A celebrity-bashing reappraisal of the year's top tunes, hosted by Johnny Cigarettes. Celebrities squared: Martyn Goodacre
It has been said, admittedly only by communists, fraudsters, drug addicts and social degenerate losers, that we at the NME 'build them up to knock them down'. Pah!
But once a year, as part of this issue's sumptuous banquet of festive cheer, and in a twisted kind of charitable spirit, we give those parasites who live off our talent - i.e. some gobshites from the pop world - the chance to do some building up and knocking down of their own, regarding some significant records of the year.
They also get the chance to sip cocktails at an exclusive London niterie ('King's Reach Tower', the NME's own sumptuous top people's booze club situated in a corner of the office by the photocopier) and argue and digress until their disgracefully overblown egos are sated. And what a shocker of a quartet we have lined up for you this year, oh yes...
DAMON ALBARN is famous the world over for his band Blur's spectacular conversion from peachy-faced indie-dance sex fuhrers next door to blazer-sporting genii of New Britpop. He is also feared the length and breadth of Kentish Town for his unswerving enmity of all that is bland, American, long-haired, slack-jawed, slouching on the sofa watching MTV. And Suede, but that's a sordid story we shall have no truck with. When not cruising the casinos as an international wit, raconteur and playboy, he enjoys backgammon, nude bathing, or just curling up with a good book!
MARK LAMARR is best known as the show-saving straight man to Terry Christian's comically inept, fumbling. crass interviews and lack of repartee on TV's The Word. But its not all wincing with . that lovable 'Why am I doing this?' look or ripping righteous shreds off ragga stars for Mark. He can often be found relaxing over a flagon of low alcohol ale and enjoying an hour or two of under-achieving indie guitar- rock in a spit-and-sawdust venue with The Kids On The Street. And Sean Hughes. Also a stand-up comic of not inconsiderable quality, Mark often helps injured kittens by the roadside. And he wears nice glasses these days
RICHEY JAMES (or Edwards, as his family and the DSS know him) is mime guitarist, glowering glamour puss and shaving accident-prone ideologue of punk terrorists turned Stadium Rock goat sacrificers the Manic Street Preachers. Loved and loathed throughout this fair isle for their outspoken views on travellers. Michael Stipe and Queen and Country, they nevertheless only kill their own kind, and still buy flowers for their mothers. Richey in particular eschews the glitzy delights of the London premieres and coke parties jet-set, choosing instead to take long walks, inhaling the sooty breeze of Blackwood. South Wales. 'I prefer a cup of tea to sex' - that was his catchphrase
SARAH CRACKNELL is one third of Britain's premier vaguely kitsch pure pop machine with a name from a French football team, Saint Etienne, and a nationally renowned connoisseur of all that is three minutes long. majestic, ever-so-slightly saccharine, and wearing a huge fake fur coat and winning smile. She is also an avid cactus breeder. amateur real ale brewer and ruddy hard in a fisticuffs situation. But hey, enough of my yakkin'! Let's argue politely about some pop records!
BJORK: 'Human Behaviour'
Sarah: I was really excited when I first heard the album. because I've always liked The Sugarcubes, and I loved the combination of that voice with a totally different musical approach, as if they were taking the piss, trying to fit it to the most eclectic sounds they could. But I don't think anyone expected it to take off so much, since The Sugarcubes were hardly massive stars. I think she's been brilliant for women in pop as well, being respected. credible, and with her face Splashed everywhere this year. A lot of it was quite jazzy, and my pet hate is jazz, but even that didn't put me off.
Mark: I'm just amazed that the Bjork album. being so strange and uncommercial, and brilliant, has been such a success. The fact that some of the same people who buy Michael Bolton records bought that record is astounding.
Damon: I always preferred Einar in The Sugarcubes actually (hoots of derision from the other panel members). I always found the idea of a skinhead Icelandic bloke prancing around very appealing. But this album, and this single, is fantastic. She's wearing the right clothes and appealing to the right people, and she's got the right face for the moment. But who cares? It's still superb.
Richey: I think it's got more to do with Nellee Hooper, though, than Bjork. Not that it was that dancey, but the overall sound was very much Nellee Hooper. And I like some of the songs, but I don't think the whole thing is anything special.
Mark: But that's what a producer's for, isn't it?! Sarah: She certainly made brave decisions as to the people she worked with on the album, and that's half the battle. You can't knock her for that.
Damon: And Soul II Soul (Nellee Hooper's former project) was very formularised stuff, I don't think you can make that much out of him twiddling the knobs.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: 'Killing In The Name'
DO YOU perchance think a lot of their success was to do with them dressing up easy-to-swallow liberal platitudes in Muthaf—in' bulletinyohead' language, so as to look as rad as Ice-T when in fact they're as safe as Pearl Jam?
Mark: No, I think it's because they made some great records. But I did think they were being posey twats when they got up onstage naked to supposedly protest against censorship - that's not pissing off the censors, that's pissing off your fans. Walking onstage for 15 minutes with your knobs hanging out - that's not rebellion at all - that's nonsense! But I don't think they completely know where their head is.
Richey: "F— you I won't do what you tell me" is very ambiguous, and middle-class rebellion always is. Because they've got nothing to be unhappy about really. It doesn't address any real issues. just shouts at everybody in a tie.
Damon: Well, exactly, that why it’s so popular. I personally have got a problem with all songs that have the word 'f—' in them, especially middle class bands. Its just a bit pathetic.
Mark: You're not a big rap fan then?
Damon: No, I love rap, but I don't consider that as rap - it's just designer rebellion.
Mark: Sure, but a lot of rap records have loads of 'f—s' in them.
Damon: Yeah, but that's a different culture entirely that most of those records come out of. Rage Against The Machine is just very accessible. very straightforward, and very packageable for an adolescent audience.
Mark: I think that for a supposedly right on band it was pretty abysmal that their last single was three different versions of the same song, and that was it. That's really insulting to their fans, and it makes me think that if they really cared they would stop that happening. I mean, OK, on dance records they have five different remixes, but that's what dance fans want. This is just ripping off your fans.
Damon: It's unavoidable, for most bands like us. The record company want to sell records, end of story. And anyway, I can't believe that anyone who bought the records ever thought they (RATM) care anyway...
Mark: But they do, obviously! I think you're considerably more cynical than most of their fans. When you see kids dancing to that record I think it really means something to them - I bet they really feel "F— you I won't do what you tell me", although in a different way from how the band intended. And Che Guevara on the T-shirts - it's all hackneyed images.
Damon: Its Citizen Smith, set to music! Sarah: I agree that there's that whining, West Coast attitude to it, but I have to admit I was jumping around to 'Killing In The Name' at the time. Its a laugh.
Mark: Oh yeah, it was a great record, when they were on The Word they were very exciting. Chris Eubank liked them!
SHAGGY: 'Oh Carolina'
WHY HAS raga suddenly been so big this year? It's been around for ages. and now we've suddenly had Shabba Ranks, Snow, On A Raggo Tip', Chaka Demus & Pliers, Apache Indian...
Mark: Probably because of this kind of record, I should imagine. I mean yeah. ragga has been around for ages but most ragga records aren't very poppy and they don't have very poppy sentiments. This was just a really catchy record. I thought it was great.
Richey: A pop record will always sell, and all those records were pretty commercial pop records essentially. Mark: It obviously didn't all happen out of thin air. It’s been going on for ages and I think it’s only recently, probably because of Shabba Ranks, that the major labels suddenly woke up to it and pushed the more commercial acts into the charts.
Sarah: 'Oh Carolina' is a great pure pop record, though.
Damon: I agree I mean the rhythm track is amazing. On every level it's a great record. But the music press have to justify something like this because they want to be seen to push black music to a certain extent but don't want to accept the sentiments expressed in some of the records, because of their liberal white ideals.
Mark: So don't you agree with the white liberal ideals that say you shouldn't hate gay people and women?
Richey: I think the point to be made is that everyone slags off ragga artists like Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton for their homophobia and sexism, but Public Enemy went on the record many times with anti-semitic views and homophobia, and no-one took them to task. And Happy Mondays - everyone in the media knew full well that they were homophobic, but they chose to ignore it until the NME exposé.
Mark: Well, maybe if they'd said those kind of things on a live TV show things would have been different.
Richey: But surely the main problem is if you ban Shabba Ranks for being homophobic, or Public Enemy for being anti-semitic, then the next step is Apache Indian's video, where he had women in mini-skirts dancing, and then you've got any excuse for censorship to pervade all parts of life. Mark: So would you be in favour of a record being played on Radio One which was in favour of burning down Pakistani newsagents?
Mark: Well, I would take great offence at that, even though I've got the same censorship problems as you.
Richey: I just think that everyone has the right to express their own opinion. I think if you impose censorship based on white, middle-class values. its just prejudicing a whole different consensus of opinion. People have got to be allowed to make up their own minds by hearing whatever they want to hear.
Damon: I don't think it's such a major thing to play these records on Radio One anyway. People don't really get their opinions from listening to pop records on Radio One. I mean. OK, some ragga records have rude, naughty lyrics, or even offensive lyrics, but I don't believe that the people who buy them listen to that. And if you censor it you'll get more people listening to it.
Mark: Richey can talk about theoretical instances where censorship would be dangerous, but this actually happened. And Shabba Ranks is influential for ragga fans - I know because of the threats I've had on the streets!
Richey: But I'm just pointing out that the white media chooses to take some people to task for these things and not others.
Mark: But you know as well as I do that the media will always pick up on things that are considered to be controversial -You've had that, I've had that - it's an acceptable part of being in the public eye.
Damon: I think that you're on dodgy ground saying every view has a right to be given that platform. Obviously you just have to draw the line. We live in a society that is so utterly paranoid about drawing up rules. In the end it's self-defeating. I mean, slavery was abolished because a majority of people came to the conclusion that it was morally wrong.
Sarah: I agree totally. I think that the only conclusion you can come to - there has to be censorship in certain cases. the fact that we've got a government that might use it wrongly doesn't mean the whole idea is invalid.
Mark: Maybe Shabba Ranks was made a special case of, but I think rightly so. No-one should be allowed to get away with that shit in such an influential position. And, er, to get back to the point, 'Oh Carolina' was a great record!
THE LEMONHEADS: 'Into Your Arms'
Mark: God, that's abysmal. Sarah: It sounds really like Del Amitri to me! Damon: I don't think they're important - they just did a very bad cover of a very good song, and they're Smash Hits material, so everyone's trying to make them seem like something more significant than they are.
Richey: I just think he's a fairly average stoned American old-fashioned film-school looks, perfect for front covers.
Mark: Well, if that's the case. why has he been given such credibility?
Richey: Because he's an American songwriter.
Sarah: He's very pretty, but that's about it.
Do you think its his dippy vagueness that has mode him a slacker icon?
Mark: But a lot of that's an image, probably. I mean, I interviewed J Mascis once. and before he went on he was really friendly and having a chat and telling anecdotes and then as soon as the cameras rolled he was like (adopts stoned Yank drawl) 'Awww maaan, why are you asking me all these questions?" I'm a big fan of theirs. but that was so pathetic. Sarah: They always have this puppy-dog look as if they're about to cry - but they're all so boring. Mark: So that unanimous. F—The Lemonheads, and their friends!
PET SHOP BOYS: 'Go West'
Mark: If that's ironic pop. is that the best joke they can come up with? It's pretty lame! I think, of all the injustices gay people have to face in this country, being stereotyped as just liking disco is the worst one! It must be awful being expected to like that 'cos it's abysmal.
Sarah: What? You reckon that's the only choke and the only culture they've got?! There must be a choice. en masse, to like that music, and I don't see why they shouldn't. I love it.
Mark: I don't understand gay disco at all, I can't see the appeal, but that is one of the worst tracks I've ever heard. If anyone else but The Pet Shop Boys did that, and it's bloody easy to do, you'd all be slagging it off now.
Damon: I think it's great. Have you ever been down to Heaven? (London gay dub)
Mark: Yeah, I have, but I still don't understand.
Richey: I think it's just the most contrived Number One single ever to reach Number Two. It's so calculated, it just sounds hollow to me. And the video was even worse. Just an endless parade of phallic imagery. Abysmal.
Damon: I don't think that's a good song on which to judge the Pet Shop Boys.
Sarah: I'm sorry but I loved it - I love the campness and the overblown ambition of it all. It's really dramatic and showy.
Richey: And so is Meatloaf...
Well fair enough. that's in a completely different arena. really -it's Rock music all the way.
Sarah: And Meatloaf isn't exactly very nice to look at!
Damon: I think a lot of our reactions to a record like that are very dependent on how we were first introduced to it, and our initial conceptions of what they are about. I love gay disco, and I agree that its brilliant pop, but its whether you gave yourself a chance to understand it.
Mark: But the things I remember most fondly about the '70s weren't The Village People, it was The Jam and punk stuff. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong!
CYPRESS HILL: 'When The Ship Goes Down'
Damon: I liked it immediately and i still like it. It satisfies on every level really. But I really don't listen to the lyrics they're all meant to be about smoking dope but I never realised that. You just get the little hooks.
Mark: I'm really pleased they've managed to cross over - they are a brilliant band. But again they're kind of acceptable because they're not too controversial for white liberals lyrically. I do listen to a lot of rap and I have to say that a lot of the lyrics are completely vile. but you don't listen to it for that.
You've changed your tune haven't you?
Mark: Well, I wouldn't be happy for a lot of the 'bitch' and 'ho' records to be played on Radio One.
Richey: I think the worst thing about Cypress Hill is that they think that marijuana can enfranchise the working class. It's just an escape, the same as gin was, the same as beer became. But I like the record.
Damon: But you've got to have an angle. especially in hip-hop, in order to last very long, and they're better sentiments than most rap records. And they're fun records.
Mark: Also. they do say that it's not smoking dope that makes them a great band, they are a great band who happen to like smoking dope.
A lot of the '70s reggae artists had a similar philosophy...
Richey: No, it's not the same as Bob Marley pledging allegiance to the written word and saying dope is man's pleasure that comes from the soil.
Mark: You can't necessarily compare them - Cypress Hill make very good-humoured party records a lot of the time, like 'Insane In The Brain' rather than 'Redemption Song'. But in rap terms, DJ Muggs is a genius, possibly the most important producer in hip-hop at the moment. It's not a bunch of idiot dopeheads throwing it together.
NIRVANA: 'Heart Shaped Box'
Damon: I wish Nirvana hadn't produced an album that was exactly what people expected of them.
A lot of the hype before this single and 'In (hero' was about how they wanted to get back to a raw sound. even recording it on eight-track.
Damon: That's a pathetic aspiration/
Sarah: Not necessarily, for the kind of band they are.
Damon: But they're not going to get that sound by trying to be something they obviously aren't. You either naturally have that sound or you don't.
Sarah: There are less tunes on this album, compared to 'Nevermind'. This single was pretty average. It just sounds like a second-rate 'Nevermind'.
Do you think it's still a job requirement for rock icons to be f--ed up tortured artists?
Mark: I think in the media's mind it is because they're always looking for that kind of story. But I can't believe that it still shocks people, or that anyone seriously believes it makes for great 'art. It's just good publicity.
Richey: Pearl Jam made a much better record than 'Nevermind. but they're still sneered upon for coming after Nirvana. Lyrically especially, its a far better record. Pearl Jam are the nearest America will ever get to The Smiths. A song like 'Jeremy' is easily equal to anything The Smiths did in their entire career. The reason they've been so successful is that they've got a lyricist who actually says something different. And on the new album, stuff like Rear View Mirror is amazing And in Stone Gossard they've got one of the most gifted guitarists of his generation.
Why are Pearl Jam so unhip, then?
Richey: I think it's because they admitted they like Led Zeppelin, admitted their influences, whereas most American bands never do. Mark: I think that's fairly obvious in their music. and that's part of the reason why people don't like them. Pearl Jam are much more Stadium Rock and metal than Nirvana, you can't really bring it down to trendiness like that. Richer I think Pearl Jam have much more in common with The Beatles than, say, Poison.
Damon: It's all rock musk, basically, and the same dull old rubbish. I liked some of the songs on 'Nevermind' simply because I heard it so much. But I just don't like the pointless heaviness of it, and the whole self-hate thing which has just become so dumb, bland and say-nothing. I'm afraid I'd much rather have the Pet Shop Boys any day.
HAVE U2 managed to shake off their pompous Stadium rock arsehole image
Sarah: No. Its still the same pretentious rubbish. For people who bought 'Boy' in 1980 and are now working in a bank it would be brilliant but for people who bought 'Boy' in 1980 and have managed not to 'grow up' with them its utter drivel.
Richey: I think the whole disappointing thing about U2 was that with 'Achtung Baby' they managed to remove themselves from their bombastic past, and yet with 'Zooropa' they went onstage and did a stadium show and still at the end they had satellite links with Bosnia. doing the caring rock star bit.
Mark: When I saw them Bono was doing this big link-up and saying to this Bosnian woman 'Oh wow, we feel really stupid over here doing a big rock'n'roll gig when you're suffering. but we want you to know that we're still thinking about you'. Then she started talking and he said 'sorry gotta go now!' and went straight into a song! It was really embarrassing like 'OK we've paid our token respects. now piss off!'
But how can big rock stars make right-on statements without looking like hypocrites?
Richey: It depends on how they wanna live their lives. When bands become really famous they want to go out with supermodels. They want to be a celebrity and mix with successful people. It depends on whether they wanna move to London and play those games as part of the celeb set.
Mark: But if you're a rock star those are the sort of people who you're likely to meet and who you're likely to have something in common with. There's no point expecting these people to stick their heads in the sand. He doesn't have to go down the chippy every night to be a decent person.
Richey: But he's indulging in the worst kind of rock star fantasies. He doesn't have to go down the chip shop. but he should go to the same bars as people who aren't stars
Damon: Oh come on, that's rubbish.
Mark: Is there anything wrong with making money, they spending it?
Richey: When I go down the market on a Saturday I find it offensive to see people flashing their gold rings, I find it just as offensive to see pop stars with supermodels on their arm.
Damon: Well, maybe that's all part of their 'End Of The World' irony.
AND HAVING somehow drifted onto the topic of Supermodels...
THE VOODOO QUEENS: 'SUPERMODEL-SUPERFICIAL'
HUGGY BEAR: 'HERJAZZ'
Richey: I hate The Voodoo Queens records, it's virtually saying that supermodels shouldn't exist. And the worst thing was that they followed it with a single about Keanu Reeves. There's plenty of spotty 14-year-olds that want to be Keanu Reeves. That's just the same as girls wanting to be Kate Moss.
Mark: I agree. Two wrongs don't make a right. Just because they're oppressed, why should they be able to get away with the same thing? It's the same as saying it's OK for Public Enemy to be homophobic because they're black.
No it's not. It's very different for a woman to lust after a make icon like that in a song, actively going against centuries of sexist conditioning. In that way it's the same as not looking up to supermodels and promoting eating chocolate! And a lust song isn't wrong per se, it's only wrong when there's an implicit sexist view behind it, which there isn't.
Sarah: I really liked 'Supermodel', I think it's tackling the problem in a really positive way. I went to stage school for a while, and you wouldn't believe the amount of girls who were anorexic or bulimic there, just because of aspiring to this image of perfection. And I never thought that it was just swiping at supermodels. I think the point was that to look like that is not important. It's the idea of 'Supermodels' that is superficial. And I think the 'Kenuwee Head' single was trying to identify with young girls who aren't necessarily well up on Andrea Dworkin, which is fine, but maybe it did belittle what they said on 'Supermodel' to an extend.
Damon: I think they should be allowed to contradict themselves to a certain extent. Everybody does.
So what do you think of the Huggy Bear hardline feminist approach? They seemed to want to keep riot grrrl at a very grassroots level, as if they preferred it to stay among a few friends in Camden.
Damon: Well, they succeeded in keeping it at grassroots level. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
But don't you think they wanted to spread the message further than that?
Mark: I don't think there's anything wrong in preaching to the converted if your eyes are open to that fact. And I think that's what they are doing. They're communicating to like minds, and that's fair enough.
Sarah: They were celebrating their own self-created network of bands and fanzines. What's wrong with that?
Mark: I think they problem was the press suddenly said 'No, we want everyone to know about this', but they said 'We'd rather keep it under our control.'
Richey: One thing I thought was a little bit sad was that when they turned up in a town at a record shop to sell their fanzines they wouldn't sell them to boys. Surely the whole point is that the fanzine is aimed against male society and if they won't let men read it how do they hope to get their views across? And walking offstage as soon as you get a man dancing in the front row achieves nothing.
Mark: Yeah, I agree with that last point. But whether you agree with them of not they divided absolutely everyone who reads the music press, and that's fantastic. They're the only band around, apart from Suede obviously, who everyone has got an opinion on. And I do really love that record.
Richey: They've had everything right except one thing - they need someone who can write a tune.
Damon: I don't think dividing everyone's opinions is anything amazing. They haven't got any sort of manifesto, so what's the point?
Sarah: I think some of it is very much two wrongs trying to make a right, but I think if they've helped just a few girls get into bands and feel better about themselves that must be good.
Mark: And I think that's all they wanted to do. It's certainly done no harm. And it's not really for us to decide what they should do.
CORNERSHOP: 'England's Dreaming'
Damon: I love this record, and I think even though they're saying reasonably vague things like 'Fight The Power' it's a lot more political than most records. You have to put things together - the name being a kind of affront to people's prejudices, the way they sing in Urdu sometimes and the whole Asian-centric punk attitude in a medium - indie music - where you don't expect it.
Sarah: It's got to be good just in the sense that they're getting up onstage and doing the unexpected and not conforming, and hopefully it will encourage more Asian bands to invade a traditionally white culture.
Richey: But at the same time, the NME only chooses to write about an Asian band when they've taken on board white middle-class values and when they sound vaguely like The Fall.
Damon: The one thing I can't get away from is the way the music press always has to cover the same type of bands week in, week out. It's not moving forward.
Mark: But the NME is always going to write for an essentially indie-orientated audience. It can't cover every type of music fully. And inevitably there's going to be some tokenism involved.
But none of you ever mentioned that two or three members of The Voodoo Queens are Asian, and nor do we.
Mark: And that's brilliant. That's the way things should be.
Damon: But Cornershop make more of a point of being Asian, which is fair enough.
Did you ever suspect that the whole thing was a tad calculated - eg burning a picture of Morrissey for assembled photographers?
Damon: But we've all had our moments of weakness!
Mark: Who cares? You might as well use the press, everyone else does.
Damon: And I think they're more effective as an Asian band than Fun-Da-Mental, who always talk about going back to this mythical mother country where everything is OK. That's solving the Tories' problems for them.
Richey: I agree. I much prefer to see a band forcing their own cultural experiences into a traditionally white sub-culture like indie music.
Mark: Everything about them is brilliant.
TAKE THAT: 'Pray'
Mark: I'm not so keen on that particular song of theirs, or many of the others, but I did think 'A Million Love Songs' was a classic.
Damon: I think they're a very classy act, actually.
Mark: They're a cut above most teeny bands.
Damon: I agree, that's what's meant their survival, and the fact they're getting bigger and bigger as well.
Sarah: I like them, they write good pop songs, but I'm more of an Eastette than a Take Thattie!
Richey: I think the big difference between Take That and East 17 is that East 17 try to portray themselves ass very manly, whereas Take That and Bad Boys Inc seem to have a very ambiguous attitude towards homosexuality, and flirting with that makes them a lot more marketable to teenage girls - they're much more liberal than they used to be.
Damon: I don't think that's the case.
Sarah: I don't think teenage girls would think much of it ig they came out as gay.
Richey: But in the '70s if you told a band like Bay City Rollers that they had a gay following they'd have been horrified.
Mark: I don't think there's much genuine homophobia among teenage girls. If any of Take That did come out as gay it would be more of a problem that they seemed unobtainable, but if they were pictured with their boyfriends I suppose it might put some of their fans off.
Have they got any future?
Mark: I think they've got more than most teen bands. They've shown they can write good pop songs, so there's no reason why they can't get more hits. That audience won't remain for long, but they're not completely manufactured, and they could last.
CREDIT TO THE NATION: 'Call It What You Want'
SO WAS it just the Nirvana riff?
Mark: A bit, but I think their appeal is mainly an indie one - I couldn't see that being played in a rap club. It is a great rap record, though.
Damon: They've done alot of good things for the indie scene though, I love that record.
Mark: But I do think they would have been largely ignored - especially by the music press - if it wasn't for Nirvana sample, just like a lot of the British rap acts.
Sarah: I think it was brilliant, and very brave of MC Fusion to have a go at sexism and homophobia in rap. As a young hip-hop artist who you'd think would be in awe of those people, it was great.
Mark: I just think it's sad that they're the first rap band the music press have really gone to town on.
Don't you remember Ice-T, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Run DMC, De La Soul or Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy on our cover?
Richey: But you only write about new rap when it's the kind that's likely to cross over to a white audience.
Damon: But that's more reflective of the people who read the music press than the papers themselves.
SUEDE: 'Animal Nitrate'
WHAT EXACTLY have Suede got that nobody else has at the moment?
Mark: Hype, above all. I'm not saying they're not talented or that isn't a good record, but I don't think there's ever been a band who have been made out to be as good as they have been.
Damon: But that's in the past now. The secret of their continued success remains to be seen.
Mark: They do write very infectious, grower sort of pop songs.
Richey: Brett is a good pop star. He knows when to keep his mouth shut And when to keep it open.
Damon: I don't think what I have to say about them is remotely fair.
Oh go on, be a devil.
Damon: It's not even slightly interesting.
Sarah: I think he's obviously had a lot of time to think about how to present himself and what to say, but that's no bad thing.
Mark: The whole thing of pop celebrity is such a bullshit facade anyway that I don't think it matters if it's contrived. And he's so big now that he can get away with saying nonsense like 'I am a bisexual man who has never had a homosexual experience'.
Sarah: They are a really good band, but whether they can ever live up to the expectations forced upon them is another matter.
Damon: Well it won't be too hard after that album, that's the good thing!
...And at this point your hack died from acute alcohol poisoning, and an almighty ruck ensued after our pundits strayed into the thorny subject of 'Who's best - Anne and Nick or Richard and Judy?' But we'll all be back next year, none the wiser, not getting any younger, and still wondering how we managed to discuss 'Oh Carolina' for an entire hour. Goodnight.