Let’s take stock of the music coming from the U.K. these days, shall we? We’ll include Scotland and Wales in this little status report but probably not Ireland unless I mistakenly assign Britishness to an Irish band in which case all none of my readers across the pond can dismiss me as the ignorant, morbidly obese yankee that I am statistically likely to be.
At any rate, Wales has been doing all right the last couple of years, giving us quality entertainment from Los Campesinos! as well as a pretty good new record from Manic Street Preachers. So well done, Wales. The Scots, however, have had it going on ever since The Delgados, and adding last year’s great Frightened Rabbit album and a great disc apiece from Franz Ferdinand and Camera Obscura – well, let’s just say the Scots are kicking plenty of arse right now. Keep it up, Scotland, and don’t let Mel Gibson make any more movies about you. Come to think of it, don’t let Mel Gibson make any more movies.
But what about all these British bands? You’ve got your Futureheads, your Arctic Monkeys, your British Sea Power, your Kaiser Chiefs, your Brakes, your Muse, and that’s not even mentioning your Amy Winehouse, Coldplay, and Radiohead.
Oh, and Maximo Park. And literally a billion others.
I really dug the sort of angular, twitchy guitar pop that I found on Maximo Park’s A Certain Trigger. Then I drifted away from them for a while and missed Our Earthly Pleasures entirely, which filled me with a sense of duty toward what I believe is their third album, Quicken the Heart. Quicken the Heart is a dancey, poppy, British pop album circa 2009. Which means, like other albums by other bands that traffic in similar stuff, it’s mostly trying to carve a niche for itself in the burnt out crater left from Franz Ferdinand’s rocket to superstardom. They had some promising stuff on A Certain Trigger, a romantic cynicism that was as refreshing as Franz Ferdinand’s committed heathen/hedon-ism.
But Quicken the Heart kinda sounds like it could be early Maximo Park demos, you know, where Paul Smith is aping The Cure’s Robert Smith (no relation?) a little too closely. And, unless I’m failing to convert something from the metric system here, there’s not a lot of quickening going on with my ticker, which is really sad because said lack of quickening inclines people like me to dismiss albums like Quicken the Heart on about the third listen. I’m on listen number three as we speak, but I’ve got a review to do, so I’m plowing ahead. I do these things for you, dear reader(s?). And, incidentally, if there are any international Bollocks! readers out there, I’d like to state – just for the record – that I’m not an ignorant, morbidly obese yankee. At least I’m not morbidly obese.
The thing is, British guitar-pop bands today are cranking out mediocrity at an alarmingly prolific rate. There are new bands all the time and they sound just like the new bands that were coming out in 2005, putting out music that isn’t offensively bad, or really bad at all, just really… samey. And all these bands are somehow making a living over there, perhaps because NME is willing to declare anyone the greatest British band ever at least once.
So I’m picking my battles from now on, Britain. I will listen to the next Arctic Monkeys record. I will always listen to Los Campesinos! records, and I’ll keep my Scottish bands (if The Delgados get back together, I may have to schedule my honeymoon in Scotland around that glorious event), but no more guy-bands doing the dance-pop thing. I’m over it. To quote my beloved Campesinos!, “four sweaty boys with guitars tell me nothing about my life.” And I am gonna go ahead and be sexist and say that I will still follow female British bands and performers. (For those of you who might call that “reverse” sexism, you’re stupid. Discrimination against anyone based on their gender is sexism – the sex of either party involved is secondary to the discrimination itself and I know there might be one or two enlightened individuals out there who totally get that, but after sitting through the Sotomayor confirmation hearings and listening to right-wing pundits make charges of “reverse racism”, I feel the need to point out what a stupid fucking phrase that is. Racism against white people isn’t reverse racism, it’s just plain old racism. Ironically, prejudice doesn’t discriminate. It’s fine coming from the mouths of any moron, regardless of their race, sex, or religious background) Why am I favoring the ladies? Well, the answer’s all over this post – there are so goddamn many groups of guys doing the same kind of music that I’ll reward any woman for getting her voice heard over there. Except for Tori Amos. My god, she’s terrible. And even then, I’m not promising to like everything I hear from British women, I’m only promsing to listen to it in the first place. Let’s face it – me promising to like anything would be the death of Bollocks!
I don’t want to come across as some sort of jingoistic American elitist either. We here in the states are xeroxing shitty emo bands by the sewerful (“sewerful” is the correct unit of measurment for amounts of emo bands. You can look it up), so it’s a case of same shit, different genre. We also hand a record contract to every pubescent fuckwit who has a show on the Disney channel and promises not to have sex until they’re married, so I don’t want people thinking that America is somehow doing something right where Britain is doing something wrong. The larger point here is that, in both countries, we are inundated with musical choices that fall all over the spectrum from bad to mediocre to good and life is just to fucking short to ever choose mediocre. If you’re deeply moved, or fired up, or in anyway excited (that is, har har, if your heart is quickened, har har) by the new Maximo Park record, hey, great for you. You’re (possibly) a zombie.
Also: abstinence pledges are pointless failures. What would Jesus do? Apparently, every girl in his high school. Hoo-ah!