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BBC1: Top of the Pops 29/11/2003

Top Of The Flops

BBC1: Top of the Pops Every generation has its own memories of 'Top Of The Pops'. For some there's Jimmy Saville introducing Gary Glitter in a retrospectively sinister way. Imprinted on the memory of others is the be-maned Bruno Brookes and his chunky yellow microphone, reeling off statistics about Five Star and Wham! with the enthusiasm of a tartrazined-up toddler. And then of course there was that moment of organisational genius where the lisping Chris Eubank was the guest presenter when Suggs's was on the show performing his track 'Cecilia'… However, the 1990's and early 2000's have seen TOTP rebranded time and time again in an effort to remain the flagship music television programme. Whilst it was still getting twice the number of ratings as ITV's nearest rival, 'CD:UK', youth TV guru Andi Peters was put in charge of rebranding the show in an attempt to gain back its declining audience. Launching after a blaze of publicity this week, we were promised a new theme tune, new studio and an actual live show rather than the pre-recorded version that had been the norm for the past decade. It was also announced that the latest Michael Jackson video would be screened and that Victoria Beckham would be singing two songs (live!) that the viewers would have to vote on to see which one they preferred. There were to be backstage gossipy bits, celebrity interviews and on-location featurettes as well as all the biggest names in music performing (live!) in a spectacular hour-long special. Oh dear. The ...

E4 17/04/2003

E By Gum

E4 Digital TV is a peculiar place. Whether it’s that omnipresent perma-tanned nasal American flogging exercise pads or Michaela Strachan dodging jerky flying graphics whilst simultaneously trying to flog us a CD containing sub-Fleetwood Mac drive-time drivel, you can’t help but feel slightly uncomfortable when watching the majority of the output on the small screen beyond channel 106. However, one jewel in the digital crown is E4, the Digital offshoot of the independent public-service company Channel 4 Television. Aimed at 16-30 year olds (the ‘cool’ demographic allegedly), it features a whole range of programming, with a surprisingly healthy mix of British and International shows and a large proportion of first-time showings of top-rated programmes. The first notable thing about the channel is its presentation. Fresh and fun, random purple words appear at the end and beginning of each ad break. Maybe not that ingenious after the hundredth time, but it’s still a refreshing change from the yawny voiceovers of similar ‘yoof’ channels. The general programming content is quite strong. ‘Sex And The City’ is a regular feature in the schedules, with new series shown on E4 before any other station, and some months in advance of their airing on Channel 4. ‘Friends’, ‘ER’ and ‘Dawson’s Creek’ also bulk up the station’s output, even if the latter is, in my humble opinion, akin ... 16/04/2003

This Site Is Not Out To Offend Anyone There's an old saying wich says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sadly, takes a blatant disregard to this old adage and makes aesthetic assessments on the poor individuals who are deemed to have fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down... In short, the site shows photographs of people who are chubby, long-nosed and facially imperfect. In an age when Heat magazine publishes articles slagging off women for being to thin, juxtaposed with articles slagging off women for being too fat, there seems to be more emphasis on evaluating peoples' appearance, and it now seems more acceptable than ever to laugh at the tall and goofy and the short and portly The homepage of lets browsers choose from a number of menus? First up is the 'Minger Of The Week' section, where one poor sole will be deemed the most facially unfortunate individual in the last 7 days. There is also the opportunity to look at previous holders of this uncoveted accolade. These vary from the elderly housewife in a nicotine-filled porn-shoot (best observed away from meal-times), to the obese, the stereotypically geeky and the poor individuals whose Kodak's were being unkind that day. There is also the opportunity to look at 'minging couples'. Most of these pictures come from weddings, the majority smiling into each others eyes. Unfortunately, as I'm in more of an Emma Freud mood than a Clement Freud mood today (scatty, incoherent and unable to press the ...

Little Earthquakes - Tori Amos 08/03/2003


Little Earthquakes - Tori Amos Tori Amos is regarded by many as one of the most influential singer-songwriters to emerge from the 1990's. Her emotional, heartfelt and often humourous compositions are characteristically original and have the hallmarks of singer unrivalled in her field. Where as Tracy Chapman before her demonstrated the effective simplicity of a girl and her guitar, Amos employs a piano to accompany her fragile and sincere vocal. Although she released a number of records in the 1980's whilst in a previous band, it was with 1992's 'Little Earthquakes' that she made a big impression on the world-wide music scene. The simple, compact packaging illustrates perfectly Tori's style of performing and the album is arguably the best and most accessible work of her career. The album's opener is the gorgeous 'Crucify'. The song questions the purpose of religion and society, and how difficult it is to conform to their values. Despite its deep content, it is extremely listenable, thanks to its catchy chorus and Amos's vulnerable delivery. 'Girl' follows on the same themes of being trapped and struggling to find your own identity. Describing the story of somebody who has always lived her life through other people's expectations and how her personal dreams and ambitions have gradually faded away. Like so many other tracks on the album, the stripped away sound focuses the ear on Tori's almost poetic lyrics and demonstrates her skill as a songwriter. One of the best tracks on 'Little ...

Six Feet Under 05/03/2003

Six Of The Best

Six Feet Under 2002 was a pretty good year for American television, with accolades being given left, right and centre for shows such as 'The West Wing' and '24'. However, the best TV show to come out of the States last year was undoubtedly 'Six Feet Under', which follows the trials and tribulations of the Fisher family as they try to run their independent funeral home. The first series of the show introduced us to the Californian clan with the death of the father of the house, Nathanial Fisher Snr through a bizarre road accident. We are then taken on a roller-coaster ride through their complicated lives as they try to keep their father's business going in the face of adversity. The programme manages to mix subtle comedy with high emotion, and is fantastically written, allowing all of the individual characters to thoroughly develop within the stories. It was written by Alan Ball, who is best known for the fantastic Oscar winning 'American Beauty', and much of the visual and structural content of that film is seen here too. Here is a rundown of the main characters... Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy) Ruth is the mother of the family. Disciplined, religious and quirky, she struggles initially to deal with the death of her husband. She feels particularly guilty in the aftermath due to having had a long affair with another man, Hiram, prior to Nathanial Snr's car accident. As the first series develops, we see her become more confident in herself, and for her husband's death to act ...

Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 - Jill Scott 31/01/2003

This Is Jill Scott

Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 - Jill Scott Dull RnB divas are ten-a-penny these days, so when someone comes out of the woodwork with something a little bit more innovative and witty to talk about than female empowerment and bling-bling, it comes as welcome refreshment. Philidelphian Jill Scott managed to breakthrough into the mainstream thanks to her 'Who Is Jill Scott?' album, which received huge critical acclaim when it was released in 2000. Previously, she had gained prominence as a Grammy Award winning songwriter, for 'You Got Me', performed by the Roots and Erykah Badu and as an actress in the stage-show 'Rent'. The album led in turn to Grammy nomination for her as an artist, and although she returned empty-handed, it marked her out as being one of the bright new faces of the American music-scene. After an funky intro to 'Who Is Jill Scott?' which sees her demonstrate her penchant for poetry, we drift into the mellow and laid-back nostalgia trip of 'Do You Remember'. Reminiscing about her childhood love, its subtle grooves are perfectly complimented by Scott's tender, caramel voice. 'Exclusively' tells the tale of Scott's trip to the supermarket following some pre-noon rumpy-pumpy upon where she discovers that the checkout girl seems a little bit too familiar with her post-coital breakfast plans to be sure of her lover's fidelity? The single 'Getting In The Way' comes up next. A lazy, funky track, it once again demonstrates the poetic and uncliched manner of her songs. This story sees Scott ...

Rooty - Basement Jaxx 19/01/2003

The House That Jaxx Built

Rooty - Basement Jaxx A munching gorilla set against a background of stars and vivid pink isn't a look that too many music stars would go for on the front of their albums. However, Brixton's Basement Jaxx aren't your orthodox band. Known to their mothers as Simon Ratcliffe and Simon Buxton, they have been producing music together for almost a decade, although it was only with 1999's 'Remedy' that they fully hit the big time. Whilst Ibiza anthems like 'Red Alert' and 'Rendezvous' launched them at a time when dance music was at the height of its powers, 'Rooty' was released during a period when only trance seemed to be making an impact on the charts. Unfortunately, due the public's wish to by songs featuring anonymous blonde women singing cliched lyrics over a dull and recycled tune, 'Rooty' wasn't as big a success as it should have been. However, it remains one of the better dance albums to be released this decade. The album begins with 'Romeo', which was the first song to be taken for release in the summer of 2001. A somewhat sad song about the end of a relationship, it was sung by the failed next-big-thing from a few years ago, Kele Le Roc. It is has a deceptively slow rhythm, although this helped to make it one of their most radio-friendly songs. Despite being lifted by a superb video pastiching Bollywood, it didn't quite reach the heights that many were expecting and limped in at the bottom end of the Top 10. Still, it remains a fine track, if somewhat more poppy and out of step with ...

Angels with Dirty Faces - Sugababes 17/01/2003

Sugar and Sass

Angels with Dirty Faces - Sugababes A year is a very long time in music. Just over twelve months ago, Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena were without a record contract, and had suffered the sudden departure of their band-mate Siobhan Doherty. As a trio, they had enjoyed success with the Top 10 smash 'Overload', and looked to have fulfilled their promise as being the next big thing. However, diminishing return from their following singles and a poorly selling album despite rave reviews meant that London Records waved goodbye soon after their vocalist Doherty went AWOL in a Japanese toilet. However, following the introduction of one cheeky Scous lass later (the ex-Atomic Kitten Heidi Range), a new record company and a brand-spanking fresh look, the band were back on the road to success, and 2002 brought them record sales which were beyond belief considering their problematic history. Their second album, 'Angles With Dirty Faces' was released at the end of last Summer, and just narrowly failed in reaching Number One. A mixture of sounds to appeal to both their younger fans, as well as the older ones (they are arguably the most credible pop band amongst the music press), it opens with one of the best tunes of this decade so far with 'Freak Like Me'. Originally a bootleg, the idea was sold to the 'Babes record company, and it was deemed the perfect song to relaunch them into the mainstream. Splicing together the dirty synth sound of Gary Numan's 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' with the saucy vocal of Adina ...

Supernatural - Des'ree 13/01/2003

'Ree Of Light

Supernatural - Des'ree Until Dido came onto the music scene last year with her 'No Angel' bestseller, Des'ree was arguably the UK's most popular and success female soloist around the world. The South Londoner was launched into the mainstream with a bang at the age of 23 with 'Feel So High' (it took just twelve weeks from the demo tape of this song being heard by record bosses to her appearing on 'Top of the Pops). However, following the modest success of her first album 'Mind Adventures', it was her second 'I Ain't Movin' that really started to motor her career, thanks to 'You Gotta Be', the perfect pop song that also appear on her third album, 'Supernatural'. 'Supernatural' opens up with her astrologically themed 'What's Your Sign?'. Like many of the tracks on the album, it is a simple pop song with no pretension and shows off the clarity of her deep caramel voice. Released as a single, it gained much radio play thanks to a remix of it by Wyclef Jean, although it appears here in its original form. Another highlight of what is quite a sparse album is 'God Only Knows'. Like many of the songs on this collection, her vocal takes centrepiece, whilst the lyrics are meaningful and interesting rather than predictable and tiresome. Next up is 'Life', which is the biggest hit of her career to date in terms of chart position, reaching number 8 in 1998. It was actually a much bigger hit in Europe, reaching number one in many countries, it was the biggest selling British song of that year on the ...

Whole Story - Kate Bush 12/01/2003

Brilliant Bush

Whole Story - Kate Bush Recently, viewers of VH1 had the opportunity to vote for who they thought were the best female singers ever. In typical contemporary list-compiling style, modern artists like Anastacia and Nelly Furtado were deemed to be better than the likes of Billie Holliday and Dionne Warwick, whilst 21 year old Britney Spears was riding high in the Top 10, mixing it with Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. The only British artists to accompany Britney et al in the crème de la crème was Kate Bush, a somewhat surprising appearance for an artist notorious in keeping a low profile, and who hasn't released a song in 8 years. Born in 1958, she burst onto the scene as a teenager in the late 70's and has made seven studio albums. The highlights from the five can be found on this compilation, 'The Whole Story', which was first released in 1986. The opener to the collection is 'Wuthering Heights', her five minute masterpiece that sounds unlike anything that was made before or after it. Appearing here in a slightly altered format to the single version which reached Number One in 1978, it is a showpiece for her almost operatic voice and is capable of sending a chill down the spine every time you hear it with its sweeping orchestral atmospherics. Reaching octaves higher than you can imagine, Bush's interpretation of the love story in the book of the same name is one of the most passionate and colourful songs I've ever heard, although it is loved and hated by people in equal measures. ...

Guess Who? 10/01/2003

Anita and Me

Guess Who? This Christmas saw a glut of talking heads on TV prattling on about space-hoppers and other toys that they had when they were younger. When I was younger, I wanted a Mr Frosty the Snowman set (it crushed ice to put in drinks, for those who are unaware as to what one is) and a Soda Stream (which made drinks every colour of the rainbow and made you more hyper than Su Pollard on a Big Dipper), although never got either. Whether this was because they were expensive, bad value or conducive to bed-wetting, I’m not sure. However, one thing that I did receive at one Christmas was ‘Guess Who’, a game which I’m sure pretty much every twenty-something had at one point. A game for two (nightmare scenario in 3-children families), each player has their own plastic board, each containing about 30 or so pop-up panels. Each of these panels held a playing card, each depicting the face of a person with their name stated at the bottom. The faces contained on each board are the same for each opponent. At the start of each game, each player draws a card from a pack containing one card for each character, which remains hidden from the opponent. The aim of the game is for each competitor to guess who’s face is on their opponents card by process of elimination through asking alternate questions. All questions must be able to be answered yes or no. For example, does your person have long hair? Is your person male or female? Does your person look like someone ...

Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Fatboy Slim 09/01/2003

Halfway Between Middling and Mediocre

Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Fatboy Slim Norman Cook has recorded music is more guises than most people have had hot dinners. He had been a member of the chart-topping bands The Housemartins and Beats International, as well as scoring dance hits under the monikers Pizzaman and Mighty Dub Katz before arguably reaching the peak of his critical acclaim as Fatboy Slim. After releasing his debut 'Better Living Through Chemistry' and the critically acclaimed and bestselling 'You've Come A Long Way Baby', there was much anticipation for his third album 'Halfway Between The Gutter and The Stars', which was released in 2000. However, it sold a fraction of what it was expected to and was widely received as being disappointing. Somewhat more adult orientated than his previous efforts, the album starts off with 'Talking Bout My Baby', which features a simple piano melody with a repetitive vocal sampled from 'Macon Hambone Blues' by the interestingly titled band 'Wet Willie'. Not the strongest track on the album, it sets the tone for an eclectic and disjointed set of songs. 'Star 69' is up next, which features a relentless dance backing peppered with the gruff male vocal of 'what the f***' on dozens of occasions. A bit gimmicky and insubstantial, it was the forgotten flipside to 'Weapon of Choice', the third release to be taken from the album. Inevitably banned by most radio stations, it has only curiosity appeal and isn't really a tune that would have any great appeal outside of a club. Oddly juxtaposed with ... 06/01/2003

Super Nova Despite sounding as if it is the latest Russian tennis sensation rather than an information provider, Ananova has established itself as one of the www’s most popular British news site. Almost three years old, it mixes the serious side of life with the light-hearted and is a breath of fresh air amongst other more traditional and conventional news services on the Web. One of the quicker sites on the Web (it doesn’t take practically half and hour to load up like the BBC one can do), it has a well organised and simple home-page, with no annoying pop-ups. On first impressions, it is uncluttered and well organised, especially in comparison to the BBC site which can be a little bit confusing as you are overwhelmed with menus and pictures of ‘Eastenders’ characters... The header features five main sections: news, entertainment, sport, business and video reports. Each has subheadings to take you more directly to the type of information you’re looking for, i.e. you can seach specifically for music news under the ‘entertainment’ header or tourist rates under ‘business’. The main half-dozen stories of the moment are then illustrated below, with accompanying pictures, whilst underneath are the major six or seven stories in news, entertainment and sport as well as a section for quirky stories. One major advantage of the site is the fact that it updates itself so often, so you’re not waiting hours for details of the ...

Miss E... So Addictive - Missy Elliott 05/01/2003

Sex and Drugs and Rigmarole

Miss E... So Addictive - Missy Elliott So many artists and albums have been influenced by illegal drugs, whether it be the Beatles during their ‘Lucy In The Sky of Diamonds’ phase (LSD), Bob Marley (cannabis) or Lolly (a heady cocktail of just about everything going form the sounds of it). During the late 80’s and early 90’s, Ecstasy became the drug of choice for clubbers everywhere, and was synonymous with house music and its various offshoots. However, 2001 saw a new spate of Ecstasy-inspired rap and hip-hop albums from the USA, which added a new dimension to the usual guns and violence themes that had previously ran more prevalently. Perhaps the less subtle conveyor of this phenomenon was Missy Elliott on her album ‘Miss E... So Addictive’. Despite claiming the album was nothing to do with the drug (!), the imagery and the lyrics spell out the exact opposite. After the mandatory intro track, complete with Missy demanding to ‘take a hit on me’, we are launched into the charmingly titled ‘Dog On Heat’, which is effectively a collaboration between Missy and Redman (he of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirrrty’ fame). A bit rude this one, with plenty of references to, er, ‘adult cuddling’, it doesn’t smack of anything more than album filler fodder. More bedroom themes are up next in ‘One Minute Man’, which hit the Top 10 for Missy last summer. A beaty electronic song, it has a nagging bassline and a jerky, memorable chorus that Missy has made her own. Demonstrating her singing rather than her rapping skills ...

LemonJelly.KY - Lemon Jelly 04/01/2003

Lemon Fresh

LemonJelly.KY - Lemon Jelly Anonymous dance bands with a sense of humour aren't exactly ten-a-penny these days, which makes the presence of Lemon Jelly a refreshing change to all the bland Euro-trance that is doing the rounds at the moment. Known for their sense of fun and wackiness, the London duo's first 'album' was actually a collection of their three three-track EP's that were released in the late 1990's. Combining a myriad of samples, it's best to think of them as The Avalanches, but even more laid-back... The first notable thing about the Lemon album is its packaging. Psychadelic and very arty, it's obviously had a lot of thought put into it, and makes for a change from the run of the mill sleeves that other bands knock up. The opener is the typically quirky 'In The Bath'. Revolving around a spoken-word sample of the phrase 'what do you do in the bath?', it was recently used on the 'Hello Moto' Motorola adverts. Taking excerpts from the gorgeously named 'Tahitian Sunset', it is fantastically mellow and sets the tone for a bizarre journey through the surreal and comedy work of Londoners Fred Deakin and Nick Franglen... We go into Avalanches territory with second tune 'Nervous Tension' which samples what sounds like a 1950's infomercial about how to get a good night's sleep. Despite appearing like a bizarre idea on the surface, it actually works within the context of the song, and stands up well to repeated listening. It also has disconcertingly creepy piano sequence too, ...
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