Magazines and duvet days
Messy aesthetics ... part two
What is it about magazines and the sick bed? It seems to be an eternal connection. Maybe it's just that when you're feeling sorry for yourself, you really do not want to be wading through a weighty tome. Anyway, I have been spending a considerable amount of time this week considering magazines.

Which is ironic, if you remember we had just touched upon the important stories of the early days of The Face and i-D. Incidentally I have flicked through the latest issues of both of these at news stands, and really struggle with getting to grips with who buys these now.

So, for the music fan that is getting on in years, what are the options? Well, the logical choice is Mojo, but that seems to be really losing its way under new editorship. It's clearly been studying target groups, and is hedging its bets between the 'classics' and the dreary neo-conservative 'rock groups'. The latest issue is the dullest I have seen yet. The only bits of interest were seeing my hometown bizarrely mentioned in an OutKast article, and the excellent Gil Scott-Heron feature by James Maycock. Maycock, incidentally, wrote the excellent essay accompanying Kent's superb set: A Soldier's Sad Story - Vietnam Through The Eyes of Black America 1966 - 73. Mojo disappoints by still sidelining the very great Lois Wilson, and neglecting to run with great themes like a Felt cover story, or a Wild Swans celebration.

Uncut I always ignored for years, but these days have a soft spot for it. Again I hate its reliance on the 'classics', but this soft spot is largely about the writers from the Melody Maker retirement home who contribute occasionally. I specifically mean Chris Roberts and Jon Wilde, who can still delight with a turn of phrase. In fact, due to prolonged browsing this week, I happened to find Chris raving about discovering a buried treasure of a Mary Margaret O'Hara soundtrack, which of course is not easily available. But it's nice to know she's still out there. And the same goes for Chris and Jon.

The latest edition of The Wire landed on my doormat yesterday. So, yes, I confess I still subscribe. I can see why people despair about it nowadays, but I quite like its perversity. I mean the editorial meetings must be a hoot. 'Right lads who shall we put on the cover this time?' 'Will Oldham?' 'Nah, people may have heard of him. What about Raster-Noton? That'll make people pick up our mag rather than one with Beyonce's chest hanging out all over the place!'* The humour in The Wire is tremendously neglected. They crack me up.

So, okay, the editor is an idiot, and David Keenan the worst writer ever, but there is still Steve Barker's Dub page, and the hip hop guys are great, and Ian Penman seems to be back on form. And Byron Coley's regular 'Size Matters' vignettes are an absolute joy. I love that guy! His enthusiasm is spot-on still.

Which brings me on to bb gun. I know I am about a year late in picking up issue number six, and that a new one is set to be released very shortly, but I haven't loved a magazine so much since I first saw Grand Royal. Maybe you know better than me, but this is the lovechild of Bob Bert (ex-Sonic Youth and NYC scenester) and Linda Wolfe, with contributions from our friends Byron and Everett True, plus Dean Wareham and Ian Svenonius among others. I love the tone of old duffers who have been there and done that, rewriting history and finetuning what were once footnotes. I have absolutely lapped up the James Chance, Lee Hazlewood, and Michael Gira features, and urge anyone who has not seen this magazine to track one down.

I could be wrong but bb gun strikes me as being one magazine brave enough to say that David Lynch is a bit of a boring old so-and-so. Or is it just me that thinks so? I hate the way magazines like The Wire are always namechecking him. What's he ever done? Have you seen Wild At Heart? It's terrible isn't it? Have you ever read Barry Gifford's original story of Sailor and Lula? It's beautiful isn't it? I've been sitting up in bed reading each episode, and it just seems as though David Lynch sucked the poetry out of the tale. And I don't care if African Headcharge are on the soundtrack or not.

The other magazine I have loved this week is the second edition of Smoke: A London Peculiar. It is such a great idea. Mind you dear old Dave Haslam did try to do similar things in Debris with stuff on Manchester tearooms and Blackburn public conveniences back in the day. So, anyway, with time on my hands, I have been thinking a lot about Smoke. One thing I decided is that it's high time Matt Haynes got tough and did all the writing himself. He could and should be one of our great novelists by now. The other thing was that reading Smoke I kept getting the nagging feeling something was missing. I finally decided it was the music.

There is very little music in Smoke, and my big Smoke is full of music, and revolves around it. Odd. There is one small piece on Thee Headcoatees, as if anyone gives a damn. This canonisation of Billy Childish is as absurd as getting sentimental about the demise of IDS. Anyway, apart from that, I find it quite strange the music's missing. But that's just me I guess and my own obsessions, and amounts to splitting hairs. Smoke is great, and if it encourages one more person to read Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners then some good's being done in the world.

Anyway, must dash, as this week's New Statesman has just arrived.

© 2003John Carney


*The irony is this month's Wire comes with a gorgeous archive CD of Raster-Noton related electronica, and if you've cancelled your subscription you're gonna miss out on a lot of fun. If I had the technology I'd have meself a whole lot more fun, and have Beyonce bouncing all over the tracks, but that's all very last year isn't it?