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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A New List From The NME, and some thoughts about pop-hackery.


If you want to feel awful homicidal awful quick click here, read this, and then read the comments.

It's not the actual list that's the problem. The list is the usual mix of shit, shinola and gold you'd expect. Terribly predictable no.1 but hey-ho. The problem is the writing & subbing of the text for each track. I mean, these are meant to be the greatest songs of their generation - does the writing communicate that sense of importance? Does the writing make you feel as excited, as bound up,  as 'Caught Out There', 'Around The World', 'Glory Box' or 'Unfinished Sympathy' do? In fact - good example, let's check out what's said about no.31, 'Unfinished Sympathy' a record that shudders like an iceberg through your heart, always swells like a fresh new bruise, the turning of personal torment, of the battle between freedom and love, fearlessness & loneliness into a whole new universal noir. It's a record you never forget for the rest of your life because so often in your life yr gonna need to hear it again. That need, that addiction, how does the NME in 2012 sum it up?

#31 "Trip hop progenitor ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is really a slick piece of hip-hop soul blessed with Shara Nelson’s broken bawl and some muted beats and cowbells from 3-D, Mushroom and Daddy G. It came out under the more politically sensitive band name of Massive during the first Gulf War and ensured the collective remained the urban sophisticate’s artist of choice for the next decade."

So, this is what music writing should do now. Place, contextualise, describe, commercially delineate. All well and good (although wtf 'urban sophisticate' means I rilly don't know) and utterly pitifully inadequate to the record itself. And if music writing keeps doing this, keeps on - in terror of the poetic and fear of the 'pretentious' - simply comprehending music and never rhapsodizing, keeps on worrying about filing without ever losing its mind, it will continue to lag behind the form it seeks to circumscribe, will continue to be so much chip-wrapping for its readers and its writers to forget almost instantaneously. How could you ever remember such lumpen prose, such cliche-ridden mediocrity, let alone recall the names responsible? Where does this writing send you? Is there ANYTHING in each write up of each track that in any way has a reason to exist, a reason to be, a reason to take up those pixels? Would the piece have in any way suffered from just being the youtube links? Would any piece in the NME online suffer from just being made of youtube links? Faced with new technologies that enable everyone to be a critic what do you do? Make criticism look like everything else, or emphasise its unique posture, its antique desire not just to reflect but to CHANGE the way pop is thought about?

#72 "Tjinder Singh penned this track about the luminous cinematic power of Bollywood actress Asha Bhosle. As it stood, it was an absolutely pleasant slice of indie pop dreaminess. "

So, this is what music writing should do now. Be factually innaccurate (Asha Bhosle was a singer, never an actress), and have the ungainly ugliness of expression more suited to a college assignment, an exam, than music writing. It reads as if music writing is actually a painful, unpleasant process for those doing it, the annoying production of actual stuff that unfortunately is still attached to the real job of connecting, networking, partying and self-promoting. These are writers surely inspired by no-one, and consequently it's impossible to hear a human voice emerging, or see an effort involved in finding that voice. Just the mechanical regurgitation of acceptable cliches, the defeated tone of those pushed around and cowed by the biz, the absolute dead-end determination to 'appeal' as widely as possible, to never use a word someone might have to look up, to never say anything that could in any way lodge in anyone's mind any longer than it takes to read it. A downright FEAR of the new idea and the dwindling-readership it might alienate, a terrified scurrying cowardly retreat into the lukewarm arms of cliche and staleness and imprecision.

#10 " . . . rallying call against the rank hideousness of US society. It's a flame built on Tom Morello’s iconic, white-hot riff as Zack de la Rocha pours on the gasoline, taunting American forces with rhymes about racism and the Ku Klux Klan"

That language, that painfully half-witted mix of limp hyperbole and semi-erect bromide serves to render every writer for the modern mainstream music press anonymous, unidentifiable, monotone & monochrome. We're constantly told that readers don't want flouncy writers anymore, don't want imagination, purple prose, poetic license, just want THE FACTS. But what's shoved at readers are facts in the most withered, spineless fashion possible, to the point where it's only natural that those readers constantly wonder what earns the writers the right to pass judgement, what separates THEM from US? The fatal error the music press have been committing for nearly two decades now is in failing to realise it's actually commercially insane to reduce a body of staff to a unified, numb voice of one-ness, that what ANY reader wants from the music press is writing that reflects the music's variety AND excess AND concision. For pop writing to be as entertaining as pop it's got to be diverse but the writing being put out there, the writers that are paid, are almost indistinguishable from each other, much like the middling musical mulch those writers spend most of their time boosting. Hence the falling ABCs, the terror, the present/future role for the music press mapped out as mere capsule-review lubrication of commerce. All stemming from two things, a massive condescending underestimation of music fans, and the entirely fucked-up motivations behind those who want in on the music media.

#6: "Coming on like a twin of ‘Live Forever’, Noel Gallagher’s no-nonsense lyrics, a typically bolshy delivery from “our kid” and a guitar riff which sweetly echoed George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’ added up to the very first Oasis classic. ‘Supersonic’ was effortless in its spewing forth of Manc cool, all self-confident swagger and utterly accomplished musicianship"


If the writers seem indifferent as to whether their words mean anything or not, then why should the readers give a monkeys if their own comments rarely extend beyond 'wank list, not enuf Oasis why isn't wonderwall in there'. Idiots have always writ to the music press, it's the way I started, and when I used to edit the letters page in the half of the inkies I worked for yup there were plenty of numbnutted barely-literate cunts telling me to 'take my black hip-hop shit elsewhere' or complaining about writers going OTT on something they thought was just wank. Ever thus - trouble is now, no model's being provided by the writers of possible ways of thinking and writing about pop - just an endlessly banal slew of platitudes, dying metaphors, meaning approaching absolute zero. Comes from talking down to the readership, the seeping middle-class assumption that any group as wide as a 'readership' needs things dumbing down, simplifying to the point of irrelevance. Where is the writing that speaks across to the readership, across the table, across the room, across the tracks and divisions to illuminate new ideas? Spiked, knocked out, or worse - not even thought of anymore. Reason? Because the WRONG FKN PEOPLE want to be music journalists, beavering hustlers and networkers, passionate ambassadors for their own needy inclusion in da biz, people so damn obsessed with getting their foot in the door they haven't figured out if they have anything more than fuck-all to say, and couldn't care less how revoltingly commonplace is the way they express that fuck-all. Style-less automatons of triteness and humbug and horseshit that criminally WASTE your time, and don't even give you a laff in doing so.

E.G, read this interview and then this interview with professional wanksnap, Hamish McBain, who works for the NME

Two quotes sing out here: "It makes it more challenging, to see how you can still make it exciting. It’s challenging for everyone – it’s a transitional period. It’s exciting in that nobody really knows what to do, and it’s exciting at the NME going to a meeting and instead of saying “right, who are we going to put on the cover?”, it’s “how are we going to put them on the cover?”. How do you make it interesting?"

And: "Tenacity is the key, really."

"How do you make it interesting"? For starters let's end the age of the pitch, the angle, the wacky juxtaposition, the let's take (insert band) to (insert incongruous location) lazyness of modern editorial. If your writers are interesting and freakish enough (not gonna happen if the people hiring are dull-as-fuck themselves or even worse yesmen to the marketeers) THEIR thoughts are the hook, the fact THEY love this band should be enough for an editor to TRUST there is a story beyond fkn celebrity endorsements or youtube hits. It's not really a writers job to give a fuck about ABCs or give two-shits about what some jumped-up little cunt wielding a piechart has to say about 'what the readership wants'. EVERY writer is ALSO A READER, what do YOU want from pop writing? Fkn get on with it then, and if you've no answer fuck off out of it until you get one, or even better, just fuck off for good. Let writers get on with writing about pop stars as if they're pop stars even if they're not pop stars because the things they make make them STARS to US. Let's unleash something entirely banned from pop writing these days - IMAGINATION - to give pop writing, and pop itself, its full magical and mysterious pull on our time again.

Hats off Hamish, y've nailed the key to getting a job in music writing. 'Tenacity' as the sole modus operandi of the writer. Career career career career - if there's something I can say has been common amongst every great writer or editor I've ever worked for/alongside it's been none of this. They've all, basically, been music HEADS - seekers of new stuff on a constant basis, diggers of crates, record-shop ghosts, teenage-years wasted in libraries and racks with radios and players and books. They've also loved literature, loved writing almost as much as they love music. The impetus and motivation behind their writing was always clear, to say the unique thing they had to say in the unique way they had to say it. Tenacity? FUCK OFF - these loons were convinced that what they had to say DESERVED hearing by the planet, NEEDED expression or they'd explode. Tenacity, fkn tenacity FUCK TENACITY UNTIL you've actually figured out if your message is worth tenaciously trying to get out there. And if you have no message, fuck you and fuck off y'gap year cunt, get yr fkn backpack and go see the world. I hope you drown in a disused well before you fkn ever 'write' ever again. Because instead of writing what you think, you write what you think other people want to read. And as soon as you start doing that, you're fucked in the soul, heart and head.

#30 "It was no coincidence that this track was chosen to soundtrack a key moment inTrainspotting. Penned on a drunken night as Karl Hyde got bleary-eyed in Soho, the fragmentary lyrics are mirrored by the music, which hurtles between speeds and moods, perfectly echoing the state of inebriation one needs to get to before belting out “lager, lager, lager” to passersby."

Secretly, what modern mainstream pop-hackery confirms is that there's a fundamental sadness to the role of music writer, or at least there is if you let it take hold - you are employed to basically be a hanger-on, an eavesdropper, a spod, a geek, someone who won't shut up about something the rest of the world just get on enjoying. To a certain extent this is all true but the people taking on the role these days seem massively cowed, almost apologetic about being critics, fatally and stupidly too dim to realise that EVERYONE who listens to music THINKS about it deeply, has a whole barrage of prejudices and assumptions they call their 'taste', even if they don't necessarily write it all down all the time. Writers gotta realise - YOU ARE AN ARTIST TOO. Language is your medium, infinity is your potential, MATCH or even SURPASS the music you're writing about, you're just as good as those fkn musicians and writing about pop is a vital artform that actually contributes to the health, and the potential for surprise and intrigue, of a musical culture. You are not a fkn hanger-on (and spods and geeks and fans are important  in any culture - remember fans are not disciples, fans can be betrayed) you are part of an argument, a battle.Pick up yr arms and yr pens and yr paper and yr brains and fkn fight. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.


There is still, and always will be, a world to win. 

39 comments:

  1. I remember reading the Stud Brothers doing singles reviews in Melody Maker, and one time they spent almost the entire allocated word count on a review of a new Mission single which was nothing more than a diatribe about the name 'Wayne'.

    An abuse of the privileged position of being singles reviewer on an inkie? Pretentious masturbation? A disservice to Mission fans? Maybe, possibly, and let's hope so. But the thing was - it made music seem IMPORTANT. Same as when you saw Johnnie Rotten sneering, or Morrissey prancing, or Robert Smith looking all sad, or Ian McCulloch looking and singing like a lost god, when the music press took itself seriously as an art form, it reflected how vital, how (sub) culturally significant music felt at the time. And I'm damn sure that contributed to sales for both the papers and the artists.

    It made me want to be a writer. I'm a professional beer writer now, for fuck's sake, and have just handed in my fourth book. I wanted to be a music writer, but I didn't want it as much as I just wanted to be a writer. But I would never have become a writer of any description without the poets and pretentious twats of 80s/90s music journalism to inspire me.

    And my taste in music wouldn't be anywhere near as good as it is.

    Can you imagine the people you quote above ever inspiring anyone, ever, to think. 'Yes, that's it! I want to WRITE!' Can you imagine any of them having their collected works published in book form, like Simon Reynolds, Paul Morley, Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent?

    Thanks for reminding us of what matters.

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  2. In the UK, up until the early/mid 1990s, what might loosely be known as "alternative music" (which is a flawed term, obviously, but I can't think of anything better) attracted people who weren't necessarily all articulate or well-read or intellectually curious, but for the most part they didn't think that being articulate or well-read or curious was such a bad thing to be or to aspire to. Then came Oasis, who took the grammar and style of indie rock and applied it to content that revelled in its own thickness. The NME's readers became the dolts in the comment box and eventually the writers - entirely understandably - gave up trying to provoke them to higher things and just settled down to the same superficial, complacent, ill-informed level.

    I just wonder what they're stuff looks like before it's subbed.

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    1. I just wonder what you're stuff looks like.

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  3. Dear god, thanks for writing that Mr Kulkarni.

    You are, as ever, justified.

    Can't bring myself to go through the whole NME thing, but the bits you quote are abysmal beyond words.

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  4. In relation to Neil's piece, and speaking as a former casual employee of IPC, I have to say that I really couldn't have put it better myself. It said everything that needed to be said and more. An abundance of "white-hot riffs" in that list - and an abundance of "white" too, but one mustn't upset the trainee accountants in Staines, or the imagined sought NME demographic of kids with the attention span of a goldfish who if something doesn't immediately catch their eye, or doesn't agree with them, or requires them to think (or rethink) - well, they might read another magazine, or look at another website. The lesson here is that if you spend your time chasing the most fickle section of the reading population you shouldn't be surprised to find that they're the hardest audience to hold on to. I recall in the noughties that the then "Brand Director" of IPC Music issued an edict saying that under no circumstances was the first person singular to be used in any reviews or articles.

    Then Play Long is, amongst many other things, something of a fightback against all of this kind of non-thinking and anti-writing. The NME list commentary is so bad that I'm almost tempted to have a go and write about these records myself, except that my hundred of the nineties would be largely different, as I suspect would Neil's.

    In any case I think it apt to provide a link, which again sums all of this up better than I ever could, from one of the people who inspired me to write in the first place.

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  5. When I write, I write like these guys. This kind of article means a) I never get complacent and b) I never allow myself to think of myself as a writer. I *wish* I was, but I'm not. NME, come and get me.

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  6. Yes, it's a crummy list, and one that most people would instinctively ignore. But is this any better, though? A one-note barrage of half-baked waffle and hyperbole that's four times longer than it really needed to be? Christ, I hope not. Jimmy Savile's dead, you know. He's never going to get your 'Please let me be Steven Wells' letter.

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    1. Don't forget Frank Zappa said "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read" nearly 40 years ago. I, too, am nostalgic for the rock and pop journalism that seemed to be articulate, memorable and historically significant. Could it be I'm just nostalgic for being 21?

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  7. This is a blog. I wouldn't put this rant anywhere else. Where is the hyperbole. Where is the waffle. Tell me. Oh and those last two lines are genuinely offensive to me as I knew Steven Wells and considered him a friend and colleague.

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  8. "it's actually commercially insane to reduce a body of staff to a unified, numb voice of one-ness, that what ANY reader wants from the music press is writing that reflects the music's variety AND excess AND concision."

    THIS. And if they can't give us this, if the writing is duller than I can bring myself to plough through, the alternative for me is just skipping straight to the music or video links, which, fuck off, I don't actually want - I want to be persuaded and intrigued. I like reading writing by people with a brain, a reaction and an opinion. And when writers talk shit about my favourite bands, I want it to make me angry for the right reasons, not just because I wasted 5 minutes reading something less inspiring than a press release (because at least a good press officer writes about their bands like they actually like them).

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  9. Yep.
    At NME when the web thing started the business heads got all excited and (some of) the journos went happily along with the business stuff, leaving passion behind. The old guard's anxiety about what was being lost was masked by increasing miserablism and escape into dark cupboards. They were right, but looked drunk and unprofessional (cocaine made them talk management/advertising shite anyway) so no-one took any notice - they couldn't express it clearly themselves. And the level of musical engagement had plummeted, as Tim Footman says, to the level of "Oasis, who took the grammar and style of indie rock and applied it to content that revelled in its own thickness." All nuance lost, cloth-eared hacks grateful for crumbs of celebrity took over and 'musical' appreciation was more or less confined to grunting or shouting - my gang's thicker than your gang. It was all over in 1997. I left after a bit.

    What I don't understand at all is how any of those magazines get a readership - bloggers with passion and opinions, made by WRITERS WHO LOVE MUSIC are enough. Keep it up.

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  10. Www.goforlaunchmusic.com THAT guy can write a damn song!

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  11. I feel nostalgic for the NME, it could be pretentious and over-opinionated, but it was exciting, and as someone stuck in the middle of nowhere (in a pre-internet age) it was a lifeline to wothers who thought like me. It was political -which I don't think it has been for a long time.

    I tend to read The Wire these days, which can occasionally be pretentious, but does understand that there is a world outside of indie guitar rock. Sometimes I felt frustarted with the readership, who famously got uppity whenever it wasn't a guitar band on the cover. Frankly speaking, I think people are much more likely to be listening to Aphex Twin, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Destiny's Child 9all of whom had NME covers, by the way) in another ten years than the likes of the Enemy.

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  12. Whilst I mostly (if not entirely agree) I feel as though anyone that writes for a bigger publication often gets a lot of raised eyebrows if you're ever too overly personal about what you connect to emotionally in a music review (cold hearted bastard editors) and also, I'm sure there were some Almost Famous-style glory days of music writing, but there are plenty of music writers that I think are brilliant and inspired - the Quietus and Dummy Mag always have passionate and entirely readable reviews and interviews and writers that are generally just good writers. Do you have any tips for music writers who are trying to break out of the generic mould?

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  13. It is like listening to the wining dog of the neighbours. I am bored. Getting some sleep. If you folks like to read this writing of mine, do so. If you don't I think I respect you more :-)So hit the dislike button. I do not care. Sweet dreams. Hope there is music in it ♫♫♪♪

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  14. In the 80's = crisis People with no money in the pocket buy bootleg cd's or bootleg musiccassettes. These are not listed sales. In the 90's everybody was comfortably buying bootleg or burning cd's from the internet. These are not listed sales/theft. That is why you cannot see your favourites back on the charts of NME. They enlisted the sales chart, not the "like"-chart.

    Solution for fans:

    Start your own fansite with your own lists of favourites and learn from this experience and start being creative how to solve this issue for generations to come.

    Greetz from Zaandam, The Netherlands (windmills and other wooden stuff) and sorry for acting cranky earlier; I am really tired and want to sleep. 2.22 hrs GMT here. And watch your language. What are you? Cavemen?

    Sandra van Rij

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  15. Wow. It was worth that NME article being sub-workmanlike (a term I'm not even sure existed until I read the dull as dishwater "prose" cooked up like cheap meth by a bunch of uninspired hacks who history will not cherish) to read the impassioned plea for a return to quality in writing about music featured on this blog.

    Seriously, where are the modern counterparts to the stream-of-consciousness legends like Lester Bangs? Writers like him lived and breathed music from the first cigarette in the morning til the last popper at night. They didn't care where it led; they just wanted to FEEL something, something vital and life-affirming. And they wrote about it with graceful yet eccentric prose which sought to bang the reader on the side of the head, screaming "WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU NOT LISTENING TO THIS?!". I wasn't even of Bangs era but the writing speaks for itself, decades later.

    I get none of that from modern music magazines. It's why I haven't read NME and Kerrang! since the late 1990s. Even the once-infallible MOJO has started to wobble like an old vinyl record left too long in the sun. There's just no joy or symphony to any of the prose, as if the older good-quality writers retired and there was no-one left to replace them so they just called in any young hipster to reel off trite, forgettable and often inaccurate scrawl to fill pages even their fellow hipsters won't read.

    I know the record companies are dying. Have been for years. But I never expected the music mags to die alongside them too.

    But still, the light side is that with music stores closing, the Top 40 being filled with crass pop records that was made by robots for robots and the dying of the old major labels, we might be primed for a movement as powerful as 1970s punk was. Probably not, but pop music could do with a good enema right now. Both the music and the writing.

    The next ten years are going to be interesting...

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  16. rubberdingyrapipds17 May 2012 09:50

    i agree with some of your points, that a lot of music writing is safe now, not essential, too polite, etc etc. but thats cos the press has to offer something the amateurs cant - supposed writerly professionalism. and the style you seem to want in the nme is - and i dont mean this as an insult - more of an older school of music writing, where its not all neat and tidy and considered. i dont think that many people write like that anymore though. not saying it has to be as boring as the writing in that list - which btw shouldnt be taken too seriously, its just another commenter-baiting pop list - but im just saying you cant expect people to write like its the 70s/80s anymore either. but if these articles feel inessential, its probably just because music isnt essential anymore. it doesnt feel 'important' like it used to. there are bits that do of course, but overall, nope. its a different era. i mean, there is music that does/did feel urgent - certain dance music, things like grime/dubstep (well in the mid 00s at least), footwork, but a place like the nme is still at heart a rock mag so theres only so much you could expect to read about those things in there.

    in response to rebecca - "Do you have any tips for music writers who are trying to break out of the generic mould?"

    i dont think the paying opportunities for writers not looking to write for broadsheets or the rock mags are really there anymore. do any niche/specialist mags (those still left that is)/sites pay? ive no idea.

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  17. "im just saying you cant expect people to write like its the 70s/80s anymore"

    Plenty of new artists play like it's still the 70s/80s (or are very heavily inspired by the styles of those decades) so I don't see why it's unreasonable to allow writers the same courtesy, especially when it makes the prose more entertaining to read rather than what appear to be soulless copy-and-paste efforts churned out by a writing robot called Copy Creator 3000.

    "if these articles feel inessential, its probably just because music isnt essential anymore"

    The list is about music of the 1990s. Personally I thought in many respects that was a great era for pop music in the UK, where even the most commercial dance/Britpop records often had something memorable about them. Can't say that now when I have the misfortune to land on a Top 40 station. Therefore the writing should reflect the enthusiasm for the music scene at the time.

    Perhaps the worst thing about the internet is how much fragmentation it has created, which the comments themselves have alluded to. While music magazines used to feel vital, now because there is are so many choices there are more writers having their voice heard, but by smaller audiences. Just like the way when there were only three or four analogue TV channels you could ensure several people at work had watched what you had, which started to disappear when more and more digital Freeview channels were added and PVRs became more popular, because the music writing scene is so fragmented there's less of a unity among music fans. I've lost count of the amount of times my friends have recommended me oddly-named bands I've never heard of because they subscribe to this or that niche interest music site online, something I really don't have time for, especially when a lot of it sounds like a rehash of bands I already have in my collection.

    Not sure what point I'm trying to make, just throwing ideas out. As both a semi-professional musician and writer these are two subjects I feel very passionately about.

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  18. rubberdingyrapipds17 May 2012 10:53

    point taken on retro informed music inspiring retro inspired writing, though for me that might be more retro than i am truly comfortable with. and yes, its a list about the 1990s so could have more fervour (youd think they had never even heard anything in the 90s and only learnt about it from wikipedia), but then, this is a list that began with coolios gangsta paradise. says it all really. fantastic voyage is the best coolio single btw.

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  19. Too much assuming in this comments box that "pretentious" is a perjorative.

    Also, why do we need another Lester Bangs? What possible relevance or succour could such a person provide, divorced from LB’s all-important seventies Detroit/NYC context? Why do they have to do stream-of-consciousness stuff (LB never published any in his lifetime)? Why wouldn’t the new LB end up a prematurely addled and aged fuck-up like the old one did?

    Cigarettes? Poppers? If anything, we need to disperse with the stupid seventies beer-n-whiskey-n-rock-n-roll smelly boots Ron Wood solo album way of outdated thinking that permeates both contemporary music and music writing. Idris Walters and Timothy White never get cited, to name just two seventies writers of equal importance; it’s always good ol’ Lester and stalwart Hunter S, the good ole boyzzzzzz……

    My own role models as writers? David Thomson (cinema), Simon Barnes (sports and wildlife), Max Harrison (classical music and jazz) – all splendid fellows who are moved enough by their art to want to move their readers with their writing. That’s all we need, really. Just some sign of life.

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  20. The NME in the early 90s split the music buying, gig going public in half; either you were a fervant subscriber, or were firmly in the "fuck the NME" camp. If anything, the disgruntled fanzine-wielding haters were more a mark of the NMEs success than its biggest fans; their writers could provoke, make the readership think of their musical heroes and villains in ways they hadn't considered and put spotlights on things that nowadays, press officers would slap down before fingers even touch keyboards. It was relevant and, love it or hate it, it stirred up passionate opinion on a weekly basis.

    These days it seems desperate to fill the gap left by the demise of Smash Hits. Even the Guardian Music pages have more informed and passionate writing than anything in the NME and that's a sad indictment of our times.

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  21. rubberdingyrapipds17 May 2012 11:42

    the guardian do too much music writing imo. i read good stuff there of course but its not the same reading writing for broadsheet readers as you get in a music paper/site. you guys should read the stool pigeon or the quietus (though the quietus reviews are often really inconsistent, ranging from mammoth dissertations that veer way off target and i find hard to read to tight punchy pieces). i prefer the stool pigeons reviews. nicely objective and irreverent but still caring about the music.

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  22. Anyone who read an NME letters page during the 1980s ought to recall the endless bellyaching from the readership regarding the "pretentious" writing of a Paul Morley or an Ian Penman, or the perpetual whining from people who believed that the purpose of album reviews was to describe how the music sounded rather than to function as a repository for the reviewers thoughts or opinions. So, now that what remains of the music press has switched to a more "customer-focused"* output, it transpires that this wasn't what they wanted after all, and can you please change it back to how it was. Back when you could still get poetic, imaginative music writing as easily as turning on a tap, people did fuck-all but complain about it (trust me on this), which leads me to conclude that a lot of people can't decide whether they want a shit or a shampoo.

    * - this bit is a joke, for those of you who need help with that sort of thing.

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  23. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture...

    I bet the writer wrote this diatribe with one hand on the keyboard and the other one mashing his flaccid member in impotent rage. Lists are a waste of time, lists about music are a waste of time and throwing your toys out of the pram about lists is an even bigger waste of time.

    Oh well...

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    1. And bothering to respond to articles about lists by spouting cliches a foetus would shy away from is the biggest waste of time of all. Please go and waste it somewhere else.
      Oh well...
      (Great piece of writing by the way, Neil. Always a shock to realise someone still cares about this stuff)

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  24. What are you really upset about, Darren?

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  25. Yeah, how dare Neil be angry about stuff you're not arsed about, Darren? Who's to say architecture shouldn't be danced about anyway?

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  26. That 'Unfinished Sympathy' bit is simultaneously fucking hilarious and dismal. What would they have said about 'I Feel Love'? "A polished dancefloor filler that took sequencers into the mainstream."

    Neil, your writing is full of love. Never lose it.

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  27. Did anyone else play Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Remember the ranting pirate radio host/conspiracy theorist angry guy? I read this in his voice. Fit like a glove.

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  28. Yeah those descriptions are a bit half assed, pretty much stopped buying NME around the same time they started saying eminem was good. Lo and behold the highest rap track in that list is My Name Is. Better than nas - The World Is Yours ? lulz.. But lists are lists...

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  29. A bilious, warrented invective. I always remember Conor McNicholas saying the NME was for 17-year-olds in Macclesfield, or was it Darlington. That must be THE READERSHIP.

    I have never enjoyed reading NME. I much prefer The Word or even Q, though the latter is quite sweary. I still hope to read Pat Long's book on the NME's history. Neil, can you clarify that in the 70s and 80s, with Burchill/Parsons and Morley and Danny Kelly, the NME hit its top point?

    I agree with most of what you say about reductiveness and fact-based PR-sounding journalism. At what point did the Swells-type journalism decline at the NME, 'personality' journalists being phased out by ABCs?

    All best,

    Jonny Brick, former musical scribe.

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  30. "Because instead of writing what you think, you write what you think other people want to read. And as soon as you start doing that, you're fucked in the soul, heart and head."

    Yes, yes, yes.

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  31. Cheers for the rant Neil. All true. Time serving scum waiting for the permanent gig doing readers digest features, Julie burch ills who skipped the bit where they had to show a bit of talent at the start for decorums sake. The 70s and 80s lists are horrifying too. Bon jovi, queen, starship take a bow. Pop music as hen n stag soundtracks. No black people did much in music in the 70s did they? Not acc to the NME. Keep on burning Neil

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  32. I think this should be framed. It's brilliant, it's true, and it reminds me why I love Neil Kulkarni and why I write about music. Thanks Neil

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  33. I love the new Jag e-types power steering. Shit sorry wrong blog.

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  34. Man, I just read all this, and just realised it's not about the latest list: 100 best Britpop singles.

    And yet : "It's not the actual list that's the problem. The list is the usual mix of shit, shinola and gold you'd expect. Terribly predictable no.1 but hey-ho. The problem is the writing & subbing of the text for each track. I mean, these are meant to be the greatest songs of their generation - does the writing communicate that sense of importance? "

    .. almost matches perfectly.. (except for the "greatest songs of their generation" obv)

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