It was just fifteen months ago that the NME had a bit of a shakeup, a makeover of sorts. The magazine got smaller but promised big things, "more new music; more reviews; about %#@!£ time!" was the the October 2013 issue's bold and exciting claim. Fast forward to the first week of 2015 just days after the year's first issue was released and its an entirely different story.
The NME usually contains a section named the 'Radar' in which a selection of lesser known and new bands are featured (all be it briefly) to tick the "more new music" box set out just over a year ago. This week however the segment was gone, banished to make way for a list of the "greatest albums of the decade so far" - a largely uninspiring collection topped by (surprise surprise) the Arctic Monkeys. The absence of the radar wounds me. Shouldn't the 'New' Musical Express's job primarily be to support new bands?
What makes the lack of new music more painful is that the bands are out there! Fantastic new bands like Grubs (who are currently recording their debut album) and Exeter's The Fairweather Band are just a small part of the UK's extensive cobweb of musical talent. Thankfully, 'On Repeat' the magazine's double page spread of twenty new tracks maintained it's place and gives a very welcome mention to Girlpool and Menace Beach. However, 'On Repeat' it doesn't do as much to embrace new bands as the 'Radar'.
2015's opening issue doesn't fair much better on the "more reviews" side of things. Album reviews cover just one page and feature just five bands, I suppose this is better than nothing but it is less than the average issue. Once again its not as though there haven't been albums to review, King of Cats' debut album Working Out was streamed on NME.com but has not received a review in the magazine since it's release. To be fair to the NME live reviews do far better with eight gigs featured covering a range of genres and sizes of bands.
I must admit I'm quite confused by this issue because it seems as though there is less new music, fewer reviews and features than in a normal issue. It is becoming clear why the sales of the magazine which will celebrate its 63rd birthday this year have dropped below 20,000, the once iconic music magazine is failing to deliver what it has promised. Perhaps now the question simply is how many more birthdays will they be celebrating at NME HQ?