It’s a love-in. Noel’s here, Macca, various Radio One DJs, the people from Franz Ferdinand, Alan McGhee. The camera briefly cuts to the floor; indie-rock stars and intermingled sycophants are sat at their tables indulging in some ritual of highly-stylised cigarette-smoking and schoolboy smirking. Awards are given out to a host of artists who sound like the Killers or Franz Ferdinand; perhaps this is what happens when rockers over-indulge their pop sensibilities and pop stars over-indulge their rock sensibilities. It’s “rock and roll”, all right, but the line between some of these bands and, say, Pink, is looking increasingly blurred. We see Kaiser Chiefs do a song – this is passable rock and roll, there’s plenty of this going around and there has been for some time now. “Rock” bands remain conspicuous by their absence – this is a good-time sound that is aimed more at the Top Shop market.
Big cheers for Macca. Some mention of Razorlight. Big thanks for the good people at Carling for sponsoring so many gigs. Chris Martin says a few words and mocks himself for “trying to save the world”. The screen cuts to a pretty young man who looks no older than about twelve, in a suit, and he’s the Editor of the NME, possibly on account of some familial connection with one of the four IPC Executives whose names appear on the credits at the end, or possibly because of the immense critical talent with which he enlightens us with a lucid explanation as to what constitutes the “essence” of “being” “rock and roll.” There follows a sycophantic, messianic tribute which implicitly casts every rock and roll lover into the role of gutless wannabe who lives vicariously through his idols’ various drug-addled anecdotes. I would prefer to take the line that the relationship is two-way, and that as soon as a musician loses touch with his fans and/or reality and develops a sort of vertical relationship with people then his reign is over. But then this lot gave an award to Bono last time around so that’s a bit much to expect.
At the heart of the NME is a contradiction – it is the cliquiest clique in town, and yet it is controlled by and answerable to the media group which controls the bulk of what you see in WH Smith’s, including some of the most bland, lowest-denominator publications. Somewhere along the line sincerity – and consequently credibility – has inevitably gone out the window. In this context the guests at this event come across as willing whores (whether they are aware of it or not is none of my concern); this celebration of “real” music is brought to you by the people who gave us, through their other publications, Norah Jones and not so long ago Nu-Metal. We get a brief shot of The Others, a “political” rock band who rant against “the man” in one of their songs; this term was almost certainly last used some time in the 1970s by a longhair who now works in advertising. Franz Ferdinand get an award and have a brief rant against “manufactured” bands. This evening is sponsored by Wella Shockwaves. Carl from the Libertines uses his acceptance speech to bemoan the fact the Pete Doherty couldn’t have been there, since it would have been a good chance to sort out a reunion. Barat is probably all too aware that his own career will soon be finished without Doherty, but that doesn’t excuse such a shameless outburst, nor the inexplicable cheers that follow.
Tonight is about a sort of Smash Hits-esqe hero-worship in which the aesthetic of “cool” is the deity – unsurprising from a magazine that publishes an annual list of “cool” people we are asked to admire. The evening culminates in the award of a “Godlike Genius” trophy to New Order, a band who, for all their undoubted brilliance, have failed to produce one excellent album in over twenty years of activity. Macca gets an unnecessary award which was perhaps a contractual condition of his appearance at the show, perhaps not. Most gratingly, the late John Peel is posthumously remembered with a host of stars reminding us that he gave artists a chance even when they went against the grain of what was fashionable. Would the good people at IPC or Wella Shockwaves do us the same courtesy? Probably not, but they’re all for the idea in principle. There’s something of the Animal Farm about all this.