Tag Archives: Landfill Indie

Noel Gallagher: More Devastating than a points failure?

So Noel Gallagher said to be working on ‘seismic’ new album

On the day it comes out, Virgin Trains won’t be able to cope with all the people trying to flee the chaos,’ says Mark Coyle, who co-produced Definitely Maybe.

The trouble with that analogy is that all it would take to stop people being able to get out of Manchester by Virgin Trains would be a points failure at Slade Lane Junction.

But “Noel Gallagher’s album: More devasating that a points failure at Slade Lane Junction” is hardly a killer slogan…

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My local rock venue is advertising a gig by “The Oasis Experience”. I can’t help feeling that they are effectively a tribute band of a tribute band. Has pop now eaten itself?

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An A-to-Z Guide to Making Your Indie Band Not Suck in 2014

From VICE, an A-to-Z Guide to Making Your Indie Band Not Suck in 2014

Indie dudes in indie bands: This A-to-Z is for you. Read it. Or just keep on staring out of the window, composing lyrics about your ex who won’t give you your skateboard back, while coming up with chord changes that even that bald Mormon sex-case Will Oldham would have thrown away for being too insipid. The choice is yours.

The whole thing is laugh-like-a-drain funny, especially if you don’t actually like generic landfill indie music.

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My Mercury Music Prize Predictions

My predictions for this year’s Mercury Music Prize nominations

  • Half-a-dozen similar-sounding and unchallenging “indie” acts, all signed to major labels.
  • A couple of very mainstream pop singers.
  • Token jazz and folk entries who have no chance of winning but are there to make the list look less beige than it really is
  • As usual, no rock, metal or blues.

I may be pleasantly surprised, and be completely wrong. But somehow I think it’s unlikely. I can’t imagine something like Maschine or Steven Wilson making suitable soundtracks for the middle-class dinner parties which are clearly the award’s primary target market.

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Since it’s that time of the year again, it’s time to ask that same old question. Why does the BBC always give blanket television coverage to the indie-dominated Glastonbury and Reading Festivals, yet completely ignores festivals like Download, Cropredy or High Voltage? Do they never realise that rock, metal and folk fans are TV licence payers as well?

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Flogging a Dead Cliché

When a writer begins with the line “much has been made of the recent death of guitar music and how this year should see its glorious return“, is there really any point reading any further?

I may be missing out on some really wonderful music, but I get the feeling I probably won’t. I get the impression that any writer who uses such dreadful tired clichés as the one above thinks “three-chord indie-pop” and “guitar music” are synonyms, and genres like blues, metal or punk which centre around the sounds made by electric guitars either don’t exist or aren’t relevant. I can also safely assume the band he’s writing about are most likely to be some form of dull landfill indie and will not be worth three minutes of my time.

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And People Accuse Prog of Conservatism?

A link to a press release for a new band it might be better not to name turned up in my Twitter feed.

A band who struck a chord with each other and found a common ground in the love they have for the same music – bands with identities and guitars!

Wow! Guitars! Whatever will they think of next? Will they actually learn to play them?

The guys are armed with a strong identity and craft for song writing. They brim with a confidence not seen since the Britpop days with songs that reach to grab you from the intro and don’t let you go till the last note is viciously struck in a punk vein.

What can I say? With a press release as clichéd as that, can we assume the music is equally formulaic? And it’s the second time you’re used the word “identity” too. Does this perhaps imply an emphasis on style at the expense of content?

Lyrically they offer an insight into the social commentary and satire of contemporary suburban British life, with choruses to get you singing along and po-going the night away to your hearts content.

Let me guess. Songs about fights outside kebab shops on a Friday night. I bet nobody’s done that before…

They put on a captivating live show and are often described as a musical blend of Blur, Bloc Party and Wire. A juggernaut of a sound!

As a metal fan, I have trouble using the word “juggernaut” when it’s abundantly clear by now that we’re talking three-chord indie. Other vehicle descriptors might be more appropriate. How about “moped”?

I did listen to their promo on YouTube. Well, about 45 seconds of it, which was as much as I could stomach. It was every bit as bad as I feared; tedious, tuneless landfill indie-by-numbers. The breathless Nathan Barley style PR guff had inadvertently described it very well, but just not the way the author had intended.

People accuse progressive rock of being a conservative and backward-looking genre, and a lot of it is probably guilty as changed. But in my mind 90s Britpop was a far worse offender with its insular parochialism and extremely limited palette of musical influences. Much of it came over as a pastiche of the same second-division guitar pop that represented the “stagnant musical forms” Steve Hackett famously wanted to get away from back in 1970, combined with a bit of watered-down punk shorn of the visceral energy that was really the whole point of punk.

It was bad enough in the 1990s. Making the same sort of music in 2012 is a pastiche of a pastiche. That ship has not so much already sailed as been consigned to the breaker’s yard.

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Where is all the good music?

We’ve all heard friends like this. “There’s no good music around any more”, they say, like Homer Simpson. We know there’s all kinds of wonderful music out there in every genre from prog-rock to death metal to alt.country to electronic to solo bass to many many more that most people have never heard of. But they only know of the ITV Indie and Asda-pop of the commercial mainstream.

Steve Lawson said on Twitter

Ever heard anyone complaining that there’s no good music around any more? Those people are insane. Ignore them.

But I think Steve Lawson, thought he has a point, is still being a little bit on the harsh side, and although the people he rails about are indeed quite wrong, I can understand where they’re coming from.

When these people were in their teens and early 20s, they had plenty of time to discover new music. All the best music was well outside the commercial mainstream; they listened to the radio late at night, bought music papers, went to gigs, traded tapes with friends, all of it to discover the good stuff.

Now they’re older, with jobs and mortgages and kids, and they no longer have the time do that. All the new music they hear is the lowest common denominator slop served up by the mass media, drivel like X-Factor or daytime commercial radio.

What they forget is the mainstream media always was rubbish. At their seventies peak even huge selling acts like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were conspicuous by their absence from TV or daytime radio, and people who weren’t active music fans were unaware of their existence. TV was filled with the likes of Brotherhood of Man and The Nolan Sisters in the same way as today has formulaic landfill indie.

Same as it ever was, if you want good music, you have to go look for it.

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Mark McGuire and the fetishising of lack of technique

I have a reputation for being opinionated and argumentative online, which is one reason I don’t post much on band forums nowadays – there are too many self-important sycophants who take offence, often on behalf of others, at what was intended as constructive criticism. So now I’m back baiting Guardian music journalists again.

Such an example is Ben Beaumont-Thomas’ Guardian Music Blog piece attempting to praise the guitar talents Mark McGuire, which starts with this opening paragraph:

Claims for the greatness of guitarists are often badly skewed. Many seem to regard guitar playing in a similar way to skateboarding, that greatness is about isolated feats of technical brilliance (an idea which Guitar Hero taps into and perhaps slyly satirises). Therefore songwriting from the likes of Dragonforce, and to a lesser extent Van Halen, Queen, and Guns’n'Roses is modular: guitar theatrics slotted into a framework, rather than folded into songs.

To which my first reaction is “Oh dear”.

Whatever you might think of Mark McGuire’s music (It sounds interesting, reminds me a bit of Matt Stevens or even very early instrumental-era Twelfth Night), I still maintain that opening with a thinly-veiled slur at Dragonforce (of whom I’m not a particular fan) is equivalent to me opening a review of someone like Panic Room with a paragraph about why I think The Libertines are rubbish. It would rightly be a distraction from the main body of the article.

After getting a few responses from the author in the comments, I realised that the thing wasn’t just about McGuire’s music at all, but was using him as a hook to hang a piece fetishising lack of technique. But far from being the iconoclastic position he implies it to be, all he’s doing is restating the orthodox position of the majority of rock critics from the past thirty years. 17-year old Dragonforce fans do not represent the establishment; that position is held by 40-something old punks. And I believe their attitude is deeply damaging to music. As commenter Troyka says:

Since the punk era it has been the norm to pretend that technique and ability don´t matter as much as enthusiasm. The result of which we can see in the uniform dullness of a lot of today´s younger guitarists (in the U.K at least).

Which is pretty much why we haven’t seen any great guitarists emerge in mainstream British music for at least 15 years. Yes, there are plenty of younger guitarists in metal, blues or prog, but they’re minority genres and largely aren’t on the BBC/NME/Guardian/Q radar screen.

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What is the point of The Mercury Music Prize?

What is the point of The Mercury Music Prize?

I’m not going to comment on the merits or otherwise of winners The XX – they’re so far removed from my own tastes in music that I’m simply not qualified to judge them. But I think it is fair to comment on the very obvious exclusion of entire genres from Mercury shortlists.

Apart from the token jazz and folk entries, it does seem dominated by various sub-genres of indie plus the odd hip-hop record. Far from being as broad as it’s apologies claim, it’s pretty much restricted to the sorts of artists that Apple Macintosh-owning urban metrosexuals might have heard of. I recognise that prog is too niche, but it’s unthinkable, for example, for a metal band to make the shortlist. Admittedly a lot of cutting-edge metal seems to be Scandinavian these days, and The Mercury is restricted to British and Irish acts. But why have Iron Maiden never got nominated? And when was the last time an out-and-our pop album got nominated? Surely Simon Cowell’s karaoke drivel hasn’t killed pop completely?

Alexis Petridis’s Guardian Article gives the game away – he doesn’t quite come and out and say it, but I think the subtext and inference is pretty clear. The main purpose of The Mercury Music Prize is indeed not to celebrate the best of British music in all it’s diversity, but is merely a cynical ploy to sell records to the demographic that doesn’t know much about music, but wants to think of itself as cool and sophisticated.

Which is a perfect justifcation of why, despite the genre’s eternal popularity, you’re never going to get a Metal band in Mercury shortlist. Metal just isn’t a genre you can sell to people like David Cameron or William Hague.

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