Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Pop and 2009, 2009 and pop

Matt DC, ILM:

"Looking at all these (2009's UK number 1s) on paper, it does feel 2009 was a bit of a paradigm shift in British pop. Barely any huge guitar bands or sensitive songwriters, and loads of rappers and Fisher Price electro-pop. That these records are mostly not very good is kinda beside the point, I'm interested as to whether it in retrospect looks like a blip or like the start of something.

If there's one thing that's characterised the 00s in mainstream British pop, it's been an endless and soul-destroying search for 'credibility'. Everything from Coldplay and the Sugababes onwards has felt like it's searching for some middle ground between Radio 1, Radio 2 and XFM. I don't actually like many of these, but I'm happy that British pop vulgarity is finally back.

The breaking of the glass ceiling by British rappers after about 20-something years is surely the biggest story here? I have faith that all three (Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk) will make better records than these in the future, as they have in the past."

Correct on every point. But bear in mind that the "sensitive songwriters" especially have only vanished because they're gearing up for bigger, deeper power. This has been the best year for British chartpop since the early part of the decade, but mainly by default - those who have done so much to eat away at its fabric, its cultural power and meaning, have bigger fish to fry now, and that's the only reason chartpop has begun to improve. And do not rule out the possibility that British rappers, successful or not, will suffer on all kinds of levels - especially if Britain finally dies and they are left with an identity that still seems too exclusive, too white to take them in - in the years ahead.

It's a relief that Keane flopped last time round. But do not be misled: their real power, their real, horrific victory, is yet to come. By comparison to such things, pop should not matter at all.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The sudden sense of feeling bereft, as you hadn't expected or been prepared for

Normally I try to look forward, because if you don't look forward, you're as good as dead. I know how much creativity there is in this country, so often hidden and marginalised (wherever it comes from) and that's normally enough to hide the fact that I can't recall ever looking into a new year with as much dread and uncertainty as I am staring into 2010. But sometimes you get overtaken, however hard you try to stop such a feeling - and I'd rather BBC Four made me feel that way than almost any other source.

I may in the past have sometimes tired of his work, considered it overexposed by those who simply Didn't Get The Point, but that's all under the bridge now, and I still can't imagine ever achieving half of what Oliver Postgate did, and I feel less complete, less fulfilled for it. I don't have anything embedded in my spirit such as he had the socialist tradition he was born to, and I don't have the ability to take part in collective endeavour which enabled him to do what he did. This has, without doubt, been the year in which those raised pre-pop, those who represented earlier, more independent forms of creativity, left us at such a pace that absolutely nobody could even pretend to ignore it anymore. The year when we - the wholly pop-defined and driven generation - were left alone to make something of our own. I'm not sure whether we're up to it. I'm even less sure whether I am.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

"Killing in the Name"

is a dreadful, bludgeoningly simplistic song which offers no real challenge to the tyranny of aggressive individualism - it's merely a repackaging, a different form of the same. Anything to do with the charts is, ultimately, an illusion, "democratisation" only in the misleading, Blairite sense, which merely distracts people from the much more difficult task of achieving true democratisation (such rhetoric may well be seen as unreconstructedly Communist, but the last twenty years have surely shown us that there was a lot of truth in Communist ideas of "revolutionary" rock as ultimately counter-revolutionary almost by definition).

That's not to deny I was moderately excited, though, and pleased about the number one on its own level. But nothing more. And "nothing more" is all that Rage Against The Machine ever were.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

In the Observer today ...

... X Factor power-grasping and Lennon corpse-fucking.

Where is the real alternative to Murdoch? We used to have it, before deregulation. "Choice" in the established media is, as almost always since it became a neoliberal mantra, an illusion. No wonder so many newspapers fear for their futures. If they had offered a genuine choice, rather than simply becoming cheap and incompetent imitations of the Murdoch rags, they might have found some sort of niche for themselves. Their fall is their own fault - and the sooner it becomes permanent and irreversible the better. They don't deserve to present themselves as exponents of "choice". Not when they have actively taken it away.