Political Promise

The Bandwagon needs an MOT

In Richard Cunningham on August 11, 2010 at 8:43 am

By Richard Cunningham

British music ‘scenes’, as today they are so often described, are literally the band wagons on which young music makers are getting aboard. The path that these schools of thought on good music lead to are varying in their results and respective successes, whether the band or artists idea of success is the respect of those around them, or the recognition of the whole demographic.

Regardless, the British music industry as it stands today makes me think that the creativity and individualism that I thought music was all about is lost to the prospect of money, leaving fringe scenes and sub cultures to wallow in only relative success compared to pop acts. Shouldn’t individualism be rewarded or at least commended as highly as- or even higher – than recent ‘grey blur’ genres of music.

I can’t help but feel that amongst the hype of new music there is somebody rubbing his hands together at the gleefully unaware consumer who takes whatever is thrown their way. It seems to me people are happy to pay (when they are not illegally ripping tracks from youtube) for something less meaningful, less imaginative and less relevant than something that they could hear for next to nothing at a local bar or club. I can safely say a lot music I have heard live, despite the standard, is often more interesting and meaningful than sitting in and watching ‘4Music’ all night.

However if live music isn’t for you then I would recommend looking at music from the 1980’s as opposed to music today and when I say 80’s I dont mean ‘Bananarama’ or any of the cheesy electropop. Rather artists like; ‘Joy Division’ , ‘The Clash’ , ‘ The Smiths’ and ‘The Jam’ to name but a few where the music is infectious and the lyrics are resonating.

If like me you’d rather come home with your ear drums having heard real music then get out there and enjoy it, or youtube a band you would never have thought of in order to give yourself a fresh take on the charts today. If it’s not for you then all I have to say is that you’re missing out!


Songs worth listening to that almost explicitly hit-out at the ‘ring –tone’ music industry are tracks such as; ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture ‘- The Smiths, and ‘Fake Tales of San Fransisco ‘ – The Arctic Monkeys.

Both are an interesting take, given both bands were signed to labels at the time. Especially so in the song ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’ which talks about the discussions at record labels to include a ‘tacky’ badge to increase record sales.

  1. The music industry has never been about creativity or individualism and it is naive to think so.

    As you point out yourself, there were cheesy “electropop” bands in the 80’s a lot of which sounded very similar, a bandwagon if you like, which also started out as a music “scene” with small artists leading the way eventually then hitting it big. Then inevitably whenever a band is successful there will be many other bands that come along imitating their style to get a record deal and make money. This could quite easily be compared to the “indie” music that has become popular in recent times or the brit pop movement of the 90’s.

    The music industry is about and has always been about making money and just occasionally creativity and individualism “shine” through where these bands being creative and individual catch the wider publics attention turning them into a money making opportunity for the record company.

    • Hi Steve thanks for the comment, I think you’re probably right, the point is that if music is an interest to somebody on a deeper level then just enjoying the charts then live music and more alternative material is the best route to take. Again I think that you’re right about the few acts that ‘shine’ through despite the almost manufactured sounds in the charts and that the music industry is purely money led, afterall it isn’t called the music ‘industry’ for nothing.

      Hence live acts are a great experience because often if it’s unsigned talent that your watching,there you get a refreshing take on music and not just a mass produced market-led product.

      Thanks again for your comments


  2. Hi Steve, you make a good point- when people complain about the state of music, I do want to point out that it was ever thus- ‘Grandad’ by Clive Dunn (notable lyrics include ‘Grandad, you’re lovely’) was Number one- at the top of the charts- on New Year’s Day 1971. Monaco won the Eurovision song contest that year with a sugary pop song, just as Eurovision winners do now.

    But – that doesn’t mean that music at the time was all bad, obviously not. This was the same year when the Rolling Stones toured, Jim Morrison died, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were at a creative peak, and bands such as Queen and the New York Dolls formed. That’s the interesting part of the story!

    I do feel Richard’s pain, yet I can’t help but feel optimistic about the future of music- especially with the implosion of the music industry, which has in a way forced creativity and innovation such as Radiohead’s freely downloadable 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’.

    Just a question- are you the real Steve Albini?

    Charlotte (dep Editor)

  3. Nothing wrong with Bananarama mate! I would also recommend the Undertones, Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats (begrudgingly), Ultravox and Joe South for the reasons you state.

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