Vinyl Rotters at your service

Fair play to the NME, their piece about people getting attacked as a result of their musical preferences is a decent read and long overdue. That said, once the Daily Mail had said that ’emo’ music was dangerous, you’d like to think that most sane people realised it was quite the opposite. Their coverage was centred around the recent rulings on the murder of Sophie Lancaster, a 20 year old Goth who was attacked last August as a result of her and her boyfriend’s appearance. They quoted a truly brilliant post from one of the Goth message boards, “no group of Goths ever beat up a chav.” The idea that musical tastes will lead the nation’s youth astray is hardly a new one, although you can’t blame publications like the Mail, as all of the evidence would suggest that in previous cases this assertion has been proved to be complete and utter bollocks. Which is how they like their ‘news’. Do I need an allegedly here? Allegedly.

Something else that came out of reading the article was a sense of disbelief at the name ‘Faris Rotter‘. Apparently that’s the name of the lead singer of The Horrors. I guess he deserves a smidge of respect for supporting the message of the article before I wade in with a torrent of abuse. There it was. Right then, ‘Rotter’? ‘Rotter‘? What, as in Rotten? Well, good idea, not like that’s been used before. The ever reliable Wikipedia reveals that his name is actually Faris Badwan. Obviously he couldn’t use that as it’d make him sound too much like some simpering twat who’d stick out his little finger whilst supping a mochachino in the back of a limo on the way to being fired by Sir Alan. Yeah, sticking up for the real people there! Being true to yourself, etc. Such begging for credibility has not been witnessed since Sporty Spice unleashed her cover of ‘Anarchy In The UK‘ on the unsuspecting crowds at V99. The piss couldn’t be flung quick enough.

Anyway, having allowed by ire to subside – all this based on a name, I know – I was then confronted by a member of My Chemical Romance. They’re just shit, really, aren’t they? I’ve no qualms about defending people’s right to listen to them, dress like them and all that, but their very existence in the first place is what bugs me. In my dim and distant past as an occasionally published, and even less frequently read, music reviewer I gave Green Day‘s ‘American Idiot‘ an almighty shoeing but this lot almost arouse pangs of sympathy for that bunch of middle-aged wankers in their three-quarter-length trousers. It strikes me that if you’re going to have to battle against narrow-minded, knuckle-dragging fuckwits in order to submerge yourself in a particular musical culture, shouldn’t the music be good enough to warrant the fight?

As readers of this blog will be aware, every so often I go through a period of acknowledging that the NME isn’t actually that bad only to become completely disillusioned a couple of weeks thereafter. Once again, reading the new issue today I found it quite a pleasant experience and was delighted to reach the back end of it and find an interview with Roger Daltrey. Top man.

The NME review of The Long Blondes‘ ‘“Couples”‘ was reasonably close to the mark, although it represented my view of the album after a couple of listens. After a few more listens, the seemingly cold and insular sound opens up just enough to let you in. It’s still pretty claustrophobic, and not what I’d expected, but it’s a lot better than I first thought it was. ‘Century‘ has really grown on me, despite initially hating it, while next single, ‘Guilt‘, is already on the VJ muxtape.

But where’s the indie chart?

Last week I decided to give the NME another chance. Partly as a result of my recent obsession with my Britpop-infused youth and partly because I wanted a bit of follow-up on Glastonbury. I realised that Maximo Park had escaped my attention because I wasn’t really scouring enough channels for new music – the NME being one of them. So, I coughed up my £2.10 (a week! Not in my day) and settled down for a flick through the latest issue of a rag that used make me genuinely excited when I woke up on a Wednesday.
It’s not as thrilling as it used to be. But then that might be me. Perhaps I’m not as easily thrilled as I used to be. However, it’s pleasing to see that there are some quality journos still working for them, including a few from my era. In addition, the anarchic spirit of sections like the letter page remains as blunt and sarcastic as it ever was.
Most important though, was the ‘Radar‘ section (for new bands) and the reviews section. While browsing the reviews I happened upon a positive review for the new Air Traffic album, ‘Fractured Life‘. Never heard of them, I thought. But the review made it sound like I really should have. So, today, whilst browsing in the local indie store I decided to take a punt on it. I have to confess to be being bloody surprised that it actually turned out to be a really decent album. Piano-heavy rock without being Keane. It’s not like Ben Folds either, mind. I’ll try and review it properly in this coming Sunday’s ‘Revelations.’
Anyway, I’ve learnt my lesson. Give the NME a chance. I’m such an obsessive when it comes to music mags that I’m already trying to decide if the subscription offer’s worth a punt.
P.S. Mojo can fuck off with their free badges and shabby 80s supplement this month. What a load of old toss. The magazine itself isn’t much better.
Uncut looks alright, but then it’s a 10 Year Anniversary issue, so bonhomie is carved through it like Blackpool in a stick of rock.
Plan B has a huge interview with Bjork and a free CD from Rough Trade. Sounds more like it.

Something Changed

I fucking loved getting off the bus on a Monday evening and dashing across the road to our town’s one and only independent record shop. You had to go down a little set of steps to get into Dominion Records. It didn’t mean an awful lot to me until Britpop kicked off. I can vividly remember standing by the 7″ section, flicking through the new releases and trying to decide if I could justify spending £2.29 on the vinyl of ‘Country House‘, when I’d bought the tape for the same price the week before.
Across those halcyon years in the mid-90s, every spare penny I had went into the till in that shop. You felt like no record would be a bad move. Nothing that you picked out would be shite – it was Britpop, and Britpop seemed invincible. That said, I never stooped to buying a full price Shed Seven single (I ended up with ‘Bully Boy‘ in some kind of ‘buy three for £1.50’ clearout deal, but we won’t count that.) ‘Marblehead Johnson‘ by The Bluetones and ‘The Circle‘ by (say it quietly) Ocean Colour Scene were the two CDs that proved to me that I was besotted with this particular ‘movement’. Never before would I have justified paying, gasp, £2.99 for a single. But, in October 1995 I got my first CD player, and thus the additional avenue of multiple CD sets entered the fray. I can remember being pissed off that both Woolies and my beloved Dominion Records wanted the best part of £3 for The Bluetones. I wasn’t too worldly-wise, but I knew that a single by The Bluetones was hardly a gold-encrusted cultural document.
Anyway, what Britpop offered to me was a route into an obsession. My love of music was vastly accelerated by those years, those issues of the NME and those hours spent glued to Lammo and Jo on Radio 1. The Sesh, as nostalgic wankers such as myself now call it, was a nightly appointment with two cool friends who seemed to have all of the new records long before we did. (Remember, this was a time before the internet was the first source of a band’s new single) I can remember Jo Whiley‘s articulate, compassionate and incisive interview with Nicky Wire when the Manics were taking their first, tentative steps as a three-piece. I’d make a mental note of any particularly good songs played across the week, and then hope to God that Dominion would have them in on the Monday. I can remember having to wait for the family trip to Bristol to rummage on the Gloucester Road for a copy of Marion‘s ‘Sleep‘ on orange vinyl. Still a cracking tune, to these ears, although probably not worth the petrol involved.
The afore-mentioned NME also played a huge part in my development. I was an NME snob, and I couldn’t bear the Melody Maker. It wasn’t as clever, it wasn’t as well designed and it didn’t get such good interviews. Occasionally I’d buy it for a Manics or Blur interview and sniff with derision as I flicked through it on my way to the important interview. It was a period where you had to speak up for whichever side you were on, where lines were drawn and allegiances fiercely protected. I loved it.
I get hugely nostalgic for it now, and that’s why ‘Something Changed – The Britpop Years‘ will be an on-off series for the forseeable future on this blog. Please have your say via the comment option.

First time for everything, I suppose

I remember getting excited about buying the NME each Wednesday morning before getting on the school bus. It was the burgeoning Britpop era and the improvement in paper quality that bookended my stint with the nation’s most renowned music weekly. I’ll never forget the wit, enthusiasm and passion of the bog roll days. ‘He Could Be Eros‘ was a classic cover to mark the release of ‘A Short Album About Love‘ by The Divine Comedy, while everybody knows the historical Blur/Oasis Heavyweight battle image. The charts were there to study, the letters page took the piss magnificently out of the loonies and the album reviews were amongst the most coruscating pieces of writing I’ve ever read. God bless mid-90s NME, and all who sailed in her.
Then things changed. The 1998 shift to posher paper began the drift, but things really started to tail off as the price kept creeping up and the cover even became glossy. The volume of text reduced rapidly and the sense of fanboyism that made the paper so lovable, comforting and familiar evaporated.
I occasionally dip in these days. I bought the issue with The Good, The Bad & The Queen on the cover around Christmas and found all but that interview decidedly uninspiring. Nothing about the new issue has achieved anything other than the same result. Big pictures, large adverts and some fairly uninspiring text. However, it’s got a free White Stripes 7″ this week, previewing the new album. Actual vinyl, stuck to the front of a magazine. Fabulous!