We’ve heard it all before. Plus, Gerard Singh.
ON YOUTUBE (along with everything else of visual and aural interest, it would seem), there is an in-depth interview with legendary music scribe Lester Bangs that he gave to his friend, Australian broadcaster Sue Mathews, back in May 1980, in which he ranted passionately about the state of new music and technology at the time. Thirty-five years might have passed, but some of his comments still ring true about the state of the current music scene.
“There’s a huge nostalgia culture that has been built up, because very little that anyone is coming up with is generally new,” opined Bangs. Today,
“[American soul and jazz musician] Gil Scott-heron is famous for the line ‘The Revolution will not be televised.’ But in a way, the opposite has happened,” said dishwasher Pete, notorious zine publisher, in an interview published in Zines! Volume 2. “nothing’s given a chance to brew and develop anymore, before the media takes hold of it and grinds it to death. Also, there’s an instant commodification of everything that might develop into something revolutionary.”
nostalgia remains one of music’s most popular currencies. Nostalgia sells and because of that, old styles and trends are being rehashed by young musicians not yet born when the trend first hit. Meanwhile, cool heritage groups are reforming everywhere you look in order to cash in on their newfound popularity at an alarming rate. So is the future retro? It would certainly seem so.
As nostalgia continues to do the business, more and more acts are choosing to bypass experimentation and originality in favour of updating a bygone sound or style. I mean, as brilliant as Daft Punk are, is their music really any different from what Kraftwerk [pictured] were doing back in the late ’70s? Are the much-lauded Muse really anything more than Queen for the Internet generation? What about the new wave of trippy psych rockers like Pond, Temples and Tame Impala, who are currently proving immensely popular on the festival circuit? Surely someone from the Pink Floyd estate must have been in touch to complain about identity theft!
With the advent of punk back in the mid-’70s, it’s as if the slate was wiped clean, allowing musicians to go back to the drawing board and start again—year zero if you like. Bands were empowered to throw the rulebook out the window and follow their instincts with scant regard for the past. What came about in the wake of this period of musical enlightenment was the post punk movement, one of the most fertile, innovative and productive periods in musical history where different styles and cultures were happily mixed together in one big melting pot of experimentation. Dug, electronica, reggae… nothing was off-limits. Today, music has put itself in a box and stagnated to a point where current hip musicians are still “borrowing” ideas in music and fashion from that golden period of creativity in a bid to sound contemporary.
In order for music to shake itself out of its current unhealthy nostalgic funk, there really needs to be a sea change in attitude first. Musical taboos and the hypnotic spell of the past must be broken in order for evolution and progress to happen. An impeccable awareness of classic influences is all well and good, but they should be used as a guide and not a template. Otherwise, what’s the point?