New York London Paris Munich

Jul 00

The first thing to say about the Mercury Music Prize

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The first thing to say about the Mercury Music Prize is that you have to assume it’s a hive of corruption and critical second-guessing. Take it in any other way and you’d be endorsing the possibility that a panel of judges genuinely do think that Coldplay and Doves have made two of the best British albums of the last twelve months. The intricacies of the shortlist selection process aren’t known to me, but after a decade of these things it’s possible to make a few educated guesses as to who is likely to actually win. Leaving aside, of course, all quality considerations – just like the judges will. So, from the top:

COLDPLAY – Parachutes: Current hot favourite, which means it won’t win – panel chief Simon Frith is a basically contrary soul and enjoys putting the indie boys in their place. It also only came out three weeks ago, which probably explains its top-of-mind placing at the bookies. Gomez were the last rock-based act to win, and despite some musical dissimilarity, that was recent enough to expect Coldplay – also debutantes, also sincere as fuck – won’t.

DEATH IN VEGAS – The Contino Sessions: A definite possiblity – if they give it to a name alternative release it’s much more likely to be DIV than Coldplay or Ashcroft, because of the panel’s quaint belief that mixing dance and rock is really ‘futuristic’.

THE DELGADOS – The Great Eastern: A canny outside bet. Indie is probably due a Mercury, but will the judges want to risk obscurantism? Belle And Sebastian would have been a shoo-in, and the judges’ unwillingness to pick it suggests to me that they’ve something else up their sleeves.

DOVES – Lost Souls: Lack of favourite status may well help them beat Coldplay, but as a band they’re neither young or interesting enough to get the column inches the Mercury requires. Too boring to actually be outsiders, though.

LEFTFIELD – Rhythm And Stealth: Won’t win, because a dance album did last year and in 1997, and because it’s been generally accepted that this follow-up isn’t a patch on Leftism (don’t ask me, I only like the singles off both). Giving it the prize would suggest a tacit acceptance that the judges missed the boat last time.

KATHRYN WILLIAMS – Little Black Numbers: Possibly worth a flutter. Will appeal to panel’s kingmaker urges (Williams is a complete unknown, though if she hits big she could be the JK Rowling of the singer-songwriter set) plus Williams’ Costelloid writing will frighten no horses, and it’d go down well with the papers.

HELICOPTER GIRL – How To Steal The World: God knows. The swiftness with which H Girl has filled a rack at Victoria Station Our Price (not a shop to flatter obscurities) suggests that she has big marketing money behind her. The right – or wrong – hit and she could be this year’s Babylon Zoo, but I think the Mercury’s unlikely.

MJ COLE – Sincere: The Mercury prize judges will be concerned not to make the award look too much like a coffee-table-dance award, else this would be a good bet. If the Craig David album had made it out in time that would have been in here, surely, but I expect MJ Cole to be the ‘hotly advocated’ runner-up this year.

RICHARD ASHCROFT – Alone With Everybody: In its favour, the judges probably don’t want to keep facing the accusation that they never give it to big indie albums. But! Ashcroft’s record has been very poorly received, and so this won’t be the year to break the duck. Kid A to win in 2001, whether it’s any good or not.

NITIN SAWNHEY – Beyond Skin: Assessment of this one rests on whether taste alone made Talvin Singh last year’s winner, or whether tokenism played a part. Either way Sawnhey’s unlikely to make it, but it might still make a good showing.

NICHOLAS MAW – Violin Concerto: Look at the rest of the list – a lot of obvious ‘important releases’ not chosen, a lot of first-timers….are they trying to soften up the field in advance of letting the blatantly token classical guy win for once? To justify the classical release being in the list, it has to happen sometime, and it’s bound to win press in an otherwise bland year. Nicholas Maw might well be right place, right time.

BADLY DRAWN BOY – The Hour Of Bewilderbeast: Oh fuck off, it’s Badly Drawn Boy. That said you never know with the Mercury.

To sum up, my top three picks would be Nicholas Maw, Death In Vegas and Kathryn Williams. British music will no doubt reel on whatever and they’ll find somebody to rant about it in the NME. What do you think?

Jul 00

Holy City Cracks Down on Loud Pop Music

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Holy City Cracks Down on Loud Pop Music: It sounds like the concept for a Who album. Yes, look at me, I’m typing in capitals. I’d put this on my blog, but it’s been a while since I did a post of ol’ NYLPM.

Go Nicholas Maw Go!

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Go Nicholas Maw Go!: it’s the Mercury Music Prize with another dicey shortlist. Coldplay installed as favourites, shudder.


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DONNA’S WORLD FAMOUS “LONG & SHORT OF IT!”: there’s no two ways about it, this is a site dedicated to hard rock stars’ cocks. No other comment neccessary, really, except it’s also a better anti-drugs advert than many pages out there. Link via My Science Project.

Jul 00

Tomorrow I’m going to see

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Tomorrow I’m going to see The Magnetic Fields perform live, and I know some of you are too. Pre-show drinks are a definite possibility. If you want to sort out a meeting, drop an e-mail to me here during the day tomorrow. Pip pip!

“The last two members of Boyzone to go solo…

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“The last two members of Boyzone to go solo, Shane Lynch and Keith Duffy, are to record a cover of the Milli Vanilli single ‘Girl You Know It’s True’, which is expected later in the year.” – who says pop stars don’t have a sense of humour?

The Boy on the Bus

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The Boy on the Bus: scary Eminem fan freaks out guy on bus. Well written, but slightly disingenuous in its implications. I’ve been freaked by kids on buses and trains, been beaten up by one bunch. Some of the kids probably had band patches or t-shirts or were copying styles or moves off of their favourite artists. Some of said artists probably did the same when they were those kids too. The lesson? Adolescent boys – particularly adolescent boys who are stupid, poor or both – are aggressive creatures, and sometimes they focus that aggression through music.

The boy on the bus was antisocial, scary, horrible, but he didn’t actually do anything. Which isn’t to say he won’t next time. But what the article, in its conversational impartiality, seems to hint is that if it weren’t for his Slim Shady attitude he wouldn’t be doing it at all. That’s possible.

But I think it’s as likely that if it weren’t for Shady giving him a walk to walk and a talk to talk, giving him cool boundaries of action, even if those boundaries scare you or me, he’d have lashed out before now, or for real. We can’t know either way, that’s the point. We can’t know without knowing each individual kid, and we’ll never know each individual kid, but we do know Eminem, or we think we do, and so we try and project.

That link via Catherine.

Don’t play that song again!

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Don’t play that song again!: The most irritating songs of all time, as voted for by dotmusic. I have to say “We’re Going To Ibiza” has grown on me somewhat. But other than that, hard to fault this predictable list and it’s good to see Chris De Burgh getting his licks. I think the Teletubbies have been rather hard done by – surely the quintessence of an irritating record is that, as with “The Birdie Song” and, say, “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, they refuse to lay down and die.

Pop Music is shit

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Pop Music is shit. I get the impression sometimes that people think NYLPM will roll over and put its paws in the air for anything as long as it goes Top 10. I say thee nay! There is a whole cartload of pop music out there which is just as calculated, predictable and hokey as the form’s critics would have us believe, and to make matters even worse is rubbish to boot. No, we like pop just fine, but we’re discerning about it, just like you all are with your indie rock (heh, heh). Here’s a capsular selection of recent hits which haven’t made our exacting standards. First in an occasional series.

5IVE – “We Will Rock You”: Dicey repositioning alert! 5ive have always been the nearest thing to ‘tough guys’ the British boyband boutique offers, and they’ve remained acceptable for precisely as long as they’ve not actually noticed this, having their biggest and best hits with stuff like “Keep On Movin'”s delightful Haircut 100 shuffle.But what with the recent and farcical marijuana spats, and now this horror, it’s obvious some dingus in marketing has spotted 5ive’s latent greaser potential and is pushing it hard, much as he would a recalcitrant turd. Queen are actually credited on this, and hearing the enervating guitar histrionics at the end it wouldn’t surprise me if May,B. had given some kind of sonic endorsement, but really, even without their input “We Will Rock You” would have been a joke. A song that rocked as hard as pyjamas in the first place is unlikely to be toughened up much by a boy band singing it, and so it proves. Misjudged to bits.

KYLIE MINOGUE – Spinning Around: That’s Jason spinning in his commercial grave as he witnesses his ex’s ‘return to form’ with this undiverting bit of neo-disco. All the years of desperate grasping for indie cred have been revistionistically purged, and Kylie is apparently back doing what she does best: simple pop for that segment of the market with more disposable income than sense. What nobody seems to have noticed in their rush to praise hits like “Shocked”, “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi” et bloody al is that “Spinning Around” sounds nothing like them. Kylie puts on a sultry diva voice which sounds bogus and unsubtle, and the chorus slips from your head like dandruff.

MELANIE C – I Turn To You: But who? Who does she turn to? Well. Can you guess, readers? The video, you see, has Mel with long fair hair extensions, standing on a rock overlooking the sea and, and waving her arms about as she sings a techno-pop tune with a ‘spiritual vibe’. Do you think she’s got a Madonna record in her collection? Mel C’s solo career has been remorselessly useless, careening from bad pastiche to bad pastiche with only one relatively high point (the good pastiche on her Left-Eye duet). A recent compilation of the tracks Moby borrowed for his Play has been making someone a pot of cash – I’m sure Mel C’s record company could do well for itself along similar lines by releasing the Northern Star Companion with tracks Mel has found hem-hem inspirational.

More soon.

The Godfathers of Britpop: the dichotomy of the mid-90s

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The Godfathers of Britpop: the dichotomy of the mid-90s – it’s a new article on Robin Carmody’s Elidor site, and I hope he won’t mind me saying that it’s taking a pop at what has become really quite an easy target. Britpop is a conservative genre, yes, but at least what it was looking back at was progressive and radical. This is why Robin’s political analogy – Britpop = Major – misses its mark: if anything, the Britpoppers were the equivalent of the Old Labour stalwarts peppering their every speech with references and reverences to Attlee or Bevan.

Robin also focusses on the ‘Brit’ part and misreads the ‘pop’: they may have been made using guitars, but a lot of the ‘classic’ Britpop singles are marvellous, energised pop music. The rhetoric about sweeping crappy dance-pop and boybands away was just rhetoric after all, and there was no more substance to “Alright” or “Yes” than there was to any East 17 track. A lot of it – most of it – was crap, but five years on it should be possible to cut through the smokescreen of journalistic nonsense and appreciate the cheeky pop heart of the music a little more.

Not to mention that, ultimately, revivalism is revivalism – you can talk about context and reclamation all you want but in the end there’s no higher ground won by harking back to 70s funk, or early Moog experiments, or analog e-z listening, or TV theme weirdness than there is by ripping off the Beatles.