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A matter of taste…and bile

Sian Claire Owen explores the fractured music scene and finds individuality and manipulation

Published on January 18th 2008.


A matter of taste…and bile

Musical history is littered with bloody musical genre clashes. Skinheads hated hippies, mods loathed rockers, and punks just spat at anything that moved. Hell, the minstrels and sonneteers were probably at each others throats back in the day.

Anyone who raps and calls themselves a soldier, who isn't a soldier, is an enemy of God and is Satan's girlfriend.

Kris Shaw, Interactive Content Producer for BBC 6 Music explained: "Fashion identifies the groups that music fans belong to. Different fashions have their own uniforms and anthems."

Far from the mod'n'rocker riots on Brighton Beach in the 60s, today's musical genres have reached a Zen-like state of harmony. Either that or today's musical landscape is blander than a Barratt housing estate.

"There's no animosity between different scenes," said Shaw. "There are a lot of good collaborations. Most people at BBC 6 Music happily mix between the best of the music styles. Although saying that, as a teenager I would never have listened to Goth or heavy metal. And still wouldn't, come to think of it."

So maybe there is still mutual antipathy. Maybe beneath all the love still lurks the Jabberwocky of musical snobbery. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. As an ardent Echobelly obsessed Indie-kid in the early 90s, I would rather have torn my eyes out than admit to owning a copy of Take That & Party (which I did). Like many fads, the Indie-grunge fashion was more about making a statement than looking good - which it didn't. We looked bloody awful, and we revelled in it.

Some things never change. Vikki Farrimond, 21, is your archetypal Nu-rave fan, complete with neon pink hair, a profound love of CSS, and a secret fondness for the Spice Girls. "When you're younger you can get away with dying your hair bright pink," she said. "You get a lot of abuse for it, but I get most hassle from old people!"

Although open to most alternative music, she has some serious gripes with Girls Aloud. "They dance around on stage practically naked, they're basically selling sex to kids, and that really angers me. Oh, and I don't like R&B or rap either."

We found 16-year-old Tommy Cashin cowering beneath a pile of glow sticks in Afflecks Palace. He opened up after we coaxed him out with a Pigeon Detectives single. "A bit of Indie is great," he said. "I don't mind some rap music. But if I had to listen to 50Cent I'd have to top myself. Anyone who raps and calls themselves a soldier, who isn't a soldier, is an enemy of God and is Satan's girlfriend."

Young Tommy also looks to Squeeze, 10cc, and Megadeth for inspiration. "I'm extremely elitist when it comes to music. I dislike a lot of things that don't have excessive talent in them. I don't like any modern music actually."

It shows how over time genres have melted into each other, and music fans, presented with a bastardized homogeny of styles, look to the past. The fashions become diluted, and filter down into every Top Shop and Primark in the land.

As Shaw said: "Right now this is most obvious with the Nu-rave scene, which is having a massive influence on the High Street. Teenagers wearing neon tights and bangles have probably never heard of The Klaxons and would prefer listening to Leona Lewis."

Kolyn Amor, life-long Goth and parish priest (no, he really is), sympathises. "It's very difficult to do anything new anymore. So many bands these days refer back to The Cure and The Cult. Post-punk was a whole new energy, but there doesn't seem to be much energy around. Back then it was about identity, but it's not the case now."

Take the NME. In the 70s and 80s it was arguably one of the genuine heralds of new music. These days it spends more time touting Wella Shockwaves and bitching about Morrissey than covering innovative artists. Music has always had a commercial edge, but maybe, just maybe, things have been taken a tad too far.

According to Jessica Lowe, marketing and PR executive for Harvey Nichols, Manchester-based fashion label Gio Goi arranged a photo shoot with Pete Doherty wearing their T-shirts. Images of Doherty sporting their logo soon appeared in the tabloids, albeit with Doherty off his face in a gutter. Needles to say (sorry), their sales went through the roof.

"Music has always been about fashion" said Lowe. "There are a lot of fashion labels that send items out to artists, and then they get seen in Heat or the tabloids."

So, we're all being manipulated by Big Business? Well, tell us something we don't already know. Still when you go out and chat to the fans, then chinks of hope shine through the armour of corporate control.

Teen metal-heads will always think dance music is unintelligent, Indie kids will shy away from R&B, J-pop still raises a snigger in certain circles, and folk musicians will continue to be hairy and use their own ale mugs in public houses. At the end of the day, the kids are alright, right?

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DescartesJanuary 18th 2008.

Nu Rave can **** off, get a copy of cubik by 808 State and tell me how these cnuts dare to add "rave" to the end of such a **** genre.

top one-nice one-get snortedJanuary 18th 2008.

slawpoot,plawscoot,wallsuit...coleslaw!!!hmmm..nope.

tommyJanuary 18th 2008.

I'm tommy from the article and I blatantly did not say any of this ****. I also didn't get a pigeon detectives CD or cower behind any glowsticks... Can you say lawsuit?

Vicky (from the article)January 18th 2008.

Please remove yourself from life, Kieran.

KieranJanuary 18th 2008.

I's be physically sick if any of those hideous looking freaks came within 2 foot of my vicinity. Please remove these pictures so I can read the article.

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