POP-EYE 8/10/00

One of the good things about the BBC’s pop footage archive fest, Top Of The Pops 2, is that it reminds us of an era when pop stars weren’t afraid to dick about in front of the cameras. Virtually any performance from the late 70s will have ridiculous costumes, absurd mugging to camera, goofily ‘rebellious’ gestures, and a general air of staginess which contrasts very well with the balletics and sincerity of today’s mob. I’m often told that I should appreciate the skilful dancing as part of the pop package, and in a theoretical sense I suppose I agree, but let’s face it: someone got up in stupid facepaint snarling at the camera is a lot more interesting than Westlife doing a fucking tap routine.

Which is why Friday’s Top Of The Pops was so marvellous. Kernkraft 400, authors of the mighty doom-trance hit “Zombie Nation”, went on the show to do a turn, and galumphed around in Evil Dead gear, playing a severed leg as a guitar, trashing their equipment, harassing audience members and pelting the presenter with missiles as she tried to announce the next tedious acts. You couldn’t hear the song for shit but it hardly mattered: this was the best music television of the year. “So Kernkraft means ‘nuclear power’. What does Kernkraft 400 mean?”, my friend Magnus foolishly asked.

Kernkraft were followed up by the Architechs, who did a moderate UK Garage thing with the help of one Nana. Why you would call yourself such a name eludes me, but he’d clearly worked out its embarassing implications and so was referred to as “Nay Nay”. It didn’t wash, particularly when Nana turned out to be the worst dancer in the world, dancing, as Pete said, like a man who had never danced before in his life, or like your dad at a wedding, before assuming a half-squat and stomping up to various members of the audience. Nana was no fool, though, for this absurd posture left his head exactly at cleavage level. There ought to be a law.

This week’s chart, meanwhile, has Mariah-Westlife thankfully booted off by All Saints and “Black Coffee”. “Coffee Table” might be nearer the mark but this does its job smoothly and well and I can find no fault with it: how unlike the doubtful glitterly new logo and uncomfortably pally niteklub-sofa poses on the sleeve. All Saints fight off a bunch of other entires, many horrible (anything “featuring Sarah McLachlan” is a bad idea), some not (Eminem‘s “The Way I Am” hits a disappointing 8, due probably to retailing for full price). But with Sarah, the Saints, and Texas notching up entries, measured tastefulness seems to be the week’s theme, so it’s no surprising Eminem’s whinge can’t catch the public attention.

Lower down the charts things get messy. I’ve not heard the Vengaboys‘ “Cheeka Bow Bow (That Computer Song)”, but people, look at the title. And Rolf Harris‘ unspeakable “Fine Day” getting a Top 30 entry! Can’t the old goat stick to drawing shaky-edge pictures of Yosemite Sam and leave our ears alone? It has a didgeridoo on it. Of course. It also comes out on Tommy Boy, the last humiliation for a once-fine label.

All Saints – “Black Coffee” (1)
Kernkraft 400 – “Zombie Nation” (5)
Eminem – “The Way I Am” (8)
Sugababes – “Overload” (15)
Robbie Williams – “Rock DJ” (28)