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Lady Gaga and The Exploitation Of The Pink Pound

Howlin’ Whippet smells the faint but unmistakable whiff of marketing cynicism from one of the year’s big releases…

I’m sure you dear readers are all aware that Lady Gaga has a new album out. Born This Way is the latest from the meat-wearing would-be pop Queen.

Mrs Whippet is a big fan as is my 13 year old daughter. Cultural icon, pop phenomenon, weird outfits, bizarre pronouncements, tea cups. What’s not to like?

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The Monday Meh! – U2

Iu2f ever a band divided opinion, it’s U2. Some see them as the ultimate modern rock band, able to channel their obvious passion into classic songwriting. A band who connect with their audience and always seem to be able to fit into the prevailing mood in music. Others see them as clumsy practitioners of vapid, cliché-strewn bombast and recoil from their preachy value-pushing and ham-fisted worldliness.

No matter which side of the debate people find themselves on, they generally agree on one thing though; Bono is a twat.

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‘A Bloke in the Pub Told Me’….Facts!

GerbilA steadfast and indisputable truth of the Universe is that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Similarly, anything a bloke tells you in a pub is gospel. Once you realise this, it opens up a plethora of facts and figures which, while sharing the common factor of being singularly useless, are nonetheless mildly interesting. Many of these pass into folklore, becoming almost the defining characteristic of the individual. For example, if I say the words ‘Richard Gere’ to you, chances are you won’t immediately think ‘star of such films as ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’ and ‘Pretty Woman”. No, chances are your mind will conjure up an image of a small mammal of the order Rodentia. Is it true? Doesn’t matter. If a bloke in the pub told you, it’s beyond your mortal mind to contradict.

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You Couldn’t Sell All Your Tickets – U2 Struggle While AC/DC Thrive

AC/DC - what's not to love?

ELM’s most scabrous contributor, ScantRegard, here looks at how the economy is affecting different acts at the top end of the market. And laughs at some of them.

Ah, I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning. You see, rumour has it that our good friends U2 are imminently about to start reducing the prices for their upcoming tour in an effort to get some bums on seats. Don’t worry if you have already shelled out a small country’s health budget on tickets to be harangued by the blue-rinsed hypocritical little arsewipe, you, of course, will get nothing back. And it serves you right – what were you thinking?

Also coming through the rumour mill are tales of Coldplay and JayZ downgrading their stadium tour to arenas to compensate for the fact they can’t sell enough briefs. The gen is that last weekend’s clash of the titans Scottish cup semi-final between Falkirk and Dunfermine attracted a bigger crowd than is currently projected for Chris and his pal’s big show at Hampden, forcing them to downgrade to two nights in the venue formerly known as the big red shed, the SECC.

So why the backlash against the stadium gig? There’s the obvious point that the economy is in its sharpest decline since Neville Chamberlain came home with Hitler’s autograph. It’ll be a shock to Bono that people just don’t have £200 to donate to his one-man crusade to get on the tits of the leaders of the free world.

And, in these tough and worrying times, I find it hard to believe that people would be prepared to part with a considerable chunk of their hard earned to watch po-faced millionaires tell you why you are an evil bastard for not buying the right coffee/adopting an African orphan/paying off third world debt/finding a cure for aids/ stopping the proliferation of nuclear arms/negotiating peace in the middle east/buying a £50 hoodie from the merch stand.

Two stadium acts who seem to be weathering the storm of poor ticket sales are AC/DC (naturally) and Take That (what can I say, HRT has a lot to answer for). This is no coincidence. Take AC/DC first. They are proper legends, who haven’t embarked on a tour of this scale in the UK since god knows when. There is genuine buzz, people are excited and are preparing to rock with only a smidgen of irony. AC/DC is expensive, but if it proves to be the rollicking good fun I am hoping for, it will be worth every penny of the £60required  to gain entry.

And Take That. Well, four middle aged men dancing badly and singing off key may not be my idea of a good night out, but who can argue with the original pink pound? Tens of thousands of women and gay men are getting whipped to a frenzy of over-hormonal excitement at the thought of Mark warbling his little heart out, Gary being earnest and dancing like your dad and the other two doing whatever it is they do.

What the DC and TT have in common? Bloody good fun. Is Brian Johnson going to whine on about fair trade, or blow our bloody socks off? Ex-fucking-actly. So, my advice to you, U2, you want to sell more tickets? Cheer the fuck up and play the fast stuff. Coldplay, I fear it may be too late for me to help.

The Friday 5 – Loose Cannons; 5 Great Rock Oddballs

Good day to you all, my fabulous friends, and I hope this Friday sees you in fine fettle. What better way to celebrate entering our second year as a going concern than by dipping our toes in the traditional waters of the Friday 5. Yes, the precursor to the weekend which we take some vague concept, link some similar acts and, more often than not, point and laugh at them (the exception being our soft rock one, in which we just mercilessly fawned over them, those 80’s big-haired Gods.)

This week, we are honouring/poking with a metaphorical stick those acts who are just somewhat left of the dial, mentally. The ones for whom odd behaviour was the norm, for whom being in music allowed them to take their own personal moral code to the limits. It’s probably a grey area over how much of this is eccentricity and how much it’s a side-effect of genius. But these are certainly guys who march to their own drum. We’ve left out Michael Jackson on the grounds that, well, y’know, bit obvious;

Phil Spector – Ah, the last word in rock nuttery. Spector was a genius in his day, of that there can be no doubt, but there is a malignancy to his eccentric side. His appalling mental abuse of his first wife Roni stemmed from a dark well of jealousy, but when you add in holding the Ramones at gunpoint to finish a session – Johnny got pissed off because Spector had him playing the same chord for 9 hours and still wasn’t happy with it – to his current troubles, it’s clear that this is one troubled camper.

Julian Cope – Pure eccentricity. Pagan, Druid, Visionary, Nutbar…call him what you like, he’s still fun. Once threw a guy out of his gig for talking, but gave him a refund first. Britain’s foremost expert on ancient rites and Krautrock. Blames a lot of it on living on a diet of LSD for two years in the 80’s. Lives in a disused nuclear bunker. Top man.

Johnny Ramone – Everyone always talks about Joey, who was a slave to OCD, but that is a proper mental illness. Johnny was just a loon, but the reason he makes the list was that he was an inverse loon. He was staunchly right-wing, which in American music circles is the equivalent of shitting on the main course at a dinner party; just wrong. Stole Joey’s girlfriend and didn’t talk to him about it once in the 14 (FOURTEEN!) years they were in a band after it. Brilliantly wrong-footed the whole audience at the Ramones Hall of fame induction by praising President Bush. Mysteriously managed to hold on to most of the t-shirt money and, finally, refused to let the Ramones music be used in a documentary about the Ramones. Okay, he’s maybe more a bastard than an oddball, but he’s still cool.

Youth – Bass player in 80s mentalists Killing Joke, he seemed the sane one, which was probably more a reflection on the rest of them, but there you go. However when he became producer du jour of the 90s and beyond, the strangeness came to light. When producing Crowded House, Neil Finn recalls how he’d often make them stand in designated areas, marked out by stones he’d brought from his garden and had blessed by a shaman of dubious origin, whilst Youth would be hopping on one leg and chanting ‘PAGAN’. Quality oddness.

Bono – Well, anyone who thinks that hair dye job looks good has got to be swimming upstream mentally, right?

So, that’s that and now we can trudge forward into the delights of the weekend. I’m living every day as if it’s my last right now, so you’ll find me weeping silently in my room. Kidding!!! Have a good one, back next week.

The Friday 5 – Totally Bono; Annoying Things In Music

People, as Depeche Mode once so sagely noted, are people. Similarly unarguable are the merits of the Friday 5. ‘Ver 5’, as no-one calls it, can cover pretty much anything; it’s subject matters are as free range as Jamie Oliver’s dream chicken. Today we felt we’d go a bit Yellow Pages and prove sometimes we’re here only for the nasty things in life (there’s one for the teenagers.)

Life is full of minor irritations, things which are sent to try us and bloody well do. Great artists, bad artists; they are two cheeks of the same arse. And while you’ll take the quid pro quo that for every Tom Waits there must be a Bono, it doesn’t make it any easier to take when the pious Irish pixie is warbling on about whatever good cause has fluttered into his inbox this week. But it’s not just people; fashion, genres, album artwork….there is simply no end of the amount of things which can get right on your bell-end and set up camp. Here’s a few of ELM’s favourite hates;

Chipmunk Rap Vocals 
Fucking Akon. I know that beginning is neither big nor clever, but it’s deeply apt. He achieved, along with whichever bright spark decided mobile phones should have speakers – way to go, you Nokia bastards – the almost impossible feat of making chavs more annoying. MORE annoying! It’s like making cheese more cheesy. Whereas before gangs of feral youths could be iignored, now they rampage round city centres and public transport blasting out drippy rnb which sound as though they are being belted out by Alvin and his brothers. His song ‘Lonely’ is beyond novelty, and instead lapses into sheer undiluted hate crime. The man should be beaten to a bloody pulp with a 1980’s mobile phone. That’d teach him.

All American Punk since 1992
American Punk was actually a really rather interesting thing back in the day. How could it not be? Ramones & Television mutating into Black Flag and Húsker Dú before we got Sonic Youth and Nirvana? Sign me up. But then, in the post-grunge explosion, it got bought, re-packaged and sold in much more agreeable sizes. Suddenly, you had a raft of big-short wearing, mohawk spouting arsewits complaining about having to do chores and girls called Julie who wouldn’t dance with them. Wheatus, Bowling For Soup, Angels and Airwaves – utter shite. The very worst thing about them is that they look at the pop charts – which they are in – and cock a snooky sneer at their compatriots. Listen guys, you are Leona Lewis with guitars. You are very popular, but so was National Socialism and that didn’t make it right.

Brandon Flowers
 If Bono is a pudding – and he is – then his tiresome mini-me is even worse. Strange as it is to recall, but when the Killers first emerged they were great. Huge tunes, plenty of genuine emotion, 80’s synths….magic. And then they got famous and fame shot like a bullet to the head of the world’s most rocking Mormon and, much as a real bullet would have, killed him. In his place came this walking cock, all gold lame suits, bad moustaches, dodgy pretensions and irritatingly certain of his self-worth. Perhaps not coincedentally, the two albums since issued by his band have been utter bilge, half-baked U2-meets-Springsteen begging letters to play stadiums. A man in serious need of a good slap and a pint.

Top of the Pops not being on anymore
In a fair and just world, this simply wouldn’t have been allowed to happen. I KNOW nobody watched it at the end. I KNOW they employed Fearne Cotton, a woman so untalented she makes you think they might have the right idea with Guantanamo Bay, just the wrong people. It doesn’t matter. TOTP should always be there, a great British institution, another in the endless line of things we never use but are glad they are there. Things like that are what made Britain great. Now, back to Fearne Cotton. What’s the fucking point of that woman?

Booking Fees
Now, I’m being harsh here. Ticketmaster are absolutely correct to charge us for the privilege of actually selling us a ticket. Just surprised it hasn’t caught on anywhere else. Imagine going into Tesco and the check-out girl saying ‘it’ll be 49p for the soup and 20p for me agreeing to sell it to you. Oh, and if you want multiple tins, there will be a charge on each one’? Seriously, I do wish ugly children and severe and uncontrollable anal leakage on every single Ticketmaster executive. They are such utter cocksucking little Satans, sent to suck the simple joy of gig-going away from you. Why do we put up with this?

Well, we try to keep it positive round here, but occasionally we get overwhelmed by the boorish ineptitude surrounding the world and today was one such time. however, TFI folks, TFI. Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week. Let’s be careful out there….

In The Name Of Fu…. – U2 Are Back

U2, returning with new album ‘No Line On the Horizon’, really are the embodiment of the Rock Superpower. Though they were by no means the first, they really defined the idea of a stadium band and the megalithic album every two years. If that sounds formulaic, well, it is, but in all fairness it’s their formula. No-one slags Einstein for E=mc2, do they? U2 are very much a Marmite band. Those who follow them love them with an unadulterated fervour, while those who don’t despise them for what is seen as their shrill over sincerity and Bono. The truth is, as always, somewhere in between.

One thing U2 aren’t is cool. From their earliest days as an angular, post-punk crew through their big hats and hair days in the 80’s, they were always too geeky, too awkward to really pull it off. Perhaps that explains a lot of their success – they were never really the ‘in’ crowd and a lot of people out there identified with them, culturally recognising fellow outsiders. They briefly flirted with it in the 90’s, when they embraced artifice and had fun with it, but the turn of the century saw the experimental ambitions of that last decade unceremoniously kicked to the kerb and the howlingly obvious ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ usher in the new, old U2. Shorn of ambition but able to churn out anthemic potboilers till the crowd comes home, the band clearly marked out a fertile territory which will see them all right till retirement.

It’s a shame that they abandoned the attempt to be edgy and dark, but then they never really pulled it off in the US in the way that, say, The Cure or Depeche Mode did. The band were always too earnest, which may explain the consistent critical kicking they have had in the UK. The US preferred to anoint them as another in the line of classic rock, Springsteen with funny accents. Over here we like our stars arch and weird, and U2 are just neither.

That’s not to say they haven’t made some thrilling music. They most certainly have. There’s usually something on each album worthy of your attention, while the 90’s trio ‘Achtung, Baby!’, ‘Zooropa’ and ‘Pop’ are simply essential. But they now seem to have plateaud into the public perception as very rich, slightly annoying rock stars. Why? Step forward, Mr. Hewson.

Bono just isn’t likeable and as he gets older grows ever more faintly ridiculous. Now nursing a dyed Charlie Nicholas haircut, his constant, unironic preaching is seen, perhaps rightly, as hypocritical and extremely irritating. While worthy, there’s a touch of the Annie Lennox in his deluded certainty that he’s changing the world. Someone who was more self-aware, for example, would not preach to a stadium full of people who have been charged £70 for a ticket about world poverty. His constant intrusions into the political world have left people questioning his value and right to be there. If shilling a lot of product gets you invited to talks with Nicolas Sarkozy, surely we should be inviting Bernard Matthews? He’s sold more Turkey Drummers than U2 have records.

Facile jokes aside, U2’s position of global dominance will not be affected by anybody’s gripes. They are simply too big and too inured in people’s psyches for that to happen. Indeed, for accurate comparison, you need only look down your nearest high street. U2 are Starbucks – consistent, safe, slightly annoying and simply everywhere. Perhaps their most damning legacy will be the number of bedwetters with stadium pretensions such as Razorlight, Coldplay and The Killers they have set the template for. But in the end, it matters little; they are just too big to completely avoid.