I was just drinking my cocoa and keeping up with all the modern trends in music by watching Jools Holland’s “Later” programme last night when I saw something so disturbing that I almost wrote to “Points of View”. On stage, straight after the wonderful Burt Bacharach, were two badly-dressed Northerners with a stolen laptop balanced on a beer barrel and a beer crate ranting, swearing and shouting over the top of what I think they call ‘beats’ these days. My first reaction was (I’ve been dying to try this out) ‘WTF?’ That actually felt quite good, swearing without really swearing. It might just catch on.

Sorry, bit distracted there. The more I watched, the more horrified I became. Why on earth did Mr Holland have two ill-dressed extras from “This is England” on his show ranting and drinking beer (which is very unprofessional on stage, I must say) alongside his usual smorgasbord of high quality modern musicians? At least the Happy Mondays played proper instruments and had something resembling tunes.

So it must be some kind of performance art then or some elaborate joke. Was it a pair of drama students satirising the quality of modern pop music by creating something so obnoxious and unmusical that it was totally unlistenable and then setting out to see how many people they could con. Or maybe it was the media; someone saw an absolutely terrible pair of hip-hop or post-punk, or whatever they are, performers and decided to play the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ game; tell them how good they are and then build them up in the music press. If you do that for long enough, one of the inkies will pick up the story and bearded Hoxton types will be saying how they loved their earlier work. Amazingly enough, they’ve been doing this for eight years, apparently. The NME does this sort of thing all the time; how do you think Pete Doherty got away with it for so long.

And talking about the NME, what on earth happened to that? I had one thrust into my hand at the railway station the other day; it’s free these days, so I thought I’d check which giants of modern music they were featuring. There was a piece on drug cartels that could have been researched using Wikipedia and the “Ladybird Book of Crack and Cocaine”, the famous music journalist Katherine Ryan (really) writing about Piggate and MeghanTrainor and a six-page plug for the resurrection of Chis Moyles. Just remember that NME used to stand for New Musical Express and this is someone who can get away with playing three songs in an hour. There was once a time when the NME had writers who were vicious, opinionated, clannish and supercilious but at least it was worth reading; I don’t think those days are ever coming back.

But what about Sleaford Mods, you say? They’re not from Sleaford and I’m sure Mr Weller wouldn’t approve of their version of mod couture and they still look like the people I pass every morning waiting for the off-licence to open. I wonder what that lovely Mr Bacharach made of it?

By the way does anyone know of a good product for cleaning cocoa stains off a carpet?



Slo Light ResizedSmith & Mighty predate trip-hop by a couple of years or so, but their genre mix-up of soulful but downcast vocals and beats derived from hip-hop were a precursor to the sound that was to follow. They are still best known for their 1988 forlorn and slowly thumping cover versions of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, massive club hits both of them. Neil Davidge was a core figure in trip-hop’s golden years, his most high profile work being on the second and third Massive Attack albums.

Slo Light” is the title track from Davidge’s forthcoming album and features remote but yearning vocals by little-known New York-based Living Days singer, Stephonik Youth. The album version takes time to build from music box twinkles to threatening strings and in many ways is Davidge’s new version of “Teardrop”, the song he coaxed Elizabeth Fraser into recording for Massive Attack. Rob Smith’s remix stays close to the original version’s intentions, certainly in mood, but unsurprisingly amplifies the r’n’b elements with a persistent tom-tom drum effect to make this more of a post-club track rather than straight chill out. It’s starker than the album version and Youth’s vocals are more vivid and dominant and the push of melancholy is stronger and more immediate.

This excellent interpretation of one of Davidge’s most seductive tracks should whet your appetite for his very strong debut album, featuring Sandie Shaw and Cate Le Bon amongst others, coming early next month. I wonder if the involvement of Rob Smith indicates that Smith & Mighty may also return to the musical forum? That would be cause for a double celebration.