Saturday, May 29, 2004

BEYONCE HAS SQUATTERS: Well, actually, she hasn't, but the house she grew up in has. Look, it's Spring Bank Holiday in the UK, Memorial Weekend in the US, so this sort of local news story vaguely hung on the hook of a famous name is what we've got to work with.

More Toxicity

We're not sure how fresh the latest attack from Avril on Britney is, but it does seem that she still can't get through an interview without having a pop at her. because she's not Britney, do you see?

"Tons of mums come up to me and say thank you for not dressing like Britney Spears. Sometimes she just overdoes it with the facial expressions. You should dress like that for your boyfriend, not for the world.

Interesting perspective that Avril thinks you should dress up in a way that isn't "you" for a man - that's very progressive right there. And how exactly does Avril's mean and moody rebel personna square itself with being parentally-approved?

We're sure, of course, parents would rather their kids dressed like this:

Meanwhile, Lavigne also has a go at Hilary Duff, calling her a "goody goody." So, there's some fine line somewhere between being unacceptable to parents, but not too acceptable. We're so glad we're not a teenage girl having to negotiate all that...

[UPDATED August 2014 to repoint link to version of Ananova story]

BURN DOWN THE NATIONAL FRONT DISCO: Now, see, all that silly fighting for all those years because Morrissey wouldn't say if he was racist or not - it could all have been avoided so simply. Despite saying the question of his like or dislike of fascism was facile, Mozzer has finally taken a stand, signing a petition to encourage people to vote in the London Assembly elections to try and keep the BNP out of power. (So, by the way, have Adem; Benrard Butler, Ed Chemical Brother; Cinema; Clearlake; Damien Rice; The Datsuns; David Gray; Dan Martin from Electric 6; Four Tet (Kieron Hebden); Franz Ferdinand; Future Pilot AKA; The Glitterati; Hood; Hot Chip; James Yorkston and The Athletes; Jarvis Cocker; King Creosote and The Fence Collective; Kings Of Leon; Ladytron; The Libertines; Suggs and Madness; Max Tundra; Morrissey; Orbital; Peaches; Saint Etienne; The Strokes; Teenage Fanclub and X is Loaded).

THEY REALLY DO THINK IT'S GOOD PR: That's what puzzles us most about the RIAA lawsuits - despite not making any impact on file sharing, they really do seem convinced that bringing all these legal actions is sending out a valuable message and making them look like fair-minded folks just trying to protect their farm. But how on earth can demanding half a million bucks from a single Mum on a twelve dollars an hour wage for music her daughter downloaded make the music industry seem anything like coldhearted, greedy cunts? How much music is this kid supposed to have "stolen" to tot up to 500,000? If we take the music industry's belief that 99 cents is a fair price for a track, that's getting on for forty-two thousand albums' worth of music - what sort of fucking computer has this girl got at her home? She must have an iPod the size of a small fridge to cope with the hard drive space. And yet, despite being an obviously fraudulent demand for money with menaces, the RIAA thinks that saying "give us four thousand bucks and we'll keep it out of court" shows them as being reasonable - jesus, why doesn't Cary Sherman just turn up at the woman's home with a bottle of cheap wine and sweat on his upper brow, suggesting "there are other ways of paying off your debt, love... make yourself pretty and we can make all this go away..."?

BAD NEWS, BANDS: YOUR ASSES REALLY ARE THE LABEL'S: There's an interesting side issue that's developed out of the ongoing litigation following the death of Aaliyah in that plane crash, and one that's got some interesting implications for the whole of the music industry. Blackground Records have just convinced a Manhattan judge that Aaliyah was an "asset" and not an "employee" of the label, which is a piece of legal footwork that's freed them up to sue the video production company, Instinct Productions, for negligence in her death. Now, it doesn't take no Perry Mason to see that this has just shifted the whole relationship between recording artists and their record labels, and not much in the favour of the artists, either - could this pave the way for, say, a label suing an artist for developing a drug problem for being careless of their assets?

STREISAND SETTLES: Barbara Streisand's flap about photos of her house popping up on the internet has cost her a whopping USD177,00 - those are the legal fees run up by environmentalist Kenneth Adelman defending himself against a ridiculous USD10 million lawsuit the singer brought against him for publishing pictures of her house online. She's hardly being gracious about the matter, though, with her legal team not ruling out further, equally spurious legal actions. She should have Madonna over for tea; she could ask Maddy about her attempts to throw people off open countryside.

Oddly, the website address that Yahoo report mentions doesn't actually host the California Coastline project site that was at the heart of the dispute. So, if you want to see what Barbara's house looks like, you can click here. The site itself is an attempt to document the entire length of California's coastline.

POSSIBLY THE MOST CONVOLUTED OPENING SENTENCE IN THE HISTORY OF WRITING: We had about six goes at this opening to a Reuters/Billboard report before we could feel confident trying to work out what they meant:

"For the first time in recent memory the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart is populated by more than a handful of CD singles from artists that are familiar to most music fans. "

So... that's "This week for the first time in ages, there's more than a couple of people you've actually heard of in the Hot 100", then?

Buried down the story is an interesting little stat: downloads of Beyonce's Naughty Girl and Jessica Simpson's Take My Breath Away were higher than actual, physical sales of CDs and vinyl.

JUST WHAT THE GRAMMYS NEED - ANOTHER CATEGORY: I mean, we're delighted that Hawaiian music is doing well and being officially recognised, but since the Grammys already roll on for about four and half days anyway, is adding an extra few awards to stretch it out a bit. The belief that adding a separate award section (away from traditional and folk) would help promote the genre seems a bit wonkily-thought out - if you stretch the time between giving awards to Jon Bon Jovi much further, the numbers of people registering the whole non-rock segments at all are going to sink to about zero; and that will be before, say, Rhode Islanders demand a special category for their state's own flavour of musical heritage.

Friday, May 28, 2004

GENE SIMMONS IS THE KILROY OF THE ROCK WORLD: It's hard to backpedal when your foot is in your mouth, discovers Gene Simmons, who's found some intemperate remakrs about muslims have left him badly exposed; now, he's trying to find a crawl hole out, by suggesting that he was only talking about "extremists" when he said this last week:

"This is a vile culture and if you think for a second that it's willing to just live in the sands of God's armpit you've got another thing coming. They want to come and live right where you live and they think that you're evil."

Hmm. Now, that sounds to us a little like he's condemning pretty much the whole of the Islamic world to us, but who knows? Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt. But if Bush offers him the Presidency of Iraq, we'll know there's something wrong.

THE NEW REALITY: We know that the record companies love ringtones, making as much - if not more - out of them than they do from flogging CDs, but even so, we were surprised to hear Peter Andre voicing an advert for his own ringtone. We know his last gasp second career run is coming to an end, but that's got to be a first, hasn't it?

THAT'LL MAKE THE BUILDERS IN ATHENS PULL THEIR FINGERS OUT: Oh, God - have you seen the tracklisting for the Olympic Album? Oh god, it makes you wish they'd just got the discuss throwers together to bellow out a cover of That's Living Alright and had done with. It's called Unity, and it's going to be followed by Harmony (the classical one) and Phos (the Greek one). But let's just focus on Unity:

1, Avril Lavigne 'Knocking On Heavens Door'
2, Destiny's Child - Will I Am 'I Know'
3, Timbaland - Utada - Kiley Dean 'By Your Side'
4, Tiziano Ferro - Jamelia 'Universal Prayer'
5, Sting - Mariza 'A Thousand Years'
6, Beres Hammond - Les Nubians 'Going All The Way'
7, Mr G 'Issues'
8, Earth Wind & Fire - Roots Manuva 'Love Together'
9, Wayne Wonder - Neneh Cherry 'Eyes On the Prize'
10, Lenny Kravitz - Kadim Al Sahir 'We Want Peace'
11, Macy Gray - Keziah Jones 'Oh Yeah'
12, Moby - Public Enemy 'MKLFKWR'
13, Alice Cooper - Xzibit 'Stand'
14, Grönemeyer - Cheb Mami - Dalaras 'Everlasting'
15, Brian Eno - Skin - Rachid Taha 'Still Standing'
16, Trevor Horn - Yiannis - Tarkan - Katia 'Pass The Flame'

You'll notice that most of the tracks are bringing together acts who've never worked together before. Now, it seems to us there's a good reason why, say, Alice Cooper and Xibit or Moby and Public Enemy haven't felt the need to work together before: it's a rubbish idea. Even more interesting is that Avril clearly was like the wheezy boy when choosing teams for basketball - nobody wanted to play with her. We wonder if the spectacularly inappropriate Knockin' On Heaven's Door cover was her idea, or if there's someone quite that stupid elsewhere on the projects.

WORSE THAN VOLDEMORT: Daniel Radcliffe is running scared of Josh Homme now, after mentioning that he has the hots for Brody dalle while on Conan O'Brien:

"She's hot in that 'I haven't slept in days way.' I'm kind of scared of saying it because Josh Homme is like her boyfriend... and he hit a guy in a bar for talking to her, and so now I'm kinda scared he's gonna hunt me down for saying this on TV. He's a big guy."

Daniel could hope that Josh won't hit people who wear glasses (although that's a thing I've never quite understood - what differemnce does that make? Is it unfair to hit someone who might not be able to work out quite who it is attacking him? Do contacts carry the same sort of protection?), although, of course, he doesn't actually wear glasses anyway. Oh.

GIRLS ON THEIR OWN: Girls Aloud have decided that they're not going to date no more, not while they have the band to concentrate on (so, that's no sex before the end of June, then), according to this quote from Cheryl Tweedy:

"We're not even thinking about men now - we've got each other and that's enough for us. Everyone thinks you need to be going out with a man to have a good time, but that's rubbish. We feel like the girls in Sex and The City - but without the sex. We're strong and independent and are doing just fine without blokes."

Er, so that's like a series about women defined almost entirely by their relationships with men, except without any of relationships? I'll be HBO are kicking themselves they never thought of that. But Cheryl has more to say:

"When we go out, we're going out to dance and not to look for men," says Cheryl.

Well, yes, Cheryl; you're certainly known for not letting men distract you when you're out on the town. Nothing comes between you and the soft flesh of the toilet attendant, does it?

SLEAZE CLEANED OUT: According to rumours zinging about all over the place - shall we call it "background chatter"? - Swinstead Publishing have folded, and taken down Jockey Slut and Sleaze (formerly Sleaze Nation) with them.

SUGGS SIGNS FOR VIRGIN: We're a little surprised that Virgin has taken a punt on giving Suggs his own show (playing "whatever I fancy", which luckily appears to coincide with Virgin's played-to-death-list); he's a charming man but while he can anchor a panel show, he doesn't come across well as a radio presenter - too dry, too flat. And throwing him into the middle of a "party" show on Friday night seems to be even more puzzling. Still, them Virgin guys must have dug out a piechart which says this is the way for them to go, so who are we to argue?

VINES DISENTANGLED: Time to dust off the Vines to split tshirts again, as the band fall apart on stage all over. Patrick Matthews stormed off stage after one tune during a radio promo show in Sydney. The bassist appears to have had a spat with Craig and flounced off stage. The evening show for Sydney was cancelled, with the usual "illness" get out. Boys, eh?

IVOR THE INGENUE: There's something really sweet about giving the Darkness an Ivor Novello award for songwriters - giving the award to a knees-up merchant rather than a tortured soul is a nice piece of innocent fun, compared with some of the other prizes: Leave Right Now by Will Young was judged to be the best song "musically and lyrically" of last year, although we felt it was a bit like a drudge through some cliches ourselves; Amy Winehouse got the "best contemporary song" prize - but we don't quite understand how Will's song can be the stongest but not the best; we're puzzled as to what sort of scale they're using - "this Amy Winehouse song hasn't got stronger lyrics or music than the Young one, but it's so much better, isn't it?". Radiohead won international achievement (for going a year without complaining) and Mad World picked up best selling single. Dido's White Flag was "international hit of the year" or maybe "international house of pancakes", we were drifting by then; Goldfrapp won the dance award and Holand-Dozier-Holland won a special shiny award for them. Jesus, how could they have a kept a straight face while watching someone pick up a prize for writing "White Flag"?

GUY CHAMBERS SAYS CHARTS ARE RUBBISH: Without any apparent trace of irony or guilt, Guy Chambers, the man who put the words in Robbie William's mouth, has slammed the UK charts and insisted that they should "include downloads." No fucking shit, eh? He's also not very keen on the major labels:

"I don't see why all the major labels should have all the action. They've made some terrible mistakes investing in crap. They're paying a high price now."

Yes, eight and a half million in the case of Robbie, wasn't it? That's a really high price...

SMALL CLAIMS THROWN OUT: A judge in Utah has tossed out Eric Stephenson's small claim against Viacom for "falsely advertising" the content of the Superbowl halftime show as being all wholesome. Stephenson is still trying to play the consumer champion: "Without a victory here, it gives advertisers a licence to lie and get away with it."

RAPPING ABOUT DARTS IS LIKE... WELL, IT'S JUST WRONG, OKAY?: We can hardly contain our joy at the news that this chap is about to embark on a solo career:

Lee Ryan has let himself go a bit

Yes, Phil Taylor - or Phil "The Power" Taylor is about to try and make the leap from athlete (well, darts player) to pop star, with a rap about how tricky it is being a darts champion. In a way, we hope he's a success, so the TOTP production crew can back project a giant picture of Kevin Rowland on the big screens when he's on. And why shouldn't he have a hit? He wouldn't be the first overweight, glorified tosser from Stoke to have a Top Ten single, would he?

NATIONWIDE TAKE ON THE MERCURY: The Mercury Music Prize is a bit of an oddity, in that it's done a really good job of promoting its original sponsor - which is a bit of a problem, since the company who established the prize long ago ceased trading under the Mercury banner.

Hairy older readers will recall Mercury, Cable & Wireless' single-minded but doomed attempt to challenge British Telecom; there's still a couple of the old Mecury boxes lingering in forgotten corners of the country, and some shops still have the Harry Enfield splattered promotional material displayed under layers of abandoned Point of Sale material. There was a time when you couldn't move for Enfield's Cholmdley-Warner character extolling the virtues of Mercury from the side of buses, edges of newspapers and televisions - "I felt like Enver Hoxa" said Enfield, in what might have been his last amusing moment.

The Mercury dream stalled, however, and the brand got chucked away, which left the high-profile music prize without a sponsor. Into the breach stepped Technics, the record player people, who've been underwriting the price of fish suppers for a couple of hundred music writers and pop stars from the posher end of the market for a few years. But now they've stopped doing it, so the Nationwide Building Society - the people who already bring you the less important football matches - is stepping up to take on the sponsorship. Of course, the value of trying to associate your brand with a prize that's known entirely by the name of a defunct sponsorship is highly questionable, so it could be possible that this is actually an entirely altruistic deal. Like they really exist in business.

Interesting piece of trivia: Nationwide Building Society was formed by a merger of several smaller societies, and was named in a competition by viewers of 70s BBC news-light show Nationwide (do you see how inspired they were?). Nationwide, of course, used to be one of the promoters of the British Rock and Pop Awards, along with Radio 1 and the Daily Mirror, which went on to become the Brits. There's something pleasingly circular about this.

DOHERTY'S OUT... AGAIN: Pete Doherty's quit the Libertines to spend more time with his side projects. He reckons he's been let down by the band:

"I'm heading to Paris to escape with my girlfriend Irene. She's the one person who understands me. She will help me give up the crack pipe.

"I couldn't do that in The Priory. I was barely aware of what was going on in there. All these visitors were coming in to see me and saying they were my family and my sisters - but really they weren't.
"I want to clean up but it's something I have to do on my own terms."
Doherty said he felt neglected by his bandmates - Carl Barat, John Hassall and Gary Powell - and manager Alan McGee.
He said he was particularly disappointed in best friend Carl, with whom he shares a complicated love/hate relationship. Pete burgled his home last year to help fund his drug habit, and ended up serving three weeks in prison.
Doherty also said: "Being a Libertine is supposed to be about freedom - but I don't feel free at the moment. I want people to take me seriously as a musician - not just portray me as a junkie."

Thing is, of course, most people seem to think of Pete as a serious musician alongside being a bit of a junk casualty...

We reckon he'll be back in the Libertines by Thursday.

GIRLS RELOADED: So, much has been made of the forthcoming attempt to relaunch Girls Aloud for their new single, and a picture is circulating showing their "new image":

smil... oh, never mind

Nicola looks really, really pissed off - as if she can't believe she's lumbered with hanging on in this car crash when she could be doing pantomime in Minehead. The others seem to be pitching for a role as Victoria Beckham on Dead Ringers.

But really, our first thought on seeing the bright colours and plastic bag chic was this:

one was Bob Holderness' daughter, you know

... they've turned into Toto Coelo.

TELL YOUR AUNTY OPRAH ALL ABOUT IT: George Michael is still eating healthy lunches off the back of his being caught with his cock in a cop incident, despite the fact it all happened so long ago, it's almost as if nobody can remember a time when he wasn't gay. This week he's been banging on about it to Oprah:

"I just plummeted into deep, deep depression. I mean my God, why didn't I just sit with a journalist and say, 'I am gay.'"

Maybe you thought that since it screamed from every pore of your being saying it out loud would be redundant?

Of course, George thinks he might have been set-up:

"I went into the bathroom when there was no one in it and the policeman came in after me. They don't send Columbo in there; they send someone really nice looking."

Erm... yes, George, chances are the cop didn't just happen to be there with his cock out by accident. And, generally, they would send the pretty cops out on such duties. Your understanding of the criminal justice system is incredible. Having said which, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall when they're handing out that duty in the roll call? All these cops sat trying to look as unpretty as possible...

ALMOST BLUE: Apparently, Blue's management's hopes of the band making it through to a Greatest Hits and tour for February 2005 are looking shakier by the minute - the band cancelled a press meet a few minutes before it was due earlier this week, amid rumours of splits in the ranks. [Thanks, EP]

Meanwhile, could David Beckham's keenness to kick the Daily Mail out of his press conference this week have less to do with the now-frankly-tiresome Rebecca Loos story, more to do with the Mail's baseless claims that Victoria's recent charity film had featured faked scenes?

NATURE: THE HARSHEST CRITIC: You've got to feel a bit sorry for Cyndi Lauper - there she is, onstage in Massachusetts, about to hit a high note, when a passing bird poops straight into her mouth. That'll make her think twice before any further reversioning of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
[Thanks to Andy for the, um, birdspotting]

Thursday, May 27, 2004

TOO LATE TO STOP NOW: A quick mention for one of those projects that the instigators just deserves respect for having set out on, regardless of if they make their destination or not. A Million Love Songs is an all-star blog planning to bring, well, a million love songs in MP3 format. We've signed up to add some stuff, and we're just weighing up what we're going to contribute - at the moment, there's some excellent pop stuff to enjoy.

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: We don't know if Janet Jackson's extravagant demands for rider booty to support her appearance on Jonathan Ross have been accurately detailed by the Daily Mirror - we smell a rat around the "black roses" point, to be honest - but if it is, surely she needs to be taken aside - water at room temperature? Who the hell wants their water at that pitch, where the bugs will be starting to go all hellzapopping all over the place? What sort of diva is she?

OH GOD: It's bad enough that Robbie Williams thinks he could be an actor, but for Irwin Winkler to tease him by pretending he's catnip to the box office - rather than "nip off, it's the cat box" - is just cruel. Winkler enthuses that he's such a great actor, erm, "when we do the TV slots to promote the film, we're using scenes of him singing De-Lovely." So, he's such a brilliant actor, you're using him doing his day job, then? It makes you shudder to think how poor the movie is that the best thing they can think to bring audiences in is Williams honking his way through the classics.

JACKSON DEFENCE COMPLAIN: The defence team working to try and keep Michael Jackson out of anywhere he wouldn't want to be - court, prison, small children's birthday parties at McDonalds - have complained that the prosecution are sitting on documents they're meant to share, making it hard for them to put together plausible explanations for Jackson's questionable behaviour. Of course, they could just take a leaf out their client's book and get the prosecution team drunk to see what they'll give up.

THE KISSING DISEASE: So, we're lead to believe that Mozzer pulled out of Craig Kilborn because he had meningitis - obviously not the really bad sort. Seems Morrissey had a weak immune system after the promotional drudge and it let the bugs have an easy time with him. That might be how he managed to pick up 'the talking to the nme' disease again.

THE GOOD MEN ARE EITHER GAY OR MARRIED. WHICH IS ONLY A PROBLEM IF YOU'RE A MORAL, HETEROSEXUAL WOMAN: Added to the list of rock stars with wedding rings, shortly, will be Julian Casablancas

look, but touch no longer

As is increasingly common, The Strokes' singer has taken a wife from within the band's organisation, as his bride-to-be is Juliet Joslin, assistant Strokes manager. Juliet and Julian. Hmm.

SOMEONE'S RUN PETER ANDRE OFF THE ROAD: So, apparently, Andre was driving about the Kent countryside, enjoying the view of Oast Houses and hopfields, when someone in a car behind him started to try and recreate 'Duel' with him. In the end, the other driver got him off the road and started a massive row. They've not named the other guy, but we're guessing: Daniel Bedingfield's back now, isn't he?

The best thing about the story is that Peter was on his way to "get a puppy for his girlfriend Jordan." We just know Jonathan Ross is working on a script that makes reference to "Jordan's puppies" even as we speak.

IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, YOU'VE AT LEAST GOT SOMETHING TO POP IN YOUR G&T: Courtney Love has made the best of a bad job and announced tour dates which fit round her court appearances. Although, of course, dates may change due to incarceration.

SIMPSON'S WORLD: Oddly, for some reason, the people at ABC haven't picked up Jessica Simpson's sitcom for a series. The programme, in which Jessica Simpson played Jessica Sampson (yes, that's the level of invention they had) was left out in the cold when ABC announced its line-up for the new season - ABC "insiders" described the pilot as "good concept, poorly executed" - although if that had been the pitch we might have tuned in. Apparently, ABC's main worry was she wasn't singing in it. Jesus, if the programme was so shit they were wishing she'd start warbling, it must be a stinking clunker.

Mind you, NBC haven't picked up Alyson Hannigan's sitcom, either.

FACTS AMAZING: Eminem pitched up in Detroit to add his voice to calls for young people to get their lazy bloody arses out and register to vote, telling people at a summit that he'd lost his right to vote when he was given probation for carrying a concealed weapon. Except... erm, he was actually able to vote despite his conviction. His "people" said, you know, they'd just assumed he couldn't vote. Besides, Steptoe and Son was on so he couldn't have found the time to go down to the polling station anyway. And, besides, whoever you vote for the government always gets in. And so on.

I SAY, I SAY, I SAY: Missy Elliott has cancelled her Indonesian tour date.
Jakarta off?
No, she pulled the gig of her own accord, following an advisory from the American government warning of new terrorism.

WE LOVE PATTI SMITH: Of all the band mailouts, none make us scroll through our mailouts as the ones from Patti Smith. And this sort of thing is the reason why:

i would be amiss if i didn't mention that yesterday was Bob Dylan's birthday. It's a good day to throw open the shutters, put on The Times They Are A Changin' and take those worn, encrusted boots out of the closet or from under the bed and give them a good cleaning. There have been times in history when men have tramped trough the ice and snow, or manned the trenches, the soles of their shoes nearly gone, young soldiers, under Washington, Lee or Napoleon with no foot covering at all. So it is good to show appreciation for our well trodden soles.

So, as we sail off to Spain we send a salute to Bob. My trusty boots await and when we return I shall resume my quest for the perfect laces.

We don't yet know her feelings on Ironic.

TINT MIX TAPES GONE TOO CRAVEN: Dan Kois over at Slate has some fun pulling apart the celebrity playlists on iTunes:

"You know what other music celebrities love? U2. Dylan. Clapton. Nirvana. Hendrix. It turns out musicians pretty much like the same music as everyone else....
The worst of the bunch are those celebrity playlists padded with the celebrity's own songs, epitomized by the queen of the craven playlist, Beyoncé Knowles. Eight of the 14 songs on Beyoncé's playlist are performed by her thin-voiced sister, Solange, by her former bandmates in Destiny's Child, or by Beyoncé herself."

But, as Kiril, who brough this to our attention points out, this is the money shot:

"And I can't think of a better summation of Avril Lavigne than her exegesis of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic": "I love how this song was written with all the different examples Alanis uses of things being ironic."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Back with the grown ups edition:
There's been a sudden discovery in Farringdon Road, as both the Guardian and Observer ran the picture of Polly Harvey in the pink cat suit this weekend - the Guardian to illustrate a standard late spring piece about how Grate Glastonbury is, the Observer in the Music Magazine, nominating it as one of the Top Ten Most Mind Boggling Makeovers (Kiss at one, ABC's sudden reinvention as cartoon characters only scraping in at 9).

OMM's Record Doctor is in for Simon Armitage, who sniffs that the Avalanches are "interesting", but really took to Daft Punk.

There's the disturbing news that Norman Cook is working his way up to running a half-marathon (he's already done a 10k). Apparently, much of his embrace of (or at least claims to) the healthy life has come because he's tabloid fodder. So, that would be the answer to the obesity problem that's puzzling John Prescott these days: shove us all into the light of the paparazzi, and we'll cut back the chips and Carlsberg.

Kitty Empire's sound of the future this month is Jentina, "hip hop from Surrey." There's no need to go any further, is there?

Charlotte Williamson goes round shops recording the music they're playing - which is interesting, although was significantly more interesting when Alex Is Peter Dish did it for the Guardian review not so long back; there's also a big feature on Grime, which I suppose we should just be thankful isn't about Shroomadellica, although I fear that might be next month's focus.

The review sections nominates The Corr's album as the worst of the lot, which is actually quite shocking: not that it's shit, but that they're still releasing records at all.

Peter Robinson's Backbeat dissects Britney's toxic video. Especially the bit where the paps peer at her corpse, like they did with Princess Diana, when you come to think of it. And then Peter Blake interviews Danny Goffey, which just feels the wrong way round, however you stare at it.

The NME has got the Pixies on the cover, for the first time since… well, ages ago.

The big picture is of the Hives new video shoot, where Pelle appears to dance on the ceiling, something that will amaze anyone who hasn't seen Lionel Ritchie's dancing on the ceiling video.

Unfortunately, Pete Libertine came out of the Priory - pleading a previous engagement with the FA Cup Final - before the NME did, but it's still interesting to see the Priory desperately insisting that it's not a spa, you know.

If we didn't know better, we'd say that the "news story" Napster is Here is little more than a piece of unflagged advertising puff - certainly, there seems to be no downside to the wonders of the service, which seems to be at least curious.

Peter Robinson takes on Rufus wainwright - shockingly, Rufus shows himself not to know what a haiku is. We're starting to wonder just how gay he actually is.

Radar band is TV On The Radio, who claim to be writing the rules for their own religion - sadly, nobody asks them if they're aware their band name was Tommy 'storming out of Hells Kitchen' Vance's catch phrase in the 80s. Bet Tommy Vance wouldn't like them, too. Amongst the free downloads Radar have is Deerhoof, who, as you know, are wonderful. Vit zeez free downloads you are spoiling, etc, etc…

Oh, yeah, 1991. There was a really shit front page for that one, Black Francis with some globe on his shoulder - we think it might have come with a postcard of the Mozzer drinking Ecover on it; the cover, and the Roger Morton piece, is rerun. There's also the results of an NME reader's poll (from this year) which claims Where Is My Mind is the world's favourite Pixies track.

Astonishing pop facts: Alex from Franz Ferdinand is a year older than Ash are. There's a lesson to be drawn, but we're buggered if we know what.

Peter Robinson (again) is given the job of welcoming the new countries in the EU y giving us a taste of their music - apparently Phats and Small are topping the charts in Slovenia right now.

It turns out Ananova had completely misunderstood the meaning of "Fit but you know it" when they reported that the paper had nominated Carl Barat as fittest man in pop - the full list, getting a poster each, is: Carl, Alex Kapranos, Favrizio Moretti, Meg White; Jack White; Karen O; Brody Dalle and, perhaps more surprisingly, Marcie Bolen.

The streets - Manchester Apollo - "in losing the charm of the new lp, skinner comes across more convincing than ever"
Beastie boys - ICA - "the beats still jump, although the beatmasters seem Jurassic"

Hope of the states - the lost riots - "look at the messages as Jimmi Lawrence's legacy", 9
Pj Harvey - uh huh her - "let's face it, she should never have split up with Duncan", 5

Beastie boys - Ch-Check it out - "the g-guvnors are back"
Emma bunton - crickets sing for anamaria - "sick and wrong"

And, finally, Ben Gautrey of Cooper Temple Clause loves Sonic Youth. Yup, us too.

TWO ALBUMS, YOU SAY? OH... THAT'S... A LOT: Bjork is planning to release not one, but two new albums. She says she's treating herself by stepping off the album - tour - beat journalists head against the floor - album - tour cycle. There's also the messy live-reworkings-of-previous-albums in the offing (if ever anything said 'don't buy me, take me from bittorrent, it's that, surely?)

REMEMBER US?: Blimey, we know that Phish aren't that well known in the UK, but even we were surprised by the blase way have been reporting the news - on the headlines page they're just going with "US rock giants to split - A band who have been going 20 years call it a day…" - no actual indication of who it is until you reach the page itself. They could at least put "not REM" in brackets or something.

VIRGIN FLATTENS OUT SCHEDULE A LITTLE MORE: In a bid to ensure that there's absolutely no confusion over what they're meant to do, Virgin has shaken out another one of its more interesting djs, with the axing of Nick Stewart, the station's 'Captain America'. He's been told the station is returning to bore programming (sorry, core) and, despite increasing his audience by a fifth in the last three months, there's no longer any room for quirky singer-songwriters when that time could be being put to more profitable use playing Coldplay again. Virgin say its part of a "tweak" rather than a "revamp" of its schedules.

A SENSE OF PRIDE: We're delighted to discover we're the number one Google Search for "sexy chicks pissing on stage during a rock music show". And, rest assured, we'll do our utmost to ensure that only the very sexiest of chicks will be featured pissing here in the future.

DAY ON, DAY OFF: So, after a fairly-triumphant-enough start, Madonna's pulled the second gig on her 'look at my pants! aren't I schlocking' tour due to some vague, trumped up, non-illness: stomach flu, they say, vaguely. That's what you get if you will lick stadia floors:

Christina, Britney, Morrissey, Madonna - it's like there's a plague going through the a-lsit, isn't it?

LOVE CONFESSES: Yes, she's pleaded guilty in a plea-deal-bargain thing that keeps her out of jail by agreeing to a drug rehabilitation programme - although we reckon she might find it tougher than she expects - but how often do you hear Courtney actually admitting that, yes, she'd fucked up? (I mean, out of the context of long drunken rambles which then kick in to justifications and riders and subclauses and footnotes?)

Yeah but no but yeah but...

If she fucks this up, though, it's 90 days in the cooler. Still, one court case down, another dozen or so to go...

HOW THE SUN WORKS: It's not quite as bad as the sixteen year old CD rot story in the Mail, but according to Ananova, The Sun is carrying the story about Justin confusing an NME competition winner for an NME hack which was in the NME last week. Does it really take The Sun seven days to work their way through the magazine?

"TECHNICAL PROBLEMS": Apparently, Britney had to cancel a date on her German leg of the Onyx Hotel tour because of "technical difficulties" - the difficulty appearing to be that they'd not been able to separate tickets from the books in large enough numbers.

THE HEADLINE SAYS 'POP STAR' - THE STORY? NOT SO MUCH: We actually have some sympathy for Max Odell, who's pleaded guilty to deception charges after claiming dole while having a record deal (His band manchild was signed to One Little Indian a few years back). We know numerous people who were working on music who were either forced by need, or else - as in this case - told to, and carried on signing on. Of course it's true that they were, strictly speaking breaking the rules - saying they were actively seeking work when, in fact, they'd be playing gigs or in the studio, but at least the piddling fraud was done with the best of intentions. Really, the charges should be brought against the indsutry which signs people up, and then fails to provide them with enough to live on.

IF THEY PUT ONE TENTH THE EFFORT INTO SIGNING BANDS THAT THEY DO INTO WORRYING ABOUT TECHNOLOGY, THE US MUSIC INDUSTRY WOULD BE THE SIZE OF THE ENTIRE FRENCH ECONOMY: Now, the RIAA wants a "broadcast flag" to be dumped onto radio broadcasts to try and stop people sharing radio shows over the internet. Since they still haven't actually found a secure DRM that works for their own products, isn't it a bit rich that they're demanding other industries introduce similar measures?

PHISH HAD THEIR CHIPS: The secret of a good life is knowing when it's time to go, and it seems that it's a secret that Phish are in on. The band have decided that the time has come to call it a day, and will be bowing out at the end of their current tour. In a statement, Trey Anastasio said:

"Last Friday night, I got together with [bassist] Mike [Gordon], [keyboardist] Page [McConnell] and [drummer Jon Fishman] to talk openly about the strong feelings I've been having that Phish has run its course and that we should end it now while it's still on a high note. Once we started talking, it quickly became apparent that the other guys' feelings, while not all the same as mine, were similar in many ways -- most importantly, that we all love and respect Phish and the Phish audience far too much to stand by and allow it to drag on beyond the point of vibrancy and health. We don't want to become caricatures of ourselves, or worse yet, a nostalgia act. By the end of the meeting, we realized that after almost 21 years together we were faced with the opportunity to graciously step away in unison, as a group, united in our friendship and our feelings of gratitude."

Of course, we're expecting the negotiations for the 2010 reunion tour to be opening sometime this fall.

YOU'VE GOT TO FIGHT FOR THE HERO IN LEVENSHULME: Things must be fairly quiet for Heather Small right now, as she's taken to entering newspaper competitions to find a poem for Manchester, apparently, and (probably) clipping the money off coupons from Tesco Recipe booklet.

SHOE SALESMAN'S WIFE MAKES RECORD: Of course, anyone writing about Kathy Sagal's new record will be thinking "Peggy Bundy makes cuts disc", which is the reason why she's waited ten years to follow up her debut. It's doubly unfair, because not only is it trapping her in a character, but it's trapping her in the wrong character - she's got much more in common with her other great creation, Leela, from Futurama. Apart from having more eyes, of course.

Of course, we're sure the decision to resurrect the recording career is in no way related to the shady future of her current sitcom, Eight Simple Rules...

GREASE IS THE WORD, YOU WISEGUY: Blimey - Frankie Valli is going to be in the Sopranos, having tried for a part four years ago:

"David Chase (the show's creator) liked my reading, but he didn't think the part was right for me," Valli said of his first audition. "When he said he'd write a part or look for a part for me, I thought he was just being a nice guy."'

Hey, he is a nice guy. He's a gentleman. You treat him with respect, he'll treat you like a gentleman, too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

OOH, THAT'S GOT TO HURT. OH, NO, HANG ON; IT DOESN'T: Simon Cowell has pronounced Christina better than Britney, which means the man who backed Gareth Gates and Girls Aloud has made another bad choice.

Oh, and he also says that if he'd been Britney, he'd "have gone to the gym" before dancing about in skimpy clothes. Yeah, because Britney's huge, isn't she? Cock.

Meanwhile, the much talked about Christina Aguilera Virgin advert has aired - supposedly the raunchiest thing she and they and anyone has ever done, you'll recall. Christina is seen through a window bouncing up and down on an office chair. People assume she's riding someone like a pony. Erm... that's it. Could we have the Appleton photocopying her arse back, please?

TONIGHT, LAST NIGHT: We're just going to recycle our blogcritics piece on The Osbournes Meet Trevor McDonald:

How hard up are the team behind Tonight With Trevor McDonald that they'd hand the whole of ITV's flagship current affairs show to the Osbournes to continue flogging Sharon's fly-attracting dead horse of turning them into something between the Royals and the Osmonds?

Half an hour of Jack and Kelly droning on about their addictions would have been hard to get through without a can or two of Bud under normal circumstances, but for some reason Jack was put in charge of the programme. The trouble is that as a screen presence, the Osbourne fils lacks a little: he's totally unable to deliver a line to camera; as an interviewer he... um... managed to sound... uh, more... clouded than the recovering drug addicts he spoke to; and the tale he had to tell was, well, meaningless.

Yeah, doubtless there are parents who need to keep a closer eye on what their kids are up to, but Tonight and Jack O dressed the tales of the Osbourne's fuck-ups as a warning to all the UK's parents - because, you know, maybe your kids, too, will be like Kelly: out in a nightclub in the middle of LA knocking back vodka to feel loved and wanted. Happens all the time in Ormskirk. Hilariously, it hadn't seemed to occur to anyone, anywhere in the production process that The Osbournes aren't an archetypal family, and their situation isn't really the same as that of a one-parent family on a sink estate in the North of England whose kid is pinching their telly to flog for a fix. Kelly, for example, suggested the reason she got into drugs was because she found it hard living in Beverley Hills and not wanting to drive a BMW. You could hear the teens in Easterhouse nodding and saying "that is my story, too."

But it wasn't just dire warnings of the risks of letting your kids out on the Strip - Jack and Kelly are angry, too. In the States, explained Kells, there are twelve-step programs everywhere, and everybody knows when they meet. But, revealed her brother, there's only one twelve step programme for teenagers in the whole of the United Kingdom. Like this was shocking. Again, there was no attempt to ponder why this might be, and - more disturbingly - there was no attempt to offer an exploration of if the twelve step route is the most fitting, or explain the hundreds of alternatives that are on offer. We can't help wondering if the Osbournes had been "rehabbed" by some organisation that looked even more culty if the once-mighty Granada production team would have been equally happy for them to be given a large unquestioning chunk of screen time. [We know the 12 step works for some people; but we're equally aware of some serious criticisms of it - the average viewer of Tonight would have been left unaware].

And, of course, there were Sharon and Ozzy, pulled out again to mumble and fumble (him) and grandstand (her). A terrible, terrible programme all round - doesn't anyone in TV have the guts to do the Osbournes a kindness and let them all slink back off into anonymity?

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY EXTRA: Into teen & preteens hell:
It’s a tartrazine fuelled POP frenzy special starting with PopGirl (for girls who love pop!). Complete with a heart over the letter 'i', but there's no face drawn in the 'o'. This issue comes with a "FREE BLING POP PENDANT", which does at least cover up the grumpy face of Avril Lavigne on the front page. Smash Hits, during its glory years, would at least make some effort to link its free gifts to the supposed content of the magazine, but it seems that nowadays it's just enough to say "Oh, yeah, that's a pop thing." It seems to have been made from some lengths of gate chain.

The cover girl for PopGirl is just some grinning child, presumably the target market - there are the words "Look like a star" strapped just under her chin, although to be honest, she doesn't. I'm still trying to get used to this whole segment of preteen pop magazines - when I was their age, I'd have been reading Bunty. No, no need for "if I was a girl" there, since you ask; now, the relentless drive to sustain the record industry market share has seen them drilling down to market directly to younger and younger consumers and you end up with stuff like this - ten year old girls dreaming of looking like one of Girls Aloud instead of having their own pony. No wonder I Love Horses had to fight back with its own tune.

There's a "secret file" on Cheryl Girls Aloud. They mention that she once appeared in adverts for British Gas, and yet oddly she thinks her "oops" moment was when her mum washed her face with a hanky in public. Not being convicted of beating the crap out of a toilet attendant, then, Cheryl?

Have you ever wondered how you can make yourself like Avril Lavigne? (Obviously, assuming you don't have a record company prepared to underwrite the transformation.) One way is to, apparently, "do you own thing" - interesting enough advice to kick off an article on how to make yourself more like someone else; PopGirl is keen to stress that Avril doesn't follow the crowd - "she stopped wearing her famous ties when they became a fashion trend", although it's slightly undermined by the poster illustrating the article featuring Avril wearing, um, one of her famous ties. Avril says that she keeps a journal - "my journals are my poems and where I write all my feelings out." Erm… don't you keep telling us that that's what your songwriting is, Avril? The next page has steps to let you dance "like Avril" to Don't Tell Me: "jump out and push your arms out to the side - don't forget to smile." Isn't it wonderful that young girls are taught to be individual at such an early age?

If dancing like Avril isn't enough, then you can also dress like S Club 8.

Hello… what's this? FanFic? Now we're interested - we've read fanfic online, and it usually involves Alyson Hannigan being gaffer taped between two Christmas Trees while her clothes are ripped off by shaky fingers. In PopGirl world, though, fanfic is a bit more wholesome: Charlie from Busted does end up sleeping in Jodie's bedroom, but only because the boys had moved her into her old house. It's quite sweet, and nicer than the "advertorial" (i.e: it's an advert) from Polly Pocket where Polly, Lea, Lila and Shani give themselves a "pop star makeover." "Let's go glam" they squeal. "I think you're missing this tiara." They end up looking like MiniPops does Courtney Love, an effect they complete by falling over uncontrollably while making a video.

Meet new band VS - as in "flicking the Vs", we suppose - they seem to be an attempt to fuse Big Brovas with the S Club 8. Apparently the soppiest thing Jaime has ever done is to cook for people, which would make Gordon Ramsey something like a Care Bear.

There's all sorts of dirt on Tom from McFly - his favourite snacks are Kit-Kats, and the only thing he hates more than miming is miming. Actually, it's in his own handwriting, and it could be mincing that he hates, although having seen them play live on CD:UK, we don't think so. Meanwhile, Jay from S Club 8 still hasn't got over being forced to dress up like a lobster while the others sprayed him with water - now, that would be a horrible experience for any child, but this took place on live TV. Still, at least he's got a ready answer to explain away the future of addiction, crackwhores and night-time raids on the local B2. Calvin, meanwhile, shares a similar moment of embarrassment: "we were on stage, and the music stopped and we were all left standing on stage wondering what to do." Probably revealing a little more than 19 would have liked, there. There's another full page of star's embarrassing moments further on: PopGirl seems obsessed with the mighty falling - or the half-mighty stumbling slightly: does James Busted having a pony slobber on his hand or Hannah S Club tripping over a fire extinguisher really count as an embarrassing moment? On this scale, where's Darius' cock slipping out on stage going to come? It'll need its own bloody supplement.

In a curious comic strip, the three PopGirls (Izzy - who appears to be Britney, only with a sensible sweater; Amber, the "rockin' rebel", clearly modelled on Avril - except for the small pink bike; and Sasha, who's probably Beyonce) trick Busted by pretending to be an ice cream van. "We've been rumbled" say Busted, which is odd because they've actually been duped - we're not sure if this is lazy writing or a wry comment on how stupid Busted are. Busted swap an interview for a giant ice cream sundae - which is how it usually works in music journalism these days; except for Andrew WK who will give you a three page feature in return for a Rum and Raisin choc-ice. On their return to the PopGirl offices, though, Amber sees something which chills her blood - this would be a cliffhanger ending. We're betting it’s the latest circulation figures.

Reepa from Blazin' Squad (we're assuming he's one of the spare ones they hold back for helping out at busy weekends or when the others are on holiday) gives advice to a girl from Suffolk who's having trouble finding a balance between work and school. "Get a gun" he says "then wave it around. That'll make everything fine."

The letters page consists entirely of drawings of pop stars. We're particularly taken by the one of Britney Spears - her head is three times as long as it's wide, her cheeks are bright red, but unfortunately somewhere level with her nose, and she's wearing a nice tshirt with a butterfly on it, rather than nothing apart from some A1 Steak Sauce. There's also an interactive element where you can vote for the band you want to be featured next month - choose from Christina, Blue, Will Young, Girls Aloud or McFly. Actually, it could be the band you think might still be around next month.

Top of the Pops magazine comes with a free stationery case - "in three colours" it claims, in case you want to collect the set. Ours is a slightly too light shade of purple, and it consists of two pop pencils, a pop rubber, a pop ruler, six rather rubbish paper clips with new, Tim Kash style TOTP logo on it. It's meant to zip up, but it's as stiff as kylie's forehead and you can't actually fold it in half. You also get a postermag for your money - called HIYA! (like HELLO!, do you see?) - and dedicated to detailing the lives of Sam and Mark. They start bickering about who have the worst skid marks on their pants, clean the toilet and do the washing - the idea is that it's meant to be "look, fabulous pop stars have ordinary lives like us", but to be frank, with a couple of fork and spoon operatives like these two, it's not really surprising they do stuff like ordinary blokes do. We were mildly surprised they could afford to buy a washing machine, mind.

There is something extraordinary in the magazine proper, mind - a picture of three Sugababes in the same place at the same time, and sort-of-smiling. TOTP really has an awkward place to occupy these days - it's not really able to be in any way bitchy about the people it writes about, because it, more than any magazine, really needs to keep the stars sweet. So, there's a piece headed "Evil Avril", but it's just a quote from her saying her Mum doesn't like her wearing trouders with skulls on them. It's also interesting how far it's moved away from its early incarnation, where it attempted to cover all the musical bases (precious little chance of Brett Anderson ever appearing on the cover again, then).

They ask Charlie Busted if he's ever worn a bra. He says no. He's lying. The only boys who get to the age of 15 without having tried on a bra at least once are the ones who have grown up in a place where there are no girls around.

Splendidly, there are instructions for how to make Kelis from a potato; Jamelia claims to be psychic - do you see a large dumper in the future, beckoning you?; Blazin' Squad are asked what they think of people like Chris Moyles calling them delinquents - their response is "if he wants to hate on us, that's up to him." Spike-e also reckons he'd never pose in his pants for a magazine. Give it three years, honey, you'll be jiggling your little balls for loose change in a Soho back room.

Nicky from Westlife shows you how to make a cheesy hedgehog - it's very hands-on, is TOTP. Step one, sadly, is "Cut the grapefruit in half" and not "First, catch your hedgehog."

Busted are all in bed together - in a sweet way, like Eric and Ern, or Bert and Ernie, or Orton and Halliwell. TOTP knows what we want to know - do they sleep naked, or what? It tries to be cool, asking them how many pairs of pyjamas they own, but since they fail to rise to the occasion, they have to be pressed. Matt explains that he has a flatmate, so has to sleep with boxers on in case "the flatmate" comes in to "wake me up." "He doesn't want to see me sprawled naked across my bed, does he?" asks Matt. No, Matt - he's actually hoping for a faulty lock on the shower door. Matt then tells a tale about trying to get a girl into his room, only there was "loads of press outside… so the girl I left the club with had to enter the hotel round the back." The number of times we've used that excuse for exactly the same reason…

What are the ten days that "rocked" Britney's world? Apparently the ten steps that took her to "show stopping siren" include, erm, when she started smoking (although the magazine is very keen to stress that smoking is bad, with lots of "stinky" and "yuk"), when Fred Durst said he was dating her (which, erm, wasn't true) and kissing Madonna ("her tobacco breath made Madge want to vom" - okay, leave it now).

Meet new band V - not to be confused with VS, of course. There's some sort of lesson to take away about the modern nature of fame, because when they're asked how they'll know they're famous, Mark answers "You're on Before They Were Famous."

Not that we're watching this with a gimlet eye or anything, but Avril Lavigne tells TOTP that she met Chantal Kreviazuk after her world tour (so, uh, not your mate like you said before, then). It's also kind of interesting that despite having produced twelve songs with her, none of them actually were good enough for the comeback single.

Perhaps the problem with James Fox could be summed up by his choices for best stuff: best album? Sgt Peppers. On his CD now? Travis. Favourite chill-out music? David Gray. It's a miracle anyone noticed him on stage. They ask him for his opinion on Natasha "Daniel has purposely not been involved with the music" Beddingfield. His verdict? "I just don't know about the content."

Smash Hits comes with tonnes of stuff: six mini Jammie Dodgers; a Sexy Boys Special posters and songwords special edition (they say sexy; it's actually the usual Andre/Blazin/Busted types) and a pocket radio. Batteries, of course, not included. All of this, of course, can't disguise the fact that the magazine itself is pretty thin these days - it's actually leading on Avril's return; they give a full page to the shot of the Cheeky Girls in the London dungeon which TOTP sticks away in a tiny corner, and has a much weaker gag than its rival had, too. In fact, there's no end to the rubbish jokes that have been plastered all over the photos through ver Hits - not rubbish like the old 'Jason Donovan's Any Dream Will Do' gag, just really, really tired speech bubbles. Then there's a couple of pages given over to the Ministry of Mayhem - which is frankly rubbish, even by ITV's standards.

So, what does Avril have to tell Smash Hits readers? "I'm totally normal. I don't like people telling me I'm a skater girl ora punk. There's more to me than those things. Yeah, I used to skateboard, but I write songs now." Um… hang on… you can't skateboard AND be a songwriter?

Kate, 13, from Liverpool writes in to ask Kelis if she's ever found a bird's nest in her hair. Even more amusingly, Emma Bunton gives us advice on how to "bag your dream boy." Step seven is making a date, in case you want to take the advice of a woman who's never noticeably been successful in love.

Meet new band Pop - they're more than just a rubbish name. They came together through a "tough audition process which lasted about a year." That must have been one hell of a run through of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

There's a pull out supplement about pop and destiny which doesn't make any sense at all and just seems to be an excuse to run a picture of an otter in a headscarf.

McFly are called in to help readers with their problems, and betray their stage school roots: a kid in Belfast wants to help his brother replace his stolen bike and asks for money making tips. Tom's advice? "How about acting? I earned cash by starring in Grange Hill and Eastenders." (Erm… starring?)

Oh, hang about... the otter's a recurring theme. It's "evil", apparently. It was always slightly embarrassing when Number One made a lame attempt to try and emulate the character comedy of the Black Type; it's just heartbreaking that Smash Hits itself is lumbering around with clunky-funk-uncle "japes" like this. There's not a trace of what the magazine once was. Does anyone actually enjoy it anymore?

WE WOULDN'T NORMALLY DO THIS KIND OF THING: But Mark asked us so nicely if we would, we'll give his Fender Jazzmaster guitar up for grabs on Ebay a quick mention. We're not on a percentage or anything.

DAILY MAIL: ROTTING FROM THE HEAD DOWN: We were surprised to discover via today's Anorak press round-up that the Daily Mail is running a story about CD Rot, a whole "new" threat to your CDs. Funny thing is, we can find a panic about CD Rot which dates back to 1989, and even then bored Usenet users were sniffing "didn't we have this last year?". So, that's a big hand to the Daily Mail, then, for running a scare story that's at least sixteen years old.

COMPLICATED: What we like best about this fairly typical interview with Avril Lavigne about how she's a writer, yeah, and you can't take that away from her is that they even have to bring in another songwriter to prop up her efforts here, too. If you're not trusted to interview on your own, how can we believe you're even leading the writing, Avril?

DOUBLE DUFF: From the 'oh god, there's two of them' file, Hilary and Haylie Duff (Haylie? What's wrong with Hayley? Or Hayliegh, if you really must):

They're about to desecrate 'Our Lips Are Sealed', the GoGos song, to promote some godawful movie that should never have been made. May god have mercy on its soul.

AND I'M FEELING VERY SICK AND ILL TODAY: We did wonder if Mozzer got all in a tizzy at the prospect of doing a studio performance in front of twelve people last week, how the hell would he cope doing a week's worth of slots for Craig Kilborn's late night US chat show? Well, now we know: Morrissey's pulled out, claiming illness. He's starting to compile quite a pile of no-shows for different reasons now - wonder if the sheen of the spotlight has started to wear off?

BUT WHO GETS CUSTODY OF THE DOGG?: Snoopy Dog Dog files for divorce claiming "irreconcilable differences." While it's always sad when a marriage fails, at least it'll give us a chance to find out what he spends on hats in a month.

EC OBJECTS TO THE UNION: They're not saying why, but it looks like the European Commission is going to block the plans to merge Sony and BMG into one huge, evil music company, on the grounds that they'd strangle the market. The two huge record companies have got two weeks to respond to the EC's secret concerns, prior to a final decision on July 22nd. Although the coming together of the two labels would account for less market share than Universal's quarter of all sales, Sony's foot in the consumer electronics market could prove the regulatory kryptonite to the supercompany.

UNFIT... FIT: Disturbing news from the Libertines camp, where Pete Doherty has been kicked out of the Priory, apparently for going to the FA Cup Final. He was last seen offering to play a gig for cold, hard cash, and we hope someone tracks him down soon.

Meanwhile, the NME has apparently named Carl Barat "the fittest man in rock" or something, after some sort of survey or other.

He beat Alex Kapranos, a man who doesn't strike us as glowing with health, into second place. Mind you, if you stand next to Pete Doherty, you're going to look like you're fit as a bucther's dog, aren't you? Jesus, if they took Jeremy Bentham's stuffed body and popped him onstage next to Pete, everyone would be going "Ooh, that Bentham's looking good these days, isn't he?"

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DEALS: There are many jobs we wouldn't relish, but the number one, turn-it-down-on-the-spot job offer would have to be being tour manager for Whitney Houston's world tour.

On the other hand, I'll bet customs guys in Germany, where the tour starts, can't wait to pull on the rubber gloves.

Whitney is being supported on the tour by Natalie Cole and Dionne Warwick - who to this day doesn't understand how her handbag came to be chock-full of weed - which should be interesting time on the bus for all.

DO YOU REMEMBER ME?: You wonder how delighted Victoria Beckham must have been at the meeting where they decided that she doesn't stand a cat in a washing machine's chance of being loved in Britain, so it's time to target the US. And how the fixed smile must have lurched a little at being told that she's going to have to be branded as Posh Spice Victoria Beckham - or, in other words, "Nobody knows who the fuck you are, so we're going to hang a big sign saying 'Used to be a Spice Girl' round your neck for all eternity. A few years back, being a soap opera condemned you to never have any further success - the popular view was that once you'd spent some time as Matt Skilbeck, the public would never accept you in any other role. That's clearly passed now - you can't move for TV dramas cluttered with people who used to be soaps stars - but it seems the curse of typecasting has now moved on to pop stars. We're not entirely convinced that America will buy Beckham's ropey old rubbish, even if it has got 'Ex-Spice Girl' stamped all over it, but at least if she's off humiliating herself in New York it'll spare us for a little while.

We're also a little tired of the modern habit of labelling people "haters" if they don't like something - Fred Durst popularized the concept, trying to make out those that ridiculed him did so out of hate rather than simply because he's a pudgy middle-aged bloke trying to pass himself off as 18 - and now 19 are trying to blame Beckham's failings on people hating her. No, no, no: finding someone sadly hilarious isn't the same thing as hating them at all.

WHAT WITH ONE THING AND ANOTHER, IT'S A TUG OF PEACE: Paul McCartney has been thinking about Iraq, and, about a year and a half after the Rest of the Entire World, he's decided it's a "new Vietnam". In an interview with Spanish media:

"He added that the ideals of the allied nations to restore democracy in Iraq and find weapons of mass destruction were "good arguments." But, he said, the WMD had clearly not been found and the conflict continues to worsen.

Except, of course, there was never any mention of "restoring democracy" at the time, and the arguments about the need to find those lorries stacked full of botulism and anthrax and to ensure that Saddam wasn't harbouring enormous levels of cooties weren't good ones - they were clearly pisspoor arguments that children of three could see through. Even Richard Perle on this morning's Today has more or less given up trying to pretend that there was any real WMD basis to the war, employing some odd "ah, but if he'd had the weapons we were saying he'd had, it could have been real nasty" double speak. Incidently, Perle was also hilarious on the attempts to reverse engineer the 'freeing the Iraqi people' justification for war - he started to go on about how nobody had a problem with the Allies taking on Hitler to save the Jews, until John Humphrys pointed out that, erm, the Second World War was triggered by the invasion of Poland and the end of the holocaust was a happy by-product; then when asked if we really did go to war to help the Iraqi people, when will we be going into Sudan, Perle sucked his teeth and explained that, you know, America's losing its appetite for wars of liberation, what with all the flack they're getting for this one in Iraq...

But back to McCartney - does he really believe that WMD has been "not found"? Rather than "wasn't there in the first place?"

THE POOR OLD SOD: As if it's not bad enough being forced to float about space and time in a wonky old police box, it's been confirmed the new Doctor Who is to be saddled with Billie Piper as assitant. The only positive thing we can think of is that maybe it's a joke casting inspired by Bonnie Langford's run as second in command of the TARDIS, although we don't think it is.

Still, the Evanses will be glad of the extra cash - they might now withdraw themselves from sale:

ROCK'S SICK LIST: Bad news from the Soul Asylum camp, whose bassist Karl Mueller has been taken to hospital with cancer of the throat. Karl had breathing difficulties earlier this month which doctors diagnosed as being due to a tumour. He's responding to treatment.

AIR SUPPLY SUPPLY BREATH: Mercury 4, a kind of Australian Take That where all the members have something of the Gary Barlow about them, have re-recorded Air Supply's All Out of Love. For some reason, the plan was merely to dump this on the Asian market, but it turned out "so well" (their perspective only) that not only did they decide to release it at home, but they invited Air Supply's Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell to help out on the vocals. Which, of course, they did - wouldn't you? Let's hope this doesn't become a trend, though - the last thing we want to see is, say, Huey Lewis turning up when VS cover the Power of Love, or Debbie Harry being asked to lend support to Christina Millian when she decided to have a pop at Heart of Glass.

JEWEL LOSES LUSTRE: Being cynical types, we'd have thought that the title of "Worst Jewel Gig" ever would have been a tricky one to award, but by the sounds of it, her second show at the Hampton Beach Ballroom Casino last Saturday might be a shoo-in.

look at my breasts, dammit

The first show of the evening was "rocking." The second? According to the Portsmouth Herald:

People were literally walking out of the show," she said. "As soon as she came out, she began to insult us. We thought she was joking at first because it was kind of weird."
Witnesses said Jewel went on a tirade of insults from poking fun at fat people to others with no teeth. At one point, she asked the audience to yell requests and then told them to "shut the hell up."
"I saw her live in Boston and it was the greatest show I’ve ever been to," Dion said. "I don’t know if she was having a nervous breakdown or what. She told everyone to stop looking at her teeth and look at her breasts."
Jewel was on stage for about an hour and played only four to five songs. Halfway through the show, Dion said Jewel began to talk about Zoloft and Paxil for about 10 minutes.
"I don’t know what that was all about," said Nicole Dion, who came from Canada to see the show. "I don’t know if she was on it or what. Maybe she didn’t take it."
Dion said Jewel stopped in the middle of her trademark song, "Who will save your soul," because everyone was singing along. "She said, ‘I would have never guessed you all know the words.’ I don’t know if she was kidding or what."
Nicole Dion said the entire experience made her no longer want to be a Jewel fan.
Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom officials said they have not received negative feedback about the show, but radio station 107.1 WERZ that sponsored the concert did.
WERZ Operations Manager Michael O’Donnell said he heard comments about Jewel’s strange behavior during her second performance.
"I got a lot of negative feedback from people who attended the second show," O’Donnell said. "They were upset with some of the comments they heard her make.
"She said she saw a better audience at a barroom brawl and that all drinkers and smokers were sinners."
Dion said she doesn’t blame the Casino, but believes something should be done to make it up to them. She said not only was the show bad, but people were not allowed to buy drinks or smoke a cigarette in the smoking room.
Kristen MacKinnon, a manager at the Casino, said it was Jewel’s request that smoking not be allowed at the show. Alcohol was served, but not in the main stage area because Jewel requested no waitresses in the main ballroom while she was on stage.
Dion said Jewel came out for an encore, but instead of singing one of her hit songs, she yodeled for a minute and then left the stage.

Jewel's manager's response was, apparently, "she sometimes does a lot of tongue-in-cheek hunour during her shows."

Monday, May 24, 2004

IF THESE WORDS WERE ANY MORE HOLLOW, YOU COULD HOUSE BEES IN THEM: Cary Sherman, the head of the RIAA, talking about the latest slew of lawsuits against music fans:

"We will continue to go the extra mile and seek to resolve these cases in a fair and reasonable manner."

By sending out demands for thousands of dollars per tune, and then saying "but if you agree to settle, we'll only roll you for a few hundred, mate." Very reasonable. Curiously, Reuters report that people have already been sued - but as far as we know, not a single case has actually reached a courtroom yet. It's funny that the RIAA insist that these lawsuits are about educating the public - the very Cesearesque stance of 'to encourage the others' - and yet they actually seem really, really reluctant to have the exposure that a proper legal case would bring. But, surely, if the people they are suing really are defrauding artists out of tens of thousands of dollars, and the RIAA is confident of its case, what would be the logic in bending over backwards to try and keep it out of court? Unless, you know, they're fibbing a little and don't really have any confidence in their actions at all?

COULD HELPING SAVE LIVES BE THE KILLER AP FOR LEGAL DOWNLOADING?: - in other words, Oxfam is following War Child in planning a charity-branded download site. The managing director of BMG publishing, Paul Curran, is delighted that Oxfam is doing these good works:

"It has been a privilege to have been involved in helping to broaden the reach of the campaign harnessing the power of music to spread this simple message.
In doing so Oxfam are in the unique position of also assisting the music industry in these challenging times to show the music fan that legitimate downloads with the added value of exclusive content can be found online and in so doing also raise money in support of the charity."

You know what? I bet he actually would consider pushing the record company's interests to be more important than the helping the starving stuff that Oxfam does.

MATHUMATICS: Of course, we've had quite a bit of fun demanding to know how EMI can wail about piracy wrecking their business when they'd most recently declared a whopping third of a billion quid profit. Now, of course, the new set of figures has shown how badly piracy is biting - they've got a headline loss of GBP52.8m. See? The music industry really means it when they say they're in crisis.

Except, of course, the "loss" includes GBP138.3m of "exceptional charges" - i.e., the costs of people they're laying off, closure of the CD pressing business, and so on. Because, actually, if you only look at selling stuff, EMI did really well - GBP163.3million in profit on an underlying measure; and since Robbie Williams (the one cash cow in the stable) hadn't done very much last year, that's not bad by anyone's measure.

You do wonder if they haven't taken such pains to try and play their profitable year of healthy trading as a loss because, you know, people might lose sympathy with a company doing well moaning that its market has been eaten away by illegal activity? That its easier for a loss-making company to drag its own customers through court rather than one in rude health?

Let's not let EMI run away with the idea that it's doing badly - in fact, let's all take this opportunity to drink a toast to their profits, and a successful British company. Prosit!

BECAUSE WE WANT WOOOOO! BECAUSE WE WANT WOOOOOOOH!: Interestingly, the production team making the new Billie Piper movie, Spirit Trap, are going to extraordinary lengths to try and make the movie authentic. Because it's set in student digs, they're calling on genuine undergraduates to advise on details like how often they do the washing up, how tidy a real student flat would be, and so on. They're going to all that trouble, and yet they've cast Billie in the lead role - who's going to even notice the type of fridge in the kitchen if they're trying to believe that Billie got in to university?

STUNTS ABANDONED: Damn, if we'd have known that Robbie Williams and Alanis Morrisette's duet at Cannes would be canned, we'd have thought about going. It seems Robbie made his excuses and left the festival before murdering Cole Porter. The grusesome twosome had been planning to sing together on a platform floating at sea, which obviously would have been such a temptation for anyone with a sharp knife to cut them free and send them off into the Med - wonder who would have eaten who? But now we'll never know, for Robbie stropped off back home for "personal and business reasons." By which we suppose some of those movie moguls he'd been desperate to sign him up for stardom had said "not to be personal, but I wouldn't hire you to clean up my dog's business."

KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY: Kelly Osbourne is out of rehab, and has already worked the "my drug hell" schtick up into another part of her increasingly over-elaborate plans to try and be famous for something more than having spent some time in the womb of the most annoying woman anywhere near showbusiness. Tonight, she's going to be unpicking the good work the triple Corrie Todd's out spectacular will do for the ITV ratings by popping up on Tonight being interviewed by her brother Jack. Jesus, we know Martin Bashir's just quit, but are things so grim down at Granada they're having to get Jack Osbourne in to do the interviews for their flagship current affairs programme? Even The Sharon Osbourne Show never stooped quite that low.

Anyway, here's what to expect: Kelly reveals that she had "tried" alcohol at the age of 12 - we'd had a taste of wine when we were six, so it's a miracle that we didn't wind up slumped in a drainage ditch somewhere*- and that it wasn't just painkillers she was hooked on. Trouble is, when we hear her say that, we don't think "Kelly was jacking up to escape the boredom of her reality", more "Kelly is jacking up her story to escape the reality that her life is quite boring. Ozzy also pops up, saying "We were in denial - you always want to think it's somebody else's kids, not your own" - although Ozzy was so far gone when they made the programmes he probably did think they were somebody else's kids. Jesus, he probably thought he was a giant Jaffa Cake, so how the hell could they have been his kids?

* - no, really, it is

FRED DURST'S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Less a thought, more a plea for help from Fred:

"i was wondering if you could post a comment and help me think of a cool girls name for a puppy."

How about Fred? Heheheheheh.

Amongst the names suggested by the hordes of Bikzitians are Boochie, Binky, Trixie, Babble, Bizzy or Buzzie. All of which No Rock would pay good money to see Fred walking through the streets calling out loud. "Binky! Binky!"

SHE WOULD BE, THEN, THE DANCING QUEEN: We're really excited about the news that the Queen doesn't just own Abba records, but sometimes "moves" to them, according to a palace insider - we're not sure if she does a jig or just sits and rocks in her chair.

The best thing about the story is the speculation that the Queen might try to get the free tickets Charles has scored for Mamma Mia off him - because that's likely, isn't it? The richest woman in the UK trying to pinch a couple of back row seats for a West End musical off her son - "and I'd really appreciate it, mother, if you must take my Woodbines, at least buy a packet yourself once in a while." Besides which, it's the Queen. I think she could probably ring the box office and negotiate a small discount for herself if she really wanted to go - "one does hate to pull rank, but are you aware one does all the prosecutions in this realm, young lady? One thought that might make a difference. Leave the tickets on the door, one will be the woman in the large crown and ermine."

BYE DO: Dido is pissing off to America because, apparently, it's going to help her write songs. Her reason for decamping isn't because she's scared that David Blunkett is actually planning to collect retinas, not just pictures of them, or because like everyone else she's sick of hearing her music floating through the wireless, but, apparently, "sometimes you have to be lonely to write, it really helps."

She's going to achieve this loneliness not - as you or I might - by going for a caravaning holiday in Scotland or taking a cottage in Devon, but by buying a giant mansion in Beverley Hills. You can see it, can't you? Cast away from the hustle and bustle of modern civilisation in the middle of LA, Dido will find the peace she needs to rhyme "break my heart" with "fall apart." Let's not all rush to assume that she's moving because she dreams of breaking the American market - that would just be cold and calculating.


She's leaving because she loves us.

NOW, THAT'S JUST PUTTING IDEAS INTO HIS HEAD: Michael Jackson is a bit miffed that his level of bail has been set at three million bucks when, really, charges of playing with a sleeping boy's peepee and so on should really only command a bail fee of about half a million. We're not sure why Jacko's so pissed off at this - surely it would only be an issue if he decided to flee anyway? Although that's what the local DA suggests he might be planning, saying that Jacko might consider the life of a wealthy absconder preferable to seeing out his days down in the county jail; the DA argues that a rich guy should have a steep bail surety. The prosecution's motion observes:

"Mr. Jackson is known and adored — 'adored' is not too strong a word — in many of the countries of Europe, the Near East and Africa... Several of those countries do not have extradition treaties with the United States. ... he may well conclude that life as a wealthy absconder in one of these countries is preferable to what might amount to a life term in a California prison." Added to which, his dwindling American fortune would stretch a lot further in some other countries - although we're not sure there's very many places that would really welcome Jacko with open arms and a "Help yourself to our kids" banner. Although we'd kind of like to see him trying to move into Paulsgrove.

WAIT FOR THE CURE LEADS TO HOSPITALISATION: Almost fifty people wound up being taken to hospital, with a couple of hundred more needing medical treatment, after an all-day festival at Washington's RFK stadium. The all-dayer featured The Cure, The Offspring, Papa Roach and the Violent Femmes and took place in ridiculous heat, which wasn't entirely helped by the over-the-top moshpit. Emergency services say amongst those carted off to the ER were several with broken bones and one guy with "chest pains". For our part, we're just trying not to picture the mosh pit during Papa Roach: temperatures in the hundreds, all those nu-metal fans with their shirts off... it would have been like a catering tub of Virgin Sweat Soup.

CLIMBDOWN DISGUISED AS TERRORISM?: We obviously can't be certain that there wasn't a terrorist threat to Madonna which lead her to pull out of her Israel gigs, but since they never mentioned any such threat when they actually pulled the gig; and the humorous claim that "she thought she was being targeted because of her Jewish Kabbalah religion" - as if there are terrorists who read Heat magazine, fretting about what celeb trendy religion is in this month - makes us think this is all a bit stunty. The Sun also claims Madonna was going to play a memorial gig on September 11th in Tel Aviv, which is something we can't find any mention of elsewhere, curiously.

CLIFF PICKPOCKETS B&S: Cliff Richard clearly is short of a few bob - but rather than paying the milkman by charging Tony Blair next time he stays at Cliff's' mulit-million pound hideaway in the Carribean, he's decided to mug an indie band. Having decided that 'Wrapped up in books' by Belle and Sebastian sounds a little bit like In The Country, he's persuaded B&S to give him one-fifth of everything the track makes. Is anyone else picturing Cliff saying "I'd like to let it go, but this is business, boys." [via rememberthe80s]

POSSIBLY THE COOLEST VENUE IN THE WORLD: It's extraordinary that a venue as absolutely stunning as Red Rocks in Colorado is in any way threatened at all (mind you, you've got to remember that America is thinking of getting private companies to take over its national parks, so you never know), but there's an album being released to raise funds for the place. Carved In Stone 2 is, as the "2" suggests, a second bunch of live recordings from Red Rocks, and it features U2, REM and Coldplay. But it is in a good cause.

WE COULD BE HEROES? JUST FOR ONE DAY: Following on from this week's pop papers, we got this from Elvis Presley (not, we suspect, his given name):

Not that I'm not in love with the NME continuing to sign off big features with an actual signature from Conor, I feel then need to point out that the Heroes idea was nicked from Filter Magazine, which featured The Strokes and Lou Reed.
The same article in fact. The Ordinary Boys are shit and Weller would pose with Ian Huntley if he was a fan, pandered to his ego and got him within two pages of an NME cover. So, Morrisey meet Franz Ferdinand, a decent feature yes, but worth making a special out of? Also glad to see the paper's getting it's Strokes quota in without reverting to the old Time/Warner/IPC connections.

Actually, I kind of wish they'd done it like the old radio Five Chain Reaction series, so after Mozzer did the Franz, the Frannies would have then chosen the next interviewee, and done them, and so on and so on until such time as someone chose Weller and hell froze over.

WE'VE HAD LOTS OF LETTERS: A quick dip into the No Rock Postbag:

First, John H.: Are you aware that the Telstar link on the MisTeeq/Beckham story brings up an auto play pop up of her last single. I mean are you, in fact actively promoting it? Shurly... (and other such 'Private Eye' isms)

Yes, actually John, you've rumbled us - the unique way No Rock is funded is through a long-term sleeper scheme designed to build credibility for Victoria... After all, is she not fragrant?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

WHATEVER YOU SAY, CHRSTINA: Christina Aguilera has been fuming at rumours that her tour wasn't cancelled because of a throat infection, but more because of piles of unsold tickets stinking the box offices up. In an interview, she said "They are saying I could not sell out the venues but they were all sold out. I'm suffering from a bad throat." She then remebered the throat and made her voice sound all croaky for the rest of the interview.

So, where does the truth fall? The Associated Press reports when the tour was pulled didn't mention it as being a sell-out - you would have thought they might have; the furiously over-comprehensive ChristinaZone hadn't picked up any news of dates selling out. But surely Christina wouldn't, you know, lie...?

KNIGHT COUGHS UP: Death Row Records have been ordered to pay USD162,00 to Dwayne H. Baudy. Baudy had gone to the Con Am Studios in 2001 for a meeting when he was set upon by Suge Knight and his bodyguards. Baudy still walks with a stick as a result of the unprovoked attack.

In other bodyguard related legal news, an LA judge has ordered Britney Spear's staker drop the pert pointy pop princess from his lawsuit against her bodyguards. The stalker, Masahiko Shizawa was a little bit miffed that the bodyguards had pulled a gun on him simply because he was hanging around outside Spear's house, and had sent her love letters and pictures and creepy faxes and mails. The poor little lamb. The judge is going to allow the case against one of the bodyguards to proceed.

SEE? THE DRUGS... THEY DON'T, YOU KNOW... WORK: MSNBC fills a quiet few hours in the backroom by knocking up a piece on addiction in rock music. You see, them rock stars ain't like you and me; oh, no, they have extra pressures. You think it's easy having to decide exactly which colour smartie you want picked out of the bowl night in, night out? You imagine that just because you can pretty much choose what empty sex you want to have that dfoesn't mean you know what it's like to be alone? Listen, pal, if you got fifty thousand for an evening's work, you'd be desperate to cram Vicodin down your neck at every opportunity. The article kicks off saying that in rock, it's almost expected that you'll have an addiction. It ends up saying that while addictions used to be cool, nowaday's it's the done thing to look after yourself and keep yourself healthy. We lost track of where the 180 degree turn took place, we were too busy warming up a spoonful of heroin smack.