Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Friday, July 30, 2004

Thoughts of the Pops: Alfresco 

In what is possibly the most desperate bid to relaunch a tired and flagging concept since... well, since Westlife's Pop Idol rip-off, Top of the Pops decided to do an hour long special live from Gateshead. Not only did it come from somewhere other than London, thrilling though that is in itself, it was held outside. Please, try to contain your excitement. Quite why the BBC felt that the viewing public would tune in in their droves for the off-chance of seeing an audience of Geordie teenagers getting rained upon, we may never know, but never mind. Here's the nuggets of knowledge we did manage to glean from tonight's show:-

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Handbags at Dawn 

Well, that's us told, then.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Song for Few Twerps 

So, imagine you're a long in the tooth boy band that's way past it's sell by date. Your original audience has grown up and the new audience is more interested in the younger, more exciting alternatives that are available, rather than some blokes in white suits. How on earth are you going to respark public interest in the band so that your next album sells enough to keep you in dry-cleaning for the rest of your life? Well, if we were involved, we'd suggest releasing a fantastic pop song which sparkles it's way out of the radio and cattle-prods your brain right in the middle of it's pleasure centre. Westlife, however, have decided that the best way to pull themselves out of the creative malaise which they've been in since.. well, pretty much since they've started, is to offer a girl the chance to sing with them on their new album.

It's basically going to be a Pop Idol-esque competition to be televised on ITV1, and we do hope that someone similar to McManus wins. To enter you need to dial a £1 a minute number and sing down the phone to the best of your abilities which is, of course, how all the great singers were auditioned. We suppose we should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they feel that a great singer will still sound fantastic down a crackly connection and that this method makes it more accessible to the Westlife fans around the country, rather than having auditions in a few main cities. The fact that this means that they'll have lots of teenage girls phoning up a premium rate number which allows them to rake in a small fortune while they sit on their arses and do nothing is irrelevant, and besides, that's how they've always made their money, so it seems a little churlish to bring it up now.

Of course, the saddest thing about this state of affairs is knowing that Lulu is currently going without heating as she funnels all her money into trying to recreate her Take That related glory days. The poor, misguided old lady.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


There's something stirring in Jurassic Park. In last weeks Chart Attack we made a comment regarding the new Marillion single being a bit on the rubbish side. Fairly innocuous you're no doubt thinking and, indeed, entirely factually accurate. Once you tweak the tail of a dinosaur, however, it takes a few days for the message to travel the distance to it's small, purely functional, brain, and so it was that on Sunday, 6 days after posting the piece, we recieved an e-mail from a Marillion fan which ran as follows:-

I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Marillion are determined to continue to record and their fans are determined to continue to piss you off by putting them into the charts again and again until you get used to the fact that they are here and here to stay.

So it's nice to know that the band apparantly only exists to annoy us, which lends credence to our theory that the entire purpose of the world is to make our life a misery. We felt that that was going to be that and, while we were mildly amused that our throwaway snide comment had caused a reaction, we weren't going to bother about the e-mail as, let's be honest, as pieces of hate mail go it's hardly the worst the world has ever seen.

Clearly the writer thought much the same thing, as 15 hours later we recieved a second e-mail from the same fan, which begins as follows:-

Marillion, for your information, are roughly the same age as Morrissey, U2 and REM and are considerably younger than Elton John.

He opens, apropos of very little. U2 and Elton John are both as interesting as an Open University documentary on outdoor mining, while REM haven't really done anything earth-shatteringly fantastic since Stand. While the fact that Morrisey is releasing fantastic new music should surely teach Marillion the lesson that you don't have to be rubbish, just because you're in your forties. Of course, the fact that, unlike Marillion, Morissey was quite good in the past may explain why he's quite good in the present, but never mind. He continues:-

Your comments prove that you are a fool. You claim to have had talent in a previous life, but I find even that to be dubious. Marillion are going to continue to have hits because their fans value their musicianship and the effort they put in. Get used to it.

We're quite chuffed by being called a fool, and we do hope that we eventually get upgraded to the level of 'bloody idiot'. We would like to point out that calling a song which limped into the top 30 before boomeranging straight back out again a "hit", is a somewhat unusual use of the word. We are going to take his advice on board and try and "get used to it", though. We don't reckon it's going to be too hard to get used to the concept of a band continually selling to the same, ever-dwindling, group of fans, briefly appearing in the top 40 once every few months and only ever troubling our own ears if we actively search out the song for review purposes as radio play, for some strange reason, appeared to be very thin on the ground.

Younger readers, i.e. anyone who's yet to discover the joys of a comfy pair of slippers, Radio 2 and grouting, may well be wondering exactly who the hell Marillion are, so for their benefit and, quite frankly, to annoy our e-mail correspondent, here's a brief history of the band.

Marillion were Prog Rock, a style of music that has, thankfully, joined the likes of Topless Darts and Actually Caring About The Royal Family in the box marked embarassing things of our past that we don't like to talk about. Prog, for those who are unaware of the style, at best consists of taking a normal length tune and stretching it out to unbearable lengths, at worst it doesn't even bother to include the tune part. Marillion hit the height of their fame in the mid-eighties when they released Kayleigh, cursing thousands of prog-rock daughters with a hitherto unconsidered christian name. Eventually though even their vocalist, Fish, got too embarassed by their music and left the band. Remember, this is a man who considers calling himself Fish to be a non-embarasing thing to do (We realise that as we post under the name of 'Flum' we're very much pebble-dashing a greenhouse here, but never mind). After that Steve Hogarth took over and, with this new vocalist, they decided that the lower reaches of the charts were very much where they wanted to make their home. With the advent of the internet, they've done remarkably well in mobilising their fan base to actually get off their arses and support the band, even getting them to actually pay for their recordings. With this in mind we will soon be launching Marilli-Off, a campaign to raise enough money to persuade them to stop releasing albums. We hope you'll give generously.

Right, can we get back to talking about pop music now?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Kash Free Society 

We haven't done a Top of the Pops review since we've been back. This isn't just laziness on our part, as you may have suspected, but mainly came down to the fact that we were running out of ways to say "Tim Kash: He's a bit rubbish, isn't he?". Fortunately that's all going to be a thing of the past, however, as the BBC has delivered the ultimate variation on that phrase by finally realising what the viewing public of Britain have known all along and will be giving him the boot at the end of August. He's not officially being sacked for being a talent vacuum with all the personality and charm of a dead hedgehog, but because of his "growing MTV commitments", which seems to us to be a polite way of saying "If you want him you can have him". Alas, we're not quite free of his unique presenting 'skills' yet, he'll still be co-hosting Friday's live extravaganza (their words, not ours, we hasten to add) from Gateshead. If you're going to be in the audience for this then, please, chuck a rotten tomato for us, we'll appreciate it.

Chart Attack 

Saturday, July 24, 2004

A Load of Maracas 

They're back! Yes, you may well have thought that the curiously sexless and quite probably men in a previous life Cheeky Girls had been deported back to Romania for their crimes against music, but no, it turns out that even their home country is somewhat ashamed of their unique talents so they've sent them straight back to us and they're about to take their revenge by unleashing a brand new single on to a general public who aren't so much disinterested, but are more vehmentaly opposed to even the merest hint of a comeback.

But lets not dismiss it out of hand immediatly, lets give it a cursory listen and then dismiss it with the weight of facts behind us to back up our opinion. It's actually a surprising change of direction for the Mischevious Minxes, a string-drenched ballad of epic proportions which surges out of the speakers with a tidalwave of heartfelt emotion which will cause even the strongest man to break down in tears and... Oh, OK, we're lying, but it will make you cry for the state of pop music. It's called Cheeky Flamenco and it's the expected musically simplistic up-tempo track with Gabrielle and Monica singing, in the loosest sense of the word, a couple of repetitive lyrics over some half-assed novelty spanish guitar playing. While we didn't exactly expect anything earth-shatteringly different from them, we didn't expect it to fit into the "more of the same" box quite as easily as it does. We're sure that their fans, and there must be some, will lap it up. They certainly seem to have hit upon a winning formula, even if that formula seems to be thinking of a noun and putting the word "Cheeky" in front of it. We're sure though, that the Cheeky record label will soon be sending them to the Cheeky job centre where they may find their experience on the Cheeky Checkout on Top of the Pops Saturday turns out to be more useful than they may have expected.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Cream of the Pop? 

It's that time of year again, i.e. slow moving in terms of record sales, and so the Mercury Music Prize shortlist has been announced. It's not quite as bad as last year's list, but then, the only way it could really have been worse would have been if they'd announced it was a two horse race between Atomic Kitten and the Stereophonics. We even like a couple of the albums on the list this year, but it's still a bit on the rubbish side of the fence really. Once again the world of pop is underrepresented, but this is about as surprising as finding your feet in your socks. Jamelia seems to be included to represent the genre, which is a shame as other than Thank You she's utterly dull and pointless. We're quite glad to see Joss Stone in the list on the other hand, as we really want her to do well. Not because of any respect for her music or for her Amazing VoiceTM or anything like that, but because we think she's got absolutely beautiful eyes and we're easily swayed by stuff like that. The Mercury is, of course, designed to promote bands that might not get exposure otherwise so you may well be thinking that by wanting pop acts to be included we're ignoring that aspect of it and you'd be quite right to think that, but we don't see why we should include that factor in our deliberations when the judges themselves clearly don't bother their arses about it as the inclusion of such obscure, struggling bands such as Keane, Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian and The Streets proves. If you fancy a flutter, our tip is Keane and if you win any money as a result of this, we want ten percent. Cheers.

Getting it slightly more right, on the other hand, is Popjustice.Com who have announced the shortlist for their £20 Music Prize, although even this is somewhat flawed; most notably with the lack of nomination for Phixx and their really rather fab debut Hold On Me. While they were, admittedly, rather shonky as a band and could only follow up this bit of genius with nothing but disappointment and desperation. It was a modern-retro slice of electro pop majesty and doesn't deserve to be forgotten and swept under the carpet when stuff like Shaznay's single gets included. Fair enough, her tune is a pleasant enough track but one of the best pop songs of the last 12 months? It's not even the best pop song of the last 12 minutes. Also included are the dull 60's wannabe's McFly who, since we saw them doing an acoustic performance on Top of the Pops Saturday, we've decided are a cancer on the music industry and must be cut out as soon as possible. If a pop band performs unplugged then we should see them dancing and mouthing to silence, nothing else. Looking earnest isn't in the job description. Rachel Stevens has another number 2 to her name now, but this one is slightly more flattering as she has two entries in the shortlist, one for Sweet Dreams... and one for Some Girls, while the expected Girls Aloud, Busted and Sugababes triptych makes it's appearance. Token indie entry is Keane, who should be disqualified swiftly for having rubbish haircuts, and once again Jamelia shows up, leading us to wonder just why anyone cares about her lightly melodic and inoffensive music. If you fancy a flutter on this then we reckon McFly is the way to go, even though we do detest it with a passion we normally reserve for the truly evil in society - Nickelback fans.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Chart Attack 

Look! A new feature, how exciting is that? Please, don't answer that. Whether this becomes regular or not largely depends on our overpowering laziness, but lets give it a shot, shall we?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Stars. In Their Eyes, Anyway. 

It was car crash television on ITV last night - in the sense that you longed for a car to come crashing through the studio and kill, or at least seriously injure all those involved - as the latest Stars in Their Eyes: Celebrity Special was broadcast for our entertainment. We're not totally sure how they got away with using the term 'Celebrity' though, as the people involved were only just above the level of "Members of the Public" in the grand scheme of things. We're pretty sure that, thanks to our appearance in a Scotland Today news report when we were 14, we are more famous than at least two of the people involved. When rubbish news reader Penny Smith is your biggest draw then you know that you've got problems.

First up was Some Girl From Emmerdale, Or Was it Crossroads? who peformed Rachel Steven's Sweet Dreams, My LA Ex. And by 'performed', we mean absolutely murdered. She didn't even vaguely sound like the track's singer, i.e. Cathy Dennis, but did look suitably pretty in a black dress. Things can only get better we thought to ourselves, that was until Some Bloke Who We Have No Idea What He Was In came on stage and decided to dress up as Marti Pellow and do Love is All Around. Why? Out of all the fantastic music that exists in the world and all the popstars that you could dress up like and pretend to be, why on earth would you choose Marti Pellow? Even Marti Pellow wouldn't choose Marti Pellow. Wet Wet Wet were a band that were so godawful he had to turn to heroin to numb the pain of knowing that he was the lead singer in Wet Wet Wet, something we can totally relate to as we very nearly turned to heroin ourselves during Love is All Around's stranglehold at the top of the charts. Blokey doing him was almost as rubbish as Mr Pellow, which we guess makes his performance a success. He certainly had Mr Pellow's smug look down pat.

Penny Smith is allegedly a serious newscaster, but she does work for GMTV so her higher respectability level is only in relation to the shower of people that they insist on calling presenters. Even so, you'd think that she'd try and keep what little credibility she had left and not embarass herself on national television. Sorry, not embarass herself more on national television. As it was though, she decided to dress up as Debbie Harry and perform Denis. Badly. Lookswise she didn't exactly hit the spot either, her wig making her look more like Marilyn, and we're talking about the 80's popstar here, not Miss Monroe. Her dancing was even worse as the camera watched her as she jived arythmically behind the mic stand like... like... well, like Debbie Harry now, so at least she got part of it right.

Penultimate act was Tim Healy who, for reasons best known to himself, decided to dress up as Jack Nicholson from The Shining and perform Joe Cocker's You Are So Beautiful. The least said about this, the better, so we'll move swiftly on to the final act which was Kym Marsh's Boyfriend doing Justin Timberlake. Not in that sense of the word, although he did totally fuck over everything Justin has ever done. His performance basically consisted of him putting on a rubbish American accent, singing in falsetto and dancing quite badly. He'd apparantly asked Kym Marsh for advice on how to be a good popstar, though we reckon he'd probably have been better off asking his milkman and, judging by his performance, that was exactly what he did.

Winners? Well, officially Kym Marsh's Boyfriend won, but as The Audience, The Performers and Music Itself can all be said to have lost badly, it must be something of a pyrrhic victory. The only real winner was the host, Cat Deeley, who came out of it looking extremely attractive, talented and entertaining, simply by virtue of her not singing, so hooray for Cat! Hooray!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Some Thrills 

Charity singles are rubbish. Yes, we know, we're tearing down the walls of recieved wisdom with that particular earth-shattering opinion, but just because something is a known fact doesn't mean it's not worth restating every now and then. They're invariably poorly cobbled together, about as musically exciting as the Stereophonics trying a new direction and simply rely on public goodwill towards the charity to sell copies, rather than the more traditional strategy of actually writing a good tune. All this was a given up until now, however, and the really rather fab Some Girls by Miss Rachel Stevens.

This track is being released to raise money for Sports Relief, a charity which provides much needed trampolines for starving Africans, and appears to have been picked for this role entirely at random. The only connection that we can see to the charity is the fact that Rachel is quite fit. We're pretty sure that the video won't even feature Miss Stevens cavorting around in any sort of sports related manner, despite the fact that we made a great pitch to the record company about this. We basically went there and said "Rachel wears a netball uniform. For 3 minutes." before sitting down and waiting to be given a camera and a few million pounds to shoot it. After a few minutes of sitting there in shocked silence, presumably because they were overawed by the genius of the concept, they asked us if there was anything more to it than that. Racking our brains we managed to flesh out the concept a little bit more:- "In the rain." we added, proud of ourselves. It was at this point that Security was summoned and we were firmly ushered out of the building, proving once again that the music industry in Britain runs scared of true genius.

While the song isn't quite a Sweet Dreams, My LA Ex, we can certainly thank the Lord, or at least thank Richard X, that it's not a Funky Dory. Rachel's career didn't exactly go the way it was planned when that track struggled to reach the top 75. We do have to admire the sort of self-confidence, however, which leads to her publicist claiming the reason that radio stations wouldn't touch it with a bargepole was down to the previous single being too good, rather than just holding their hands up and saying "Yeah, it was a bit of a dull single, wasn't it? No wonder everyone kept play Sweet Dreams... instead." It's no exageration to suggest that Rachel needed the exposure that the association with Sports Relief has given her just as much as the slightly pointless charity has benefited from the exposure that having a pretty girl who's not averse to posing in her smalls has given them. Normally we'd be averse to such cynical manipulation, but when the end product is as fantastic as this we can't really complain. After all everybody wins, we get a good pop song, starving athletes get some food and Rachel gets another chance to play at being a pop star and look pretty on Top of the Pops. And, best of all, it's not a cover of the misogynistic song of the same name by Racey as we had originally feared. Hooray!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bonza Pop 

In a land down under, where women glow and men plunder, the second series of Australian Idol has begun. Last year this gave the world, or at least World Idol, Guy Sebastian an 'interesting' looking man with an afro and a bent which could only be described as religious. His unlikely victory proves conclusively that the Ozzies are a bit odd, but rather fantastic at the same time. Something else which proves this is the always excellent CFB Goes Pop website, so we're very happy to let you know that they've set up a second site to cover the events of Oz Idol 2 which you can find by clicking here, and we strongly urge you to do so. Who knows? This event could find the world the next Kylie, it might even lead to the re-discovery of one of Girlfriend but, alas, we doubt we'll be that lucky. Just as long as it doesn't find us the next Delta Goodrem, we'll be happy.

Curtain Raiser 

Right, lets have a look at this pop lark then. In a bid to refamiliarise ourselves with the musical landscape we've spent this weekend watching Top of the Pops, Top of the Pops Saturday and CD:UK this weekend so we're beginning to get a rough idea of what's going on. We also watched the T in the Park coverage on BBC2, but they seemed to believe that spending 15 minutes on Starsailor was a valid use of valuable airtime so we're going to ignore that. We've also taken the brave step of listening to a lot more daytime Radio 1 than anyone should really subject themselves to, such is the strength of our desire to find out just what the hell has been going on. So, over the next few days we're going to let you know exactly what we've learnt about the pop world in which we live. Won't that be exciting? Please, don't answer that. First up, possibly the most important event to have happened while we were away:- The new Girls Aloud single.

Well, it's very ace indeed, isn't it? We were quite worried about what their comeback was going to be like as we had noticed what looked like an attempt to blandify them and turn them into the next Atomic Kitten. This was most noticeable in the yawn-inducing cover to the re-released version of the Sound of the Underground album, and the fact that they released a not hugely good cover. Thankfully though, their management have realised that while the market for mediocre girl bands is somewhat saturated, the position of Most Exciting Pop Group... Ever! is still something worth fighting for and if Love Machine is as fab as this then Nicola and the Other Girls, as we think they should be renamed, will be easily be pushing ahead of the pack beating previous contenders such as the Spice Girls, B*Witched and allSTARS*.

Why is it so ace? Ummm, well you have heard it, haven't you? Nicola doesn't seem to have any solo lines as far as we can tell, so it immediatly loses a few points as a result, but other than that it's as close to perfection as a GA song can be. It also bucks the current trend for pop songs to be quite gender neutral, something which is certainly not the case with this, being very much a girls lyric, which is good because they are girls, but, on the other hand, they do have balls, which slightly confuses matters, but never mind. The only down side of having lyrics about acting like a lady and fluttering your mascara like a butterfly is that it does make it slightly embarassing if you're caught wearing headphones and singing along to it at the top of your voice. Ummm, so we expect anyway. We definitely don't know for certain, right? Right.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

As A Matter of Fact 

We're back, and we are quite disappointed to find out that we haven't returned to a world where Girls Aloud are number one. Yes, we knew. Yes, we cared, but we're not telling you whether we've been hanging round the kitchen in our underwear acting like a lady. Some things must remain a secret, if only for the uncomfortable mental images that they will evoke.

Anyway, normal service will be resumed shortly. In the meantime, here's a picture of Nicola dressed, rather fetchingly we're sure you'll agree, as a cheerleader. Hooray!