Over the years I have bought just about every music publication going – The NME, Melody Maker, Q, Select, Vox, Record Collector, Uncut and Mojo to name a few. However, I am now left with just one regular purchase but one I am very happy with – The Word magazine.
While The Word has in the past used the tag-line of “Intelligent Life On Planet Rock” it is far from just another music magazine targeting an ever decreasing number of people who are not content just to get their journalistic music fix online. Aside from a great reviews section and insightful columnists including Andrew Collins and David Hepworth, the great strength of The Word is that it seems to know its readership more than many other magazines. This is in no small measure down to the editorship of Mark Ellen who manages to include both populist and esoteric subject matter that never feels jarring to the reader. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the magazine is perfectly tailored to my cultural passions. In past editions there was every chance you could find an article on The Wire or The Sopranos but on the next page find an interview with Melvyn Bragg or a critique of a relatively unknown musician whose work is worthy of re-appraisal and of potential interest to many.
Due to my regular appearances on the BBC Radio 5Live show Fighting Talk, I have got to know Jim White who writes film articles for the magazine. I think he appreciates the fact that, although a fan of his writing in The Telegraph, I am just as vocal in my approval of his work in The Word. Not, I would imagine, that he needs my approval to sleep well at night.
The magazine’s website excellently complements the ethos of its paper partner. Here, along with podcasts and a filmed introduction to the latest issue by Mark Ellen and reviews editor Kate Mossman, there can be found a loyal band of bloggers known as The Word Massive. They regularly discuss and meander around a whole host of media related subject matter and make for an informative and humourous online community of like mindedness.
Unfortunately, I had a slightly bittersweet relationship with the magazine a couple of years back and it stemmed from a failed relationship. Whilst going out with my then girlfriend I had mentioned in passing that I was an avid reader of The Word and that it was the only magazine I would make sure to buy every month. It was a great surprise then that on my birthday she told me that she had bought me a years subscription. No more going to the newsagent for me, it would just pop through the letter box and I wouldn’t even be paying for it. Alas, a month or two later we split up and whilst we both came to the realisation that the relationship had run its course, it was still sad and the thought of singledom didn’t appeal very much. As a result, I would have the joy each month of having my favourite magazine delivered to my door but with it the memory and introspection that goes with a failed relationship. Thankfully, such thoughts dissipated over subsequent months until the subscription ran out leaving me facing a return to the newsagents again. I should really re-subscribe as it works out cheaper but it has proved practical to do one’s magazine and stationary shopping all at once.
Whilst The Word reports on a wide range of music, film, literature and television it thankfully shies away from trends which can be as vacuous as they are fleeting. Whereas some magazines seem intent on trying almost anything in order to maintain readership The Word is admirable in its propensity not to pander to latest trends but all the while managing to remain abreast of the cultural zeitgeist. With more magazines than ever going to the wall due to economic hardships it seems that for the moment at least The Word is in safe hands, and long may that continue.
Image: The Word Magazine