July 19, 2005

Music:Response 2000

Follow-up to Music:Response 1998–1999 from Hollyzone

There comes a point in a teenager's life when you must decide what you intend to do with music. The options are fairly simple. Take what's presented to you by the mainstream, the so-called cheese and high profile genre music. Or get way too into your chosen field. No prizes for guessing what someone who is writing a series of large essays (disguised as blog entries) decided to do. Around the start of the new millenium (or 2000, if you're a pedant like my dad and insist the millenium started in 2001) I was drawn into the indie/alternative music scene. Six songs can be used to explain this.

Doves - 'Catch The Sun'.

I was intrigued, at the time, that Catatonia's single 'Game On' did not climb the dizzy heights of it's fellow International Velvet tracks like 'Strange Glue' and 'Road Rage', in chart terms. Instead it stalled in the 30s. This made me wonder if good tracks might not necessarily rise to the top. So I decided to listen to the Top 40 from the very start, 40, as opposed to the top 20 or so as I had done prior to that. The results were worth it. 'Catch The Sun' by Doves may not be their best song but it is one of their most immediate, in fact possibly the only one of theirs which I haven't required repeated listens to 'get'. Within a few weeks of listening from the start of the Top 40 I had been rewarded by discovering this song. I liked it, I liked it a lot and put the album on my wishlist at a time when it took me between three and five weeks of work at my paper round to be able to afford one album. It made my purchases more targeted and I was less able to take risks. But I was willing to give Doves a try.

It was dawning on me that maybe the mainstream was not the source of all the best stuff, merely the most accessible. Anyone who owns Doves' Lost Souls album will be able to tell you that the best tracks on it are slow burners like 'The Cedar Room' and 'Sea Song', tracks which did not make huge splashes as singles. Maybe, and whisper it quietly, Top Of The Pops was not the number one as it so readily claimed…

Idlewild - 'These Wooden Ideas'/'Actually It's Darkness' and Muse - 'Unintended'/'Uno'

Despite having made a note to buy Lost Souls it wasn't the first album I bought by a not-particlarly-high-profile act. Having saved up sufficient funds to purchase one album for the upcoming school trip to Austria I found I was stuck between two albums- Idlewild's 100 Broken Windows and Muse's Showbiz.

Idlewild I came to not long after Doves by the process of listening to the charts. Muse on the other hand popped up from a more unusual quarter, a free CD given away with some cereal I no doubt didn't eat but which ended up in the house some other way. Called, somewhat incongrously (and, in retrospect, completely inaccurately) 'The Best Music Of The Next Millenium', or some such nonsense, it insisted that the eight indie-ish tunes contained within represented a new wave of British music. Now as we all know artists like Cable, Trippa and Serum are huge chart toppers now (ahem) but the act that intrigued me most from the morass of obviously-going-nowheres was Muse. The track was 'Uno', not their best but it had the audacity to not sound like Travis, unlike twenty trillion other contemporary acts. Nothing against Travis but I was not keen on the immitators.

Anyway, I could only have one CD. So would it be Idlewild and their chart hits like 'Actually It's Darkness'? Or would it be Muse with angst hysterics like 'Uno'? The easiest answer was to listen to their new singles and pick the album with the better track. 'These Wooden Ideas' vs 'Unitended'. Idlewild just edged it. Just. When I got back from Austria I bought Muse's album anyway. But 100 Broken Windows remains the better of the two albums and worth a flutter of anyone's paycheck. Not sure what the moral of that story is but I concluded that taking a chance was a good thing.

Elastica - 'Connection'

It may sound odd from someone who's clearly obsessed with music but I find it quite difficult to like the old stuff. For years being a borderline uptight indie snob meant I had this strange belief that I should like certain old bands, the ones who influenced the ones I liked. And I did like some old stuff, The Beatles, The Pogues, lots of punk/new wave. But some stuff just left me cold. It wasn't until recently that I had a conversation with someone else who feels the same way, most old music just doesn't move me. But why does some? It was relatively simple, according to Carts, the music we like is of our time, it affects us because we relate to it. Any old music I do like is either stuff I've heard before, hence The Beatles and all other music my parents liked or which the media saturates us with, or it is stuff which reminds me of the modern stuff which it resembles. There's no shame in the fact I'm not a big Rolling Stones fan, or a big Pink Floyd fan, or a big Happy Mondays fan. They just didn't click with me.

And this is relevant because of a TV show. Trigger Happy TV had a good soundtrack and a very familiar theme tune. I racked my brains trying to place it before I remembered – Elastica! 'Connection'! Wow, that was a blast from the past, a track I could remember from Britpop's heyday. It had the immediacy of a lot of Britpop, hence why it wsa popular whilst other indie (Doves for instance) doesn't hit such dizzy heights. I decided to buy their album after borrowing a copy from my local library (Napster before Napster was born). It was great! I'm even using exclamation marks it was that good.

This was not very old music, but it was music I hadn't consciously registered much at the time, apart from 'Connection' I found I wasn't familiar with most of the tracks… apart from one or two which rang tiny (indie) bells. But it was stuff which sounded like what I wanted to hear. That's not a particularly articulate way of describing it but it's hard to put down in words the way it was. I guess that's a reflection on the power of music. In a good way.

Plus, upon being told by my mum that amazingly, after about a million years of heroin induced inactivity, Elastica were touring in mid 2000, we hurtled off to Manchester to catch them. The results were twofold-

  • I consider Elastica's debut Elastica to be the second best album ever made.
  • As a result of seeing, hearing and (best bit) feeling the bass courtesy of Annie Holland, I acquired a bass guitar. On my insurance forms there are three items of largescale value – my laptop, my CDs and my bass. The laptop is a piece of crap but the other two are worth every penny I pay to keep them safe.

So I went "indie", made a conscious decision to listen out in as many places as possible for as much music as possible. But not necessarily like an "indie snob" would. After all. most forms of music produce something of merit…

- 19 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. I just listen to whatever I like the sound of that isn't too identical to things i've already heard.

    19 Jul 2005, 12:24

  2. (when looking for new bands I mean, you expect songs by the same band to sound somewhat similar in style and technique)

    19 Jul 2005, 12:27

  3. "After all. most forms of music produce something of merit…"

    Which is something a lot of people fail to take into account. The only thing that matters with music is that it makes that connection with you. Writing off genres on the basis that they're "all crap" just means you miss out on whole areas that may well contain things you like.

    19 Jul 2005, 12:32

  4. Thomas Prosser

    Conferences given you the day off Holly or are you just skiving!!!??

    19 Jul 2005, 12:39

  5. that's why subgenres (which many argue to be bad) exist. subgenres typically name not just the type of music but also the specific style and feeling of it.

    you have metal, which in most people immediately puts up warning signs. or you can have melodic metal which implies metal technique but with an emphasis on melody-driven songs (as opposed to shouty evil nasty metal).

    do indie subgenres exist? I'm not sure, indie might be the subgenre…

    I like some music in just about every "genre", but there are quite broad catagories that just do nothing for me.

    19 Jul 2005, 12:39

  6. "do indie subgenres exist?"

    but of course – indie is such an enormously broad genre. Examples I can think of are the likes of twee and alt-country and even post-hardcore to a point, and then there's things like britpop (ew). It's a proper little warren in there.

    On the subject of 'old' music, it really needs to be considered in the context of it's time (especially bands like the Stones), else it doesn't compare well with all the technical developments that make music sound the way it does today. Sometimes sounding stripped back and minimalistic is the way forward (eg. the lo-fi recording studios used by the White Stripes et al).

    19 Jul 2005, 13:05

  7. how is indie even a genre anyway? it's supposed to just mean the band isn't on a major label, I am aware this meaning has become lost, but i'm wondering why.

    19 Jul 2005, 13:13

  8. The definition of indie has shifted from the late 1980s when it did, genuinely, mean a band not on a major. I think though it's one of the more instinctive genres and also the one which is the biggest cop-out. I personally would class pretty much everything from Hundred Reasons through to the Delagos as indie but I appreciate that they are part of different sub-genres (britrock/emo and twee respectively (though don't complain if you class them differently)). It's when people call any guitar music indie, including stuff which is blatantly metal (Slipknot) or rock (U2) or pop (Busted) or shite (Rooster).

    Heather makes a good point as well about the changes in production, how music these days sounds 'fuller' than it used to because of technological advances. I personally find a lot of old stuff a little too tinny, too trebly for my liking. As the owner of a bass I like the lower register to really show though… and then I shoot my argument in the foot by admitting I like The White Stripes. Oh well, it is about the context and I wasn't here in the 1960s which means I lose of lot by comparison with those who were (though my dad has never been a Stones fan so it might be genetic, hehehe).

    And Thomas, I am at work, honest…

    19 Jul 2005, 13:50

  9. I generally find that with the "indie" that most people seem to talk about, the sound is quite empty. It's presumably intentionally like that, but to me it makes the music lack depth.

    19 Jul 2005, 14:08

  10. Ricky

    Discussions like these always boil down to the fact that one man's indie is another man's pop.

    For those who don't know or listen to much outside of what they hear in clubs or on commercial radio, a band like Coldplay can be deemed indie. For those of us who delve further into more obscure music via specialist radio and don't tend to frequent said clubs, Coldplay are purely pop.

    And yes, there are of course tons of indie subgenres, but it's also true that indie is a subgenre of the wider umbrella term of 'rock'.

    A good way proving just how vague labels have become today is to look at a site of global taxonomy like iTunes. Somehow, Idlewild's Warnings/Promises is classed as 'Alternative', whereas The Remote Part is merely 'Rock'.

    21 Jul 2005, 13:11

  11. screw all the above!! for a perfected slice of the BEST music around, RAINBOWS TNITE BABY!!! WOOOOOHOOO!!!!!!!

    21 Jul 2005, 17:16

  12. Amanda

    Niamh!!!!! where have you been all of my life!!? Hol and I have 'safely' deposited your sheep in Rootes Luggage for the summer….whether he is still there in September or whether he will have left to roam fields and meadows alike is anybodys guess…..or perhaps he will make his way back to you, the sheep princess, like a homing pigeon might. Anyway, Hol can you write a new blog on something not music related….Greece perhaps…..heard its nice this time of year, you should go, then write a blog to add to your Holland blog…...'Holly's European Travels' I shall do the Asian edition for you…...

    22 Jul 2005, 18:00

  13. the witch voice

    er moomoo? i dont like the way the word SAFELY is in inverted commas…. and anyway that sheep is a SHE !!! i cant believe you stood me up at rainbows the other night… i had to play WOULD YOU RATHER on my OWN.. heheheheeh i miss our WITCH VOICE oh my god i am talking normally these days and it is FREAKING ME OUT

    24 Jul 2005, 17:03

  14. Moo Moo

    hahahahahah the witch voice…....You should definately be the witch out of Hansel and Gretal…...'come into my house of sweets children…' akakakaakakakahahahahahkakaka

    24 Jul 2005, 17:13

  15. Desperately searches for a way to block nutters.

    Will you two just buy a house and live together and save the rest of us!

    24 Jul 2005, 18:08

  16. (picks up comments box, puts it back on tracks, restarts engine)

    As I have admitted to many people I am c-r-a-p and genre-lising, because a lot of it is down to opinion and I don't have enough adjectives to properly describe what I hear half the time! I tend to liken bands to other bands, or say "I like it" (which doesn't help), or try and reason from the other persons musical taste whether they'd like it, which doesn't help either because I'm always trying to get people to listen to new stuff.

    Production today is definately ace, although in my opinion nothing beats a fiddle recorded in the 1970s. There's just something about it's imperfection that I love!

    25 Jul 2005, 11:11

  17. "akakakakakhahahahahahahhakakakaka"
    moomoo that's genius!! i;m patenting it.. it's like the hybrid offspring off a witch's cackle and a bird's incessant crowing/pecking.. basically A HAPPY BIRD and at the end of the day that's what we all want to be isnt it

    26 Jul 2005, 13:23

  18. Carter

    I'll have you know, Ms Cruise, that both Cable and Serum were quality acts in their day, and responsible for two of my all-time Top 100 Favourite Songs ("Blindman" and "Know How" respectively)...

    29 Jul 2005, 12:09

  19. I never said I didn't like them. The two tracks on that CD were 'Honolulu' by Cable which was a nice big guitar pop song, and Serum's 'Feeling Is Believin' which I really really like. In fact I'm going to dig the CD out right now…

    29 Jul 2005, 12:54

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