New winners, new danger

THE NEWS that I would be setting up my own rival to the Brits - the CRIES & WHISPERS awards - has prompted a flood of sponsorship offers, but I'm afraid the project has been put on hold indefinitely, not, as some colleagues have unkindly suggested, because I've flogged this idea for too many weeks already, but because the CRIES committee insisted on two new rules, and effectively disqualified almost every band in existence in the process.

The first rule stated that no band would be eligible unless they used proper song titles, ie, there would be no place for anyone who opted to stick with a half-arsed, in-jokey working title, instead of giving a song a name that actually refers to what it's about. The most grievous offenders are the Bluetones, who are reviewed on page 10. Their last single, "Solomon Bites The Worm", follows the equally baffling "Marblehead Johnson" and "Slight Return".

Nearly as heinous are Supergrass, who like nothing more than to give their tunes identity crises. "Mansize Rooster"? "Lenny"? "Richard III"? You could swap those titles around at random and no one would notice.

So overwhelming is the tide of noxious names that it has fostered a new trend, as record companies resort to adding their own chorus-based titles whenever they release an album track as a single. So, Lush's "500" was deed-polled to "Shake, Baby, Shake (500)", Skunk Anansie's "Hedonism" was rechristened "Just Because You Feel Good (Hedonism)", and Green Day's recent "Good Riddance" went under the alias of "Time Of Your Life (Good Riddance)".

I'm with the record companies on this one. Much as I hate to speak up for any assault on artistic integrity, you might as well give a song the name which everyone's going to end up calling it anyway. When Lush's song- title was amended, they grouched about it in interviews. You'd think they'd have been grateful for any help to sell records they could get.

Also disqualified from the CRIES & WHISPERS is any artist who puts a bonus track on his or her CD, "bonus track" being the music industry code for "song that appears at the end of the CD but which doesn't have its name on the sleeve". What happens is that your CD player's digital display tells you that an album has, say, 10 tracks, but when you've reached the end of the 10th, the disc keeps spinning, there is a minute or two's silence, and - surprise, surprise - another song begins: usually an inebriated demo, hence the reluctance to announce it in the sleevenotes. A clever use of the new format when CDs were first invented, the bonus track is now a worn-out gimmick that adds nothing to the album but running time. But it is still so prevalent - from Janet Jackson to Pearl Jam to, yes, the Bluetones - that it's a relief these days when a CD finishes when it promises it's going to.

There are only two bands who may still be eligible for the CRIES, simply because they demonstrate how redundant the bonus track has become. Ash's album, 1977, finishes with an unlisted recording of the band being sick, and the bonus track on Monaco's Music For Pleasure consists, in its entirety, of Peter Hook saying: "Oy. You can turn it off now." That's got to be worth an award in itself.