Saturday, March 01, 2008

The NME Awards: my view

Well, where to start...?

The NME, for those who don't know, is a music paper. It's been around for decades and is a rite of passage for any teenager into music that is a little non-mainstream. It is, traditionally, the champion of the "indie" spirit; or at least it was, back when there were other weekly music papers. Now it's something of a loner out there in printed-medium land.

I am long since past the age of the target audience of the NME, and the lineups of nominees served to emphasize that. They also served to emphasize my feeling that British music is in a horrendous state. I still listen to music every day. (By "listen to music", I mean music that I choose, not simply what bombards me from the radio or some other passive means.) Much of the music I choose is new, too. In recent months, the wife and I have bought albums by Coheed & Cambria, Gallows, and The Used and have downloaded tracks by acts such as Atreyu. Admittedly, these are not very NME-friendly artists, being a bit more on the rock/metal end of the spectrum.

These artists are also very American (except for Gallows, of course, who are just back from their US tour, where they were even supported by Rise Against in Chicago; told you you should go, Candy!). And the NME prefers British music. But British music has become a limp, dull, grey piece of shit, populated by George Formby Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons, and other faceless blurg...

That said, this year's NME Awards gave me not one but two reasons to tune in. This is extremely rare.

Back in 1985 or thereabouts a schoolgirl friend of mine (for I was 15 at the time) lent me two records by an artist who still appears to this day on my list of "favourite music". His poetic lyrics set to a caustic solo electric guitar was truly music to my ears.

A few years later, the NME (for I too spent many years in that rite of passage) alerted me and my countryfolk to a band from a small town in Wales. Wales? That was a joke, right? I mean, nothing good comes out of Wales, save for the road to England. But the NME alerted us to this band only to pour scorn upon them. They were the music press's latest whipping boys, a laughing stock, a band that wanted to make one album, get to #1, and split up in a blaze of glory. They cited Public Enemy and Guns N' Roses as influences and sang words such as "I laughed when Lennon got shot" on their debut single, also provocatively titled "Motown Junk". They too would quickly become hugely important to me and are still, to this day, the band I have seen live more than any other.

The former was Billy Bragg; the latter, Manic Street Preachers. Both (at one time, at least) purveyors of lyrics with a message. Both heroes of mine. Both, all these years later, on the same televised music-awards show aimed at a new generation.

Billy Bragg was performing with a relative newcomer to the scene: Kate Nash. For me, seeing Bragg and Nash sing together was a deeply embarrassing affair. Nash writes some of the most horrendous lyrics known to man. She has tried and failed to capture some of the wit and style of The Streets and Lily Allen, but she has ended up sounding like French & Saunders doing a piss-take of that genre. And for Bragg to have fallen for her well-hidden charms is a huge shame in my book. The unholy pair performed a pseudo medley of her hit "Foundation" and his classic "A New England". Oh, why, Lord, why? Kate Nash is a fraudulent cunt, and Bragg must be a fool for not realizing.

And the Manics were given the Godlike Genius award. Yeah, they were godlike geniuses. Once. The year was 1994. The album was The Holy Bible. That's when they were godlike geniuses. After that, it all slowly started to turn to shit, both for them and for those of us who followed them. After getting their award they played some songs. On TV they showed two of these: the epic "Motorcycle Emptiness" from the 1991 debut album; and the fucking godawful "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" from 2007. These days, even the former sounded shit, slowed down and, seemingly, played in a slightly lower key, reducing its power considerably. Both the NME and the Manics seem happy to sweep their previous incompatibilities under the rug of history. I am not so forgetful.

What do people say: "You can never go back"? Yeah, I think that sounds about right.

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Blogger Red said...

I agree with most of what you write, but can I just say... Lily Allen is not exactly the saviour of British music (or British talk shows, for that matter), but a hyped-up nobody daughter of that dude that sang "Vindaloo". I mean... suddenly even Kate Nash is beginning to sound like an okay proposition, at least she got where she got without the daddy connection. (And she was wearing a cute outfit, unlike Lily Allen, who always looks like a fugging bag lady.)

Don't get me wrong, I think Kate Nash ought to burn, but Lily Allen (and Sharon Osborne's talentless mouthy daughter) should keep her company on the pyre. Oh, and Adele and KT Tunstall and Sandi Thom.

01 March, 2008 10:50  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Hee sounds like a huge disappointment this show for you.

I wish we could have seen Gallows...but I've said on my blog a few times, we have been having a weird winter and last couple of months. It hasn't been possible for us to do as many of the events as we'd like to...a lot of personal challenges around here...

I am so now totally going to have to find out who Kate Nash is...never heard of her...sorry....oh okay...wait I went to YouTube...isn't she a performer for little kids? No wonder she wouldn't be of much appeal.

There's no accounting for the taste of teen girls is there? ha ha same with Tunstall and Winehouse...these are for little kids who buy their albums. We have Avril Laveigne in Canada. You can't walk past 12 year old girls without hearing her on their iPods...

I am sorry you were disappointed with Bragg and's hard to see artists we admired fall short...I felt the same way last week when I heard all the jealous shite Aretha Franklin was moaning about...

I had to go look up Lily Allen just now too...god I know I'm old when I don't have a clue who teen idols are anymore...I see that she is much like Hannah Montana over here in U.S....or rather Miley Cyrus who has a very popular tv program for kids. And Allen her dad is connected and well...he is on her tv show.

Children! Can't live with them...can't kill them!

01 March, 2008 17:34  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

p.s. I guess NME (which I used to read religiously) feels their audience is getting younger and younger or something huh? I haven't read them for years...and now maybe I'm glad I haven't...there are a lot of news stories about newspapers losing so much money and people not buying magazines and papers anymore. Maybe the only market that is reliable is younger kids who tend to listen to mainstream radio?

01 March, 2008 17:37  
Blogger Ron, apparently said...

I went to see Billy Bragg last year for the first time since Glasonbury in 1986 or 7 or something. Whilst having gained a little in middle-aged spread,he'd lost none of his passion for politics and human rights which I for one was glad to see. He has a knack for partnering with people who seem kind of shit at the time (Kirsty McColl's biggest hit up to that time had been "There's a boy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis) then they actually turn out OK. I hope this doesn't signal a change in Billy's taste in people, I somehow doubt it. Saying that, I haven't a fucking clue who this bird you're talking about, so I should shut up really.

01 March, 2008 19:14  
Blogger cappy. said...

ah the NME!
i read it every week. i don't buy it. just read it wednesday nights during the lull at work.
i did buy it this week, becasue of the cd on the front cover. bands doing covers of other contemporary bands (the manics version of rhianna(?)'s umbrella song anyone?)
i have recorded the awards show tonight and aim to watch it monday, (taped for the kaisers, and the manics) so i'll comment then.
as for "new" music....i struggle to find anything new in it.
ok, it's hard to be 100% original, but grief.
all these "skinny indie kids" (copyright half man half biscuit) thinking they are original.....
they make me want to take a piece of 3X2 to thier heads!
the only new thing that has caught my ear of late is duffy. and i think thats only for the 'northern soul' feel it has.
as for billy bragg, saw him in a pub (smuggled in) in barnsley during the miners strike, on the same bill as the redskins. remember them? also saw him last year at sheffield where he produced a union flag and told everyone to "not be afraid of it"
can't wait to hear his new album.
never seen the manics, but i think they went downhill from the minute richie 'disappeared'.
as for listening to music, BBC 6music does the trick for me. or my own shows!
sunday. 8pm - 11pm.

log in as
username: simesshow
password: listen

that might do you!

02 March, 2008 04:23  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

Well, I find music magazines to be excellent when you're early for that dentist appointment....but I never have any idea what they're going on about. I guess that makes me a crusty middle-aged fart. Fortunately, I come by this honestly, as I was once a youthful but still crusty fart. I haven't seen a music awards show in a long time either. Sometimes I'm good for 20 minutes of one.

02 March, 2008 14:23  
Anonymous Say it said...

I like Barry White. Not sure I qualify for this discussion, interesting as it is.

02 March, 2008 18:27  
Blogger lightupvirginmary said...

motorcycle emptiness still sends a shiver down the spine though doesn't it? Just perfect.
Lightspeed Champion were good too!
But yeah, on the whole it was a load of bollocks.

02 March, 2008 19:27  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I have huge affection for Billy Bragg, but that Nash girl is so bland it's untrue.


03 March, 2008 10:42  
Blogger tweetey30 said...

Sounds good to hear that we dont go back to things we did as teenagers.

03 March, 2008 17:59  

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