Monday, January 30, 2006

El Salvadors

I was back in the Surrey heathlands last Saturday, in a crappy middle-aged bloke pub. To show he was down with his kids, some geez strided up to the jukebox and stuck on the first few songs of the Arctic Monkeys’ album. Though we silently admonished him for whacking on the music while we were watching the Bolton-Arsenal rugby league encounter, our group quickly got to thinking about the Monkeys’ meteoric rise from spunky-but-limited spiky pop band to extremely successful spiky pop band. Some of the reasons why the Arctics have the biggest-selling British LP ever follow:

a) like grime artists, they sing about modern things such as “mobile phones” and, are seen in happening joints such as “chippies”. And these days, it’s all about the lyrics man, see John Harris’ commentary on the Late Review (rather than Paul Morley’s, who is fast disappearing up his Paul Smith faux-anorak threads). Unlike grime, they don’t threaten or use harsh sonic timbres (at least not ones we haven’t heard 86,000 times already from a Strat)
b) despite the discrediting of Oasis-style “I’m real” posturing, they are clearly authentic, because Alex Turner has spots
c) as well as being white and northern, they also might be working class, the holy trinity of band characteristics in the eyes of music biz suits
d) they’re actually quite good in the limited remit of what they do
e) they are younger than some children – which obviously turns on the Jonathon King element in the music business
f) the UK mainstream is full of unadventurous music buyers, but they know a bandwagon when they see one
g) the Domino effect (thanks): the “indie” world is merely the first rung and servant of the music business and with such an integrated infrastructure there are no logistical impediments to becoming an overnight success
h) the similarities to the Libertines/’Shambles are useful as a first reference then easily surpassed as Al can actually sing and seems able to go beyond sixth-form poetry of transgression
i) while they stoked inter-yakshire rivalry by saying nothing much good has come out of Leeds, they have avoided partisanship in their hometown by not coming out in favour of the Blades or Owls, football-wise
j) apparently the “internet” has helped, as have “disc burners” on most people’s home PCs in spreading the word
k) in a world where ex-This Life actwhore Andrew Lincoln, originally from Bath, is paid to do ad voiceovers in a generic northern brogue, they gain immediate points for not toning down the south yorks accent and keeping it high in the mix. Southern punter-consumers, fresh from being tuned on to the Bolton accent from Peter Kaye, will be endeared by the similar way they say “reet” in the steel city. The southerners are obviously too stupid to think there are any differences between the two…
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