If you pay even just a passing interest in new music then the chances are you’ll have already come across Picture Parlour. If you haven't, then this post is for you.
They’re a band that have been gaining traction through a number of well received live shows played over the past year or so. This week, after releasing their debut single and getting plenty of press coverage, they have found themselves at a bit of a storm centred around arguments of being ‘industry plants’, the increased visibility big management and a label backing can bring you over others that don’t, tastemaker hype, the systemic problems of the music industry favouring white artists, stereotypes, judging artists purely by their online statistics / data and misogynistic attacks on female artists. The Last Dinner Party and Wet Leg have also been used as examples in many of these debates.
Some of these arguments are easy to debunk. For example, there’s been criticism of all of these bands seemingly ‘coming from nowhere’, which is frankly a load of uninformed tosh. Take Wet Leg for example. Lead vocalist Rhian had been treading the boards for some time (I posted one of her tracks on the blog here back in 2016) and co-founder Hester had also played in other bands such as Maybe Tuesday before Wet Leg was formed. Wet Leg had released a DIY song Girlfriend on Soundcloud in 2019 which was removed, probably when they got signed.
Likewise, arguments that Picture Parlour have hardly any listeners on Spotify being held up as the fact they are ‘Industry Plants’. Well, you can’t expect a band to have listeners before they have released anything. That’s just ridiculous. And the term ‘Industry Plants’ is utterly meaningless anyway. I'm not even sure if most music listeners care about where artists came from - they just want tunes they like. 'Authenticity' is something that seems to exist in certain rock / indie circles in the same way as the term 'real music' does.
However, some of the arguments that have been put forward online are certainly worthy of further discussion. For example, conversations around the systemic issues in the music industry and the lack of inclusion of persons of colour are very valid. However, unfortunately some of the people I’ve seen online who are trying to address these issues are probably not taken as seriously as they should be because of the way they put forward their arguments, which to an observer such as myself can be interpreted as aggressive, unkind and with a lack of nuance.
The argument that is the silliest of all though is the ‘they won’t last’ argument, because for anyone who knows anything about pop music will tell you, nobody has a crystal ball that works 100% correctly 100% of the time. That’s the nature of the beast. Remember Suede? Back in the day they were on the cover of Melody Maker under the slogan “The Best New Band In Britain” before they had even released a single. 30 years on they’re still going strong, selling out big venues and releasing excellent records. But then does anyone remember Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong? They were another press acclaimed band that released 3 singles that didn’t connect with the public before disbanding. Pop is a funny old game.
So back to Picture Parlour. Yes, they are getting ‘tastemaker’ attention. Yes, they are all white. But let’s give them a chance. Just as we should give any artist that makes you sit up and go ‘that sounds good’ a chance. And if you don’t think they do sound good, why not spend your time finding something else to celebrate rather than trying to kick a band down before they have even had the chance to prove themselves?
For the record, Picture Parlour sound like they would be great live. Their debut single is raw, rasping and reaches for the sky. No wonder Courtney Love has already given them the rock royalty thumbs-up. And no it’s not a cover of The Beatles song of the same name.
You can find the song below and on the Breaking More Waves New Music Weekly playlist (here)
Picture Parlour - Norwegian Wood