5 Reasons Why NME’s Rebranding Won’t Work

Britain’s oldest weekly magazine has undergone a recent facelift, but what are the results? So far uninspiring.

2013NMECoverDavidBowie_Blog_061013

Coffee table-chic won’t work

 

Much to the despair of accountants and magazine owners everywhere, music is very rarely something you can delve in and out of easily. Keeping your ‘finger on the pulse’ is much more time consuming.

 

Unfortunately the new layout of NME appears to be geared towards the casual enquirer rather than the committed music fan. In-depth features have been banished to the rear (more on this later) whilst the nauseating ‘Letters’ page now reigns supreme at the front of the magazine alongside a multitude of news stories. Amongst the myriad of online music outlets and social media overload, is a print magazine really going to attract back readers with already out-of-date news ?

 

Cheers for messing up the Radar section

 

NME will always have critics. But one thing they undoubtedly perfected in recent years was their dedicated section on breaking bands. Matt Wilkinson, the New Music Editor, turned these few pages into a must read if you cared about catching the next generation of arena headliners whilst they were still playing on the toilet circuit.

 

The set menu of a band profile, live review, news piece, guest columnist and Buzz section provided structure and an accessible in-road to the confusing world of new acts. Now…not so much. Refinement seems to have been set aside for cramming in as many bands as possible in the hope that their friends and family will buy the magazine that week.

 

Play to your strengths

 

As previously mentioned, NME’s world-renowned features have been removed from centre stage and are now tucked away towards the back pages. If there’s one thing the offline magazine had in it’s favour, it was the space it afforded to in-depth and enlightening pieces on the great and the good of the music world. Hiding these behind 50 pages of adverts and throwaway content feels like giving up.

 

And it’s a mistake. Very few online outlets carry the weight of authority or possess writers with the skill to conjure up 3,000 word treatises on the big issues in music. It’s like playing you’re star striker in goals.

 

Old interviews are irrelevant

 

The ‘This Week In…’ section was insufferable enough prior to the rebrand. Now it appears editorial policy to print verbatim pieces from vintage issues every week. Not only does this help fuel the argument that music was better in the past (whenever this imagined period of musical excellence was), but old features are nothing but dead words. You already know what happens next, what are the merits of a piece devoid of its context and startling freshness?

 

Set the agenda rather than follow the herd

 

NME was at its best when it led rather than followed. With so much free news and reviews online it will not survive by merely becoming a magazine version of its online competitors.

 

I can appreciate that any rebranding effort is a bold action in conception if perhaps not execution. But the move towards what feels like a Hello-style format is not one that music fans will swallow long-term. A strong and vitalic NME is good for music and good for its readers. Having read the magazine for the last eight years I know they can do better. Fingers crossed they do.

Posted in McKinlay Musings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Machine Room – Sweden

themachineroomswedenEdinburgh’s The Machine Room return with their first single since last year’s well-received Love From A Distance EP.

Since then the five-piece have played a string of notable gigs around the country, sharpening their teeth as both songwriters and a live act.

And ‘Sweden’ is the fruit of these labours. With synths so sweet they could be being played by angels, the song kicks off with a dream-like zest. Lead singer John Bryden’s vocals sound as good here as they ever have on record, fading in with a ghost-like delicacy that is as elusive as it is engaging.

But this is no introverted ballad. Adie Emanuel’s driving drums propel ’Sweden’ throughout, adding metronomic menace to raise the song to even higher ethereal excesses. Layer upon shimmering layer build towards the song’s towering chorus, which Bryden finally unleashes from atop of Ryan Marinello’s transcendent rifts.

Dripping in elemental ecstasy, ‘Sweden’ is as fine a slice of indie-electro to come out of Edinburgh for many a year. Producing music that sounds like TOY on Prozac, The Machine Room are more hypnotic than the Pied Piper. With single’s of this quality it won’t be long before the entire city is dancing to their tune.

<center></center>

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Review: The 10:04’s – Throes

Drenched in a uniquely Scottish melancholy, ‘Throes’ shows that The 10:04’s have heart as well as harmonies.

The four piece’s previous two releases have been the kind of tracks to get you dancing – this one will get you thinking.

And ‘Throes’ definitely proves that variety is the spice of life. Starting unabashedly softly, Danny Scrimshaw’s vocals are exposed in all their beauty during the tender first act of the song.

From these little seeds of anguish grows ‘Throes’ ultimately powering chorus, showing that, whilst a more sensitive number, The 10:04’s still know how to hook their listeners. Entangled in layers of thrusting guitars and serenading vocals, it is Paul Haddow’s enthralling drumming that gives ‘Throes’ its edge at its pivitol points.

Like a nocturnal predator, the song’s romance hits you by stealth as much as by swagger. With a debut album on the way, ‘Throes’ shows that The 10:04’s have more than a few aces up their sleeves to keep fans guessing.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Review: Kung Fu Academy – Super 8 Flashback

Kung Fu Academy definitely like to keep you on your toes.

665726_439426039453258_1086803490_o

Gyrating through more genres in one song than many bands manage in their career, the Edinburgh four-piece’s latest release begins with a guitar rift that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Caribbean beach.

And to throw a little more unpredictably on the fire they end it with some towering early 90s vocals.  Bobby Osborne’s voice seamlessly strides on top of Kung Fu Academy’s funk-powered rhythm section throughout, not allowing the song to dawdle but instilling it with a progressive drive.

Expansive without sounding overdone, ‘Super 8 Flashback‘s highpoint is undobtedly the honey-sweet harmonies spread over its chorus. Blending together like a fine cocktail, the call and response vocals of “You’re a ghost that could have been/Tragically you’ll always haunt me here/My flashback super 8/Every frame has a picture of you” comes steeped in emotional weight.

And like the best things in life, Kung Fu Academy leave you wanting more. Combining finesse with enough kick to make you stand up and take notice is no easy task but one the four-piece pull off expertly. The lead single of their forthcoming EP, expect exciting things if the rest of the tracks are up to this standard.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Review – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – The Barrowlands, Glasgow – 25/03/13

Good things come to those who wait.

Their tours to these shores may be few and far between but Black Rebel Motorcycle Club know how to leave their mark when they’re here. Still playing blues that shake the pillars of the earth, the trio are now seven albums in and show no sign of taking their hand of the throttle.

IMAG0200Opening with The Call’s ‘Let The Day Begin’, ecstasy and emotion sit in perfect harmony as the song honours the passing of bassist Robert Leven Been’s father Michael. This deceptively upbeat version bristles with the kind of unique energy that has sustained BRMC throughout their career, with Leah Shapiro’s pulverising drumming getting even the most leather clad audience members moving.

In fact the entire sold-out Barrowlands seems to erupt with this opening salacious salvo, showing that whilst they might be record labels nomads, their denim-clad roots still stretch deep into people’s hearts.

Several songs from new album Specter At The Feast are aired tonight, demonstrating the thundering three-piece’s continuing ability to weave chromatic choruses with addictive grooves. ‘Rival’ is a grimy garage onslaught, with Been’s raucous bass rifts hammering Peter Hayes proclamation that “I’m not the riotous/I’m not the innocent/I’m just a sign it’s all gone wrong” into the front row. Silent assassin ‘Funny Games’ weaves the perfect path between meandering and magnetic,  whilst ‘Returning’ has more than a tinge of religious elation to it.

And in a 25-song set there was still plenty of time for the classics. ‘Love Burns’ sounds as painful as when it was unleashed on the world over a decade ago and ‘Six Barrel Shotgun’ is still the best way to start a riot in under three minutes. On stage the band are even able to coax extra life from ‘Conscience Killer’, with the previously forgettable number sounding as dangerous as a Great White Shark as it stalks the ballroom.

Impressively BRMC sound as imposing stripped back as they do amped up. Howl-era ‘Devil’s Waitin’ and ‘Mercy’ both get an outing, with Been and Hayes taking turn about on lead vocals to woo the crowd and move the tempo from manic to moving.

But of all the things that BRMC showcase tonight, it is their awe-inspiring self-control that proves the most remarkable. Most bands with songs like ‘Spread Your Love’ or ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll’ in their locker would have their entire setlist enslaved to them. Not BRMC. A relatively sedate encore of new tracks ‘Sell It’ and ‘Lose Yourself’ show a band completely at ease with themselves and still willing to do things their own unobvious way.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are a band like no other, making music you won’t hear anywhere else. Tonight their sound defies the logic that it could be produced by a mere three pairs of hands. Coiling round the consciousness of all who witnessed their two-hour set, another sell out show awaits whenever they swing through Glasgow again.

Posted in Live Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review – The Courteeners – HMV Picture House, Edinburgh – 02/03/13

Some bands divide opinions, others make the Cold War look like a minor disagreement.

image

The Courteeners are as disliked as they are revered – caring not a jot whether you agree with them or not. Whilst third-album Anna might have proved popular with fans, critics have continued their icy indifference towards the Mancunian four-piece.

But try telling a sold out Picture House their music isn’t up to it. Ape-ings of their biggest hits begin well before the band took to the stage, reaching a crescendo of pent up energy as they strode out.

Kicking off with new track ‘Why Are You In Love With A Notion’ was as bold as it is brilliant. The hymn-like chorus brings a reverential feeling to the raucous air, proving to the already-convinced that The Courteeners have guile as well as glory.

And the new, often more pensive songs, flourish alongside the well-worn classics. ‘Push Yourself’ snarls with gritty guitars before flowering into a positively pop chorus. ‘Lose Control’ is unlike anything The Courteeners have done before, blending expansive hooks with perfectly balanced vocals from frontman Liam Fray.

Later in the set ‘Money’ and ‘Here Come The Young Men’ further demonstrate the eclecticism of Anna. ‘Money’s rough-riding guitars stomp the crowd into a frenzy whilst ‘…Men’ achieves the same result through its harmony-honed headiness.

Less successful  is the solo downtempo mid-section, although things are kicked up a few notches by the perfectly-timed riposte Fray delivers to a ‘fan’ being ejected for hitting him with a drink.

And you can always rely on the debut classics. Brimming with enough energy to wake Lazarus, songs like the taser-tongued ‘Cavoting’ and bass-heavy ‘Kings Of The New Road’ spark pandemonium. Bringing their set to a close with ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long’ showcases the band at their buzzing best, rolling back the years without nostalgic nausea but confident control.

The Courteeners are three albums in and aren’t going away. The longest-lasting of the of the indie-revivalists who sprang up in the second half of the noughties, they have added a new range to the thunder-crashing power of their earlier crossbow choruses. And with live performances like tonight they’ll still be selling out venues another three albums down the line.

Photo by Andrew Romanis

Posted in Live Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Bands Get To Pick Their Fans ?

Johnny Marr hates David Cameron. Morrissey hates David Cameron. I hope even David Cameron hates David Cameron.

cameron1

But does that mean that he shouldn’t be allowed to listen to The Smiths? The Prime Minister’s supposed love of the band attracted scorn again from Marr in a recent BBC interview, where the guitarist once more forbade the former-Etonian from liking the musical pioneers.

Fair enough?

Cameron, who also – apparently unironically – ranks ‘The Eton Rifles’ as one of his favourite songs, is undoubtedly a social pariah at any musical feast. Unless you’re in the child-catching or home wrecking business you’re unlikely to welcome the po-faced politician’s ringing endorsement.

But who are bands to choose who is allowed to like their music? As soon as they sign on the dotted line and take the Queen’s shilling the thoughts, emotions and experiences they pour into their songs are no longer their own. Prostitute your dreams and you can’t choose who your customers are.

Who do bands want to listen to their music? People exactly the same as them? The world would be a much more boring place if that was the case. The Strokes would never have wriggled out of the leather-clad straight-jacket of New York, David Bowie would have been dead for centuries before another of his species was born and Axl Rose fans would…well they’d be the exact same tossers that the  egomaniacal eejit attracts anyway.

Look at the gold that has been mined from the mire of the unexpected. If Miles Davis hadn’t been forced to listen to rock ‘n’ roll you wouldn’t have gotten Bitches Brew. He wouldn’t have played the Isle of Wight Festival, where he taught a whole generation of British musicians the meaning of panache. If Hooky and Bernard hadn’t had their mind, body and souls further blown apart at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall then the landscape of indie, which The Smiths built their brilliance upon, wouldn’t have been so thoroughly steamrolled. I’m not even going to go into Sgt Pepper

I guess this whole affair proves that God really is fallible. Johnny Marr might be able to make a Rickenbacker roar with angelic ecstasy and have the best haircut any 49 year old has ever had but he’s wrong here. As much as it gnaws my bones to think of Cameron headbanging away to ‘How Soon Is Now’ or – heaven forbid – that ‘This Charming Man’ might be his Bullingdon Club karaoke go-to, you’ve just got to take the rough with the smooth on this one.

Posted in McKinlay Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment