Friday, April 08, 2011

What the pop papers say: The real Ramones

I'm wondering if NME ought to try taking a leaf out of Whizzer And Chips, and turning itself into two magazines in one. That way, you could have one bit with the stuff that it churns out which we could generously call 'rock heritage' (or 'shouldn't this be in Uncut?' bits), and another which has the generous coverage of artists from whom we haven't yet heard enough.

This week's cover goes to the Arctic Monkeys, and probably should. It's just in the middle of a run which goes Beady Eye - Arctic Monkeys - Foo Fighters; so an editorial decision which makes sense based on the article being promoted ends up looking like just another churn-through of the same old faces.

The interview is billed as "the exclusive album interview", but at the end there's a trail for another interview in two weeks where Alex Turner will talk about the songs on the album. So, erm, presumably that's the other exclusive album interview, then.

What we seem to have is a band who have reached something of the bottom of the ideas bucket. Krissi Murison - yes, the editor's out getting her fingers inky - observes that some of the songs on the new album are a bit opaque. Alex nods:
"Something I've discovered as I've gone on is that it's cool to let the words sometimes take more of a back seat. I think there's two types of songs, where some of the I want people to, like, understand where it is ... Then there's other things ... where it's much more vague, and I kind of want to keep it that way. I always think of some Bowie tunes that do that, things like Five Years, you're right there with him, and other things like that tune Lady Grinning Soul, it's sort of describing this woman, obviously, but you don't know where you are with it."

I know, I know. You're thinking that that is quite a statement - the claim that Lady Grinning Soul is somehow 'vague' is fascinating and so obviously wrong that it calls out for further exploration. But there's also the comparison of what seems like some 'will-this-do' half-formed lyrics to Bowie's use of sideways language to conjure an image - there's a burning 'really, Alex? You think that's the same thing?' hanging there. Or maybe we just want to hear Turner being pushed a little further, to try and explore how the lyrics on the new album live up to his claims, to see if he's not just trying to reverse-out an excuse for not really having had much to say this time round. Earlier in the interview, the band were discussing how they've grown and changed their sound, so perhaps there's a question about if Turner is really able to write words that fit with a band heading in a different musical direction.

Which of these follow-ups does Krissi go with?

None. She just moves on to the next question.


Also in the Uncut part of the magazine this week, there's a big splash on The Ramones. But - good news - the NME have got interview time with Debbie Harry. Excellent, a chance for someone with intimate knowledge of the Ramones to share her insights, right?

Uh... no. Harry is crammed away on the back pages (being charming and funny, admittedly) and so the Ramones are strained through the opinions of The Strokes. Because if you don't have a band from a decade ago acting as sponsors, why else would you write about a band from four decades back, eh?

In the Chips style 'good bits' pull out, there's Anna Calvi, where she's actually able to talk about her lyrics (and, funnily enough, about David Bowie) in a way that doesn't sound stilted and a nice bit with Katy B, who still likes travelling on night buses.

Over in the reviews section, there's signs of worrying grade inflation. Nearly everything gets seven or higher; only the Pigeon Detectives pick up six and just one album, out of all this week's releases, gets less than five. That's Beardyman, and even though the review screams "two at best", there's still a large four at the foot of the piece.

Next week, it's the Foo Fighters. It could be any next week from the last hundred years, couldn't it?