Friday, 20 January 2012

Inspiration Needed.

With no new music or exciting happenings in the music world of late, it has been difficult to muster an interesting new topic to mumble on about. I’m aware that it would be incredibly dull to repeatedly harp on about the joys of losing oneself in an ever-expanding vinyl collection, or to talk about how great ‘Abbey Road’ sounds through the needle of a record player; as everyone knows this already.

To see the back of 2011, on a musical level, is no bad thing. The Brit Awards ceremony – which is coming up over the next month – is a painful reminder of exactly how little this year had to offer us in the creative stakes. Once at the forefront of exciting new music; supporting emerging bands and seizing the opportunity to promote a musical movement from the get-go, The Brits are now as beige as the musical landscape that Adele and Ed Sheeran so drearily cast with their every note. While this year sees Noel Gallagher and Blur return to the stage, their presence merely helps to highlight that we are no longer in the creative golden age that they were once a part of. In the 1990s alone, The Brit Awards offered such memorable moments as Jarvis Cocker vs. Michael Jackson, Brett Anderson’s effeminate swagger into the imagination of the nation, not to mention Geri Halliwell in that dress. So then why is it there's not a single memorable or scandalous tale surrounding the whole event in the last ten years? Surely accruing all of our musical talent – rock star egos and drug addictions included – into one big room together is enough to cause some kind of outrageous outcome? Or perhaps the slow roll of the tumbleweed speaks more evidently of the unimaginative, in-bed-before-10pm nature of our successful musicians today.

The Horrors album ‘Skying’ seems to offer the only promising glimmer of hope in terms of the output of new young bands (however, I use the term ‘new’ loosely, due to this being their third release – but with little else currently emerging they are comparatively fresh, with everyone else of note having been around for at least ten years now). The Horrors’ throwback to a cobweb infested corner of the 80s reminds us of a time when musicians actually had personality and more interesting topics to sing about than lego or pavements.
Ed Sheeran : The face of new music?
While one despairs at the lack of music shows on television in 2012, or perhaps more upsettingly – an absence of demand for them – it remains to be asked how exactly we would fill a thirty minute episode of Top of the Pops each week, if that was even a possibility. Short of giving David Guetta a guest DJ spot or having Lady Gaga and Rihanna’s videos on constant loop, I don’t think there would be a lot else on offer. Resultantly, nostalgia for the Top of the Pops of yesteryear, along with The Tube and The Old Grey Whistle Test now cuts deeper than ever… a longing for a time when there was an actual vested interest in new music and fresh talent, and people yearned to see a more personal side to their idols than what can be read in a ten minute scan of Wikipedia. At least Jools Holland does his bit with the only credible music show on television; the performances on which are often truly breath-taking; but destined to forever take the graveyard shift on BBC2, it is never going to recapture the lost audience of the Friday at 7.30pm slot.

To further fuel the fire of musical depreciation, whilst spending a brief ten minutes in Topshop yesterday, I noticed that they are currently selling a big grey jumper with the ‘Abbey Road’ cover photo printed on to the front. This angers me, in much the same way as it does to see David Bowie or Bob Dylan’s most ‘career defining’ image printed across cheap cotton and being sold by highstreet chains to an audience who probably know nothing about said artists, but just wish to appear as the more interesting one at a party who really ‘digs music’. Such statements I say with confidence, as I know full well that anyone who was truly a fan of their music would avoid these garments by a country mile.

Meanwhile, the festival headliners circuit is restricted to a select ten bands or so who find themselves on heavy rotation across the multitude of festivals that now lace our summer months. While great and financially rewarding for those bands who have reached the inner loop, it does mean a bit of a drag for anyone who chooses to go to more than one festival per season, and begs the question as to how or when any new bands will find themselves ascending far enough up the ranks to be deemed worthy of entering this honorary club of untouchables. By the age of twenty-three, I presumed I would be watching on as my peers were the ones taking the musical world by storm, headlining festivals and leading a new hype or movement within the business, however it is now incredibly rare for anyone under the age of thirty, or any band who has been around for less than ten years, to really cause a stir in what has now become a largely middle-aged business.

One thing is for sure; at a time when society is in turmoil and creativity finds itself suffering a devastating drought, nostalgia’s hypnotic lure is at its most powerful. While a longing for the 60s and 70s has for a long time been prevalent, in 2012 one even looks back on the contagious vigour and comparative optimism of the 1990s as something incredibly enviable. Watching Pulp’s energetic performance of Common People on Top of the Pops from 1995, it is hard not to wish that we could be back there, when the Britpop movement was instilling a sense of national pride and there was a widespread belief within youth culture that we were on the brink of once again ruling the world in a contemporary reworking of the 60s British invasion.

To further demonstrate this point, HMV have recently announced that while they are enduring losses in the sale of new music and DVDs, they will now be placing a heavier focus on stocking a wider variety of vinyl across many of their stores, as this is now the medium that people are choosing to spend their money on in an attempt to recapture the magic of the bygone era that vinyl so wonderfully provided the soundtrack to.

I am aware that this entry has been particularly scornful and perhaps places a little too much emphasis on negative aspects of the music industry; it is purely because I find the present state of affairs to be so damn frustrating. Perhaps the most irritating thing of all, is that when someone exciting or genuinely unique does emerge on the scene, appreciation for them is somewhat non-existent as the public now are more eager to spend their money on sampled, generic dance tunes which seem to tick a box on first listen and don’t ask any more of their audience. The zest for music or something new and stimulating to treat our ears and minds with, was clearly lacking in 2011, and all I can hope for is that once we’ve got the bitter reminder that is the Brit Awards out of the way, 2012 can get busy with producing something for young people in Britain to actually get excited about. And maybe then, I can stop with the bitchin’ blog posts.

Here is Jarvis Cocker sorting it out for a generation of hungry music fans in 1995, when people actually used to care :

1 comment:

  1. Where is all the good music from 2011? We nicked it! I managed to find no less than 700 listenable - excellent tracks from 2011. Most didn't make the Top 40.

    To find out how you can hear the best music of 2011 and the best new music in 2012 just go here (see blog post dated January 7th):


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