Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sons of the stages

As if to back up what we last wrote about, according to Official Charts Company data rock single sales have dropped in the last year. What does that mean, exactly? Where are these 'rock' parameters being set if Florence & The Machine, Mumford And Sons and Pendulum all count? Does electro count as rock or pop? Does Helping Haiti get its own special category? And does this really, really mean that ALL ROCK IS DEAD? When in a couple of years a couple of big selling artists emerge will 'rock' be 'back'? Will 'rock is back' be officially announced by Fearne Cotton making a devil horns gesture at a camera as usual? In the meantime, should we be feeling ashamed and embarrassed for having liked 'rock'? Why the fuck are they running quotes from Mani?

And while we observe that photo of commitment, what is it with Mumford & Sons anyway? Observing their following both in the flesh thrice, where they'd had the weekend's most vociferous crowd, and on telly at Glastonbury and Reading, while we know Sigh No More has sold a hell of a lot of copies - eighth on the year to date list, fourth among Brits - that doesn't necessarily follow into this massive live appeal that they drag along with them, the type who swoon at everything. At Reading "we're going to play a new song" was the cue for their people to holler themselves collectively hoarse, not the usual response. At Summer Sundae their roadie line checking a trumpet got a huge cheer. Thousands of people are wetting themselves over a band featuring mandolins, double bass and a man playing a solitary kick drum. Is it a higher class status answer back to the post-Oasis derived luddite mentality that got into Kings Of Leon when they became cleaner produced? You'd call them a folk Coldplay, except the chiming beer aloft chords and lyrical universal utalitarian standpoint that brought people into Coldplay's world aren't as evident. There's big shoutalong wordless bits in the coda, but that's not the same. It's amped bluegrass, after all. And this has taken off in a way that only big stadium guitars (Pendulum inclusive) have in the runaway festival market in the last few years. It's not a little strange on paper.

1 comment:

Iain said...

Struggling to understand why Florence counts as more rock than Owl City. 'Real' instruments I guess?

As Guy Garvey kind of touches upon, this is basically the inevitable product of a move to a downloads only singles chart. The more album-biased a band is, the more there's no reason whatsoever for anyone to buy their singles. Leaks/early streaming removing the effect of the 2 week gap between single and album might play into it as well to some extent.

Also, since they no longer become harder to find in the shops over time, big hits of any kind hold up saleswise for much longer, clog up the bottom end of the top 40 and reduce the turnover of new entries generally.

Mumford and Sons' singles chart record (24, 44, 31) isn't even as good as someone like JJ72 could manage ten years ago!

But it's only half the story as their album has done much better. I'm sure that a slower decline in album sales than everything else means alternative/'rock'/whateveryouwanttocallit has surely actually improved album chart performances.

Look at, say, Arcade Fire, who went from multiple top 40 singles off Funeral to a placing of 56 for "Keep the Car Running" to 75 for "We Used to Wait" but also got their first number one album this time around.

Obviously all of this doesn't fit into an easy 'rock is dying!' narrative so won't be a news story any time soon.