The Guardian DECEMBER 21, 2010 - by Maggoty Lamb


The stops have been pulled out for festive editions of Uncut, Mojo and The Wire. Elsewhere, Brian Eno is messing with the concept of identity.

The coming together of Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the signing of the Yalta conference has long been viewed as the ultimate photographic manifestation of patriarchal power. But that was before the judges of the Uncut music award got together. For some reason, the historic snapshot of (among others) Danny Kelly, Later With Jools Holland supremo Mark Cooper and BRMI chair Tony Wadsworth does not seem to be available online, but it's definitely worth risking the wrath of your local newsagent to sneak a peek (it's on p12). These guys make the FIFA executive committee look like JLS. My favourite aspect of the picture is the slightly pained expression on the face of Wild Beast Hayden Thorpe as he tries to hide in the ample lea of editor Allan Jones.

"He's just opened a big bag and everything's fallen out," said Cooper - somewhat mystifyingly - of this year's winner Paul Weller. And while the former Style Council frontman's triumph represents a slightly dispiriting return to business as usual after last year's bracing surprise win for nomadic rockers Tinariwen, this year's free Uncut best of 2010 CD (featuring These New Puritans, Robert Wyatt, Ólöf Arnalds, Afrocubism and Ali Farka Toure among others) certainly consolidates a welcome step back from the Americana-supremacist nadir of 2008's grisly Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver love-in.

Mojo also finishes 2010 in much better shape than could possibly have been hoped following spring's industrial relations turmoil, with a tasty Christmas cocktail of Crass, Queen, Cee Lo Green and a whole lovely bold two-and-a-half pages - including stylish illustration - on the amazing Tradi-Mods vs Rockers Congotronics tribute album (a worthy if still-more-last-minute-than-Kanye rival to Mr West for album of the year, of which David Hutcheon contends persuasively: "Rather than weld on house beats and call them 'remixes', those involved have brilliantly reimagined the songs as the foundations of whatever it is they themselves do as musicians." The Superchunk cover of John Cale's A Child's Christmas In Wales on the free CD isn't quite all it might be, though.

Anyone whose appetite for self-referentiality is not sated by Brian Eno's apologetic admission that he enjoyed the MGMT song written in his honour (he's quoted in Mojo's annual Best Things I've Heard All Year roundup as saying "at the risk of implying that I only listen to records that are about me - and not just implicitly, I've got to be in the title") can find solace in Eno's online encounter with suspiciously familiar-looking veteran rock hack Dick Flash. Last month, when this entertaining ten-minute vignette first appeared, it seemed like Eno - nervous about the reception likely to be accorded his new album Small Craft On A Milk Sea - had decided on a pre-emptive act of revenge on his critical tormentors. Those who've read drifting iconoclast Ian Penman's brutal assessment of the album in an especially action-packed (Scientist! Shackleton!! Nam June Paik!!!) December edition of The Wire - he starts with "that wincingly twee title, so icky and precious it sounds like some high-scorn Young British Artist parody of a previous art era's solipsistic formalism" and ratchets up the disdain and the disappointment from there - might consider such a course of action entirely justified. But returning to Dick Flash two months on, it's intriguing how many YouTube respondents didn't get the joke - which is that Flash is actually a bewigged Eno, voice pitch-shifted down in disguise.

The exasperation of aggrieved fans at their hero's inability to get a word in edgeways ("This fricking interviewer talks all the time - shut up and let Brian talk!") is especially gratifying given that Eno's performance as a know-it-all journalist foisting his interpretations on an unwilling subject is more convincing than the one he gives as a jocular, self-satisfied version of himself. The affable, bumbling online Brian - "Edge... lovely guy, wears his hat all the time, it's sort of like a religion" - is certainly a different character to the tightly wound anger-ball who cropped up in the Sunday Telegraph recently, fulminating about the misuse of his music in Wall Street 2, and claiming to have beaten Lady Gaga to the invention of the meat dress. Maybe Eno alone knows which one is closer to the truth.

Another mysterious case of dual identity may be troubling the minds of sharp-eyed readers of this column, at least those who've been drawn to this year's Vice albums of the year roundup to see if their "favourite band made the cut". Can the Gavin Haynes who is responsible for this biting piece of satire be the same Gavin Haynes who penned the breathless NME paean to Laura Marling's subversive personal style highlighted in last month's column? If so, might that not confirm the hopes of those who always wanted to believe the immortal line "She dresses down in jeans, cosy jumpers, chunky winter socks" was actually a well-aimed parodic dart? I think we should be told.