Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Indie Rock Axis Of Evil

The words “indie rock” have gradually become meaningless. Just as an unpopular song can be deemed “pop music”, a band conjured up in the confines of a board room, anchored to myriad blue chip brand names and churning out faceless, personality free, repetitive and undistinguishable mush can be declared independent. But for the purpose of this post, I’m going to go along with the mainstream. There are lots of bands and singers I dislike. But there aren’t so many that annoy me to the point of anger. These six do. In ascending order, I will explain just why I loathe the components of Indie Rock’s Axis Of Evil.

6. Kasabian

I can understand why Kasabian are popular. An Oasis-sized hole in the UK soundscapes paved the way for another group of loud-mouthed, self-obsessed domestic badasses. I was never a massive fan of Oasis, but appreciated the quality of some of the songs from their earliest albums (Slide Away, Champagne Supernova). Kasabian simply don’t have the substance to back up their bravado. Can a band be under-qualified to soundtrack a uni night’s smoking in front of the latest edition of FIFA on the PS3? Probably not. But in the cold light of day, shouldn't everybody should be savvy enough to realise that Kasabian are shite?

See also: Tenacious D, The Enemy, Razorlight

5. Biffy Clyro

In Scotland, Biffy Clyro inspire jingoistic scenes of adulation without peer. But for 3 or 4 years now, the Kilmarnock outfit have been resting on their laurels. Their last album, Only Revolutions and its predecessor Puzzle have have been clear shots at the bigtime. A few years back, Biffy were a relatively interesting band (although I was never a huge fan). Their first three albums drew some sort of wayward line between The Offspring and early Idlewild: things weren’t taken too seriously, but they had some decent tunes and a bit of attitude.

But then they placed both feet firmly in the middle of the road. Too many bands have been guilty of sacrificing their early promise in favour of filling stadiums (I’m looking at you, Kings of Leon). Biffy Clyro, I’m afraid to report, did the same. And, well, it worked for them. They bother the charts, fill stadiums and make kids faint at T In The Park. Their fans recently hijacked a poll at Under The Radar to win the best Scottish band of the 2000s. Laughable, really. And this blind (or deaf) loyalty makes me hate them all the more.

See also: Kings of Leon, Green Day

4. Keane

Ah, Keane. Firstly, I hate the lead singer Tom Chaplin. He reminds me of one of those fabric characters from the Comfort ads a few years back. His face has a real cushiony quality about it. His voice vexes me no end – his public school pronunciation (“Don’t laarrf at me…”) adds a David Cameron-esque element to his affluent and cocksure persona. In fact, there’s an aura of Tory Boy that surrounds the band (particularly Tim Rice-Oxley). Whereas certain bands can use such stigma to their advantage by producing elitist music to match their image, the majority of Keane’s output is trite, clichéd and bloody boring. The most interesting thing ever to have happened to Keane, was Chaplin checking into the Priory to treat a drink and drugs addiction. Coldplay have a lot to answer for.

See also: Athlete, Coldplay

3. Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol are another of graduate of the Coldplay School of Schmaltz. But for them, their mawkishness came after a few years as a likeable little indie band. As the founder of the Reindeer Section that included members of Alfie, Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai and Idlewild, Gary Lightbody was developing a fine reputation as a songwriter. And Snow Patrol’s second album, Songs For Polarbears, remains an excellent listen, twelve years after its release.

But then Lightbody (who, contrary to popular belief, is not Scottish, but Irish) discovered that he could make much more money by churning out songs written with three chords. Perhaps he’d been talking to Status Quo. Perhaps it’s a sadder indictment of the British music scene and music buying public than the band itself that their reversion to pish was rewarded so handsomely. Either way, I can barely sit through one Snow Patrol song. One mention of the name conjures up an image of a group teenage girls crying at a gig in the Ulster Hall many moons ago. Horrific.

See also: Embrace, Travis

2. The Kaiser Chiefs

Idiocy has a place in music. Of course it does. John Lydon is clearly an idiot, yet spearheaded two of the most influential bands of the past 40 years. The KLF: genius, sure. But I challenge anyone to explain how burning £1,000,000 is anything but idiotic. However, both of these built their reputation on something more than being fools. Lydon with his attitude, image and finally, with PiL, musical nous. The KLF with their avant-garde crossover delights and inimitable ability to ruffle a few feathers.

The Kaiser Chiefs and principally their lead singer Ricky Wilson, though, seem to have risen to the top without a modicum of talent, reliant on their perceived image as class clowns, working class heroes and rabble rousers from the council estate. Bullshit. Has there ever been a more annoying brace of hits than “Oh My God” and “I Predict A Riot!”? Wilson meanwhile, is too busy believing his own hype to realise what a twat he is.

See also: Chumbawumba, The Automatic

1. U2

Of course it was going to be them. U2 were once a great band and I have little problem listening to a lot of their older work. Right up until and including Pop, the Irish band were capable of firing out the classics, seemingly at will. But the real problem with U2 isn’t strictly their music. No, it’s more what they embody and symbolize.

Bono is a rich, rich man. Yet given an opening, he’ll happily take an hour to explain how each of us should part with our hard earned to help whatever cause is tickling his fancy on a particular day. Nothing wrong with giving to charity at all, but with Bono, it is more about the lecturing, the pontificating and the sanctimony rather than the giving himself. I went to a U2 gig in 2001 at Slane Castle. Bono’s father had died the day before. Of course I felt sorry for him, but as the concert went on, it seemed that Bono was revelling in the moment. Using this tragedy to elevate his martyrdom, his saintliness to new levels.

There is also the negative impact that listening to U2 can have on other bands. I interviewed Caleb Folowill from Kings of Leon a couple of years ago, after the release of Aha Shake Heartbreak. I loved them back then and was pretty keen on hearing their new material. Folowill went on to recount to me a section from his tour diaries from their dates with U2. Every evening, he had watched Bono and co from the wings as they wowed huge crowds, brought stadiums to their knees. He told me that with that in mind, he had set about writing their new album. The change in the band, the misdirection, the regression from exciting to bland and mundane was marked. I was shocked and disappointed, and I blame U2.

See also: Coldplay, Green Day


Anonymous said...

I feel a bit sorry for Snow Patrol. I was on board from the start and went to school with Mark McClelland, but they've lost all credibility with the cloying pap they now peddle. I think GL is rooted in 'proper' music though and that it may rise to the fore again.

Finbarr Bermingham said...

I'm not so sure. I get what you're saying about his grounding, but perhaps gone too far down "that road". They thing is, Lightbody must realise what he's done. He must've watched 100 bands overtake them in the past with such mundane rubbish and thought he fancied a bit of that pie. I guess you can't dislike a band for trying to earn a crust, but when you are aware that they used to be a decent outfit it can be frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, there are no sacred cows on this blog. Not even your former interviewees are safe. Well-argued piece though. And will enjoy that Spotify playlist.

Finbarr Bermingham said...

Thanks Mark, this was all written in a bit of a rant though. I suspect I was in a bad mood about something or other!

Pinup Nights said...

Good luck with your Korean adventure Sir!

A few points - my dad met Bono in 1994 and he's a nice guy.

Gary Lightbody is a decent chap too, he was being refused entry to a sold-out Pin Ups in 2005 and agreed to sing the "light up" song to the Wooside Social Club's "hard but fair" bouncer Kevin in order to gain entry! It was an amusing episode. Like you I think their music is drivel but if writing mega-anthems was easy every spiv would be at it. I think it's a case of a thin talent finding a perfect niche.

Lastly Ricky Wilson is a nice guy - just kidding, having met him a few times I can confirm he's a tool! Although I still think I Predict a Riot, though now horribly dated, was a cracking of-the-moment guitar song...

Finbarr Bermingham said...

Thanks mate! Interesting story about Lightbody! As I mentioned previously, i had built up a bit of a head of steam when i wrote this.

And yes, Ricky Wilson is a true cunt.