The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'britpop'
Writing in the Torygraph, Alex Proud (of Proud Galleries) bemoans the “Shoreditchification” of London, the process by which the phenomenon of hipster culture (by now, heavily leveraged with marketing) seizes rundown areas of the city and forcibly makes them over, raising rents, replacing local shops with gimmicky bars catering to affluent 26-35-year-olds, and ultimately leaving them open for the bankers and Foxtons to take over; sort of like the Shock Doctrine, only with ironic facial hair and upcycled furniture:
You find a previously unnoticed urban neighbourhood, ideally one that’s a bit down on its luck. Pioneer hipsters move in and coolhunters ensure it starts trending on Twitter. A year later, the mainstream media notices and, for the next 12 months, the neighbourhood is byword for urban cool. Soon property prices soar pushing the original residents out, the bankers (always a trailing indicator) begin to move in and a Foxtons opens. Finally, the New York Times runs a piece in which it “discovers” the area and the cycle is complete. The last hipsters move on and find a new neighbourhood to play with.Shoreditch, Proud asserts, is long past the terminal phases of this phenomenon, being a “cold-climate Aiya Napa”, frequented by stag-party tourists from Essex. Dalston, the hipster haunt of recent years, is past it as well (despite there still being completely unhip and unironic Turkish restaurants alongside the basement DJ bars and Giorgio Moroder-themed pizza joints; never mind, though, by the time Kanye West and Kim Kardashian open their matching fashion shops in Dalston and the Essex stag parties start negotiating the Overground in to take in its lad-mag-certified cool, it will doubtlessly be as dead as a doornail), with Peckham being about to be jettisoned for somewhere further out; possibly even, Proud reckons, Croydon.
Which more or less makes sense, until Proud posits a counterexample of “sustainable cool”: Camden.
So, what is the solution? The solution is to treat places like proper neighbourhoods rather than Apple products with a two-year upgrade cycle. Here I hold up Camden as an example. OK, I know I have a vested interest, but Camden was cool in 1994 (and even 1984) and it’s still cool in 2014. It has, dare I say it, sustainable coolness. True, at no point in time will be it be as achingly “now” as a speakeasy in a repurposed public loo in Camberwell selling dirty cocktails in jam jars, but that’s the point. Sustainable cool knows which bandwagons to ignore.Which is quite ironic, given that Camden seems to be as much a spent force, as far as any sort of living counterculture goes, as swinging Carnaby Street or the King's Road of Malcolm McLaren's day. Camden, of course, had been ground zero of Britpop, that third coming of Mod, that time as a hidebound and flag-draped back-to-basics conservative backlash. (In his book The Psychic Soviet, rock performer and cultural critic Ian Svenonius drew parallels between Britpop and the Southern Rock movement of the 1970s, in that both took a genre which had been free-wheeling and countercultural and remade it in the image of a flag-waving, reactionary traditionalism. More recently, Britpop has again been in the news, as Tory-affiliated cheesemonger Alex James has announced that he is registering the term as a trademark for a line of sugarwater.) And while Britpop might not have had the oversized folkbeards, mason-jar cocktails or overuse of the word “artisanal” that have made Hipster™ an easy target for jokes over the past decade or so*, Camden circa the mid-90s was pretty much the definition of “achingly “now””.
Britpop may not have started in Camden, but it gained critical mass there, in places like the Good Mixer; the resulting chain reaction sucked all the oxygen out, leaving behind pure marketing cranked up to 11. Camden these days is about raking through the rich seams of Britain's (and, to a lesser extent, the globalised Anglosphere's) history of post-rock'n'roll subcultural cool and producing tables of manufactured tat. Go to Camden Market, contend with the thronging masses of what William Gibson termed the Childrens' Crusade, and you will see what is essentially a meat market of dead subcultures, where well-preserved cuts of Punk, Goth, Emo and Belieber are served up to wide-eyed teenagers from smaller places all over the world, alongside the ubiquitous pirated T-shirts extolling the virtues of poor impulse control in series of three badly-drawn pictographs, identical to the ones in any Hot Topic in America or any tourist market in Thailand.
* One could, however, make the case that the two-stroke Italian motorscooters that became fashionable with the Mod-revival-revival phase of Britpop are, in today's time, a far more ridiculous affectation than the fixed-gear bikes beloved of the stereotypical “Shoreditch hipster”.
This week, the formerly unthinkable happened: My Bloody Valentine released a follow-up to Loveless, simply titled m b v. It took them 21 years, and not much was heard of it until they announced that they finished mastering it late last year, on Mayan Apocalypse Day, and announced its announcement a few days before it came out. Anyway, you can buy it from their web site, either as a download or a download plus CD or vinyl, though I suspect that if you were holding out for a new MBV album, you have already done so.
The album itself follows on from Loveless, though diverges somewhat. It sounds like they've spent the first part of their exile from recording listening to a lot of other music; I imagine that I hear the influences of Stereolab and The High Llamas in a few songs (Is This And Yes sounds almost like it's a Beach Boys harpsichord line away from being a Llamas song), and he album ends with a track built up on a chopped-up Amen break through a flanger, a bit like that drum'n'bass thing that was big some 15 years ago. One gets the impression that this is not so much new material as material that has been in the works for two decades, finally wrapped up to make way for new material.
Meanwhile, in VICE, John “Menk” Doran posits the claim that MBV's absence from music-making is to blame for the rise of Tony Blair, the Iraq War and the grim meathook dystopia we're living in today. Presumably if Shields had hurried up, Britpop would have never happened and a charlatan like Blair could never have ridden on its Beatles-quoting, Union Jack-festooned coattails into No. 10, and thus we'd be living in a socialist utopia of some sort. (Either that or perpetual unvarnished Thatcherism, of course.)
When C17th Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” he was thinking about Kevin Shields. For when MBV hung up their guitar pedals at the height of their fame, a terrible power vacuum yawned open. The field was clear to stripey-tousered, juggling wazzocks like the Wonderstuff and lycra wearing buffoons Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine to become famous – when in a more civilised age you wouldn’t even have bothered to cross the road to set fire to them. The absence of the most forward looking guitarist of his generation in the early 90s, also led to a slew of appallingly boring shoe-gaze copyists such as Chapterhouse and Slowdive, meaning guitar music was literally anyone’s for the taking.
This meant, the retro-head guitar owners got their first look in since the late 60s. Suddenly making your guitar sound like a sighing whale wasn’t an option any more, all the FX pedals and psychedelic drugs were swapped for Kinks riffs, cocaine and talking like a brickie from Bermondsey. Utter bullshit like Blur and Menswear were hailed as heroes.(I don't agree with him on Slowdive, but he's on the money about Blur and Menswear, and much of the rest of Britpop.)
If only it had stopped there, though. Britpop itself ushered in the Cool Britannia era which erased the social and sonic progressiveness of the 1970s and 1980s in one fell swoop and culminated in the morally blank New Labour administration. (It is important to note that as soon as Tony Blair was ensconced into 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister, the first thing he did was to summon Alan McGee and Noel Gallagher, the singer of Creation’s biggest signings Oasis, to visit him. He wanted to be sure that Kevin Shields’ amazing drum and bass records would never see the light of day – literally the only thing that could have threatened his premiership at that point.)
The Quietus' Alex Niven writes in defence of the Stone Roses and their legacy, challenging the twin views that (a) the Stone Roses were little more than patient zero of an epidemic of thick, gormless lad-rock that subsumed British “indie” music from Britpop onwards, and (b) their reunion and forthcoming gigs are a triumph of the cynicism of late capitalism and a disproof of any idealistic construction of the cultural values of indie music, past or present:
The Roses' resurrection might actually amount to something worthwhile because it offers the prospect of a return to – or at least a reminder of – a tradition of popular radicalism in British music that was to a large extent derailed and suppressed in the nineties and noughties. This happened because, amongst other reasons, the Stone Roses pissed away their potential so regally and left a void behind for Blur and Kula Shaker to step into. This was a tragedy from which leftfield British pop has never quite recovered; revisiting it might provide some much-needed catharsis, as well as a chance to consider why we seem to have been stuck in a loop of ever increasing apathy and retrogressive inertia ever since the Roses seemed to metamorphose nightmarishly into Oasis one day in early 1994.Niven's contention was that the Stone Roses, beneath their laddish swagger, articulated a form of eloquent popular radicalism that, had things turned out differently, may have taken Britpop in a more interesting (and more culturally and politically significant) direction than the stylistically conservative, politically Blairite, Beatles-citing nostalgia industry it turned into.
Throughout their apprenticeship on the margins of the mid-eighties indie scene, the band occupied a classic romantic-radical position from which they made repeated assertions that another dimension was lying dormant, ready to burst into life with the right amount of collective belief and imagination. Magical train rides through rainy cityscapes, hallucinations of bursting into heaven, graffiti scrawled on statues, daydreams about young love, lyrics about searching for the perfect day wrapped around chiming Opal Fruit guitar lines: this was the druggy landscape of dole culture in the second Thatcher term, a place where fantasy and utopianism offered a trapdoor-escape from post-industrial depression, especially in places like the North where the social defeat had been very real. Countless bands from the Smiths to the Cocteau Twins adopted a similar tone of hermetic idealism during this period. What was remarkable about the Stone Roses though – and the reason surely why they are regarded with such quasi-spiritual reverence to this day – is that their romantic assertions about another world being possible suddenly and miraculously started to seem realistic and realisable as the end of the eighties loomed.
But the failure of the Roses in the early-nineties – which was basically an arbitrary collision of bad luck and personal fall-outs – was the kind of unfortunate collapse that has profoundly negative repercussions throughout an entire stratum of the culture. Instead of being a wild anomaly that stood at the summit of a creative apotheosis only ever partially recaptured after the mid-nineties comeback, 'Fools Gold' might have been the foundation text of an alternative Britpop: a politically engaged mainstream movement that would never have gotten into bed with Blair, a revival rather than an attenuation of the post-war New Left, guitar pop more in thrall to Bootsy Collins than the Beatles, a progressive filter for – rather than a reaction against – the most thrilling leftfield developments of the nineties from Tricky through Timbaland. As it was, the independent scene crossed over to the darkside and instantaneously lost its whole raison d’être, while the underground progressively retreated into microcosmic obscurity in an age of internet atomisation (cf. chillwave).So if the Stone Roses' reunion is not merely a spoonful of heritage-rock nostalgia for the record-fair fatsos or an affirmation of the bankruptcy of indie music as an ideology of resistance, confirming instead that everything is a commodity in the great marketplace, what is it? Niven suggests that it may be another chance, however slim, to peer through a window into the Another World that Is Possible, a sort of very British visionary socialist arcadia:
What the Camerons and the Cleggs and the Cowells and the monarchists and the Mail-readers and the Mumford & Sons minions are really deeply fucking scared of in the pits of their blackened souls is a normative radicalism, the sort of aberrant culture that does all the traditional things like making us dance and giving us songs to sing at weddings and wakes and school discos and sports occasions, at the same time as it introduces subtle formal innovations and delivers uncompromising messages of insurrection. The Stone Roses Mk. II will have a tough job managing to do anything very effective at all, once Zane Lowe and the Shockwaves NME start winding up the hyperbole machine. But if we press the mute button on our cynicism this Imperial-time-warp summer, we might just be able to hear their profoundly optimistic message resounding through a landscape ravaged by a newly virulent strain of Thatcherism: a kind of spiritualized socialism framed as a funky, communitarian song; an angry, affirmative voice promising that he won’t rest until Elizabeth II has lost her throne. Take a look around, there’s something happening. It’s the Britpop that never was. And right in the nick of time.(Though wasn't Britpop at the time that the Major government crumbled sort of like that? And can such a world survive for more than nanoseconds before market forces act on it and it becomes commodified, and if the original participants don't sell out, someone who wasn't involved cashes in instead?)
Louise Wener, frontwoman of Britpop band Sleeper turned popular novelist, has written a memoir of her time in the Britpop scene/hype machine. If this review (by the ever-credible Jude Rogers, in the perennially right-on New Statesman) is anything to go by, it sounds like an interesting read:
After many years of Wener playing in different bands to general indifference, her four-piece Sleeper - named after the Woody Allen film - finally get signed by a major label in 1993. She is unforgiving about the conservative bias of the independent music scene, and holds the media in particular contempt. In the band's first interview with the New Musical Express, she is infuriated by a self-professed "revolutionary Trotskyite revisionist Leninist" who directs all his questions to her male bandmates, and later dismisses her as a "mad, ranty pop bird on the loose".
Wener also dismantles the myth that the likes of Blur were intelligent pop revolutionaries. She describes their rudeness, their ruthless ambition and their "easy, bohemian, moneyed odour". And then there are the groupies. Wener leaves nothing out. The bassist Alex James tells a young woman, "You're ugly, but I'm going to fuck you anyway," while their tour manager is despatched to select attractive girls from the audience and give them after-show tickets, known as "Blur-job passes".
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, the writer/artist team who brought us the history-of-Britpop-as-Hellblazer graphic novel Phonogram, have a new project coming out: a graphic novel based on the songs of UK indie band Spearmint, titled This Is A Souvenir.
The Independent has a pretty authoritative piece on the terminal decline of the genre of "indie" in the UK, from its origins as independent, defiantly noncommercial popular music (typically released on small DIY labels) in the late 1970s and 80s, through the Britpop hype explosion, and to the present day, when "indie" means formulaic, commercially-oriented guitar rock by image-conscious young Blatcherite careerists:
John Niven was an indie fan in the 1980s, an A&R man in the Britpopping 1990s, and is now the author of Kill Your Friends, a sadistic satire of the record industry of which he was once an enthusiastic member. "I was in Gap a few weeks ago and there was some sort of generic indie music playing," he says. "I was with a friend who's a promoter and a bit younger than me. After about three or four tracks I asked him: 'Whose LP is this?' And he said, 'No, it's a compilation.' Every track sounded identical. The guitars, the production; all these bands sound like they're made in the same studio with the same producer. It's such a ball-less, soulless, generic whitewashed indie sound. You could probably take a member from each band and throw them together in a new group and no one would be able to tell the difference. They're completely interchangeable. Scouting for Girls are like the sound of Satan's scrotum emptying. They're abysmal."
"[Britpop] was great fun," wrote the journalist Andrew Collins in a 2006 piece for Word. "But it wasn't indie, and it pushed a whole slew of workmanlike guitar bands centre-stage, where they were even expected to represent their rebranded country, giving the quite false impression that Cool Britannia was an Indie Nation. The essence of New Labour, indie was capitalism dressed up as revolutionary socialism."
These days the term 'indie' is little more than a generic sonic description for any band that plays guitars and probably wears skinny ties, skinny jeans, and skinny cardigans. Collins, a former NME writer and ex-editor of Q, says now: "'Indie' has become a meaningless term. It just covers guitar bands. But it was never meant to be about a type of music, it wasa spirit and an attitude. When I glance around the bands that are supposedly 'indie' today, I don't see any attitude. I don't see any content in their records, any political interest in the band members. They're a terrible generation, unfortunately, but they're becoming famous overnight and selling a lot of records. I've heard them called 'mortgage indie'. It's a career path – a way of making a lot of money very quickly. The Kooks did so well so quickly. Scouting For Girls, from a standing start, have become a really big band. The Fratellis have become massive in a remarkably short time."
Here's another term for the indie glossary: a "firework band". It means a widely touted young act whose label has a debut LP to sell. They begin their professional lives by exploding into the top of the charts, shine brightly, then drop out of sight. The turnover of new acts is terrifying. Parklife, lest we forget, was Blur's third album.Also in the Independent, an apposite example of "mortgage indie" as a career move, in which a Cambridge indie band named Hamfatter turns to venture capitalism to bypass the recording industry. Which is something I have mixed feelings about: on one hand, from a business perspective, this is as indie in attitude as it guest. On the other hand, when art is seen through the jaundiced lens of business, with market research and venture capital, business plans and promotional campaigns, that is somewhat saddening. What happened to art made for the sake of art, without commercial calculation? Is there even a place for it in the post-Blairite marketing society? The new indie revolution may be about allowing the little guys to be as soullessly mercantile as only the old, huge record labels could afford to be.
Oh dear; it appears that there's now a Britpop revival, with bands like Kula Shaker and Northern Uproar coming out of retirement to play the Carling circuit for a new generation of NME readers:
Today, Hodgson is wearing a black Harrington jacket, tight jeans, trainers and badges - a visual blast from the era when he rode a scooter and rubbed shoulders with Shed Seven at Brighton Beach, the Leeds club night that was synonymous with Britpop in the north the way Blow Up was in the south. Hodgson went there for three years. He and his bandmates claim they could tell which band a person was into by the shade of their clothes.
"Music was stale," he says. "It was all shoegazing, American grunge. The charts were full of dance shit. We thought we'd bring indie back, but with more rock guitars. Suddenly, there were a load of bands with the same idea, and it became a scene."(Also known as "when indie turned to shite". Then the careerists, realising that there was money to be made from white boys with guitars, haircuts and a stylist's careful touch, jumped on and the whole thing went (champagne, or perhaps cocaine) supernova, sucking the oxygen out of the British indie genre like a fuel-air explosive. And thus, a decade and a bit down the track, we get Carling-indie in its most moronic, populist form; no longer music for thoughtful bookish types but for lagered-up geezers on the make.)
"There was camaraderie between bands that toured together, like us and Oasis, but I always thought Damon Albarn was a wanker," says Priest. "He'd say things like, 'You're looking very psychedelic tonight, Mathew.' I'm from Birmingham. What's that about? He totally puts your back up. But I completely respect the cunt. He's a genius."For small values of "genius". He's like a Momus for Evening Standard readers.
Music Critic John Harris writes in the Graun about the 10th anniversary of Oasis' Be Here Now, at the time obsequiously lauded by the critics, but since then somewhat fallen in stature. (Harris' piece is titled, appropriately enough, Cocaine Supernova.)
The Guardian's review claimed that Be Here Now "validates most if not all of the Gallaghers' boasts about their greatness." The Daily Telegraph told its readers that Be Here Now was simply "a great rock record." Q and awarded BHN the full complement of five stars and compared it to The Beatles' Revolver. NME reckoned it was worth eight of ten; in Mojo, Charles Shaar Murray was so enraptured that he lapsed into patois: "This is Oasis's world domination album. Dem a come fe mess up de area seeeeeeerious."
So, there you have it: the empty sound of being off your head and convinced of your own brilliance at the start of the Blair era and the endtimes of what was known at the time as - oh, please - Cool Britannia. These days, Be Here Now actually sounds grimly fascinating: a crystallization of its time whose absence of restraint (try, for example, timing the length of the intros) is really quite something.And there are some interesting opinions in the comments:
I remember the first time I saw Oasis, on the Word in 1993 and I thought, "So that's the death of British Indie Pop then." Soon afterwards Primal Scream abandoned their support of emerging electronica in favour of a Rolling Stones tribute album. The Stone Roses (always over-rated) proved they were a one-trick poney by re-recording Led Zepplin 2, with flat vocals. Blur became the Small Faces for three years, but mercifully got over it. Morons, football hooligans and former Mariah Carey fans became epsilon caricatures of indie kids and leading the way were two knuckle-dragging dullards from the city that had brought us so much hope and the label that had given us My Bloody Valentine. Alan McGee laughed all the way to the bank, but we wept as he drove past.
It's all down to what you prefer - intricately composed, technically innovative music, or facile singalongs while you chug Stella and snort coke off a copy of Loaded after the match.And:
British indie isn't a complete write-off but the death of Britpop (Be Here Now being the final nail in the coffin) did seem to mark a strange, counter-intuitive shift in music journalism. British "alternative-rock" got worse and more derivative at roughly the same time as the press became more insular. Even at the height of the Blur vs Oasis nonsense, you could read Melody Maker or NME and get a fantastic, passionate review of the latest GZA single or Einsturzende Neubauten album. I can only assume that, from 1998 onwards, readership of the main indie outlets fell and they had to concentrate more on commercial domestic rock acts lapped up by a younger, less demanding core audience.
I could never get why their ugly, clumsy music ever garnered such adoration. Listening to any Oasis song is like eating a soggy Ginsters conish pasty under a grey, rainy sky next to a motorway, breathing in exhaust fumes. It's just not fun, and it never was.
I bought the NME last week as the cover showing Tony Wilson looked good. The Paul Morley obit was great, but the rest of the mag made Smash Hits from the 80s look like Plan B...
Martin Carr, of interestingly progressive Creation-signed indie band The Boo Radleys (who were often lumped in with "Britpop") gives a somewhat bitter recollection of living through the hype storm:
"I tried to have nothing to do with what was being called Britpop. Our whole career was spent trying not to 'fit in'. We just carried on doing what we had been doing. I didn't like most of the new bands or the flag-waving. I didn't like New Labour or idolise Paul Weller and I hated media-generated movements within music."
But Carr disagrees with the notion that the British music scene was celebrating a sense of Britishness. "It was about record companies trying to make money. Bands weren't given a chance to learn and grow; it was all about having hits," he says.
"I was gutted when Creation signed to Sony, I'd never wanted to be on a major label and we were under much more pressure after that. It was also a chance for everyone to get away with more jingoism than usual."
As part of the 10th anniversary of Britpop*, the BBC looks at what became of the Britpop stars. It's interesting to see that two members of that most hype-driven of Britpop bands, Menswear, are still in the UK music hype industry; one of them managing NME-Carling-MTV2 darlings Bloc Party, and another being news editor at rigidly playlisted commercial "indie" radio station Xfm. The singer, meanwhile, seems to work in a mobile phone shop or something.
* well, the Blur-Oasis thing which defined it in the media's eye.
Tonight, some 10 years after the Blur vs. Oasis battle, BBC Four held a Britpop night, running several programmes on the whole thing.
First up was a half-hour documentary by John Harris about the history of the phenomenon. It reprised much of the territory in his excellent book The Last Party, only squeezed into half an hour and with fragments of music and video, and interviews with various people from the time reminiscing over what it was like. It started with the wilderness of Nirvana and shoegazer (which Harris described as being similar to grunge), and ended with the comment that Britpop was responsible for ushering in the age of bland balladeers like Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol, and of course those quintessential rockist classicists, Oasis.
This was followed by a programme with Damon Albarn presenting a selection of live videos; it's reassuring that he has ditched the mockney accent and look-at-me-I'm-working-class affectation, though perhaps a tad disappointing that the title designers did the lazy thing and equated britpop with Mod. Then they played Live Forever, the Britpop doco from some years back, and then a 1995 BBC fly-on-the-wall piece with Pulp, which was rather interesting. It involved backstage footage from a gig in Sheffield, Jarvis talking about appreciating kitsch knowingly yet unironically, and some footage of Pulp's support band, an outfit named Minty who seemed to have been England's answer to Machine Gun Fellatio or something.
As the 10th anniversary of the Blur-vs.-Oasis stoush approaches, John Harris (author of the definitive Britpop history The Last Party) looks at Britpop's legacy:
Frischmann is about to begin life as a mature student in the US. Cocker called time on Pulp in 2002, and seems to have settled into a life of semi-retirement. The lion's share of Britpop's mid-table attractions - Sleeper, Gene, Shed Seven - have split up. By the time you get into the bands who fell at the first hurdle, you begin to wonder whether they ever existed at all; who, aside from the most hard-bitten trivia buffs, has any clear memory of Powder, Northern Uproar, Laxton's Superb or Octopus?
The world these people built, however, has endured. It's where just about every worthwhile British band aspires to be: that speedy production line that takes promising musicians from their local pub venue, introduces them to the NME, and then - if everything goes to plan - inducts them into the head-rattling world of mainstream celebrity. The idea that there was ever an "underground", where bands could ply their trade without paying any attention to the world of commerce, seems almost laughable. Less than a year ago, for instance, the Kaiser Chiefs were an unknown, transparently Blur-influenced band from Leeds. Now, their small handful of keynote hits has become inescapable, and their fans include Paul McCartney and Richard Gere.
In the wake of the Band Aid 20 charity single (which is rumoured to be awful), NYLPM looks at what happened to Band Aids #3 through to #19:
Band Aid 3: Recorded in a secret corner of the Hacienda, "Baggy Aid" in 1990 melded social conscience with a wah-wah break and found Shaun Ryder offering to feed the starving his melons. That Line was sung by Bobby Gillespie, but nobody heard his reedy mewlings and the single flopped.
Band Aid 8 and Band Aid 9: The blackest hour in the long history of Band Aid saw a schism as Blur and Oasis insisted on recording separate versions of the legendary song for Christmas 95. Blur's video featured Keith Allen in a dress riding a desert goat and Oasis' contribution ran into trouble when Liam punched Michael Buerk in the face. A disgusted public turned instead to Kula Shaker's Crispian Mills, who promised to feed the world with his cosmic love.
Band Aid 15: Radiohead's "Kid A(id)" was more challenging than most interpretations, being a 17-minute video installation showing Thom Yorke being chased by a bear to the sound of a whimpering child. Retail response was sluggish.
Parkspliced, which appears to be unsolicited MP3 remixes of britpop band Blur. Get it before EMI's lawyers do. (via xrrf)
John Harris (who wrote The Last Party) on how popular music has been subsumed by corporate globalisation:
For musicians whose sensitivity to such chicanery places them a few notches up the evolutionary chain from Busted and Avril Lavigne, the implied contradictions can be pretty hard to swallow. Put bluntly, Anglo-American popular music is among globalisation's most useful props. Never mind the nitpicking fixations with interview rhetoric and stylistic nuance that concern its hardcore enthusiasts - away from its home turf, mainstream music, whether it's metal, rap, teen-pop or indie-rock, cannot help but stand for a depressingly conservative set of values: conspicuous consumption, the primacy of the English language, the implicit acknowledgement that America is probably best.
As the record industry's corporate structure has hardened into an immovable oligarchy - EMI, Time-Warner, BMG, Sony and Universal - so the range of musical options on offer has been dramatically scythed down. In 2004, there are but a handful of international musical superstars: Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Norah Jones, Coldplay. To characterise the process behind their global success as top-down is something of an understatement. MTV may have initially been marketed with the superficially empowering slogan, "I want my MTV"; more recently, with billions gladly hooked up, it has used the flatly sinister, "One planet, one music". Those four words beg one question: who decides?
Such, to use a phrase beloved of the Bush White House, is the cultural aspect of the New American Century. How long, I wonder, before Halliburton and Exxon start sponsoring festivals?
I saw Live Forever this afternoon. This is a recent documentary from the BBC about the rise and fall of the Britpop scene in the 1990s; it starts off with the bleak, homogenised days of Thatcherism, and the non-starter that was the Stone Roses' Spike Island gig, goes on to cover contributions from Blur, Oasis and Pulp, Tony Blair's attempt to appropriate Britpop (with some success; and no little irony, given that Britpop arose partly as a reaction to American cultural supremacy in McWorld), and dates Britpop's death at about the time Diana died, ushering everybody into the saccharine embrace of Robbie Williams and S Club 7. (And so, the cycle repeats itself.)
Live Forever features footage of gigs, fragments of music videos (some of which were quite clever), and a lot of interview footage. Damon Albarn (dressed in workman's overalls in a grungy pub) comes across as protesting a bit too much, Liam Gallagher comes across as an idiot, Noel Gallagher's somewhat more savvy though a bit egotistical, and Jarvis Cocker (in his glasses and velvet suit) seems like quite a clever guy. Then there's Louise Wener from Sleeper (who comes across as quite intelligent), Robert "3D" Del Naja of Massive Attack (interviewed at the beginning, middle and end of the movement of which they weren't a part, with their music dubbed over footage of driving at night), James Brown (of lad mag Loaded), Damien Hirst (filmed reclining on a Union Jack bedspread!), John Savage, and Wonderwall, the Oasis cover band, seen overdoing the laddism with pints and fags all round.
If you missed this documentary, it's playing again (I think it's next weekend). I strongly recommend seeing it.
The BBC has a guide to current teenage subcultures. Interesting that in the UK, mooks are called "nu metallers", Ben Sherman shirts are considered a clubber thing (I suppose that's because the '90s Britpop Mod revival is ancient history), and Camden is considered a "Goth Mecca". (When I was in London last year, I saw all of about two goths in 3 weeks; I thought that particular meme-complex had died out through overexposure over there by now.)
They're listening to
- Independent 'Alternative' Music, from small independent labels in pressings of say 100 straight out of Reykjavik
- Garage Rock like The Strokes, The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Old indie classics - The Velvet Underground, The Smiths, Nirvana, The Pixies
This week's street press has some interesting articles; InPress has interviews with members of Saint Etienne (who say their new album Finisterre is a concept album about London, and that they have a set of short films that goes with it), Mogwai (who once printed T-shirts reading "BLUR ARE SHITE", and then found out that Japanese and US fans tend to be people who are into all British indie/alternative music as a genre), and Ninetynine, talking about the odd varieties of bands they've been booked to play with on their various tours (i.e., in Europe they have played with hardcore/metal bands a lot, not because they're metal as fuck but because of the pop bands all being signed to labels and them being independent). And there's another Ninetynine interview in Beat as well, which makes a Krautrock comparison; hmmm...
(I've noticed the Mogwai thing, about non-British UK-indie fans clustering into "Anglophile" subcultures, as well. Take for example Steve Wide's show on 3RRR, which plays everything from Oasis/Radiohead-wannabe bands to pill-popping dance grooves to French/Icelandic bands liked by UK-pop fans; or a UK-indie list I lurked on once which was mostly wannabe-Mods exchanging trainspotter-like lists of classic swingin'-60s movies and talking about their scooters. Or cliques of US-based "Anglophile" kids exchanging in-jokes on band-related mailing lists.)