As far as the listeners are concerned The Spirit Cage my latest album in 6 years or more, is being well received. Whether the fops and coxcombs of the London press can be bothered to write about it is anybody's guess. Along with many good (and better) songwriters,

I have had to suffer years of censorship by being made an unp-erson. I used to think they'd presume that if they never mentioned me, I'd go away. What I think now is that no-one gives a fuck, no-one knows and no-one could be bothered anyway. I don't take this personally. In fact I'm more indignant on behalf of other artists who've been ignored because they didn't go to London, or jump on the right bandwagon. Nick Drake comes to mind. He of course has been rehabilitated now and you can't move for people having Nick Drake tribute nights. Pity the vacuous bastards didn't pay more attention when he was alive.

What I do remember was a reviews editor at Q magazine, during the release of The Off White Album, telling the pr. person from Humbug: "Martin Newell's albums will never be reviewed as long as I am reviews editor at this magazine." I confess that I did find this unexpectedly hostile reaction a little surprising, since it denoted a petulance and vengefulness, which I didn't believe a grown up journalist should allow himself to be polluted by. That Rock's biggest glossy had made me an un-person for no good reason that I could think of was surprising yes. Years later, in fact last year, the magazine relented and reviewed The Wayward Genius Of… The review, which wasn't bad, began; "All things considered this album is really not bad." All what things considered I wondered? I genuinely have no idea what I've done wrong. So is it any wonder I can't be bothered promoting my music? When I have a new record out now I generally go to ground and stay out of the way. Or I get on with new work. There's a sort of siege mentality almost. I know that my work won't be reviewed, or if it is reviewed, I will be damned with faint praise or castigated for not being on the correct bandwagon. If I were to die tomorrow a cult would spring up around the fact that I was mysteriously overlooked. Only then would my work be listened to or assessed. Do the critics build their career ladders from the smashed remains of artiste's work? Only a true paranoid would believe so.

But anyone who'd ever created anything could be forgiven for toying with the idea in a dark moment. Well I'm not alone. Greater talents than mine have been ripped to shreds or censored by lack of mention. And of course the critics must grow old and feel younger wolves snapping at their heels. An ageing artist still has his work and perhaps a small following if he or she is lucky. A critic has only out of date opinions and the deteriorating appearance, which forced him behind a desk in the first place, instead of, out on a stage more befitting his ego.

A music critic is like a man whose trousers have never fitted correctly, criticising a group of other men whose trousers did fit once but don't any more. In order to make a living in this trouser condemning profession they must move on up from a junior trouser condemning mag to a more grown up one. Eventually they will hit pay dirt if they are lucky. This means that they'll end up writing a more or less favourable article about somebody so important that they must think of reasons to praise the artist: e.g. Why Rod Stewarts's Trousers Have Always Fitted Really Well In Spite Of What We've All Been Saying For Years . From this point it's only a short hop to being commissioned to write a fawning article about the Queen Mother for the Radio Times. By this time, all but the most elephantine-memoried of the musicians he condemned, will have forgotten his name. But I haven't. I've got a little list of them, and I scream with laughter as each one succumbs to the sell out. I don't affect to remember of course, if I meet the writer in person, but one hopes not to meet them.

Another route out for a floundering music critic is The Book. A star-biography if selected well might keep the wolf from the door. A tenuous and thinly disguised piece of fiction about the rock business always serves as a potboiler. More trendy these days however is the male-confessional, or better still the book about a hopeless fan following some dismal football team around. This last option is hilarious and my former critic at the large rock glossy resorted to this at one point. It's interesting to see what happens to the elderly journalist on the ailing rock weeklies. One forty something at a mag I will refer to as No Music Ever has reverted to a foul mouthed incoherent ranting, in his increasingly desperate recent efforts to 'keep up with the youngsters.' The puffing and blowing that comes off the page with these exertions is almost audible. All comedy, like all tragedy however, comes from dashed expectations. And there are no expectations. So music journalism is neither funny nor controversial these days. In fact the music critics may as well be reviewing peoples trousers for all the notice anyone takes of them.

Martin Newell
Dec 2000