The Null Device

More notes from the great indie swindle

The Graun has an article on the alleged class divide in British commercial rock ("indie") between working-class "lad bands" on one side and privately-educated "smart, literate" bands (or "oiks" vs. "toffs", if you prefer). The details are the standard phony war of marketing narrative, though it features the following interesting paragraph:
For an art-rock band such as Foals, solidly middle class both in membership and their perceived appeal, a common marketing tactic is to use a nominally independent feeder label as a means to building up vital credibility. "Finding an indie to start things off before putting stuff out on the major label is something that happens all the time with bands like that - there are very few true independent labels now, the majority are funded by majors," the A&R says. "You've got to be careful, because you can damage the credibility of your indie label if you force them to put out some crap you've just signed. But it's about putting the band in context for the media and for fans. If you put them out on a certain indie label, it puts them into the context and aesthetic of that label, and leads people to think they must be similar to their other bands. It doesn't even matter what they sound like - it's all just codes and clues as to what you're trying to do."
Which suggests that Britain's indie labels (well, the ones with offices in Soho, proper distribution deals and extensive "fruit & flowers" budgets, not small bedroom efforts struggling to put out a band they passionately believe in) are in the pockets of the majors, who are keeping them at enough of an arm's length (i.e., not actually handling distribution for them) to not make the connection obvious. I wonder who pulls who's strings; I think there's some connection between hip young art-rock label Moshi Moshi and EMI (presumably making them Heavenly 2.0), and wasn't Memphis Industries (the Go! Team's label) connected to Sony in some way?

Anyway, further down in the article:

Once an act are stereotyped, they can suffer from it, regardless of their background. Public school-educated George Pringle's experimental spoken-word electro has drawn both critical plaudits and brickbats, but her undiluted middle-class accent has been a frequent point of interest for writers. "Every critical review I've ever had has included the words 'moaning posh girl'," she explains. "I had no idea my voice would end up pissing people off as much as it has. People associate wealth with not having a cause for complaint, that you don't have something to talk about because you come from a privileged background. But you only have to look at someone like Joe Strummer to see how ridiculous that is."
I don't think it's her "posh" accent that is the problem (and she doesn't sound that "posh" to my, admittedly foreign, ears, unless you're comparing her to the cast of EastEnders or something), but rather the content-free, self-indulgent nature of her stream-of-consciousness monologues, which mostly consist of her describing her mid-youth/existential crisis whilst making knowingly hip pop-cultural references, and the ploddingly dull beats that sound like someone spent half an hour slapping them together in Fruity Loops over which they're artlessly layered. Which, I suppose, is the modern equivalent of singing tunelessly about your personal growth experiences whilst strumming two chords on an acoustic guitar, but the novelty doesn't make it any better.

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