It’s crystal clear why this trio won’t ever fit into the hip music scene
Two indie music fans walk into a bar. Adjusting their Urban Outfitters shirts to show off their vintage T-shirts, they put down their iPhones and take a break from tweeting links to YouTube videos to talk about music.
There is a bit of hand-wringing about the fact that one of their current fave bands are in a new ad for an Apple product. They conclude that no ideological damage has been done because Apple make cool stuff. They’re on safe ground with talk of Arcade Fire and the pre-eminence of the Montreal music scene. They swoon once again over Joanna Newsom, name-check The Hype Machine, give out about Pitchfork, and fret a bit about if it’s still okay to like Ryan Adams.
They’re both wary about talking about new music because of the “The Rules”. These are: if you mention a band you like and the other person has heard of them, you lose. The other person owns you.
The above is paraphrased from Christian Lander’s Stuff White People Like. The book grew out of a blog that took satirical swipes at “left-leaning, city-dwelling white folk”. It was the rigid cultural diktats of these anti-corporate, environmentally and socially aware
urbanites that prompted Lander into sardonic action.
This self-appointed liberal elite tend to cluster around the media and feel an obsessive need to inform everyone, in a peremptory manner, of their cultural loves. The Wire, Arrested Development, Fleet Foxes, Broken Social Scene et al are all solemnly approved of in a self-aggrandising manner. Their voices now carry a technological echo thanks to the profusion of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
And you daren’t fall foul of their inflexible aesthetic. You will be sneered at, derided and bullied. Culturally, you become an “unperson”.
Then in wanders Crystal Swing. This hard-working band from Lisgoold, Co Cork are like thousands of others, looking to break into the world of light entertainment. But theirs isn’t Choice Music Prize music, they don’t look like The Strokes, and there’s not a scintilla of bespoke urban angst about them. So sneer at them on your Twitter feed, blog your embarrassment, set up the “post-ironic” Facebook fan page. Add in the nudge nudge references, evoke the imagery of an Irish “duelling banjos”, and even allude to “Outsider Art”.
The treatment meted out to Crystal Swing by those who believe themselves to be culturally enlightened, socially aware media commentators is a disgrace. Sneering at and ridiculing a family pop band who don’t tick their right-on boxes is a type of bullying.
In his book, Lander refers to how the self-appointed
cultural/ liberal elite hate and mock anything that’s “mainstream” because they’re so desperate to find things that are “more genuine, more unique and reflective of their experiences”. It would therefore have been consistent for the ridiculers to dismiss Crystal Swing as an unwelcome throwback to the showband era, but that hasn’t happened in Ireland.
Instead, we get excited reminders that a leading US chat show host, Ellen DeGeneres, has played the Crystal Swing video on her show – DeGeneres being sophisticated and urbane enough to be in on the “joke”, of course.
So sophisticated and urbane is DeGeneres that, moments after playing the video, she quipped: “Most people in Ireland wear green on St Patrick’s Day, so when they pass out on their lawn, they’ll be camouflaged and their neighbours won’t see them.” This zinger was followed by: “I’m good at Riverdancing but I can’t show you now because I’ve sprained my shillelagh.” Jaysus.
There are also calls for Crystal Swing to be added to the Oxegen bill. Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing? Once you’re done with the “more genuine, more unique and reflective of your experiences” indie bands on the bill, you could deign to culturally slum it a bit with Crystal Swing, as if they’re some sort of rural Irish freak show.
If, as has been stated numerous times on blog posts and Twitter feeds, Crystal Swing make some of these people “embarrassed to call themselves Irish”, might we not at least ask Mary Murray-Burke and her children Dervla and Derek how they feel about sharing the same nationality as their mocking detractors? I know which side I’m embarrassed by.