“He’s not that bad. I like him, actually.”
Who’s he and what's him? Blunt, James, obviously, he of backstory grunts and graft and apparent fairytale ascent to towering glory. He that’s perched unchallenged atop charts Single and Album since the dawn of time – or five weeks, time enough in the ficklest industry of all – and he that’s corrupted the Young and Impressionable of Britain into soulless soundalikes willing to believe whatever they’re spoon-fed over cretin-helmed commercial airwaves and televisual Saturday A.M. slumming. The en face aural assailant of last week’s otherwise tranquil Normandy holiday (I'd have sent you a postcard but you never called when you'd promised) was none other but my closest’s closest: a cousin-in-law, give or take a ring on finger, that’s actually actively pursuing a career in music. She even stressed her love of breakbeat to me, before spitting salty hate into my eyes with the above ‘argument’, the above brush of however faint praise for the praiseless. It’s enough – it was enough – to drive a man to tears of confusion and rage in a strange bathroom far from home.
However, worse was to come: another, again a near relative, albeit this time one further removed from my own blood, was keen to stress that the man, though he is surely not of woman born, is “fit”.
Both parties are in their early twenties. Both parties aspire to a degree of mainstream-eschewing cool. Both are old and wise enough to know better. At least, they're old enough.
So, alone in this room of stone and water cold enough to chill from toe tip to pricked ear, frantically scanning the still air for mumbles of my indier-than-thou-ness from behind twin doors, I ponder something: what, exactly, is responsible for this meteoric rise to superstardom? Why he, why now, and most troubling, why here? Britain is a nation proud of its musical heritage, of its ability to bleed blood anew with frightening regularity and to pull boundaries and topple preconceptions with the repetition of the seasons. So, how?
1: The kids aren’t alright. Whatever we believe in and believed in, today’s consumers – those with instant access to a million potential pop hits courtesy of the newfangled downloading thing – consider it dead and buried. While we beamed proudly as we strode onto the homeward bus clutching whatever the ‘Maker recommended in week 25 of our personal Year Zero, today’s spoilt wretches merely log in and pick up their fix.
2: MTV. I don’t watch it – I can barely receive Channel 4 in the valley I call home, just south of the North Circular – but surely it’s lost its way. At school, a guy called Matt shaped my fate through tapes of Soundgarden and Nirvana, tapes created after substantial exposure to MTV. With the never-ending increase of phone-in funded and user-programmed video channels, any perspective of taste has been spread as thin as the last scrapings of margarine on tatty nothing-else-to-eat toast. CD:UK, The Box, Top Of The Fucking Pops: you’re all to blame. Yet you’re not the root of the problem. You merely do as told by those powers in the most ivory of towers. So…
3: The powers that be; Linda Perry and her fuckin’ Custard Records and all the money that stupid song back in ’93 or whatever year it was – I was immersed in plaid, thanks, or at least I was in my clouded head of messy riffs and spluttered screams – made for her to establish her empire of hollow emotions and ringtone-friendly compositions. Did she write it or what? Whatever. It’s plastic fantasy for the media junky generation: dance dance dance to the radio but STOP for Blunt and his tears, kids; he cries for you and I and all can relate to his woe. Well woah indeed, bucky. Why am I reading Q today and finding David Gray praised but a finger’s count of pages away from the retelling of the Cobain tale? Why should fans of Gray check out Sparklehorse? What the fuck has happened since Ooberman made me dance like a child and Idlewild’s ‘Idea Track’ had me jumping drunkenly from chairs in other peoples’ rooms in halls of residence that weren’t my own? That’s not so long ago; it’s not so long ago when commercially viable music could mean something more than this, this utter vacancy, this vacuous cunt of snide smirks cutting through Tiny Tears outpourings on my fuckin’ television singing to me a lullaby of the utmost banality.
I don’t know; perhaps the 20p cans of fizzy lager-flavoured chemicals and my emotional fragility at having spent weeks on end desperately scrabbling for the remote control in time to silence Mr Blunt and his talents had taken their toll. Perhaps I’m in the wrong. Perhaps Blunt is right and everything I believed in, everything that made me rush out on a Wednesday and ingest Fast Soul Food before following others’ leads into 7” purchases that stood the test of a million musical lifetimes lived in a handful of formative years, is irreparably wrong. Perhaps I should shut the fuck up already and accept that popular opinion and my own tastes have rarely converged since my escape into indiedom.
Or, perhaps I should just continue with the brave face and the hideaway depressions. Restart my heart once an hour with something full of fuckin’ fire in its belly. Reconsider the scheme of things and resign myself to the fact that the future is going to be so much worse. A new Blunt single is due, you know; I’m told it’s not that bad, that it’s nice enough, that it’s alright. It's 'High'. No doubt it'll climb high enough for the armies of grey and magnolia to wash away the sun-scorched palette of a thousand psychedelic pasts forever, leaving punk to rot like so many of its forefathers are already. It’s safe, mate. Safe = nice. Nice = alright. Alright = the future, kids.
You’ve got it made: soft, warm, fuzzy, fake.