XFM revived – and a nation put to bed

Chris Moyles has settled thoroughly into middlebrow white indie, positively tender compared to his days on Radio 1.

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By day five on the new “cool guitar rock radio station X, FM” (aka Radio Geezer), it was clear that the breakfast show host, Chris Moyles (weekdays, 6.30am to 10am), has settled thoroughly into middlebrow white indie, delivering no nasty shocks, positively tender compared to his days on Radio 1 (1997 to 2012) where, as the shows and years progressed, he would toy with his gimpy co-hosts like someone pulling shrapnel from luckless limbs.

The 41-year-old presenter’s keynote now appears to be reasonable – biddable, even. Repetitive rather than rude. “I have a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in my drawer,” he remarked, “unopened. I don’t drink whiskey. Contrary to the laddish image that people still try and give me I don’t like being drunk. I mean, I really like the social aspect of drinking, I really like the sitting around and the catching up with mates, but I just don’t like being drunk! I’m good at finding the good weak lagers though . . .” Intriguing.

Where others find lager merely a fizzy chore, Moyles associates the enormous undertaking of that chore, socially, with politesse. “Some people frown on people who drink lager because it’s not the coolest drink to drink. There’s a snobbishness to lager drinking. I like a bit of Foster’s. Carling. Becks Vier. Frontier. Simon – who produces Johnny Vaughan – has three crates of it under his desk which he says is . . .” and on it went, like someone taking us minutely through the plot of something terribly old-fashioned and familiar, with lots of tedious ins and outs, as though this was Death on the Nile but instead of the Nile we got lager. Still, he sure sounds much nicer than he used to.

Meanwhile, over on Radio 3, for eight hours (27 September), something designed to be boring enough to sleep through wasn’t quite. An all-night première performance of Max Richter’s Sleep – the longest single continuous music broadcast ever made by the BBC – encouraged the audience to listen and snooze. Midnight: pretty strings; 2.38am: occasional singing; 6.40am: sonorous, pre-vespers organ and moments of silence, the radio equivalent of white noise emitting from a stress box. Perfect music for spas, I thought more than once. Next time you get your back pummelled, grimacing at the cost, expect to hear it. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide