I read in the Mirror this week (it was just there OK?) an article on White Stripes. It was based loosely around the comments of some Very Punk Indeed young NME go-getter who claimed that ‘kids would relate to them’ because ‘they don’t tow the corporate line’. This was coming from a corporate magazine. I haven’t heard the band yet (although I am certainly curious to) so I can’t comment on them. What I do want to comment on is the NME’s attitude towards them and any new band that arrives on the scene.
Enthusiasm for new music is clearly a good thing (if I didn’t think so I wouldn’t write for this site). However, the NME take it too far. I can’t stand their pretence that they have some affinity with underground-cool when they bombard us with plug after plug and soundbite after soundbite.
A recent notorious example of this was the week the Strokes graced the front cover. I like the Strokes, as do a lot of people (most of them geniune). Yet soon after the issue was out they were being heralded everywhere as ‘the coolest band on the planet’ or ‘ the band that will change your life’.
The Strokes play great tunes with lots of energy and plenty of humour. They do indeed look cool. However, they’re hardly a revelation are they? Originality wouldn’t appear to be top of their priorities given their retro aesthetic. Calling them ‘life changing’ is a step too far.
What really bothered me though was that people who really like the band now have to live with seeing one of their favourite bands being paraded around with meaningless labels attached to them in major publications everywhere. For these fans, it’s like having your diary read and its contents being spread everywhere, your thoughts twisted by people you’ve never met and your secrets out forever. There’s nothing essentially wrong with a band getting recognition and selling well, it’s just the bullshit that seems to inevitably follow that grates.
Before the Strokes issue, Starsailor were on the cover one week with the words ‘best band in the world’ emblazoned underneath. Bollocks. Weak songwriting twinned with a tepid attitude are not usually characteristics of a band worthy of such a title. This is of course my opinion but, for me, this was a strong indication of how out of touch the NME seem to be these days. If British music is so desperate to compete with America for popularity then we need a band with verve. Isn’t it bloody obvious?
The NME is undeniably an institution and, for a lot of people, is a major source of news on current music. Most of the writers are very good and clearly have some passion for what they do and what they write about. However, all I ask is does the NME have to taint our experience of bands with their deluge of publicity? It surely wouldn’t harm the sales figures too much just to print controlled journalism with genuine praise.
The flipside of disillusionment with mainstream music journalism is that it has provided the impetus needed for sites like this to thrive. Music journalism, like its subject matter, seems to move in cycles like this. The mainstream becomes stagnant, sparking an underground flourish which eventually grows into the mainstream. Let’s hope that this new movement learns from the NME’s pitfalls.