Posts Tagged ‘Mark Lemarr’

Never Mind The Buzzcocks

November 14, 2008

Ever since a loose collective of Metallica fans in Boston ripped the culture industry a new arsehole, we’ve been promised a new dawn in music.

The internet was talked about in the early part of the decade as a cross between the Russian Revolution and the second coming of Christ. Papers foretold a world in which the oppressed music fandom proletariat would rise against the industry, behead our evil corporate overlords and instigate a new world order where bands could reach fans while leaving out the coke-addled suit in the middle.

Instead, what we got was a world of Sandy Thom. Nowadays, it’s completely normal for a music label to reach a four figure settlement with a teenager who downloaded nursery rhymes. 

Music hasn’t got better, only more prolific. There are more bands, singers, songwriters and dancers. More record labels, industry types, music blogs and music fans. 

Everybody is a critic, and the word ‘critic’ has been diluted so much that no music critic ever dares to criticise music. From that irritating, snivelling fan-boy Zane Lowe, who churns out superlatives like a thesaurus on a crack binge, to the cretinous scenester twunts at the NME, the music industry regularly pops out a vertebra, bends over backwards and fellates itself silly. 

The music industry seems to have survived a major assassination attempt.   

Which is why it’s still a godsend that we have a programme like Never Mind the Buzzcocks. For the last 22 series, NMTB has gathered an assortment of artists, musicians, singers, industry types, actors and dancers and torn apart their dignity with the elation and precision of a sadistic dentist. 

It has insulted national treasures, pretentious artistes, nihilistic rock stars and desperate round-eyed pop singers. As the series has progressed, with new hosts, team captains, rounds and guests, this is the one thing that has remained stable, and will remain the reason that audiences tune in. People often criticise the comedy-quiz genre for a lack of spontaneity and originality, confused as to why people still tune in.

However, while you still have a preposterous and self-congratulating music industry, you will still have people that want these musicians taken down a peg, and you will still have Buzzcocks. The producers signalled as much by hiring Amstell. 

A good host is the cornerstone of a good comedy quiz show. Mark Lamarr, in this department, was a tonic. Part comedian and part music nerd, he acted as the ill-tempered guardian of respectable music. He had a weighty yardstick with which he would bash his guests over the head by. Namely: contribution to music. 

If you were in a well-respected band he might let you off lightly, while if you were a leech on pop’s anus he would tear you down with manic glee. As the series progressed he got increasingly cynical until he called it a day, retiring to a radio career where he plays obscure sixties songs.  

Amstell, however, is not Lemarr 2.0. He entered the music industry as an apathetic presenter of a by-the-numbers pop music show. It eventually became a cult hit due to his presenting style, which included insulting about 90% pop stars doing the rounds. While other pop presenters were grinning from ear-to-ear, congratulating McFly on their latest single, suggesting it is their favourite so far and generally patronising the viewer senseless, Amstell was coming on to notoriously homophobic dancehall star Beanie Man, saying Katie Melua’s first album was ‘so bad it made me want to puke my guts out’ and making Britney cry.

And here lies the main difference between Lamarr and Amstell. Lemarr might simply insult you because your band is the flavour of the week. His increasing cynicism towards the role made you suspect he still believed that somewhere there was a molecule of respect in the music industry which his show was failing to represent. He seemed to believe it was an industry worth saving. 

Amstell, who has admitted before he has ‘doesn’t know anything’ about music, sees it as a doomed industry ripe for the picking. On Buzzcocks, Amstell doesn’t so much as mock rubbish music as perform character assassinations. On any day he can be as cruel and as witty as Lemarr, his twee fuddling presenter shtick forces guests to let their guard down before he sticks the knife in. While Lamarr might have mocked Preston from The Ordinary Boys for being a pretentious arse, Amstell caused him to walk off by quoting choice bits from his wife’s biography. He sees the façade of celebrity and brings the contestants back down to earth. 

Anybody who saw the recent episode with James from Glasvegas will realise he’s steadily gaining confidence in the role. The official NEXTBESTBANDINTHEWORLD according to the self appointed indie bible, the NME, he seemed content to do the dark and broody thing until Amstell mentioned a song he wrote about his father. 

Annoyed, James decides to insult Amstell’s gaudy cardigan. ‘Oh, as if you could see this thing with those deeply pretentious sunglasses on’ returned Amstell. James shut up, confused.

James will probably appear on the chat shows and have Jonathan Ross explain how much of a fan he is. He’ll get put on the NME’s cool list.  He’ll do interviews with Zane Lowe, who will call him the best guitarist in the last 25 years – something he says about six people per week. He’ll do stadium tours, get a coke addiction and release a second album, by which time nobody will care. He’ll probably realise that the one person he talked to in his walk towards fame who said what he and other people actually thought about him was Amstell. 

That’s why people keep tuning in. With the music industry showing little sign of falling as predicted and with Amstell hitting his stride, it’s hard to see an end to Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

So long as there’re pop stars, rock stars, singers, dancers, producers, guitarists and icons, there will be bored people on a Thursday evening who want to watch them get taken down a notch.

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