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?



Ok, NME, you’ve got some explaining to do and, no, it’s not about your obsession with Pete Doherty’s appetite for self-destruction this time. I bought the NME when it was New Musical Express and the emphasis used to be on new. Actually, to be completely fair, it still does new music and too much of it if you ask me. Every week there are at least twenty “great” new bands from around the world featured in “Radar”; that’s a thousand bands a year to feel guilty about not hearing, and that’s not counting the twenty “essential” new tracks featured in “On Repeat”. There is such a thing as too much music. But maybe I just slipped off-topic there for a second.

This might surprise you, coming from a cantankerous old git, but what’s the deal with all the old music in the “New” Musical Express. Apart from the regular features, “Anatomy of an (old) Album”, “Soundtrack of my Life” (old songs) and “This week in …” (old news), the cover features for the last two weeks have been twentieth anniversary pieces on “The Holy Bible” and “Definitely Maybe”. I’m not saying they’re bad albums; they’re not. I parted with my hard-earned for both of them – twenty years ago. So, apart from the front cover, each of these albums gets ten pages in the magazine as well. If you delve further into the back issues, there’s a fairly predictable 100 most influential artists piece (early August) and a Led Zeppelin retrospective (late May).

This is editorial content by focus group and the group must have been fifty per cent Hoxton and Dalston scenesters and fifty per cent old rockers from The Borderline and The 100 Club; sounds like a really bad sixtieth birthday party. So, what’s the target demographic (or whatever the current marketing phrase is for the people you want to buy your product) for big pieces about old music? Is it the Moss-thin, leather shrink-wrapped, pony-tailed Nick Kent wannabe who never stopped reading the New Musical Express, or is it the student who’s waded through all of the new bands and new songs and decided that there’s nothing there worth bothering with and it’s time to start looking back twenty years to find something decent. Can you imagine looking back from 1976 and thinking that you needed to find out a bit more about Pat Boone, Doris Day and Winifred Atwell? Thought not.

So, where do you draw the line? How many more “classic” album anniversaries can we dig out to fill a cover and ten pages that should really be devoted to new music? And what anniversaries do we have lined up over the next few weeks; Crash Test Dummies’ “God Shuffled his Feet”? We could get ten pages out of the (not very) subtle reference to right-wing poster girl Ayn Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged”, and maybe an interview with Neil Peart to pad it out. How about Echobelly’s “Everyone’s Got One”? That got them a whole season on student summer ball circuit before they imploded; should be worth a few pages, and Sonya Madan’s back out there again so she should be happy to get the publicity. Where do you draw the line? Sleeper, Menswear, Lush, Gene? I think you get the picture.

NME, get a grip. If I want to act my musical age, I’ll buy Q or Mojo. Until then, I expect you to tell me about what’s happening now, not twenty years ago.

What is it with NME and Pete Doherty (and Carl Barat)?  It’s bad enough that they insist on force-feeding us his incoherent ramblings and telling us about the latest way he’s found of shortening his life but, come on, an NME cover and a six-page feature about the reasons for reforming for the Hyde Park gig.  We know the reasons, and there are about five hundred thousand of them; it’s not a news story.  But seriously, a cover and six pages; surely music fans in 2014 don’t even care about Pete Doherty any more, but for some reason he’s always been the darling of the NME, no matter what he does.  I mean they even picked him in a taxi after one of his spells at Her Majesty’s for an exclusive interview. I should be more disappointed when the inkies fall for it as well, but who buys the Grauniad or the Torygraph for their music reviews?

The Libertines had a couple of good songs over a decade ago and the NME have been trying to sanctify Pete Doherty ever since; we really don’t care and neither should they. Maybe they just like to be seen hanging around with the bad boys; it wasn’t cool when Nick Kent did it and it’s still not cool now.  I don’t care what he does to his own body but I do care when journalists think that “I’ve seen Pete Doherty taking drugs” is a story that we all need to read. This is a man who once described crack as “a bit moreish”, tongue-in-cheek, maybe, but still pretty dim. What’s the attraction of someone who is willing to steal his own bandmate’s laptop to sell for drugs? It’s not exactly sticking it to the man is it? But it’s made so much worse by NME writers glorifying his every action.

So how do they actually fill six pages with this story? Well, a full-page posed photo and a banner headline take up two pages before Matt Wilkinson describes how he spent an entire day on the phone to members of the band.  While he was speaking to the NME idol, Doherty put the phone down and started to spontaneously work on a new song which, predictably, “sounds fantastic”. You two should really get a room, Matt. I’m not sure how the devoted Libertines fans feel about this, but at least Pete Doherty is honest about the motivation for the reunion and he defends the band’s right to do the Hyde Park gig for the money.

The NME also demonstrates the internal conflict at the magazine by asking two journalists to give opposing views on whether the Hyde Park gig is a good idea; unsurprisingly, both of them love the Libertines. Tom Howard thinks they should do it although it might be pants (or not perfect). Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but if I’m paying to see a gig, my minimum expectation is that the band can actually play the songs, and that’s the bare minimum. But it gets better; Jenny Stevens doesn’t want them to play and tries to convince us of the Libertines’ working-class credentials and solidarity with the workers; Pete Doherty’s dad was a major in the British army and that’s a long way from growing up on a council estate. Pete Doherty chose to be a waster while hundreds of thousands of genuine working class kids worked and studied and made a genuine contribution to society. So don’t try to sell me that spurious social solidarity routine. And can you really imagine Pete Doherty killing a man for his Giro?

If the members of The Libertines insist on repeatedly resurrecting the rotting cadaver of their band and punters are gullible enough to shell out £50 for a shoddy show, then let them get on with it but I can live without the NME giving its blessing to the whole process. There are probably dozens of good bands playing in London on July 5th, go and watch one of them instead.