Saturday, March 15, 2008

Me, I Disconnect From You

Gary Numan won't be reworking his old stuff, oh no, no, no:

"Me? Join in on the '80s revival? I'd rather eat worms. I've absolutely no interest in going back to the '80s.

"I was there the first time so it's got nothing new to offer. I've always refused to do anything connected to the '80s, any TV shows or retro tours, and I play very little old stuff at my gigs."

Gary Numan will, erm, complete his tour playing through his 1979 album Replicas in its entirety, building on the success of the tour of material from the Telekon album.

Japan creates RIAA's dream scenario

The BPI will be casting envious glances towards Tokyo, where reports suggest Japanese ISPs are about to introduce the sort of measures against filesharers the British music industry would like to see here - with punishment, including disconnection, for the "worst" offenders.

The idea has been floated in Japan before, mind: back then, though, the government warned that it would breach privacy rules. It's not clear why things would be different in 2008.

Curve weekend: Coast Is Clear - Live

Continuing our rewind through Curve's career, here's a performance of Coast Is Clear from Channel 4's short-lived, ill-conceived Friday At The Dome in 1991:

Part of Curve weekend]

Dutch TMF counts filesharers, shapes programming

Viacom's TMF channel in the Netherlands has started to blend filesharing trends into making playlist decisions, although original plans to build the figures into the weekly chart were dumped when the local RIAA client organisation started to protest:

Wouter Rutten, the spokesman for the Dutch IFPI said he doesn’t see the use of P2P data as problematic as long as they don’t explicitly use it for their music charts or advertise it in any other way.

So, it's alright for TMF to listen to the audience and choose what to play based on the peer-to-peer networks, but not to directly report what filesharers are sharing. It's almost as if the music industry aren't that worried about filesharing providing its only used as a background promotional tool - it's okay for it to exist on the strict understanding that nobody talks about it. Curious.

Spears snoops sacked, says Simpson

While Britney Spears was in the UCLA Medical Center having her problems enumerated if not exactly solved, some of the staff took the chance to take a sneak peak at her medical records.

Hospital Human Resource head Jeri Simpson has found out, and canned the employees.

While it's heartening to see the hospital move so swiftly and decisively, we're not entirely sure it's done the right thing. Because before there were curious employees who knew some secrets about Britney Spears, but couldn't share them, because it would cost their jobs, and nobody knew they knew things they shouldn't know.

Now, there are unemployed people who have no jobs to lose, and a press statement revealing their existence. Hasn't the sackings and Simpson's announcements made a bad situation potentially a lot worse?

Especially as this is the second time it's happened - same patient, same hospital, same head of HR, same transgression, same result. You might wonder if the problem is not with the individuals, but perhaps further up in the hiring and training chain.

Curve weekend: Superblaster

The full video - complete with countdown clock and everything:

[Part of Curve weekend]

Something to listen to: REM SXSW NPR

NPR is hosting a full stream of REM's SXSW show.

[LINK FIXED - apologies]

Darkness at 3AM: Cooking up stories

We know it's only the gossip column on the Daily Mirror, but even so: a restaurant run by Kevin Federline and Jamie Spears? They really believe that's going to happen?

Muse become the anti-Elbow

At the end of the week when Guy Garvey moaned and moaned and moaned about how people won't buy all the tracks off an album if you let them pick and choose, Muse have decided to more or less give albums the chop and give the people what they want. Matt Bellamy explains:

"I don't think we're going to approach the next album like we're making an album," Bellamy revealed. "I like the idea of releasing a series of songs, every month or every couple of months - just putting songs out there.

"Almost like making the single a more prominent format, and then every few years doing a best of from that period and that would be the album. So in other words, throw out songs every couple of months and see how people like them."

Malcolm McLaren has seen the future and, in it, he works

We always get nervous when Malcolm McLaren starts talking about the future. We've seen his futures in the past - skipping ropes and opera mash-ups - but let's at least see what he's got to offer this time, shall we?

About 10 years ago I gave a lecture in London to the Television Society in which I proffered that it would not be long before culture became fully interactive and people would start making their own programmes in every shape and form in every medium. Did they listen? No, sadly, but to me and others it seemed obvious.

Ah, the old trick of pretending that you were the voice of wisdom that everyone ignored. But would McLaren really have expected the BBC to suddenly change what it was doing on the basis of a coming change that the technology wasn't quite ready for? ("And now on BBC2, it's over to you... well, we seem to be three or four years ahead of being ready for that next programme, so until then, here's some music...")

And, unless McLaren is tuned in to nothing but Current, we're still not quite at the point where "everybody is making their own programmes in every medium". But McLaren is convinced that we're there now. And why? Because someone's let him make a show:
Well, here we are in 2008 and the BBC are embarking upon expeditions into that world with things like The Game, a radio show starring myself. It's set in a place called Parispace, and involves me fighting boredom for what I call the "outlaw spirit". The whole thing is set as a computer game and I travel through various levels meeting people like Jean-Paul Sartre and the Phantom Of The Opera.

"Starring myself". Yes, Malcolm's brave new world is a video-game conceit documentary on Radio 2. It sounds from the press release like the sort of programme that Channel 4 were churning out in their early years, and - indeed - like the sort of thing that McLaren has been banging out for years. In effect, it's Ghosts of London meets Sonic The Hedgehog.

Malc then bangs on about how film is "dinosauric" and TV has "gone the same way". He dismisses them as media for "the over 40s" - which, since that's the fastest growing demographic, doesn't seem to be such bad news, and, since he's made this programme for Radio 2, shouldn't really be a worry.

McLaren's somehow convinced that his programme is going to unleash a new age:
You're definitely going to see something with a lot more authenticity and therefore more integrity and something with a lot more confidence. We're seeing that desperate fast track now in Hollywood - the whole system is breaking down and becoming anti-corporate. It can't do anything else because being anti-corporate and anti-globalisation and anti-commodification of the culture is now de rigueur, it's fashion. And it's borne out of what is happening on Broadway and the radio.

So the BBC should be praised for commissioning mad, experimental, programming like this, as much as a disaster one might want to suggest it is. Everyone should be commended for allowing people to make disasters, to make failures - you've just got to be sure that it's a magnificent failure and that, by creating a magnificent failure, you plant the seed. The Game needed a much bigger budget to make it work, but at least there is a willingness there to not make the typical, dull, DJ formatted programmes. And following this route may ultimately, dare I say it, make the BBC more culturally subversive.

We love the way that McLaren still believes that his schtick is in any way subversive - and, indeed, hasn't appeared to have listened to any radio output from the last twenty years judging by the way he seems to believe that it's all "DJ formatted programming".

A thing to remember: McLaren's love of subversive television, and understanding of the current media world, led him to agree to go on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Here.

Embed and breakfast man: Curve

With news of the re-emergence of Tony Halliday, what slimmer excuse could we need for a weekend of Curve videoage?

First up, here's Clipped, which looks a little as if it might have been extracted from one of those 'collect and send in' coupon deals that the music press used to have. Imagine trying to tell kids today if they collect a coupon a week for the next month, and then send off a letter, eventually they'll get a tape or something back through the post.

Further shoegoth video fun throughout the weekend
Coast Is Clear - live on Fridays at The Dome
Leftfield: Original - featuring Toni's vocals
Acid Android - Faults - more guest appearances from Toni

Pubic Fruit - the first three EPs on one CD
The Way Of Curve - comprehensive two disc career collection

Gordon in the morning: Sit down, there's some reporting

It's not all writing about breasts, you know: Gordon's actually got a proper, decent story this morning:

COLDPLAY are being paid a whopping £1.2million to play a festival in Japan later this year.

If they gig for 75 minutes on both nights, they will trouser a jaw-dropping £8,000 A MINUTE.

We don't know where he's got the figure from, but assuming it's true and he's not merely dressed up a story he read in Billboard with a made-up figure, the scoop - and the accompanying picture of a very-smug looking Chris Martin - is a pretty solid one.

Of course, Gordon thinks this is brilliant news, and then spends some time getting excited - excited - over the prospect of a new Coldplay album before ending on a weak pun:
They should change their name to Goldplay.

And, with long lens shots of Cheryl Cole's ring finger and Pussycat Dolls in "undercrackers", it's quickly back to business as usual.

Friday, March 14, 2008

RIAA facing legal woe

Just under a month ago, the judge hearing Tanya Andersen's claims of malicious prosecution against the RIAA dismissed her claim, giving her a month to refile. At some point today, she intends to do just that, promises her attorney Lory Lybeck. As the judge has said there won't be any more motions to dismiss entertained, this could mean the RIAA is about to have to reveal a lot of its innermost workings:

Lybeck tells Ars that he'll be digging into agreements between the RIAA, RIAA member companies, MediaSentry, and the Settlement Support Sentry. Part of that will involve looking at compensation, like how much MediaSentry gets from each settlement. "I'd love to know what kind of bounty MediaSentry got paid to supply erroneous identities to the RIAA," Lybeck says.

One of the allegations in the amended complaint will involve MediaSentry's status as a private investigator. "MediaSentry claims it is able to gain access to people's hard drives without their permission and collect information," notes Lybeck. "It's illegal because they're not licensed to do that work."

The RIAA isn't keen on having its secret deals revealed - and it's likely that the people at the labels who bankroll the organisation will be less than thrilled at being exposed in this way, too. Normally, if things get sticky for the RIAA on a case like this, they just abandon the case - but that's not an option when you're the accused. It could get very interesting.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Eavis rubbishes own bill

It's only a few weeks since Michael Eavis was trumpeting what a brilliant and potentially historic booking Jay-Z was, a key part of a reinvigorated Glastonbury Festival.

Now, though, he's sounding a bit less thrilled, as registrations for the Glastonbury ticket charge are down on last year:

"There's not as many as last year because we haven't got the super, big, big, big sort of headlining act anymore.

"We've gone for something middle range although Jay-Z is huge in America. It's going to be absolutely brilliant. But it's not like a Radiohead or a Muse or a Coldplay or an Oasis is it?"

Of course, the tickets will all be sold, but the decline in interest must be a bit of a worry - it's almost as if having made it so very, very hard in terms of cost and administration to get in, people are thinking they'd be better off elsewhere.

Still, at least it might mean Eavis won't have to make so many biodegradable tentpegs, which are being trialled this year to see if the problem of discarded metal pegs injuring cows can be avoided.

The pegs are made from wheat and potatoes, which seems to be a bit risky to us - with the notorious Glastonbury rains, won't this just mean you're putting your tent up with Smash?

Lou Reed likes it hi-fi

Ignoring that some of the very best songs ever were designed to come out of a tinny transistor and were none the worse for that, Lou Reed has been moaning about mp3s:

"If you find out you like good sound you have to go out and get a good unit to play over," he told Variety.

"If the guy making the record likes good sound, the price goes up. People have to have higher standards. Some might say 'that's elitist'."

Reed went on: "You can get any song you want in the world. If you don't care about good sound, none of this matters for a second.

"If no one cares, it will stay the same. Technology is talking us backwards, making it easier to make things worse."

Now, a nice quality sound is fine, but it's not everything, is it? Suggesting that it'd be better to not to be able to get access to a squillion songs because some of them you might notice are a bit flat if you play them through massive speakers seems to be missing the point quite spectacularly. It's like suggesting you'd be better off illiterate than to have to put up with books printed on cheap paper.

MTV, what are you, MTV?

We got sent a copy of the press release for that offspring of the famous game show MTV is lining up, and while the detail doesn't seem any less horrifying, we were taken with the description of where MTV sees itself in the current media world:

MTV is the dynamic, vibrant experiment at the intersection of music, creativity and youth culture. For over 26 years, MTV has evolved, challenged the norm, and detonated boundaries -- giving each new generation a creative outlet and voice that entertains, informs and unites on every platform and screen.

It's an "experiment", is it? And what would the aim of that experiment be - to see if you can shake the taint of 'what your dad used to watch' from the brand?

Andrew Collins on the NME

We wish we could pretend that we've taken a week to get round to mentioning Andrew Collins full length reaction to Stephen Dalton's piece on the NME from The Times as some sort of cosmic joke on his contention that the internet means you don't have to wait a week to hear about things any more, but actually we've taken a week to hear about it.

Andrew Collins still buys the NME, but:

I continue to read the NME because of its heritage, and for old times' sake, and because I'm actually too old to go to smelly pub gigs and sniff out the latest thing, and I'm certainly not going to loiter around MySpace at my age, so it offers me a shortcut to new stuff. But I am categorically not the NME's target audience, and I'm not going to keep it afloat on my own.

You wonder, actually, if the few thousand who do buy the NME now might not actually be significantly comprised of people like Mr Collins who buy it for old times sake.

Maybe that's where the future of the magazine could be: tempting back the audience who once bought the paper but don't feel it's what it was. Perhaps rather than worrying about pretending Joe Lean and The Bing Bang Bong are worth writing about, the magazine should swallow the commercial logic and carry rather more on Steve Earle and The Breeders - music that's still contemporary, but not so focused on the perpretual chimera of newness.

AC also misses one key point:
Paul Morley once told me that his job at the NME of the late 70s was to provide a narrative. This narrative now comes from other media - especially the internet. If you want to know what a new single sounds like, you can go and download it, you don't need someone learned and wise like Morley to describe it for you. What was once his role is now redundant. NME writers now are just music fans with moderately better access to Bloc Party than you.

But the thing is nowadays everyone can be published like Paul Morley. But not everyone can write like Paul Morley.

Landes again soon

Some great news, albeit better for people with easy access to London than the rest of the country: Dawn Landes is coming back to the UK, with a date scheduled for the Borderline on Thursday 20th March.

The rest of us can take solace in the luxuriance of a Marc Riley's Brain Surgery session for 6Music the night before.

You! Me! Um... Louis Walsh?

Quick, lock the doors: Louis Walsh likes Los Campesinos!:

"I love that song. There's a really good vibe about the band, there's an innocence that is very nice about them.

"I don't think the business has tarnished them yet, and I hope it doesn't. And it's great to see three girls and four boys together. Historically that doesn't happen much."

You might argue that being praised, in public, by Walsh, is all the tarnishing a career needs.

Crow lines up for Mac

Sheryl Crow is going to be working with Fleetwood Mac at some point soon, she, erm, hasn't quite announced:

"I don't want to make any official announcements, but I will say that we definitely have plans for collaborating in the future, and we'll see what happens."

Of course, she could have made herself clearer, but if you're going to work with Stevie Nicks, you probably want to avoid being too comprehensible.

Mail uses Rings flop to beat BBC

The Lord of the Rings stage show - which was horribly expensive and aimed squarely at the sort of people who don't leave the house very often - is closing, having managed to lose somewhere in the region of twelve million quid. However, the Mail notices the next production at the theatre is I'll Do Anything, which allows the BBC to be blamed in some way:

Lord Of The Rings stage show closed to make way for BBC-cast Oliver!

Baz Bamigboye then goes on lament that musicals are chasing out 'proper' shows. Like over-designed spectacles based on Hollywood movies, of course.

Gordon in the morning: Cancer sticks

Last week, Gordon was using his column to encourage people to send positive thoughts and happy messages to Patrick Swayze. Today, he's running long lens pap snaps of Patrick puffing on a fag and getting Emily Smith to tick him off for it.

[Swayze's brother] also said Patrick’s wife Lisa, 51, is liquidising high-fat dinners as he is having trouble keeping down solid foods.

Yeah, a man who's that ill really deserves to have a newspaper lecturing him about one of the few pleasures he might have left. If you've got pancreatic cancer that is so far advanced, not having a cigarette might make very little difference, surely?

Gordon, meanwhile, has... shall we say issues? He looks at a photo of Eva Longoria-Parker, and what does he see?
Now this new pic of her struggling to keep her lady lumps in her dress has got me craving chocolaty mallow-filled WAGON WHEELS. Yum.

Wagon Wheels is one thing. We're trying not to picture Gordon's Sherbert Fountain.

There's also a really bemusing piece about Miley Cyrus:
THIS is the most Googled girl on t’internet — teenage actress MILEY CYRUS.

Yes, "t'internet" again.
The star, daughter of mulleted Achy Breaky Heart singer BILLY RAY CYRUS, has coined it in since her success in Disney sitcom Hannah Montana.

The reference to coining it is merely to try and prop up the dreadful headline:
Montana star is silly pay Cyrus

Oddly, Having been confident with the programme that made Miley famous, Gordon then seems to forget it again:
The nippers tell me Miley plays Miley Stewart in the show, whose alter-ego is pop sensation Hannah Montana.

The showbiz editor of Britain's largest daily newspaper affecting to not know about Hannah Montana in 2008 is a bit odd, but then Gordon caps it:

The world is going completely mad...

Not only does he pad out the piece with a 'these young people and their crazy names' line that would have looked weak in a Mike Yarwood sketch in the early 80s, but also makes some sort of connection between Cyrus and the Ting Tings. He gets paid for doing this, you know.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wilde, Wilde radio

With Tony Hadley off on some sort of holiday, Virgin Radio needs someone to fill his shoes. They've got Kim Wilde to cover over Easter.

Which is great, and will help fight the impression that Virgin is a bit blokey, right?

"Kim is an absolute 80s icon and a sex kitten to boot," said Mark Bingham, the programme manager at Virgin Radio.

Hmm. Although Kim is a bit of a sex kitten, we're not sure we recall anyone describing Hadley or Suggs through their sexuality when they joined the station, did they?

Jackson apparently refinances

No wonder the dollar's been plummeting today - it turns out US banks are still unable to tell the difference between a sweet deal and a leaky bucket full of mouse urine. Michael Jackson's lawyer claims that Fortress Investment Group, LLC has allowed him to refinance the loan on Neverland. God alone knows where they think the money will come from - twenty-fifth anniversary reissues of BAD?

Why (or, perhaps because) HMV is trying to turn itself into a games store

Last year, for the first time, more cash was spent on games than music in retail stores in the UK, says the Entertainment Retailers Association.

More music items are still being bought, but in terms of actual pound notes changing hands, music has been eclipsed. And, we suspect, there's a much healthier mark-up on games.

Who owns Guitar Hero?

Activision's Guitar Hero, a game where you can pretend like you're playing guitar in the same way that a karaoke machine can make you pretend you're actually a singer, has just been hit by a lawsuit from Gibson. Apparently, Gibson filed a patent back in 1999 claiming to have invented a way of playing guitar that wasn't actually playing guitars, but would be enough like the experience to persuade people to hand over large sums of cash:

A copy of Gibson's patent included in the court filing showed a method for simulating a live performance using a musical instrument, a 3D headset with stereo speakers, and a pre-recorded concert.

"Based on our preliminary analysis, the 'Guitar Hero' software (including any expansion packs) and the guitar controller provided by Activision being used as a musical instrument (packaged with the software or sold standalone) are covered by the ... patent," Gibson's law firm said in its January 7 letter. "Gibson requests that Activision obtain a license under Gibson's ... patent or halt sales of any version of the 'Guitar Hero' game software."

We're not sure Gibson should have been allowed the patent anyway - didn't Fisher Price have a plastic guitar-shaped toy with buttons you could press to make noise on the market about two decades ago?

Parton's back down again

Something that won't be happening at this year's SXSW: Dolly Parton has pulled her gig as her back is still giving her trouble.

First night: REM at SXSW

They had a new album to push - an album so modern, it's being streamed online, if you can imagine such a science-fiction concept. So, how did REM go down in Austin?

Like Elliot Spitzer at a Catholic Mother's Meeting.

Village Voice tried to be kind, but:

The songs are a bit louder, brasher, angrier, but still exploding into that sunny, boppy sort of R.E.M. chorus that's simultaneously recognizable and forgettable. The song bitching about Barbara Bush's post-Katrina Superdome quips is half-finished at best; "I'm Gonna DJ" is half-clever at worst. Michael Stipe these days is prone to corny non-sequitur exclamations -- "Hey!" "Whoa!" "Yeah!" -- amid his typical half-loopy, half-preachy banter: anti-war, pro-Obama (called that one), etc. He's endearing, but the band's flaccid, and the crowd is even worse, beaten down by New One after New One and barely perking up when the dudes deign to toss out "Drive" or "Fall on Me" or "Man on the Moon."

Austin360 couldn't even work out why they'd show up to a new band fest. Then it got it:
SXSW has become a recognizable youth culture brand. It's where old bands go to be young again.

Or to try, anyway. Did it work? MTV News' YouAreHere blogger Aaron Pinkston seemed impressed, charmed but not quite convinced:
I came to the show not being a huge fan of the band, just because they weren’t really part of my generation. However, with that said, leaving the show I definitely understand why the line to get in went for a mile down Red River Street. I was highly impressed by R.E.M.’s performance and definitely hope to one day see them perform again!

WNYC's Soundcheck blog liked what it heard, but...
R.E.M. bit into mostly new stuff, with an opener that was, well, heaven. I haven’t heard anything on the new album besides the single — and that’s a lot, mind you — but that first song sounded wonderful. New songs kept on coming, and I can’t wait to hear the new record. Sigh … I leave midway through the set to catch a ride, as we have another big Soundcheck on tap tomorrow.

... if it was that good, wouldn't you have stayed to the end?

The concert blog lists the set as played, while the merest glimpse of the band live has turned up on the YouTube:

Van Morrison 'grumpy' reports surprised website

Van Morrison's reputation clearly doesn't precede him to quite the extent you'd have thought, as ContactMusic sounds a note of surprise that he came onstage at SXSW in a bad mood:

He curtly told the audience, "We'd like to do the next album. If someone turns off that mobile phone we can start it."

ContactMusic also reports, breathlessly:
Cameras and recording equipment were also banned from the venue.

No, really? Unlike every other gig in the world which has tickets carrying a rule banning the use of cameras or recording equipment.

Winehouse for beer fest

Amy Winehouse has confirmed she'll be playing T in the Park this summer.

Or, rather: Amy Winehouse has confirmed plans to cancel an appearance at T in the Park this summer. It's not yet known what day between now and the scheduled appearance she'll pull out, although 'exhaustion' from press revelations about drug-taking is expected to be the cause. Organisers of the event said they were delighted Amy has agreed to be briefly listed on the bill again: "Last year's non-appearance really got people noticing T in the Park; we're delighted that Amy has agreed once again to make a vague promise about overcoming the recent negative press coverage to consider a date and look forward to announcing just who will be filling her slot at a press conference nearer the time."

Silver Jews harp on about tour

The Silver Jews are padding out their time between European Festival dates with some other, standalone gigs - they're even playing the Liverpool Zanzibar, which should be a hell of an event:

Brighton, Concorde 2 - 7
Leeds, City Varieties - 8
Glasgow, ABC - 9
Belfast, Black Box - 10
Dundalk, Spirit Store - 11
Cork, Cyprus Avenue - 14
Galway, Roisin Dubh - 15
Dublin, Whelan's - 16
Explosions In The Sky Vs ATP – 16-18
Hamburg, Fabrik - 20
Berlin, Columbia Club - 21
Frankfurt, Brotfabrik - 22
St. Gallen, Palace Theatre - 23
Paris, Point Ephemere - 25
Manchester, The Dancehouse Theatre - 27
Liverpool, Zanzibar - 28
London, Millennium Dome - 29
Barcelona, Primavera Sound Festival – 29-31

Duffy proves life in the record companies yet - possibly

The Times' business section carries an analysis of Duffy's album to offer hope to the executives in record company boardrooms around the world.

Dan Sabbagh compares Rockferry with Shayan Italia's YouTube number one Reflection:

Rockferry shifted 180,000 CDs in its first week, worth rather more than 190,000 views on YouTube, without the help of a television programme talent contest or any internet nonsense. In fact, the album was marketed conventionally to entice the mainstream buyer.

This, concludes Sabbagh, proves that all this talk of new business models and death of the label is hogwash:
[I]t is easy to get distracted: these companies are really creative businesses, allying marketing muscle with nothing more complicated than good music.

Spending too much time banging on about a new business model while failing to discover new acts, hiring management with little credibility in the industry or simply not bidding for talent when necessary are sure ways to fail, as Guy Hands many find out if he is not careful.

There's a degree of truth in this: there's still a healthy market for CDs, and the four majors are still massively successful businesses - this is why it's hard to shed many tears for them when they tell us about how beastly the peer-to-peer networks are.

But it also misses a crucial point - Duffy's album sold less than a fifth of a million, and went to number one. That's despite the enormous might of the marketing department behind it, with commercials on TV and in the papers, a hectic circuit of appearances, and an effective press office operation generating much warm glow around Duffy. As Sabbagh concludes, Rockferry has put much more money through tills than Italia's effort - but we bet that in terms of earnings, the gap between what Duffy's made from her record and Italia has made from his isn't going to be as wide as you might think.

It's also odd for Sabbagh to dismiss the idea of new models out-of-hand while opening the article with a reference to an unsigned artist who has found an audience of 190,000 people in a day and then concluding:
[I]t would have been a lot easier for him to find an audience if a well-organised music major had snapped him up.

You think? Leaving aside the question of just which label would be snapping up an Indian-born guy, on the cusp of his thirties, with an 80s fixation in the first place (unless the other majors also had aging retro Anglo-Indians on their books), it's hard to imagine how they would have marketed him - you can imagine meetings coming to grief over the question of what genre to tick on the iTunes form. Italia would have been a non-starter for a major label and, sure, while he would have found a home on a smaller, boutique imprint, it's hard to imagine that the old-school radio and TV networks would have known what to do with him, either. You only have to look at what happened to Sheila Chandra's career for an example of how the old business model worked.

Yes, Italia isn't doing as much trade through chart-return shops as a major label. But then a 2008 major isn't doing as much trade through chart-return shops as a 1990s major, either. But he's finding a way to take a niche product to an audience that's bordering on the mass. Dan, can you really not see that we're living in a transfer between business models?

Yesterday's Sun: good for wrapping chips, or filling a page in the Mail

The same photos - Geri doing exercises by her laundry basket and so on - that Gordo had yesterday have popped up in the Mail today, alongside a piece which attempts to bury the claims that there was any sort of bad-feeling or anything even approaching bitching backstage. Even Mel C pops up to parrot the party line:

Mel told Rolling Stone magazine: "All of us have really enjoyed getting closer again.

She added: "The atmosphere was fun and there hasn't been time for bickering or the fighting that's always reported about the Spice Girls.

"It's just like a big family. There's been more laughing than anything else.

She added: "We've been through something so unique together that even if we don't see each other for a few months, we get together and it's been like no time has passed."

Mel, come on. The band ended after Geri had flounced out, so even if the reunion was like "no time had passed" wouldn't it have been slightly odd that Geri suddenly reappeared? And after all the stories - mostly emanating from the band - about who was responsible for whose eating disorders, how can you even try to push this with a straight face? Was 'must pretend to be friends' part of the multi-million contract?

Darkness at 3AM: Gayle blows on

The nation owes a huge apology to Michelle Gayle who was charm itself at the Eurovision heats, and somehow lost out to a right old clunker. The 3AM Girls aren't ones for compassion, though, laying into Gayle's plans for a best of:

A pal said: "She thinks everyone will go crazy for her album." Hmm, greatest hits? We can't remember any of her hits!

They might have a point about the over-optimistic hopes, but it's still a little unfair. What about Sweetness? And... um... all the others.

Elsewhere, a romance is barked up between Natalie Imbruglia and Sam Branson, who is described as a "model" because "being Richard Branson's son" is a difficult career category to capture on census data:
They were seen snogging at the Kensington Roof Gardens, venue for his exclusive £100,000 ski-themed bash to celebrate him leaving on an Arctic expedition. A reveller told us: "They are pretty besotted with each other and Nat is even talking about meeting him in the Arctic."

You throw a hundred grand party to celebrate going on holiday. Modelling must pay really well.

We love the idea that Nat is supposedly going to pop up and see him in the Arctic - presumably she's busily checking the EasyJet schedules right now to see if she can get a cheap flight there.

Gordon in the morning: Robbie Williams is not lost in space

Gordon returns to the Robbie Williams and the aliens story this morning:

ROBBIE WILLIAMS’ obsession with extra-terrestrials has just jumped to lightspeed.

Does an obsession travel at lightspeed?
The beardy pop nob has been spending his free time — which is about 18 hours, seven days a week — visiting observatories in the Arizona desert.

Gordon then goes on to have a bit of a laugh at the idea of Williams going to an observatory, of all places, to look at space. Can you imagine?

Now, while it's true that his obsession with aliens and chumming up with David Icke looks a little flaky, is hiking out to an array of telescopes to explore the possibility of life in other parts of the universe such an eccentric thing to do? After all, NASA was pumping out Beatles songs into space the other week, in the hope that some other worldly intelligence might hear them and thus create some demand for digital downloads of the back catalogue, and nobody started to suggest that NASA had lost its mind. And if Williams is interested in aliens, isn't it actually quite intelligent of him to head out to a place where serious scientific research is taking place to see what they're up rather than asking David Icke which members of the cabinet are shape-shifting aliens?

I know. This does constitute cutting Robbie some slack. I don't like it any more than you do.

Gordon, though, is showing exactly the same sort of grasp of science that makes mainstream journalism what it is today:
Rob has been peering through telescopes looking into space for signs of life on other planets.

Yes. He's squinting through a small tube telescope, Gordon. That's the way it works in Arizona.
Surely writing a new album is more important than staring at the heavens like eccentric, xylophone-playing Sky At Night TV host PATRICK MOORE?

Hmm. There's a slim possibility that Williams might - just might - discover something which suggests that humanity is not alone in the universe, with profound implications for our future as a species, politics, religion and ethics. On the other hand, he could make another record of eartosh. Do you want to check that you're ordering his priorities correctly, Gordon?

There's a strong argument that if other worlds send emissaries to Earth, you wouldn't perhaps want the gurning half-wit to be the one to meet them, but that's another question.

It's not clear why Gordon would be keen for Robbie to get back in the studio anyway:
He added: “I was lying on my sun lounger outside at night. Above me was a square thing that passed over my head silently and shot off.”

That was me, Robbie. I was launching copies of Rudebox at your gaff after 12 pints of Guinness...

If you're wondering why Smart might have lots of copies of Rudebox lying around in the first place, it's probably because his boss Victoria Newton gave the album such glowing reviews before she got into trouble with the lyrics of that one track and the column appeared to declare war on Williams.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trent Reznor calls Radiohead

Although there might not seem to be too much difference between Trent Reznor and Radiohead's pay-if-you-like models for album releases, Trent Reznor reckons he's actually purer that Thom Yorke, on the grounds that the Nine Inch Nails downloads are of a superior audio quality:

"What they did was a cool thing; I think the way they parlayed it into a marketing gimmick has certainly been shrewd," he told ABC's Michael Atkin. "But if you look at what they did, though, it was very much a bait and switch to get you to pay for a MySpace-quality stream as a way to promote a very traditional record sale."

"There's nothing wrong with that - I but don't see that as a big revolution [that] they're kinda getting credit for."

"What they did right: they surprised the world with a new record, and it was available digitally first. What they did wrong: by making it such a low quality thing, not even including artwork ... to me that feels insincere."

'Not including artwork' - yes, because a small thumbnail of an album cover to pop up on coverflow really does add something to the experience. And since Radiohead allowed people to pay what they believed the downloads were worth, surely you can't argue that people didn't get what they paid for? The very opposite, surely?

Slits: Music and heated debate

The Slits turned up to do a session for Fair Game - which is good; they then had a bit of an inter-band falling out over which Democratic Presidential hopeful to throw their weight behind. (Nobody, it seems, wanted Edwards to re-enter the race.)

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet

Blender lists 20 of the biggest record label screw-ups of all time. All the favourites are there: crushing Napster and thereby creating countless illegal filesharing outlets; not signing the Beatles; Stax and Motown being flogged off for pittances. But there's also a couple we'd not heard of before:

How sure was MCA that slinky Irish teen Carly Hennessy was going to be a gargantuan pop star? So sure that in 1999 they staked the former Denny’s sausage spokesmodel with a $100,000 advance, $5,000 a month in living expenses and an apartment in Marina Del Rey, California, spending roughly $2.2 million in all on her 2001 debut, Ultimate High. How wrong were they? In its first three months in stores, Ultimate High sold a whopping 378 copies, putting the label’s investment somewhere in the order of $5,820 per copy sold. Last seen, Hennessy had resurfaced—still looking for her big break—on season seven of American Idol.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Somewhat bemusingly, Mary Wakefield on the Spectator's Blog suggests that Alistair Darling should have, erm, read his speech over an Alan Ant album:

Who else reckons that Mr Darling's plodding budget could have used a lively soundtrack? Well, here's my recommendation: Goody Two Shoes by Adam and the Ants. The lyrics pretty much sum up the whole sorry affair!

"Put on a little makeup makeup
Make sure they get your good side good side

If the words unspoken
Get stuck in your throat
Send a treasure token token
Write it on a pound note pound note

Goody two goody two goody goody two shoes Goody two goody two goody goody two shoes Don't drink don't smoke - what do you do Don't drink don't smoke - what do you do

Subtle innuendos follow.

There must be something he's hiding"

Mary, we presume, is unaware that the song is written about the way the press attacked Adam for his (then) straight-edge habits. So, yes, Darling probably would feel justified in playing the track in response to the press attacking him for a straight-edge budget by publishing the lyrics of a song about being attacked for a... and so on.

The Spectator really shouldn't try engaging with popular music, should it?

Sperm for tickets: An even-handed approach

Ireland, apparently, is facing a shortage of sperm donors, and in a bid to try and get young people to lend a hand, an agency called Sperm For Tickets has popped up, promising:

Our current promotion is to offer tickets to ANY music festival in Europe in exchange for a sperm donation. Flights and accommodation are not included.

Any music festival? Really?

This doesn't really add up - if the offer was genuine, wouldn't the offer of tickets be a little more restricted? After all, there are some major music festivals which have already sold out, so to make some tosser's dreams of Glastonbury tickets come true, there'd have to be some pretty heavy digging into pockets and, of course, some circumvention of security rules. We'd expect a genuine offer to have some disclaimery terms and conditions on it.

Secondly, there's the lack of any indication that any fertility groups are involved in the scheme - unless SpermForTickets is operating to an Underpants Gnomes business plan (get the sperm delivered, then work out what to do with it), that seems totally unlikely.

Third, this offer is open to everyone across the globe who will, we're told, will be able to whack out in the comfort of their own home:
To aid this problem we have set up an alternative method for donations by using specially developed donation containers combined with a fast courier network to offer a mail system. The patented container is a new discovery that was made by our research and development team, which allows samples to to stay fresh for up to 3 days. We offer a worldwide courier service using DHL and UPS that guarantee delivery times.

Since DHL and UPS are both pretty keen to only pick up properly labelled and packaged bodily fluids, it's unlikely that - even if this packaging somehow does exist and manages to keep sperm alive outside of a pair of testicles or a warm environment for so long - that'd be that keen on picking up parcels of spunk from any Joe Schmoe keen to get to T in The Park.

And let's not even get into the thorny problem of sperm donation across national boundaries with competing legislations covering the rights of donor, recipient and possible childrens, which you'd expect a genuine website to at least make some reference to.

A quick DNS look up points us to a group called Area52, whose website tells us:
AREA 52 was set up as a technology and ideas based innovation group.
It is comprised of individuals from varying backgrounds covering, marketing, graphic design, web design, data / documentation management, facilities management, management consultancy and IT hardware design.

The AREA52 concept is to bring together individuals from varying backgrounds in an idea generation forum, with a view to creating possible spin off enterprises or projects.

We're figuring this is either some sort of stunt to raise the group's profile, or to measure gullibility on the net. ( has reported it, straight-faced.)

If it was genuine, it'd be such a botched, rotten idea and strewn with so many legal pitfalls as to make you hope that nobody involved was ever left in the care of the big fridge of sperms.

Lohan reaches for the sky

Lindsay Lohan's reluctant return to making records - for some reason, time is weighing heavily on her hands these days; will Disney not commit to a new Herbie movie? - is at least one she's taking seriously:

LINDSAY LOHAN has revealed that she would like her new album to be a party classic in the style of KYLIE MINOGUE and RIHANNA.

Yes. I'm sure you do wish that. Perhaps you should think about setting the bar a little lower - maybe Mandy Moore? Or the younger of the Simpson children?
The young actress, who has previously released two albums SPEAK and A LITTLE MORE PERSONAL, added that she hopes to tour with the record, telling Now magazine "I hope to really promote it".

Since it's unlikely to sell many copies, and you're going to be relying on income from people coming for a little look-see, you better hope you do.

Still, at least with the experience of the last couple of years behind her, there might be some substance to the record - some of the grit that's been picked up each time she fell?

Erm, no:
"I think the past is the past and it should be kept there," she told People magazine.

"It's a new slate for me, and I want to show that in my new record."

So, having done something interesting, she's decided to pretend it never happened. 'I've been to hell and back - let me tell you about the back' is perhaps the least alluring proposition she has to offer.

You can't appreciate a master of the craft

Some fun on The Guardian's food and drink site as, following the striking down of a libel claim for a bad restaurant review, they gather critics' run-ins with the wounded. Amongst those turning up bearing grudges are Brian May, John Martyn, Macy Gray, Bobby Gillespie... and Paul Weller:

I was in the ICA bar with a friend and heard someone say: "Excuse me, miss." I turned to find Paul Weller - whom I'd never met - standing six inches away, looking none too happy. Jabbing his finger at me and building up a head of steam, he shouted that my recent review of a gig by his then wife, Dee C Lee, had been a sham because I'd left in the middle. I hadn't, but he refused to believe me. The more I argued back, the angrier and louder he became, until the entire bar was watching us. Then he abruptly stopped and returned to his drink. We haven't met since. Oddly, it hasn't put me off his music.

Caroline Sullivan was feeling the full-force of cappuccino-era rage.

Guy Garvey doesn't like the iTunes

Guy Garvey doesn't much like iTunes because - goodness - it saves people having to wade through filler tracks:

"Ultimately, iTunes is a device for selling hardware, MP3-playing hardware, so they should give the artists the freedom to lock their records if they want and it's something that I'm personally gonna see if I can make happen because it's fucking important.

"It's not the buying thing either, it's not like I want GBP7.99 (for an album) not 79p (for a single track). I'd rather people ripped the whole thing for free than got the individual tracks for 79p each, you know what I mean.

"There's no point in doing what we do (otherwise)."

Yes, he really is suggesting that he thinks people should be forced to take the padding tracks they don'r want, and he'd rather make no money at all than have people not take them.

It's unclear if Garvey is suggesting that audiences be made to listen to every bloody track, too - perhaps by having their ears held open as the tunes are poured in through large trumpet-shaped devices.

It hasn't occurred to him that the way to make sure that people listen to every track is to make every track worth listening to - the songs left on the virtual iTunes aren't there because people are being cussed by not buying them. They don't buy them because they don't want them, Guy.

Still, as he says, this is "fucking important", although why it's different to the situation when a successful single from an album could outsell its parent record ten, twenty, even one hundredfold isn't clear; nor why it's so sweary-mouthed important that people continue to purchase music in bunches of tracks determined by the technical limitations and capabilities of the 33-and-a-third rpm disc over half a century ago.

Darkness at 3AM: Or it could just be a song

Much fluttering at 3AM this morning, with the women getting the truth about Madonna's relationship:

Madonna has opened up about her rocky relationship with Guy Ritchie in one of her most revealing...

...tracks ever.

Ah. So you're going to read some lyrics off the new album and tell us that they're an actual, factual depiction of the relationship, are you?
On the track Miles Away - on forthcoming album Hard Candy - sad Madge spills the beans on her long-distance relationship with husband Guy.

She sings: "You love me more miles apart...
"I love you, but we are at our best miles away...
"When you are gone you realise I'm the best thing that happened to you."

It's a well-known fact that all Madonna songs are totally autobiographical, what with her having had a baby in 1986, having fallen in love with a Beautiful Stranger who was everywhere she went in 1999, and her spell as a leader of Argentina back in 1996.

Mail Clark

As if to prove that it's equal-opportunities shallow, the Daily Mail chooses to mark Dave Clark's elevation to the Hall of Fame by focusing on his appearance:

Clark's hair appeared to have been dyed back to its 1960s colour and any grey on his beard looked to have been blended in with a touch-up brush. His face was remarkably wrinkle-free and there was a conspicuous absence of lines on his forehead.

They would, of course, have been just as happy to run a story on how he no longer looked like he did in the 1960s. Indeed, it looks like they might have been expecting a snaggly-toothed madman:
In a rare public appearance, Clark, who lives the life of a recluse in a multi-million-pound mews house in London...

"Lives the life of a recluse" in a tabloid means "doesn't appear in the newspapers" - we suspect that Clark doesn't actually live the life of a recluse at all.

Gordon in the morning: Didn't the Spice Girls tour end already?

For reasons we can't quite figure, Gordon Smart runs with backstage photos from the Spice Girls tour this morning. No, not showing them doing crack or riding round on the back of prostitutes. Just hanging out backstage:

The girls also posed in their personalised silk dressing gowns – as modelled by EMMA BUNTON.

And GERI HALLIWEL prepared for the shows by slipping into a corset, lying on a flea-bitten rug and doing sit-ups beside her laundry basket.

It's not a corset, by the way, Gordon, it's clearly a dress with shoulder straps. But we think you're right with the laundry basket.

Naturally, Gordon only fawns over four of the girls:
“I didn’t want anything too tight around the crotch. That repulses me.” [says Victoria]

I feel the same when MEL B – looking like a leopard – pulls her leggings up too far.

"Looking like a leopard" here means 'wearing a fur print' rather than crawling round on all fours with whiskers. She's wearing a cape, Gordon. Have you ever seen a leopard with a cape? (The Leopard Of Lime Street, we recall, never wore a cape as part of his costume.)

Meanwhile, the news that a kid asked Leona Lewis 'are you a virgin' rather than 'are you a vegetarian' on South African radio gives Gordo ideas:
I might offer him a job on Bizarre.

There are plenty of “accidental” questions I could do with asking some famous faces.

Although surely employing a nine year-old would increase the average age of the writers on Gordon's team, we're a little surprised at the admission that in order to ask any hard question, this fearless showbiz editor would rather channel it through a kid.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The double negative: Kurt Cobain didn't buy a house, and he didn't not buy one, either

TMZ has been doing some digging around in Courtney Love's claims that she's got the LAPD investigating a massive fraud against Kurt's estate; they reckon that the police listened politely, and then launched no investigation whatsoever, filing the claims as another symptom of Courtney's illness.

Is "groose" even a proper word?

Something to ponder as you enjoy The New Pornographers iTunes only live album, live from SoHo, upon which they cover ELO's Don't Bring Me Down.

(You can see what that's like, by the way, here, providing you can manage schoolboy French and have patience with a stuttery server.

Jesus meets Ministry

Duane Denison - late of the Jesus Lizard - and Paul Barker - bassist with Ministry have come together to make a new band, USSA. They've got a debut album ready to run - The Spoils - on the new Fuzz label.

Fuzz is interesting - if you'll allow us to quote from the press release:

Fuzz is a new breed of music company -- integrating a next-generation music label, a powerful artist promotion platform, and a feature-rich interactive community that engages artists and fans to promote, discover, share, review, influence, buy and sell music. “With the record industry in such flux, Fuzz is not your average, ordinary label,” explains Denison. “The label is just part of what they do. It’s also a community. You don’t necessarily have to be a ‘Fuzz artist’ to put up a Fuzz page. At the same time, the website advertises for their artists. It’s an interesting collection of people they have working for them – people from the tech world and the music world. To me, that’s what you have to do now.”

It's nice to see people trying something different, although we're not entirely sure if you boil down the overstatement this comes to very much more than a site with a messageboard.

Sell your televisions. Burn your eyes. Move to an address off mains electricity.

However bad the MTV American line-up gets, it's worse for us in the UK, as we tend to get swamped with the original poor programming and then - because the ideas box has healed over on both sides of the Atlantic - we have to endure the UK remakes, too. Usually involving Tim Westwood.

Which is why we're desperately trying not to cry at the news of Rock The Cradle:

In "Rock the Cradle," which premieres April 3, the non-pro children of well-known performers will compete against one another.

We'd have called in Stars In Their Loins ourselves - indeed, by the time the idea makes it through to ITV, it probably will be.

The concept itself is bad - we've seen Kimberley Stewart, Sean Lennon and Sally Magnusson and know what the idea of celebrity offspring are like. Apples falling far from trees rather than chips off old blocks. But then you get to see whose kids are being lined up:
Among the performers whose offspring will perform are Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Loggins, M.C. Hammer, Eddie Money and Dee Snider.

A world where entertainment is now being defined as Kenny Loggins' kid in a sing-off with MC Hammer's. Perhaps the problem is species extinction isn't coming quick enough.

Together at last: Britney Spears and Alyson Hannigan

Hmm. Does CBS know what it's doing, inviting Britney Spears to take a guest role on How I Met Your Mother? Let's just assume for a moment that all her various problems have been sorted out somehow, and it's not intended to be some sort of stunt casting (although Alicia Silverstone clearly thinks it is, and has quit her guest role for fear of being overshadowed.)

Let's assume that Britney has been approached because she's right for the role.

Britney Spears.

Did nobody see Crossroads?

Oh, yes... Madonna went in

Last night was the induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, celebrating Cleveland's role rock history by, erm, holding it in New York.

MTV reports:

Madonna Shocks, Justin Timberlake Pays Tribute At Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Ceremony

Madonna 'shocks', does she? Or - and let's just take a wild guess here - did she conform to the worn stereotype by doing something supposedly outrageous but probably scripted?
the sinewy singer ascended the stage and thanked seemingly everyone who helped shape her career, from her earliest dancing teachers to the critics who've blasted her over the years, and told her she "was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn't sing, that I was a one-hit wonder — they helped me too, because they made me question myself and they pushed me to be better, and I am grateful for their resistance."

After quoting from the Talmud, she called Timberlake — who'd said, "She became the biggest name on the planet the old-fashioned way: She earned it" — a "fucker." Moments later, she blurted out the word "motherfucker" for no discernable reason.

No discernable reason? How about 'in a desperate bid to make people notice the ceremony even existed'?

By the way, how exactly does Justin Timberlake induct Madonna into the Hall? He's not qualified to be a member himself - either chronologically or artistically - so how does he have the power to elevate someone to its portals?

The Iggy Pop came on, and sang some Madonna songs, and swore.

Billy Joel was on next - he also swore, which is mildly more surprising. But while all this cussing might make the giant-sized picture of Tipper Gore at the museum weep real tears, is it really that surprising?

Curiously, MTV chose not to mention Madonna's brief reference to taking drucks in her speech.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? pinched from the Office

Does It Offend You, Yeah? have revealed the name they've saddled themselves with is a quote from - saints preserve us - Ricky Gervias. Apparently:

When me and James first started writing music together we decided to put it up on MySpace. We needed a name to put as our profile name so just put what was the first thing that was said on TV, we switched it on and Ricky Gervais said 'Does it offend you, yeah? My drinking?' so we just went with that. No thought went into it whatsoever."

We're not buying that it was the first thing they heard, mind. Bet they were constantly switching the TV on and off all evening, building up a shortlist of names: "news from where you are", "call the BBC Action Line", "Ten Minute Freeview" - before landing on the one they've wound up with.

They should, perhaps, have switched the set on one more time.

UK Asian Music Awards

We've been a bit slow getting round to the list of winners at the UK Asian Music Awards, which happened last Thursday - although co-sponsers B4U TV apparently won't be showing them until Easter Weekend, which makes us feel better. Imagine if ITV had had that long to shake the Brits into something televisable... although probably would have had trouble even then.

Anyway, here are the winners:

Best Act – Sukshinder Shinda

Best Album – Sukshinder Shinda – Living the Dream

Best Club DJ – Jags Klimax

Best Female Act – Hardkaur

Best Newcomer – H-Dhami

Best Producer – Swami

Best Radio Show – Adil Ray – BBC Asian Network

Best Urban Act – Jay Sean

Best International Act – Adnan Sami

Best Underground Act – Shaanti

Best Video – Jay Sean – Ride It

Best Website – Desi Hits

Commitment to the Scene – Nitin Sawhney

Outstanding Achievement – Shin from DCS

Lifetime Achievement - Heera

Perhaps at some point in the future, there won't be a single, catch-all category for 'female' regardless of what they're doing, with its implication that the very idea of a woman winning one of the other prizes is somehow ridiculous.

Until that time, here's "best female act" Hard Kaur doing My Girls:

Keith Richards turns to the good book

Heartwarming news as the world prepares for Holy Week: Keith Richards is working his way through The Bible:

“I read it sometimes, but it bores me to death.

“I just want to know what other people find so bloody fascinating.

“Why are they all hung up about all that ‘In the beginning’ stuff? Ah, well. At least it is stable.

“It has said the same damn thing since I was a kid.”

Really, Keith? Surely large chunks of the Bible hadn't actually happened yet when you were a kid.

We love that he's trying to understand religion by close study of the Bible and yet there's still the lingering suspicion that he hasn't got past the first three words of the first chapter yet.

Darkness at 3AM: It's made up, you know

The 3AM Girls lead with the Emma Watson story - although they seem to think he's called Joel, whereas Gordon insists he's Jay.

Their story does contain one of those heart-sinking phrases, up there with the New Statesman's "come in, Sir Geoffrey's on sparkling form":

At one point, Alfie Allen tried to chat with them

The 3Am Girls spend rather too long detailing the teenagers kissing - they're teenagers, they're having a fling, it's what teeenagers do - before worrying:
But we're not sure what Dumbledore would think about one of his star pupils staying over with her fella in a hotel.

Probably nothing, what with him being a fictional character and Emma Watson not actually being Hermione Granger. She pretends. It's almost as if the 3AM Girls can't tell the difference between something made-up and something that actually happens.

The piece ends with a hint of desperation:
If you know Joel, give us a call - 020 7293 3950

It's not clear exactly how many pieces of silver are on offer.

Planet Rock may have a future

The death of Planet Rock - GCap's classic digital station - may not be quite so imminent; tucked in The Times coverage of the radio company's 'freezing' plans to flog its share of Digital One is news that they're talking with "a number of parties" who can see a future for the station.

Gordon in the morning: Cole says no

So, it's back again this morning to the steaming remains of the Cole-Tweedy marriage, with Richard White claiming an exclusive:

Cheating Ashley gets a sex ban

Not that unexpected, surely? It's not like Cheryl's going to allow him to go out carousing... oh, you mean with her:
A pal of the couple said: “Cheryl has told Ashley there will be no sex in their house for at least six months and although he’s going to find it incredibly hard he agreed to her terms.

“She wants Ashley to appreciate her and realise what he has got. But he’s a red blooded fella and it’s not going to be easy.”

Hmm. Either this story is true - in which case Cheryl might have made a bit of a strategic error (are you really going to stop someone raiding the cookie jar by telling them they can't have chips for six months?) - or else it's being run in Gordon Smart's column.

Emma Watson is dating a man who apparently describes himself as "a nobody" (in other words, he has a job which actually has a definable function) which prompts Gordon to flick back through Watson's past:
Emma – who has previously been linked to RAZORLIGHT singer JOHNNY BORRELL and co-star DANIEL RADCLIFFE...

That's "linked" in the sense of "peopled decided she was having a relationship with", though, isn't it? And the Borrell "linkage" existed nowhere outside of your own column, Gordon. Surely, you of all people must know not to believe anything that appears on your page?

Still, he does manage to land one on-target this morning - after running bits from Madonna's interview for Dazed and Confused and her fretting about onstage anxiety. Gordon suddenly perks up:
Nothing an ice cold glass of Kabbalah water can’t sort out though, eh?

Careful, Gordon: you're almost sounding cynical.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daily Mail airbrushes 'fat' Presley story

Seemingly having forgotten telling its readers last week that Lisa Marie Presley was a fat lump, eating her way into an early grave, the Daily Mail trumpets today:

Lisa Marie Presley looked pregnant and proud as she unveiled her budding baby bump in Los Angeles.

The daughter of rock icon Elvis stepped out with third husband, musician and producer Michael Lockwood in Beverly Hills, following confirmation that she is pregnant with her third child.

Oddly, the paper can't find space to mention that she actually wanted to keep her pregnancy to herself, and the "confirmation" came after she was forced to issue a statement about her pregnancy after papers - like the Mail - had started running a hate campaign against her. Or, indeed, that she's suing the Mail over the allegations.

Still, perhaps the Mail has learned its lesson and won't run spiteful pieces about women's looks for no real reason other than scoffing any more.

Oh, hang on: What's this?
Hair-raising: Celine Dion takes to the stage with furry legs

Her face had been carefully made up, nails polished and outfit primped just so, but Celine Dion forgot one important thing before performing in Toyko over the weekend.

It appeared the My Heart Will Go On singer had forgotten to wax her legs, with severe back lighting revealing their rather hairy state as she strutted around the stage.

Alright, then. Maybe not.

Collaborations on the frontline

Interesting pairings: Robyn Hitchcock is working with Andy Partridge:

Hitchcock explained the reasons behind their collaboration, saying: “I think it’s good for me to be brought up against somebody else, another songwriter. I really think about how everything fits together.

“[It’s] a self-generating project. I write the words on the train going up to Swindon and then, bang, we record it in his shed.”

Meanwhile, and perhaps slightly less surprisingly, Rufus Wainwright is hooking up with Joan As Policewoman. None of the results of either of this unions is expected to appear on next year's Brits.

Property tycoons promote themselves

We can understand the Daily Star running the story about Newcastle Businessmen plotting to buy Neverland and then rent it back to Jackson, but what explains other news outlets picking up the tale and running it like it's a genuine story?

Taking the Star's story at face value, the NME makes space to tell its readers:

Entrepreneurs [Liam] Collins and [David] Bone, who are based in Newcastle, are huge fans of Jackson, and told the Daily Star that they began earning their own fortunes by busking in London, copying his dance routines.

“We really want to see Jacko back on his feet,” Bone said. Collins added: “If it wasn’t for Michael’s music and his fantastic dance routines, it is possible that we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Righto, then. They're Jackson fans who plan to charge him rent on a house, when they (presumably) would know that he hasn't set foot there since the whole child-fiddling business and the chances of him returning are slim. Believe this one, and I've got an unwanted mansion with an abandoned zoo to sell you, if you're interested.

Can we all get over the bloody Pavement speculation, please?

Before the Spice Girls finally did their comeback, you couldn't move for speculation about when it might happen, or why it wouldn't, or if it did, who would be involved. It got quite dull quite quickly.

With that in mind, do you think everyone could stop the tiresome alt-rock equivalent of posting likely Pavement reunion dates online? Scott Kannberg mutters they might do something for the Matador reunion and so - depsite Malkmus clearly not being interested in anything this decade - the circles are being drawn for 'sometime in 2009'.

Perhaps they should do it, if only to stop the bloody guessometers running.

The cat came back

More returning heroes: Free Kitten are putting out an album in May. Yes, they've not released anything (at least under the Free Kitten banner) for a decade or so. Since Sentimental Education, in fact. Inherit is out on Ecstatic Peace around May 20th.

Hooray! Hooray! It's a Toni Halliday!

If you've spent any time wondering whatever happened to Toni Halliday, from Curve, but haven't quite got round to making like a stalker, we've got news: Chatelaine, her solo project, has posted a couple of tracks on MySpace; a record to buy in shops is promised sometime in 2008.

Goth dies slowly: Club Metropolis closes

After fifteen years in Copenhagen, Club Metropolis is closing down next month. Their blog explains:

First and foremost: The scene has changed immensely over the past couple of years. Not only has it expanded rapidly, there's been more promotion groups and event makers popping up on both Fyn and Jylland, as well as Copenhagen. In spite of this, there aren't as many concert-goers as there used to be.
In part, the people that used to come out to Club Metropolis have gotten older, a younger generation has become the mainstay, and their priorities have shifted. The types of events that have the biggest pull are now primarily social meetups and parties with less focus on the music.

This is a general tendency in the goth/industrial scene that all promoters (at least in Copenhagen) have experienced. It just happened that we were among the first to get hit by it.

This means less cash in the register for events with live music, and lower morale. As the motivation dropped, board members understandably also left the club.

Unfortunately, this has meant a heavier work burden the remaining board members - who were already tied up with work and school. It has also meant that we've been forced to have expenses that we didn't used to have (transportation, rent of equipment etc.).
The lack of money, resources and time has thrown us in a downward spiral that has cost us each blood, sweat and tears, and many self-sacrifices - too many - without any visible results to speak of.

We have to be realistic and admit that we cannot keep going on like this. It's time to close shop.

There's something almost heartwarming about the idea that goth clubs can't attract an audience because kids would rather do something social than go to a Goth place - not that Goths are antisocial or anything - but it's still a shame that a venue which has been central to a city's subculture for a decade and a half can't make ends meet any more.

REM likes iLike

The iLike music service - or LikeLastFM as it's sometimes called - has landed a profile-raising coup with a deal to offer a preview stream of REM's new album. It'll have an exclusive on streams of Accelerate from March 24th - officially until April 1st, but in reality for the first hour or so before someone rips the album and throws it onto peer-to-peer networks.

France chooses Tellier, Punk for Eurovision

Ireland is sending a Turkey. The UK is sending another sort of turkey. But France? France is sending Sebastian Tellier, with a track produced by Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo from Daft Punk.

None of us will win, of course, but which nation will hold its head up highest on the Sunday morning. (Clue: not the one which has entered an X Factor loser.)

We treat our music press bad

Ben Myers blogs on the Guardian to ask why we're so hard on our music press. (Because much of it is very poor, probably, Ben, but do go on):

[T]he UK has the best music press in the world. For me, US music magazines such as Rolling Stone or Spin just don't compare. They may occasionally offer heftier features, but they also seem to exist more in fear of the advertising clients whose accounts keep them afloat.

UK magazines offer some of the free-spirited, funniest, most informed, unflinching, passionate and comprehensive writing around. We should remind ourselves of that from time to time.

This is simultaneously unfair to the US music magazines - if something like Clash is meant to be "unflinching" then Maximum Rock & Roll must be like a botoxed statue - and over-generous to the UK music shelf:
An established weekly like NME, or one of the weightier monthlies? The likes of Word, Q and Uncut all offer different takes on recent music, while Mojo (my personal favourite) appears to me to be the most informed and least trend-driven.

There are bright spots - The Word, Plan B, Artrocker's heart is in the right place - but to suggest that the UK outclasses a nation that offers Paste, for example, is a little curious, and it's arguable that there are very few people writing for music publications who are either allowed to, or have the talent to, produce interesting material you'd want to read regardless of whether you're interested in the bands featured, which surely is what you want from music journalism.

Ben points to the overcrowded market:
Indie music, in particular, has permeated mainstream culture to such an extent that no lifestyle, arts-based magazine, broadsheet and tabloid newspaper would be seen dead without at least some music coverage, even if it is just a 50-word review of Mark Ronson in Cosmopolitan.

To be honest, we suspect part of the problem would lay with the belief that Mark Ronson constitutes 'indie' in any meaningful sense of the word - which isn't a dig at Ben, more at the new consensus that some very, very lightweight material constitutes alternative listening. It's worrying that the NME is up against Cosmopolitan for Mark Ronson scoops - but it's probably not Cosmopolitan which is looking in the wrong place.

Kurt Cobain buys house

According to Courtney Love... [Hello everybody! This post begins with the words 'according to Courtney Love', which is on a par with 'If Nostaradamus is to be believed' and 'Unless Russell Grant's powers of prediction are failing him'. But go with us, eh?] ... someone has been ripping off the estate of Kurt Cobain to the tune of thirty six million quid.

Apparently she's known about it for years, but was, you know, not in a position to do anything about it for a while:

“I knew it had been going on since when I went cuckoo — bananas — in 2003.

“It was fraud after fraud. But nobody believed me until now. I did a check on my deceased husband’s social security number and he has a house in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He bought it last year.

“I would like to know how. He should probably get his ass back home if that is the case.”

We're a little lost as to why, if she knew all about it, and was busily making time to throw bottles at people's houses, she didn't go out of her way to do anything about it in a hands-on way.

The idea that people who had nothing to do with Kurt's talents creaming off income from the Nirvana back catalogue is a bit sickening, isn't it? Using his name and likeness to generate an income is almost unforgivable. You can see why Courtney would be really annoyed at other people doing that.

Glastonbury sums

Almost by accident, this weekend's Guardian Money supplement revealed some of the finances underpinning the Glastonbury Festival:

Glastonbury Festival organiser Michael Eavis has a £1.3m overdraft and gives almost all his profits to charity. Yet the 72-year-old Methodist dairy farmer is no naive hippy.

He hosts a £25m event attracting 177,000 revellers who pay £145 for three days in a muddy field with portable loos. [...]

Last year's festival turnover of £25m was almost all swallowed up in costs. He eventually made a £2m profit, split tax-free between charities Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and local community projects. "There is no use making money unless you are going to spend it well - being able to give to good causes that help the world, not just one person, is reward for all the work."

Eavis originally bought out Worthy Farm when his Dad died, with a £12,000 - none of the debt has yet been repaid and has grown a thousandfold over the years:
"The bank manager is always telling me to pay off the debt but the money has never worried me. I have the assets of a farm and great festival thanks to all that borrowing."

We're not financial experts, but we do wonder if this all puts something of a cloud over the long-term future of the festival. Eavis, sadly, isn't immortal and if the farm is floating on a huge loan with one lender that's surely going to cause a problem when he goes to the great Pyramid Stage in the sky.

However, you've got to enjoy the idea that he's making a two million donation to charities every year while owing a similar sum to NatWest. It turns out there is Another Way after all.

T in the park's weak brew a national outrage

Drowned In Sound are suggesting that this year's T in the Park line-up is an affront to Scotland, with its Rage Against The Machine and Shed Seven and Newton Faulkner.

It might also just be an indication of how very, very thin the talent jam gets spread around the multiple festivals - especially if you sideline a couple of bigger acts with drugs problems, for example.

On the other hand: surely there's no schedule vacuum wide enough that would allow an excuse for having The Hoosiers and Bowling For Soup on a public platform, surely?

Transmission union threatens local radio

Our ears perked up when we heard that the Commercial Radio's Radio Centre body was warning of the dangers to local radio inherent in a proposed merger - could it be that, after all this time, the commercial radio industry has noticed that consolidation in the UK radio market has eroded the concept of local radio quite dangerously?

No, as it turns out - they're not bothered by the implications of members GCap and Global turning into a single entity, but the proposed union of the National Grid and Macquarie's transmission businesses. Apparently, while having a large, dominant broadcaster is good for listeners, having a dominant transmission company is bad:

Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of the Radio Centre, says that commercial radio will be financially "squeezed" by the £2.5bn acquisition of National Grid Wireless by Macquarie Bank, which owns rival operator Arqiva.

Harrison believes that the Competition Commission this week will clear Macquarie's £2.5bn acquisition of National Grid Wireless, even though no satisfactory agreement over reducing transmission fees has been reached.

And he added that failure to reach a deal on transmission fees could "make the difference" for a profitable commercial radio sector in its competition with the BBC.

Allowing a monopoly in transmission - or, at least, a profit-maximising monopoly - does seem to be slightly reckless on the part of the government. Of course, the Radio Centre might have a stronger case if it could point a large slew of distinctive, important local programming that could be lost if small stations had trouble paying the transmission company, but we suppose it would struggle a little to do so.

Facebook music?

Following what, by all accounts was a pretty useless SXSW keynote with Mark Zuckerberg, we're no closer to knowing exactly what Facebook is planning to do with the major labels. Hypebot collected what little intelligence was gleaned:

“What’s going on there is we talk to a lot of companies all the time… there are music applications on Facebook (created by outside developers)," he told the crowd. "At this point… we have nothing to talk about right now.”

Any chance of finding something interesting was lost in the sea of catcalls aimed at the session moderator.

Gordon in the morning: Inspired

In the interests of being fair, we have to admit the headline on the story about Katie Price getting drunk and needing some help to get in a taxi in this morning's Bizarre is pretty sharp:

I looked over Jordan, what did I see, someone needs to carry her home

Unfortunately, though, this only appears in the paper and on the index page of the site: the permanent page on the story goes with:
Jordan's WAG night out with Alex

- which suggests the Swing Low allusion might have been added elsewhere in the production process.

Looking at some of the other headlines this morning:
Agyness is the Deyn attraction

Paris' bangers get some air

... well, it only adds to the suspicion that there was help from outside. "Deyn attraction" doesn't even work as a pun, but at least it's not a single entendre.

Presley sues the Mail

It's surprising that, with Britain's libel laws, so many magazines and papers have got away with running cruel jibes disguised as - well, we were going to say 'investigations', but 'x is a bit flabby, if you peer at them through a long lens from the end of the beach' hardly counts as investigation, does it? Much of the coverage is designed to hold people up to ridicule, and some contempt, which would seem to be pretty open-and-shut. Obviously, nobody wants to ake on the might of the UK press when they need the coverage to exist.

One day, though, the papers would mock someone a little too much, and that person wouldn't be worried about keeping the titles on side.

That day, it turns out, was when the Mail ran its Lisa Marie Presley is fat story. Presley is suing the paper.

We're no fans of the British libel laws, but if this at least makes editors think before they run such pieces in the future, they might have a positive effect in this case.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I can remember where I was when I heard the news - I was listening to the news

Psychologists at the University of Leeds are carrying out a study into memory using The Beatles as a trigger point:

Professor Martin Conway, who is leading the experiment, said: "We're very interested in how different age groups associate with different aspects of The Beatles.

"The reason why we're interested in this is we're interested in a thing called generation identity. So we're quite interested in how your memory of your own personal experiences is linked into public events.

"And The Beatles are a fantastic way to look at that."

It's unknown if they expect anyone to remember Ringo Starr for anything other than being in the Beatles. You can sign up at Magical Memory Tour if you want to take part.

Beth Orton weekend: Pass In Time

Concluding the Beth Orton weekend, Pass In Time, recorded at arms' length in the Webster Hall, New York in 2006:

[Part of the Beth Orton weekend]

"A Beatles release was commented on by Gennaro Castaldo, who also commented on a release by Madonna"

Here, then, comes Get Closer, HMV's attempt to produce some sort of social networking tool that will help it remain in business for the years to come. Or at least the next three or four.

Jemima Kiss has had a look for the Guardian and isn't entirely impressed:

The starting point is IMDB or the AllMusicGuide, rather than Facebook, and the demo I've seen heavily focuses on an interactive posts that links artists, actors and celebrities together by inviting users to post connections.[...]

HMV has been paying bloggers and others to contribute 'connections' to the get the site going and they've reached around 8,500 so far but that's not all, of course. There are the ubiquitous profile options, so users can specify their favourite bands and music genres and likewise for film. It's like, but 1.0.

The weakness seems to be that Getcloser exists because of a decision taken in a marketing brainstorm rather than because someone decided it would a useful tool and persuaded HMV to fund it. Being able to link artists together is fun, certainly - Kiss uses the pub quiz example of Chas and Dave turning up on an Eminem sample - but it's hard to see where that would take you after a little bit of diversion. It might just encourage you to try out some new music, but are people really going to warm to a service that says 'if you like artist X, you might like artist Y who went to the same school' rather than the existing 'people who also like X like Y, since you like X, you might'? After all, Peter Sissons went to the same school as a couple of the Beatles, but that doesn't mean you'd like his memoirs as much as The White Album.

Kiss isn't convinced:
I asked why, when there are so many services overlapping with this, did HMV want to reinvent the wheel? My guide told me this is seen as a complement to the other sites out there - a "social layer".

"Consumers are increasingly using the internet for TV and film, so it makes sense to follow them. We want to be an authoritative source for music and film and allow them to get closer to the music. I mean, who doesn't like music and film?"

But this confuses "knowing arcane facts" with "getting closer". Now, I love fascinating music facts, but HMV seems to have confused emotional connection with trivia. The money they've poured into this could have been spent buying something useful and adding some subtle branding - instead, they seem to have created an expensive five-minute wonder, and something that might be easily replicated elsewhere. It doesn't bode well for their future in the digital realm.

Joining the dots between doing the lines

After his comments earlier in the week, the UN's Antonio Maria Costa expands on his view of drugs at length in The Observer this week. It's undoing the work of Geldof and Bono, he says:

Within Europe in recent years, a few influential pop stars and other fashion-conscious celebrities have been at the forefront of efforts to improve living standards in Africa. Bob Geldof's Live Aid concerts and Bono's Drop the Debt campaign have been vital in raising political awareness and money to tackle the continent's economic crisis. Stopping the trade in blood diamonds and promoting fair trade with Africa have been two other favoured causes of the celebrity elite.

And yet for every rebel with a cause, there are 10 others without a clue. While some well-meaning pop idols and film stars might rage against suffering in Africa, their work is being undermined by the drug habits of careless peers such as Kate Moss. For the cocaine used in Europe passes through impoverished countries in west Africa, where the drugs trade is causing untold misery, corruption, violence and instability.

Of course, the actual truth is more complicated still - after all, Pete Doherty was both doing coke and part of Make Poverty History. Simultaneously. Canceling himself out.

Costas explains how cocaine is now adding an extra layer of misery to West African life, as the ports there become a funnel for the drug on its way to Kerry Katona's house and Amy Winehouse's mansion:
The cocaine is unloaded and then repackaged for shipment to Europe. It is moved up the coast hidden in export consignments - crates of fruit or crafts, even frozen fish. Because the cocaine trade from west Africa is relatively new, the European authorities are not looking for it with the same vigilance that applies to goods from South America or the Caribbean, so there are fewer checks.

This burgeoning trade is a disaster for west Africa. It perverts the local economies. In Guinea-Bissau, for example, the value of the drugs trade may be as high as the country's entire national income. It spreads corruption and undermines security.

It is also spreading addiction and related health and social problems, particularly since couriers and other helpers are often paid in kind with narcotics.

There's also blame to be shared with the media:
The media deserve much of the blame. The entertainment industry puts a gloss on the latest drugs scandal and uncritically spins the story for all its worth. Notoriety sells, whereas when stars such as Eric Clapton discreetly seek treatment for their addiction there is little interest. If the media want to assume some social responsibility, they should not act as cheerleader or megaphone for celebrity junkies.

That's a slightly simplistic take on the story - you could hardly argue that Doherty, Moss or Winehouse are praised for their drug-taking, but the problem is that the gossip media have great trouble untangling excess from success; you only have to look at Gordon, struggling to balance condemnation for Amy Winehouse snorting vodka while applauding heavy drinking in his caner's league to know that looking for any sort of moral coherence in the commentary is going to be hopeless. It's not that The Sun and Heat are in a moral vacuum - they can sound outrage so shrill only dogs can hear it when they feel like it - but they lack any framework in which they operate.