Thursday, June 28, 2007

today : Rummaging through

Watching the TV coverage of the Arctic Monkeys performing at the Glastonbury Festival last Friday I was struck by the difference between this performance and the one they did at Reading last year. At the time they were overpromoted off the back of massive record sales and looked out of place, nervous and rather amateurish. The Glastonbury performance proved that they even though they are not a natural stadium kind of band, they can hold a headline spot and own a large stage and crowd.

The thing is: I hope they don't get drunk on it and change too much. Editors showed with their set and with their latest record that they are trying to make music for stadium gigs and creating a pointless unfocussed mess in the process. Coldplay took this route and ended up as an overblown pompous proposition creating music to accompany lightshows - The Simple Minds of the New Century. When I first heard 'Fix You' I knew it was over between me and Coldplay. A blatant attempt at writing a cod-religious stadium-filling U2 song it was the organ on the intro that gave it away - indicative of that kind of cynical 'inspirational' sludge that fills stadiums worldwide and bores the pants off anyone with any taste.

Onstage at Glastonbury Alex Turner played and sang with confidence. It appeared as if the Monkeys had taken their headline spot with responsibility and worked hard at providing a show that didn't fall short of the headline billing. The set had ebb and flow (which is especially hard for a band like the Monkeys, whose songs can be a little samey). But still the Monkeys managed to come across as a little band with a big audience. There were no lasers, video screens, customised lightshows and massive racks of guitars to change between songs. No swathes of cabassa players and thin, beautiful black backing singers.

They just played hard and let the songs speak for themselves. It gives me faith that the British public has enduringly great taste in music, and that every few years Britain unfailingly throws up literate, intelligent songwriters who have an individual voice. In Turner's case he has managed to introduce Yorkshire dialect into the mainstream - especially the word mardy. Everyone's using it nowadays.

The suburbs of Britain are still the cradle of the greatest pop music on earth. America can keep its Linkin Parks and its Killers and its Dave Matthews Bands. We Brits are the ones that come up with The Smiths, Suede, Blur, Pulp, Radiohead, The Arctic Monkeys - and Depeche Mode, ABC, Wham, The Manics amongst others. That isn't to say that many American bands aren't great. It's the fact that in England these bands are the most popular in the nation. When was the last time that happened in the USA? Nirvana, I guess. And even then The Pixies (who were pretty much the biggest band in Britain for a while) should have been the ones to sell megamillions.

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