Sunday, 25 November 2012

It's The End Of The Word As We Know It (And I Don't Feel Fine)

I miss Word magazine. It was just about the only place where I could find recommended new music that I actually liked, some of it included on the accompanying CD, read meaty pieces on interesting music makers - new and old, find out more about the best TV, the coolest films, the books worth reading and all the other cultural with a small-c Stuff happening that I didn't know about.

Sure, it featured too many bearded men on the covers and the small-font article at the back every month was usually unreadable, but it was unique in content, tone and loveability. It led me to The Go! Team, The Mountain Goats, Cashier No. 9 and a weekend in a teepee that smelled of horses at the Cornbury Festival listening to the witless Scouting For Girls. The men in charge, Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, were a link to the Smash Hits days of my early teens and the Whistle Test days of my later ones. I bumped into Mark at the BBC Folk Music Awards in London a couple of years ago and pestered him for a few minutes about how much I enjoyed his magazine. He was pleasant and polite, told me a racey anecdote about my former Sky colleague Adam Boulton and left me feeling better informed - just like the Word.

When I moaned about its abrupt demise to a trusted friend and cultural commentator he recommended a combination of Uncut, Classic Pop and Mojo. So I spent £4.80 on Uncut's new issue. It should be a good barometer because it includes its favourite 75 albums of the year.

The cover is promising: everyone likes Man Of The Year Springsteen and it comes with a free CD. But check out the editor Allan Jones's letter with his own Best Of The Year selection and the heart sinks: "Bob Dylan's Tempest, John Murry's The Graceless Age, Japandroids' Celebration Rock, Neil Young's Psychedelic Pill, Pond's Beard, Wives, Denim, Beachwood Sparks' The Tarnished Gold, Jack White's Blunderbuss, Allah-Las' Allah-Las, Anaïs Mitchell's Young Man In America, Alabama Shakes' Boys And Girls, Neil Young's Americana, Slow Down, Molasses' Walk Into The Sea, Sharon Van Etten's Tramp, Elephant Mica's Louder Than Thou, Tame Impala's Lonerism, Calexico's Algiers, Dr John's Locked Down, Dexys' One Day I'm Going To Soar, Simone Felice's Simone Felice and Dan Deacon's America."

A quick trip to Spotify confirms that Bob Dylan's Tempest is fiddly-de-dee garbage. Two Neil Young albums - really? I'd prefer one by the former Manchester City striker with the same name. And Dexy?! Bloody hell.

Of the magazine's official top 75 I can live with Cornershop, Lana Del Rey, Springsteen, Jack White and I thought Orbital's Wonky was brilliant. The track Never is one of my most-played in 2012. It was on a Word CD.

So not bad, but if the traditional magazine format is letting me down, where else can I go? Spotify's new releases list occasionally throws up some interesting gems. The Paradise Edition of Del Rey's Born To Die, for example, features a decent cover of Blue Velvet. But I have no interest whatsoever in Rod Stewart's Merry Christmas, Baby or Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj. The desktop version has an app to find similar music to the stuff you like, but it doesn't work on the iPad or Sonos so it's not much use to me.

BBC 6 Music is pretty useful if you can sit through the DJ drivel about tweet-me-the-name-of-the-song-that-most-reminds-me-of-your-college-years drivel. Don't bother, we don't care. This morning, for example, they played a track called Joy from Tracey Thorn's new album, Tinsel and Lights

It's nearly always too early for Christmas songs but another visit to Spotify delivers a fabulous album of covers, including the marvellous In the Cold, Cold Night by The White Stripes. I've always liked Tracey and Everything But The Girl, even though Ben is a Man United fan. I once saw them at the conference centre in Harrogate that's traditionally used for the Lib Dems' annual fiasco. And the album with the kid peeing in the street on the cover reminds me of my college years.

This Is My Jam website is also pretty cool. Recommend one track at a time to your Twitter followers, complete with a link to audio or video, and follow other Jammers to find out what they're listening to. My brother's good at unearthing rocking indie boys with loud guitars - I can turn his recommendations into a playlist and chug it out on Spotify. Connect that baby to the wireless Sonos system and bingo - fill the room with the theme tune from Boardwalk Empire that you never knew was by the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Books are trickier. The Economist has unexpectedly tipped some good novels - Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon was so superb I put in on Facebook. 

Highly recommend this: set today but full of vinyl jazz records, blaxploitation movies, Tarantino films, kung fu, a blimp, Six Million Dollar Man action figures (including Oscar Goldman), classic American cars, eight-track cartridges, San Francisco, imaginary voices of Samuel L Jackson, Marsellus Wallace, Tarantino, Hong Kong Phooey. A book about fathers, sons and friends.

Deborah's book club is also worth keeping an eye on. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is magnificent; a contemporary, comic Odyssey through the 20th century's seminal moments with its history makers, framed by an unlikely story about a Swedish centenarian on the run with an elephant from a drugs gang and the the police. It's the Scandinavian antidote to those nasty Girl With The Dragon Tattoo books.

Word was always good at getting under the skin of the best TV shows. A community came together to read about The Wire, Mad Men and other cinematic American imports. Their series-link was always a bit hit and miss but then so is mine: Downton Abbey, Homeland, the hugely underrated Friday Night Lights on Sky Atlantic, Match of the Day, Seinfeld in HD on Atlantic (20 years old and still funny - even to 14-year-old Joe), The Daily Show on the Comedy Channel, Lewis, Quest Means Business, Jeff Randall on Sky News. Admittedly, some of those have more unviewed episodes than others.

It is possible, then, to keep across all the best stuff if you keep surfing, listening and watching but it doesn't half take up a lot of time. What we need is a one-stop shop that features it all and drops through the letter box every month. And I don't think it's called Uncut.

Anyone recommend anything else?

No comments:

Post a Comment