick around his ankles starting to make them look like they might have a point. Back in the late 80's, a blinking 'why would I be racist?' might have been enough to defuse the situation; but after nearly twenty years it wasn't a very convincing explanation.
To give Noel Gallagher his due, he was almost the only talking head to try and consider the whole race question; but we take this more as an example of how blind Noel can be to the implications of what he's doing. And, frankly, Stephen Patrick would have been better off if his fellow Manc had passed: "They say he never defended himself - why should he? If he was racist, the News of the World would have exposed him, never mind the fucking NME." A curious line of logic, you might think, that makes absolutely no sense. Firstly, the NME never actually said Moz=Nazi, just fretted over why he wouldn't answer their questions on the subject. Second - Noel Gallagher believes a story can't be true because it wasn't covered by the News of the World? Third: why on earth would the News of the World want to investigate the political views of an indie pop star - this was the days before Suede, Pulp, Blur and, alright, Oasis made guitar rock the stuff of front page splashes. Finally, what rabbit hole is Gallagher down if he doesn't believe something because it wasn't in the News of the Screws? "We know for a fact that he isn't racist" affirmed Noel Gallagher. If anyone can explain to me a way that you can prove as a solid fact that somebody isn't racist, please contact us at the usual email address.
To be fair, Noel wasn't the only person to stick up for Morrissey. Michael Bracewell - like TMFTML, but with worse sweaters - also had a theory; the man fits into a parade of British artists who are pilloried for being what they were once celebrated for. In other words, the very cherishing of British (by which we mean English) values starts to look a bit dodgy when the cherishing turns to fetishising. Unfortunately, Bracewell blew this defence by invoking the name of PG Wodehouse. Erm, actually, Michael, Plum was pilloried not for his evoking of the villages of rural Albion, but because of the cosying up to the Nazis during the war. If you're going to weigh in on the side of an expatriate Briton living in America after some dodgy behaviour he never chose to explain, using the model of a Briton who fled to live in America rather than face prosecution over links with the Third Reich isn't perhaps the most sensitive way to go about it.
In effect, we don't think Morrissey is racist, not explicitly, anyway. He's always been obsessed with the lines between belonging and not belonging (ironically, this is what makes him popular with Latinos in the US) and walking those lines is to take an ambiguous route. He was dangerously arrogant in hoping that people would trust his heart to be in the right place.
So now he's in the states - despite (or perhaps because) "he's too english for the Yanks, and too english for most of the english" as Chrissie Hynde put it - and proving that when he sang "I bear more grudges than lonely high court judges" he wasn't using artistic licence. There are grudges from the Bowie tour he flounced off because David - apparently - fixed the handover so that the crowd couldn't say goodbye to Moz properly; grudges from the court case; grudges that still burn inside him. He's also convinced that there's some sort of conspiracy working against him to keep him out of the record stores (this was all made before he signed the deal with Trojan records, of course).
But listening to him perform a new song on a recent tour, a more likely reason for his years without a record deal presents itself: that, really, he's just not much cop any more. It's not the loss of Marr that did for his songs; more the uprooting to the States and living in F Scott Fitzergald's house has cut the ties to the world his lyrics need to keep them alive.
Bitter, twisted and still oblivious, although the crew set out to make a warm glowing portrait of Morrissey, his character kept burning through the vaseline on the lens. But it still can't take the Smiths from us.

QUALITY CONTROL: Metallica explaina way their sudden decision to make downloads available online by saying they've been waiting for something that offered the quality their fans demanded to be on offer. Hmmm. Thousands of their fans seemed to be really delighted by the quality offered through a Napster/MP3 combination, as we recall. Until their heros took them through a legal wringer, of course.

PRESSING ISSUES OF THE DAY: Live, from Usenet: Did David Bowie sleep with Rinko?. Yes you do; Rinko - he was in Beatlesband.

RED HOT AND SIZZLING: Your mother always told you that no good would come of walking about barefoot - well, my mum told me that, anyway. At the time I always wondered what would be the worst that could happen - well, for this lad at a Red Hot Chilli Peppers gig being barefoot on the wrong staircase cost him his life. Ouch. Shoes are our friends.

DOING THE LAMBETH SQUAWK: Lambeth Council are having kittens over the poster campaign for Har Mar Superstar's new single. The council have branded the ads "disgusting", which suggests that the ghost of Mary Whitehouse had found a home at last. Tacky, tawdry, obvious, dull and unerotic, maybe. But disgusting? You've got to be kidding.

AT THE RECORD COMPANY PARTY, ON THEIR HANDS - NOT YET - A DEAD STAR: Or, at least, Luther's emerged from his coma. We're not sure if his record label would agree with Eurweb that this is 'good news' so much, though, as the albums they've released in the US this week smell slightly like they were being planned as memorial titles.

A SMALL STEP, A MAJOR JOURNEY: The venerable (let's face it, any blog which has more than twenty posts counts as venerable) TMFTML has got a new look and, more importantly, a new address. It's gone over to Movable Type, as well. Why would anyone want to leave Blogger? [Checks blank screen]. Oh, yeah.

WE'LL BE LISTENING TO YOU... LISTENING TO US... OH, SOD IT: We're sure it's not Simon Bates' fault, but the nasty way Henry Kelly has been ousted to make way for him at Classic FM's breakfast show leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And we can't quite work out why Classic would want Bates anyway - has there ever been a more annoying broadcaster put in charge of a radio show? (Betting without DLT here, of course).

CARRY ON REGARDLESS...: We know nobody can read the posts, but we're assuming someone will be working on that. Somewhere. We're sure. So we'll plod on, although at the moment we don't have an audience, and we don't know if we're ever going to get anyone to look at us again. In this sense, we're similar to One True Voice, except, faced with that situation, they're about to split up, the bloody windcheaters.

DON'T TELL HIM, PIKE: We're interested in Michael Eavis' promise to complie a list of names of people attending this year's Glastonbury, in order to ensure that people who've missed out this year can get tickets next year.
It's a generous sounding idea, and you can't say fairer than that, can you?
Erm... except, how is this going to work, exactly? If Eavis is merely going to use the names of people who bought tickets this year, then that's easily worked around - supposing Meg bought tickets for her and Mog this year on her credit card, next year Mog can buy them as she'd not be on the list.
And we can't really picture there being much support for taking down all the names of people passing through the gates on their way in - it's already a slow enough process as it is. Yet if people don't have to hand over their identity at the entrance, the chances of a roaming crew with clipboards making it round to see everyone during the three days they're there seem slim; you could provide everyone with a little card in their programme to fill in and send back, but since they'd know that this means next year, no Glastonbury, an awful lot of M. Mouses and G. Bushes would prove to have gone to the Healing Fields this summer.
Even if collection of names was possible - and they'll need addresses too, to be able to tell one John Smith from the next - there's a slightly disturbing question of data protection here. Even without fretting about who, exactly, would hold this list of data and what else they might do with it, can anyone imagine a risk in telling a volunteer you don't know from Adam your name and address at the start of a period of days when you won't be at your home?
Then you've got the people who've been with Glastonbury and have gone every year, pumping thousands of pounds into the festival and its good causes; sticking with it through the good years and the bad, through the beanfields and the bogs. Is Eavis really saying to his strongest supporters that they can fuck off now as there's a guaranteed sell-out?
In fact, when you look at the idea, it becomes clear that this is little more than another prong in the attempt to keep people without tickets away from Somerset, isn't it? Telling people who can't get in in 2003 that they're going to be first served for 2004 is more likely to dissuade them from tramping down to Pilton than a plea to keep the festival special - because if they feel like they're never going to be able to get a ticket, why would they be bothered in preserving some other rich person's playground?