Saturday, November 13, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Gets later and later, doesn't it?
Some people have tickets on themselves; other people just sniff and say "if you need to ask, you couldn't afford me." Anastacia would be in that group, of course: it's hard to dislike someone who's had a massively awful illness and survived, and yet Anastacia does, indeed, manage to turn any goodwill you might feel right around. It's not simply the "trademark" glasses - anyone who uses glasses as their trademark is already struggling for a personality, of course (with perhaps the sole exception of Nick Robinson's "I am interviewing the prime minister through a letter box" narrow specs); Anastacia's unusual adoption of the specs worn by Dr. Jacoby off Twin Peaks marries a bum idea to a lack of taste. But beyond the glasses, there is the belief that she is on some kind of mission. This, of course, is demonstrated by her interview in Radio Times: "I immediately thought 'you have picked the wrong bitch, cancer. That's a big problem when she's got a worldwide ability and press at her feet'... [Elton John]'s a friend... he reviewed my album, he said he loved it; he's kind of the guy that's still your friend even if you don't speak to each other that often... every time we [Sharon Osbourne and me] saw each other, she was like 'I love you'" -and so it goes on...

It's Word's turn to remember Peel; Mark Ellen does the honours, which is appropriate as Ellen once filled in for Peel on Radio 1 - Peel told him that letting someone else do your show is like sharing a toothbrush or letting another man sleep with your wife (we don't remember Ellen on night-time ourselves, although we do fondly recall Ellen's stints when Annie Nightingale was elsewhere). Ellen is balanced, and honest - if only sleeping with Germaine Greer had been Peel's worst foot-wrong in the 60s - and draws an interesting parallel: Peel chose his records and sent them out convinced they'd be met with a cold shoulder; "it was a bit like the world weary view of Norman Stanley Fletcher trying to synthesise some fun in the controlled, unappetising surroundings of Slade Prison."

Also in Word: Lucas (The Scissor Sisters and Jacques Brel) and Walliams (Soft Cell; Nick Cave) are amongst the word of mouth sampling people - so are Felix Dennis (BB King) and Peter Bogdanovich (Louis Armstrong); there's a collection of worst album names ever (Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1 wins, although U2's Pop and Humans Lib by Howard Jones put in a good showing) and a balancing best album names (we love Kirsty MacColl - to the extent that we're refusing to go to Costco - but Electric Landlady is not, surely, a worthy winner; although the appearance of Achtung, Baby in the list suggests things could be worse). Caitlin Moran suggests that we need gossip so badly now, there isn't enough gossip to keep us going, before digging into a history of life before Popbitch. And do you wnat under-rated movies? Word suggests Election, Mr Holland's Opus and - hey, who let Kermode in? - Silent Running are better than the critics would have you believe. Mind you, you have to balance their pleas for recognition for these works with the equal plea for Sweeney. And not a word about the Likely Lads movie, neither.

One of the things we like about Word is that you can flip from a piece about the Nirvana box-set to a collection of gems of advice from David Starkey, who describes Janet Daley as "Anne Robinson with intellectual pretensions." And then you get an excited enthusing over the re-release of Lexicon of Love by ABC. Somehow, though, we can't bring ourselves to make a start on the sixteen page Pink Floyd feature.

Q has a fold out cover to mark its awards, but it's a lazy, useless fold-out without any real point to it, except to show off the people who got awards, but no matter how you fold it, you can't stop Bono being on the fucking front saluting, stood behind Elton John. No wonder the Q team decided to sling together a CD to cover up as much of the smugfest as possible (a CD which, we should add, caused the self-serve checkouts at Tesco to go into a blind panic; in the end we had to rip the thing off and slip it straight into the bag to shut the bloody machine from chirruping 'unexpected item on the belt' - which meant we were back to square one of Elton John smugging out of our bag. We rammed him face up to the cat litter in the end.) Tracks on the now-regular 'that was the year, that was, even though we put the album together at the end of September so missing out on three months of the year we're celebrating' compilation include Jamelia; The Clash and Jeff Buckley.

Ricky Gervais is doing Cash for Questions (he's in Word, too - new book and new Office DVD, innit?) and he reveals he fancied Soo. The panda.

As if the slightly smug 2004 Q awards hoopla isn't bad enough, the "great moment in music" is the 1996 Q awards photo, which is like boomerang smugness.

More interestingly, Chrissie Amphlett of the DiVinyls is tracked down. She explains, somewhat put out, that I Touch Myself was meant to work on lots of levels "but people only focussed on the dubious one." She's apparently writing a book now about, yes, her time in the band - it's going to be "really interesting" because they were "wild." How badly did Caitlin Moran reckon the gossip shortage has got?

In common with Harpers & Queen and GQ, Q has got Gwen Stefani popping in to plug the disappointing album, explaining that the whole point of the collection was to let her tick off ' super sexy dance album' on her to do list. Pity she didn't go to kill two birds with one stone and also get to put a line through 'decent solo set' at the same time.

Inspired by Goldie Lookin' Chain, (and that's not a phrase you get to use very often), Q assemble a panel (vicar, "little old lady" and a moral guardian - someone from Whithouse's potty right-wing stalking horse Mediawatch) to decide on the most offensive song ever. The best thing is the old lady takes on Mediawatch's David Turtle instead of the records - "Don't you ever say fuck? I'm a Christian but I still let out the odd fuck" but Turtle's distance from popular culture makes it clear why he's in no place to act as a moral guardian, self-appointed or otherwise: he complains that You're Mother's Got A Penis fails to deal with any of the issues of transgenderism. Yes, he really does.

So, those Q awards then:
Icon Award - U2 ("I think at a U2 show, people feel good about each other" says Bono); Classic Songwriter - Elton John ("the scene is good now with The Killers and The Kings of Leon"); Best Live Act - Muse ("Elton gave me his phone number" trills Matt Bellamy. If you were a couple of years prettier, love, it'd be his room number); Best Album - Keane ("I'm convinced there's been a horrible mistake" worries Tim Rice-Oxley and, to be honest, we think there may well have been, too); Best Producer - Mick Jones ("Amy Winehouse was absolutely fantastic"); Best Act in the World - Red Hot Chilli Peppers ("Thank you for being kind to us" says Anthony Kiedis via video); Best Single - Jamelia - See It In A Boys Eyes (no, really. We're guessing it was voted for on a machine made by the good people at Diebold) ("I'm the first black face of Pretty Polly" - Jamelia, honey, if anyone notices it in a bra ad, you'll probably be the first any face of Pretty Polly.); Lifetime Achievement - Roxy Music - we'll come to this in a moment; Best New Act - Razorlight ("I'd like to ask Bono about his hair"); Merit Award - what the fuck is a Merit award? Why don't they just have a Thank You For Coming Prize and be honest about it? - Shane McGowan ("Like every other award I've ever won. They're all the same"); Best Video - Franz Ferdinand - take me out (no words, just pictures); Inspiration Award - Pet Shop Boys ("Bono's given me a kiss" - Neil); Innovation In Sound Award - seriously, why not just leave an award on every fucker's table? The Ordering The Shrimp Award? - The Human League ("It's the best award we could have got" - Susan Sulley.

Ah, yes, Roxy Music. Bryan Ferry is asked "What's your highlight of 2004" and, rather than selecting the discovery of citrus flavour KitKats or the launch of ITV3, for Bryan it was "my son Otis's brave and courageous deed on the floor of the House of Commons. I've kept silent about it but since you ask, I'm very proud of him... I feel very sorry for Otis. I don't hunt and I'm from the working class so I know both sides. The whole argument of the people persecuting Otis and his friends is based on spite and that's a terrible indictment of the people who are running the country, although I accept that they might be doing well in other areas." So, you're proud that your son not only decided that, because a democratically elected chamber had voted against their animal-slaughtering hobby, they should attempt to change the law by breaking into Parliament and... what? The protest wasn't only boorish, but was a fine demonstration of just how empty the pro-fox killers are: they were able to get as far as the floor of the House of Commons and, with the attention of the nation thus arrested, had no message other than a chinless whine about how it's unfair. What Ferry pere et fils really don't seem to get is it's got nothing to do with class and spite. New Labour don't hate the rich and powerful - they only have to hear the rustle of Coutts chequebook cover and they're bending over rummaging in their red boxes for the KY. Trying to pretend that the cabinet are enemies of the elite is a little bit like trying to suggest that Dennis Skinner is a rabid anti-communist. Anti-hunting is, mostly, people feeling there's not a good argument for chasing a mammal before ripping it to pieces. It's not a class thing. Oh, and Bryan? Might want to stop trying to claim working class credentials, petal. You saying "I'm from the working class" is like me introducing myself to people as a member of Mrs Van Noort's first year infants. We're both long off those respective registers.

Not the best time for Q to be doing a 'What's wrong with Radio One' feature, although the fact it starts with "Colin & Edith's show" might answer the question in one go. Peel pops up a couple of times, to say that Chris Moyles is a nice bloke but he's "not as keen on his show" and, asked about the other djs, says that it's like working in a bus garage - "you don't know other drivers names, and you don't know their routes." Asked where Radio One will be in five years time, Andy Parfitt says, ominously, that it will be an "audio-visual brand." Couldn't we concentrate on having a half-decent public service pop radio network instead?

There's something for people missing the Melody Maker in Q this month, by the way:page 122 has that picture of Marilyn Manson showing his ringpiece that the Maker ran every week until it had chased away all its readers.

John Aizlewood gets to meet Avril Lavigne: its "like having your soul sucked out; her attention span is as tiny as she is."

Oh, and there's a claim on the front of the magazine that there are "one million free tracks for every reader" - except it's bollocks; it's Napster, so if you have a credit card and a PC running XP, and be prepared to use leaky ole Internet Explorer, you're in. Otherwise, no dice. I'm no expert, but I think the words "requires credit card and ropey PC set-up" should have appeared somewhere on the front page.

At the back, it's Sharon Osbourne, moaning that the Estate Agents flogging her neighbour's house "put a few thousand on the price" by saying "next to the Osboures" - I don't think so, Sharon: that sounds more like a full legal disclosure rather than an attempt to bump up the price.

Onto the NME, then: The Strokes are on the cover, with the unlikely words "first time ever" slapped across them.

The Scissors Sister's Halloween special is pictured in all its glory - they went as bloody Rocky Horror. How is it that a band who are visually inventive every day of the year fall back on something so hackneyed even fucking Andrew Marr's done it when asked to fancy dress themselves up? We'd have gone as Interpol.

More Peel: In a smart move, Burn It has dragged Peel's mix for the Fabriclive series out, so it's not even an imaginary mix CD, either - Jimmy Reed and the Kop Choir. And Teenage Kicks. Of course Teenage Kicks.

Morrissey's apparently written a piece for the NME Annual, which claims that The Libertines are better with Pete. Which is an unfashionable view, but is spot on.

Peter Robinson grills Katie Melua. He asks her questions he's been emailed - it takes three before she realises that they're spams, and even then she gets herself confused on the question of fucking the hottie next door - "No... the people next door are a family; and the girl my age, I don't think is a lesbian. And neither am I."

Oddly, the idea of giving more space to the letters, which we did sort of snicker at, is paying off, as they've not been so entertaining and engaging since the days when Stephen Wells would pretend they were all about Morrissey. A friend of Dominic from The Others writes in to slap him for his "stupid and immature stance" on drug-taking - "the fact is, taking coke makes you into a twat"; while others pile in to take him to task for suggesting that only people who've come from the arse-end of the working class are capable of feeling emotions. But that's nothing to the shoe-slapping the Manics get.

Devendra Banhart, Rufus wainwright; Joanna Newsom and Regina Spektor get a feature, although they have to share it amongst themselves, and also with an attempt to give a name to their "scene" - if, like me, you keep a list of these things, you might want to add "Quirky-somethings" underneath Camden Lurch and Raggle-Taggle.

what happens
for some reason, instead of being usual reviews, the longform pieces are split into "what happens" and "what this means"
what this means
it looks like a brave experiment to bring some sense of order to the live pages, but it basically means that you only read the last paragraph

the kings of leon - newcastle, northumbria university "a waifish, girl-haired Brad Pitt"
juliette & the licks - devil doll ball, LA: "frighteningly tight yellow spandex trousers"
the bees - camden electric ballroom: "good mainstream music for the people"

U2 - how to dismantle an atomic bomb - "a classic... preposterous... but also brilliant", 9
laibach - anthems - "Ho! Ho! Ho! Es ist alles seht kownik", 5
panda bear - young prayer - "sombre and occassionaly euphoric", 8

totw - graham coxon - time for heroes - "elder statesman on a wonky skateboard"
nick cave and the bad seeds - there she goes, my beautiful world - "masterly, gospel-tinged"

and, up the rear: they pull pieces of Hurricane Number Ones hits and rarities album (there is such a beast) sleevenotes, like wings off a fly: an overblown, many winged fly.


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