Welcome one and all to another installment of All Talk, where we ask the questions that are guaranteed to cause a fuss! As our loyal readers will know, here at Gigslutz we love any opportunity to stir the pot, rouse some rabbles etc. but this month we’re really asking for trouble.
We had the ill-advised notion to ask our team to name which artists they feel are undeserving of their current status.
That’s when the proverbial hit the fan…
With no icon safe from their mockery and no sacred cow spared evisceration, here’s (*gulp) what they had to say.
Let the carnage commence!
I was gonna take down pretentious peelhead/misogynist Nick Cave; but when you’re hunting, go for the biggest beast. Dylan is portrayed as a cross between Yoda and Buddha by most music journalists. Not by me, I’m not most music journalists. I like intelligence and poetry in music, most of my favourite lyricists are people who can pour the Indian Ocean into a teacup: Paddy McAloon, Cathal Coughlan, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega… Dylan’s lyrics seem to be Chinese puzzles that no one, even with the aid of a Thesaurus and a degree can suss. And let’s mention the obvious: that voice. Like a hoover catching a particularly troublesome bit of carpet. Dylan has created a legend that only daft people, trainspotters and Uncut readers want to be part of. All eras of his career, from the electric, to the eclectic, to the Christian are all pedestrian. My brother’s mate recovered from a serious illness. My brother took him to see Dylan in Liverpool. They walked out after the setlist of B-sides, lesser-known album tracks and the mangled wreckage of ‘classics’ became too much to bear. Zimmerman? He ain’t for me, babe.
Before writing this piece, I considered investing in a Kevlar suit. Sounds a bit over-precautionary, right? Well no, not if NME get word that somebody has a bad thing to say about the Arctic Monkeys. I’ll be dead by the time this is published. If a hitman doesn’t get me then perhaps I’ll be hunted down and lynched by a mob of bequiffed, leather-jacketed wannabes who can’t seem to see the irony in Alex Turner’s words: “Don’t believe the hype”. Give a man a leather jacket and some brillo cream, and leave in warm LA sunshine for a few months and chances are, when he returns, he’ll have a God complex that would rival even Kanye West. Arctic Monkeys 2013’s release of AM saw the world convert to a new religion: Alex Turnerism. The man’s words are now gospel – whether he’s singing about wanting to be a vacuum cleaner or persuading a crowd of 90 000 strong to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his Mum – and NME is the equivalent of The Holy Bible. Heralded as the creators of “the greatest record of the last decade”, Arctic Monkeys appear to have no glass ceiling. If you genuinely believe this band are the best in existence, “I wanna grab both your shoulders and shake” – and tell you to snap out of it.
Ask anyone to give you a list of the world’s most iconic artists and you’ll almost certainly be hit by The Beatles’ name. Of course you should: everyone wears Beatles t-shirts, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is forever topping lists telling us that it’s the ‘best album ever’ and they’ve sold a zillion records. Yet I can’t think of a tune that’s as overly repetitive as ‘Hello Goodbye’, lyrics less significant than those in ‘Love Me Do’ (does that title even make sense?) or a melody which would be more at home on a My First Piano songbook than ‘Hey Jude’. Don’t even get me started on ‘Yellow Submarine’. All thanks to George Harrison, artists now think it’s a great idea to bring back the weirdest instrument they can from their travels to put on their album because it’s “exploratory” and “experimental”. People who claim the Beatles are their favourite artist are the kind of people that don’t believe “real music” is made anymore. Grow up and realise that the Abbey Road album cover isn’t a cool poster to stick on your bedroom wall to show you love the ‘60’s, it’s just a reason for irritating tourists to block the road with clichéd photography.
I genuinely fear for my life while typing this. I’m scared I will be attacked in my sleep by hipsters wielding flower crowns. However, I must say it anyway, for keeping this opinion to myself has been eating away at me since 2010. I will never understand the hype surrounding Lana Del Rey. Yes, she is beautiful, and yes, I’m sure she is the overlord of the indie crowd, but all of her songs sound the same to me. And why the hell won’t she cheer up a bit? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening to music so depressing that it makes me want to beat my head against a wall just as much as the next person, but she is on a completely different level. Her monotone drawling bores me and only adds to the downbeat tone of her music – to which I would say that considering most of her songs appear to be about her daddy issues, they’re already downbeat enough. The few live performances of hers that I’ve suffered through have been mediocre at best, and she never appears to be enjoying herself. Sorry, Lana. Hang up the flower crown.
People: We need to talk about Jack White. A man with a talent as big as a lake and an ego the size of a planet (see also: Bono). I won’t deny he has some merit: the White Stripes were a fine band (despite the dodgy wardrobes and suggestion of incest), The Raconteurs’ stuff is decent enough pub rock, and The Dead Weather are the best Captain Beefheart tribute act going. Listening to his solo endeavours is less painful than driving a nine inch rusty nail into one’s eye, though let’s not kid ourselves: his sub-Zeppelin, twelve bar blues songs are about as original as The Bootleg Beatles. Listen to Jeff Buckley’s Grace, then play something by White and ask yourself, “What’s missing?” Soul. Being emotionally vacant works for some artists – Bowie on Station to Station, for example – but White comes across like a less endearing Edward Scissorhands (whose physical likeness he shares, give or take 50 lbs). And let’s not forget how this celebrated “alternative” artist sucked corporate cock… Over to Noel Gallagher: “Jack White has just written a song for Coca-Cola. End of. He ceases to be in the club. And he looks like Zorro on doughnuts.”
Many of you reading this would have at some point used a vacuum cleaner. When using it you may have tried to alleviate the experience by singing at the top of your voice, straining to make yourself heard over the monotonous drone of the sucking machine. Imagine you formed a band where you’d be the lead singer and your Dyson was your backing band, selling-out huge stadiums around the world and in turn selling around 150 million records. You’d be laughing right? Laughing all the way to a Dutch bank that ensures that 95% of your vast income is untaxed, jackpot! This is all real, this is U2. It is truly incredible how this bloated behemoth of banality still has an audience in this day and age. They’ve become more than a parody of themselves and their latest stunt of giving an album away for free through Apple’s iTunes is stomach-churning to say the least. You guys didn’t have a marketing budget so you just dropped an album into our accounts? The music industry has changed from “pay lots for this CD” to “fuck you, you now own a U2 album” and this is not a good thing.
Who’s the most overrated band? Arcade Fire. Before I find myself faced by a mob of angry fans with pitchforks and whatnot, let me make this clear: I am not saying they’re bad. I’ve said on many occasions, to many people, that I think Arcade Fire are overrated and the general reaction tends to be: “You just don’t get it”. You’re right, I don’t. And if I’m missing something blindingly obvious that makes them so special, please, be my guest in opening my eyes to it. As I said before, they’re not bad per se; their music is decent and they look like a good experience live. I don’t, however, understand the claim that they’re “the best band in the world right now”. For me, there’s just far too much going on, and I’m yet to work out what they’re actually trying to achieve. Just calm it down, guys. Also, completely unreasonably, Win Butler makes me a little uncomfortable. I’m not sure what it is (his hair, perhaps?) but he’s the kind of person I really wouldn’t want sat next to me on the tube. Sorry, Win.
Critics have been praising The Velvet Underground to the skies for decades now, and it seems that every other alternative band has been influenced by their sound. But let’s run quickly through their album history. Their 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, while revolutionary for its lyrics about drugs and kinky sex, is at least half-full of non-catchy, endlessly repetitive droning topped with loud pointless feedback. On White Light/White Heat from the same year, the band obviously tried too hard to stand out, and the result was a pile of white noise with no good riffs to lay it onto, that had even less listenable quality. And then there are their last two outings, The Velvet Underground in 1969 and Loaded in 1970 that were much more pleasant to listen to but were not particularly innovative. I can see how the band influenced punk with their disregard of lyrical censorship, and we probably wouldn’t have had noise rock and Sonic Youth if it wasn’t for the noise and dissonance on White Light/White Heat. However, they never quite worked these elements into quality music of their own, and with the exceptions of a few classics such as ‘Sweet Jane’ and ‘Rock and Roll’ their songs are still as unlistenable today as they were unpopular then.
How many times must I hear that Madonna is the definitive female popstar of the last century before I believe it? At least a few million more. The problem isn’t that it isn’t true (though it isn’t), it’s who’s saying it. If it’s not Madge herself, it’s someone who works for her. I’m not so naïve that I don’t understand that pop for the last fifty years has been just as much about myth making as it is about making music, whether it’s David Bowie pretending he’s from another planet or The Beatles convincing entire generations they all lived in the same house but Madonna’s entire career has been such a conceited, calculated campaign of seduction even Joseph Goebbels would stand back and applaud. ‘Vogue’ convinced people she was a fashion icon before she even was one and ‘Erotica’ and the accompanying, creatively-titled Sex coffee table book turned her into an unlikely sex symbol. Forget that she can’t act (A League of their Own) or direct (W.E.) 2003’s dreadful ‘Hollywood’ seeks to show us what it’s really like in the Land of Make-Believe. Well she would know, her mantra must be “fake it ‘til you make it”. The real tragedy is that this has become the template for the modern popstar: to make as much of meagre talent as possible through desperate attention seeking and hooking up with fashionable hitmakers to take care of the tunes. And merely jumping on the latest trends makes for some contemptible trash. ‘4 Minutes’ mercifully brought a necessary, albeit temporary halt to the Timbaland/Timberlake juggernaut and I would be blown away if anyone has willingly listened to the horribly dated, insidious cyber-disco of ‘Music’ since 2000. The record-buying public however is not as stupid as Madonna thinks; rumours circulating that she is working with everyone from Daft Punk to Nicki Minaj have been met with not much more than a shrug or an eye-roll. As if to say: if you want your top billing, this time around you’re going to have to find some better material, girl. Better late than never.
One bullet: so many targets. In that case it will always be those soundtrackers to the end of the good times, the beginning of the dirge. Emanating from the established bedrock of independent music (1976 – 1989 R.I.P.) and bringing nothing of innovation or originality only repetition to the table they are the luckiest band ever. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the bland, I give you those Oxymorons, Oasis. Purporting to be at the forefront of a new revolution no one was agitating for, the ‘Sis turned out to be sheep in wolves’ clothing, the sound of the establishment arriving in town replete with Beatle cuts, a laughably surly demeanour (c.f. Liam Gallagher’s offer to have a punch-up with 53 year old George Harrison on Primrose Hill. Dead. Hard.) and terrace wear, they arrived to save us from all that horrible, thoughtful music suffused with intelligence and wit instead installing a lucre at all costs raison d’être. We’re still paying for it. Offering trite ditties about staving off death, a tribute to Stars in your Eyes with “Tonight, (Matthew) I’m a rock and roll star” and that classic about Jim Kerr’s son’s noisy toys, these truly are songs to save your life. Musically uninspiring, pedalling recycled riffs and hooks, this is plod rock, the sound of New Labour’s house band, an integral facet of Trickster Tony’s “hypnoasis” charade. They were indeed “mad fer it” times, a time that memory wishes to forget and by 1997, when the drug-fug had dissipated, the world awoke to find it had been conned. Result: Two criminal masterminds sitting pretty in their mansions. Assembled from the parts of Frankenstein’s monster (brain) John Lydon (sneer), Ian Brown (gait) and naturally John Lennon minus the intellect or passion, the singer (sic) possesses a voice that to human ears sounds like a puncture emitting gaseous bullshit. Scratch that, all ears. Space constraints and overwhelming evidence ensure the lyrics cannot be discussed. Also responsible for the succession of unimaginative, textbook bands that have littered the “indie” consciousness ever since (c.f. no-trick phonies Cursesabian and their ersatz schlock.) To wit, Oasis are over-fêted, bafflingly remunerated and criminally underslated and are to The Beatles what Sinitta is to Aretha. Lennon would be apoplectic at the hullabaloo these fraudsters still generate. Imagine all the people … Oh, and that one bullet? Line ‘em all up single file, quick, before they reform for that universe conquering tour de bores. So much to answer for. Less an Oasis, more a mirage.
Now we just sit back and watch the internet explode.