The Null Device


This month's Observer Music Monthly is a special issue guest-edited by Jarvis Cocker, and featuring a number of interesting things, among them, a round-table discussion of whether music still matters, including Nick Cave, Paul Morley and Cocker himself:

Nick Cave: People have been married to my music ... and I just don't think it would be very cool for them to switch on the TV and 'The Ship Song' comes on a Cornetto ad or something.
Paul Morley: It was as if all the boy bands and girl bands had wiped away the illusion of coolness created by the record industry, so they had to rehabilitate the illusion of cool. So a boy band, who would usually sit on stools like a bunch of Val Doonicans, held their guitars to kind of signify they were in rock. And after that came a flood of guitar bands - as if it was 1983 again, but without the politics. It was just that that kind of music by now felt comfortable enough for the mainstream. So that's why I blame Busted.
Antony Hegarty: My friends [the group] CocoRosie went to Brazil to play a concert, and their music isn't distributed in Brazil but there were 2,000 people there singing along; they knew all the words. But their record isn't even in the shops in Brazil!
One could argue that CocoRacist's record company missed a trick in not having investigators at the show photographing/identifying those singing along so that they can be sued for piracy in the future. Perhaps their shareholders could sue them for failure to maximise profits?
Paul Morley: But going back to the beginning of the conversation, lots of people form bands now as if it's a career choice they're making. Because of certain TV audition shows, and the materialism of hip hop, you can actually envisage a career in pop music now, whereas back in our day, you would just make a song at a time, and go from week to week. The thrill of playing a gig and you never knew when or where it would end ...
Elsewhere in the issue, there is a piece on what today's music-savvy teenagers are up to
The Underage Club could be the hippest show in town right now - it's just slightly hard to tell, because unless you're 18 or under, you won't be let in. The idea is that Sam puts on bands such as Pink Grease and the fantastically of-this-moment the Horrors - his particular favourites - to an audience of dressed-up kids who want to party hard but who normally aren't allowed into licensed music venues. 'Strictly No Arctic Monkeys,' it says in the online advertising, because they're too obvious and probably too old, and instead the club DJs spin a wide selection of tunes ranging from Sixties garage rock to early-Nineties riot grrrl and grunge. 'There'd be more Francoise Hardy if I had my way,' says Sam, smiling. 'But, y'know, I guess you've got to appeal to the masses.'
It's reassuring to see that the abundance of access to diverse varieties of music is producing a generation of superhipsters with encyclopædic knowledge of esoteric genres and influences (some dating back to their grandparents' time), a DIY ethic the smarter post-punks would be proud of and acutely refined taste.

The article continues with a breakdown of today's freaky teen fashion:

An anthropologist might put them in the general class of indie kids, but they are loosely split into two different groups. There are the new ravers, who listen to bands such as Klaxons and the group second on the bill today, Trash Fashion. New ravers mix and match the skinny jeans and floppy hair of the classic indie look with the fluorescent fabrics of Nineties rave culture (Day-Glo face paint and tacky plastic accessories included). None of them is old enough to have danced with 20,000 people in a field back in the heyday of rave; rather, some might have been conceived back there and then.
Then there is the look made newly fashionable by today's headliners, the Horrors, which involves a dressier version of the classic goth look. It's achieved by painstakingly rummaging for the finest Victorian-looking garms and brought to life by some ghoulish make-up and lashings of hairspray. These kids don't have a name for themselves yet, but there are certainly shades of the Cramps and early Nick Cave.
One subculture not represented is emo - punk's pale-faced and more introspective offspring. 'It's not that I have a personal vendetta against them,' says Sam. 'It's just they have an embarrassing reputation. They do cringey things like cut themselves at parties, say stupid things, and just have terrible style. Not the kind of people I want at my night.'
Though not everyone is optimistic about popular music culture in the age of the iPod, MySpace and; former KLFer turned grumpy old man Bill Drummond argues the case that all music is shite, and proposes a No Music Day:

Further on, Turner laureate Jeremy Deller looks at Depeche Mode fandom. Apparently the Mode are big in Russia, partly (as he argues) due to the cleanly futuristic yet melancholy sound of their music appealing to the Russian soul.

culture music social anthropology subculture 3