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"Juke Box Fury"

YOUR HOST FOR THE CELEBRITY REAPPRAISAL OF THIS YEAR'S
BENCHMARK SINGLES: STUART MACONIE.

JUKE BOX BROWNIE: A J BARRATT

Our VIPs imagine what next year's venue will be like for Him Out Of The Auteurs, Vanessa Paradis and Clint Poppie (pic: A J Barratt)

By now, certain institutions are marked indelibly on the British social calendar. The boat race, the state opening of Parliament, the royal divorce. And, of course, the NME annual Juke Box Fury feature, in which a panel of top pop pundits cast an appraising eye over this year's single releases, their already ferocious tongues loosened further still with strong drink.

In previous years, some of the world's major hotels and watering holes have played host to this seasonal summit. Rival hotel chains would vie with each other for the honour in the manner of prospective Olympic host cities. This year, however, in a break with tradition, we decided to hold this prestigious gathering in a freezing cold broom cupboard in West London.

We jest. Thanks to Bad Moon publicity for donating their extravagantly named 'meeting room' in order that these busy celebrities could convene quickly at a mutually convenient central point having found a 'window' in their crowded schedules. The beer has arrived, the office stereo has been laboriously moved. Now let's take a look at the teams.

BRETT ANDERSON is lead singer with teen sensation SUEDE and the last word in flamboyant, androgynous cool. Onstage a palpitating sex viking, offstage he is a sensitive intellectual who likes nothing more than a cup of camomile tea and a browse through the Liberty catalogue.

TONI HALLIDAY holds the NME readers' coveted 'Object 0f Desire' award. Hey, but there's more to this Sunderland-born 'stunna' than a pretty face. An outspoken critic of American foreign policy, she is also an integral part of the glacial rock phenomenon that is CURVE.

JIM BOB is not his real name. His real identity must be kept secret at all times for the purposes of his important work as left-wing punster and man of the people with rock's premier duo CARTER USM.

Release the pause button. Let's debate!

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Brett: "Yeah, I hear Hooky, Miles and Graham Massey did this in the Hotel De La Posh last year..."  (pic: A J Barratt) THE LEVELLERS: 15 Years

SO, DO any of you have strong opinions about The Levellers?

Jim Bob: No, but apparently The Levellers have got strong feelings about Carter.

Really?

Jim Bob: Yeah, it seems they think we're contrived and fake. Perhaps they're right.

Brett: They think you're contrived? Hang on, didn't all The Levellers go to public school or something? In fact all the crusties I know are middle class. Well, if they count as real crusties. They travel about anyway, and that's the end of the culture that I imagine The Levellers are performing for, isn't it? I honestly don't know where the music fits in, if - anywhere.

Toni: It's all part of the selling of the culture. The Levellers are selling this culture and all its trappings. They were there at Glastonbury, camping out and having fires, raving about the ley-lines. Liking The Levellers is part of a larger thing. It says something about you. I didn't like it but at least it was a song. They'd gone to the trouble of writing a song. Bit too much acoustic guitar for me, though.

Jim Bob: I suppose a lot of The Levellers' fans are exactly the same people as Carter fans. That stratum of people. Come to think of it, a lot of them are probably Suede fans now!

But as a song, you didn't hate it?

Toni: l didn't hate it but the earth certainly didn't move.

Brett: It was fairly spirited which is good, It did have a certain driving quality. But really it was New Model Army. There was no vibe about it whatsoever. Not a trace of sex.

PJ HARVEY: Sheela Na Gig

Toni: F---, that's the best single of the year. And next year, when she starts recording with Steve Albini she is golng to piss on everybody.

Brett: I was quite disappointed by this actually. I loved 'Dress' and I love some stuff on the LP. But I still think she's brilliant. I think she's been really influential, though not in the sense of influencing other bands. It might be a cliché but I actually know a lot of girls who have been inspired to pick up the guitar and write songs because of Polly Harvey's example.

Toni: Yeah, l'm sure if l was 18 I'd be the same. If I saw Polly Harvey doing what she does with such strength, I think I'd find it pretty inspirational.

Jim Bob: This is great, but musically I find the album a bit drab. It all gets to sound the same after a while. But that's no particular criticism of her. I think most people's albums these days suffer from that. I also thought it was sad to see her taking her kit off on the cover of NME. I didn't like that manipulation.

Toni: But she wasn't manipulated! From what I can gather it was her idea. She took her clothes off on the front of her LP as well, didn't she?

Jim Bob: Yeah, but that's different. That's her own record. I just think it's different on the front of a magazine. OK, maybe I don't mean manipulated, maybe I mean misguided.

Brett: I don't think so. She's one of the few people who could do it and it works. She's not an obviously sexual performer. She's quite an ugly person and that makes it all the more brilliant. It's more tense and real than anything Madonna could ever do.

Toni: And it isn't offensive in any way. Personally I'm more offended at continually seeing the f---ing Red Hot Chill Peppers with those socks over their dicks.

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SINEAD O'CONNOR: Success (Has Made A Failure of Our Home)

Toni: This is the only woman I've ever wanted to kiss.

Really?

Toni: Definitely. I think she's great. I mean I think she's f---ed but I have two Irish Catholic girlfriends and I can completely understand it. She is in a heightened emotional state. You can tell that when you talk to her. She's shaking, man. And what really pisses me off is it takes this little girl putting her neck on the block to show people how extreme the world is.

Jim Bob: I don't agree with that. She does say outrageous things, but I wonder if she's ever going to change anybody's minds by what she does. Probably because of the way she does them.

Brett: I suppose she is an important figure but she sickens me. It sickens me to see the way she's fawned over, the way she's treated as some authority by the Simon Bates of this world. I suppose she's very well intentioned and these things have to be said, but I find it a bit of a bore.

Jim Bob: I'm with The Frank & Walters. They were going to tear up a picture of Nick Faldo on stage. He's the real enemy.

Toni:  "I thought the Really Cold Broom Cupboard was a lavish West London drinking club..."  (pic: A J Barratt) MADONNA: Erotica

Toni: Ah, Madonna's first non-song ever. She's getting on my tits now. I used to think she was incredible but everything's starting to cancel each other out now. I'm not interested any more. She's told me too much.

Do you think she really was a great role model for women?

Toni: No, not really. She's just a great manipulator. She made it by... (goes on to say extremely things about Madonna).

Jim Bob: I think she's been a great role model to Kylie Minogue.

Brett: She's just so overrated. I am so disappointed with the world for falling for her. And all this business about Sex... she is so unsexual, so incredibly obvious in everything she does. The buttons she pushes are always the most hackneyed and obvious ones. Plus her new record is such a piece of shit. She is probably the only person in the world at the moment who utterly pisses me off, she gets me quite angry. And the more you think about it, the worse she get. I mean Dick Tracy...

Toni: She's a fat Italian girl trying too hard to be skinny. And everyone liked her more when she was a fit Italian girl.

Jim Bob: She came to see Carter in America, so you never know... she might change!

MANIC STREET PREACHERS: Motorcycle Emptiness

Brett: That's great. A really great single. And the best thing they've done. I didn't like their early stuff because there didn't seem to be much to it. They seemed like the ultimate triumph of style over content. But that is just excellent. I really love the mood of the song. It's passionate but it's also melancholic. But it doesn't rely on any blank generation clichés.

Toni: I completely detested them, you know. Couldn't stand them. And then I saw them on this 'New Music' show in Canada and Nicky and Richey were railing against everything. And everything they said I found myself shouting 'too right!' at the television. They were being completely honest and completely accurate about the state of the music industry and the fact that there is nothing happening here. Since then I've thought that their whole philosophy is brilliant.

Jim Bob: Hmm, rest of the album's shit, though. And they're not very good live. I've seen them about four times and they've never been that impressive. My problem with them is they've gone on about us so much and I suppose that clouds my judgement. One week I love 'em and the next I can't stand them. I did once try to talk to them and they wouldn't. I think they prefer talking to journalists. And it bloody works.

Brett: I always think the drummer looks out of place. He looks like a medieval torturer. But I know what you mean, they're not cynical at all, are they?

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BILLY RAY CYRUS: Achy Breaky Heart

Toni: Oh no!

Brett: Do we have to listen to this?

Jim Bob: I think you're all being a bit over-serious about this. It's totally harmless. It's a pop song, isn't it? It's the Shakin' Stevens phenomenon (Goes on to say extremely libellous things about Shakin' Stevens).

Brett: It's cute. That's why it was so successful.

Toni: lt's found an untapped market. Just like Nirvana tapped into this undiscovered youth culture market in America, this has tapped into that market of all those 35-45-year-old women in white stilettos that people had forgotten about! These people weren't being catered for. They wanted a bit of a pop tune and a bit of a hunk. I don't think many 15-year-olds bought it. It's not offensive. It just doesn't affect your life.

Brett: But it is part of someone's life and that's why you can't really criticise it. It's not offensive, in a multi-national way. But it's part of people's lives like an old photograph. And at least it's not a cover version.

DISPOSABLE HEROES OF HIPHOPRISY: Television - The Drug Of The Nation

"Do they do cream sherry and vol-au-vents on room service here?"  (pic: A J Barratt) Toni: One of the greatest albums of the year. They speak the truth. They're like Public Enemy should be.

Jim Bob: There isn't any crap. There aren't any songs about their dicks.

Brett: I don't know a great deal about them but I do know that during the election they were very into getting people to vote, which is a brilliant thing to do, so I applaud them for that. What they're doing by raising consciousness is terrific. And it's there in the music. Not like Ice-T.

Toni: Oh, he's crap. He's a sexist c---.

Brett: Yeah I know. In interviews he talks politics but it isn't backed up in the music. It's all bollocks.

Are you all fans of rap music?

Toni: I am.

Jim Bob: Yeah. It's the only music that's remotely dangerous.

Brett: I'm not a fan I'm afraid. It's not for me. I find it formulaic. It doesn't with me on any level. I like Kris Kross. But I expect that doesn't count.

BRIAN MAY: Too Much Love Will Kill You

Brett: Oh dear. It's Brian May. Radio 1 think he's going to be a force for the '90s. The guitarist in some haggard old rock band.

Toni: I think he should f---k off and die.

Well, there's a lot of it about in Queen at the moment.

Toni: That is a disgusting comment, Stuart.

I think this record is pretty disgusting. 'Too Much Love Will Kill You'? When your singer had died of AIDS?

Toni: You're right, but what about that Eric Clapton song about his dead son?

Brett: What about Phil Collins' song about the homeless? That was pretty disgusting.

Toni: Freddie Mercury was a hero. And amazing singer, a great lyricist. And I got real enjoyment out of him at Live Aid. He was the only one there who seemed to know what it was all about. He was so camp and outrageous. But he was really private in his own life. Though everyone knew he was gay.

Jim Bob: But this record is just a little too obvious, isn't it? Because you know that Freddie Mercury dies of AIDS, it's impossible to just listen to this as a song. You have to wonder about their motives. Queen were the first group I ever saw live by the way.

Brett: Queen were brilliant, 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is a fantastic record. A record that long that changes all the way through and you know every part.

Toni: I agree. Well, I think Brian May should be shot.

Brett: Yeah, just for the haircut.

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SUGAR: Changes

Toni: Great album. But this should never have been a single.

Jim Bob: Who is it? Did you have any idea who this was?

Brett: Yes, but only because I saw it on The Chart Show. He was in Hüsker Dü, wasn't he? I don't know anything about them, either. Except they had loads of features in the NME. I don't really like this sort of music. That sort of... Therapy?, Lemonheads thing. Is that wrong? Am I on the wrong track? Well, it's not really for me.

Toni: You should hear the album. This is one of the weakest things on there.

Brett: Doesn't he wear a celtic top? He must be difficult to market, Bob Mould. You have to market him on the respect.

Toni: Hmm, a bit lightweight. But the album's brilliant. Right out there.

UNDERCOVER: Baker Street

Toni wonders when the limo home's arriving  (pic: A J Barratt) Jim Bob: I met Undercover on Top Of The Pops and I'd been told to hit them, naturally, but they turned out to be really nice blokes. It'd be good to be the Manics sometimes and refuse to talk to these people. Erm, it's not the sort of record I'd buy.

Brett: I think this is a horrific, stultifying trend.

Jim Bob: On that Top Of The Pops, there were four cover versions... and one of them was ours. It was so embarrasing.

Toni: You should never ever do cover versions.

Jim Bob: That's nonsense. You can do them really well.

You covered a song this year, Ms Halliday!

Toni: Yeah, but that was for you lot.

Brett: You're wrong to say you should never do covers. You just shouldn't make a career out of it.

Jim Bob: I don't think it's their fault. It's the industry's fault. It's because it's cheap.

Brett: Oh, you have to blame them. They're a couple of studio engineers with an hour to spare at the end of the session. It's a really frightening development. You can only get records out if it's a cover or it's from a film or whatever. It doesn't bode well for the future.

Toni: But maybe there are people in England who are so offended that they will react and do something better.

Jim Bob: But the point is they won't be able to make records. Who's going to release it? Since Chrysalis signed us the only new act they've signed is someone they spotted at a karaoke contest. It doesn't fill you with confidence for the future.

THE ORB: The Blue Room

You may as well start talking. This is 40 minutes long.

Brett: Is it? And is it like this all the way through?

Erm, yeah. Pretty much so. This is perhaps an extreme example of what they do. And it was a hit.

Brett: And did they get on Top Of The Pops with this? Fantastic! Are they a dance band? What happens when they play this live? Do people just sit there and get stoned?

Toni: They're very progressive. Very Tangerine Dream. It's the same concept as My Bloody Valentine, actually.

Jim Bob: Do you think they really had a Number One album because of the music (He does not elucidate )?

Brett: It sounda like those relaxation albums. 'Music From The Amazon Rainforest'. It's like that point in the development of civilisation they always talked about in sci-fi films. We've all got our own little jet-pack, we eat little pills that represent a roast dinner and we listen to the Orb! Far out!

Toni: And everyone's got virtual reality suits and is making love to Cindy Crawford.

Jim Bob: You wouldn't have to listen to the music. You could just read about it.

Brett: I liked that KLF record. Their ambient one. The one that was just bits of other records spliced together, a bit of 'In The Ghetto' here, a bit of something else there.

At the end of this, they go into the Pistols' 'No Fun'.

Toni: It's The Stooges. The Stooges wrote 'No Fun'. Did you know that?

Yeah. Did I imply they didn't?

Brett: Is there a toilet with a light upstairs?

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THE SHAMEN: Ebeneezer Goode

Toni: The point to make here is that once The Shamen were really brilliant and now they're crap.

Brett: All this was done better by Ian Dury.

Toni: Mr C has defined the parameters of crapness for a generation. I once had a screaming row with Marcella from Shakespear's Sister. She was saying that if you have a Number One for five weeks, you must have a good record. I didn't understand that as a concept. Equating success with quality.

Jim Bob: Yes, but you must bear in mind that she wrote 'Lay Down Sally'.

Toni: 'Es are good'. How revolutionary is that?

Jim Bob: The point is that Es are good if you're a member of a chart-topping band because you'll get decent ones. They're not so good if the £12.50 ones you bought have been cut with heroin and you drop down dead.

So is this an irresponsible record?

Toni: Yes.

Jim Bob: No, it's just shit.

Brett: No, don't confuse things. What is irresponsible is that people take drugs. This is just a crap record. Actually the music's quite good until he starts rapping.

Toni: Yes. But good records about drugs explore what happens after you've taken them. What insights you get, whatever. This is terrible because all it says Is 'Es are good'.

It's a very bad advert for Ecstasy. You wouldn't want to end up like that.

Jim Bob: I wonder if Radio 1 would have played it if he'd been saying 'Heroin Is good'? It's Cockney wide boy shite.

MORRISSEY: You're The One For Me, Fatty

Jim Bob, amazingly, blends into his surroundings  (pic: A J Barratt) Have you all been fans of Morrissey in the past?

All: Yes!

So what about this?

Brett: It's hilarious. I wonder how the Americans took it? It's a bit like 'Ebeneezer Goode'. But he's lost his genius. He's saying the same things he always said but it's not the same.

Toni: He's going through the motions in the sense that he's making the money he should have made in The Smiths and you can't really blame him for that

Brett: But he's dredging the bottom of his own barrel. The way he's contentious now feels so uninspired compared to the contentiousness of, say, 'Suffer Little Children'.

Jim Bob: But he did used to back it up by explanation. Through his interviews he would make his points and take a stand but now he seems to think he's beyond that. He's so far up his own arse. Separate buses, separate dressing rooms. He complains about his life but how does he expect it to change if he behaves like that?

Brett: I think this sounds like Kirsty MacColl. People want him to succeed so much and all it would take is one good record.

L7: Pretend We're Dead

Jim Bob: Can I go to the toilet?

Yes, but think about L7 while you're in there.

Brett: This is a great song.

Toni: Off the album this is the most overtly heavy metal one.

I think it's one of the most poppy ones.

Brett: Yeah, me too. That's one of the reasons I like it. Listen to that over-driven guitar. It's New Wave! It's got those compact New Wave sensibilities.

Does anyone remember The Runaways?

Toni: I do. Yeah, it's The Runaways. I like Hole.

You're joking.

Toni: The most interesting thing about L7 is their interviews. I'm not really interested in pop songs. I want something that takes my brain away. I like Babes In Toyland.

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HAPPY MONDAYS: Stinkin' Thinkin'

Brett: They were brilliant. 'Bummed' is one of the best albums of the last decade. And 'Pills'N'Thrills And Bellyaches' is pretty good too. They were a brilliant band and obviously this isn't as good. But they were briefly one of the best groups in the world and perhaps that's what we should remember.

Toni: As a lyric writer he's a genius. That stream of consciousness stuff. It's fantastic.

Jim Bob: It's fantastic but it's nonsense. I think his words are really good. The words are attractive but it's nonsense. It doesn't actually mean anything.

Brett: I think his words are really wonderful. You could take them out of context and they would stand up as poetry. Not that that means anything.

Toni: Yeah. He's great. And I don't care if he's a homophobic sexist thug.

You don't?

Toni: No. The problem is that these bourgeois people pass judgement and forget that this is how working class people are brought up...

"Recession? What recession?"  (pic: A J Barratt)

AND SO pop music is forgotten as the discussion, now a multi-headed thing spitting fire and wise-cracking, expands to encompass crack babies, marriage, My Bloody Valentine, football and good places to eat in Ladbroke Grove. It was to be a long night. Thanks again to Brett, Jim Bob and Toni for their erudite company. Also, many thanks to Bad Moon Publicity for the loan of their sumptuous apartments. I believe the office stereo has not worked since. Hey, that's life on the oblivion tramway of contemporary rock. And of course I knew that The Stooges did 'No Fun'. What do you take me for?

(article nicked from 'New Musical Express', 19/26 December 1992)

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