Grumpy Sunday

It happens once a month, and it’s always the same. The Observer newspaper, of which I am a great fan, has within its many sections a glossy magazine called Observer Music Monthly.

I open it in the hope that this month might be different, but, of course, it never is.

And so I grump on about how if the Observer Food Magazine just covered fast food and superficial tastes, it would be a poor thing indeed, full of comparison tests between the latest Maccy D construction or the latest Kenny FC nuggety bite thing.

So why does the Observer Music Monthly have to spend all its time discussing fast music, the hear today and forget tomorrow pap that goes by the name pop? Where is the really interesting stuff that stimulates the frontal lobe as well as the feet, that will give the lasting pleasure and insight of a fine wine rather than the gas of lager or the sugar of alcopop?

The jazz music in OMM will be restricted to one disc in the sentence-long also ran review section; there is no classical music here, contemporary or centuries old, precious little world music, or folk, or blues, or even good intelligent current rock music. Sure, there’s a decent feature in today’s by Sean O’Hagan about Woodstock and Altamont, but that is about it, and that’s more sociological than about harmony and melody and rhythm and lyrics and the magical thing that happens when they are all just right.

And I know what their argument would be – this is what most people listen to today, pop is cool and it’s OK to take it seriously because we all do, all of us journalists and people we know.

But, of course, this is because the media types and populist intelligentsia of today might have highly sophisticated, adult taste when it comes to food or literature or TV or film, and maybe even art, but when it comes to music they are children. I blame the education system and governments of all hues who have committed music teaching in schools to death by a thousand cuts.

But, then again, some people – I see them at jazz and world and classical gigs all the time – have managed some self-education in this field and have taught themselves that there is a lot more satisfaction and depth to be found in music when it isn’t marketed by  major record labels and stacked in racks on Woolworths (Oh, gosh, that’s gone, hasn’t it…)

So while I can understand how OMM came about, that doesn’t mean I can forgive it its total inadequacy.

Sorry about that… good humour restored tomorrow.



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2 replies

  1. Hear, hear! Totally up itself.

    I’m not so keen on the Observer either which is, for me, merely the least worst of the Sundays. Remember that weekly jazz coverage in the Review is now virtually non-existent.

    In fact I hate all the Observer monthly supplements – especially Food, with it’s boring features, dull recipes by Nigel ‘tv dinners’ Slater and the self-consciously ‘wacky’ photos of chefs.

  2. I also agree and am baffled by the fact that the Sundays have virtually no coverage of jazz and related musics. The Observer Music Monthly is perhaps the worst example as it has, as Peter points out, nothing about most genres of music. But the Arts Sections of all the quality Sundays do have an extensive Classical Music review and a long summary of various interesting pop gigs, but nothing about jazz and alternative music apart from one or two CD reviews. We have plenty to worry about in relation to the coverage of jazz etc. in the dailies, but at least they do carry thoughtful reviews of concerts. For example there were two reviews of gigs at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in the Times, two in the Telegraph and one in The Guardian, but absolutely nothing in the Sundays.

    In fact, I have decided that this is symptomatic of a lack of very much that is interesting in the Sundays, i.e. lots of sections but hardly anything I want to read, so I have stopped buying them. Not sure that this minor protest has had any effect, but it has saved me quite a bit of money and time on the Sunday!

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