Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ranty mcrant

got asked by rock sound to do a little soapbox piece about the guardian article that informed its readers how rock, as a genre, was fading out. just a few sentences. got a bit high and went on a bit too long, i think in the end they used the last paragraph. preserved here for the small minority of people who like music-related ranty polemic;

in response to the gauridan claiming rock is dead, when what they meant to say was "DEATH RACE OFFICIALLY STARTED"

I think the article itself is an inherently flawed piece of sensationalist journalism, kind of typical of a newspaper where you wouldn't expect anyone to like rock music unless it was packaged by the florence machines or bon fucking jovi. The basis of the whole piece seems to be : the pop charts last year, they were full of pop acts! Even more so than last year! Therefore, rock, which is the other form music can take, is dead. O you silly adults, you have no idea...

Do you remember when you first sold us the concept of rock? It was like, edgy, dangerous. The people that made it, they were genuinely a bit unhinged, and you exploited that to it's fullest so you could make some money for journalistic endeavours. Don't look at elvis's crotch! the who might make you explode. the new york dolls might rape you. the sex pistols, they'll make you explode and rape you. Later on, nirvana will make you self harm and marylin manson will confuse yr sexuality. are you so naive that you think that these kinds of people, and the hundreds like them who weren't pretty enough to sell yr papers for you, have just vanished? It used to be a symbiotic relationship, we knew you were vultures but we needed to please you because the internet hadn't been invented and we needed to communicate to the rest of the world. We needed to find all the other freaks that loved and understood what we were doing, so they could give us some money to keep on doing it. if the overspill meant we got tagged as "cool" and we picked up some cash from the mainstream, than, that's well and good too because this insane pressure and surreal lifestyle has led us to some pretty major drug habits. That's all over now.

Excuse the genre diversion, but, when was the last time amanda palmer was in the mainstream press? When was the last time she sold a record? She has a button on her website where people give her money. Then she does some amanda palmer stuff with that money, writes about it all on her website, people go, yeh, that's awesome, thanks, here's more money. That's the entire record industry in a couple of clicks and paragraphs. Some of her fans write about it on their websites so she's always attracting more traffic. There's a few more paragraphs that replaced the everything corrupt about the chart industry. This natural, organic and, above all, fair system of publicity and commerce is going to get better and better as the internet develops, and what we're seeing now is, forgive the analogy, the rats fleeing the sinking ship. I put it to you dinosaurs, vanguards of an industry that thrived for 80 years as loan sharks disguised as legend-makers, preying on the naive and the vulnerable, that rock music doesn't need the charts anymore.

Right, i've been blabbing on for years about how, now the internet's destroyed the music industry, bands and artists are going to have to split into two camps: those who want to be in the charts, and those who just want to rock. i think this is a clear sign that this schism is fully underway: since before we were born, a bands success was measured by radio play and chart sales. In these heady web 2.0 days, a band can make a living without having to utilise either of those channels. This isn't a new thing, (ask yr parents about crass or gbh, ask their parents about led zeppelin) but the decline of greedy cunts in suits has led to a whole bunch of alternatives opening up; indie distributors, bedroom labels, online shops, fucking myspace! essentially, rock isn't dead, it just looked at it's options and thought, them pop charts are kind of beneath me; I don't want to be contextualized in-between some pop idol kid and some goons whoring out my culture, and neither does the demographic that loves me, so, fuck em.

Have you noticed the rise of this awful celebrity - baiting industry? Robbie Williams is nobodies hero here i'm sure, but he makes a valid point - "these people, they hide outside my house waiting for something to go wrong so they can make money out of it. if i die when they're around, they'll be rich. I think that's evil." Those magazines, that culture, hangs around at the top of the charts, waiting for another heroin crisis poster boy or punk suicide. Sure, you can ride it out if you have say, queens of noise managing to convince the country yr 23 and a genuine unhinged star in waiting, but, as i think we all agree, florence and the machine = not rock. Chances are if yr reading this, most of the bands you love don't want this kind of attention; they want to sell enough shirts so they can afford to keep touring and put some food on the table, they don't really care about the size of their audience as long as the front rows are dancing, and they're clever enough to see the idea of popular rock stardom as a hangover from a bygone era. For all the whimsical eccentric spin journalists over 40 like to put on the pop charts, they're still an just an advertising mechanism for a pretty shitty industry.

I think the rock sound response does a good job of highlighting specific examples of living rock, but i'd like to chip in a few others. I'll go from the start of the year when everyone was like NO WAI RATM stole christmas! and then i'll point everyone latter half of the year where PABH, for my money one of the most exciting and scuzzy and fun ROCK bands of our generation, got played like, every fucking day on radio 1, their singer got plastered on 50ft high billboards over the capital for some ad campaign and even my girlfriends MUM went to watch them. thats a 50 year old woman enjoying the totally regular spectacle of a sold out room of kids mosh themselves crazy to a guy screaming "AWESOME RADICAL TOTALLY BODACIOUS" over giant grin-inducing dirtyass guitar riffs. exhibiting all the symptoms of a dead genre. like jazz, AHAHAHAHA. also this year, pretty much all my favourite bands; pavement, cap'n jazz, the d plan, reformed and toured to bigger crowds than they'd ever drawn in their youth. sure, there was a proportion of all their crowds who were just there for a nostalgia trip or curiosity, but those rooms were rocking out waaay harder than any pop idol show i ever saw, and none of them give a crap about chart sales. one last point, and i'm not really proud of this but it works to serve a point, i dj at a pretty standard indie night and nothing makes people rtfo like limp sodding bizkit.

so yeh, there's an expanding nugget of awesome amongst the smoking debris of the industry, and that's very much a part of this split: there's hardly any money in being in a rock band anymore. there's no big label deals, no coke and hooker parties, songs are physically worth a whole lot less money than they used to be and yr never going to get on top of the pops. so the only people left to start bands are those who just have an urge to make rock music are the ones driven to do it out of pure love for the music, the buzz of playing live and watching people move to their songs and take them home and soundtrack their lives. all the idiots who just want to chase fame, put on some makeup and generic emo clothes and go on chart shows and try and convince people they're genuine edgy artistes, no longer have the motivation; so the rest of us can carry on using this awesome punka internet, the magazines that haven't sold out for the sake of becoming household names, the guys running record labels out of their bedrooms and shitty rented office space, safer in the knowledge that the quality of the end product, that 12 months of hard graft turned into an album that you just got off rapidshare in 2 minutes, is going to be a lot higher.

Make no mistake, it's death race time here in the music business. it's going to take a while before all our bands and their fans can get our amanda palmer shit together, and the dinosaurs are getting desperate to preserve the old order. We'll come out of it in a generation or so, and be stronger for it, more exciting, more personal, but now, more than ever before, the way YOU choose to find and fund the music you love makes more of a difference than ever before. Pick your bands, pick yr writers, all that stuff that goosebumps you thru otherwise colourless and drab times, and know that if they stop, have to get "real" jobs, it'll be your fault and your loss. and i hope we're both still here on the other side.


Chris said...

fucking ace man. put into better words than i ever could all my feelings about music & corporate bullshit. the sad thing is, most people nowadays are indoctrinated into this showbiz version of reality where they think bands just appear from nowhere and have a life-span of one single. it's like they're all living in the matrix and don't actually realise that the real non-matrix world exists. i get belittled all the time by my peers for not knowing what songs they're referencing in their facebook groups or whatever and i suppose it's misguided of me to try and dissuade them from listening to manufactured crap, but we can only hope as many people as possible take the red pill.
p.s. if you ever stop doing this band thing please become a music journalist. haven't read anything as good in a long time!

Matt said...

/agree /yrawesome

Matthew said...

I'm floored. What a read.

Domenic said...

I totally agree. I support your band and all other bands who play for the love of it. I feel so strongly about it that I am personally trying to help bands touring in my city (Montreal, Canada). Whether it's a meal, beer or help in any way. Thank you for not getting a regular job and for making my life more exciting.

Bea said...

I agree with all of the above, completely, thank you.