Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New tapper

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Friday, November 11, 2005


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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pop-rock: Capitalism’s continuum

First you hear the names, usually a catchy few words of nonsense. Maybe just “The Somethings”. Maybe just one meaningless word. Next come the awestruck reviews (and a big PR campaign) – “I came expecting another bunch of also-rans. I left awestruck. Rock’s baton has been passed on again.”
Then you hear them.
And you think – “s’alright”. More unadventurous white-boy rock. Stumble over the barricades.

Seeing the Arctic Monkeys crash in at no 1 convinced me that there’s no point in calling this recurring whiteboy beat music “retro” anymore. These bands, which do essentially the same things as the original 60s chiefs, will keep on coming. They will wear different clothes and make subtly different sounds (Slade and Mud’s glam appropriation; The Stranglers or the Jam’s in-your-face posturing, Madness’ ska hijacking, baggy’s rave beat), but keep on coming. Maybe pop’s great leap forward of 79-84 was generally an exception, but then JAMC made us look back, away from their logical blackhole, and The Smiths’ Marr made bold but classic strides. For new gangs of four wanting to get noticed, experimenting one’s way into the mainstream slowly died out. By 92, we had Britpop, by 94 Oasis. Blur are still with us but we already have clones like the Kaiser Chiefs. We also suffer Razorlight. That the Cold Simians’ noise is generically competent is neither here nor there. The Kinks’ sonic boom was much louder 31 years ago, and they also sang about the same stuff like clocking girls they fancy.

It isn’t retro, because present-day circumstances allow it to thrive. The infrastructure of the music business is geared up to support these “cool” bands. There are still sufficient just-adventurous-enough young boys and girls who dig this sound – despite genuine multicultural miscegenation and all this brilliant other music (sure, ethnic minority faces turn up on drums or ensnare the coolest guys – this music of consolidation is not openly exclusive or racist). On both sides of the pond, there are enough young musicians still embarking on a quest to divine the perfect riff, the most timeless three minutes.

The “indie disco” is alive and well, sucking in 16-30-year-olds as well as sibling sounds such as Franz Ferdinand and The Streets into its slipstream. Actually notice how no one even bothers calling this stuff “indie” now. Let alone that it isn’t made in that spirit, the indie labels are so entwined with the majors that a buyout or a distribution deal is only a meeting away.

Survived and forever revived, this is definitely not outsider music any more (despite the claims to tortured isolation of some of its current protagonists). Beer in hand, these spiky bursts of noise are the perfect way for the generation of new student-worker drones to experience brief oblivion within the confines of the mature capitalist system. Log in, slug out, have a laugh, recover, repeat. At some stage you should realise that the sound and the system that supports it are not enough.
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