The NME Within – Free But Shackled

First there came the rumours. Apparently, a surprisingly well-informed newsagent was now the preferred source for Time Inc to leak their big decisions. The NME was to go free from the next week. This was roundly rebuffed and things went quiet, despite the hunch that there was no smoke without fire rebounding across those still interested in print media. It was only a matter of time, surely, for a magazine with physical sales below 15,000? When the news came that the final paid for issue would hit the shelves in late July, it was rather less shocking because of that early false alarm. Still, it made headlines everywhere and a mixture of nostalgia and curiously narky bitching commenced. Bloated hacks of old dug themselves out of big chairs and narrow minds to proclaim their golden age while those who were still paying for the magazine – and I was one – were genuinely saddened to see such an iconic publication nearing its end.

The press release surrounding the news included predictably hyperbolic platitudes from editor Mike Williams, “NME is already a major player and massive influencer in the music space, but with this transformation we’ll be bigger, stronger and more influential than ever before.” This wasn’t an especially surprising comment to read. He was hardly going to say, “Aw, balls. We’re screwed. It’s all about the advertisers now,” was he?

The more optimistic amongst the audience hoped that removing the need to desperately chase disappearing sales might actually broaden the remit of a magazine that had increasingly been defaulting to heritage artist covers in recent times. Bigger and more influential, you say? A bit of risk, then, and more coverage of the music that might excite a generation. For that, anyone can put up with a bit of fashion coverage and a few more adverts.

The final issue was never going to please everybody. We all have ‘our’ era of the NME and one special edition couldn’t possibly do them all justice. That said, it brought back some lovely memories and provided a reasonably fitting send off for a maligned but still respected institution. So much of the great writing didn’t get a look in, mind you, with imagery the big focus. Perhaps we should all have taken that as a warning.

NME free

Friday 18th September marked the first day of a new dawn for the NME. The Rihanna cover was heavily trailed on Twitter and Williams even showed up on BBC Breakfast News and Sky to talk about the relaunch. He wore the benign facial expression of a man who had managed to make peace with difficult times, rather than the enthusiastic grin of somebody spearheading a revolution. Time Inc probably needed to spend a little longer coaching him on how to artfully avoid actually answering the question about how much sway the advertisers would have when it came to the final copy. The omens were not great and this was continued when my subscriber copy didn’t even arrive until Saturday. Should the people still actually willing to pay for a publication end up receiving it after the indifferent hoards queuing up in Top Man or HMV?

I think by this point we’ve established that I’m never going to be invited to write for the NME again, so let’s have a look inside the first of the free issues. Firstly, the advertising situation is entirely as expected. 32.5 pages of straight advertising, alongside three pages of ‘NME Promotion’ pieces and a full page version of the old ‘Things We Like’ feature with prominently displayed web addresses. Fair enough, though, as long as the remaining 39.5 pages are full of spikey, influential content, all is well.

‘Why The Big Bang Theory Is The New Friends’ quickly put paid to any optimism. Add in five pages of gig listings built largely around photos, the vintage ‘what’s in your headphones?’ vox pop page filler and a rebranded reviews section that seems actively at pains to use as little space for actual opinions as possible and the notion of a bigger and better NME had quickly evaporated. It’s a bit like Nuts without the boobs. It’s hard to say who it’s aimed at primarily because even in an age so prone to thundering great thinkpieces about an instant gratification culture plagued by short attention spans and endless stimuli, it’s hard to imagine any target audience quite so vapid and unambitious.

All of the talk of a 300,000 circulation is key to understanding the new NME. Until very recently, the NME was a sharp, informative voice driven by knowledgeable people for an inquisitive audience. Krissi Murison’s time in charge drew me back into the fold and it has produced a number of excellent writers in recent years. As much as it might make me sound like a fifteen year old scribbling band logos onto my folder, it still had integrity. The new NME has all the credibility and substance of a billboard in Piccadilly Circus. Being seen by lots of people appears to be literally the only goal for this publication now. The design is hideous, the content brief and lifeless and the brand is in tatters. Under a review of the new Battles album is the additional feature “The greatest battles in history”, including Alien vs Predator, Eminem in 8 Mile and, of course, Hastings. The endless list-driven sidebars are insultingly asinine and there’s almost nothing to actually read.

My love of the music press was built on words. I have always been thrilled by the power language has when manipulated in the right hands. It can be a truly brilliant genre and the review, in particular, is still relevant in a society beleaguered by option paralysis. The new NME seems so anti-language, so unenchanted with words, that it’s hard to imagine picking it up again. You can’t blame the writers as many of the old team are still there and their livelihoods depend upon it but, and I say this well aware of the old adage about glass houses and stones, it’s hard to imagine how they feel about what’s happening around them.

Wherever this new direction has come from, it seems a probable dead end. Those who have loved it in the past will surely hate what it has become. Those who weren’t interested are unlikely to be won over by what largely amounts to a poorly curated Twitter feed. The advertisers will stick with it for a while and the public rarely spurn anything that’s free, but this is not the NME. Whatever this weekly publication may become, it should never have taken that name in vain.

I’d like to say a few Words

In the pre-Twitter, pre-blog world of the mid-Nineties, I used to buy the NME as much for the singles adverts as the coruscatingly jagged reviews. It was a weekly event, a world of temptation and salvation, and an identity badge held between slightly grubby, inky fingers in front of schoolmates. I’ve been reading music magazines for over twenty years, graduating from Smash Hits to the weeklies, before adding an arsenal of monthly titles to bolster my curiosity and empty my wallet. They were already an integral part of my life before I started writing for one. The reviews section always felt like my spiritual home. The NME big reviews, often accompanied by grand illustrations, were urgent and biting, while the pages of Q and Select allowed you to luxuriate a little longer in the thoughts of many great writers. The losses of Vox, Melody Maker and a grotesquely redesigned Select were hard to take, suggesting that if the magazines were ailing so too was the music.

The early Noughties were a barren time for lovers of the music press. The NME had lost me, wandering off down a (now thankfully reversed) skinny-jeaned route to hell, with more emphasis on pictures than words, while Q was finding it very hard to adjust to a digital world where its original readers had moved towards Mojo, with its fifteen Beatles cover a year. New titles came and went, including the flimsy but spiky BANG! and the woefully limp X-Ray. Into a world of non-ironic Mel C covers and anti-stories about what The Strokes weren’t doing, came Word. With its lower-case masthead and dour picture of Nick Cave on the cover, it didn’t exactly scream “vital music ranting here,” but it did stand out. I took a punt and spent a National Express journey in its company. It wasn’t perfect, by any means, but it seemed to be taking contemporary music seriously at a time when few others were. Early issues with substantial pieces on Blur, Elvis Costello and a peculiar new device called the iPod sealed the deal.

A few months after welcoming it to the well-thumbed family, I finally decided to pursue a boyhood dream to get some music writing published and, with email the great leveller in terms of making yourself known, I set about contacting a few of my music writing heroes. When the call from Paul Du Noyer came, it took my twenty year old Literature student self a little while to take it all in but, within minutes, I’d been commissioned to write a page on Elvis Costello, covering three reissues and his jazz album, ‘North‘. Should you wish to put yourself through some slightly torturous bus analogies, you can see that article here.

 

From then on, I was one of Word’s reviews team for almost four years. It was a thrill which never waned, a novelty which never wore off, to go and flick through the magazine in Smiths, despite a copy residing at home, in order to see my work on sale. In a shop. Not that I was deluded enough to think anyone was buying it because I was in it. But I was in it. And that was what mattered. When the Word team rejigged the magazine and thinned down the reviews section, I was no longer required. I found it hard to be annoyed as I couldn’t quite believe I’d got away with it for as long as I had. The support and encouragement of Du Noyer and Jude Rogers, who would quickly take over the reviews section, meant a great deal and without those two particular people, I very much doubt I would still be reviewing today or writing this very piece. That is just one of the many reasons that made Friday’s announcement of the closure of The Word such a kick in the guts.

With the NME having recovered under recently departed editor Krissi Murison’s fine stewardship and Q as good as it has even been with former Word scribe Andrew Harrison in charge and a stellar team of writers in its pages, things didn’t feel quite so bleak for the music press of late. Word is beloved of many media folk but never quite seemed to attract the wider audience it needed. I had occasionally wondered how long it would continue to fight the good fight, but was always reassured by the dependable brash swagger of Mark Ellen and David Hepworth. Was it perfect? No. Is there more to atone for than just that Dido cover way back in 2003? Certainly. But was Word Magazine a creative, welcoming and enthusiastic community which offered something genuinely different? Without doubt, and I will miss it greatly. The great motto for every aspect of the music making, selling and reporting industries seems to be ‘adapt or die’, and yet here was something else which still didn’t work. Maybe there’s just no place for a wide variety of music magazines in the 21st century? Whatever the grim reality of the current situation, the end of this particular magazine hurts more than most. The complete set sits upstairs and will get revisited in the coming weeks. For all the tips, the laughs, the sighs, the ideas, the tunes and the work: thank you. Word.

Can a serious font succeed?

After declining sales and declining standards with Conor McNicholas at the helm, the NME has undergone a major facelift and an editorial repositioning under the direction of Krissi Murison. The new editor of one of the music world’s legendary publications certainly talks the talk, as evidenced by a great interview in Monday’s Guardian, but can the redesigned magazine walk the walk?

nme laura

It’s certainly a striking new look, whichever of the ten covers you happen to end up with, even if Laura Marling‘s drooping fag isn’t the greatest stylistic decision I’ve ever seen. Most of the ten are worthy cover stars (Kasabian can piss off though) even if I’d have been a little more impressed if someone like Marling had got the cover in a normal week. Everywhere I went today, there were plenty of Florence, Jack White and Kasabian covers but less of the others. To continue to use Marling as our example, I saw one copy across a massive city. Still, I’m being picky.

The new main font is best described as ‘serious’ and, whisper it, it does bring back a few memories of the ill-advised and short-lived Q redesign from eighteen months ago. In Monday’s Guardian piece, Murison talked of focus groups wanting the NME to be "heavyweight." I can’t help wondering if that, rather simplistically, played into the font choice. That said, I think it looks rather nice, if not especially urgent. Pages seem simultaneously airy and ‘busy’, deliberate space contrasting with little fact sections and overspilling reviews. The idea seems splendid, even if the initial execution is a little cluttered. The format for the ten features for the ‘State of Music Today‘ piece is excellent: simple, clear and easy to read. It looks authoritative, informative and, unusually for the NME, like it’s designed with a slightly older reader in mind.

Praise be for the continued presence of the muso-baiting Peter Robinson and the reintroduction of a singles review. The redesigned news section is perfectly satisfactory, although the notion of a big piece on the big story, entitled ‘The Main Event’, is spoiled by it being yet another puff piece about The Libertines. Album reviews are now considerably less garish, though little else appears to have changed. ‘On The Road with…’ looks promising, a little like the main live review in Q where the journo has spent time with the act prior to the gig in question. All jolly entertaining stuff.

nme florence

However, while much of the effort seems to have been concerned with making NME a publication to take seriously, the letters page is a bit like Jonathan Ross‘ appearance at the Brits. For a start, it is trying far too bloody hard to be cool and, secondly, it might think it looks good, but it appears to have got dressed in the dark. We just want largely inane missives being ripped apart and mocked by a rotating collection of NME staffers. Putting ‘From’ and ‘To’ before each letter AND reply, is just rampant twattery. Oh, and just call it ‘Letters’ again, please. Sadly, nothing from Kinross in this week’s mailbag.

‘We Want Answers’ is now ‘Speed Dial’, which is a marginal improvement in name despite there being no discernable change in content. The usual ‘music that matters to me’ page is now called ‘Pieces Of Me’, while the ‘Talking Heads’ bit is basically the old section they got rid of that used to have a regular column by Mark Beaumont in it. Only without Mark Beaumont in it, sadly. But with Kate Nash guest writing this week, even more sadly. ‘What Rock’n’Roll Has Taught Me’ has been binned in favour of entertaining quiz feature, ‘Does Rock’n’Roll Kill Brain Cells?Johnny Marr is a fine first contestant and this does have the potential to dig up some cracking anecdotes from music royalty.

In conclusion, it looks largely lovely and I genuinely believe that Krissi Murison is capable of great things as NME editor, having already improved things greatly in recent months. The change is not as massive as you might be expecting and a lot of it seems to hinge on a typographical shift, but it’s nice to see someone aiming high. How many of these changes will still be in place in six months? Who knows, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and if you’ve not purchased for a while, now might be the time.

From: Just Played
To: NME

Good work. But, next time you put Laura Marling on the cover, wait till she’s finished her cigarette.

A reasonably concise update

It wouldn’t be the same if this blog didn’t just grind to a halt for a month or so every now and then, would it? I’d originally intended to rest it for a week or two while I delved into the Beatles remasters but a week leads to a fortnight, a fortnight to a month and, well, you know how it is. Quite a month, mind, including the live return of one of my all-time favourite bands, Massive Attack. If the new songs played on that drab night in Sheffield are anything to go by, the new album will be everything people have hoped for and a little bit more. There’s one new track, (I have no idea about the title, I’m afraid) sung by Horace Andy which may well be one of the best things they’ve ever done. The ‘Splitting The Atom’ EP emerged last weekend as a digital download and it’s a pretty impressive quartet of new material. The lolloping title track belies the fact that Damon Albarn has been involved this time around, while ‘Pray For Rain’, featuring vocals from TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, has a wonderful gear change about four minutes in which elevates it to ‘special’ status. You can sample it for yourself over at Spotify, purchase it as a high-quality FLAC download from 7Digital or even shell out £20 for a spangly vinyl edition from those Monkey-box-set-making-types over at The Vinyl Factory.

Beatles expenditure limited the funds for new music last month, but a few splendid things snuck though, such as the latest offering from Richard Hawley, ‘Truelove’s Gutter’, which is a muso’s dream and the very definition of a ‘headphones album’. Coming off the back of the really rather polished ‘Lady’s Bridge’, (hmm, that sounds slightly wrong) an album with only eight songs, two of which scrape the ten minute mark, it’s an absolute delight to listen to and it may well be his best. ‘Remorse Code’ is a remarkable beast, languidly atmospheric and beautifully recorded. ‘Open Up Your Door’ may have spent some time with ‘The Ocean’ from ‘Coles Corner’, mind. There is meant to be a deluxe double vinyl edition with free CD and signed photo springing up at some point but, with every additional week’s delay, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The NME has a new editor in the shape of Krissi Murison and she’s already made a few changes. Icky changes, largely speaking. Making me actually wish Conor McNicholas hadn’t left after all kind of changes. The most unforgiveable change is the removal of Mark Beaumont’s weekly column, which was as good a reason as any to shell out £2.30 a week. Thankfully, Peter Robinson Vs has been retained, tucked away at the back now, or I may have had to have said goodbye. Again. Oh, who am I trying to kid. Still, it’s a shame as Beaumont was a witty and acerbic observer of the music scene, something the NME was always good at and I’m not sure how that hole will be filled.

The Radiohead deluxe editions for the latter half of their EMI tenure proved to be delightful additions to the collection, containing some splendid B sides which I’d never previously spent any time with and selected visual highlights from this wonderful, wonderful Later… special.

Put aside an hour and treat yourself. It’s really rather special. While I’m talking about all things Yorke, if you’ve not yet sampled the two tracks recently released as a (bloody expensive) heavyweight vinyl 12” single, you’re truly missing out. Click here to sample ‘FeelingPulledApartByHorses’ and ‘The Hollow Earth’, the latter track being one of the finest things I’ve heard all year. It’s in the same, slightly skittery vein as ‘The Eraser’, with a nagging hook and a thumping beat. It’s almost worth the insane amount the 12” costs. £10, by the way.

I’ve been ploughing through my record collection for the last few weeks, attempting to assemble a list of some kind ready for the launch of the previously trailed, ‘Just Played – Albums Of The Decade’ feature, which will be arriving fairly soon now. It’s been lovely to be reminded of albums like Daft Punk’s ‘Discoveryand Air’s ‘10 000Hz Legend’, alongside Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Howdy and Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Poses. There are some absolute certs for the final list, but it’s been interesting to realise some of the records I’d totally forgotten about that are thoroughly deserving of a place. More on that soon.

Oh, and there were those remasters I briefly mentioned at the start. I haven’t got an awful lot to add to the millions of column inches offered up over the last six weeks (and largely bought by me) so I’ll not say much. (On the other hand, recent convert, Dan of teatunes, says plenty here) Suffice to say, the more expensive of the box sets, ‘The Beatles In Mono’, is an absolute delight, with the sound punchy and remarkably clear. I feel obliged to inform you that you haven’t heard ‘Rubber Soul’ until you’ve heard the mono mix at a fair old volume – it’s a rather special moment. The packaging is wonderful and a serious step up from the fold-out card things used for the stereo reissues. As for the more widely available stereo mixes, I found that box a slight anti-climax, what with it arriving four days after the mono box had had its chance to seduce me. That said, it’s still a beguiling collection of music and those albums only available in stereo sound pretty impressive to these ears. I’ve certainly never liked ‘Abbey Road’ more than I do now. I love their catalogue now more than I ever previously have, but that’s probably no great surprise. For anyone who takes their music listening seriously, you really should get at least one of these boxes, if you haven’t already, as they are the definitive versions. Sod the money, on this occasion. Buy a few less takeaways or £40 games and treat yourself.

Oh, and if you’ve still not heard the new Maps album, sort yourself out, eh?

Aren’t Waterstone’s points great?

Where to start? Having spent a week trolling around the South East of England, I have returned with copious new records and a sizeable pile of books. The Great British Holiday – bugger all use if you’re after a tan but pretty reliable for enhancing your CD collection. I’ll start where it ended, which was the purchase of Simon Goddard‘s hugely enjoyable masterwork on Morrissey, entitled ‘Mozipedia‘. Priced at £25, but easily found online for £14.99 delivered, it’s a gargantuan study of all things Moz, with entries for every song he’s been involved with, both as a solo artist and as a member of The Smiths. There are also numerous cultural entries to offer a fuller picture, something Goddard is keen to emphasise in his introduction, imploring readers to draw their own conclusions about Morrissey by piecing together whichever entries seem appropriate. The carefully ambiguous, not to mention beautifully written, overview of Moz with which Goddard opens proceedings does the required job of stirring up a passion for the man and his music and ensuring that the ensuing six hundred or so pages are a delight to dip into on numerous occasions. Highly recommended.*

Speaking of Morrissey, the infamous 1992 NME vs Moz race row was brought back to the public domain this week as a result of some pretty heated debate on the really rather splendid Andrew Collins‘ site. It all came about due to some chronically mediocre reporting in The Guardian about offensive comedians which took as its centrepiece Richard Herring‘s new show, ‘Hitler Moustache’. Whatever your take on the imagery used to promote the show, or indeed some of the material contained within, it would surely be difficult to conclude that Herring is anything even bordering on racist. You’d think. Not if you’re Brian Logan, critic for said newspaper, who had a pretty good go at trying to paint him as a racist, or at least somebody with a great deal of sympathy for racists. Andrew Collins, with whom Herring records an often mildly amusing podcast each week, naturally opted to defend his comedy chum via his blog. As part of the ensuing debate in the comments section, a couple of readers drew parallels with Andrew’s involvement in the NME cover story about Moz, Madstock and the Union Flag (Covered in detail in the aforementioned ‘Mozipedia’. ) This, in turn, led to Andrew posting an additional article on his blog in which he attempted clarify why the two events had little in common. This appears to have simply stirred up emotions further and it has since been removed. Instead, Andrew opted to wade in on a related discussion on the Morrissey Solo Forums, where he encountered both ends of the scale: the intelligent, articulate and thoroughly knowledgeable Moz fans and those for whom Mozipedia will function as little more than a door stop. Still, all very entertaining reading and worth an hour of your time, if you’re willing.

In other internet confusion this week, Live Here Now, the company responsible for doing immediate live recordings at gigs continued to show why they’re not really deserving of anybody’s money. A quick pootle round the web will reveal exactly how many times they’ve delayed issuing recordings well beyond the date stated in the past and so it has proved with Blur’s Hyde Park gigs. I’ve had a negative experience with this lot in the past also, opting for Richard Hawley‘s ‘Live At The Devil’s Arse’ concert CD, which arrived many weeks after the stated date. The Blur gigs were to be available for download a week after they had happened and the CDs would follow a week later. Now, even when I ordered, I was pretty certain that this wouldn’t be the case and simply sat back and waited for them to be crap. They didn’t disappoint. If you ordered the CDs, you were promised the downloads for free, as part of the deal. Those downloads were finally available this Wednesday, July 29th. As I’m sure you can spot, this is not a week after July 2nd and 3rd. Still, at least the downloads were here and grumbling can cease, eh? Well, no, actually. When the shop site first went live, it offered the recordings as CDs or ‘High Quality 320kbps’ mp3s. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, those buying the CDs would also receive the downloads free of charge. However, upon making the downloads available to those who had preordered this week, it became clear that the downloads were only 160kbps mp3s, hardly sufficient quality for a product that is being offered up professionally in 2009. As you might expect, numerous Blur fans opted to complain about this poorly encoded product and were offered the following explanation: “We do apologise for the wording of the download quality on the website and are sorry if this has caused confusion, however as per our help section as linked below the bundled/CD purchases of the shows will have received the 160kbps version of the download.” Fair enough. Except it’s not. This information was only added to the site in the last week or so and thus it is not an excuse for why the downloads are substandard. A quick search of Google, using the cache option, yesterday unveiled the original version of the help page, which simply referred to 320kbps mp3s. Frankly, if you’re going to be utter shit, be utter shit, but to then lie about it and twist the facts is pretty bloody pathetic. I’ll be glad to finally get my CDs whenever they actually emerge, but I won’t be using this bunch of unreliable, untrustworthy cretins again.

Having mentioned the acquisition of numerous records above, I feel like I should offer some additional comment, but there’s far too much to talk about in one go. Suffice to say, a wonderful time was had in Brighton, particularly in Resident Records – as good a record shop as I’ve been in since my beloved Reveal Records died some 18 months or so ago – but not to take anything away from Rounder, Wax Factor or Ape. A special mention the glorious, and rather charmingly named, The Record Shop in Amersham, at which I stopped en route, where I had an enjoyable compilation about Honest Jon’s compilations as I purchased ‘Marvellous Boy – Calypso From West Africa’ and reduced copies of two of the ‘London Is The Place For Me’ series. Something I don’t think I’m ever likely to get in my local branch of HMV. The inevitable trip to London was conducted and Rough Trade East did its best to lure me in many musical directions, with not inconsiderable success. Berwick Street was rather disappointing, with only Sounds Of The Universe (just off Berwick Street on Broadwick Street) tempting me to open my wallet. Still, plenty of good stuff was found and will be mentioned on here as I get my ears around it over the next few days. Weirdly, the album of the holiday was Maps‘ new one, ‘Turning The Mind’, which won’t be released until September 28th, but which I spent plenty of time with in order to write a review in the next day or two. It really is as good as you might have hoped. I’ll endeavour to say a bit more soon.

Finally, keep an eye on the ‘Special Purchase’ section in your nearest HMV for the next week or two, as some decent stuff has started to appear of late. The Portsmouth branch provided me with four of the ‘Talcum Soul’ series at £2 each, while the Southampton store had the best bargain, with a copy of Lewis Taylor‘s beautiful ‘The Lost Album’ also priced at only £2. Have a listen to that rather wonderful record here.

A curator, if you will

I’m not even sure what radio show it was, back in the day, one of the stations I listened to used to do a music press review on a Wednesday. Actually, it might have been in the early days of 6music when Andrew Collins‘ afternoon show (RIP) was still called ‘Teatime‘. Anyway, I used to love hearing the cherry-picked highlights and treated it as a buyer’s guide. Sadly, there isn’t enough music press to make that particularly worthy these days, but, on this occasion, indulge me.

There are two things I’ve been meaning to share with you. The first is the rather excellent list of ‘Things heard at the Latitude festival‘ in this month’s Uncut.

Some of my favourites:

  • “Pimm’s me up to the power of two!”
  • Heard over a walkie-talkie: “Child control to the Poetry Arena!”
  • “Seriously, I thought it was called Ricky Pedia. I assumed it was a bloke with a really popular MySpace page.”
  • Woman on phone telling her friends where to meet her: “I’m directly below the cloud that looks a bit like Cyprus.”

Splendid stuff.

The second item of note is in today’s NME. Now, I know that every few months I keep saying almost nice things about this magazine but it really has shown signs of improvement recently. For a start, the woefully pretentious letter from the editor – and his picture, for that matter – has disappeared from the third page and the writing just seems sharper and funnier. Mark Beaumont having a weekly column can only be a good thing. Anyway, this week, the main feature is a huge interview with Noel Gallagher. Say what you like about Oasis, and most people do, Noel is fantastically good value when it comes to interviews. Never one to disappoint, this time around it’s regarding Jay-Z.

“I never dissed that guy. But there’s no point going on about it or you end up sounding like Heather Mills.”

Fair point, well made. It’s worth £2.20 to read the whole thing.

And finally, today’s new music mutterings:

They describe themselves as ‘ambient/electronica/pop’, which’ll do for me. That said, one track, ‘Handcuffs‘ is pure indie joy from start to finish. If you’ve already visited the VJ myspace then that’s the track that blares out at you when the page loads. Good, innit? They’re good Welsh boys, are Man Without Country. That’s who I’m on about, by the way. There are delightful moments in the aforementioned track where you’re left in no doubt about the band’s country of origin and I can’t deny that I love it all the more because of that. The other tracks that you can hear on their Myspace and iSound pages have a little more of that ambient feel to them, but if you love innovative, energetic songs then you should give them a few minutes of your time.