A week or so ago, whilst feeling fruity, I posted this deliberately provocative statement on the ANBAD Twitter feed:
I mean, really, most people’s attraction to new guitar-based bands is purely based on a romantic attachment to bands of the past. (Discuss) — Joe Sparrow (@ANewBandADay) April 11, 2012
And in many ways, of course, I don’t believe this for a moment. For, as Dave Greenwald from the endlessly excellent Rawkblog noted almost immediately:
He’s possibly/probably right – but a part of me still wonders: if this really is so, why do so many de rigeur bands insist on drowning their guitars in so much reverb?
(OK – so it’s just a phase the bands are going through: but I recently spoke to a glum sound mixer, who, after years of learning how to tease the best sound possible from any band on stage in front of him, is now routinely asked to “just turn the reverb right up”.)
I mean, honestly, no-one would mind too much if the bulk of these new bands sounded jangly and fun, like – oh, I don’t know – early-80’s REM.
Style over substance will win over even the most cynical listener who is too scared to listen to anything but peer-approved flavour-of-the-month bands. And, as the brilliant Videotapes by Blouse proves, there is room for both the sound everyone desires and hit songs.
But Blouse, sadly, are in the minority – sometimes I feel overwhelmed by bands who sound agonisingly generic, but greased up with a slick of cool from a fashionable Pro Tools filter. That bands are choosing, en masse, to pick up guitars for reasons other than wanting to slog away and create the best pop songs they possibly can is curious.
Maybe it’s social. In the UK, one (in)famous, and possibly un-scientific, statistic is often bandied about: that the majority of UK chart successes are now written by privately educated kids from privileged backgrounds. Bands like Keane, Coldplay, and Mumford and Sons do little to dispel the idea that the nice, wealthy white boy has taken over.
It’s hard to see, for instance, how Oasis could fit in now.
So have guitars become the uncool option? The choice of the wealthy playing at being rock stars?
I’m not sure, but put it this way: if you want to listen to the really exciting, really new and really, er, real sound of The Kids who struggle to get their voices heard, you won’t turn to a guitar band.
Instead, you’d listen to any of the genuinely thrilling bedroom-produced music made today: a creeping, flooding, ever-mutating, ever-innovating groundswell of head-spinningly innovative music whelped from hooky software on creaking laptops. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a MacBook Pro stamping on the human face, forever.
However, the point is still somewhat moot: for those who need guitars, who long for new guitar music, who must have that six-stringed shimmer in their lives, the pickings are slim – and they’ll still keep searching through the dregs, looking for one final hit. Should we feel sad?