Words: Chris Roberts
History: there were now footballers and pop stars, so the notion of fighter pilots and fire-fighters and teachers and doctors as heroes died. Then there was a choice of music programmes on TV so Top Of The Pops died. Then there were videos telling you what images a song evoked, so your imagination died.
The present day: there were now a billion illiterate bloggers telling you how INCREDIBLE Fleet Foxes were, so music journalism died. There were now the brainless Fearne Cotton and the bloodless Jo Whiley (pictured) telling teenagers everything, absolutely everything, any old shit, any new shit, was AMAZING, so music journalism died. There was Oasis, a crushing, soulless, corporate beast, and you weren’t allowed, by editors, to criticise them, for years, so dissent and maverick opinions died. This set a pattern. A herd mentality replaced enjoyable argument. We lost, they won. Pity the brave soul who asks if Bon Iver (or whoever) might not actually be a tiny bit over-celebrated, if he/she wants to be commissioned again. There was no big must-see forum any longer, just lots and lots of little, ineffectual forums. There were no flamboyant narcissistic egomaniacal hyper-personalities to love/hate/debate any more, just obedient and scarcely-paid extensions of the advertising industry. The mediocre thrived and the talented shuffled off, or, with less dignity, and I know about this one, dumbed down in order to pay the rent.
There was a dictum that there weren’t any bands before Blur, and that meant that you, who thought there were, were ignorant, you geriatric fuck. There was a dictum that Neil Young being indulgent was great, but anyone else being indulgent was irrelevant, you young idiot. Only the female editors were secure enough in their self-esteem to say how are you and please and thank you, like human beings. There should be more of those. There were Industry Tips for The Year every January, decided by Sony and Universal and suchlike, and these inevitably became ubiquitous and commercially successful whether they were of any merit or not. Usually they sounded like Alison Moyet, which was depressing, though not in a good way. There was an emphasis, as in fact there always was – let’s not be TOO sentimental here – on how many units a band had shifted. If they had shifted a lot, that meant they were good, just like Transformers 2 and Katie Price’s memoirs are good and the work of Hal Hartley and the novels of Patrick Hamilton are bad. There was a cull on the “pretentious”, e.g. obscure literary references, comparisons of musical phrases to scenes in French movies, paintings by Giorgio Di Chirico. There was a ban on leaps of faith. Poetry, weak and sickly, was taken out back and shot by goons. It was perceived as not working-class, when nothing could be more wrong. Even irreverent comedy was only permitted on special occasions, like when the vicar’s back was turned or when the platinum-selling artist’s handler had promised three biscuits and only sent over two.
There was a preference for “If you like this, you’ll like this”. (If you like this, you’ll like Attirement Of The Bride by Max Ernst.) There was a ceiling on playful language, on meta-criticism, on anything which you might remember for more than a minute, or which attempted to emulate the essence of the music rather than just rehash the press release that accompanied it. Sometimes music sounds like five dolphins playing an intense, heated game of basketball against five kangaroos, on ice. With twenty-four peacocks watching from the burning bench, licking their lips in anticipation. It really does, whether or not peacocks have lips. I’m convinced of this. But you’re not allowed to say that any more.
On reflection, I am not going to Google whether peacocks have lips or not because if I am trying to make a point here it is about The Spirit Of The Thing.