Spare me the public displays of disaffection

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a youngish man extensively involved in Scotland’s underground music scene who let slip that he went through a major Coldplay phase, an admission which was delivered with a heavy dose of hesitancy.

The conversation made me wonder why some music fans feel embarrassed about liking certain bands… and I came to the conclusion that journalists are much to blame. Every day I encounter snide, condescending remarks from writers with a strange impulse to publicly announce which bands do not fit into their bubble of existence and expect their readers to fall into line.

Take this excerpt from an article published by The Fly magazine last year, in which the introduction to an interview with Two Door Cinema Club is centred around the author’s dislike of a completely different band:

For two years the nation’s perception of indie bands such as TDCC changed. No longer were they the cool, gun-slinging icons of rock’n’roll aspiration. They had become boring, saturated and generic… released songs about backfiring at discos… these guys just were not cool. It’s a shame, because it means genuinely promising bands such as the Northern Ireland three-piece are tarred with the same brush as… “The Wombats?!” splutters guitarist Sam Halliday from across the table, “no, no way.” If it’s any consolation, offers The Fly, sitting opposite in a Leicester Square boozer, you’re a far more credible, not to mention better, version.

Successful people are easy targets, which might explain why Mumford & Sons-bashing seems a particularly favoured past-time for rock critics at the moment. This is a band who, a fortnight after playing at the Grammys with Bob Dylan and finding themselves at No.2 in the American album charts, kept a two-year-old promise to return to the Scottish Highlands for a tour, braving snow blizzards and horizontal sleet in the process.

So why all the resentment towards them? Given that Mumford & Sons are still only one album old, such outpourings of bitterness can’t be motivated by a deterioration in their music output or accusations of ‘selling out’. According to those I know who have had personal dealings with them, they aren’t a bunch of cocks either.

However, they have become very famous and thus, it would seem, ripe for bad-mouthing from critics who wouldn’t have the spine to express similar sentiments about lower-profile musicians (who, you never know, might actually benefit from some constructive criticism).

The GuardianThe unanimous approval which greeted Jon Savage’s recent pithy description of Mumford & Sons as “Tory rock-lite” was a measure of the antipathy which currently hangs over these waistcoat-wearing pseudo-troubadours.

Music journalists aren’t the only ones guilty of telling other people who they should be ashamed to like.

I was a big fan of Mogwai back when they were releasing genre-defining albums such as Ten Rapid, Young Team and Come On Die Young. I remember getting sucked into their ‘Blur: are shite’ campaign but, looking back, I now realise it wasn’t about anything other than blatant music snobbery. It certainly couldn’t be described as a David versus Goliath battle given Blur’s refusal to dignify this one-way rivalry with a public response.

If you think well-known musicians are immune to such criticisms, consider this exchange. Earlier this month, the man behind terrific Scottish music blog Favourite Son got more than he bargained for after tweeting this message to his followers:
guy from starsailor can’t get a visa for SXSW either. maybe they do kno sumfin bout music after all + wil let WH in #witheredhandforsxsw

Within 10 minutes, James Walsh tweeted back his own public reply:
Why do you have to insult me? You’ve probably not heard anything I’ve done in the last 2 years at least. Uncalled for

To wrap things up, allow me to introduce you to Carly Connor, a teenager from Easterhouse in Glasgow under the same management as Paolo Nutini and recently signed to Atlantic Records.

Her song Ca$h is a rasping, modern twist on the Motown sound, a sort of Amy Winehouse/Duffy hybrid. It will inevitably be a hit and make Carly a household name, so enjoy it while you can before someone tries to make any pleasure you feel a guilty one.

Please don’t misinterpret this post as a paean to the joys of mainstream music. I just think that if a fan’s feelings for an artist or a group are a source of personal embarrassment, it should be because the quality of their music has gone downhill, not because he or she has succumbed to the influence of those who are trying to make their mind up for them.

Carly Connor – Ca$h (clip)

22 Responses to “Spare me the public displays of disaffection”

  1. Bright Spark Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 09:03

    The great irony is that Mogwai had plenty to tell the world in T-shirt slogans and interviews but nothing to say for themselves in song lyrics.

  2. Fiona Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 09:39

    Agreed. I lose track of who I’m supposed to be ashamed about liking. And get confused as to whether, for example, it’s more acceptable for me to like Razorlight and The Killers because I saw them both in not-sold-out King Tuts shows before they got famous. It doesn’t matter to me, and I’m not ashamed to like a lot of different stuff and not afraid to explain why I think it’s good while still accepting that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it can be tiring when you can’t mention Band X because your conversation will then be derailed into a massive rabble about why Band X are actually a terrible, laughable band. On the same note, I actually enjoy watching people sneer when I wear My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy t-shirts, because people who are that judgmental deserve all the displeasure they can get.
    Backlashes amuse me. I keep hearing more and more people turning against Twin Atlantic, while still listening to fifty million wee bands who *wish* they were Twin Atlantic.
    I think a lot of people actually completely forget that there ought to, in theory, be a correlation between what people like/buy and what is ‘good’. Sure, it’s not always right… but it’s definitely not always wrong either.

  3. halina rifai Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 09:43

    i am guilty of this everyday. however, i will say that there is a difference between not liking someone based on the ‘cool’ factor and not liking music because you think it is extremely poor.

  4. david Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 10:36

    PopCop, you yourself have been very guilty of this and worse – you’ve been quite nasty about far better bands in the past. I’ve read your twitter.

  5. Mike Day Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 10:57

    I feel as though if you were to take this argument into the positive, it can be equally damaging and misleading when journalistic nepotism gets involved; and bands are promoted and praised way beyond their actual worth..

  6. pop Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 11:02

    thepopcop The Pop Cop

    “@glasvegas That’s very clever of you to rip off the riff from Life In Technicolor by Coldplay for your new single”

    thats not very nice.

  7. P Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 11:05

    We’re probably all guilty of this fearful approach to listening to music.
    David, you may well have a point but hats off to The Pop Cop for acknowledging the issue.

    Right, guilty pleasures time. Bands or musicians that secretly you love, regardless of whether they’re cool or not.

  8. The Pop Cop Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 11:08

    RE pop: I hardly think that tweet qualifies as me telling people they shouldn’t like Glasvegas.

  9. mirseven Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 13:29

    Bashing so-called successful or mainstream bands can also be a form of insecurity on the critic’s part – i.e. they became the Next Big Thing and said critic in question failed to see it coming. Or, the majority of other writers hopped on a [band] is popular bandwagon and are trying to retain their cool factor by dismissing them once they have become mainstream. It’s all about generating hype and showing off, really. Most critics don’t realize that it’s about the music itself. Coming from the US with a slew of folk-rock bands, I was honestly and completely thrilled when I first heard Mumford and Sons because they were doing something different – a UK-based band with un-UK-like roots to their sound. Now they play them on the radio all the time and people laugh at me when I say that I like them, or tell me my taste is poor. I am also a music critic. Some might say liking a band like Mumford and Sons diminished my credibility because I’m not willing to act like peers and put them down – going against a “herd mentality – but in reality, maybe it just means that I’m more open minded…
    Regardless, really interesting post!

  10. John D. Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 13:33

    I’ve indulged in a spot of Mumford-bashing before – surely folk don’t like them simply because they’re crap. They’re a boring band for boring people. Ever met a fun, non-earnest character whose favourite band is a Mumford or a Snow Patrol or some other Very Serious cookie cutter “anthemic” rock band? No.

    I liked Coldplay’s debut album – still do. No problem with admitting it. I saw Starsailor supporting the Charlatans circa 2001. They (Starsaior) were abolsutely brutal (the Charlatans were quite fun). Siding with Favourite Son, I find it hard to believe that Mr Starsailor’s output is now somehow great, unless he’s undrgone some sort of Richard Hawley-esque transformation. Perhaps I will investigate and report back…

  11. Murray Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 15:52

    That Mogwai tshirt was great, although they were wrong. I always like a bit of slagging, keeps things interesting

  12. pop Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 16:56


    “RE pop: I hardly think that tweet qualifies as me telling people they shouldn’t like Glasvegas….”

    true, but nor does the starsailor tweet in question..

    we all ‘get’ your sentiment about Glasvegas. You instead just come across as a bit of ‘bitch’. sorry!

  13. Alex Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 18:42

    Are you suggesting that there are people out there who haven’t got the self confidence to like some band or act simply because they like em.
    Are you seriously implying that there are people out there who simply follow those whom they believe to be cool and trendy and therefor have no mind of their own
    Surely not pop cop, surely not.

  14. Jim Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 21:04

    I hate the phrase “guilty pleasure”. There’s no need to feel guilty about liking something just because it isn’t cool, or because everyone else around you says it is shit. This doesn’t apply to “No Way No Way” by Vanilla though, because we can prove that is shit through scientific studies and graphs.

  15. John D. Says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 00:57

    Vanilla! Amazing! right up there with Tubthumping..

    By the way, James Walsh’s stuff is still utterly banal. So Favourite Son was right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W1KASdHJlw


    ps I recall quite liking the melody in the verse of “lullaby”. However, one good verse quoting Graham Greene doth not a career make.

  16. Hamish Says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 02:32

    Something to remember is that while music is entirely subjective, that Glasvegas song sounded exactly like Life in Technicolor. And I do quite like Glasvegas (and that Coldplay song).

  17. Ross Says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 09:07

    Can I just be the first to say that whilst that track by Carly Connor is OK, I much preferred her earlier work.

  18. Jim Says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 15:52

    The use of a $ instead of an s was enough to put me off.

  19. P Says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 18:11

    Touche, Jim. Guilty pleasure is the wrong phrase to use, you’re absolutely right.
    Right now, mine, for the record, is Rihanna’s Loud with equal love for Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday and they’re not ‘guilty’ pleasures at all.

  20. Alex Says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 20:58

    Just an observation but this is another instance of major labels signing acts from Glasgow who to the best of my knowledge are virtually unknown on the live music scene. So where are they coming from and how are they coming to the attention of such companies?

  21. pop Says:

    March 25th, 2011 at 10:40


    I’m gonna sound like I actually like Glasvegas here.. but Glasvegas had been playing around Glasgow for yeeeeaars, but failed to become big locally, but then this seems to happen to 80% of bands from Glasgow: an example being that no-one actually went to see frightened rabbit for a long while, whilst they were getting A LOT of attention elsewhere..

  22. Alex Says:

    March 25th, 2011 at 23:50

    Pop, that’s a really good post and one I’m not going to argue with, in fact I’d love to talk music with you over a beer or five but, it doesn’t actually address the questions I raised! Let me repeat, where are they coming from and how are they coming to the attention of such companies ?

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