Everyone knows three things about music trends. One, they are created by journalists; two, they create good and bad music; three, fans decide what they want to hear. Are all these points arguable? Yes, of course – I will explain briefly what I mean.
A band, or maybe a handful, will come along and for a brief moment excite the British press in a way that it hasn’t been since the Beatles, or U2, or the Stone Roses, or Oasis, or Radiohead, or Coldplay, or Franz Ferdinand or the Arctic Monkeys. See what I’m saying? There are tons of huge bands, tons of influential bands. Journalists are always looking for the next big thing. As soon as Franz Ferdinand released their first record the press looked for bands to group in with them: we were there already – our eponymous debut already in the shops waiting for release: Bloc Party, the Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park all quickly to follow. ‘THE NEW WAVE OF NEW WAVE’ the British press proclaimed. Bollocks. All those bands sound pretty different; we’re just from the same island. We play guitars, we sound ‘British’ – as if Scottish, London and North-Eastern accents sound similar – never mind other instruments used or arrangements. If people listen to these bands’ second and third albums they realise how different they are.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that in the last few years there has been a positive emotional investment made into British music by the press, fans and the industry. This does have negative effects though. Look at how many bands get record deals off the back of success by bands like the Libertines or the Arctic monkeys. In Sunderland now, you see people prancing round in clothes they don’t even know why they wear, having haircuts they don’t like and trying to get a manager and a record deal after two rehearsals in a garage. I’m not saying don’t have ambition or style: I’m just saying don’t put it before substance. This tirade all relates to my second point: if music trends have any purpose or positive outcome it is to inspire and encourage; sometimes it seems as if people see popularity as the goal rather than artistic output.
I meander, then, towards my third point: that ultimately fans choose what they want to hear. The country is in recession, everyone knows this. The music industry is drowning in a sea of Internet freebies. Music magazines have folded to leave only the NME selling weekly. Well, tough: the business will have to cope. Fans still go to gigs, fans still buy T-shirts, fans still want to invest in a band and buy albums for artwork, so they can say they were there from the start. Fans can still listen to what they want.
In an attempt to bring all these points together I put forward the quandary that after a much hyped era in British music (from the Libertines and Razorlight to Franz and the Futureheads, to Kaisers and the Arctic Monkeys and onwards) there have been so many bands signed for haircuts and looks, for sounding almost as good as Alex Turner or Chris Martin, or for whatever other reason – the music industry is spoilt for choice. Fans don’t need to see ‘Blue Steel’ play on Friday because they’ve downloaded ‘Magnum’s’ new album for free and they’re playing next week. True, it is the bands’ duty to rise above, to produce different, more exciting music. In these modern times of homogenised radio and sales-driven written press, however: different doesn’t always equate to longevity, and I put forward that it is up to the British music buying public, the fans, to do some serious wheat from chaff sorting out: or they may be left with just the major label chaff and some great bands that can’t afford to record their first album or go on tour. And nobody wants that.