From the age of 15 I would religiously devote my Thursday nights to the New Musical Express. First I would browse it cursorily, then I would soak in every word, research every unknown artist and load their demos onto my iPod for school the next day. It played a crucial part in the maturation of my taste, and I soon turned away from Flo Rida to an up-and-coming young chanteuse known as Florence + the Machine.
Even as I type, I can see the stack of issues that connect my wardrobe to the ceiling. The pages have turned an unflattering shade of yellow, and each pile is so compressed that I doubt they could accommodate another issue. I remember taking it as a sign during the start of 2012 and decided, after four years, that I would cancel my subscription to the NME.
I won’t lie by saying it wasn’t a long time coming. I’d become dubious of their picks for ’emerging artists’, always suspiciously billed for that year’s Radar tour – self-fulfilling prophecy or shrewd business, you decide. I’d become tired of the obligatory Gallagher covers that seemed to mark the change of season. When the ‘Peter Robinson Versus…’ column was axed, I’d decided enough was enough.
For these reasons I find it interesting that the latest issue of NME – for all intents and purposes a very predictable affair given Babyshambles’ recent return – has taken my eye in a big way.
I’ve always been quite a visual person, but my time spent with InDesign and Photoshop as an editor on a newspaper has made me appreciate great design. Often I find it’s the subtle things that make the most impact, and this issue sees the NME border their cover shot – which, I must add, is a fine image in its unpretentiousness – to allow their highlighted text (a trend they’ve found over the years) to hang over the edge. With the exception of the blue circle – which doesn’t fare as well through the same treatment – its one of the publication’s most striking covers in recent memory.
Although I’m not an avid reader anymore, I still get the sense that the NME are actively trying to evolve as a brand – still retaining their trademark cynicism, but flirting with inclusivity. Make no mistake, this isn’t a renaissance of its early 70s incarnation, but its certainly an assuring prospect to see the hip-hop community reflected in its coverage; Jay Z appeared on a 2009 issue alongside Ian Brown, but only graced the cover without an indie, alternative fail-safe last week.
Of course, I’m simplifying matters. But for the first time in a good while, I feel as inspired by the press as I do the music being reported on. I guess you could say I feel 15 again.