Monday, January 08, 2007

Randomiser #8: 8 January 2007

Today's song: The Divine Comedy, "Middle Class Heroes"

From "Casanova", the breakthrough album which launched Neil Hannon to mainstream success after Chris Evans (then at the peak of his radio career) threw his weight behind "Something for the Weekend." This is a pretty typical Divine Comedy album track - a remarkably elaborate MOR orchestral arrangement attached to something a hair's breadth from a comedy song. Hannon was very big on the ironically raised eyebrow at this point, although so was everyone else in the mid-nineties. He also seems to see himself, with some justification, as an heir to the witty songwriters of the pre-rock era.

The thing with Neil Hannon is that he's very, very good at what he does. It's just that a lot of people find what he does rather smug and irritating, and this is precisely the sort of song they'd point to as proving their point. He's done a lot better than this, but if you're not vehemently opposed to Hannon's whole style, it's a perfectly good album track.

- Civil War #7 delayed to 21 February; precisely nobody surprised. I've yet to see any remotely credible explanation for how Marvel ever thought the first rescheduled dates were going to be achieved - they involved a big delay before issue #4, a big delay before issue #5, and then issues #6 and #7 miraculously resuming a monthly schedule. Surprise surprise, issues #6 and #7 have been delayed. This sort of multiple rescheduling of major titles happens so often that, with the very best will in the world, it is impossible to believe that these schedules are announced in good faith by people who have seriously given thought to their achievability. I mean, they just can't be that useless or that unlucky.

- The overhaul of the UK singles chart (to allow random downloads and singles that aren't on physical release) turned out to be less dramatic than people were making out. Although most singles sold are now downloads, that doesn't apply at the top end of the charts, which is still built on physical sales. So the only really obvious sign of the new rules was the sudden reappearance of an old Snow Patrol single at number 9, which had previously been disqualified from the charts on the grounds that the physical single had been deleted. Several other old records reappeared on the chart under the same principle. There's also a new entry for a single that doesn't get a physical release for several weeks, and as predicted when people were talking up the effect of the changes, there's also an album track charting on the strength of random downloads. Unfortunately, it's at number 74, and it's "Stick to the Status Quo" from the soundtrack of High School Musical - not exactly the landmark record one might have hoped for.

- The other really surprising thing about the Top 75, looking at it for the first time in ages, is how slow it is. Admittedly, this is always a very quiet time of year, because for a while now the singles chart has worked by hyping up a single weeks in advance, and then releasing it. You can't do that over Christmas, and so January tends to be a dead period - which is why it's a great time to totally change the chart rules without everything completely turning upside down. But it's remarkable how many artists have got multiple entries on the chart, or incredibly long-running records. Shakira's Hips Don't Lie is still on the Top 75 after something over six months. Lily Allen has three songs in the chart. So do the Cast of High School Musical, the Feeling, Nelly Furtado, James Morrison (who has singles at 44, 46 and 50), and Razorlight (two of them in the top 30). Eminem, Snow Patrol, Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse all have two. Nine acts accounting for a third of the chart between them, because their old singles are still hanging around. That's a really slow-moving chart. It really needs the shake-up this rule change is supposedly going to give it.