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Give me music and give me noise....

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Neither the talkers or the hushers

I do try to make these posts more than just my latest whinge, but sometimes …

Why do people bother going to places where there’s live music being played if they’re just going to talk all the time (football, weather, more football) and patently ignore the musicians?

Hmm. I’m not saying there should be reverential hush as soon as someone strums a guitar on stage, but paying a bit of attention would be nice. Today a jazz gig I went to comprised a lot of people apparently not the slightest bit interested in … er, jazz. Admittedly it was one of those lunchtime sessions where the music’s partially a background feature as people stuff themselves with unpleasant-looking portions of beef and Yorkshire pudding, but not that much a background feature. (This habit of programming jazz on Sunday lunchtimes is misguided if you ask me. It devalues the music. Turns it into aural wallpaper, a decorative accompaniment to the serious business of selling beer and food).

Today the worst moment came when a middle-aged man and his son asked some of the very few people who were paying attention to the music to move across so they could better see a TV showing football right across the other side of the pub. They were occupying the best two seats to watch the musicians yet had their backs to the music the whole time.

Later on I was at another gig where the promoter hushed people who were talking as a blues musician began a song. This is not right either. I’m not on the side of the hushers or the talkers. In a way the music has to “tell” people to pay attention, to command respect. It has to do the talking. But some places do all they can to sideline the music (a TV with football on at the same time!) and they frankly don’t deserve decent musicians playing at their tatty business emporia or the modest patronage of people like me. 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

In defence of indie - a Shoreditch hipster writes

“Ha ha ha! That’s classic landfill indie.” Along with put-downs of (supposed) “skinny-jeans wearing hipsters” from Dalston-Shoreditch/Williamsburg-the Lower East Side by oh-so-pleased-with-themselves detractors, this has become one of the most boring, redundant and ignorant put-downs in the current music critic’s (not-so-considerable) vocabulary.

There! I’ve got that off my chest. Anyway, please stop this. Though I’ve never actually been all that clear what “indie” is, I know a cheap criticism when I see it. 

For years now (since at least the advent of The Wedding Present) I’ve heard numerous people (nearly always middle-class white people actually) deeming it cool to put down indie music. It’s “fey”. It’s made by the middle classes. It’s retro. It’s tired. Blah blah blah. I really couldn’t care less if it’s made by a bunch of toffs who went to St Paul’s and adorn themselves with 60s threads their manager has bought for them out of his trust fund. There’s a long history of public school-educated types (Nick Drake, Joe Strummer etc), grammar school kids (Mick Jagger, Adam Ant etc) and of course art college grads (hundreds of them) who’ve made excellent music (not sure if The Clash’s music was excellent, but never mind). No, the “authenticity” argument - music’s supposed to come from the “the street” or the “inner city” or something - has always seemed completely nonsensical to me.

So, this is my little defence of indie. If it’s tuneful, smart, funny, rocking, or …. just kind of good, then I’m alright with it. As it happens last week I saw a very groovy band I imagine would get filed under/disposed of/laughed at because they're “indie”: Fountains. Check 'em out (if you can! I can’t find any trace of them online). And bands like The Babies - who I’ve previously mentioned - also sound more than OK to me. 

Rather than just lazily slagging off the Lightning Seeds or something, have a listen to some of the music from the excellent C86-era collection CD86 (a reminder of how good a lot of 80s indie was) and also see the pretty impressive indie blog Take The Pills.

Meanwhile, I confess there’s a rather sizeable swathe of modern indie-ish music that's almost impossible to stomach (usually anything described as “epic” or “cinematic”) and my own tastes usually veer off into more diverse and even extreme music zones. And yes, it’s true that there are quite a few identikit and mediocre guitar bands around. But the sneery dismissal of a whole area of music is often just an unintended declaration of ignorance from people who don’t listen to much music but still want to appear to be up with the game. A bit like being the first in the conversation to denounce hipsters.

Are you now or have you ever been a Shoreditch hipster? I plead the fifth …