Sunday, October 18, 2009

Talent And Its Nemesis

This load of old rubbish, oh my fellow Brits, you are so very easily pleased, so quickly appeased by the same formulaic, talent stifling drivel warmed up and re-hashed on the X-Factor week after week. Don't you ever yearn for something a little more edgy, more interesting, more stimulating and exotic than cover versions of well used comfortable songs ?

I don't just like music, I love music, I am passionate about music. I like numerous different genres, and hundreds of different artists, but amongst all the artists I listen to and enjoy you will find a common thread, none of them appear on the sort of unoriginal, unremarkable 'talent' shows currently blocking up the tv schedules.

This man to me is a musical demon, he represents all that is bad and worthless in the music industry, his factory produced one shot mass market acts lack all credibility and hold not a shred of interest. Simon Cowell's main interest is not talent, it is money, and he continues to increase his vast personal fortune by foisting generic singing acts of mediocre talent upon a public whose musical senses appear dulled and sated and who will happily accept almost anything so long as they have to make no effort to receive it.

This really is not what good music is all about, and I'm actually quite sorry for the people that have not experienced really good music, I mean, if your total knowledge of music is Radio 1, dj's in nightclubs and X-Factor then you really are missing out on a wide world of aural and sensual pleasure, of real excitement and proper entertainment.

I'm an old punk, and a rocker, I love pretty much all forms of rock from prog to speed metal, I love ska and reggae, blues, folk, classical, afrobeat and world music, I really do a bit of everything, and I like it live. Live music is not best experienced sat safely amongst 50,000 others at a vast arena show where a choreographed show goes through its well rehearsed routine. No, live music is best experienced down in the front rows of a rowdy rock gig, getting too hot and sweaty in the crush and with music so loud your eyes will ring for days afterwards. Or, it is best experienced in the silent contemplation and appreciation of a fine orchestra, or in jigging around badly to a lively folk duo, or in grooving madly to the afrobeat group onstage and letting the music rise up through you.

Simon Cowell's exploitative X-Factor is the very antithesis of the passion, creativity and drive that I love in music. I do not want to hear safe recitals of common or garden songs, wannabe pop stars imitating people with real talent, I want to hear new bands with their own ideas, people who write their own music, compose their own lyrics, play instruments and create real music. X-Factor is an insipid shadow of real music, but one that seems to be endlessly alluring to a lazy and jaded public.

I'm not saying that the people who appear on these 'talent' shows are not talented in their own right, some of them can certainly sing, but I do object to the whole process by which they are made into, albeit sometimes rather transient, pop stars. Many, if not all, of the acts that pass into the actual knockout stages of the competition are already signed to Syco/Sony BMG. These acts also sign confidentiality clauses preventing them from talking about their money and earnings, or rather, lack of earnings. Some acts that have chosen to break these contracts claim that were were signed up to deals offering a return of a single penny for each album sold, and that after a year on tour with the X-Factor stage show they earned £8-10k for a year's work, hardly the fortune that they were expecting to come with their fame. Cowell though is estimated to earn well in excess of $50m annually.

I am 42, heading into middle age, perhaps the age in life at which many people will spend their time listening to the music that defined their youth, and so do I, I still love The Clash, Marillion, Magnum, Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Led Zeppelin, Ramones, The Damned and all those other great bands that made such an impact on me as a young person, but I have kept, and indeed improved, my desire for new music. I still have that passion to be one of the first fans of a new band, to find obscure new releases, to see bands that no-one has heard of playing third support to a tiny audience, because down at this level of musical appreciation there is real talent and enjoyment to be had.

Over the past few years I have added a number of brand new, or new to me, bands to my canon of favourites, they are in a variety of genres, but they're all well worth a listen and a try, and if you don't like them then move on and seek out something that you do like. In music, as in many other areas of life, the pleasure that you get back is often in direct proportion to the effort you put in. You had a nice time watching Strictly Come Dancing from the comfort of your settee, I had a bloody amazing, hot, loud, bouncy, shouty time down the front at The Wildhearts. I guarantee you, I was having more fun that you were.

Here are a few bands you might like to check out, download and listen to, or make the effort to see live, put some effort in and get some real fun and enjoyment in return.

The Unthanks.
Rachel and Becky Unthank perform hauntingly beautiful folk music, they are now on their third album and all three are worth shelling out for.

The Fratellis.
Chart friendly upbeat indie rockers with a hint of The Beatles about them.

Enter Shikari.
A dance/rave rock band who have released two albums, the new album Common Dreads demonstrates political awareness combined with great music.

Stone Gods
Formed from the ashes of The Darkness, expect their second album next year.

The Answer
Irish classic rockers with all the right riffs and songs to be really big.

Bat For Lashes
Indie-pop strangeness with lovely melodies and vocals.

Bradford area modern metal band with one EP on release.

Eden's Curse
Melodic power metal from a multi-national line up.

New Device
Very impressive melodic/classic/stadium rockers, debut album now on release.

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