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Ten unCool things and...

Dozen unCoolest things this summer:

1. Cliff Richard Ringtone
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers
3. Franz Ferdinand/Keane
4. Pony-tail/mullets
5. ‘Spinal Tap’ T-shirt
6. Britney Spears inflatable [full-size]
7. Justin Timberlake condoms [fruit scented]
8. Kylie Minogue underwear [worn by boys]
9. Kelly Osbourne diet tips
10. Xtina Aguilera’ fashion advice
11. Metallica credit card
12. Any Wet Wet Wet track on iPod

Sound preservation: Physicists find method to improve audio

Two physicists have discovered a way to digitally map old, archived audio recordings and reconstruct the sound. Four years after hearing a radio report on the challenge of preserving aging audio recordings, particle physicist Carl Haber's newfound method of rescuing the classics is music to archivists' ears.

Haber and a fellow physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Vitaliy Fadeyev, have found a way to digitally map the grooves in warped or damaged shellac records and wax cylinders - and play them back using a sort of virtual needle. To do so, they use the same optical scanning method - powered by a microscope and computer technology - that physicists employ for measuring the journeys of subatomic particles.

The technique detects and filters any scratches, as well as clicks and pops from dust. It works with vinyl, too, though such records aren't as fragile to need it.

Roughly 2.5 million music and spoken-word recordings are stored in the Library of Congress - the project's sponsor - but some are more than a century old and very delicate. Archivists risk further damage if they use a real stylus to play and re-record them.

"This marks a whole new direction for sound archiving," said Mark Roosa, the library's director for preservation. "They're reconstructing sound as we had never imagined would be possible, even if there are cracks in the cylinder."

The physicists hope their research will ultimately lead to a machine to preserve and enhance public access to sounds of history.

"Archivists want tools that will allow them to copy recordings with as little intervention as possible," Haber said. "It's starting to almost look like there could be a Xerox machine for recordings." (30 April 2004)

Kings of the stolen age

If hype were a stock market listed company, it would carry the whole of FTSE’s remaining 99 names. The other promo-tool that should have shares issued in is – controversy. It appears that everything is, or making it appear so, is the entire media’s rage. Then, there is fashion – minimising as we speak, video-clips, gossip… Gee, what happened to the thing that is the foundation of it all – music, songs?

Being as wise of most of you, I have idea neither but one possible reason may be – the quality on offer.

It was an unfortunate coincidence: on the second Digital Download Day, earlier in the month, that offered 170,000 tracks for donwload/streamming/burning, the music industry announced the sales figures for 2002. The global musical industry has witnessed another slump, 7 percent, to be precise. It follows the 2001 trend although the drop then was only (?) 5%.

A “massive proliferation” of CD copying and Internet piracy are blamed, as usual, for the depressing figures. Artists themselves are divided on the piracy issue: Madonna, Sir Elton John and Oasis have spoken against it while Robbie Williams shrugs his shoulders and claims that record industry can’t stop it.

It is estimated that 4,5 million people are using the ‘Net to obtain their music and the record bosses should look at a couple of areas, in particular: quality of music, their scheduling and utilising the cyber medium to its full potential. The first is easy – stop issuing the crap you’ve been dropping over the past few years and nurture true talent who have something to offer but flipping covers! Two, most of the fans want to hear new material as soon as it is finished and the usual three months before the actual release should be abolished or, three, made available for legal downloads as soon as it is in the can, to use biz-lingo. Forget artwork, promo, hype, let the kids stream it as soon as possible.

There is a high probability that 80 to 90 per cent of downloaders still go out and buy discs once released. In the past year few big albums have been uploaded months in advance – Eminem, The White Stripes, Radiohead – but it hardly hurt their sales. ‘The Eminem Show’ discee was the biggest selling album last year and neither 50 Cent nor Linkin Park can complain about the cyber-piracy.

You can’t control anarchy but you can use it. It is really unconceivable that the record industry still hasn’t got a secure and reliable system for cyber-sales. How many years has there been of www-ing, people? Which century do you live in? Adapt or die dilemma has never needed a look-in more urgently! (18 April 2004)

There are enough official online stores and, once disgraced, Napster is set to launch its legal service in the UK over the summer, as well as Apple.

America’s Top 10 Downloads (via Apple’s iTunes):

1. Maroon 5: ‘This Love’
2. Britney Spears: ‘Toxic’
3. OutKast: ‘Hey Ya!’
4. Green Day: ‘I Fought The Law’
5. Nickelback: ‘Someday’
6. J-Kwon: ‘Tipsy’ (Radio Mix)
7. The Darkness: ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’
8. Five For Fighting: ‘100 Years’
9. Black Eyed Peas/Justin Timberlake: ‘Where is The Love’
10. OutKast & Sleepy Jackson: ‘The Way You Move’
(08 March 2004)

The Pros & Cons of cyber-hiking

Downloading, the pet-plague of the music industry, we don’t condemn, neither condone nor propagate it. Aside the mechanical process of finding the song and storing/burning, time may be better used for something else. [Sex? We recommend book-reading, but that’s us!] Still, we completely understand that, at the time when one is the most music interested there is the least disposable income that has to see one through drinking/gig-going/records… Sure, one has to do it all to stay in-step and remain hip with the a-judging peers.

We also know only too well that if too many illegal downloads are committed, then there will be no new money to invest into newcomers, acts that need nurturing and developing, such as The Coral, Alfie, Mountaineers… Music sales also finance touring as only few top artists (The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles) really make big bucks, the rest operate with losses. Therefore, as downloading goes - restraint is something we should exercise and it ought to be a self-cultivated virtue.

The longest darkness

As everything else, it has come to pass, the marathon testing of the nation’s taste 2003. Yep, ‘Pop Idol’ ended and we discovered this year’s Christmas Number One. Well, isn’t it time to feel ashamed for installing her on the serac?

‘Pop Idol’ winner, we feel sorry for, because public’s been cruel in record numbers. Over 10 million people voting means that more that 1/6th of population - one in six persons?! - registered their votes. That’s a lot of people staying in on a Saturday night to gladly waste time on rubbish of this kind. And, they’ve dialled in; what does their choice tells us about the state of the nation’s mind? Perhaps the answer is in this Chrimbo’s #1, or being…

Gullible and hypeable are the usual suspects; Simon Cowell’s support of the eventual winner was sarcastic but the masses bought it wholesale. Mr Cowell knows only too well that Michelle McManus is the biggest loser of the night. As good as her voice is, she is not only scales below Lulu but nowhere near Mariah Carey and Celine Dion can sing this Glaswegian under the 12-inch stilettos!

If one of the burger chains used a 15-stone heifer to advertise its chemically flavoured wares thousands of parents would complain against promoting obesity… And yet, this ‘Pop Idol’ is supposed to… what? An ‘Idol’ should inspire, be someone to look up to and, not least, fancy. Shaggadelic, baby, y’know whah I mean!? Can you imagine any girl wanting to be Michelle-like? Any boy wanting to bonk her? Unless a perv, methinks, otherwise - no way, Mr Fist! Even lesbians, we imagine, would have to raise an issue or several.

It’s just been announced that The Who will appear at the Isle Of Wight Festival, 23 years after being banned for smashing their instruments and freaking out 600,000 stoned hippie souls! Imagine 23 months hence in Ms McManus’s life? Er, to be honest it already feels like it’s been 23... Years!

Then, less then a day later, oh joy of festive Brit-lunacy, we get our Christmas Number One and, now there is a Marilyn Manson-size shock, it ain’t The Darkness! The Lowestoft’s favourite [and thank God, the only] glum-rocking stars have fallen 15 thousand copies behind Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules’ Mad World’. The remake of the 1983 Tears For Fears’ hit, featured in the ‘Donny Darko’ film [and if you’ve not seen it, you have no idea what a goodie-cubed it is!], found 236,000 willing purchasers.

Thus, the comedy song ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ failed to bully us into open kitsch-land. Even in the devalued and perma-losing-ground world of singles, the only time when the nation truly buys music in any quantity is the Chrimbo period when 40% of yearly musical sales are realised - and thus should reflect the nation’s true taste. Where is me tissue?

The Darkness - what to say apart feel sorry for this Island of humanity? A joke gone successful and starting to pretend to matter, believing its own hype. As derivative as ‘Pop Idol’, as relevant as rock hysterics of 3 decades ago, as inspiring as an army surplus store stock! Tabloid-kinda taste, one can be sarcastic about, a caricature that is taken at the face value without ever realising the lack of irony behind if all. Or, not… Singer Justin Hawkins has been claiming of late that they are serious, as darn rocking straight as Queen [erm, perhaps a bad choice of words?- Non-outted Ed.]…

It was quite inconceivable that Xmas shoppers were gonna go for the most melancholic song ever to reach the Festive season’s pile - although we had some close shaves with the downtrodden and deffo dire. We recall ‘pessimistic’ songs over the past ¼ century being Wings’ ‘Mull Of Kintyre’ (1977), Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall /Part 2/’ (‘79), Renee and Renato’s ‘Save Your Love’ (’82) and all Cliff Richard’s chart-toppers! On second thought, make that - recoil.

‘Mad World’ appears to reflect the nation’s feeling at the moment, the turmoil in foreign policies, aggression and terrorism-threats combined with rise in interest rates and no damn Lotto-luck… These were the issues that prevented The Darkness penetrating reality with their “Monty Python playing Jimi Hendrix” approach, as a colleague described them.

These rock historians have a slight problem in its archaeological expertise being - The Spinal Tap! The Darkness subscribe to the same tenet as Michelle and the entire music industry - profit uber alles. Don’t believe any other word - it’s all Rock‘n‘Bull. In the world where even the mighty Metallica have become respectable and Award-ceremony smooching, we really feel rocked out! The serfs of corporations rule while fewer and fewer are the makers of rescue music.

Not being wise on what The D-crew are on, we know now they’ve never had it. At least Michelle is younger, 22... The digits that are in the book (and film) title - ‘Catch 22’. The future of taste? Like morning bells in hell.( 24 Dec, 2003)

Moozik trailer-vision

[Cultivate good taste and respect quality; bullring views...]

There are all kinds of rages – road, computer, cell-phonic, and a few more our resident shrink can identify – but the fastest increasing is pop-moozik. (Pronounced ‘mooozzzik’, for your edification.) It’s become something the vast majority of humans appear to be resisting to the detriment of record industry that pumps out kitsch as if it were manna for people to buy-consume-adore, MTV-loads.

Pop: sagging power

At the height of punk era, 16 million viewers tuned into the chart show Top of The Pops, but there are just 2.5 million now switching on to see what’s the latest Number One. Viewers appear to share an aversion to the music offered up for Top 40 consideration.

Singles sales have collapsed 40 per cent this year and last week’s No.1, Kylie Minogue’s ’Slow’, reached the top with 43,000 sales. A chart topper used to notch 150,000 figure 25 years ago!


Watching Evanescence gig we noticed the audience has gotten decidedly obese! Whatsaup? Is there a FAT-LIB going on, concerned citizens should be made aware of?

BEP’s top single

Black Eyed Peas’ ’Where Is The Love’ has become the best selling single of the year in our dear Britain. Their new single, Shut Up’, from the current ’Elephank’ disc is due out on 01 December.

The best-selling Dido

Dido’s ‘Life For Rent’ is the UK’s best selling album of the year. It is nearing a tripple platinum disc, after having sold over 800,000 in its opening weeks. (09 Nov. 2003)

Few Planet MTV-E notes

How come everyone always comments on Ms Aguilera’s dress (non)sense - and there were baker‘s dozen on display during the airing - but no one mentions her sex-appeal?

Talking about sexy-ttude, Kylie let us down with her body-hugging outfit; men don’t have much imagination and prefer to see - flesh. [Granted, not as much as Christina’s…]

Why Dido sings like she’s no orgasm to look forward to?

‘Wobbly’ for make-up should have gone to Michael Stripe, pardon - Stipe, for that very ‘Blade Runner’ inspired blue/green spray-on ‘shades’! Trey cool, mensch!

Isn’t it a curio that generally artists present at the Ceremony win the Awards? Last night’s exceptions were Eminem - grabbing the ‘Wobbly Trophy’ for the firfth year in a row!? - and Coldplay. Chris Martin was seen accompanying woman-in-his life, Gwyneth Paltrow, to a London film do.

The size of US-stars’ minders is getting ridiculous: they all come in twice the Kylie-size; she is 5‘2“.

The White Stripes were the one act OUT there because they sounded like a proper fcuking band!

And, the sis-bro/inter-divorcees (whatever!) duo were the only self-confessed Scot artists to win the Gong. And, for European Music Awards - there were too many Yanks winning! Haven’t we got enough stars of our own Euro-origin?

Oh, The Darkness won! Excuse me, but the Yanks were taking the pish!

Someone draw my attention to the fact that the French word for Darkness is ‘obscurite’… Alas, it is a fishfull… even - wishful thinking, we reckon.

Otherwise, EMA 2003 - it was FANtabulous! (07 Nov. 2003)

Halloween treats

Isn't former Boyzoner Ronan Keating's every song just like an audition to replace that iodine, sexless and as a boring as Crunchy Nut commercials - Cliff Richard!? What an ambition... or, whatever the opposite may be.

Aren't The Strokes simply trying to be The Cars, a quarter-century down the timeline? Man, it's a sublime Spinal Tap moment.

Several demi-interesting things developed over the weekend, such as The Strokes’ album ‘Room On Fire’ failing to dislodge Dido from the British Top CD spot… Are public telling them that is it okay but nothing new, actually?

Kylie Minogue announced that she would keep her perty little bumster under wraps in the future… Having seen the latest promotional pictures – it is true, they are so… demur! Help – Kylie don’t go that path, you’ll regret it… when you are 45! Exploit everything you have while you can, there ain’t going back, girl!

National Music Awards took place last night (26 October) at London’s Hammersmith Apollo and the big winners were the reigning ‘Pop Idols’, the man himself, Will Young, and the runner-up, Gareth Gates. Young won the gong for Favourite Album, ‘From Now On’ whilst Gates did even better, pocketing two statuettes, for Favourite TV Music Performance and Fave Male Singer.

Well, ain’t that dandy? Gareth Gates’s second album has stiffed big time: ‘Go Your Own Way’ sold only over 30,000 copies in four weeks of its release while Dido, defies any logic, managed ½ million in two and rules the Album’s Top spot for the fifth week running!?

Other mass favourites, the voting was by the ‘phoners, were Favourite UK Band – Coldplay, Favourite International Artists – Kylie Minogue, Favourite Newcomers – Busted, Favourite Film Song – Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ and Favourite UK Female Singer – Rachel Stevens.

Dame Shirley Bassey won the Lifetime Achievement Award and there was also a ‘prize’ for Favourite Novelty Song that, effortlessly, went to The Cheeky Girls and ‘The Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)’.

Remixes done to smuggle a track onto the non-conventional markets, we’ve heard of but not the whole albums being remixed to target completely different audience. Shania Twain’s album ‘Up’ comes in three versions, pop, world and country. We know she’s married to John ‘Mutt’ Lange, the mega-producer but isn’t this a case of having too much time on your hands? (27 October 2003)

GN'R: LP bugdet taller than the Beanstock!

Jonathan Davis, singer with Korn, revealed in a recent interview how much Guns N’Roses’ long-overdue album ‘Chinese Democracy’ has cost. The figure is just an astonishing sum of – $12 million!? That means they’d need to sell a shuttle-full of albums to recoup. Which, after all the years – may just prove to be a mission impossible.

It thus is not a surprise than that their parent company, Universal, has been having fiscal troubles and can’t find a buyer. [See News and here for more info.] (19 October 2003)

Kinda sexed up

Wow, Kylie’s new single ‘Slow’ appears to be attempting to outdo Madonna, i.e. – it sounds like one expected Maddy to sound on her last disc… Kylie’s trying to outsmart the ‘Material Mum’ in image dept as well: the next single presents her in a pose that was supposed to be Brigitte Bardot-esque but it is more like Britt Eckland-ian. Still, what the **** is this all about?

DuranDuran’s original line-up comeback show in London – prime nostalgia time, everyone! – tomorrow (14 October 2003) sold out in 4 ****ing minutes on Friday. What’s this all about, if you don’t mind me repeating the q.? Is it that there is so much crap these days that Duranies can be considered art? In those days they were a crappy boy-band verité music lovers avoided like nerds do ponytails!

Fashion is a new pop investment? Wu-Tang Clan, P.Diddy, Kylie, Beyoncé, and many more, have their own fashion lines. It looks like the days when pop stars invested their earnings in restaurants are finished and, baby, cash is in the fash!

DiDo was offered to be the face (and body) for Dolce & Gabbana but she turned it down (strangely!) while Christina Aguilera is happy to be a front for Versace and Louis Vuitton has Jennifer Lopez to flog their luggage, now Ms Dynamite has agreed to perform (and thus endorse) Armani. Last year’s Mercury winner is due her first post-baby appearance at a glittering party at Norman Foster’s More London building to celebrate the opening of the Armani retrospective of three decades of faux couture, sorry – haut couture.

Oh, Beyoncé also has a contract with Armani to add urban feel. They all are working hard to “keep it real”, so obviously!’

All these fashionistas, it makes you almost glad Duran’s reformed so that their neo-kitsch getup (otherwise known as ‘New romantic’) can be in vogue again! Now, where is our Adam Ant pirate’s guise? (13 Oct. 2003)

A beafreaky weeky

That was the week that was… For Dido, certainly. The bland rules again – music for all the Bridget Joneses, who appear to multiply. Anyway, Dido gets to the top of the charts with her album ‘Life For Rent’ after selling a record number of discs in a week, 350,000 to beat the previous record of 319,000 copies, set by The Beatles’ album ’1’ a few years back. She also set the record for opening-day sales, notching 152,500 sales on Monday (29 Sept.).

Well, you know how it is, go figure… Although I don’t subscribe to the theory of conspiracies (oh, yes you do! – Ed.), but isn’t it very strange that Dido split with her boyfriend before the promotion of the album only to be back with the (un)fortunate man as soon as the album set the record… let’s rephrase that, hit the shops.

The big Robbie Williams only managed a runner’s up position with his bloody cash-in programme, otherwise known as ‘Live At Knebworth’, by selling only a fraction of Dido’s total. (That’s frightening.) The problem with Robbie is that he’s good at what he does but what he does ain’t no good.

Dido and Robbie don’t usually need any help to sell records while that’s the purpose of Mercury Music Prize. Alas, only weeks after winning, the panel’s choice, Dizzee Rascal’s album ‘Boy In Da Corner’, is out of Top 40.

Further up the frightometer is the fact that Travis sold enough copies of their ‘The Man Who’ album to be certified platinum in the UK – 9 times! Blimey, that’s just fewer than 3 million copies. The band’s fourth album comes out next week and it is – near diabolical… well, it is actually catatonic. Despite being a part-time insomniac I managed to doze off several times during the first few tracks.

Christina Aguilera proclaimed, when receiving Q Award for Best Single, ‘Dirrty’, that she was glad to be recognized for trying to do something different. On a scale of mediocrity?