Monday, May 29, 2006

The Download takes a bow

Well it's been eighteen months, something like 30-odd columns, around 10,000 words, and over a hundred mp3s recommended, and now The Download waves goodbye. (Those aren't especially startling statistics but it seemed like a nice way to sum up.) Downloading is now part of mainstream culture - not a niche activity that needs its own column - and the New Statesman is moving on into some kinda sexy redesign in the next couple of weeks.

Watch this space for our respective subsequent activities, until then props to the NS for letting me write about literally whatever music I wanted to for a year and a half. I never got a single reader complaint along the lines of "who the hell are these bands I've never heard of? Why aren't you writing about the new Coldplay?", which reflects well on the NS readership - they can't all be public service workers in their 30s/40s in any case. Maybe they are hip after all. Maybe they just weren't reading.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aye, tis a beautiful game

To spare the 90% of you who for some reason have had common-sense-ectomies and therefore are not spasming with excitement about the World Cup, me and Jake have established a special World Cup blog with roman numerals in its name and everything, which is seeing lots of action already.

If you don't see me for a while between now and 9 July, it's because of this. A fact which applies to the real world as well.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Cheesemakers create Eau de Stilton

That's right, a Stilton -scented perfume.

Nigel White, from the Stilton Cheese Makers Association, comments: "Blue Stilton cheese has a very distinctive mellow aroma and our perfumier was able to capture the key essence of that scent and recreate it in what is an unusual but highly wearable perfume that we are very proud to put our name to."

Please can someone get me some of this for my birthday? If a girl can't abide me smelling of Stilton then she ain't the right girl anyhow.

The one they didn't want you to read

Banned by the New Statesman for it's explosive content, covered up and obscured by a mirage of whispers, here is The Download that they didn't ever want you to see! Exclooooos!!

I'm kidding. They didn't have space for it and now it's kinda timed out. Whatever I'm still getting access to the bakery.

The Download - Neil Young
In the sixteenth century, balladeers would write new lyrics to the tune of well-known folk songs which would be printed as ‘broadsides’ on single sheets of paper, and then sold by travelling ‘chapmen’ around the country. It was a canny way of getting a message out there, and getting it out quickly. In the twenty-first century, you can just post your album on the internet.

In the name of immediacy, that is what Neil Young – Godfather of Grunge, Canadian Elder Statesman of Rock, Kermit the Frog meets Jimmy Tarbuck, call him what you will – has done. In the space of a month he has written, recorded, and released the headline-grabbing ‘Living With War’, a furious modern day broadside against the Bush administration and all who sail in her.

He has incurred the frothing anger of FOX News et al by daring to challenge Bush’s appropriation of 9/11 grief, by entitling one song ‘Let’s Impeach the President’, and even just by being Canadian. Everything about this album is so, so right. Except it isn’t. It’s distinctly mediocre.

In the broadside tradition of writing new lyrics to familiar music, ‘Shock and Awe’ is a facsimile of his 70s hit ‘Hey Hey, My My’; sadly it is a poor one. The chance that doggerel like “history was the cruel judge of overconfidence / back in the days of shock and awe” will become as seminal as “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”, the line that Kurt Cobain signed his suicide note off with, are slim.

The music is plodding and uninspired, and the lyrics are trite to the point of being embarrassing, disappointingly. Only ‘Roger and Out’, a moving tale of a pilot’s death, is worth downloading. Better to get Young’s incendiary classics ‘Cortez the Killer’ and ‘Ohio’, and let Bright Eyes’ brilliant, sardonic 'When The President Talks to God’ deal with modern day politics (all on iTunes).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A noble but flawed experiment

As an experiment, and an antidote to the fact that I don't really have a clue who all these definite article-fixated NME bands are anymore, this morning I thought I'd stick on E4 for a bit; until I became a Club NME regular with XFM's phone number tatooed onto my soul and Conor McTwat's photo on my wall, or I got absolutely sick of it, whichever came first (can you guess which it was?).

The Automatic - Monster: like the Kaiser Chiefs only much, much worse. "What's that, coming over the hill, is it a monster?" No, it's a band with literally no talent at all.
The Zutons - Valerie: bloated, too much slap-bass, in a flatulent, stuttering, Chilli Peppers kind of way (i.e. the worst kind of way) - the faux-funk bits are horrible. Would make an acceptable Dodgy b-side, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. Especially since they're supposed to be spearheading a 'British rock renaissance'. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
The Streets - Never Went to Church: My perpetually mixed feelings about Mike Skinner lean towards the positive side on this one. It's a horribly upsetting song about his Dad being dead, but this is a great intro statement: "Two great European narcotics - alcohol and Christianity. I know which one I prefer.".
The Feeling - Fill My Little World. More jocular bouncey post-Kaiser flimsiness. I mean really flimsy. Really jocular. I can't stand overly serious music, but when did everyone in the world start mainlining wacky pills? The singer can modulate his voice in a very slight and distant imitation of a vocoder, which is diverting like a fly stuck on the wrong side of the window is diverting; this, it need hardly be said, doth not a great band make.
Shakira - Hips Don't Lie: Thank fuck for this. Not even an especially good Shakira single, but she's singing on it, so it's already a million times better than a million songs by The Feeling. Her hips don't lie, you know.

It's time to go out on a high note. By turning E4 off.