Tuesday, December 23, 2014

bonus Head / "The Musical Era in Which The U.K. Ceased to Matter"

i think the idea was that they were meant to be a sort of modern Mott ("modern" meaning Eighties) or perhaps more nearly The Faces (George Best as icon)

kind of New Lad avant la lettre  -  lovably incorrigible reprobates, boys who should know better

congruent perhaps with ironic cock-rock (Zodiac Mindwarp) and Grebo (how's about that for Bad Music Era,  although that would be more 84-85-86-87)

the "raunch" with "Sin Bin" is entirely gestural, not backed up musically

it sounds like Simply Red (or Simple Minds even) trying to do Free, maybe

but in terms of trajectory the (dis)continuum from




is remarkable and tells you something about the wonky path from postpunk to postpostpunk to the directionless heat-death nadirscape of the UK scene in the mid-to-late Eighties

There was a desire to revert to, or resurrect, rock....  but the knowledge-base (immersion in blues, R&B, seasoned through gigging in small club environments and functional orientation towards making crowds dance) atrophied by punk's indoctrination of the attitude + concept = all you need delusion.  The deskilling of a generation.

But I'm merely parroting Carducci at this point.

(When Lydon made a similar dialectical about-face - back to capital 'r' Rock, only half-a-decade after declaring wishfully that Rock Is Dead -- he at least had the nous to hire Ginger Baker, Tony Williams, Steve Vai, Bill Laswell - i.e. technically adept musicians, dating from a pre-punk era or posssessing a pre-punk mindset)

Thing is, Sager knew what  "cooking" was - he'd ridden one of the great rhythm sections of its era in P. Group... and as much as I find RR&P annoying as hell, there is a heat there - the engine was turned on


Graham Sanford from Our God Is Speed drops by to offer his other-side-of-the-pond perspective on the Bad Music Era, describing it as "The Musical Era in Which The U.K. Ceased to Matter"
as far as nearly all Americans were concerned: 

"I was in high school when MTV went national, so my hs years were filled with Duran Duran, Culture Club, and all the other acts that were being called The Second British Invasion. (Me? I mostly was scrounging around trying to get my hands on records from a couple/few years earlier -- mainly the post-punk stuff that preceded the "New Pop" explosion.)

"But at some point around 1985-6, it was like no one care about what was coming out of the UK, anymore; even though record companies were trying to push the acts really, really hard (via Spin magazine, MTV's "120 Minutes," etc.), relaying all the promo hype. Not many takers, it seemed, for the likes of That Petrol Emotion, SSS, It's Immaterial, Spelt Like This, New Model Army, Gaye Bikers on Acid, et al.. (I think Red Lorry Yellow Lorry might've sold a few stateside discs; but in the end no one seemed to think they were any great shakes.)

"But of course ultimately it was about how most of the music just wasn't much good, if not just plain awful.

"With one of your old Bad Music Era posts, I found myself trying to pinpoint when the tipping point might've been. I think the marketing of Frankie Goes To Hollywood might've been what exhausted the last of American interest -- the frenzy of promotion and sensationalism, but when the album finally came out no one thought it anything special. And then by my calculations, I think the Blow Monkeys was the act at which American audiences said "enough," and pretty much wrote the UK music scene off entirely."

That is how it felt like on our side of the pond too - for some of us, anyway. I was a devout Americanophile, worshipping Husker Du, The Replacements, later Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jnr, et al. And ashamed, with a few exceptions, of the output of the U.K, which seemed spent.  The Bad Music Era lingered on well into the period I was writing on MM, throwing up (appropriate word) the likes of Age of Chance and the aforementioned Grebo gunk. 

 (Of course American had heaping platefuls of indigenous shite. Hold tight for a forthcoming post on College Rock). 

Another one to add to Graham's list of British ignominions would be Love and Rockets, who actually had some chart success in the USA (not in UK though).

And actually all right in their flimsy glammish pop way, but certainly a decline from Bauhaus, who while Gothshit vocally + lyrically, nonetheless had quite an exciting postpunk-related sound and put out some cracking singles.

Also to be filed under f(l)ailed aspiring Resurrection of Rock would be The Cult, although at the time I quite enjoyed their Electric move and even wrote a Sontag-style appreciation of them as camp in a live review, which I might just dig up. (What on earth is a "Love Removal Machine" though? )

The reason I keep returning to the Bad Music Era like a scab is two-fold I think: because it's objective proof to me that there can be periods of cultural decline, it goes against the poptimist article of faith that every year is a a good year; but also because I've reached that point where bad music is more interesting to think about than good music. 

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