Saturday, November 20, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Sometimes, it's nicer at the weekend, isn't it?
Last Sunday saw another edition of the Observer Music Monthly, leading off with The White Stripes (there's a fuller version, incidently, of the interview on the OMM website - it's the uncut transcript of the meeting). Jack White made some noises about how he doesn't really feel that fond of Detroit anymore - something seized upon by the local press in Detroit, so expect Jack to be forced to make a Boris Johnson style journey of shame there some time soon.

The ten is the worst pop careers from soap opera actors - unforgivably, confusing the name of the Eastenders mutt group (they were The Banned, not the Band) and finding no space for Paul Usher's constant stints at trying to find chart fame which kept him away from Brookside duties; nor for Malandara Burrow's brief attempts to spin Kathy Merrick out into the Top 40. Stefan Dennis comes tops, which feels unfair compared to the Alessi Twins - at least Stefan did clearly, desperately, sadly want to be a pop star, whereas if you listened carefully at the start of the Twins record, you could hear them say "so, is this the single or the pantomime we're doing this morning?" And no Kids From Grange Hill? What sort of list is? No theme from Albion Market? No Pete Dean, Pete Beale as was, doing "aaaayyyyyy-up, I can't get no tickets for the world cup?"

Ricky Gervais gets a visit from the record doctor, which seems a little odd: he's done an XFM show; he did a music programme for Play UK - shouldn't this be a time for the physician to say "heal thyself"? Ricky was much taken, though, with Ian Broudie's new collection of folksier stuff.

There's some split opinions on John Lydon's new role presenting wildlife documentaries for Channel Five: most actual TV reviewers, for whom the forced novelty of a supposed punk pretending to be David Attenborough cannot offset his inability to present a TV programme nor do any more than try and hog the camera at every moment, hate it. Paul Morley, on the other hand, comes from a generation which still feels it owes something to Rotten, and suggests that he's got the makings of a great presenter. But while that's meant to be a compliment, it's just a further illustration of how becalmed Lydon is now: how neutered, that the man who once wrecked Bill Grundy's presentational career now could probably make the shortlist to replace Paul O'Grady at teatime on ITV.

In the New Statesman both Amanda Platell and Mark Thomas are less than impressed by Band Aid 20. Platell complains that "Bono aside... they're a bunch of nobodies; at least the last group were international stars." We think she actually means the group before last, unless she really does believe that you don't hear D-Mob and Sonia on TOTP any more because they're down playing Las Vegas all the time. Even so, it's slightly insane - she makes this claim straight after talking about the Bono/Hawkins spat, which would be another international star right there, and while Robbie Williams might not have broken America, he does have something of a global profile. The record also features Fran Healy and Chris Martin, both of whom have sold a surprising number of records in America; Dizzee Rascal, shortlisted for the Shorlist Prize this year; Peter Gabriel; transatlantic queen of the bland Dido; George Michael; Radiohead; The Thrills actually are American; Joss Stone is doing alright for herself in overseas sales; that David Bowie chap has been known to be recognised in the US, and Paul McCartney isn't exactly restricted in his profile to these islands, either. It's very easy to criticise the team for assembling bland, mass-market dullness, but compared with the first attempt (Heaven 17? Paul Young? Marilyn?) there's no real dropping of the profile. Platell goes on to complain that Band Aid 20 has eschewed International Stars in favour of winners of "reality TV shows like Pop Idol." There is precisely one winner of a reality TV show in there - Will Young - and, as far as we can tell, only one other person whose profile is down to a programme like it, Lemar.

Mark Thomas, of course, actually knows what he's talking about, so his criticism comes from a more valid place: "You would have to be very naive to believe that a single could change an entire continent's well-being. If it could, Nelson Mandela wouldn't have bothered with the armed struggle against aparthied - he would have spent his time practisicing 'Stairway To Heaven' in his bedroom"

The Daily Telegraph has quietly added a pop segment, Music On Thursday, which also features Band Aid. It carries an article by Robin Eggar, who was at "both" Band Aid recordings (this piece is copyrighted Eggar/Band Aid, so we assume that the painting out of history of Band Aid II really is official policy - this would also explain why bananarama weren't invited to make it three out of three; their presence would have only made sense if II was part of the official canon). Eggar also moans that the artists last time round were of higher, "international" stature, at the same time as moaning that it wasn't fair that Williams and Dido were allowed to record their bits down the phone because they were off, um, touring internationally.

Thank god, at least, Jamie Cullum was kept busy by the radio times (although, actually, Justin Hawkins also gets interviewed for the RT this week, and he managed to do Band Aid as well. Apparently, catsuits are being phased out: the new look will be "Little Lord Faunleroy meets Indiana Jones.") Cullum really wants a good review in the NME: "I'm a whipping boy for them. It's a shame, it;s one of my favourite magazines... I just wish they didn't take the piss out of me so much."

Well, you never know, Jamie: this week Green Day are on the cover of the NME, which shows that anyone can go from being a laughing stock to a cover star these days. The Day, see, are all political now, which means that we're having to take them seriously. Although it's nice to see a band broadening their horizons, we're not that convinced that a band stopping making pisspoor songs about wanking and starting to make pisspoor songs about Bush is much of a leap forward. In these dark days you can understand any glimmer of radicalism being careered towards, like moths towards the headlights on an eighteen wheeler. Green Day, of course, were never as stupid as they played it, but they're still not quite smart enough to carry the hopes of the American left: Billie Joe seems to think that 54 per cent of the few 18 to 29 year olds voting for Kerry is "pretty overwhelming" - it's barely a nose in front, and that's before the conservatising effects of getting older starts to work on them. And he also makes some slightly fatuous comment that "9/11 didn't happen until Bush was in office", as if there was never any terrorism in America under Clinton.

I don't know if it's a sign that we're old or not, but we have no idea what the sponsor of next year's NME Awards tour is - Shockwaves? Is that the hairgel people? Is that still going? We do notice, however, with a long, happy sigh of relief, that the tour is called
the NME Awards Tour, with no mention of the Brats branding which had been looking increasingly silly with each passing year.

Sons and Daughters burn a CD with parliament, The Crystals and The Smiths on it; while ex-ish Beta Band guy Steve Mason is taken on by Peter Robinson. Robinson encourages him to apply for the deputy news editor position currently vacant at the paper.

In the opinion boxes: Alex Needham suggests that without ego, there would have been no Band Aid III - and points out that The Sun, who seem very keen on the idea of feeding the world, would be the first people to be pushing for the starving to be sent back if they turned up at Heathrow. Slightly unfair - they'd be second, after Toyah. Zane Lowe, meanwhile, suggests that Dizzee Rascal is the most important man in British music.

The Magic Numbers piece is writing-by-numbers: not in the sense of Lazy Journalism, just that it really is by numbers - 2 songs on the debut single; 99 their combined ages, and so on.

Delays don't want to call their new direction a new direction, but don't want to fall back on creating a niche sound. Apparently.

There are two Conor Oberst interviews, one of each side of his two personalities: drunken poet and bush hater at the top two slots of the US chart (although the Green Day piece claims that they're, like, the only musicians in the whole of America who have dared speak out against Bush).

We're already spotting the first "Best record of the year" claims, although we're not yet into December, never mind 2005 - LCD Soundsystem in this instance.

the others - brighton pressure point - "leftover joy division bass"
british sea power - manchester - they're good but the best line of the review is of the city "once this city had Factory Records and aviation company Avro; nowit just has loads of cafes and Mark E Smith sucking his teeth"
help she can't swim - london bestey trotwood - "namechecks Melody Maker. we were hoping to get a shout out but we don't" - but, surely, the NME is the Melody Maker now, isn't it?
the dears - nortuhmbria uni - "sweet, syrupy, yumminess"
what happens
oddly, only two of the reviews this week are split into 'what happens/what this means'
what this means
either they realised it was a bad idea too late to warn the poor sods sent off to see Nick Cave and The Dears that they were abandoning it, or they just couldn't be arsed to do it for the other pieces

eminem - encore - "if this is the end, he's left us with an album that leaves us wanting more", 7
nirvana - with the lights out - "what is rebealed is the way Kurt wrote songs never changed", 7
kylie - ultimate - "a plethora of lacklustre follow-ups", 7
fleeing new york - aok - "trying too hard",7
gwen stefani - love angel music baby - "a triumph", 8

totw - green day - boulevard of broken dreams - "serious musicians for serious times"
outkast - prototype - "start counting the days to Glasto"
keane - this is the last time - "piano-tinkling pop music"

And finally: a Kingmaker fan writes in to thank the NME for mentioning the band. It was only as a crossword clue, but, hey, if you're still interested in Kingmaker after all this time, you're going to take what you get.