November 05, 2005

Cool is History

I bought Esquire magazine this week – not something I usually do. I used to have a subscription, but then it got shit, a-la Loaded, FHM and every other god-awful lads mag in the world. However, I haven't totally lost the faith, and check in to see what's going on every few months.

Thankfully, this month's issue is a cracker – great journalism a-go-go, and some great photos. One article in particular caught my eye – 'The Death of Cool' – I quote:

‘Capitalism realised far quicker than our best thinkers…that choice undermined profit. Therefore choice had to be removed while preserving the illusion thereof; and the prime mechanism for achieving this was in the appropriation and codification of cool.
There are, of course, all kinds of examples that could illustrate this, but I may as well give one that's close to my own heart – bookshops. The function of the modern bookshop is not to provide choice for its customers but to curtail their choice while providing its illusion. The ideal modern bookshop would sell only five titles but they would be the 'coolest' titles out there so we, the consumers, wouldn't notice or care. Don't laugh, it's coming. Look how few independent bookshops there are these days, how few independent boutiques, how few independent music sellers. Look how our society, which prides itself on 'freedom of choice', is becoming ever more culturally homogenous…the explanation is not a conspiracy theory; it's simply the latest manifestation of consumer capitalism.’

Makes you think doesn't it? The next time you walk into HMV to buy a CD, see which ones hit you front-and-centre as you enter? I'll be betting it’s the same ones that NME had on the front cover the week before, or the ones that are on the Radio 1 playlist. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, or that we're all turning into music-buying robots, but it's interesting how ingrained these mentalities are in the general public.

When I'm DJing, I often think to myself how many of the requests I get a night are actually people requesting their absolute favourite song of all time, or the song they must here right that very second, and how many people are just requesting what is seen to be the 'cool track' of the moment. Was the explosion of requests for the Arctic Monkeys at Monday's Top Banana due to the fact that lots of students are into the Arctic Monkeys? Or was it because they were number 1 in the charts. It's interesting to note that the week previous, we had no requests for the track at all, and response when we played it was muted.

Personally I feel that students are, in the main, more clued up about music than most – they have more opportunity to see live music, and they're the target audience after all. However, even in the student populace, there is a trend towards the mainstream 'cool' that I find worrying. True, I like music that people would consider to be mainstream 'cool' at the moment. However, I also make it my personal challenge to get out there and sample as much new and 'uncool' (in societorial terms) music as possible, as I hate being pigeonholed in terms of my musical taste. I truly hope that all students here at Warwick do the same. The Students' Union (who I am lucky enough to work for) provides an entertainments' programme that caters for pretty much every point of the musical spectrum. For example, this week's events included:

Top Banana
Score
Pressure featuring Pendulum
Crash featuring Coventry Live Music Festival bands
Vapour featuring Raplh Myerz and the Jack Herren Band – (which is tonight and, quite frankly unmissable if you like awesome live bands…)
Roots Acoustic Folk.

In one week the choice to sample mainstream chart, 90s pop, drum'n'bass, live rock, quirky Scandinavian electro-pop from the headliners of the Big Chill festival (and openers of the Glastonbury main stage), and acoustic music from within the student body.

Now I don't know how much of it is 'cool', but I know I've been out whenever I can. I just hope everyone else has too. Let's not be pigeonholed by what the NME thinks is cool music eh? Let's try and make up our own minds. Next time you're in Fopp, walk past the Top 40, and pick up something for a fiver you've never heard of. It might not be ‘cool’, but I bet it'll be fucking awesome…


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Well, I went to Top B, Pressure, Crash and Vapour, and they were all great in their own way (of course, Vapour was that little bit better than the rest!). Sometimes I worry my taste is too broad :S

    06 Nov 2005, 03:27

  2. Carter

    Without wanting to slip too much into "Carter mode" here, I would actually disagree with you that students are more clued into music if we're talking about this establishment. There seems to be an absolute paucity of knowledge here which not only makes it frustrating to work as a DJ (the amount of songs we can play which most people know is severely limiting because many of you don't seem to bother looking anywhere beyond the Top 10), but also quite worrying.

    For example, last week at Top B we played The Beatles' "Taxman" and followed it with "The New Pollution" by Beck. No-one seemed to have a clue what either song was, despite one being a former Top 20 hit and the other being a classic by the most well-known band in the world. Thus we were greeted by what is rapidly becoming my least favourite sight in the Union: the Sulky Warwick Face, which is usually accompanied by a gesture which mimes out the words "What the fuck is this?!" in a typically incensed register.

    I find this quite sad to be honest. During the summer holidays I got hold of an advance copy of Franz Ferdinand's "Do You Want To" and was greeted with a series of boos when I announced it at Baby B one week. About a month later, people couldn't get enough of it. Is this because it charted? Without a doubt. However, the main point to bare in mind is that you're never going to be able to discover ANYTHING new unless you're prepared to actually give it a chance. So the next time we say "You probably don't know this, BUT…" at a Union event, don't throw a strop or make the "Turn it off" sign at us. Chances are we might just know what we're talking about and be able to introduce you to something which the mainstream media is too ignorant to deem 'cool'!

    07 Nov 2005, 14:25

    • cough * like Braund Reynolds 'Rocket' for example! (though, sadly, it seems the mainstream has caught a-hold of that to boot).

    Carter – have you read the Boar this week – there's an article kinda related to my post in it…

    08 Nov 2005, 15:39

  3. I only make the "turn that wank off" gesture when you play Steps or Bryan Adams. And how could people not get down to "New Pollution"? Okay so my participation in "contemporary music" is somewhat fleeting but I'm man enough to admit that I get to hear stuff at Union events that I would NEVER pick off the shelves in HMV and love like there was no tomorrow. Before saturday I was like "Ralph Myerz who? Norwegian dancey stuff? Whatever…" but it was probably the best live band I've seen since I was a teenager. Top B is bound to gravitate towards the same-old same-old to a large extent – it's the Union's free "all my hallmates are going to get pissed" night so the majority probably would be pretty happy with The Pussycat Dolls and The Darkness. It's not right, but… well, it's the same old thing about appealing to the majority of people.

    I totally get your frustration, guys… bloody students. ;)

    09 Nov 2005, 17:17


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