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 Guardian: The 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)