Monday, 14 January 2013

The Music Class of 2013 - The Voice of Apathy?

Warning : This blog post contains some generalisations, because without them every opinion piece would be redundant because of the exception to the rule.

When last week the 2013 Brit nominees were announced the general consensus was that it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. With a couple of minor glitches (Cat Power in best international female wasn’t fully expected) the awards simply appear to be rewarding the big sellers. No surprises here really, after all the awards are effectively a back slapping exercise by the music industry for the music industry.

However, these safe nominations left us pondering. In 2012 the biggest shock was Adele getting cut off in her prime during the live show; hardly the stuff of outrage. Is there any chance of a moment of rock ‘n’ roll behaviour at this year’s ceremony? Will there be a Jarvis mooning a MichaelJackson, a KLF performing a thrash metal version of their biggest hit before dumping a dead sheep outside an aftershow party or even just good old Suede perplexing music industry execs with a flash of nipple, trashy glamour and raw visceral guitars amongst the blandness of the rest of the awards.

Looking down the list we suspect not. Where’s the class of 2013’s angry outsiders that have infiltrated the mainstream? Alt-J? An innovative album sure, but they just seem too passive to ever rage against the machine. Jessie Ware? She may have been marketed as the mainstream pop act it’s OK for cool kids to like, but we’d suggest she’s more likely to be giggling over a glass of wine with Nick Grimshaw than throwing her champagne furiously at someone.

And here’s why. There’s little anger in music anymore. There’s little politics. Everyone is too afraid to upset anybody. Even the new wave of alternative indie guitar bands (traditionally a route for outspoken views) such as Peace, Luls and Palma Violets seem to have very little to say. And when they do, it seems to be a poorly thought out exercise in self-promotion, like Eagulls recent rant on their blog which lacked in any sort of inspiration or intelligence, as well as appearing to be misogynistic and concerned more about fashion than anything else. Interestingly a few days after it was posted it was removed. What were we saying about everyone being too afraid to upset anybody? Oh that. (You can still see the rant, which has been preserved by This Is Fake DIY here )

In the UK 1 in 9 high street stores are empty / shut, public services are being slashed left right and centre, long term unemployment including youth unemployment is high and homelessness has increased,  yet very few musicians seem to offer a voice against any of this.  In the past this hasn’t been so. Musicians often rallied against politicians, offering an alternative voice and inspiration for youth culture, but now the anger seems to have gone, replaced by apathy. Those musicians of the past still wanted to be famous rock stars but they wanted to make a difference as well. From The Clash to Springsteen, they were able to put across intelligent (and sometimes not so intelligent views) and if they got it right and weren’t too patronising or preachy make their fans think. Now it seems the number of Facebook likes is more important to many young bands than talking or singing about what is happening to their country and maybe for the fans of the music as well. Certainly reading music blogs (and we shamefacedly include our own in this) lyrical content of songs gets short coverage. Has it come to the point, perish the thought, that what bands are singing about doesn’t actually matter anymore? Have we all become not only apathetic to what’s going on in the world, but also in the way we listen to pop music?

Music can be a force can that can act as a catalyst to change, an angry cog in the machine.  Yet right now, that machine seems sadly complacent, rusted and stuck. 


Philip said...

Interesting. I think you have a point. The music is getting angrier, but the words aren't catching up. Perhaps people are using social media like Twitter for their rants rather than using songs. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

We've entered a generation of apathy.

Musicians in the mainstream are sucking too much corporate cock and are afraid to rock the boat for fear of being marginalised and damaging their careers. Those outside the mainstream find the doors shut at every point, unless they also suck the same cock.

People don't invest the time in thought anymore. As Philip (above) says anger is now expressed through social media, but this is instant often poorly considered anger, that soon evaporates.

Andy Von Pip said...

Because before the recession people didn't want to kick against "big money" and greedy capitalism, they wanted IN ON IT !! Students were once at the vanguard of the counter culture are just as likely now to be seduced by celebrity culture. In Liverpool they used to sell the Workers Revolutionary Party mags, now you'll find many of them at big arena gigs and X Factor style karaoke because they are now not studenst but customers (of Uni's) they expect a degree and want all the shiny trinkets and baubles that success brings the Ipads, pods,etc etc.

I'd like to think that when the recession REALLY bites deep and really effects people that we may see dissent, and civil disorder and yes genuinely angry music - but sadly with the benefits system being dismantled it maybe only well off that are able to attempt an concerted effort at musical career , and will they risk that to speak out ? As you say some of the so called "alt" bands have little to say - It's rather sad when you have an ex Etonian who once sang "Thatcher F**ked the Kids" and then with a whiff of success claims he isn't political, yet is considered a rebel... Its like punk never happened (the political punk, not the fashionista punk)

There's still protest music from bands like The Indelicates, but I cant see the radio stations playing them, as its not cuddly and safe

Donna Fullman said...

Yes. Rebellion is very much needed. We swallow too much down. But. Not all rebellion needs to be angry. Here's 'Restlessness'