What the world was waiting for

The Mambo was present at the Brixton Electric little over a week ago to hear Kevin Shields’ casually claim that My Bloody Valentine’s forever delayed follow-up 1991’s unspeakably perfect Loveless could finally emerge in ‘2 or 3 days.’ Naturally, such words engendered enormous excitement despite only those in the audience possessed of the most unswerving optimism expecting such a time-frame to be met (particularly as that night’s set-list contained only 1 new song). This after all, is a band infamous for their contempt of punctuality and a band who laboured for years merely to remaster old material. As such, after 22 years, the prospect of new material hitting such a projection seemed somewhat fanciful. And of course, so it would prove.

Still, arriving only a few days later than posited, the appearance of the surreally-monikered m b v, announced via a typically understated Facebook post, felt like cause for enormous excitement. Perhaps fittingly, such joy was tempered by the band’s website immediately crashing under the strain of eager fans stampeding to sample their latest offering, yet just as a delay of a mere few days felt premature given the Valentine’s usual timekeeping tardiness, a delay of an additional few hours served only to heighten the anticipation.

Initial impressions may have been that m b v lacks the melodic immediacy of Loveless, repeated listens (and there have been repeated listens at Mambo Towers) reveal a subtly hypnotic, beautiful and incredibly addictive record. Whilst the opening 6 tracks feel like a natural progression from the previous album, largely characterised by half-buried vocals amidst noisy but languorously seductive guitar distortion, the closing 3 offer more of a progression. Whilst The Mambo’s firm belief that a significant part of the Valentine’s appeal resides as much in their vocal melodies as their genre-defining sonic innovations sees instrumental Nothing Is discarded as the album’s only filler, those either side of it are simply extraordinary. Unfathomably managing to dispell the fears of cacophonous hideousness brought on by reports of Shields’ interest in jungle and drum’n’bass (styles self-evidently and inherenetly atrocious), both in another way and wonder 2 succeed in drawing tunefulness from the least likely settings whilst sounding entirely like nothing else ever likely to be heard.

Unsurprisingly, m b v may not prove as seismic or as seminal as its predecessor and after 22 years, a 9 track record seems pretty light, it nonetheless marks a wonderful return for one of the very few bands who retain a sound entirely their own. This, coupled with the fact that the new track showcased at Brixton is enigmatically absent from m b v, therefore offering hope of further releases, provokes the sort of wild, feral delight in The Mambo that only Juan Román Riquelme can usually coax out.

As an aside, last weekend also saw the premiere of Suede’s comeback single. Having had their thunder fully stolen by the wholly unexpected return of David Bowie when unveiling new track Barriers only weeks ago, it was difficult not to feel a little for them as once again, they were ushered into the background. The timing was especially unfortunate given that It Starts And Ends With You really is pretty fantastic, with Anderson’s voice regaining much of the urgency so characteristic of much of his band’s preposterous, glorious past.

(N.B. If you fancy reading a proper review or indeed, an actual review of m b v rather than my clumsy paean – I really should stick to the football pieces – then the ever-excellent Alexis Petridis’ effort in the Guardian really is very, very good).

DC

The return of Suede (and the demise of HMV)

Amidst the hype signalled by David Bowie’s surprise return, many could be forgiven for thinking that nothing else of note is happening on the musical horizon. Indeed, it is a particularly cruel coincidence that Bowie, of all people, should opt to release his comeback single within 24 hours of Suede, also re-emerging after a decade’s silence, unveiling the first taster from their forthcoming album. That said, it must also be noted that Where Are We Now? is perhaps the stronger offering of the 2 but still the decidedly understated reaction to the reformation of arguably the finest band of their generation remains a sadness. Jarring sharply with the euphoric welcome afforded to mid-90s rivals Blur, culminating with a flagship performance at the closing ceremony of last year’s London Olympics, Suede have a right to feel aggrieved at the lack of love elicited by their revival. After all, great as they were, Blur never made a record as seismically, preposterously brilliant as Dog Man Star.

Nevertheless, the band haven’t always helped themselves. Bowing out with the deeply underwhelming A New Morning saw few mourn Suede’s passing, a tarnished legacy which maybe motivated the once insouciantly ingenious partnership of Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler to reunite as The Tears in 2004. Propelled by a promising lead-off single in Refugees, the accompanying Here Come The Tears was by no means a disaster nor even especially disappointing but little appeared left of the old magic. Anderson’s endless gauche similes, although a departure from the doomed provincial romanticism and such lyrical touch-stones as lonely crowds, circle lines and nuclear skies, which would become almost self-parody in Suede’s later efforts, were particularly uninspiring. Consequently, weight was given to the suggestion that his creative well had run sadly dry; that the frenzied urgency of his youth had receded with age. A succession of so-so solo records ensued, scarcely whetting the appetite for a reunion yet now that it has materialised, it should be deemed cause for celebration. Certainly, there is no contemporary band anything like Suede, with ‘Britpop’s’ lack of influence outside of its the more laddish, coarser and infinitely crapper side an ongoing disappointment (though I thought The Boyfriends were alright…), as British music and the sad, dwindling NME could certainly do with the advent of an Anderson or a Jarvis Cocker. And most importantly of course, Barriers is a fine comeback and offers hope that the forthcoming Bloodsports lp will be far from their jaded previous record.

Despite the partially justified claims that the Suede’s best material was produced by its earlier line-up, their period of greatest commercial success followed Butler’s departure and the introduction of then-17 year-old replacement Richard Oakes and Neil Codling. Naturally, chart success is practically never a barometer of artistic merit but post-Butler Suede produced some exceptional material and as a 10 year-old, I was convinced that Coming Up was clearly the greatest record ever made. True, the follow-up, 1999’s Head Music was a more a patchy affair (though I adored it at the time) but the band’s productivity saw that gems still emerged discarded as b-sides. Indeed, the timing of Suede’s return is also notable as it comes framed by the demise of HMV, a retailer which throughout my childhood was synonymous with the Suede flipside.

Although personally, the chain failed to serve any useful purpose some time ago as its diminishing music section stopped catering for my increasingly esoteric tastes, the announcement of its slide into administration still provoked a certain wistful nostalgic sorrow. You see, in the mid-1990s, the announcement of new Suede single was an event and HMV was the venue. Well, I say ‘announcement’ yet really in those pre-internet days, releases were never really announced in my world and instead, I was left to learn of them through flyers plastered across abandoned shops and pubs as my dad drove into Birmingham city centre. The sight of that trademark font would be cause for great excitement as my dad was exuberantly demanded to slow down so that I could catch the release date and plan my route into town after school to pick up the forthcoming single from Mansun, Blur, Pulp, Elastica, The Charlatans or ideally, Suede (I wish I’d had the foresight to be able to include Hefner and Belle & Sebastian in that list but they were much later discoveries).

Back then, a single was effectively an EP, quite literally in Mansun’s case, with exclusive tracks backing each format, which invariably included at least 2 CDs (looking back perhaps the advent of a third disc was a tacit admission of dwindling interest outside of the devotees), each generally priced at the pocket money-friendly fee of £1.99 (Oasis’ were labelled at a rather more prohibitive £3.99). Lean spells between new releases would be filled diligently collecting back catalogues, although Suede, initially somewhat frustratingly, made ownership of those many of those singles obsolete with the wonderful double album compilation Sci Fi Lullabies (which despite being effectively a duplicate tracklist was still feverishly snapped-up on the Monday of issue. From HMV, naturally) but later-career highlights such as God’s Gift or Leaving ensured the single format’s prominence lingered on a little longer.

Lamentably, this practice is effectively dead. Physical singles don’t sell in these digital days, the b-sides culture of the bands of my youth no longer thrives and I’ve most likely not bought a CD single since Attitude, Suede’s limp 2003 farewell. As such, HMV pretty much lost its importance to me that day in a way that Suede never will and I for one welcome their return and look eagerly await the March release of Bloodsports. Shame I’ll have to buy it from Tesco.

DC

Les Rallizes Dénudés

As is widely known, we at The Mambo have our finger firmly placed on the pulse of popular culture. As such, our attention has been turned to the likes of Robbie Williams and Rihanna of late, so in an attempt to turn away from the lurid, vacuous filth that sadly constitutes pop music in these dark days, we shall seek to re-assert our impeccable hipster credentials in focusing on Japanese avant-psychedelia and specifically, the life-changingly brilliant Les Rallizes Dénudés. Yeah, we were ignorant of the genre’s existence until a couple of weeks back too. Indeed, the band themselves, despite a career spanning 4 decades, remain obscure even in their native Japan (although Julian Cope’s championing in his Japrocksampler has slightly raised their profile). This naturally is immaterial, with the unfathomable success of tasteless tosser Simon Cowell (and so many, many others) testament to the negligible correlation between quality and record sales, particularly as the band’s reclusive nature and wilfulness was in any case never conducive to any commercial success. Neither in truth was their sound. Down-tempo songs, backed by simple, repetitive basslines and streaked in swathes of screaming feedback are hardly the ingredients for superstardom but such crass goals were unlikely to concern a leftist band whose origins lie in Tokyo’s avant-garde theatre groups.

Still, for all their appeal it is frustration as much as mystique that shrouds the band. Even their name, an international version of the Japanese 裸のラリーズ/Hadaka no Rariizu, offers itself to ambiguity and uncertainty as it’s clumsy translation holds no French meaning, yet The Mambo’s famed investigative analysis offers that The Stripped Comrades would perhaps be the closest English approximation of the original. Active from the late-‘60s through to the mid-‘90s, Les Rallizes still, from what little information is available, appear to have neglected in recording a proper studio album (despite the slightly misleadingly-monikered boxset Mars Studio 1980). Their legacy instead resides in a beguiling labyrinth of demos and live recordings which for years existed only in the form of scarce bootlegs. Happily, a spate of releases have since been issued, with the sublimely-titled collections Heavier Than a Death in the Family and Blind Baby Has It’s Mother’s Eyes documents of their sprawling, noise-drenched sound, where a mere handful of tracks consume an entire disc, even if the earlier Cable Hogue Soundtrack is The Mambo’s personal favourite.

The obvious references would surely be the garage rock of The Stooges and especially White Heat/White Light-era Velvet Underground. That said, lengthier tracks disdainful of any conventional structure and enveloped in what is at times pure noise would suggest a familiarity with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, albeit without resulting in something quite so contrarily impenetrable. The reliance on live recordings and singer/guitarist Takashi Mizutani’s aesthetic insistence that all songs should never be performed the same twice has led to versions varying wildly in length (and as is infuriatingly the case, sound quality) with extended stretches of screeching, abrasive jamming at times resembling Edinburgh’s gloriously short-lived Fire Engines, another huge Mambo favourite.

Nevertheless, whilst Les Rallizes’ signature sound is perhaps best exemplified in the ferocious feedback of Night of the Assassins and The Last One, arguably even more impressive is the more subdued, smacked-out psychedelia of Fallin’ Love With, Romance of Black Grief or White Waking. Here,platform is given to Mizutani’s ghostly, echoing, at times even proto-shoegazing vocals, a virtue which does much to elevate Les Rallizes far above compatriot kindred spirits such as Flower Travellin’ Band and Taj Mahal Travellers. Certainly, for all their fondness for volume, 1991’s Mizutani collection eschews much of the ear-bursting blast in favour of a far more subtle, reflective sound, typified by the hauntingly beautiful Distant Memory and Dansyo1, songs owing far more to The Velvet’s Pale Blue Eyes than I Heard Her Call My Name.

For all their obscurity, the band have managed certain notoriety from original bassist Moriaki Wakabayashi’s involvement in the hijacking of Japan Airlines flight 351 in 1970. Orchestrated by the Japanese Red Army, a militant group aiming to overthrow their nation’s government and monarchy alongside lofty ambitions of instigating a worldwide revolution, the act’s perpetrators were consequently granted asylum in North Korea, where Wakabayashi still resides despite public declarations of a willingness to return and face trial in Japan. Although allegedly offered a role in the hijacking and his reported involvement with the Red Army, the perenially black-clad Mizutani thankfully declined and thus remained the central architect of Les Rallizes’ sublime yet overlooked sound.

DC

 

Rihanna’s new album has caught the attention of the Mambo

Here at the Mambo we always try and refrain from involving ourselves in celebrity tittle tattle. We really do. But every once in a while we get on our high horses over something that upon first look appears to be beneath us.

And that, my friends, is Rihanna’s new album.

Yes, you read me right.

Its release has caused quite the controversy. What with her doing a duet on the year’s most important musical release with her former boyfriend, the largely unrepentant and inexplicably popular thug Chris Brown, who had given her a severe beating a couple of years ago when they were an item.

Delightful chaps aren’t they, men who hit women. Love them to bits. I’m sure she asked for it too.

Now this will be safely dismissed by some as celebrity trivia, but clearly it isn’t. Rihanna’s album will be bought and listened to by millions of people across the world, in particular by young girls (and some boys), and many of those people will actually pay attention to the lyrics. It will have an influence.

Alexis Petridis at the Guardian did the right thing on focussing on the context and less on the actual music in his recent review of Unapologetic, and most worryingly he is quite right to point out that a great deal of the lyrical content seems to directly address her relationship with Brown. And not in a good way. It may sound distasteful to even be asking this, but is she really exploiting her past as a victim to sell records? It would appear so.

The cynicism is scary. Now I appreciate that pop music is created and largely exists in a moral vacuum but this is really crossing the line. It’s also incredibly degrading for Rihanna to be using an awful event in her life in such a nakedly mercenary fashion.

There are wider issues too.

Millions of impressionable kids (both girls and boys) will be listening to this record over the next few months, and a fair proportion of them will be paying attention to its contents quite closely (we all did it that age……) And the contents are basically letting Brown off the hook and condoning domestic violence.

There has been no serious mea culpa by Brown that I’m aware of or that I can find online. No acknowledgement that his behaviour was unacceptable and no attempt to seek help. His career looked like it might be in trouble momentarily but that moment passed. His new-found bad-boy status appears to have been more beneficial than  Amongst his fans, the issue appears to have been largely forgotten. Well forgotten, apart from the people who seem to think that he probably wasn’t at fault, as this terrifying passage from another Guardian article on the issue amply demonstrates:

I went to see a romantic comedy Brown was in recently, and the teenage girls in front of me screamed every time he was on screen. This man is guilty of domestic abuse – we all saw the pictures – but after all that these girls still squealed with delight like he was in One Direction. These are the people buying his records and it doesn’t bother them what he has done. I was at an event when teenage girls were talking about the attack and one said, “Maybe she said something,” and another said, “I heard she has a mouth on her.” My mouth was hanging open in shock. So really Brown and Rihanna’s relationship reflects problems we already have.

Right on, sisters……….

The last sentence of the passage is also very telling. I’m sure Rihanna’s album isn’t going to persuade anyone to abuse their partners who wasn’t already likely to, but it will help facilitate an intellectual climate where it is condoned and the victim ends up being blamed.

And whilst my gut instinct is to be angry with Rihanna for putting her name to a record glorifying a thug like Brown, I think we need to look deeper, at why no one around her, who are probably unconcerned at what she does and what message she is sending to her fans as long as she keeps raking in the money that they are getting a hefty slice of, has ever told her it was a mistake. She wouldn’t have written any of the material. Or the unedifying lyrics.

She’s a product with a team behind her, one of whom surely, at some point, has spent some time in the real world and must have wondered if putting out material like this was a good idea.

Rihanna is merely one tiny, unimportant cog in a huge chain of amorality.

There you go. Thought I’d finish on a slightly grandiose note.

An act of militant abstention by the Mambo

The successful PCC candidate in the Midlands, Bob Jones.

On Thursday I literally broke the habit of a lifetime and didn’t vote in an election. It was a conscious, deliberate choice to abstain. Quite simply, for the first time in my life I couldn’t motivate myself to make a positive choice for any of the candidates (in the West Midlands a singularly abject crowd of cranks, smirking halfwits, bores and in several cases, just utter, listless dross) and the abysmal turnout (of around 12% in the Midlands and not much higher nationally) renders the election a farce.

(The turnout we have seen is a lot smaller than when most unions ballot for strike action. In that light, can we expect the Tories to declare the whole process illegitimate and the successful candidates having no mandate……?)

Anyway, I had no impact on the election of Bob Jones as police commissioner for the West Midlands, and to be honest I think I made the right decision. Candidates all round the country had one thing in common: they were spectacularly uninspiring. It has been the same old has-beens, never-will-bes and all round mediocrities who are about as exciting as a Pot Noodle, all spouting off Orwellian corporate-speak and vacuous clichés in the absence of any ideology beyond playing to the (ever-shrinking) gallery; people that always dominate the vast majority of local elections. John Prescott? Michael  Mates? A N Other, a generic, oddball, boring, crypto-fascist mouth-breather? Really? Is this the best we can do?

And I think we need to be clear on the purpose of elected police commissioners. They are a wheeze cooked up by the Tories to get a load of Kelvin MacKenzie wankers put in charge of policing up and down the country and to provide a cover for the wholesale privatization of the service. If every successful candidate was going to be a left-winger the Tories would never have proposed it. Naturally. They aren’t that daft.

The Tories and their troglodyte cheerleaders want policing politicised, but only politicised along their chosen lines, i.e. a nauseating combination of Robocop, Gary Bushell and Ayn Rand.

Of course the proposal’s beneficiaries proponents will try and place PCCs in the context of everyone’s new favourite buzzword, localism.  And like all contemporary terms of mainstream political discourse, the word is simply a euphemism. Localism means passing the responsibility and flak for cuts onto local politicians and away from national ones. There is no genuine transfer of power away from the centre. Naturally. To repeat, the Tories aren’t that daft.

As a matter of principle I have no objection to the actions and powers of the police being democratized. But democracy means rather more than an election of a grotesquely overpaid figurehead who will legitimise or stand powerless to prevent privatization (which will remove what little accountability and democratic control of policing that there is currently).

Democratization means shining a light on the service and their at times highly questionable actions, giving ordinary people control over what forces’ priorities are, what the police do and how they do it.

That isn’t what we are been given at this election. Quite the opposite in fact.

To compound the undemocratic nature of the process, we didn’t even get a say on whether or not we wanted elected PCCs (unlike elected mayors, and now the people have made the ‘wrong’ choice they may well be imposed on us in any case……) They have simply been foisted upon on us whether we like it or not (clearly Cameron was worried we would make the wrong decision again…….)

As far as I can see PCCs can’t stop privatization in its tracks even though that is the big issue facing the service right now (although I suppose they might be able to slow it down a bit and draw attention to the issues. Most of the successful candidates will end up doing nothing of the kind of course, whatever they might have said before the election to win votes…….)

In sum, the whole thing is a self-indulgent and cynical waste of time and taxpayers money. Which is rather ironic considering we are constantly being told there is no money left for anything.

I had no desire to give legitimacy to an election that I think is a dangerous farce. My abstention may have only been a small, largely impotent gesture, but on balance I think it was the right one.

A paean to Floodland

Today, according to Wikipedia anyway, is the 25th anniversary of the release of the Sister of Mercy’s album Floodland.

Big deal, I hear you cry. Christ, Mambo, have you lost your mind? An 80s goth band? Have you no appreciation of good music? Your taste in records is worse than the standard of your articles!

Touché, dear reader, I reply. Very droll. However I really like Floodland and so, in the absence of anything else to talk about today*, I’m going to say a few words about it.

Now the SOM aren’t to everyone’s taste and I’m not surprised that they have been largely forgotten. When it comes to lists of important acts of the 1980s, they won’t be very close to the top. They sound very much of their time, as it were. (The image on the cover of Floodland is so stereotypically 80s that I wondered on first examination if it was a piss-take. It isn’t…..)

And drum machines, or obvious drum machines, are very passé when it comes to the old rock ‘n’ roll. Indie sludge has done its work in setting the modern parameters.

The singing on SOM albums wouldn’t win any talent contests either.

SOM were and are one of those ‘might have been’ bands. At one time they could have gone stratospheric, but a combination of epic egotism, changing tastes, the constraints of being labelled ‘goth’ and just pure eccentricity on the part of the band’s leader saw things end rather differently.

They, or more specifically Andrew Eldritch, were enormously, pompously pretentious and destructively self-indulgent. It would ultimately prove fatal to the band’s chances of sustained success (and more importantly, releasing more than just one other album, in 1990, despite SOM still being active as of 2012)

Anyway, history lesson aside, what of the music?

The opener Dominion/Mother Russia is basically one song seguing into another but with the same repetitive, artificial, drum beat. Great song though, although it took me ages to work out what Eldritch was talking about. The video for the song is extraordinarily ludicrous.

The meaning of Eldritch’s lyrics is often hard to fathom, but at least they had some meaning (he talks about politics, alienation and romance if you listen carefully), unlike the cliché-mongering of his former bandmates in The Mission, who Eldritch mercilessly satirised in the album’s lead track, the stupendous, seemingly never-ending, choir-backed, 10 minutes+ This Corrosion.

Although to be fair to Eldritch’s erstwhile colleagues Tower of Strength is a corker……….

The words of Corrosion are basically a succession of meaningless banalities and vacuous pearls of wisdom. Listen to most Mission songs and you will find that is exactly what the lyrics consist of. At times Wayne Hussey et al were an embarrassing band to listen to.

Corrosion has also been described as ‘Wagnerian’ when I’ve read about the song online and I can see where that label comes from. It is also probably the closest the album comes to ‘rock’, in that there are actually guitars, or sounds similar to guitars, present at various points………

The other single, the hugely influential Lucretia My Reflection,(the album version is half the length of the single, ironically) with its opaque lyrics about war and the Borgias, is the album’s third standout track. It has been covered by a host of bands subsequently.

And what of the rest? Well, firstly with possibly one exception (Flood II) none of the rest could have been released as a single. If you think the three tracks already mentioned sound dated, just listen to the rest. Pure 80s suicide-inducing, over-polished decadence. Flood I in particular, and Colours, track 10 on the version of the album I own, sounds like something out of a John Carpenter film.

It’s all great though. I’ve listened to it countless times and I never get bored of it. It shouldn’t work, and the fact that the ‘radio-friendly’ material sits so comfortably on an album with material that is the dead opposite of ‘radio-friendly’ always bemuses me. But it does work. Fantastically.

It’s a celebration of the worst excesses of 80s music production and in some respects is the crystallization of everything I hate, and I’m sure our resident Avant-garde hipster, the peerless, zeitgeist-defining DC, is shaking his head in disbelief at these words. The bands that SOM and Floodland have influenced are for the most part very, very dreary indeed.

But that doesn’t stop me loving Floodland.

And if Andrew Eldritch is reading this, please remember that a band’s legacy is defined by the quality of its albums, not its live shows. It’s a band’s recorded material that gets picked up by the next generation.

*Naturally there are actually other things for me to talk about (the BBC, the international crisis of capitalism, the future of working class political representation, John Terry, etc.) but I want to write about The Sisters of Mercy today. So there.

On the left Patricia Morrison, the other member of SOM at the time, and on the right, Andrew Eldritch. According to legend Morrison contributed virtually nothing to Floodland musically.

Nick Grimshaw and Robbie Williams

Nick Grimshaw in a totally plausible pose

Right, so, now then. The kids’ music. They are very precious about it, or so I hear, and their gatekeeper is Nick Grimshaw.

They know what they like.

And they like to keep it real. Shabba.

So that means no place for 38 year old Robbie Williams. Despite getting to number one his new single, Candy, AKA the second most boring song ever made after Bohemian Rhapsody, is not on BBC Radio 1’s playlist.

Williams is too old. His music isn’t ‘relevant’. One Direction on the other hand are relevant, naturally, according to Grimshaw.

Now admittedly there is a crude logic to the decision. Robbie Williams and his oeuvre of dreary, beige, Alan Titchmarsh Show-friendly pop is very Radio 2. Williams isn’t exactly doing anything radical musically. He hasn’t got anything to say. He appeals to people who still get drunk a lot but are probably too old to be getting drunk a lot. (Indeed, maybe it’s my sobriety that’s preventing me from appreciating just how talented he is………)

And Radio 1 does claim that its target audience isn’t those people but children barely out of puberty, and not the 30 somethings who the inexplicably popular and utterly repellent Chris Moyles apparently appealed to in their droves.  The appointment of Grimshaw is meant to signal the death rattle of the Friends generation. (The ferocious reaction to Grimshaw’s comments about Williams belies a deep touchiness on the part of people like Jamie Oliver who clearly don’t like the idea of getting old and told they aren’t down with the kids anymore.)

Plus, Robbie Williams’ music is unspeakably bad. Even by contemporary pop standards it’s shite. Sadly I have to endure Candy at work several times a day as my colleagues insist on playing the radio, and it is truly dire. Music designed for people who don’t actually like music very much.

So fair play to Radio 1 to refusing to play it and to Nick Grimshaw for dismissing it and Williams out of hand. Take That aren’t important or relevant and as far as it goes Grimshaw’s comments are spot-on.

But I think that young Nick may have made the right decision for the wrong reasons.

In truth Take That and Williams were never relevant.  It isn’t that their time has passed.

They never had a time.

Sure, they sold loads of records and had loads of young girls screaming at them when I was younger. But they were never any good. They never made any records that people will be excitedly discovering for the first time 20 or 40 years hence. In fact, Take That’s body of work has already been largely forgotten. Who remembers the tracks on their first album? What was it even called? Could anyone name them without googling them? And yet I and many others could give you a track by track breakdown of Dreamtime without even a moment’s thought……..

And it’s this notion of music being age-appropriate that winds me up. If something is good, it’s good.  If it isn’t, it isn’t. It doesn’t matter when it came out and who it’s by. If it’s good it will stand the test of time and be found by the next generation (well the next generation of people who know what they’re talking about). It sounds ludicrously crude but with music it really is as simple as that. Good records will be good in 20 years time. Good records and artists are records and artists that won’t and couldn’t be dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ in 20 years time.

So Grimshaw can claim to be Mr Cool in dismissing old fuddy-duddies like Williams. But if he’s citing One Direction rather than Williams/Take That as the definition of contemporary pop relevance, he is just making himself look like a dickhead.

The reverence for ‘new’ music (which is increasingly frequently just a derivation of something someone has done before in any case) baffles me.

It’s like this thing with the new material by the Rolling Stones. It generates excitement and breathless analysis simply because it’s new. Even though it sounds like the work of a very mediocre Stones tribute band. Wouldn’t it be better for all those Stones fans, most of whom you can bet your life don’t actually own that many Stones records, to go out and get hold of their albums from the 60s and 70s, back when the band was genuinely amazing?

If Grimshaw really believes that Robbie Williams means nothing, maybe he should use the opportunity he has on a flagship radio show listened to by millions to play something interesting (regardless of what year it was released, it could be new-interesting or old-interesting, it wouldn’t matter which) occasionally, rather than exclusively artists who in 15 years time will be dismissed in exactly the way that he has just dismissed Williams.

One Direction could well be playing Butlins in a few years time like East 17 are now. Grimshaw himself will be nothing more than a footnote in 15 years time. He should bear that in mind before he plays the age card. One day it might be him on the receiving end of it.

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