I’m here to take you now..

13/10/2012 at 15:02 (Reviews) (, , , , )


Somehow, this bloke read my mind. Published a couple of days ago in NME’s online forum, this very topic has had occasion to cross my mind, usually after sticking my iPod on shuffle. As those of you who follow my blog will know, I don’t adhere to genre or era. If it sticks, makes me want to go back and learn the lyrics, makes my hair stand up and my heart do that cute dance it does when it likes something, then it’s In.

So when Led Zepp’s Stairway to Heaven (obvious choice I know, but I’m playing by generic terms here so everyone gets the joke) is instantly followed by Eiffel 65’s Blue … you get the picture. This is the whole point of random shuffle, when you’re in that dangerously miscellaneous mood, can’t decide what you want to be, so become Lord of everything and nothing at once.

Yes, like poor Tetsuo Shima.

Music through the ages, changes to converge with – or repel – the standards set of social climes, and they sure as hell aren’t static. Back in the 50’s, older folk whose youth belonged in the 20’s and 30’s, shook their heads and sucked their teeth whenever Buddy Holly came on the jukebox, or Presley started in with his pelvis-melvis swaying. Yet they grew up through the Charleston era, a world of naughty flapper girls and innuendo. No strangers then, to scandal and cheek (of all kinds.)

Presley and Holly pushed against the stoicism and primness of post-war times. They called for the youngsters of the day to kick back and relax, the dark days were over. On a bleaker note, into the 70’s the Clash came of age in the wake of the Notting Hill riots, determined that society would bloody well hear them speak; that things not only had to change, but had to be dug down into, the origins brought forward for questioning. Times were hard. So what? So find out where the poor soil lies. Burrow down until you find the weak roots. Regrowth starts here, but only when ideas change.

In an earlier entry, I made a point of saying that we fight white-collar wars. This is pertaining to my own portion of the world of course, a decidedly middle-class arena, full of first-world woes. But things such as homelessness, starvation, addiction and economical crisis, circulate on a much broader scale in the world, and as always it’s up to the artists to keep recalling attention to them when the media lose interest.

DEVLIN feat. Yasmin – “Runaway”. Not music I’d personally listen to, and I say this without a hint of snottiness. The lyrics speak a modern slant on an age-old problem, one known as “mispers” where I work. A missing person isn’t just a statistic. They are a person who, for whatever reason – mental illness, threat to their life on the estate they’ve grown up in, personal debt, etc – have decided to leave all they knew behind, disappear from the lives of those who love and care for them. They run to the thin blue line of the horizon, in the belief that the world on the other side is a better, more productive, more welcoming place. The story of DEVLIN’s video is of a kid growing up in a grotty council estate, his logic being that anywhere’s better than this; that somewhere else, he might flourish and become who he’s meant to be. The faces of those left behind, tell their own version of the story.

Try comparing this to Dee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart”, or Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet on a String.” Now, see where the problem lies? We’re not just crossing generations here. We’re crossing genres. And a lot of the problem with these dumbarse memes that randomly pop up on Facebook from time to time (clogging my updates feed) is they in no way give ground to context. Justin Bieber (pop for tweens) vs. Led Zepp (rock for big kids)? Come on. The Beach Boys weren’t exactly writing scintillating lyrics. They were, however, creating catchy pop. Much as less-known bands like Broken Social Scene (Canadian, baroque pop) are doing the same thing. You just have to know where to look. It’s no good listening to your local radio station all day, then bleating how it all sounds the same. Because it is. They give the most air-time to upcoming, easy-listening artists that will piss off the least amount of people with their (non) lyrics. Notice how Eminem didn’t get an awful lot of airplay before his punchy lyrics started meaning something to people, particularly disenfranchised youngsters in the mid-90’s, who then phoned in demanding more of his work – unedited, if possible. They got their wish, but the bleeps stayed.

Truth is, music comparisons can’t be made when the structure of comparison is so broad and shallow. It won’t take the weight. We need context here. To write off all modern bands in a stinking pile, is to to reduce songs like this

to the same level as this
*insert Katy Perry video clip because I can’t be bothered with that waste of my time*

See? I have my own prejudices. But there is hope for modern music, with bands like the National around. With lyricists who speak a very real truth, like DEVLIN.

The music hasn’t died yet.

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