Posts Tagged ‘Blur’

Shockwaves NME Awards 2009

March 2, 2009

If it was the Brits last week, it must be The Brats tonight, right? ‘The Brats’ being the name they used to call the NME Awards before they became so similar that the differentiation seemed a bit silly. They’d be better off calling it the NME Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party, what with the awards having silly bozo-names like ‘Best Dancefloor Filler’. I sat through this one making notes, as I did with The Brits, in the name of balance. Here are my real-time mitherings.

First up, our hosts. Mark Watson is an affable comedian and will be hosting on the grown up stage. Taking care of the Fearne Cotton, backstage side of things, strictly for telly, is that bloke who did Big Brother’s Little Brother – the one with the self-consciously irritating hair. Jack Whitehall

No?

Anyone?

Admittedly, I had to google him hard to get the name.

Is it possible for a person to have a ‘hateful face’? You hear the term bandied about a fair bit, and it seems to be a little unfair. You should judge someone on their actions and not the way their facial protrusions are arranged, no matter how runtish their upturned nose makes them seem and no matter how weak their chin. But if they top their noggin with an annoying, Mr Whippy, latterday-indie construction, the face beneath is always going to come off badly. Anyway – Jack Whitehall isn’t very good at his job.

In an echo of days gone by, Steve Lamacq is employed to take care of the voiceovers while Watson helms the stage, with jokes slagging off Johnny Borrell. It seems slightly hypocritical of the NME to have passed those gags, what with it being about 63% their fault that Razorlight got to the stage where they could release Slipway Fires on an unsuspecting audience unchallenged.

Grace Jones arrives to present Best Live Act! So we’ve kicked off, and the first award goes to the band which is considered best at grinding out music which is too bloody noisy and badly mixed whilst in front of a room full of teenage idiots, all of whom are clambering over each other to look the coolest, dropping beer in each others’ faces and singing along with the lines of the songs, obscuring the music in the process and allowing themselves to believe that they gain some measure of kudos from memorising badly-rendered poetry. Yay!

Muse beat Kings of Leon, Oasis, Radiohead and Killers. Their drummer accepts the award, which is the coward’s way out.

‘Still to come’ says Steve Lamacq – and some adverts come on.

Next up – Best DVD. This one throws me. Best DVD isn’t very rock n roll, is it? All the live DVDs I’ve seen have only ever served to demonstrate that gigs aren’t the revolutionary gatherings of energy they’re made out to be and shows them in the more realistic light of artists deluding themselves they’re gods while an audience deludes itself that it’s having fun.

Arctic Monkeys beat Foo Fighters, Kaiser Chiefs, Rolling Stones and Muse. Dean Learner accepts the award.

Here are the Skins – those children from the kid’s drama serial (for infants). The one that shouldn’t be watched by adults because it’s for kids. They’re here to present the Best New Band award. Up for the award are tedious Sting-thieves, Vampire Weekend, those Jesus & Mary Chains for losers, Glasvegas, the criminally insane Late of the Pier, offspring of the Flaming Lips – MGMT and a band called White Lies who I’ve never heard of.

MGMT win, predictably enough, and their self-consciously kooky acceptance speech (‘it’s a jelly spider!’) doesn’t do much for me.

Presumably it’s not fashionable to refer to ‘singles’ any more, what with iTunes and the internets, so they appear to have replaced that category with ‘Dancefloor Filler’. It’s a silly name for an award for two reasons. Firstly, indie people can’t dance and, secondly, it precludes any release that has a slow tempo. It suggests frenetic indie pop, so anything vaguely leftfield or undanceable gets left on the sidelines like a fat kid at football.

Beating Crystal Castles, Friendly Fires, Bloc Party and Late of the Pier, Dizzee Rascal wins for the witless dirge he made with Calvin Harris that has the cheapest video in the history of hip hop.

Let’s have some music to cheer us up!

La Roux (me neither) and Franz Ferdinand pile onstage to kick the living shit out of Blondie’s Call Me. Jaime Winstone is dancing! Ooooh, I wanna dance with Jaime Winstone! Alex Kapranos does a grand job of flattening the entire vocal melody but blood isn’t truly drawn from the flailing carcass of the tune until La Roux pitches in with a whine last heard in a slaughterhouse. They create the second worst cover version of all time. Lucky for us, the first worst comes later on in the evening. At least Estelle and the Tings had the courtest to murder their own tunes at The Brits…

Best Album Award now – with everyone’s least favourite comedian Keith Lemon, presenter of ITV2’s woeful Celebrity Juice, actively molesting Alexa Chung as they present. Kings of Leon beat The Dancers, Glasvegas, Oasis and Bloc Party, with a recorded speech which appears to tell everyone in the audience that they hate them. Possibly the only rock n roll moment of the evening.

Friendly Fires play a song. It’s the first time I’ve seen this lot, and there won’t be a second. There are some terrible dance moves over a tune that sounds like, and forgive me for putting the idea in your mind, U2 crossed with The Klaxons, and then some Brazilian dancers come on for a booty-shake. This momentarily makes notions of suicide drift away with an idea clearly nicked off Basement Jaxx. Fill the stage with bright colours and dancing, and you might get away with it.

Best British Band! Kasabian present. The singer asks if everyone there is ‘c*nted’ – which I think is a bit rude. Cut to a shot of Muse who are visibly not c*nted, but might be very slightly stoned on crap hash. Oasis beat some other bands who have already appeared in other categories (it all begins to blur). The crowd begins to boo. It overwhelms Mark Watson. Strange, I think, that a band who kept the paper afloat whilst the (superior) likes of Melody Maker and Select magazine folded are now being booed by the crowd. The acceptance speech is amusing, pairing up Russell Brand and Gallagher, N for the first time since the former was rude on an old man’s phone.

It’s never going to end.

The child who partners Steve Coogan on Saxondale comes onstage with Steve Lamcq and they give the Outstanding Contribution award to Elbow, which seems startlingly pre-emptive. Are they writing them off the minute they hit their peak? That’s the NME all over, is that.

Best TV Show? Eh? This is a music paper!

Here’s Charlie Brooker, aka Preacherman, offering out a sitcom award at a music award show – which seems idiosyncratic to say the least. But then, when you think about it, indie kids generally spend their days sitting around at home recording sitcoms. I know I did.

Brooker says the word ‘c*nt’ and smashes the status quo. Boosh win.

We’re nearly there. Don’t fall asleep, because… …it’s time for the Worst Cover Version of All Time (see video link at the top of the age). Florence and the Who? work in unison with humourless Scotch combo Glasvegas to trample Elvis’s decomposing spine with a one chord rendering of Suspicious Minds. What results is so laughably awful, it looks like a sexual assault blooper. The Glasvegas singer begins to grope Florence with his face and soon, to distract from the musical mess they’ve made, they are hitting each other and running offstage.

We limp on to Best International Act, if anyone cares, and Killers win. Last Shadow Puppets win Best Video. The audience are now so drunk they don’t understand what’s happening and are talking amongst themselves. ‘Why are Girls Aloud here?’ they appear to be asking, quite reasonably.

Now for the promised big moment – Graham and Damon Blur reform to do a song together. With the best will in the world – it sounds a bloody mess. Albarn’s use of an out-of-tune foghorn-organ was possibly a mistake, as the one note he issues throughout three quarters of the song drowns Coxon’s guitar in a farty wash. A missed opportunity, perhaps.

Solo Artist – Pete Doherty. A token award, one feels, seeing as the man hasn’t released any solo material yet. Bridge-building from the kid from Saxondale, who clearly realises Petie D makes covers and sells papers.

At least we end on something of a high, with The Cure getting some late recognition. They play the oldies after receiving an award from Tim Burton and the audience, all far too good-looking and well-dressed to be what used to be the indie I knew, dance along.

Except, you can’t actually dance to indie. Its structure simply doesn’t allow it. They simply do that thing where you jiggle from side to side, pulling a poseur face and faking the sensation of being taken over by music. The credits roll as we watch people trying to dance to indie, safe in the knowledge that indie is best listened to on a walkman, uncelebrated at industry bashes, away from fashion victims and sponsored awards ceremonies. I’m not in love with the modern world.

Maestro

August 15, 2008

So here’s the story: Drum ‘n’ bass star Goldie, Blur bassist Alex James, actors Jane Asher and David Soul, Newsreaders Peter Snow and Katie Derham and comedians Sue Perkins and Bradley Walsh are all learning over the next six weeks how to conduct an orchestra. Each week, one of them is voted off by the judges and the winner gets to conduct at The Last Night of the Proms.

This latest BBC2 reality show perfectly illustrates the Corporation’s ongoing dilemma. They’re required to fulfill the Reithian ideals to inform educate and entertain us in a responsible manner. But they also want a juicy slice of the giant reality TV pie. How can they do both without seeming opportunistic?

PRODUCER: Why don’t we just do the same shit as C4 – but y’know, with posh stuff like orchestras an’ that?

COMMISSIONING EDITOR: Brilliant.

At the start of this first episode, the contestants were all immediately thrown in at the deep end and asked to conduct one of the popular classics, Strauss’ Blue Danube, Bizet’s Carmen etc…

As conducting seems primarily to involve waving your hands about in the air and grimacing enthusiastically, Peter Snow was the obvious favourite after all those years of gesticulating away at the Swingometer on Election Night Special. But it wasn’t to be. Peter is virtually deaf and has absolutely no sense of rhythm. I’m not even sure he knew where he was half the time. I think they’d perhaps told him the whole thing was some sort of new election gimmick – Newsnight set entirely to music. ‘Keep waving your arms about Peter. That’s the way, old chap. The results from Wolverhampton are just coming in now.’

The still very beautiful and graceful Jane Asher and the demure Katie Derham both fared much better with the task, being naturally musical and both having learned instruments as a child. Similarly with the ubiquitous Sue Perkins. Comedian Bradley Walsh started off with gags and when that didn’t work, eventually settled on a conducting technique which appeared to be an homage to Norman Wisdom from his epileptic Mr Grimsdale period. The always likeable Goldie breezed through the exercise with his natural unaffected charm and instinctive musicality. A clear favourite from the start.

What to say about Alex James. He appears to be one of those chaps who begins each day by gazing lovingly into the mirror to check that he has just the right casual floppy-haired scruffbag look before leaving the house. No doubt in the miniscule world of art college, such attention to detail would have marked him out as some sort of deep and sensitive artiste. Unfortunately for Alex, evidence collated elsewhere, (i.e. that he was once the bassist in Blur and now makes cheese) tells another story. His irritating faux-modesty act got on my tits as usual, and not just because the posh twat’s shagged more girls than me. Though that obviously doesn’t help.

As for David Soul, the last time he held a stick in his hand, it made the tabloids. Luckily those hard-drinking days are behind him and he made a promising and impassioned first attempt with the baton. Soul also helped to get the emotional journey off to a much-needed start by mentioning his difficult relationship with his father within the first 30 seconds of being interviewed. I get the feeling, however, that he mentions this when ordering food in restaurants, dealing with cold-callers and waiting in supermarket checkout queues. So maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised. For me though, he’ll forever be the blonde one out of classic 70s cop show Starsky & Hutch. So best of luck to the grizzled old dog.

As part of the training, they were each assigned a personal mentor to teach them musical theory, taken out with a marching band to help with their rhythm and then spent time with a choreographer to loosen up their posture. This was all leading up to their first public performance with a full orchestra at the end of the week, after which one of them would get fired.

Guess who that was? Beloved old Uncle Peter, of course. But remember, it’s just a bit of fun.

I wouldn’t really bother watching this, to be honest. There were hardly enough thrills to sustain this first 90-minute opener, never mind another five episodes. I always used to imagine there was nothing much to conducting. That it was just waving your arms about in time and hoping you could bluff it through to the end. Turns out I was right. So unless David Soul goes back on the sauce and decides to drown Alex James in a giant vat of his own cheese, there’s nothing much happening here.