The New Boring

A recent Billboard magazine has “Rock Is Dead” as it’s front cover headline. There’s a part of me – the part who saw The Clash LIVE – who agrees with this. But maybe Rock’s just changed, like everything else in our post-postmodern world. It’s rock, Jim, but not as we know it.
Some speak of The New Boring. Music sales are down and record companies don’t like risk. They want safe, reliable and, well, boring. They love Adeles and Coldplays: nice tunes for uncertain times. Coldplay apparently accounted for about 50% of EMI’s sales last year. That’s a big cash cow and EMI don’t want to frighten the horses. Mylo Xyloto: only the title was weird or different or challenging, not the content. Adele’s shifted plenty units too but, without wishing to appear rude, it’s hardly reinvented the wheel. Even oh-so-edgy Amy Winehouse didn’t exactly push the envelope
The mainstream has always been a bit boring. Englebert Humperdinck had the biggest hit of 1967, not the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Who etc. You know, the good stuff. The silent majority has always liked it’s fluff. Here’s the Hump…

The modern equivalent might be your average X-Factor dross. The triumph of marketing over content. The question today is the same as it’s always been then. If record companies want to play it safe then what competes with The Boring? What makes a difference and adds to the equation today? All the forms are known. The template for “classic” Rock was set over 40 years ago: bass, guitar, drum. All we’ve done over the years is add more bells and whistles. An empty box of tricks.
It’s hard to compete with a past that includes Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones – who weren’t destroyed in 1977 as prophecised…

Rock gets scared every now and then by a Strokes, White Stripes or Libertines. What those bands have in common is that they developed under the radar and built up a community, either by playing live or using the MySpaces of this world. This is the stuff of Rock Dreams, like a Beatles at The Cavern or Stones at the Crawdaddy Club. It’s hard to grow outside the Meejah bubble now. We’re so uber-connected, plugged-in and webbed-up that most things seem to get co-opted, chewed up and spat out, faster and faster…

Bands don’t get a chance to develop and grow. I think that’s why all those Stone Roses reunion gigs sold out in record time. They were part of a scene. A secret, special moment, when Rave culture was still underground with a new drug, look, music. That doesn’t happen anymore.

Rock, film, TV and all the other Arts are still finding their way in the Twenty First Century. Technology will lead us down more and more untrodden paths. For example, David Hockney’s new show has canvases created using the “Brush” app on his iPad. Music has an immediacy that makes it connect differently with an audience, which is why live music is still popular. And people will always want to the chase the new, to be entertained by novelty. Florence & The Machine? It’s basically Kate Bush with modern production techniques. The wish to connect is still there though. People want the communal experience.
So, who’s gonna save us from The New Boring? That’s the fun bit. Hearing a tune that makes you stop and go “Yeah!”. Or just tap your toe. Or at least raise a quizzical ear. Scanning the racks and leafing the press, here’s some that seem to be getting ver Kidz excited this year. Me? Sadly, I saw The Clash and that’s my yardstick. The bar was set high…

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