Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What NME isn't telling us

There's a 'Best New Bands Showcase 2006' cd on the front of NME this week. Quite frankly I'm surprised they bothered. Because what NME isn't telling us, is that new music is weird right now, and kinda sucky. While I'm glad their level of journalism hasn't fallen quite so much that they'd use those exact words, they're not even giving me the feeling that a change is afoot. No, no, they say, this is still the golden age of new alternative music! You know, drainpipes, big hair, art-rock and all that! The Franz-glow remains!

But they're wrong - something has changed. This uber-honest quote from Dev of the skinny jeans-wearing, post-Franz, and most importantly, splitting Test Icicles sums it up:
"I couldn't really see us existing in 2006. We're such a 2005 band. It's kind of cringeworthy in its 2005-ness, really. It's depressing. I'm wearing baggy jeans and shaving my head, it's just tragic."

Dev gets it. The NME do not - despite putting together a cd which displays it quite clearly. The cd is incredibly eclectic - the punk-funk, spiky guitars era is suddenly over - and NME can't cope. There's no unifying sound now, and that scares the crap outta them. So they've just pretended not to notice. Now this should be a good thing for music, god knows we don't need another stripy-top wearing three piece, but the cd's not just eclectic, but also a bit rubbish. There's a few highlights - The Spinto Band and Two Gallants are both pretty good (and both very American) - but mainly its a mess. I'm optimistic though, that this is just a symptom of new music being so 'scene-led' recently - and now that that scene's on its last legs we've got to find our own way. Hopefully a new dominant scene won't emerge at all (unlikely, I realise), but this eclectic nature will remain and just become, you know, better.


Martyn said...

Not heard the CD yet, but I agree the derivative skinny-jean stuff is getting a bit wearing. The NME circulation always fares better when there is "a scene" of sorts to play-on. They create them, as much as they respond to them. Tons of other stuff happening beyond this years scene, it just gets marginalised in the hunt for increased sales.

Paul Fuzz said...

Yeah, you're right, Anna. As the Smiths once sang; The Scene Is Dead, (to be replaced by...)

"Hello! We're from British Columbia, and boy, do we ever look like it! There's a zillion of us in the band, we've got a piano & a zither & a jews harp and we're called 'Hey! Those Are My Shoes!' We're really, really odd! Odd like a bunch of pasty zither playing trolls! "

"Hello! We're from London's trendy New Cross, but actually from Hull, we're first year fashion students at St Martins & we came down here 'cos we figured we could hang out with Pete Doherty & The Others, only once we got here we realised that the scene is deader than disco & crack isn't that nice & we only met the Others guy once & he tried to stab us! Anyway, we're called The Junkies, and we sound like bad Libertines b-sides -ie Babyshambles!"

"Hello! We're The Go! Team!"

The NME is a key architect of the musical cultural climate; it's easy to say 'aw, well, the NME has always sucked, you just gotta look futher afield for your kicks & so what', but as Martyn C says, the NME doesn't just report on the scene, they design & manufacture the scene; less weather-men than the weather itself.

In a similar discussion here I suggested that the NME is a far more interesting, hard working & remit-fullfilling paper when it is lacking a 'scene' to pimp. I think THE KIDS have been very lucky with all the great mainstream indie bands of the POST-STROKES era (esp. The White Stripes, who for my money stand head & shoulders above 'em all, but also The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Libs, Arctic Monkeys etc, all gen-u-inely excellent pop bands), but I agree with Anna that we are now entering a strange, uncertain period for alt. rock. I don't know if this is a healthy thing for indie/NME or not, but it better be because if it isn't then we've got 3 or four years of frantic, headless chicken-esque NMEs to look forward to, a la the late 90s...but let's not forget that this period had Limp Bizkit, Destiny's Child, The Regular Fries & Aphex Twin on the NME many young indie fans have had the pleasure of reading an NME this open minded, if only through their sheer blind desperation to find The Next Big Thing? Interesting times for the NME & indie fans indeed.

AnnaWaits said...

Good to see you back Mr Fuzz!

"I think THE KIDS have been very lucky with all the great mainstream indie bands of the POST-STROKES era"

Absolutely. Spoilt is the word - now we just gotta work a bit harder I reckon.

And your mention of weather brought to mind a brilliant quote from Almost Famous. It has nothing to do with this post, but hey, I make the rules round here :)

"I didn't invent the rainy day; I've just got the best umbrella" - Jimmy Fallon (showing his immense talent on the big screen for the first and so far only time).

Paul Fuzz said...


How can you argue with a show which included within 20 minutes a soundtrack featuring The Band ('The Weight'), The Doors ('Peace Frog' - the grooviest track Morrison & Co ever essayed)) and The Chambers Brothers ('Time Has Come Today' - psyche RnB of the highest order)...and had Earl say

"I wanna listen to some Skynyrd while I eat my crab cakes."

Jimmy Fallon: Still the coolest man on TV, ever.

AnnaWaits said...

He is indeed far too cool.

And as for Earl, MAN that was a good episode. I was tapping my feet from start to finish.