Few product launches whip up the media storm swirling around Alex James and his new line of cheeses, with surely only some of the attention due to his former life as bassist for Blur.
The range, dubbed Alex James Presents, hit shelves at Asda yesterday and includes tomato ketchup, sweet chilli, spring onion and – perhaps most ambitiously – tikka masala flavoured cheeses.
James now finds himself incurring the sort of opprobrium our newspapers usually reserve for benefits fiddlers and teenage mums.
He’s accused – gasp! – of selling out his foodie principles, presumably by crafting something kids might actually want. The Independent, for one, was horrified, while Telegraph food blogger Xanthe Clay labelled his creations “pernicious” and “terrifying”.
Even the FT has got in on the act, taste-testing the range in a characteristically thoughtful analysis (the findings of which are largely inconclusive).
James hit back at his critics in today’s Sun, for whom he writes a profoundly unpretentious food column. He relates how his brood turned their noses up at his prized goats’ cheese in favour of regular stuff on toast with ketchup.
“I decided to make something I could enjoy with my family,” he says, explaining how the concepts emerged for his cheese & ketchup ‘blankets’, microwaveable cubes and what he claims is the world’s first ‘pouring cheese’ designed for topping jacket potatoes.
“It was time to shake things up and I have. One critic called my ketchup-flavoured cheese an abomination without even tasting it, just like how crusty establishment figures reacted to punk rock when it came out.”
There you have it: a millionaire rock star in partnership with one arm of the world’s largest retailer, sticking up for the little guy.
Perhaps what’s really eating Fleet Street is that James blames his cheese-making commitments for preventing a Blur reunion tour. Mind you, anyone misfortunate enough to have heard Beady Eye’s debut album is probably wishing Liam Gallagher would get into yoghurt.