Thursday, July 30, 2009

Know Your Enemy

"Twee is a frequently reoccurring herpes virus under the foreskin of the popcock and Los Campesinos! are the weeping sore. Unless measures are taken to stop them I predict a full-blown twee pandemic by the end of the decade.

So the only question is — what are YOU going to do in The War Against Twee (TWAT)? I myself will be breaking into the homes of all eight members of Los Campesinos! while they are away on tour and urinating in their empty beds. And placing razor blades in the orifices of their suspiciously life-sized teddy bears.

It’s the only language they understand.

The late, great Steven Wells aka Swells in splendidly splenetic form on the subject of SWSL favourites Los Campesinos!.

So it's interesting - and telling - that, among the obituaries from the likes of former writing partner David Quantick (from which, incidentally, I learned he wrote for On The Hour and The Day Today) and comments from friends, colleagues and fans that have piled up at the end of his last piece for Philadelphia Weekly, there's a tribute from Gareth Campesinos! on their blog.

When I first started buying NME, very belatedly in the late 90s, Swells and his incandescently bilious, no-bullshit, shovel-to-the-face prose was one of the main things that kept me coming back for more. Rest in peace? Not bloody likely...

Swells' death made the timing of John Harris' expansive reflection on the past, present and future of music writing particularly appropriate. Fascinating reading - and not just a hagiographical celebration of Bangs, Marcus and Kent et al - but in commenting on the current incarnation of NME, Harris is too kind by far: "people of my generation are in no position to hold forth about the tastes of 21st-century adolescents, and I would imagine that if I were 15 again, and hopelessly hung up on music, my relationship with it would be exactly the one that took me to the newsagent's every Wednesday morning. What's missing, for better or worse, are the more writerly flourishes of yesteryear. Each week, it speeds through its 70 or so pages with barely a pause for thought - and, to be fair, it probably has to. Rock culture has turned even more impatient, promiscuous and scatterbrained. Apart from anything else, music is now free and easy to download. For many listeners songs simply shuffle away on iPod, liberated from any context."

Someone who doesn't give a damn if she's in a "position to hold forth" about the NME or not - and rightly so, I think - is Betty, prompted to write by news of another loss to the world of music journalism, this time rather less celebrated, of editor Conor McNicholas. As if to exemplify the views of Nick Kent in Harris' article, McNicholas has demonstrated a valuing of opportunism over a passion for music by "branching out" and taking over at Top Gear magazine (not Family Circle, as Betty would have you believe, but nearly as bad). Mike's pointed out that upon his appointment he actually said the following: "From Arctic Monkeys to Aston Martin, I'm looking forward to being at the heart of another iconic British multi-platform brand". Now THERE's someone who deserves to be struck down by a terminal illness.

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