Sunday, 6 November 2011


Guardian article, on the let-them-eat-cupcakes zeitgeist.

Weirdly, pretty much simultaneously with my piece there was another comment feature based on a discussion about the death of the protest song between Billy Bragg and this lad:

Couldn't really have hoped for better empirical illustration of my argument.

Some great morsels from (Bedales alumnus and former Holby City star) Flynn:

It's confusing to know where to put your energies now. I don't have a Twitter account, because I want to ... put my creative energy into writing songs.

My direction, what I'm drawn to, is overcoming cynicism, but in a more abstract form.

... there are a lot of musicians whose songs are all about feeling, and it's almost like that's the only safe place to express yourself.
Where people come from has no relevance.


stu said...

Could popular music (or any creative endevour) actually be radical nowadays? Doesn't everything get chewed up by the spectacle and spat out as bland mush sooner or later? At least Florence has saved everybody the trouble by making bland mush in the first place.

She kinda sounds like Alan Partridge doing Kate Bush at kareoke, IMO.

Alex Niven said...

I broadly agree with your point Stu, but surely it shouldn't be that difficult to at least try to nurture a pop music that is politically engaged and not made by/for a minority elite?

Alan Partridge doing Kate Bush is quite right. It's karaoke for Mondeo woman isn't it?

Mr. W. Kasper said...

I see some commentators in that CiF piece brought up Joe Strummer etc. - but a key difference may be how 'bohemians' from privileged backgrounds interacted with the poorer and working class then, compared to now. Many of the key songs from Strummer's generation are about this interaction, and the tensions and/or progressive potential of it.

British blues-rock, punk, rave & its offshoots - their dynamism came from a more fluid interaction between 'slumming' musos etc. and the communities their subcultures developed in. Education and housing being what it is these days, the boundaries are more severely enforced. Today's m-class musicians don't so much rebel against suburbia's restrictions, as maintain the moat wherever they go.

Alex Niven said...

Quite. There's a world of factors that makes Joe Strummer a completely different case. For a start he was genuinely radical (or at least polemical and iconoclastic), while the nu-folkers are all apolitical in the manner of the above Johnny Flynn quotations. Moreover, Strummer was just one individual: even if there were many more like him in the late-70s the proportions were nothing like they are today (60 fucking percent of chart acts went to private school!).

Lastly, I don't even need to argue the case do I? It's just fucking obvious, isn't it? The "it doesn't matter where you come from" argument is like saying it doesn't matter how much money you have or haven't got, or that it doesn't matter how much suffering you've had to endure in your life, or that it doesn't matter whether the sun comes up tomorrow morning or not. There's a reason why a kid in a shanty town in S Africa will never become an advertising executive.

The more I think about it the more I think "where people come from has no relevance" is the most pernicious, offensive fucking thing I've ever heard.

Mr. W. Kasper said...

It is bizarre how posh the charts are now, but not surprising. Even a fair few X-Factor types come from wealthy backgrounds, contradicting the whole populist point of it. It used to be psycho parents who groomed their kids for pop stardom, now its approaching 'normal' with the whole stage-school-to-charts system becoming hegemonic.

And yeah, of course background's relevant. Not a reason for vilification, but it should always be highlighted as symptomatic of wider issues. It's ridiculous when people talk about the government all coming from the same schools etc. as irrelevant. They're not trained to be humble or compassionate in Eton.

Thom Morecroft said...

He is so so so dull. I am so fed up of these people who aren't even that good at songwriting going "oh well you know I could have been a poet in another life" - there is nothing worse about Flynn than that he is so dull.