Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Filter tips

It's said too often to even be notable any more that the BBC Sound Of... poll is a self-fulfilling prophecy, a marketing exercise based on which private school privileged weekenders (thank you, Simon Price) the majors want us to know about rather than any mass qualitative judgement. How odd, then, that in the wake of the prediction season the most talked about band weren't in the BBC poll's fifteen strong longlist at all.

This is, of course, the much 'discussed' Brother. Not so much a band as a lame group troll, peddling the sort of sixth rate dirge every band of either eighteen year olds or 35 year olds you ever saw opening in every grotty bar, valuable bandwidth has gone into critiquing their new-Oasis stance and the central casting nature therein, from haircuts to picking faults with everyone a willing journalist throws at them to "saviours of rock'n'roll" aphorisms. In turn, many a journalist has got riled on demand. The Quietus got someone to file 1100 words on why nobody should be writing about them and didn't appreciate the irony. Which is funny, as if any band is going to spend the next six months telling all and sundry that they don't mind if they're loved or hated as long as everyone has an opinion on them, the great get-out clause of the idea-free, it's them.

All this fallout raises two points. One is the sort of thing that any band creating a framework of cocky arrogant youth really should have seen to in this Internet age, though none of the anti-Brother pieces have picked up on yet. That being: two years ago they were called Wolf Am I and releasing an album compared to Brand New. A year before that they were called Kill The Arcade and sounded like this, that is to say accidentally inventing Kids In Glass Houses and thus would probably have been quite successful by now as they were. In a recent interview, they (as in their current guise) referred to "that American shit". Yeah. All much fun, until you realise their entire act hinges on getting people to believe that they mean it and are serious about bringing whatever commercial success British guitar music really requires, when they're gleeful bandwagon leapers who don't even bother to pick up the discarded identities that prove them to be entirely transparent. Hey, Potential Brother fans! They're openly mocking you, they are.

This, of course, is even more pointless, self-defeating words added to the Brother Mobius strip of criticism, but the reason why is in point two. See, the reason, of course, is someone has decided that it's time for a return to 'traditional rock values'. Note the prevalence suddenly given to the report that that most horrible and nebulous of theories, 'rock music', has had its worst year in fifty, but only if you count the devalued and deface singles chart, the download-friendly nature of which works against indie rock's nap hand of first week physical sales. Even that self same report undermines the headline statement in expert quote and secondary album chart of the year source. It fosters the idea that unthreatening route one guitar music has been in the doldrums since, oh, 1996. And not, say, 2007, when the Kaiser Chiefs kept prime Arcade Fire off the top of the album charts and The Enemy, Hard-Fi and Editors could still have number one LPs. It was three and a half years ago. You may remember it. And it's reflected in the way Beady Eye still seem, despite having music out, only to exist in theory, hovering above all critical faculties because OMG IT'S LIAM. Look at the excitement around the Libertines reunion until it turned out spending years keeping deliberate distance from each other hadn't made them any less scrappy, oddly enough. Look at the amount of spectacularly uncritical prose heaped upon the Vaccines, a workaday 1988 post-JAMC pub band playing What A Waster on the human face forever (and, for that matter, on the cover of all the supposedly double covered NMEs we've seen)

Rock'n'roll must come back is the cry, as much from label marketing managers targeting a particular demographic that might have dropped off a touch in the last two year as from people who make music. Nothing better proves that rock'n'roll, as a carefully choreographed sequence of sneers, quotes and pouts, is an outdated shithole and must be humanely destroyed.

Calm. Calm.

The nature of Sound Of... is often pulled up as going along with who people think will be big rather than who they think will achieve good things. That's something which to an extent is driven by who has things coming out around the polling period, as seen with the level of specialist attention already long given to Do It Like A Dude, Limit To Your Love and Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra). If you're involved in a relatively mainstream area of music criticism it's less likely you're going to have time to dig around for something entirely fresh unless someone else has handed it you on a plate, and if you did it'd likely fall victim to the nature of such a widely polled survey. Even predicting on the grounds of possible commercial success is increasingly scattershot, as Joe Lean might be able to tell you. Exactly how crossover successful is James Blake likely to be? One critic man's 'inventive use of space and sub-bass' is another chart blogging man's 'dreary and dull' (we know, we've seen one). (Tellingly, the official description on the Sound Of 2011 minisite doesn't mention his 2010 EPs at all, cutting straight to his vocal-and-piano influences.)

Self-perpetuating, then? Only insomuch as this is what naturally came to pop attention anyway, as nothing can be manipulated into attention and success without genuine support from someone, and if the major labels have a role it's in their own fondness for launching viral clips and limited edition fake indie singles at the same time when they sensed the increasing amount of press from all sides such lists attain, in an increasing game of survival of the fittest - Rough Trade's post-Duffy nu-soul-but-male hope Joe Worricker, say, has probably been put back in a cupboard for another year. Jessie J, if she's going to catch on, will catch on anyway, no matter what baubles she's garlanded with.

1 comment:

andypwl said...


I saw Brother on the cover of the NME, having no prior or subsequent knowledge and immediately knew everything you've just confirmed in your first paragraphs. And that I hated them.