After buying the teeny-tiny first issue of the reconfigured NME today I was befuddled. So the obvious course was to share that befuddlement.
In case you don’t know – and you won't find out inside the issue itself, as there’s no editorial explaining the gleaming features intrinsic to its spanking newness – our last remaining weekly music mag has just undergone a makeover. They’re shy about saying so. How odd.
The only clues are some banners on the cover: “The new NME”; “more reviews”; “about (sweary symbols) time”; “The Past, Present & Future of Music”. Beyond those, nothing but a coy post-script on the letters page.
As it’s not saying so itself, this is what the new NME says it’s about: read it here.
The cover star for this brave new world? David Bowie.
Eccentrically located at the back of the paper (is anyone going to get that far after all the bite-sized, no-depth chunks on myriads of things?) is a series of pieces about Bowie. Setting Tony Visconti aside, it’s commentary. Some by venerable sorts: author Irvine Welsh, ex-Pixie Black Francis and Trent Reznor. LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy edges things towards today. As for St Vincent and the lovely Faris Badwan – OK. This is followed by reprints of pieces about Sid Vicious (hope the writers got paid for the reuse of their work). After that, a look at this week in 2003 – Kings of Leon. Plus ça change.
Elsewhere inside is a short (very and shamefully so) list-style article on Radiohead’s Kid A – readers can cope with more than 450 or so words and running copy, can’t they? There’s a piece on the forthcoming Muscle Shoals studio film, a list of records soundtracking Tinie Tempah’s life and a two-pager on The Killers in China which strangely plays down the flavour of China itself and could have been compiled from quotes given anywhere. Its most memorable elements are a whinge by a band member and Brandon Flowers’ uncommented on disconnectedness. Metronomy, Elbow, MIA and The Arctic Monkeys and a puff on Jazz Summers’ book get less-than-one-page treatments. The lead album review is Paul McCartney’s new one. Suede’s Brett Anderson is asked some questions inside the back page.
All the golden oldies make some sense as a positioning which plucks from the long line of comodified (non-)indie, after which a few other things are chucked in as leavening.
Much of this stuff isn't timely – which should be the key driver for a weekly publication. Timeliness.
The Arctic Monkeys are going to make another album. That's news? Blimey.
Although the bulk of the live reviews are of the well-known (Laura Marling, Manic Street Preachers, Katy B, Frank Turner) with balance from Drenge and Peace, the meat seems to be the collated and lightly copy assisted lists of new things, new tracks, new bands. Loads. Jungle are the top draw (imaginative name – at least they weren’t called Drum ‘n’ Bass). Directions are regularly given to listen at the NME website. Bringing traffic there is obviously keenly desired.
Whatever. Furthermore, a magazine is not a website and should not look like one, which this largely does. That’s that “dynamic, multi-use format” in action.
This issue is a fence-straddling, timid dog’s dinner.
Lets see what next week brings.