Has the World Changed Or Have I Changed?: Musings on the New Musical Express Train to Nowhere

I’ve been meaning to write something about my general feeling of malaise with new music, and now that I’ve read two very eloquent posts about this same feeling at To Die By Your Side and The Vinyl Villain, I very likely don’t need to now because I don’t know if I have that much more to add, to be honest. But since I must write something to keep this blog alive, I’ll do it anyway. It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

I’m twenty-five, so why I feel so jaded about music already is something I would like to try to understand. I agree with what the bloggers above have said about how maturity and acquired knowledge does eventually make music sound less “new” and “innovative”; the more you know about music and music history, the more connections you can make between new and old music. And if there’s one thing I had to learn over the years, it’s that art of any kind must always use what’s come before it in some way. Originality is a flawed concept, and it’s a concept that has dogged me for many years as I shied away from writing creatively for long periods of time, believing that I had nothing “original” to say. In fact, I wrote a short story called Life is Art is Life all about that particular conundrum. I realized that it’s how you build on what’s come before you that makes you special and memorable; no one reinvents the wheel, instead, you get fantastic variations like cars, ferris wheels, and my personal favourite, the pennyfarthing.

As others already noted as well, the music of your youth or the music tied to “new” experiences in your life will always be special to you. It’s why there’s such a thing as nostalgia. I like to think that there will continue to be new bands that will impress me in the future as I grow old, but at the same time, I don’t think they could ever make me feel the way the Manic Street Preachers, The Smiths, The Clash, and New Order do. These artists/bands got to me first and changed my life in their respective ways; for the most part, they ushered me into adulthood. Sadly, only one of them is still around, and through unfortunate circumstances, have had to change from their first, truly brilliant incarnation.

So, have I changed? And is that at the crux of my lack of excitement over most new bands? Likely, that’s a big part of it, but at the same time, the music industry and its attendant press has changed rather drastically in recent years. Technology and the Internet have expanded access for both artists and fans, and they’ve sped up the process of production and promotion. While these developments can be hailed as the next stage of a truly DIY music scene, in a lot of ways, to borrow from Dick Hebdige, they’ve defused and diffused it. It’s become increasingly harder to pick through the sheer masses of artists/bands out there (for my thesis, I made some rough calculations and figured there are at least 450 000 artists/bands with profiles on MySpace). Add to this overwhelming number the erosion of interest via media bombardment, and the situation gets sadder – the more information people are exposed to, the more apathy there is. The brain can only handle so much before needing to defer to others’ opinions to make decisions, and in some cases, the brain just shuts out information wholesale in an act of self-defence.

And of course the advent of MP3 blogs and their aggregators have made it quite easy and speedy to hype a new artist based on very little. Of course, if a band is ultimately worthy of praise, they will weather the hype and continue to make interesting music. But this mad rush for the “new thing” has accelerated to such speeds, I can’t bother to keep up, and instead, have found refuge in filling out my collection with older bands’ back catalogues. Often I end up discovering an old band that I had never heard of before (some blogs can be thanked for this). For example, I only just found out about the post-punk band The Sound this year, and I now consider them one of my favourites. I’m also very aware that the bulk of new music I end up paying attention to is created by artists/bands that have been around for awhile – though, I can often also be disappointed in new output by old artists as stated in my post about The Cure. That’s a different discussion for a different time, mind.

At this stage, my modest patch of cyberspace has by no means garnered too much attention by promotional people, but out of the emails of this nature that I have received, I’ve only been interested in two or three, and only really and truly loved one. As Coxon from To Die By Your Side stated, most bands are just too samey to be worth listening to, let alone worthy of a blog post. I require more than just a new Libertines or Arctic Monkeys, and I am too often disappointed by the comparisons of these new bands to older bands that I love, comparisons which never pan out.

Not only do I have to be critical of the promotional hype I get in my inbox, but I have to be just as critical of the information I get from “professionals.” I know I’ll sound like some whiny curmudgeon when I say that the music press isn’t what it used to be. Sure, in the past, editorial and journalistic styles have displaced that which preceded them, but the recent shifts really don’t speak to me. I like to believe that I would have been far more impressed with the work of Lester Bangs and Nick Kent had I been alive at the time they were prominent. I may also have romantic notions of the more politicized, intelligent NME of the early to mid-eighties, considering I was a small child then, but I do long for those times. I read less and less music magazines these days because either their information is out-of-date, or they’re too busy chasing the next Libertines/Strokes to care about what really matters in music and the discourse that surrounds it. You will never see as brave a cover as that nearly all-black 1986 issue of NME that discussed youth suicide, nor content as brave. As much as I love The Mighty Boosh, they are merely a sales figure booster for the NME with comedic links to music and Noel Fielding’s rather pathetic public antics. I can’t imagine the bands being championed in the recent press as being as iconic and meaningful even ten years down the line as bands like Joy Division and The Smiths were/are. And though I don’t expect all artists/bands to carve “4REAL” into their arms in order to prove a point to the NME, I do long for those who are willing to stand out and stand by their beliefs and opinions, or frankly, willing to have an opinion at all.

Having said all of this, I will say there have been rare instances when the white noise of bands clamouring for attention has cleared for a moment, allowing me to hear new music that I believe has that capacity to change my life. I believe in these bands and what they stand for; not only do their music and lyrics affect me, but so do their ideologies and philosophies, aspects which make art meaningful. They take the brilliant elements of previous artists, musical and otherwise, and multiply them into something more than the sum of their parts. They are “4REAL” in the same way Richey Edwards once was. And these bands aren’t even at their peak yet; there’s no reason they should be, and that very fact makes them exciting. These bands are Vanilla Swingers, Stroszek and Black Umbrella, and you can read about them in more detail when you follow the links below.

Post #1 on Vanilla Swingers

Post #2 on Vanilla Swingers

Post on Stroszek

Post on Black Umbrella

These are the bands that will mean something to me in ten years time. These are the bands I would feature on the cover of a magazine purporting to be about “new” music. These are the bands that continue to give me hope that not all good music was in the past.

Goodbye Lennon – Vanilla Swingers

Railway of Bones – Stroszek

Secret Kiss – Black Umbrella


3 Responses to “Has the World Changed Or Have I Changed?: Musings on the New Musical Express Train to Nowhere”

  1. 1 JC
    July 29, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    “…I very likely don’t need to now because I don’t know if I have that much more to add.”

    Now that is just a nonsense.

    I’ve sat and read your words three times in a row, and quite frankly, you’ve managed to put it a lot better than I did, and on a par with what the great Coxon had to say.

    You’ve a wonderful talent, and like many other amazing bloggers out there, are far more worthy of a wider audience than the chancers who are published (periodicals and books alike), just because they went to school or college with someone well-connected, or heaven forfend, they were flavour of the moment on TV at one small point in history.

    More power to your fingertips.

  2. 2 anglopunk
    August 1, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks for all your support JC. It’s meant a lot, especially as I stumble through this first year of music blogging.

    Frankly, just knowing someone’s reading what I’m writing and enjoying it is hugely motivating. And I suppose I can get a little too self-deprecating, but it’s because I respect bloggers like you.

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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

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Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

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Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

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Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

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Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

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Muse (2004)

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Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave


So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun


Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head


Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away


Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners


Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away


You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender


I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding


You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black


Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side


Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb


Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape


Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah


And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love


We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's


Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south


Running on


As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different


LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell


Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't


So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need


The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest


Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know


No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more


All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids


Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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