The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'nme'
And bound for Valhalla today: gonzo music journalist Steven Wells (who wrote for the NME back when it was more interesting), actress Farrah Fawcett (who was most famous in the 1970s) and fairytale prince and self-styled "King of Pop" Michael Jackson.
A survey of music sales from HMV outlets has revealed variations in mainstream musical tastes across the UK.
According to NME, that Daily Star of Indie™, Oasis' "Definitely Maybe" is The Greatest Album Of All Time™. It is followed by lesser luminaries such as The Beatles (at #2. #3, #13 and #14; not bad for an earlier, imperfect form of what Oasis would become), The Clash ("London Calling" is at #12), David Bowie (#18) and The Smiths (#9). Elsewhere on the chart is a lineup of NME darlings from years past, including The Stone Roses (#7), The Strokes (#20) and glamorous-nihilists-with-really-good-stylists The Libertines (#15). That really says it all about NME.
A blog named Mocking Music has a primer on what "C86" is, both the original NME DIY-indie cassette and the genre (jangly and/or twee pop) it has, rightly or wrongly, become synonymous with:
C86 is a type of music, but what it describes is a contentious point. Its original meaning can be agreed upon at least. What it began as was a free cassette that came with issues of the British magazine NME in 1986 (hence, cassette 1986), later available for purchase as an LP through Rough Trade. Like its predecessor, C81, it featured a slew of up and coming indie acts. Unlike C81, this cassette's indie acts were far more indie and less established.
Says NME's website: "We [tried] to invent an alternative scene - our own version of punk you could say - by forcing a coterie of new bands onto a cassette called C86. It's not entirely convincing and you should get out more if you remember The Shop Assistants - but it nails our colours to the mast. We, it said, for better or worse, are indie."
Of course, NME is no longer indie, but twenty years of popularity will do that. Were C86 a cassette alone, it wouldn't merit much note now. But it became more than that. Although not all the bands featured on the compilation were stylistically similar, enough of them shared the same shambolic sound for C86 to quickly become identified as a particular genre, a movement, in independent rock. That sound is arguably twee, and definitively Jangly. Although many tweepop groups do grow from C86, the genre is, strictly speaking, jangle pop. Some have argued that, like Krautrock, C86 is more a time and place thing: late 80's British DIY indie, rather than a genre, but listen to the compilation, or any of the bands that became linked to C86 afterward, and you'll find that most of the artists have a shared, distinct sound (i.e. discordant feed-back laden guitars mixed with almost child-like vocalization of mostly cheery, sometimes political lyrics).(Of course, the statement "NME is no longer indie" is only valid if one uses the word "indie" in the purist sense, rather than the popular sense. In the other sense, NME remains the bible of "indie", but "indie" is no longer indie; instead, "indie" these days is the next generation of "alternative", a fashion-conscious, highly commercial and formulaic genre of music, upbeat, stylishly-distressed football-terrace anthems, sponsored by Carling and Clear Channel, and comprised of simple riffs and the catchier bits lifted from the underground music of yesterday, streamlined for mass consumption. But I digress.)
Mocking Music goes on to examine each track on the NME cassette (side A and side B); the descriptions are somewhat brief and in some cases cursory to the extreme (and contain a few mistakes, for example, "Bullfighter's Bones" is named in one place as "Bullfighter Blues"), though they do include MP3 links, and does explain who Nerys Hughes was.
IMHO, C86 is an interesting historical document, and worth a listen, though it is far from a list of either the best or most significant exponents of the zeitgeist that became known as C86. A handful of the tracks merit repeated listening (in my opinion, the highlights include Primal Scream's Velocity Girl, The Bodines' Therese, Stump's Buffalo, The Shop Assistants' It's Up To You and the abovementioned Half Man Half Biscuit song, (even though it's arguable nobody who hasn't lived in England during the 1980s has a chance of truly understanding HMHB, however, collecting their works and cribbing up on the soap actors and second-division football managers mentioned from online cheat sheets could be useful for Anglophilic oneupmanship); much of the rest is somewhat forgettable. On the other hand, I suspect that more recent NME compilations (Britpack anyone?) won't stand the test of time to anywhere near the same extent as C86 did.
The latest old musical trend being revived, after garage rock, new wave, electro and synthpop, is soft rock. No, really.
Orson and the Feeling's music is openly based on soft rock, the province of 1970s superstars Bread, Chicago and Air Supply, a genre that has a fair claim to be called the most reviled in rock history. You can't even claim that soft rock's critical reputation took a nose dive in the years after punk, because long before the Sex Pistols soft rock's critical reputation was as low as it could get. "Soft rock music isn't rock, and it ain't music," protested US comedian George Carlin at the time. "It's just soft." And yet, 30 years after its heyday, here it is again, propping up the top 10.
"I am unabashedly a giant supporter of Hall and Oates, Steely Dan and the Eagles," says Orson's vocalist Jason Pebworth, who turned to soft rock after failed attempts to launch the band in the image first of Radiohead and then the Strokes. "It's like the smell of warm bread. It totally takes you back. I think squareness is coming back in. Be square!"
The Feeling's frontman Dan Gillespie-Sells concurs, with the caveat that his band never tried to sound hip in the first place. "I've never understood the Velvet Underground," he muses. "I've got a massive record collection, but it's all naff pop music. That's what interests me."The soft-rock revival, if it is an actual phenomenon, could be partly a backlash against the tight/angular/jagged sounds favoured by a thousand indistinguishable NME bands in the past few years, without going as far as to make something original or truly challenging. There may well be an element of ironic machismo in it, with some hipsters flaunting their credentials by showing that they can get away with "liking" something more conspicuously uncool than the next guy. Though looking beyond that, there is the obvious truth that the semiotics of "alternative", "punk", "indie" and such have become so safely mainstream that they occupy a space not very far from the middle of the same road that the original soft-rock held in the 1970s:
But there is also the sense that an unashamed soft rock revival has arrived at a time when soft rock's mortal enemy, punk-derived "alternative" music, no longer seems terribly alternative. A decade after Britpop, the standard tropes of indie rock - the wall of distorted guitars, the anthemic ballads designed to be played when England lose on penalties - have become well worn, its influences familiar to everyone. "The edgy rock thing has gone round and round in circles for so long that people are looking for something new, something that's going to introduce you to music you haven't heard before," says David Balfour of Record of the Day, the website that first brought Orson to the British music industry's notice.
In addition, there is the real sense that "alternative" music has finally lost the moral high ground on which it was once predicated. Twenty years ago, indie music had strict rules: it was broadly anti-corporate; it ostensibly disdained the practices of the music industry. In recent years, however, all that has been eroded by alt.rock's desire for the kind of mass-market success afforded Oasis and Blur. Today, alternative music can't even claim to be an alternative to reality television; when Preston from the Ordinary Boys went on Celebrity Big Brother, not a voice from the indie scene was raised in protest.
The end result is that when Kaiser Chiefs sweep the boards at the Brits, there's none of the sense of shock that accompanied the Smiths' appearances on Top of the Pops. Instead, there seems to be something transgressive about unabashedly raiding the most critically reviled music in history for inspiration.And then there's this observation:
But then, as Rowley notes, causing nightmares for a rock fan of a certain age and musical bent could well be the point. "If kids grow up with their dad listening to the Jam and the Clash, where's their rebellion going to come from? How are you going to wind your dad up? Well," he chuckles, "playing fucking Supertramp will really wind your dad up."
As the 10th anniversary of the Blur-vs.-Oasis stoush approaches, John Harris (author of the definitive Britpop history The Last Party) looks at Britpop's legacy:
Frischmann is about to begin life as a mature student in the US. Cocker called time on Pulp in 2002, and seems to have settled into a life of semi-retirement. The lion's share of Britpop's mid-table attractions - Sleeper, Gene, Shed Seven - have split up. By the time you get into the bands who fell at the first hurdle, you begin to wonder whether they ever existed at all; who, aside from the most hard-bitten trivia buffs, has any clear memory of Powder, Northern Uproar, Laxton's Superb or Octopus?
The world these people built, however, has endured. It's where just about every worthwhile British band aspires to be: that speedy production line that takes promising musicians from their local pub venue, introduces them to the NME, and then - if everything goes to plan - inducts them into the head-rattling world of mainstream celebrity. The idea that there was ever an "underground", where bands could ply their trade without paying any attention to the world of commerce, seems almost laughable. Less than a year ago, for instance, the Kaiser Chiefs were an unknown, transparently Blur-influenced band from Leeds. Now, their small handful of keynote hits has become inescapable, and their fans include Paul McCartney and Richard Gere.
NME names The Smiths as the most influential artist of the past 50 years, edging out the Beatles. In the Plastic thread, there is some outrage from people who don't understand why a pack of whining nobodies could be more influential than the Beatles, and countercriticism questioning whether songs like "She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" are that much more significant than the likes of "Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loves Me" or "The Queen Is Dead".
Meanwhile, the Stone Roses are at #3; which seems a bit odd. (I don't mind the Stone Roses, but are they really the third most influential band of our time?)
A piece on the decline of music journalism, and in particular papers like NME.
Q is now a glowing example of all that is wrong with the music press. It's the pop industry's answer to Hello!, a glorified fanzine that gains access to big-name musicians because of its bland non-critical approach. This is a magazine that is just as happy to have Robbie Williams on the cover as it is REM, where Sting is afforded the same levels of respect as Kurt Cobain. With Q dominating the monthly market, it's no wonder that readers are losing faith in music journalism.
I'm not surprised; looking at the NME website, full of tabloid celebrity gossip and adulation at the "brilliant" new releases from various cookie-cutter R&B/pop groups, it's hard to reconcile this new Smash Hits with the legendary paper that set out to challenge the status quo and instigated things like the C86 compilation. (via VM)
Amusing quote from NME: "Despite the lingering suspicion that they make music solely for graphic designers, Goldfrapp's art-hop is undeniably enchanting." (Actually, I do know one graphic designer who has the Goldfrapp album.)
NME has a track-by-track preview of the long-awaited upcoming New Order album, Get Ready, due on August 27. Interesting; some of the descriptions (the Smashing Pumpkins and Oasis influences, for example) sound a bit off-putting, other parts look potentially interesting (though it's hard to tell).
Speaking of the music press, just weeks after britpop magazine Select closes its doors, NME and Melody Maker merge. The apparent rationale is the declining market for music magazines.
NME have published a list of the 10 most depressing albums of all time. Not surprisingly, both Joy Division albums are on this list; oddly enough, the Smiths don't feature even once.