The Public Wants What The Public Gets

NME editor Connor McNicholas has poured scorn on scurrilous rumours that this year's NME Top 50 has been doctored to include more major-label, and mag-shifting acts. "Most of us aren’t organised enough to set up a conspiracy,” he says, cunningly incorporating a laddish sense of nonchalance to throw off said detractors. According to The Londonist, from whence originated said scurillous rumours (and who refuse to publish either the source, or the 'original' list, i.e. pre-doctoring), the victorious Bloc Party should've read, the victorious Arcade Fire. Which makes sense, considering that 'Funeral' by the Arcade Fire is a triumphant and immersive album, compared to the Party's patchy and occasionally derivative (although not without it's charms) 'Silent Alarm'.

Of course, you might argue that Arcade Fire's album was a 2004 release, if you're being pedantic, which you're probably not. Anyway, 'Funeral' is definitely better, I have pronounced it.

But the NME is the issue here. I'm probably going to post a top ten albums of the year at some point, I have to write one pretty soon anyway. The people for whom I'm writing put 'Funeral' at number one last year, so that counts that out, and Bloc Party may or may not scrape in. Let's be honest, there's been far, far better albums released this year, but the column inches in any British music magazine are not interested in the shambling Mormon antics of Low, or the understated genius of Hood. They've only recently latched onto Sigur Ros, proclaiming the somewhat below par (by the band's high standards) 'Takk' to be a work of genius.
Most people I know stopped paying attention to the NME years ago: the last time I bought it more than just a one-off was for a statistics project on the charts at school - a commentator on the Londonist blog pointed out that the NME was useful for whiling away a train journey, and that was about it, it's very difficult to justify to oneself buying it two weeks in a row when you're confronted with the horror within.
But the same can be said of almost all 'rock' publications now: a haircut is a visual thing, and is therefore more likely to sell a copy of a magazine, a predominantly visual medium, than high-class journalism. The advent of the interweb has changed lots of things, not least music criticism: now anyone can express an opinion, some well, some not so well. And so the NME and friends have had to adapt to meet the Heat generation, and as a result the artists we're presented with genuinely are style over substance.

Rock'n'roll has long been about image, from the days of Little Richard on, but these artists have stood the test of time by supplying music worth listening to even now. Pete Doherty, for all his lovable, roguish charm and pork-pie hat, will simply be overlooked by future generations while those who are making forward-looking, unique music (like the Arcade Fire perhaps, or Four Tet, or maybe even Bloc Party, we'll see how that one goes) will be noted for their influence and importance. Putting The Bravery on the front cover of your magazine does you no favours: it simply makes you look faddish and fashion-orientated, which goes against what a good journalist should be aiming for. The NME has become an outdated institution, no longer holding dear what is once did, or what it now should: if the Melody Maker can die out, with it's superior handling of pretty much everything, then the NME should be allowed to pass swiftly on also.
Music shouldn't be about a Cool List topped by a band who've released one single; it shouldn't be about what haircut you have, or what clothes you wear; these things are fine if they're not dictated to you.

Franz Ferdinand are a tricky case - are they over-hyped gubbins, or are they a quirky and interesting band which will have some serious longevity? Whichever view you subscribe to, remember the title of their latest album: You Could Have It So Much Better

No comments: