Saturday, February 05, 2005

HUW DID YOU DO: Last Tuesday, Radio One launched its replacement for the Peel show: the three-headed Cerebus that is One Music. Huw Stephens was the first of the trio to take to the air, with the sort of remit that most people who seldom listened to Peel assumed was the extent of his show - rocky, alty, indie type stuff. How did he do? Let's listen again...

0' 00" - Newsbeat. Police are offering advice about what you can do if you find someone in your property who shouldn't be there; and a spiritual leader of millions called John P is ailing and might not be around much longer.

2' 09" Sucidial Birds - Me Animal. Well, this is actually a cracking start, a mad lady singing into a coffee tin claiming that she's a horse. It's working for us so far.

6' 09" "We were going to start the show with either Belinda Carlise 'we live the same dream' or the first record I ever bought, which was Crowded House..." Huw does a bit business introducing the strand, although he doesn't really make any attempt to explain the clunky claim that this is meant to somehow be a adaptation of a bit of the Radio One website (probably because he understands how that works as little as anyone else does). There's also no mention of the shoes being filled here, which we suppose is fair enough - this is the moving on after the mourning, after all. Huw does have a lovely radio voice, and although he does have a tendency to use words like "tuneage" he's quite a warm presenter. Personally, we'd have kicked off the show doing the bit from Frasier when they'd been moved to the Seinfeld slot...

10' 05" Soundmurder - Untitled. Something a little skanky and lo-produced. The two opening tracks really have the words "look! we're leftfield, honestly, please trust us" all over them, and as a statement that it's business as usual doesn't do badly.

12' 11" Uh-oh, he's just said "wicked"

12' 33" "John Peel was a friend of Melys..." - the first mention of why we're all here. It's nice to hear Betys-y-Coed pronounced properly on the radio. Melys are a good choice for first session, covering both Peel (they did a load of sessions for him, and won the Festive Fifty one year) and Huw (they've also done a lot for The Session In Wales). Plus, they're just lovely, lovely, lovely.

18' 04" Dawn of the Replicants - Rhinestone Cowboy - introduced with the very peelesque phrase "a cover, which you'll probably recognise." This isn't quite such an unusual song to cover - Radiohead did a version a while back; DoftheR makes it sound like a theme tune to an American kid's TV show, which isn't, we should point out, a bad thing. The track, it turns out, was originally recorded for a Peel Session.

21: 44" Huw reads out a list of people in the chatroom, which is probably nice for them; then he reads out an email from Belguim welcoming him to the show. This is a big chunk of yakking, actually, and not really to any good end - yes, we do have some listeners, presumably.

23' 48" Huw speaks over the introduction to the New Rhodes (who sound very like a slightly Welsh-tinged version of The Chameleons crossed with the Nightingales) - which is a bit of an odd thing to do in a programme supposedly about the music and totally uncalled for after a couple of minutes spent reading out emails about himself. It's possibly a weakness of the format that, because the show is called 'One Music', we're going to see the presenters rushing forward to mention their names at every opportunity lest they be seen as little more than caretaker presenters.

27' 36" He also yaks over the end of the record as well. Apparently they're from Bristol rather than Wales. There's another big bunch of talking, as this is the point where Huw attempts to explain how the show is also a website; the two don't actually really knit together beyond the mention that if you send demos in they might end up on the air...

28' 42" ... like this one, from Fleeing New York. It sounds like the sort of thing that Goth mag Shadowplay would stick on their covermount. A boy-girl affair about hooking up at the Hollywood Bowl after a show, although we're not sure what gig they would have been to see there - Clan of Xymox never gigged at Hollywood, surely? It turns out they're from Southampton. We bet they

33' 32" Huw reads out a list of artists on an album he bought "in a well-known record shop" (Huw, it's not 1974; the BBC does actually accept that saying brand names can be done without actuallty advertising, you know - presumably when the senior management comes round the One Music office there's not a panic as everyone attempts to put masking tape over the nescafe logo on the coffee jar?). Huw seems to like lists. He then cues up the Super Furry Animal's remix of The Proper Ornaments, and it doesn't start. After a pause, Huw tries to speak to fill the gap, just as the track comes in. It really is the new John Peel show.

40' 00" Having played a Gruff track, Huw reads out seemingly all the sleeve notes; says about three times that Gruff Rhys will be coming in for a session soon; then reads some stuff out of the chatroom, and moves on to ploughing through the texts. Oh and then goes back to reading out more people from the chatroom. And then an email. He's still talking as the Boom Bip track starts, although he clearly doesn't quite have anything to say - "Have a listen to this" he mutters. Then, suddenly having a spirit of the staircase moment, he realises what he could have said. So he talks some more, announcing his co-hosts will be along for a chat in a moment. Great; there hasn't been anything like enough talking yet.

42' 15" When it's finally allowed to play uninhibited, the Boom Bip track is gloriously lush with a beautiful Nina Nastasia vocal

45' 22" ... of course, Huw comes crashing in over the end, because he really needs to get to the phones to talk to Ras Kwame and Rob DaBank. This is all to introduce something called Chase The Base, which is the sort of thing that probably seemed like a good idea on paper - apparently some bit of music is going to be added to across the three shows to create some sort of remix thing. It's presumably intended to give something other than the title of the programme to tie the three shows together, but it's hard to work up enthusiasm for the plan - "I wasn't going to listen to Ras' show because it's not the sort of thing I'm interested in, but I'll certainly need to find out how he remixed that twenty seconds of music Huw just played him." There doesn't really seem to be any reason for the other two to be on the phones at all - a couple of "wickeds" are thrown about, but if you were expecting something perhaps along the lines of Ras and Rod explaining what they're going to do with their show, or even saying who they'll have in session, you'd go away empty. It sounded a little like you might expect a conversation between three people who work for the same company might be if they met in a lift. And one of them had farted.

51: 35" Melys session track segueing into Alec Empire - probably not a good idea at the best of times, but the segue is botched as well, so it's an awful idea done badly. But at least there wasn't two minutes of blethering between the tracks.

55' 35" Huw is now reading the sticker off the back of the Alec Empire CD. He appeals for more emails - quick, someone send him some before he starts reading the Fire Safety Information off the sign by the door.

1.00' 40" More emails getting read out. Huw's old flatmate has emailed in, and there's lots of texts to work through, too. Couldn't a lot of this stuff be stuck on the website? Very little of it is actually... well, engaging.

1:02' 35" Frankadeli & MC Goz - there's a story to this record; Huw bought it in Budapest on New Year's Eve. It has an air of that, too, like those bottles of undrinkable local hooch people bring back from their holidays and inflict on their friends even though they are without flavour and even a bus-shelter drunk would reject it if offered. I wonder if it's totally filthy in Hungarian?

1: 05' 45" Laura Viers' Jailhouse Fire kicks in - a good shot of decent bourbon to wash away the taste. Although it does feature some the most tuneless whistling we've heard committed to record in a long time.

1:08' 10" Huw lists her previous albums, and then lists her upcoming gigs. And then he tells the tale of buying the record again - he went into a shop and they suggested he buy it. In Hungary. On New Year's Eve. The distance between an amusing anecdote and thing that happened can be measured in kilometres.

1:09' 33" Another session track from Melys - "they'll be talking after this one." Bloody hell, they're even getting the session guests to record extra yammering. If there's any more speech on this programme, they're going to be asked politely to move to Radio 4.

1: 18' 36" A breakthrough - Huw decides not to read the 65 Days of Static tour dates as "we'd be here all night"; as it is, he has to do the introduction for Daedalus strange and attractive new-jazz while it's under way

1: 22" 36" Huw leaps in to back announce the track about a minute before it's done. See, if you waited until they were done, you wouldn't have to worry about that.

1: 24' 55" Huw spells Daedalus, letter-by-letter and does some more emails, and gives out the One World webaddress for about the twentieth time this evening - "bbc dot co dot uk slash one world, it sounds complicated but it's not..."

1: 28' 45" Apparently Steve Lamacq couldn't get into the Battle gig. Huw gives the One Music website address out again.

1: 29' 03" Phantom Buffalo's Domestic Pet Growing Seeds. The troubling question of how someone could write a letter telling you they'd been eaten. Like a double-churned I Ludicrous, or The Chesterfields working with the Stump back catalogue. Apparently this was the Ponys as was.

1: 33' 09 After another plug for the One Music website, it's rubber-stamped Peel Favourites Calvin Party. It's a smart choice of a band to slip in for the regulars - not as obvious as playing The Fall or Teenage Kicks, but a gesture nevertheless. It's from the Probe Plus retrospective. And one of the last records we heard on the Peel show comes next, the Pipettes' I Love A Boy In Uniform, which is even more dizzingly inappropriate than we first thought unless they're about thirteen, which i suspect they're not. Bisexual underage cross-gender kissing. It's what Peel would have wanted. If you believe Julie Burchill.

1: 41' 23" The last track from Melys. We really don't understand how it can be that Melys aren't constantly being paraded about by Jools Holland and invited to play on the Lottery programme and given tea by politicians desperate for the youth vote... "you say there's no I in team/ I say there's no U in my dreams". They've got a date coming up at the Liverpool Cavern, apparently.

1: 44' 18" "Fifteen minutes to the rock show..." Then it's Interface with MC Sweet Pea, who sound like they've sampled that Giant Nature theme tune somewhere in the mix. There's meant to be swearing, but we don't make any out.

1: 50' 29" Another countdown to the Rock Show, before throwing the waiting rock fans a bone - Malkovich, who do those splendid growly rock things that used to be all the rage (emphasis on rage) back in 1987.

1: 54' 17" Back announcing Malkovich: "They're big on the Dutch hardcore scene" - really? That'd be enough to put you off the pay-per-view porn. Next week, we're promised a "Welsh hip-hop special" - which is fine, because the Welsh hip hop scene produces stuff the like of which you wouldn't expect; but isn't it a little early in the life of the show to be doing specials? It'd be nice to have a chance for a few ordinary shows to tell how far the ecclecticism ranges.

So, all in all, not a bad first effort - the difficult balance of paying homage to the late, great while not trying to lock yourself into being a permanent eulogy was actually pretty well achieved. And Huw isn't a bad host, he just needs to tell the difference between what's going to be useful and what merely fills - a clue would be if you find yourself reading a sticker and saying "I couldn't say that better myself" then it's probably something that need not be said at all. We know the one music website is at, and if we don't, we can probably have a decent stab at finding it for ourselves. If we wanted to know who was in the chatroom, we'd go into the chatroom. Emails and texts can add to the interest in a programme, but only if they're interesting in their own right. And if you'd talked a little less, you could have chosen a couple of extra songs. And looking at the playlist, that's really your strength.