Nick Southall: Singles Commentator
wygart’s still away, playing Rhett Butler in a musical or something, and, foolishly, he’s asked me to deputy today. Expect fireworks and swearing.
Wow, JK and Joel are playing Bloc Party on a Sunday afternoon; that’s unexpected. Wes’ forthcoming replacements (I can’t believe it takes two people to do his job, I mean, c’mon, he’s rubbish) rarely seem to exude any actual passion for or even interest in music beyond Elton John and the stuff you might hear in bad provincial nightclubs on any Saturday night. What the fuck they’re doing on BBC Radio 1 I don’t know, because they’re the very epitome of local commercial radio; bumbling, enthusiastic, gossipy, borderline incompetent. I’ve grown quite fond of them.
So, Wes’ last show. At best he’s been poor, at worst he’s been completely fucking incapable of doing the job. Mostly he’s just been an idiot. He looks about nine. He can’t interview people to save his life. He is enthused about inappropriate things. The Sunday afternoon chart countdown on Radio 1 has been in a state of flux since Marc Goodier left—like him or loathe him, he was professional, and never sought to sell himself at the expense of the records he’d play (and they ALL used to get played in FULL too, wtf happened to that?). Wes came in at the point in history where the singles chart REALLY began to mean nothing, and despite his desperate attempts he has resolutely failed to save it. Now he’s unemployed. He’ll never work in radio again. Possibly. Two years he lasted. Too long.
Album Chart: Five new entries; Mercury Rev, The Game, Rooster (who the fuck?), The Chemical Brothers and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM AT 20! DANCE PUNK FUCK YEAH! AMERICA FUCK YEAH! DFA FUCK YEAH! My mates back in the top 20 at number 19 (it’ll sell a million before the year is out). “Ashes” gets played; knocks the shit out of any other “anthemic” “rock” “band” of the last eight or nine years. Sounds good on radio but is even better live when it arrives from a storm of feedback and 4/4 drum slam. “It’s Wes ‘ere”. 18 is that Jay-Z and Linkin Park thing. Aren’t there only like 6 tracks on it? U2 at 17, so Wes plays “Vertigo”. Why the fuck is this album chart rundown not taken as an opportunity to play less well-known album tracks rather than the same old single shit? In U2’s case probably because everything else on Atomic Bomb is boring U2-by-numbers. In the mean time, “1! 2! 3! 14!” Wes gives away an MP3 player or something. Cry, you snivelling little shit, your life is over. Mercury Rev at 16—the ten-seconds we get sounds like Phil Spector on a mountain. Gwen Stefani and Franz Ferdinand still lodged in the top 20, as are Snow Patrol. Things are feeling awfully staid. He plays some piano-driven MOR by Lucie Silvas, which is fucking horrible. I may “check out the Wes Cams”. Maroon 5 are number ten. My girlfriend likes them. She normally has very good taste. (“It’s a girl thing!” she cries.) Damien Rice is nine, how is this possible? I hope he gets malaria. Kasabian at number eight. Why is this possible? They suck! The Game is new at seven—he sounds almost as good a rapper as 50 Cent, i.e. slow and ponderous and vaguely handicapped-sounding. The album is choc-full of big-name beats. “Make our switchboard break.” Green Day at six. God the tension is insane. Keane at five—my 60 year-old retired father thinks they’re boring. Scissor Sisters at four, partly thanks to me finally buying it this week. Rooster new at number three. WHO THE FUCK ARE THEY? The British Maroon 5? They played The Cavern, Exeter’s cool underground (literally, it’s an old cellar complex) rock venue. Wes tries to get us excited about The Killers, who have slipped to number two, meaning The Chemical Brothers are number one, their fourth number one album in eleven years. Tom is on the phone from Australia, where it’s 3.30am. “Are you tired?” I’d imagine they were, Wes. “We’ve been celebrating!” “Are you going out to celebrate then?” “Like I said, we’ve been celebrating, Wes.” God, what a moron. New albums next week from Athlete and Feeder. I may commit suicide. Someone called Dervla from Hull (who is about 9 by the sounds of it) wins the MP3 player. How beautiful.
Download Top Ten: No mention of the fact that illegal downloaders have been gorging the new Daft Punk this week and last, or that everyone’s favourite sub-legal P2P network is still fucked. Who the fuck cares about legal downloads? U2 fill every position of the top 20, quite possibly, except for the ones where Gwen Stefani and Eminem are.
Entries Outside the Top 20: Iron Maiden, Ian Brown, Erasure and Elvis are all still in the top 40—it must be January. New at 36 is Hal with “What A Lovely Dance”. If Tricky had written a song about it, it would be called “Makes Me Wanna Die”. Oh. I’m not even sure what this is, some kind of Celtic country-pop with added organs and wurbles (which means it’s like Keane crossed with The Corrs). Oh yes, it’s January. I understand why Swygart needs a holiday now. New at 33 is “Ain’t Nothing Wrong” from Houston, who is still limp rubbish. At 32 is some bizarre split double-A-side by Ricky and New Amsterdam. Wes plays the Ricky track, which is a bit of indie that sounds like The Cranberries. New at 21 is Lemon Jelly with “The Shouty Song”, which isn’t half as dark as it thinks it is. Wes points out with aimless wistfulness, that Lemon Jelly were a new entry on his first ever chart show back in February 2003. He keeps reading out the names of the people in the Radio 1 chatroom as if they are his friends. Perhaps they are. Feeder have dropped 20 places. There’s quite a nice loop in their single. Shame the song’s so horrible. “Just the Way I’m Feeling” is “Wonderwall” with half the melody sucked out of it, why does no one ever mention that? Commander Tom is new at 23, but I was having a poo and missed it. Damnit.
The UK Top 20!
20) Elvis – A Fool Such As I
There are ten new entries in the top 20. This is not one of them; it’s down 18 from last week. Where do I stand on Elvis? A while ago I would have said “with Chuck D”, but I remember reading something where Chuck said that line was just there to antagonise. This is very 50s, unsurprisingly. I’m only really bothered about Elvis when he’s off his face on cheeseburgers and painkillers and honking lust out of his fat, white, sequinned arse.
19) Phixx – Strange Love
A new entry. Their fourth single. Who the fuck are they? It’s vaguely boy-bandish pop, and completely without point in 2005. Perhaps I’d say it was a bit like Savage Garden, if I could remember what Savage Garden sounded like. It must really piss off Lemon Jelly to know that more people bought this than their single. Phixx’s last single, last July, was “Wild Boys”. I assume it was a cover of the Duran Duran song.
18) The Killers – Somebody Told Me
I really like this. The big wurble synth after “potential” is great. My girlfriend prefers “Mr Brightside” but she’s gone home now so I can say what the fuck I like. This has loads of hooks and you can dance to it. All those bands people say they sound like? I don’t hear ‘em. Placebo? Don’t get it. Anyone who says the album is great is a liar though; the singles are good, the rest of passable at best. And the last track was a hideous idea.
17) Jay-Z & Linkin Park – Numb / Encore
I’m totally undecided on this. Obviously it becomes shit when whatever he’s called starts screaming, because pained masculine screaming is generally horrible, but the verse is strangely compelling. I’m about four years too old to have ever “got” nu-metal though.
16) Rooster – Starring at the Sun
MOR. Horrible. He can sing, and by golly he will, and they have a big MOR organ and a chorus that wants to be epic. Here comes a gratuitous guitar solo! It sounds a bit like Marillion without the prog. Fucking hell, imagine having to sit through this every week?!
15) Mylo – Destroy Rock ‘n’ Roll
Is this the one that’s like “Losing My Edge” for people who like MOR? I don’t know because Wes is on the phone to him. Apparently it’s a woman doing the vocal on this, which I find hard to believe. “David Boooo-ey”. “Bonnie Tyler”. “Paul McCartney”. “Men At Work”. “REO Speedwagon”. The beat’s not even that good. It’s an interesting idea, but hardly unique. I don’t think there’s any overlap at all between this and “Losing My Edge”. I wonder if he’s heard it?
14) Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams
I quite liked Green Day for three months when I was 15, about the time Dookie came out. I related to songs about masturbating and being bored. They’re the Biggest! Punk! Band! Of! All! Time! Hooray Green Day. This is alright when it gets a bit overdriven, but… no one progresses a melody anymore, do they? It’s just repeat, repeat, repeat. I fear we will never hear an opening verse with the melodic quality and progression of “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde again. This is, like, so NOT a punk song. If punk exists.
13) United Nations - Out of Touch
Post-Stardust provincial weekend house music, meaning it’s a little more glam / disco than it would have been in 1999, and that it fades out as if the party’s in the next room for a bit (Bjork did a whole song in this manner on Debut, pretending she was in the toilets—it was great). This is… Functional. I’ve been listening to Misch Masch by Tiefschwarz and the Shockout compilation on Tigerbeat6 this weekend, United Nations sound intensely clumsy and safe by comparison.
12) Lucie Silvas – Breathe In
Yesterday Wayne Rooney played for Manchester United against Middlesborough. He had a fully anonymous game, saw little of the ball, made no frightening runs at the Boro defence, and looked like the slightly unbecoming teenage boy he is for most of the match. Then he lobbed the keeper, first time, on the run, from 40 yards. Then he hit a first time jumping-volley off a 90-yard longball which Saha headed his way as if he was Marco Van Basten. It sailed into the top corner. He didn’t even look at the goal. Fucking AWESOME. This song is for expectant mums everywhere.
11) Ashlee Simpson – La La
I love Ashlee Simpson. There, I said it. She’s like Avril without the anorexic angst, like her sister but with a Streisand-esque nose and brunette locks which somehow make her much more attractive. This is great, and slightly nuts. wtf is she saying about drinking milk? Drinking milk WHAT, Ashley? Like an alley cat WHAT? Also I’d swear to god she says “I’ll be your British maid / When I meet you at the door”. My girlfriend, who looks a bit like Ashlee Simpson only with a nicer nose, insists she sings “French maid”, which would make sense, but there are definitely two syllables in there, not one. This rocks more than Feeder, for instance, have ever done. The fact that she fucked-up on the TV program and did a little jig just makes her even better.
The Greatest Ever UK No.1
Voted by YOU! The LISTENER! Wes announces this just before the Top Ten. He sounds out of his depth. The Top Ten Greatest Ever UK Number Ones EVER in reverse order are as follows;
10) Imagine – John Lennon
9) Without You – Mariah Carey
8) Dancing Queen – Abba
7) Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
6) Jailhouse Rock – Elvis
5) Vogue – Madonna
4) Like A Prayer – Madonna
3) Billy Jean – Michael Jackson
2) Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter – Iron Maiden
1) Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
No surprises at number one, then. Also, Iron Maiden fans discover the internet. Wes plays all of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, as you’d expect. It still sounds completely fucking insane. My dad loves Queen. The headbanging bit is still great. I wish Pink Floyd sounded like this, but they don’t; they’re rubbish. It’s probably the most radical, futuristic thing Wes plays all afternoon.
10) Hanson – Penny & Me
Months and months ago I said I’d review their new album when it finally comes out, believing, as I do, that “Mmmbop” is the greatest pop single of 1997 (it is). It’s probably a better number one than “Bohemian Rhapsody” too. I am now beginning to regret my hasty promise to my beloved Over Fuehrer, Todd Burns Esquire. This is NOT like “Mmmbop”. It could be any all-American guitars+harmonies country pop group now. Actually, it sounds like Bon Jovi but with slightly faster vocals and less guitar solos. A song called “Penny & Me” by Hanson should be about winsome teenage pre-lust, holding hands and going to the prom, and should have lots of handclaps and ba-ba-ba harmonies. It shouldn’t be “heartfelt” and “mature”. Gutted. I used to fancy Taylor. He was so cute and androgynous.
9) Xzibit – Hey Now (Mean Muggin)
Not an Oasis cover, thank fuck. I don’t know Xzibit at all apart from his scary techno-goth album covers, but Timbaland beats elicit a Pavlovian response in me, and this is no different. It’s pretty bog standard by Mr. Mosley’s standards, jerky rubber guitar, off-beat slam, lots of clicky-clack percussion on the periphery, totally by-the-numbers stuff, but I can’t help but like it. “Get On Dis Motorcycle” or “Work It” this ain’t though .
8) Freefaller – Do This Do That
A debut single with chugga-chugga guitars and a lyric about a “Marshall amp” and some vaguely snotty harmonies? Bubblegum punk! Busted may have split, Mcfly may be an Oasis tribute act, but teenage boys in baggy peddle pushers, sorry, board shorts, will never die. They only crank the Marshall amp to number ten though—if they were 4 R3@L they’d crank it to ELEVEN, because, as everyone knows, that’s one louder. Four new entries left. Is Ciara still number one?
7) Athlete - Wires
Athlete used to be a jerky, goofy, plinky, Chas N Dave-indebted indie act. Now they are Epic and Heartfelt and Sincere. This sounds like Coldplay without the sense of crystalline beauty and repetitive sadness (which isn’t to say that it’s not repetitive—it is). It sounds quite nicely produced, but you can never be sure on Radio 1, such is the hideous amount of compression they use to beef up those middle-range areas. The lyrics are horribly clumsy, which makes the fact that it’s about the guitarist’s prematurely-born son really uncomfortable. If I slag this off, people will say “but it’s about his BABY SON who nearly DIED, it’s so BEAUTIFUL and HEARTFELT”. Don’t like it.
6) Lovefreakz - Shine
This is that ELO-sampling tune that’s been all over Dave Pearce (is he still alive?—I automatically assume that anyone on Radio 1 who plays this must be Dave Pearce, whether they are or not) for months. Strings, a sample, a beat, a bit that sounds like it’s coming from the next room. Arsed.
5) The Chemical Brothers – Galvanise
Single of the year so far (not saying much). I’ve said my piece on this already. Does Q Tip say “don’t be a prick” at one point? I hope he does. This is Wes’ last ever top five. I’m almost beginning to feel sorry for him now.
4) One World Project – Grief Never Grows Old
I know this is for the tsunami victims and as such cannot be slagged off, charitable cause and all that, but… fucking hell. I’ve given money directly to the DEC and I strongly suggest you do too. The tsunami that’s devastated South East Asia has killed over a quarter of a million people and this awful total only keeps rising as more and more bodies are discovered every day, as rescue workers and soldiers and people whose homes and lives have been destroyed return to areas that have been inaccessible for the last month to discover yet more death. CDs are made of plastic and probably don’t biodegrade very well. They probably, when disposed of, sit in landfills for countless decades, poisoning soil and wilting crops. Don’t encourage the manufacture of CDs that are not necessary, are not wanted. I know it’s kind of mad for someone who reviews music to tell people that CDs are unnecessary and bad for the environment, and, you know, I’m hideously guilty of having far too many myself, but I don’t smoke, I don’t drive a gas-guzzling car, I recycle etcetera etcetera, allow me to be oxy-moronic for a moment. No one is going to listen to this awful, nasty song more than once. Don’t buy it. Give money, and lots of it, straight to the DEC. Don’t buy this record. Mike Reid does not need the ego boost. Cliff Richard and Ronan Keating are rubbish. Brian Wilson is past it. This is not only bad, it’s wasteful. The tsunami does not need awareness raising—yet. In another few months, when the news is boring rather than shocking, when donations have started to dry up, when the people who have been affected by this most awful and awesome of natural disasters really need help and money in order to try and rebuild their civilisations, their cultures, their lives, then awareness will need raising again. But right now, this is impotent and pointless and stupid.
3) Ciara feat. Petey Pablo - Goodies
Kinda boring for the Queen of Crunk, isn’t it? Kinda cool though, and damn good to see Petey Pablo at number one last week, even if it was only vicarious. Crunk is better than Elvis. I like that. Wes is sounding even more cut-up the closer it gets. “The tension is really building up now,” he says, perfunctorily. His tiny heart has splintered.
2) Ashanti – Only U
Does Ashanti do J-Lo’s vocals? She couldn’t stop Elvis.
1) Elvis – It’s Now Or Never
This is, like, Elvis’ third number one of the year. Nice woodblock or cowbell or whatever it is. I hate obsessive fans. I hope they realise that this series of singles is almost exclusively motivated by the desire of a BIG RECORD LABEL to have one last milking of his legacy before it starts to fall out of copyright, yeah? This is OK, isn’t it, but Roy Orbison was much better than Elvis. So was Chuck Berry.
Anyway, who cares about that dead cheeseburger guzzler? Wes is leaving.
For two years Wes Butters has scammed his way into the nation’s ears for three hours every Sunday afternoon as presenter of the most important show on British radio. When I was a little kid I used to listen to the chart rundown in the bath. People may not buy singles in the numbers they used to anymore (if you’re moaning about that fact then TAKE A LONG HARD LOOK AT YOUR HARD DRIVE, MOTHERFUCKER) but the UK Top 40 Show on Sunday afternoons is STILL special. That someone who sounds as if he’d have difficulty holding a conversation in the street with someone he vaguely knew has been presenting it, that he seems not to know what’s going on around him (the continual asking of questions that interviewees have already answered, amongst other things), that he doesn’t seem to know anything about music… is a travesty. He’s a local radio geek who stumbled his way onto the nation’s airwaves and never found his feet.
“It’s the ultimate dream come true. I never took this job for granted.” He reels off a list of people he thanks. Wes hasn’t been moved to another show. He hasn’t found a better gig. He’s been sacked, to all intents and purposes. Sure, his contract may have run out and not been renewed or something, but the fact remains. Wes is not doing the chart show anymore and next week he’s going to be down the labour-exchange. And for that I actually feel really sorry for him. His farewell show is a bizarrely hollow affair. We probably wont miss him.