It used to be a fabled place known for its renegade writers, who seemed to be turning music criticism into an art-form amid piles of booze, amphetamines and scabrous records. Today the NME office nestles in the home of magazine leviathan IPC Media, in the heart of corporate arseholedom on the south bank of the Thames, where all salads are pre-packed for scoffed lunches. Other avant-garde titles in the IPC family — and NME’s office-mates — include Country Life, Woman’s Home, Beautiful Kitchens and the trouble-makers at Practical Boat Owner. Walking through the two sets of security barriers, holding a cup of coffee you bought from the Starbucks downstairs, handily subsidized to iron out the ethical dilemmas, fills you with a tingly feeling in your loins that suggests: here be cultural pioneers.
The folks wired on slave-trade coffee in the NME office claim to have been pioneering new music for so long now that the definition of pioneer must have changed shape around them, so that it now means something else entirely. As readers of Rolling Stone magazine will tell you, what used to be at the vanguard in the 70s is now cemented firmly onto the middle of the cultural highway. Honest-to-god pioneers like Nick Kent and Collapse Board’s own Everett True have made way for corporate yes-men and brown-nosed former interns whose use of the words new and musical in their title smacks of dishonesty every time Liam Gallagher appears on the cover, as he does again this week.
With sales figures dropping faster than Shane Warne’s jock-strap, it can’t be long before the NME office becomes an annex of the Practical Boat Owner workspace. A merger no longer seems like such a stupid idea, given that their musical tastes are pretty similar nowadays. Take a look back at some of the exciting, experimental and controversial acts to have soiled the cover recently: Oasis, The Specials, Ian Curtis and Malcolm McLaren — all in 2010! If it carries on like this, the Practical New Music Owner will be grappling with the National Trust for its share of the heritage market. Its editor Krissi Murison should start pestering her husband for an A&R job at Columbia Records, or her predecessor Conor McNicholas for some shifts at the cutting-edge Top Gear magazine, which he now captains.
Besides the nostalgic pieces about The Stone Roses at Spike Island that seem to be recycled every fortnight, the magazine does still cover new music, albeit with as much grace as a gorilla tackling a Rubik’s cube. Previous tips have included the sublime (such as The White Stripes), the abysmal (such as The Killers), through to one of projectile vomit’s biggest influences, Kelly Osborne, in 2003. Kelly-fucking-Osborne, on the bloody cover! I look forward to hearing Conor McNicholas explaining that one at the Top Gear Christmas do.
So in case you wondered what that old tanker of new music is leaking into our sea of culture these days, I’ve had a look at some of their tips for 2011 and have decided to knock them down while NME is still building them up, just to save time. And it’s all in NME house style. Here goes. -> -> ->
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