Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Fight For History

It seems to us that we're constantly in the process of writing and re-writing musical history. Now as we sit here we can conjure up images and stereotypes that we think are representative of each decade. It makes us wonder how this decade will be viewed in the next ten, twenty or however many years. It's our view that in the long run people will see 'the aughts' as a decade of reflection over the previous century, where musical genres and cultural styles have been picked apart and appropriated with a magpie-like compulsion. It seems we've had a revival of sorts of nearly every musical genre with the most apparent being the one that highlights our constant re-writing.

The 1990's, now as we look back, were a decade of excess. Britpop's self reveration borrowed from the 1960's in an attempt to shake off the hangover of the 1980's. It's not surprising really, with a decade of glamour and shine portrayed in the media whilst the country under the Thatcher rule fell apart. However, 'Cool Britannia' couldn't last forever as drugs destroyed many a band and Oasis with their Knebworth gigs became the epitome off excessive self-celebration, Britpop actually ate itself.

Now, like how both Grunge and Britpop seemed a rejection of the sparkle and synthesisers, it seems that we're attempting to reject both musically and culturally the 1990's. We're sloping towards another Conservative government due to the mistakes of this Labour one, and the country is in recession. The 2000s are rejecting the decade that came before it. It doesn't help that the current 1980's revival is in places more derivative than inspired and we can't help but wonder if instead of perceiving the current decade as borrowing and reflecting it will be seen as a plagiarist and unoriginal decade where enjoyment got not beyond the shallow.

Still, for now history has been rewritten. During Britpop, Grunge or even at the heights of Nu-Metal or Pop-Punk (shudder and shudder) a declaration of love for the 1980's, it's music or films could only have been ironic. To do so seriously would have instantly discrediting. Now however those guilty pleasures are serious influences; Duran Duran, Men Without Hats, Pet Shop Boys. And on a flipside of the same coin Blur are attempting a complete reinvention through reuniting and releasing a new compilation.

Midlife: A Beginners Guide To Blur has a fantastic tracklisting, yet there's no 'Country House' or 'Charmless Man'. Instead there's the noisy 'Trimm Trabb' off 13, the shoegazey 'Sing' from their debut, and the brilliant 'Bugman'. With this double CD, gone is the perception of Blur as some Britpopping lads. In its place is the idea of Blur being an experimental rock band in the vain of Radiohead (but not shit obviously).

With all of this going on we're a bit sad to see those not getting in on this act. The worst offenders by far are XFM, who the other day published their list of the 100 Best British Songs of All Time. Sadly every single song on there is by a guitar based group with only one song ('Common People') featuring a woman and only two groups featuring a non-White member (The Specials and Massive Attack). According to XFM the three best British songs of all time are Oasis. We do not need to tell you that as good as 'Live Forever' is, we can think of several hundred British made songs that are better.

Personally we love Britpop. Supergrass, Pulp, Ash, Blur and Manic Street Preachers number amongst our favourite groups of all time. We even find the time to revisit Shed Seven's greatest hits once in a while. At the same time we do enjoy some of the current 80's-style pop music and the music that inspired it. Maybe it's because we feel stuck in the middle of this struggle for history that we're seeing it happen so clearly. Untill history is fully and comprehensively written (presumably this will only occur when we either have a totalitarian state or the generation who remember the 1960's (and insist on it being the only decade allowed to be considered the finest) is gone) we'll sit in the middle and do as we said at the beginning. We'll find the best bits of all decades, genres and styles and use them accordingly. That way history can write itself rather than us silly pop fans.


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