This week the show focuses on one of the world's biggest bands as Lauren visits them in Dublin to talk about the new album and hear some of the songs live. We also speak to Radio 1 DJ Nemone and writer and critic David Quantick for a frank appraisal of U2's musical career.
Is the new album one of your musical highlights of the year or are you tired of all the hype? Let us know what you think of U2 and our programme.
There are some very exciting music releases coming up next month and we thought that we'd share them with you. Let us know if there are other albums you're looking forward to or if you've heard previews of the ones below:
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (03/03/09)
Upbeat alt-country from the American singer-songwriter, in an album that includes a Sparks cover as well as 12 new tracks. She's been in the UK recently but plans to return to Europe later in the year if you'd like to catch her live.
Extra Golden - Thank You Very Quickly (10/03/09)
Follow up to 2007's Hera Ma Nono and featuring some wacky (in the very best way possible) bass riffs. If James Jamerson had played in a Benga rock jamboree then this record would be it. They are out on tour with the African Soul Rebels tour starting 3 March at the Sage in Gateshead.
Filthy Dukes - Nonsense in the Dark (16/03/09)
An amazing live band who sound like a more ravey version of Hot Chip. They're DJs and producers, and their music is irresistibly danceable. See them in the UK throughout March, they also have a launch party for the album at Fabric in London on 6th.
Bonnie Prince Billy - Beware (16/03/09)
We've been trying to get the mysterious bearded balladeer on The Culture Show for years and have finally succeeded. He'll be on the show on 24 March, talking about the new album and performing for us, ahead of a gig at the Royal Festival Hall in April.
PJ Harvey - A Woman a Man Walked By (30/03/09)
Our final March tip is Polly Jean Harvey's album with John Parish, who produced a couple of her earlier records including To Bring You My Love. It's a return to noisy guitars and sounds great on an initial listen.
N.A.S.A. - The Spirit of Apollo (16/02/09)
This isn't a misprint, although it came out in February we couldn't resist putting in something about this bizarre and inspired collaboration between DJ/producers Squeak E Clean and Zegon. The new wave of uplifting Hip Hop is finally here on a record that features such contributors as Tom Waits, David Byrne, Chuck D, Method Man, MIA, George Clinton and Kool Keith.
Kermode statuette. Photograph by Anti-Kermode winner Jane Parker
In a few days the Kermode Awards will vanish out of BBC iPlayer and we thought it would be a good idea to record this year's winners for posterity:
Best Film and Best Director: Terence Davies, Of Time and the City
Best Actress: Belen Rueda - The Orphanage
Best Actor: Michael Fassbender - Hunger
Best Supporting Actress: Ashley Tisdale - HSM3
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Marsan - Happy Go Lucky
Best Foreign Film: Gomorrah
Best Screenplay: Garth Jennings - Son of Rambow
Fellowship of the Kermodes: Terry Gilliam
The Anti-Kermode: Jane Parker
As ever, let us know if you have any comments on Mark's choices.
Next weekend Laurent Cantet's film set in a Parisian school goes on release in the UK, and this Sunday the director will be in LA to see if The Class has won the Academy Award for best foreign language film.
Scene from The Class. Photo copyright Georgi Lazarevski/Haut et Court Distribution
France has historically done well at the Oscars, winning on 12 occasions, a record beaten only by Italy with 13 awards. If we're going purely on past form Ari Folman might be feeling pessimistic about his chances of success as Israel has yet to win the foreign film Oscar; he's still the director I'd like to see walk away with an award.
The Class is an entertaining and thoughtful look at the relationships within the walls of a school, focussing on a group of students around the age of 15 and the teachers who work with them. Although the film feels like a documentary, and is based on an autobiographical book by Francoise Begaudeau - who also plays the role of the central character Monsieur Marin - it is a fiction. None of the actors were professionals and were cast from within a single school while the script developed in workshops. As with most of Laurent Cantet's films power is one of the central themes: from the students' struggles to assert themselves in class and win respect from their peers to the teachers' sometimes unsteady attempts to keep the balance between order and healthy debate.
What is most striking about the film is Cantet's refusal to take sides. Nobody is idealised or demonised and the result is a film that is frequently provocative (certainly among teachers at the screening I attended) but doesn't feel like it is led by issues. We interviewed Laurent Cantet earlier in the week and will have the item on our website at the beginning of next week - by which time he might well be an Oscar winner.
Tonight Mark Kermode will unveil his choice of the films, actors and directors that really should have won Oscars but have missed out on being nominated. We'll also discover which viewer has won the first ever Anti-Kermode award, a plaudit for the person who most convincingly disagrees with one of Mark's reviews.
What do you think of Mark's choices for the Kermodes? Which films would you have selected yourself? Join us for a full post-match analysis.
It looks like we're going to be out on the road a lot more from now on, rather than filming in the studio. Next week we come from the Electric Cinema in London, where Mark will give out his annual Kermode awards, and the following week we're putting together a programme from a venue in Newcastle. Not everything in the show will have a North East flavour, but we'll be looking at Yoko Ono's show at the Baltic, the 30th anniversary of Viz and chatting about how Newcastle Gateshead has been transformed over the last 20 years.
The Angel of the North
In a week in which Kent looks North with an equestrian Angel of the South we are thinking about where Newcastle Gateshead is going next - will it be able to sustain its cultural success in a recession. What do you think? And what are the most interesting things happening in that part of the country in art, music and poetry?
As we're a topical programme, filming shortly before broadcast, any of the above details might change, but equally, if you let us know about something really interesting it might get a mention in the show.
It's the 10th anniversary of Heat magazine and we're taking advantage of the event to think about celebrity culture. Does it distract us from what's important or is it harmless glitter sprinkled on the top of an often drab reality? In this week's show Mark Kermode makes the case that celebrity culture is evil, while Miranda Sawyer argues that it has a positive impact on our lives.
I have to admit that I'm with Mark on this one. I find people's stories fascinating, but think that the endless hunger for celebrity gossip turns people into commodities. It doesn't really matter if the stories (or the photos) are real, it's just a way to sell newspapers, or records, or perfume. My rather austere view isn't universally held across the Culture Show team, however, and we'd be interested to know what you think of the debate.
Alfred Brendel. Photograph by Philips and Benjamin Ealovega
Alfred Brendel has shared his five essentials with us:
1. Architecture with round arches
2. A comfortable bed
4. The grotesque
It's unfortunate that the programme is being recorded tonight in London rather than Glasgow, for reasons that will be clear to anyone who tried to get to work in the capital this morning. I'm writing this from home, hoping that the buses are working tomorrow. Not so fortunate are the members of the team who have to get to and from the studio so that the show can go out tomorrow night. If the audience looks a little thin, you'll know the reason [we actually had to record without an audience in the end].
Despite the difficulties, it should be a great programme. In the first of two items about the hugely successful TV company HBO, Greg Dyke watches them clear the board at the Golden Globes and investigates how they have managed to combine financial and critical success. That's not to say there isn't a bit of an HBO backlash going on - I noticed a few comments in response to Charlie Brooker's column today to the effect that so many people were going on about series like The Wire and Deadwood that it was putting everyone else off. I know just what they mean; I hate the way people constantly go on about how elegant and funny Jane Austen's prose is. The only way to respond to such hype is to refuse to read the novels at all. I'm a few episodes into John Adams now and will have more to say on it later in the week.
Alfred Brendel photographed by Barbara Klemm
The second major item in the show is about the pianist Alfred Brendel's love of surrealism and the absurd and how that feeds into his poetry. We'll be marking Brendel's retirement as a performer with a special on 3 March, but tonight's programme should show an intriguing side to a great musician. There are a couple of other programmes about Brendel this week - the documentary Man and Mask tonight and Brendel in Performance tomorrow.
Have removed link to embedded media as it was no longer live
If you missed this on Saturday night give it a listen - it's an amazing concert. I've embedded Grounds for Divorce above, and you can still watch the full concert on the Radio 2 website for the next week or so. If you go to iPlayer you get the audio-only version, which is still terrific, but I have to say that I'm surprised that they didn't mention that it had been filmed as well! One of the younger people in the office once described Elbow as 'dad rock' but I would put it a different way, this is beautiful, yearning music for grownups.