Monday, October 27, 2008

Unacceptable in the 80s

We were glad to read Pitchfork's chat with Gwenno Pipette on Thursday, specifically the bit where she revealed of their new material "There's a lot more 80s influence... you can actually dance to our songs now properly... there are Eurobeat elements and disco elements in there that weren't in there originally. It's exciting for all of us in the band, because it's a musical era that we're quite interested in." Glad to read it because, while these seem to be very early days in this progression blueprint - although of the new songs we've seen on YouTube we're not holding out excessive amounts of hope - it looks like there'll one less on the list when we come to compile the albums we're looking forward to in 2009.

Bluntly, the 1980s revival has run out of inspiration and needs to stop.

Now, this will be controversial for many reasons. For one, our countdown of the year's best albums is coming up and we know people will delight in pointing out the disparity between this statement and the records we do admire publicly, and also we have a large number of friends and readers (not the same thing, we're too wise for that) who like a lot of these people, but it's a view that's been there at the back of our mind for a while. What's happened is, now Guilty Pleasures has been assimilated, supposed 'guilty pleasures' are being recycled, given a lick of paint and a good media plugger and are re-emerging as 'the alternative'. Take Santogold, every one of whose singles since Creator has sounded like the solo work of a different Go-Gos member, Belinda Carlisle on LES Artistes and Jane Weidlin for Lights Out (can't wait for her to have a Gina Schock phase). Take Ladyhawke, who considers it a virtue that she sounds like 80s Fleetwood Mac even though those of us old enough to remember 80s Fleetwood Mac know they were solely the preserve of BBC local radio, BBC1 late night bought in In Concerts and the Montreaux music festivals. Take Chromeo, who can fuck right off. Sam Sparro's songs other than the borderline Black And Gold channel Howard Jones more than electropop. Little Boots, odds on to be the populist choice as the most prominent name in 2009 previews, is Deborah Harry (as in mid-80s solo) replacing Alison Moyet in Yazoo. And so on and so forth, until we reach the shining turd at the pinnacle, Keane, who may not have the gumption to hire pale suits, mirrorballs and two mixed race female backing singers with qualifications in synchronised arm swinging but have completely neutralised any need for a Simple Minds reunion. And for their hitmaking phase once they'd been introduced to New Romanticism Simple Minds were some distance from cool.

Not that it's all immediately point missing - the Mystery Jets and Alphabeat in their own ways recognised that pop from that era was actually about far more than preening chancers in Bogarde suits - but there's something suspicious about the way this is all now being heralded as the pop explosion of the decade-on-decade. What's happened here, and we're by no means the middle class apologist or blinkered indie boy we make out, is that it's as if the whole popism movement has given up. Girls Aloud and the Sugababes are settled into a holding pattern, their cohorts edging away from giving their singles properly forward thinking productions because it might upset commercial radio (side note of interest: one of the many people credited with writing one step away from Atomic Kitten single girls is Anna Macdonald, one of the new Pipettes) and after some GA acknowledgement a couple of years ago it's again as if producers and grown up fans never existed. There's no reason been given yet to get into The Saturdays. Deserved poptimist poster girl Rachel Stevens isn't coming back any time soon. Annie, given a bigger push this time around, put out a single that was a lesser retread of Chewing Gum and has now found spiritual kinship with Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, "persuading" her major label to put the album release on the back burner not because of poor single sales, you understand, but because it was all wrong and she suddenly has new songs she needs to record for it now, announcing her intention to work with Paul Epworth. If in 2008 you announce an intention to work with 2005's Paul Epworth you may as well apply to audition in High School Musical 4: The College Years for all the musical worth it'll have. We as a collective of the likeminded liked the idea there of having 'our own' pop star, a pop queen in cahoots with the Scandinavian underground, it's just that nobody agreed with 'us'. No wonder the 'alternative' is in a blind panic reaching out for anything that's not Cheryl Cole approved.


Anonymous said...

I think while I totally agree with many of your points, the fact you suggest that Annie's decision to work with Epworth is irrelevant is quite uninformed and possibly premature.
The fact that he's been busier this year than any year previously and considering everything he's touched this year has gone top 10.
Also while choosing to ignore the bland bands that exist ( he reportedly turned down first call on Keane and Kaisers) he's been focused on writing, with amongst others, Cathy Dennis.
I think i'd be inclined to agree about much of what you say but in this case you are quite wide of the mark.

Simon said...

Of all the fans we expected to be outraged by this post, the first to leave a comment being Paul Epworth's is unexpected. That bit's kind of based on what we reckon is the drudgery of a lot of the stuff that's been released under his name recently - Sam Sparro as mentioned, the lumpen Primal Scream album, Bloc Party (qv) and the wildly hopeless Shy Child, who fit perfectly into this post for their "look! A keytar!" USP.

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