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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The original Sugababes are making an album! This is amazing if you think corporate pop can go fuck itself. This is real music, written by the founding members of what has effectively become more of an engorged club than a band. How amazing.

 

HOWEVER let’s be honest, if MNEK and Emeli Sande and those other acclaimed people were making music for the current crop of ‘Babes it would be just as exciting. In 2008 when it was announced the band signed to Roc Nation there was this whole thing about how amazing it was that the Sugababes were finally going to crack America. With the right producers and stuff they’d manage to become a global phenomenon. They didn’t, as it happens. And in retrospect, songs like ‘Get Sexy’ (‘If I had a dime, for every single time, these boys stopped and stared, I’d be a billionaire!!’ stand out as particularly oppressive and sad) felt like a step in the wrong direction.

 

Anyway the nostalgia surrounding what the original members did is astonishing. Because commercially the band weren’t a huge  success until Heidi stepped in in 2001/2. Of course, that’s not to say the band’s first album wasn’t amazing, it was. Overload was incredibly clever and brilliantly bolshy without seemingly lifting a finger, while Soul Sound and New Year was alright I suppose. Yea, they were OK.

Going back to Heidi for a moment, she has been in the band as long as Keisha, if we’re being statistical. And anyway, I was only 9 when the original lineup were being all brilliant, so if there’s any misguided opinion here, and you feel like posting a letterbomb, remember that I was 9, and when I was 9 SMTV: Live started showing Pokemon, and that was kind of a big deal, so I was a bit busy to be getting moist over the Sugababes, OK? Heidi is a good member, both in the fact she had a nice voice, and the majority of the songs she’s worked on have been good.

 

There can’t be any doubt the Sugababes Mach II – that’s Mutya Keisha and Heidi – was actually kind of amazing. Freak Like Me, Round Round, Stronger (ehh) but also Too Lost In You and Caught In A Moment. It was an amazing time to be in a girl band because you were honest and innocent and didn’t have to compromise your sexuality because most the time you got to wear Adidas in some form (or, see Mutya’s schexy puffa jacket in Too Lost In You).

 

People are yearning for the original line-up more as an act against the current, regurgitated, recycled, redundant crop than anything else. Heidi, Amelle and Jade haven’t done anything exciting. Their music isn’t particularly interesting; it sounds inspired by 2007’s Timbaland craze and considering the band were originally quite open, honest and un-sexual it’s a shame the brand has gone on to re-record ‘Here Come The Girls (Girls, Girls, Girls Girls)’ and a song which talks about wearing your kiss all over your body with the defeated spirit and lacklustre confidence one may find synonymous with sporting an STI (all over your body).

The appeal in the new line-up might come from two things. One, a hark back to older, less sexually aggressive ways. And another that the artists working with the OrigiBabes are trendy, forward-thinking and less perverse than previous writers. MNEK is all about the MUSIC, man. He wears geek specs. He’s YOUNG. Young people aren’t perverse save for Tinchy Stryder, who recently rapped about Holly Willoughby running him a bath. Which is a bit weird, and childish, and weird again. You get off on someone mothering you? .

 

Also  quiff-bearing Emeli Sande is not pandering to overly-sexual things, which is really awesome for the original redone Sugababes. She’s a real wimmin. I know this because I saw her perform at a Samsung gig and she wore comfy clothes instead of a crop top and stilettos. Sensible, sensible Emeli. She will guide the new-but-original-Sugababes wisely.


This is MNEK. TAKE HIM IN. He is 17, and a song writer/producerman.

What is appealing is what these new producers and thinkers bring to a brand that has grown weary with intense over-thinking and deflating opinions on female sexuality. GONE are the belly rings and suggestive dancing. REVOKED are the flirty glances and applying-lipstick-in-the-car pouting. REVIVED are the sitting on shag carpets, thinking about bigger issues and writing in diaries.

 

So basically, the new old redone Sugababes are exiting because they’re working with fresh talent and amazing song writers. This could, in theory, make the current line-up of the Sugababes exciting, too, because they’ve proven to be as malleable as a jacket potato left under a radiator. HOWEVER part of the huge appeal of this reform is of a band of rejects being reassembled into a new, but familiar, pop outfit. Like The Avengers, if the metaphor wasn’t clear enough. They are cool. Comparatively, the current crop, despite being able to hold a tune, were all brought in at some point at the behest of producers to ‘spruce things up’. Heidi was an Atomic Kitten, Jade was a Eurovision ‘star’ and Amelle ran a successful crime syndicate in Wood Green.


It will be very exciting to see the new, old, redone ‘babes release music because despite the fact people are gooey-eyed and stuff about the Sugababes, unless they’re way older than me they’ll probably have the longest, most stable memories of a band that had already chucked Siobhan out for being a bit mental. Listen to Overlord. Listen to Siobhan singing. It sounds weird, although not bad.

 

So yea. Apparently they sound amazing. But think about THIS. Someone has to have a strop or a fall our or quit eventually. It is probably going to be Mutya, if you’d like my unpaid opinion.

-END-

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Earlier today, after getting an amazing 9 letter word on Countdown (it was CODPIECE, in case you were wondering) I rolled up my sleeves ready to write something about magazine subscriptions. I’m saying this firmly on my high horse, but I don’t mean to be a dick about it. People aren’t buying many magazines, really, are they? Most journalists, PRs or media-type-folk get copies delivered in the office anyway, and because of their attitudes to print/online, some publications (Esquire and The Guardian come to mind) put enough of the print stuff online to give consumers less incentive to go out and buy something.

Long, long ago (in 2009) I read a really good interview with NME’s Hamish Macbain, who made a solid argument for print > online (full link here).

‘there are things [print] can do that you can’t do online – you can’t have a beautiful double-page spread of an image. There’s still something striking about that. You just have to play to your strengths as a print medium – although we do online stuff as well, you just need to find a way that a magazine can still be a strong means of communication.’

I remember reading that and thinking that was the most amazing statement in the world. Case in point, if you read Q this month, there’s a brilliant cover story article about Amy Winehouse, a year on from her death (actually, read last July’s if you can, because that issue had an even more amazing piece on Amy Winehouse where journalists like Sylvia Patterson discuss meeting her).

I read the feature a couple of times last week, and there are these big images of Amy playing the piano, and staring at the camera looking quite fierce and sometimes quite doe-eyed. And you’re reading about her refusing to do a song to someone else’s deadlines, delaying the production of Back To Black, winding Mark Ronson up and then suddenly turning up at his house and singing Love Is A Losing Game, which she had come up with in her head. The whole thing – images, layout, text – come together like an orchestra (well, an orchestra with three parts). Would the feature be as good read on a website like DigitalSpy, or on Q’s website? Probably not. The images would all be neatly cropped, identical like the soldiers you dunk in a boiled egg. Here’s an image. And another. And another. Oh, and an ad for printer cartridges. Lovely.

On a similar note, Esquire, a magazine I like for their style, grooming, food and drink kind of content, puts content online, but I’ll take the print stuff any time. It just looks better, it looks like the layout has been designed specifically to make the products (whether they’re suits, barbecues or bottles of tequila) the centre of attention.

But people aren’t buying magazines, are they (to a lesser extent, people probably aren’t buying magazine racks either, but IKEA are clever enough to convince you to store sliced lunch meat in them instead, so you have to hand it to them). Circulation figures are going down, and if you work on a magazine or a newspaper, it clogs up your Twitter and Facebook, and the publisher from upstairs comes down to have a chat. You might be doing badly, and they tell you off, but in one of those compliment sandwiches, where nice things bookend a stinging remark. And you get fired up, and think if only we had the weather, people would go on holiday more, and they’d buy your magazine in WHSmith’s at Gatwick and the industry would be SAVED.

One thing people point out is that magazines are expensive. Duh. Didn’t you see those people get made redundant last month? If the magazine is more expensive, maybe they can keep Jackie from accounts. And we NEED Jackie. She’s our Joan from Mad Men, so brilliant at her job. And I think she’s pregnant, but I haven’t checked yet. Oh God, can you imagine if she wasn’t and we all congratulated her? Sounds like something Phil would do. Ha.

That issue of Q I bought was £4.50, which is probably the most expensive monthly I can think of. When I was at FHM (which is just over three quid!) it was pointed out that the mag cost less than a pint. A month. How many times do you buy an extra pint and sick it back up, or feel shit the next day. We tried to stress that you know, this awesome magazine of features and news and funniness was pretty fucking cheap if you think about it.

Thing is, anyone who insists they can’t buy a magazine once in a while because £3.50 a month  is still expensive, what about subscriptions? Have you realised they are ridiculously cheap? Companies love subscriptions, it’s like a pre-nup for publishers. You’re agreeing to give them slightly better circulation figures for a while. When I was 18 I got a subscription to FHM after taking an issue on holiday (Abbey Clancey was on the cover, and the photoshoot was in a bath). I got the subscription because it was good value for money, I didn’t have to get ID’d at the newsagents (so embarrassing) and they gave you a free gift – an awesome t-shirt by Junk Food featuring loads of Marvel superheroes. It was so cool.

Subscriptions, as well as being cheap, give you free gifts! They change most months, but FHM used to do XBox games, GQ and Esquire do lux fragrances, travel accessories, you know, stuff that is really cool.

Look how much magazines WANT your loyalty. While this month’s Q is £4.50, you can get a subscription of 12 issues for TWELVE QUID. Twelve quid. A quid a month. And while this Amy Winehouse issue is admittedly the first I’ve bought since Andrew Harrison stepped in, it’s fucking brill. He’s got people like Adam Levine from Maroon 5 (“Just make me look cool,” he says), Justin Beiber (WTF) and Foster The People. I didn’t like the magazine when it focused so much on U2 or the Gallagers or Elbow. Pop music has its place in music magazines, and I do genuinely feel that by embracing less XFM bands Q is actually turning into a better mag.

So, to summarise: magazines are not doing well, and some magazines are folding because people are not buying them. Like The Word. I actually never bought an issue of The Word, but the way people are going on about it, it sounds like a magazine I’d enjoy. I’d be gutted if it happened to a magazine I really liked.

Speaking of which, read thisBasically, a company has launched Next Issue. Think Spotify for magazines. You can pay a fixed rate a month ($10 gets you access to monthlies, while $15 a month gets you additional access to weeklies, too). Like Spotify, this kind of model will only work with an all-or-nothing approach, and Next Issue has been backed by Conde Naste, Hearst, News Corp, Time Inc and Meredith, meaning you can access Esquire, InStyle, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated and Wired among others. Not bad.

Maybe if people are apathetic about subscriptions to magazines, this kind of thing will excite them. And if not, well, we’ll have no magazines and no newspapers and in a desolate future, we’ll plug ourselves into machines and live an unconscious life where we make our own news.

The End.

SMALL PRINT

  1. Sorry if I sound like a dick. 
  2. I’m not trying to be smug, really, but I was moaning on Twitter last month about a magazine I buy which featured an utter bellend in its pages. As I was moaning, someone started moaning like ‘oh fuck off they have it quite difficult, we need to fill pages, stop whining on Twitter’ and I politely said ‘well I buy this magazine quite a lot, so I think it’s quite fair for me to have an opinion on it’ and kind of feel if you’re a reader, and pay for something, you’re quite within your right to point out said bellend in said magazine.
  3. I have a subscription to Esquire, Men’s Health and Olive, which is a BBC food magazine. That last one was a birthday present, but I have to be honest, it’s really good.
  4. Recently I have also bought NME, FHM and GQ.
  5. And Q, which you may have guessed by my incessant bumming of it in this blog. But I have read it a lot recently, and it was that which inspired me to write this, so there.
  6. Thank you for pointing out CODPIECE is not a 9 letter word.

Once the preserve of country estates and exotic resorts, there are now more spas than ever in London, and although the city is built up, they’re a little more discrete than you’d think. Now you can get a massage or pedicure on your lunch hour without any fuss or trouble.

The Corinthia Hotel is a beautiful building a stone’s throw from Downing Street, and beneath its doors lies the Espa Life, for men and women. The dark corridors house a gym (managed by Stephen Price, personal trainer to the world’s athletic elite) and a hair salon run by Daniel Galvin, as well as an award-winning spa. Try the Shiatsu Inspired experience – a signature massage which works the whole body and exfoliation. You’ll feel brand new afterwards.

Spa treatments are perfect after a long day of shopping – thankfully the Agua Spa at The Sanderson Hotel is just a short walk from Oxford Street. Their citrus facial treatments will help rejuvenate your skin, while a hot stone massage will relax your nervous system and soothe sore joints.

Some spas are more traditional than others. Porchester Spa, in Queensway, men and woman are only allowed in on different days (alternating through the week, check the website for changes) – although Sunday night is for couples. They offer a traditional Finnish log sauna, therapeutic treatments and exercise facilities in an art deco setting. And when you’re exhausted? Cool off in the icy plunge pool.


© Makoto Yamawaki

First published in Scout London in May 2012.

At times, art can feel a little intimidating – especially for those without formal art education. The prospect of doing one’s homework before attending the latest must-see exhibition can be somewhat off-putting.

But the new exhibition at the Barbican, Bauhaus: Art As Life, will look at the history and innovation behind one of modern art’s biggest cultural movements in a way which goes beyond displaying the work.

The exhibition – the largest of its kind for 40 years – is a celebration of the diversity behind the 14-year life span of Bauhaus, with photography, sculptures, theatre and installations. Curator, Catherine Ince says that this multi-disciplinary aspect was what made Bauhaus so popular.

“What we tried to do with this exhibition was rather than paint a picture of the Bauhaus, we looked at the art school, what they made; what they worked on, the parties they had, the lifestyle, the relationships forged,” she tells Scout London.

“We weaved all the different things such as ceramics, furniture, photography and stagework together, because at the time, Bauhaus was a lifestyle.”

Staatliches Bauhaus was an art school in Germany, known for its marriage of fine art- and craft-work. After the German monarchy collapsed following the First World War, a new wave of expressionism grew from that which had formerly been suppressed. Young creatives, embracing radical aesthetics and new, exciting designs, rose to the forefront of architecture and art.

“People returned to appreciating art as a craft,” Ince explains. “And they appreciated the skill in the art.”

The exhibition will offer a unique insight into the Bauhaus lifestyle. Kite flying, for example, was incredibly popular and will be offered to Barbican visitors. There will also be costume parties, in recognition of the movement’s renown for flair and decadence.

“They were incredibly flamboyant,” says Ince. “But also thrifty; people would make a costume entirely out of plates and frying pans.

“We’re holding a costume workshop as part of the exhibit and Fred Butler, one of Lady Gaga’s designers, will be attending. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Bauhaus: Art As Life looks set to be an incredibly multi-dimensional exhibition; if you’re interested in discussions and talks, there are plenty on offer, with Peter Fischli offering an exciting insight into  his childhood with his father, Hans – a trained Bauhaus artist.

The movement’s cultural impact on London can be seen in a number of spots around London.. Notably, the Isokon Building on Lawn Road, Hampstead, which was built between 1933 and 1943 and is now considered one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the UK thanks to its Grade I Listed status. Premier crime novelist, Agatha Christie lived there during the 40s, apparently.

If you’d rather get out and see examples of the movement for yourself, the Social Housing and Bauhaus walk lets you see buildings inspired by Bauhaus throughout the city, specifically Golden Lane, Spa Green and the Finsbury Estates.

“I suppose it was the first modern artform,” says Ince. “They tried to unleash the individual’s creativity, and as constructivism gained ground, that started becoming more influential, too. Art aligned with industry, and in terms of creative education, Bauhaus was fundamental. People would go on to specialise their craft after learning about it.

“You could see it around you, you realise it’s influenced things around us like schools, buildings and furniture. It’s going to be a really exciting exhibit.”

Does Carlisle really need a Jack Wills? As someone who doesn’t live in my home city anymore, nor wears JW clothing, I’m okay with being told to stick my schnozz elsewhere, but hearing the news made me think about just what kind of strategy is actually being used here.

A history lesson. Jack Wills started in Devon about 13 years ago and now has just under 50 stores in the UK. Often paired with Abercrombie or Hollister for their portrayal of a young, middle-class lifestyle, it’s price point often makes it favourable among university students – it’s a step up from Topman, Gap et al in terms of pricing.

It’s also known for its campaigns; hot models and toned blokes who have taken the time to go to the gym 8 days a week but find the idea of buttoning up a shirt cumbersome. Boat shoes that are so expensive it seems flippant to bother tying the shoelaces. And the girls? The girls  are just as tanned and picture-perfect, wearing tweed shorts because anything is immediately classy if it’s tweed. And your top can be as low cut as you like if it’s cashmere.

 
Two models who don’t know Jack

And a history lesson on Carlisle, while we’re here. We got our Starbucks in 2008. Finally got a Nandos in 2011. I told a stranger on a night bus that I lived in Carlisle once (you can take the boy out the north, etc) and she, perhaps confusing the Great Border City with the island on Lost, seemed to think it sporadically changed location, bordered with Scotland, Wales and Newcastle. No. We’re 6 miles from the Scottish Border, North-West to be precise, maybe 60 miles from Newcastle. Say it with me now. En-ger-lund.

But as well as our new-found love of chicken and sweet, barely-caffienated drinks (OH: ‘What’s a mermaid got to do wid coffee?’) we have shops. Not many shops, though, because GAP was closed in 2006. The H&M is women only. There aren’t any trainer shops. Independent retailer Hoopers (a House of Fraser type outfit selling Levis, Pringle, Barbour etc) shut down two months ago due to poor sales. So, the crux. Does Carlisle even want a Jack Wills?

Naturally someone has identified a market; kids with money. Because though JW has been aimed at the university types, who like clothes detailing rowing, rugby and polo without the wearer having to give a hoot about rowing, rugby or polo, there’s been a definite shift in the age of their customers. They’re getting younger. Kids wearing Jack Wills are popping their stiff collars before they’re even in 6th form, and as long as they’re stuck in the school’s crappy social hierarchy, they’re going to be incredibly sporadic and incredibly loyal to the right brand. Which is just brilliant for Jack Wills.

 Jack Wills: Unashamedly Expensive British

But I’d argue that given Carlsle is so starved of retail space that the worst thing you could do is offer consumers something at such a radical end of the spectrum. At least Ralph Lauren, and Fred Perry (both on sale in Carlisle’s House of Fraser) appeal to broad demographics; I bought my first RL polo shirt at 16, and when I worked at an outlet in Gretna (Google it) you had men and women from 16-60 buying work shirts, jeans, polo shirts or swim shorts without the sense that anyone was being compromised in terms of how they looked.

Is the same true of Jack Wills? No. They want you to buy into it at a young age, and once you reach a certain age (like with Hollister and Abercrombie) you begin to look a bit sad. Even ironic. Thankfully, the company has an older, upmarket brand, Aubin & Wills, aimed at the twenty-something tired of suckling on Jack’s teet. It’s stocked in Selfridges, sold on Mr Porter, and the almost-out-of-grasp price point makes more sense when it appeals to older, less spontaneous customers. People don’t splurge on Aubin & Wills, they buy what they know they want.

Spot the grown up: Aubin & Wills’ clothing

Give Carlisle a male H&M, or a Zara, even bring GAP back, because while any new shops is excellent news (the high street is bare thin, like) something like Jack Wills feels like a pretty poor choice. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were being balanced out by cheaper alternatives. Can we have both?

Probably not.