More Guitar Favourites (Radio 4)

Joan Armatrading is brilliantly breathless, writes Antonia Quirke.

Joan Armatrading returns with another series of five 15-minute programmes in which she interviews musicians she admires. While some presenters ask questions sitting forward like a van driver, Joan floats on her back: an astronaut balancing a little pile of relaxing Suchard mint creams on her chest. And yet in this first in the series she caught fire with admiration. "They're a very clever band and they each bring something to the music!" she bubbled in the intro, then turning to Franz Ferdinand's frontman, Alex Kapranos, continued, "I absolutely love your band. I love your music. I love your playing! . . . So striking and strident and choppy and full and clear and brilliant. These things come through and I was, like, wow!"

The show proceeded thus. "Alex and I are discussing how a melody changes with a simple chord change . . ." explains Joan. "Can I play a wee thing?" asks Alex, picking up his guitar and taking a tour of his latest discoveries. "I thought I heard an octave in there," detected Joan, narrowing her eyes in swoon. Joan was keen to transmit that Kapranos was capable of pretty much anything. His Wikipedia page, after all, confirms that when not playing music he "can be found in his carpentry workshop crafting abstract furniture". And one can picture the 39-year-old Kapranos turning out art objects for the home in his slim black trousers and neat side parting, like Mr Slope in Barchester Towers - although a Slope who regularly tweets to confirm that he would rather put his hand in the fire than bow to false gods. "Alex actually studied theology," says Joan, "and when he's not composing playing or performing or producing music, the chances are he's writing a thoughtful piece for the newspaper."

By now Joan's crush had runneth over. She was born again; as innocent as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. "And so there's more of a contest between the verse and the chorus," Kapranos was explaining ["Yes," nodded Joan, reduced to a touching love-bleat] "and it seemed to be more reflective of the way we naturally have a thought process ourselves ["Yes"] you don't necessarily stick to one mood ["Yes"] when you think things through sometimes ["Yes"] your emotions change as your train of thought changes ["Yes"]."

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 December 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The death spiral