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Pump up the Volume

If one believes the teachings of the punk wars, music should have a capacity for shock. Not in a Mary Whitehouse sort of way – anyone can shout a string of expletives – but by it’s sheer corrosive force. When I was a young pup, I was banned from playing My Bloody Valentine or the Jesus and Mary Chain when my Mum was in. This thrilled me in a way I cannot properly explain; this was mine, it was difficult and it was challenging and it made people turn around in confusion and, in the case of ELM’s matriarch, anger. Top work.

Now, this isn’t a snobby put-down of any music which has the audacity to feature a major chord. Pop music will always have it’s place. But what should be the alternative is as sweet as a Katherine Hiegl movie. Kings Of Leon are probably the biggest selling rock act in the UK now. And it’s just so nice. Mumford & Sons sell by the bucketload, but are about as challenging as a fight with an ill midget. Adele sings honestly of relationships, but in terms of sheer emotional punch she can’t hold a torch to those who have gone before. It’s safe, mass-market alt.pop and it isn’t scaring the kids.

There are bands out there who want to challenge the orthodoxy – The Whip and Late of the Pier spring to mind – but boys and girls with guitars seem determined to offer up a saccharine take on what the world is. Yes, we have angry polemic from the Arctic Monkeys, but they haven’t had a contemporary rise up to meet them (which isn’t their fault, obviously.)

Perhaps younger bands could put away the Oasis albums and look a wee bit deeper at their labelmates. The afore-mentioned acts, along with Felt and Ride, made hugely ambitious music, bringing in all manner of sonic templates which no-one seems all that interested in exploiting. While there are 100 James Morrison types plying their trade – you know who they are – no-one is blasting your ears back in an attempt to make your brain fry and your heart explode.

Indie music – a ghastly term, but one which seems to fit – goes in cycles. But post-Libertines and Strokes, we haven’t had anyone with a clear idea of where they want to go if the map doesn’t already exist. Mapping new territory should always be an aim, otherwise it’s death by a thousand re-treads.

The world in 2011 is a strange place – can we please have some music to match it?

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2 Responses

  1. It is interesting to see how many bands these days have a career mapped out….and are safe. But maybe that’s always been the way? I suppose the ‘indie scene’ is now blown apart by the internet and every genre has 1,001 sub genres. Hard to kick against the pricks when there is no counter culture as such?

  2. Yep Bert, there is such a proliferation now. As you say, if there is no dominant orthodoxy to rail against, what are you going to do?

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