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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Atrophy and other wasting diseases

I’ve mentioned before my habit of parting company with musicians who seem to be “going places” (they go, I stay) and of course it will always sound snobbish to remark that you’re no longer interested in them precisely at the moment they start getting into the Sunday supplements and so on.

C’est la vie. I’ve even tried to check back on myself sometimes (see how scrupulous I am!) by returning to see a band I’d given up on a year or two before. The results, I have to say, have been unvaryingly disappointing.

Why’s that? On the one hand I reckon it’s simply that I’m so used to the small-venue scene that the behaviour of bands at bigger places (more on-stage showmanship, louder sound systems, more lighting, more rapture from the audience) is just not to my taste. So that’s it, fine. I won’t go, others will, we’re all happy.

But also I reckon that the music itself is deteriorating in this environment. Once excellent tunes get flattened out, start sounding like “rock” songs when they’re not. Everything is being pulled into the middle ground, with subtle stuff being performed at a higher decibel rate and what could have been a heavy noise barrage in a confined space sounding … well, like everything else in the set.

Funnily enough a couple of times that stand out in my memory as occasions where a band’s artistic atrophy was absolutely clear occurred in those venues that are de rigeur on the small-to-media rock circuit. Two-hundred-and-fifty-punter rooms with black-painted walls, industrial-chic design, walls adorned with corporate rock tour posters and … wait for it, actual metal barriers between (elevated) stage and groups of 25-year-olds on a night out watching from below.   

Yep, the band’s already behind a barrier and that’s where they’re going to stay. See you in the VIP area …

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