The problem with being a zeitgeist surfing publication is that most of the time you just end up looking smug or past it. Such is the case with the NME. While periodically it is ‘where it’s at’, such as during the mid-1990’s and I’m sure other times that I’m too young to know, most of the time it isn’t. It’s at its most sad immediately after such a lime-light hogging experience, desperately trying to predict the next big thing. Especially when the next big thing does come along and it’s something the powers that be at the NME actively despise eg. no guitars involved. At the moment there’s a bit of a mini-revival going on, as a couple of bands that the NME ‘championed’ are actually played on Radio 1 (and in one very disturbing incident on Radio 4. John Humphreys having to talk about the new rock revival, very odd), but the way they go on you’d think the Strokes/White Stripes/Darkness etc. had been made kings of the world and all that is in it. They haven’t even got a #1 single between them furchrissakes.
There are 2 main problems with the NME. Firstly it’s written by music journalists. People with names like Johnny Cigarettes. People who can neither play music nor even write very well, yet still feel they can appoint themselves judge and arbiters of all culture. Unlike this website obviously. Ahem. But, anyway, these people are invariably assholes. Their need to feel special makes them believe that only they and a select few can see what music is good and everyone else is just plain wrong. Actually, I think I would’ve made a great music journalist.
Anyway, point 2 is that there just isn’t enough stuff to fill a weekly newspaper. Hence any minor news featuring certain bands gets splashed on the front page, eg. ‘Radiohead new haircut’ or ‘Coldplay slaughter Travis in bizarre ritual murder, full pictures inside.’ The rest of the rag is stuffed full of repetitive drivel about bands you’ve never heard of and will never hear of again. Plus you have the intrinsic difficulty of describing music by bands people haven’t heard, leading to a thousand variations of ‘Nick Drake meets the Monkees’ style cliché. And can it really be any other way? When it’s at its best music journalism can impart some of the feeling of excitement that listening to music can, but otherwise writing about music is like designing buildings about dance. Or something.
Only worth buying if it has a free CD.