image: katherine o’neill
I won’t ever catch myself reading it ever, ever again.
The editor isn’t entirely to blame. In so many ways, publishing in a saturated environment means pandering to the slush. But it’s not right that the team feels it’s fine to inexcusably push murky Molotov cocktails of stupid adverbial combinations looking to describe a new scene they just created.
Because “Arse-crackingly” might be one of them.
That’s a real world from a real NME magazine.
When you live in a world of everything a 12 year old wants, obviously you’re way cool… to a 12 year old. See, the NMErarely ventures outside collective lazy journalism borne from a let’s-get-crunk with the Newest Hippingest Lads Ever attitude. I might change my mind tomorrow. But I’m a bitter woman this week, sucking on my humongous lemons and downing as many crushed sour grapes as creative / confessional critique will allow.
The motive behind this post is hugely personal.
Here goes. I really, really don’t like unwanted coincidences. They are the definition of bad luck. They are jarring…
Basically: a comment from a “Jane McConnell” on an NME Blog – and bloody well not me! Argh! – slagged off Johnny Marr and his work with The [incredible] Cribs. In a classic case of mistaken identity, I ended up with Facebook messages and a wall post asking if this was a comment from me. Very. Fucking. Annoying! Hilarious nonetheless.
But looking back, I s’pose it was a long time coming and this is the glaring excuse I am looking for.
It has brought up something that was latent for a couple of years, having been distracted by the University of Second Adolescence known as just, well, University.
My on-off relationship with the NME.
The NME and I have been on-and-off for close to 8 years, with many issues stored in a plastic box in an attic. I stuck with it, through the documentation of the glory years of The Libertines, to tiny ads for little record labels like Kitchen and Paper Bag; the malicious reviews which simply stuck their tongues out at Paul Smith’s songwriting. Even through the hype and then avoidance of Hard-Fi…
For years, the big leafy newspages of the NME truly formed a bible for me. I grew up in a council house at the periphery of a small village; there was a distinct lack of that MTV luxury which bolsters memory-automation from rolling music videos, and my parents made an effort to save and not spend money on records. I don’t want your pity, of course – such an environment kindles a voracious craving for more culture and not to be hated; to know what your mates are banging on about, to stay up late with Lamacq or early with Chris Coco with an FM radio and simply, learn more.
The NME is a false prophet
And so the prophets’ teachings were in a mainstream magazine. The NME’s position as shelf stalwart in the offy made it a window into the House of Cool and Alternative, and, as all good magazines are, the NME was a regular, reliable, hearty meal of culture’s best bits. I loved it. I credit it for shaping most of what I adore and miss and should dig out of the CD box again: The Libertines, Art Brut, The Dandy Warhols, The Raveonettes, Tom Vek (albeit, very limited coverage about the latter three and just enough to spur on The Search.)
Yet, as effective a rigorous teaching the NME once provided, it’s old friends – those who’ve stayed and those lost in the drift – who you’ve shared with, that sticks the most. For me, their names swirl within all the nostalgia with the music. For example, Ben and Leanne are forever synonymous with Free All Angels and 1977 by Ash, respectively; an embarrassingly yet hilariously long schoolgirl crush on a boy called Rowan – and Kim – Muse; my first ever gig, and lying to my parents for My Chemical Romance – Louise. Then there’s overhearing stray guitar licks by Queens of The Stone Age and Prodigy samples through loud headphones and, with unnecessary shyness, attempting to strike up conversation with the neighbour you’ve known for years called Ashley but you’re a hopeless INFJ and really you need to take your energy from solitude and somehow feel guilty for this. Then there’s the guy on the bus called Jack who had all of The Smiths, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode. Music is also: the old crew – Jonny and Mat and Rich and Richey and Tofty and Blink 182, Green Day, The Darkness, Jimi, Led Zep. Then it was moving on and it was customising clothes with iron-on patches, cartoons in class and why The Clash Are Always Awesome, Full Stop! with a girl called Clare. So there too was obsessing over R.E.M. with my best friend Miren; the altar of Radiohead with Lauren B and Matt; the intricacies of Massive Attack with Lauren E., discussions about why Boy Kill Boy were underrated with the band’s buddy Gemma; the sleepless chatter about Riot Grrl, Brody Dalle and now Anna Calvi with Sara…memories, everywhere.
Everything has a connection and for many people, this is how our mind crystallizes memory. Maybe not in the manic way I just represented above, but – music is infinite to us. In that, listening to music without the embosses memories, and later evokes it. The shit that spills out of the NME ultimately does not matter – and yet for a moment in time, it’s made and broken so many artists, so many bands and sometimes, given its influence, it can be said that the NME probably unnecessarily destroyed the musical careers of young people in my generation.
It wasn’t until a recent interview with someone I would too consider a best friend – that I realised the sheer depth of this quality of music without the noise – and how when you create music, you magnify these memories, over and over.
It’s in the moment of music being meaningful that the NME loses its importance in the world. And sometimes, it can hurt. For me, the trigger points might be an ex who said ‘how incredible Bright Eyes is’ and in that moment I would remember the nights I left the laptop on with the albums looping over simply to get some peace, replying with “I know, I know,” before remembering that impending laptop crash in the week it was decided to burn everything to discs; and how after the break up all I ever did was consciously make myself forget it all, songs too. It’s hard to appreciate that band as-they-were-before. I’ve only just reclaimed Fleet Foxes and The Shins as my own.
Albums can be just one season, too: I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made up a summer playlist either on their mp3 player or on CD for either party or personal pleasure. And, sometimes, a playlist you thought was once cool can, beyond your own powers, become the muzzled hullaballoo for the darkest days of your life. Wha’? What? Yeah – the NME wouldn’t know what any of that meant. A playlist should always be what is really really cool and vapid.
Yet in Almost Famous, the character Penny Lane says: “And if you ever get lonely, you just go to the record store. And visit your friends.” So much truth in just two clauses. It’s where you meet the new ones too, and natch, online is most likely where you’ll hang out with them now.
It’s a real shame then, that the modern music journalist seems encumbered with the mythical duty of kissing arse and fellating false gods and in this way, passing on a callous indifference and gimmicky attitude through every article and review. Pointing fingers: we can thank the NME for the term “Nu-Rave” which we’re all fairly eager to pretend never existed. And yet the Klaxons still exist through sheer osmosis of the lie that Being A Front Cover = Being Relevant. Yeah mate, it’s all dead funny if it’s ironic, because it doesn’t have to farcking signify anyfink, it’s jast for them lil goff kidz, aw-wight?
No. No way. Fuck off. It’s getting boring. Then again maybe I am getting well old, and possibly quite bad at having a fized mindset towards the South East England stereotype. It’s still taking a while to construct a strong enough scarecrow for the apathy that set in from over exposure to the NME/Enemy but, luckily, I got a few good friends. And more fucking lemons. They’re good for writing long opinionated blog posts.