2016 x WTF

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IT’S been a shit year for everyone. Get over it.

Yes, it’s been a fantastic time for the idiots, charlatans and nutters of the world but they only have money, guns and bombs on their side. We have love, soul and passion. Where they have hatred and intolerance, we have compassion and generosity.

They don’t stand a chance.

Some truly awful things happened around the world this year. The supposedly black and white certainties of the past evaporated a long time ago but the confusing miasma of disinformation and bullshit and lies became so much denser and more impenetrable in 2016. We don’t live in a post-truth world. There was never any truth in the first place.

It turns out there are no good guys or bad guys, no good or evil, no right or wrong. None of those things ever existed. We’re all just people. Some people do ‘good’ things, while some do ‘shitty’ things, and others simply do nothing.

Music provided some respite from the insanity but finding five albums that were released in 2016 and worth talking about isn’t as easy as you might expect considering we live in times when banal, tinkling muzak, with no bottom end to speak of, emanates from every platform and device imaginable.

We’re awash with music, drowning in it, choking on it. Most of it is utter fucking shite, of course. You don’t even have to listen to it to know this. Simply close your ears, condemn the lot as dreary, derivative, philistine nonsense and make exceptions for worthwhile stuff as and when it forces its way into your consciousness. It’s okay. Everyone has the capacity for change. And nobody gives a shit what you think anyway.

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Mis-Teeq

THERE are various ways you can try to persuade straight society to buy weekly magazines from homeless people – free gifts, guilt trips, having a picture of Danger Mouse on the cover – but for a time at the Big Issue in the North, we decided to use instantly recognisable celebrities instead.

The idea to capitalise on the street-wise cachet a high-profile interview with the magazine could deliver came after people like the Stone Roses and Morrissey ignored Fleet Street and the music press to give us world exclusives on their post-hiatus returns to the limelight.

It worked for a while, but the emphasis on finding easily-recognisable faces week in week out led to us going for whatever pop culture dreck was ploughing their way through the grim regional press grind that particular week – telly, movies, music, the lowest common denominator stuff you could ever imagine.

Ultimately, it looked like we were just another celeb-focussed magazine, but crucially, unlike Heat or OK, you had to buy our magazine from someone who was very often a drug addict.

This Mis-Teeq interview dates from a period when I was commissioning interviews – and occasionally, as with this one, writing them myself – with the likes of various Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, Hear Say and Westlife (as well as, in my defence, people like Macy Gray, Craig David and Amy Winehouse). It is nobody’s finest moment.

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The Cravats

IF EVER there was an archetypal ‘John Peel band’, whatever that actually means, then the Cravats are probably it. It seemed like they were doing sessions for Peelie’s legendary late-night Radio One every couple of weeks at one point but I only really began paying attention when they released their seminal single Rub Me Out on Crass Records in 1982.

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Although they largely conformed to the Crass ‘format’ in the single’s packaging, with the front cover featuring the title picked out in the Crass label’s trademark circular stencil, the image in the centre wasn’t some convoluted hybrid CND/anarchy A logo or whatever, but actually featured a member of the band.

I imagined Crass fans all over the UK asking: are these blokes on some kind of ego trip or what? Maybe it was just me being as daft as a brush.

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Five x US presidential election bombs

IT MUST be a confusing and unsettling time for Americans. How awful for you. Welcome to the party. Where the fuck have you been until now?

I don’t have any advice for you. As one of your former colonial overlords, it’s not really my place to tell you how to vote. The best I can come up with is: Make America Great Britain Again.

Obviously, as someone who inhabits the same hemisphere as all you paranoid, gun-crazy, passportless halfwits, I have a view – for what it’s worth: Hillary is your only rational choice. Trump is an obvious nut case. You can only blame yourselves for this lack of meaningful choice – but why would you listen to me?

And whoever you vote for, the government wins, right?

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Flowers of Romance by Public Image Ltd (Virgin)

PUBLIC IMAGE LTD’S early stuff wasn’t all about the bassline. It wasn’t 100% about Wobble’s bossy, insistent, unstoppable low-end throb. No. I believe the band had a singer, a guitarist and an occasional drummer too.

Let’s have it right though: from the outset, from the very first moment of their very first single, it was Wobble’s bass that defined, bullied, pushed and pulled PiL’s sound forward.

Don’t get me wrong. Lydon’s whiney and increasingly obtuse voice style and Levene’s insane guitar had their moments, obviously. Anyone who had a hand in First Issue or Metal Box deserves our gratitude and admiration. And, while PiL had some absolutely fantastic drummers, either Lydon or Levene, individually, would have totally dominated the sound in any other band.

But how can you compete with Wobble?

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There is no hesitation, this is your situation

OBVIOUSLY, I was a bit dubious about Punk n Disorderly, a shop selling punk rock clothing in bohemian Chorlton, south Manchester.

Taking its name from the Abstract Records punk compilations of the early eighties (featuring Vice Squad, Disorder, the Insane and the like), Punk n Disorderly specialises in the kind of mail order punk attire you could find in the back of the music papers in the days of yore.

You see, we made our own studded biker jackets when I were a lad. But miserable no-fun puritans have been boring on about boil-in-the-bag rebellion ever since Viv and Malc set up shop on Kings Road. It’s getting a bit old.

Either way, the woman behind the shop was lovely, and if it’s choice between kids buying T-shirts of bands they know nothing about from Punk n Disorderly or buying them from Top Shop, I’ll keep it local, thanks very much.

I was never big on band T-shirts in any case. But I made an exception for an excellent Cravats T-shirt, featuring the front of the Cravats’ single for Crass Records, Rub Me Out.

Now I’m not going to tell you that I still have my original copy of this record, that I know all the words, or that I could probably even have a decent crack at naming all the members of the Cravats – even though all those things are true.

There are the rules for buying a band T-shirt, right? Everyone knows that. It’s a given.

Unfortunately, the shop’s lease ran out and the owner decided not to renew – they’re still online. I guess there are only so many old punk rockers who want to buy Cravats T-shirts out there. I didn’t spend enough money in there, clearly.

The only other thing I ever bought was a little A5 comic which, in its own way, is every bit as excellent as my Cravats T.

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Snacks

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OKAY, let’s cut to the chase. Who has the biggest record collection in Snacks?

“Aljoscha, definitely, without a doubt,” says Rene Corbett, the New Zealand half of the Berlin-based DJing/production duo. “He’s been buying up large of late. I don’t know how many he’s got now. Every week he’s definitely adding to it. He’s such a good digger.

“He has a thirst for new music. He’s also got a good ear for what people are playing. It’s helped us develop a really cool set, the Snacks kind of sound, so I’m constantly learning a lot from him.”

Who is the best dancer in Snacks?

“Rene,” says the German half of Snacks, Aljoscha Babel. “He used to do ballet. But we both wouldn’t win any prizes”.

“I have to say Aljoscha,” says Rene. “If I get to a certain point, if I’ve had enough to drink, I sort of get better. As most of us do.”

Who can drink the most and still maintain?

“We both drink a bit,” admits Rene. “When you’re playing all night you lose track. I always get to a certain point and think, okay, I’ve had enough. You get passed shots and I’ll say cheers with everyone and just take a little sip and put my shot down. Aljoscha just keeps going. Right through to the early hours of the morning.”

Who is the best cook in Snacks?

“Cock?” asks Aljoscha, with a nervous laugh.

“That’s definitely, Aljoscha,” says Rene, who does not mishear my question. Skype lolz. Although the pair do share a flat in Kreuzberg, so …

Let’s not go there.

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