Author Topic: "Look at their clothes! Look at their hair! Such pub rock ugliness, how can you like them?"  (Read 3145 times)

23 Daves

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Just a brief observation...

Back in the early nineties, it was quite common for bands of an alternative stripe to be rather plain looking, have very little dress sense, not much in the way of charisma, and still make their way on to the front page of the NME and clip the lower reaches of the Top 40.  Even bands like Mega City Four and Chapterhouse who were awful musically as well managed to get by for reasons which have yet to be explained.  Not a completely good thing.

Circa Britpop, attitudes began to shift.  In order to justify your worth as a band, you had to have some charisma as a live band and maybe a bit of visual snazz.  Few people objected, as the live music scene had nearly died on its arse a few years before, under siege as it had been from non entities with long hair staring at their shoes.

Just recently, though, it really does seem to have gone too far to me.  Right now, it would seem that in order to get publicity for being in a band, you have to have a sharp haircut, sharp clothes, cheekbones you could cut cheese with, some designer or at least imaginative thrift store clothes, and a pout that could convince a goldfish you were his best gentle mate.  

What's my problem with this?  Simple.  My theory is that things started to go wrong circa 1997 when Tiger (otherwise a fine band) and Bis were regularly slagged in the press not on the basis of their music, which would have been reason enough, but on their weight (in the case of Manda Rin) or their "pub rock ugliness" (to quote Johnny Cigarettes).  The alternative music press appeared to adopt a policy akin to Smash Hits, whereby if your face wasn't picture perfect, you weren't getting in, and if your popularity deemed you fit for entry then mucho disrespect would ensue.  In many respects, this to me is the antithesis of punk or even the hippy movement - both radical and alternative events in rock music - and a desperate throwback to eighties mainstream values.  

First question - does this bother anyone else?  Or does everyone like their pop stars picture perfect?

Second question - where does it leave people in the underground at present who are (as they often have been) dis-shevelled figures?   Could they be considered an effective and convincing reaction for dismissing the obsession with image (see Misty's Big Adventure, Chris T-T) , or are they doomed in the present market regardless of how strong their output is?  Personally I'd love to see more people in the press with opinions and intelligent things to say, and fewer glossy photo sections of people pouting accompanied by brief, clipped interviews of them talking about their drugs or how the last tour 'nearly burned them out, man'.

chand

  • "like Louise Mensch but with a sexy beard"
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I think the 'alternative' market is as much about image as pop is, I see plenty of people wandering around in Strokes t-shirts who look exactly like the fucking Strokes, all thrift-store chic and that 'bed-hair' that they spent an hour styling.

I blame the NME. Okay, fair enough, I blame them for everything, but the hype about, say, Kings Of Leon seemed to be more about their hair and moustaches than their actual music. There does seem to be a massive emphasis on skinny white boys with guitars who have a certain look. I suppose that's what's easier to sell magazines with. No-one gave a fuck about !!!'s splinter band Out Hud, but !!! are hot property, and the only distinctions are that !!! have vocals with swearing in, and that !!! posed for arty photos with exclamation marks scrawled on their chests, musically the two bands are very similar.

There's definitely a certain image expected; with occasional exceptions, every band you see in the NME seems tailor-made to look good on a poster on your bedroom wall. What drove me away from the NME was the dreary orthodoxy with which it was written: The White Stripes must always be given a good review, you must always talk about The Cooper Temple Clause's hair and the Darkness' spandex. It's not just physical appearance, but bands always need to have an 'angle' they can be sold on. The Darkness (look we wear spandex and rock ironically!), The Libertines (ooh internal strife and drugs), The Scissor Sisters (we're arty and cool and you will like us), The Polyphonic Spree (we wear robes and you can fill half your review of our CD going on about how goddamn many of us there are!) The Streets ('voice of a generation'), Goldie Lookin' Chain (we're Welsh comedy rappers who are on the same label as The Darkness). And no doubt there'll be a load of hype about Do Me Bad Things, who are also on The Darkness' label and are making a load of pompous statements. I love Queens Of The Stone Age, but if I read one more interview about Nick Oliveri getting naked and how much fucking drugs they do and how Josh is dating that woman from The Distillers I swear I'm gonna start hurting people.

Ultimately, the alternative music press does put itself in a straitjacket. It has to appeal to a certain market, and this largely means no pop music, nothing TOO heavy, nothing without lyrics (much easier to review a band's lyrics and vocals than their music), nothing experimental or without a hook, and of course, as few black people as possible, because they're not the target market, skinny white boys are. Mclusky seem to have all the right ingredients for NME cover-star fame (Welsh, catchy tunes, endlessly quotable lyrics, attitude), but they've never quite made it because they're ugly fuckers.

Incidentally, I stopped buying the 'New' Musical Express sometime towards the end of last year. Every week I get an email telling me which bands are in the mag, and it's still the same fucking bands I read about then, not a new name among them. Perhaps I expect too much (and maybe there are new bands in the mag itself) but I'd have hoped I would see a massive list of names I'd never heard of.

The obsession with "image" sickens me.  I want to hear fantastic sounds, the rest of the "package" is just a pointless diversion.

Fashionable people: Where's my gun?

Roll on a new era of shambolic-looking fuckers with something profound to say please.

23 Daves

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Well, this is the thing - Franz Ferdinand and Selfish Cunt both apparently "have things to say", but the latter are a sub-sub-Earl Brutus Shoreditch joke, and the former occasionally come out with statements so preposterous you almost lose what respect you had for the music.  At least they're trying I suppose...

I like the White Stripes, actually, and I'm willing to make an exception in their case...

TraceyQ

  • For a while now... Aaaaaaah...
You all sound really, really old.

23 Daves

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Forget it, Tracey, I was always like this...  

Seriously, though, you've got to admit the standard of the so-called alternative music press and their promotion of bands is fucking shocking at the moment, surely?  I could probably find five new bands tomorrow who are better than Selfish Cunt.

chand

  • "like Louise Mensch but with a sexy beard"
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Quote from: "TraceyQ"
You all sound really, really old.


But disillusionment with the mainstream is largely the preserve of young people, surely. My anger at the NME is precisely because I love new music and want to see the good new shit do really well instead of having some fucking journo tell me why The Libertines are 'the most important band of our generation' and hear the latest sub-Heat news about whether Jack and Meg have shagged.

The music scene is alive with wonderful sounds and we're getting fed some dreary shite by the rock/alternative press, much of it based around image.

You're not that old are you Tracey? You've been cul de sac'ed too soon, clawing back your youth through the carefully scruffed hair of stringy indie idols in tight shirts. Everytime I see a picture of you, you look like a 30 odd year old bouncing like your 20, trying to blend in at the back. How old are you? I know you're not meant to ask a lady her age but I'm sure you said you were 24 or something once, it might have been a joke.
I don't think it's new at all, it's been like that forever. All that's changed is the nme, I can't remember a time when it wasn't look-in but then I'm not that old (pulls up collars of admiral jacket or whatever they're wearing nowadays)

TraceyQ

  • For a while now... Aaaaaaah...
I'm 28, pig face.

These kids are all draped in hip rags cos it's fashion, innit? We'll as much be listening to half of them in twelve months time as much as we will be still wearing ponchos. Ok, well, as much as I'll still be wearing a poncho.  The good will out, it always does. I'm still waiting for the Real Rock Revolution to come. And it will.

pfff, I'm getting a new mistress. Pig Face is the equivalant of 1 single flick of the ball bag. Is look-in still going does anyone know?
Quote
Your search - "look-in is looking good" - did not match any documents

That can't be right, shirley

If Look-In is still going I'd be interested in reading the cartoon of The Libertines' Story.  Plenty of pencil drawings of skag needles and Pete Doherty getting nicked for burlgarising his bandmate's house.

Pop and rock have always been obsessed with image, as have the fans.  Apparently in the 60s some mods refused to believe that The Small Faces were mods, because they got sweaty on stage and therefore ruined the lie of their suits.  The theory was that a true mod would be too concerned with looking the bees knees to be dancing about getting hot.

Yer lads in Parkas weren't mods either.  They were scooter boys.  Parkas are bloody horrible-looking things.

Having said all that, I've found Franz Ferinand less palatable since seeing that they've got silly parted fringes.

I like genuine scruffiness in a band. In bands like Black Label Society or Black Sabbath, they usually dressed like scruffy gits (BS started dressing more smartly as time went on) because that was how they dressed normally. Fake scruffiness (think Avril Lavigne) is just laughable.

And I think it's funny when bands try and get by on image alone (think Menswear - the attraction was that they worse suits, or so I'm told by a girl I know).

The problem is that the record industry has always cared more about fashion and image and the zeitgeist than songwriting talent. That's why you never see 50-year old guys in cardigans performing on TOTP (except Cliff Richard)

Quote from: "The Unicorn"
The problem is that the record industry has always cared more about fashion and image and the zeitgeist than songwriting talent. That's why you never see 50-year old guys in cardigans performing on TOTP (except Cliff Richard)


The record industry cares primarily about sales above all else. Radiohead are hardly the best looking/most stylish band ever, yet they do pretty well for themselves. Same for R.E.M. Those are the bands that labels are most interested in signing - ones with longevity (ie they make a lot of money over a sustained period of time). The likes of Franz Ferdinand won't be around as long as either of those bands I'd bet, or if they are it will be on a much smaller level to the one they're at now.

True, but there's a ton of bands out there as good as Radiohead but who aren't being signed because they don't look 'cool' and don't have that NY rock sound that's very popular at the moment.
Radiohead only got big because of 'Creep', which allowed them to expose their music to a wider audience, and REM were going for 8 years before they got a big hit with 'Losing My Religion'.
IT doesn't matter how good you are, if a record company doesn't think it can make money off you, you won't get signed.

chand

  • "like Louise Mensch but with a sexy beard"
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Quote from: "Peking O"
The record industry cares primarily about sales above all else. Radiohead are hardly the best looking/most stylish band ever, yet they do pretty well for themselves.


Radiohead are the exception, up to a point, but you'd be surprised how many people fancy Jonny Greenwood. And Radiohead got their chance because of 'Creep', which was a big hit partly because it has the word 'fuck' in it.

It's not just about being good-looking though, labels will promote you if you have an angle they can sell, be it the big college-rock song (Radiohead), being the only fat person on Pop Idol (Michelle), being young (Charlotte Church, Billie, S Club Juniors), being white but sounding black (Anastacia, Elvis), pretending to be lesbians (tAtU), wearing masks (Slipknot), being a girl with a guitar (Avril Lavigne) etc. It has been going on forever, I suppose, Ben Folds Five had to cut 'Emaline' from their debut album because it had some acoustic guitar on it and execs wanted to push them as The Indie Band Who Have No Guitars.

But yeah, at the moment there does seem to be a prevailing orthodoxy of cheekboned young pretend-scruffy white guitar bands, though I guess that's just the way it goes.

Quote from: "chand"

And Radiohead got their chance because of 'Creep', which was a big hit partly because it has the word 'fuck' in it.

.


Incidentally, a load of people in America complained after they bought the Pablo Honey album and found that the LP version of 'Creep' has the f-word in it, rather than 'very' like the single version.
I also seem to recall some female radio 1 DJ getting into hot water after she accidentally played the album version

chand

  • "like Louise Mensch but with a sexy beard"
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I love the fact that the new Eamon single is about 'O's', because he's such a fucking pussy that he's prepared to change the words into some even more gibbering nonsense to ensure some record sales and airplay. If you're going to be a misogynist at leave have some balls about it.

[and yes, I appreciate the irony of using the word 'pussy' as an insult and then decrying someone else's misogyny, thanks]

monkhouse terror

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Ah now I know why doves were never as popular as coldplay and the like, it's because they look like bin men.

Quote from: "chand"
Radiohead are the exception, up to a point, but you'd be surprised how many people fancy Jonny Greenwood. And Radiohead got their chance because of 'Creep', which was a big hit partly because it has the word 'fuck' in it.


In terms of making money, plain-ish looking bands like Radiohead aren't the exception. Just take a look at some of the highest grossing tours lists, they're full of acts like Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, and an unfathomable amount of seemingly interchangable country artists. It may seem like bands such as Franz Ferdinand are what the music industry covets at the moment (due to over-saturated music press coverage), but believe me, if record exec's could snap up a few more Bruce's and Rod's, they'd take those over the angular-cheekboned Brits any day.

The trick is to stop caring about what the big record labels are up to.  I boycott all RIAA labels, and you should too.

The good stuff that's going on doesn't even get mentioned in the mainstream music press, and I have no idea what the vast majority of the artists I listen to look like.  Warp, Drag City, Thrill Jockey, Domino (and yes, I know the Franz are on Domino), Leaf, Tomlab and Geographic don't sign artists because they will make millions and get on the cover of magazines.  They do it because they like what they are doing and would like to put their records out.

Honestly, just turn your back on the major labels.  They're not worth our time and analysis.  Put your money and your enthusiasm into labels who are into the whole music game for the right reasons, daddio.

</condescending arse>

There's plenty of good stuff on major labels out there though. Most of it is old stuff, granted, but I'd be willing to bet that a lot of it was highly influential on bands that are signed to Drag City, Domino, etc. Are you proposing we boycott that stuff as well?

Quote from: "Peking O"
Are you proposing we boycott that stuff as well?


What a silly thing to say.  Why make this confrontational?  Why put words into my mouth?

I'm entitled to boycott RIAA labels.  It has nothing to do with the artists.

Quote from: "lazyhour"
Quote from: "Peking O"
Are you proposing we boycott that stuff as well?


What a silly thing to say.  Why make this confrontational?  Why put words into my mouth?

I'm entitled to boycott RIAA labels.  It has nothing to do with the artists.


Eh? I wasn't being confrontational, I was asking a genuine question. Not sure what you mean by putting words into your mouth either. Surely by boycotting RIAA labels it has everything to do with the artists that are signed to them, because you are boycotting their work, no?

The Plaque Goblin

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Aren't part of the appeal of their bands down to the fact that people like Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe are curious looking characters?

I don’t see why everyone gets so worked about the NME.  I bought my first copy a couple of years ago for a free CD.  I read it, thought it was a load of guff and have never bought it since.  Easy.  
In defence of the NME though, there’s only so many bands around at any one time, so it’s unlikely they can keep it different for each issue.  However, they are a business as well.  Their primary concern is not to keep us informed of music, it’s to wring every possible penny out of our pockets, and if that can be achieved by listing the different ways that Pete Docherty clips his finger nails every week, you can be sure that they’ll have a team on it.

The only music magazine I read these days is Teletext who don’t have any pictures.  I only listen to 8 hours of radio a week and half of that is talk-based.  Whenever I listen to music, the last thing I think about is how shaggable the bassist is.  With the internet, I can download music without having a clue as to what it is, never mind who it’s by.

As PLC said, image has always been a factor.  How popular would Elvis have been if he was black?  The bands are just playing the game of promotion in the music business (business being the operative word) the same as it’s ever been.  The easiest way to avoid it is not to read anything.

As for the underground or overground argument.  I say that if people are satisfied with what they hear in the mainstream, then let them have it.  Those that genuinely want to hear underground music will seek it out.  Most bands deemed to be underground are usually the last people to care about how they’re perceived.

As for me, in the last year I have been to, or am going to gigs by Scissor Sisters, The Shins, The Hives,  Lemon Jelly, Franz Ferdinand and Ben Kweller. A wide spectrum of fashion-perceptions there but I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t like them in the first place.

As for bands images.  I couldn’t care less how they look / dress for photo shoots and the like, but I love it when they make an effort to dress up or do something different during gigs to make the occasion more special.

For instance, I saw Super Furry Animals dress up as yetis, Clinic dress up as surgeons, British Sea Power dress as fighter pilots with various foliage on stage and - at the end -  a giant bear wandered around on stage, and I won’t even begin to describe a Flaming Lips gig.  It’s the effort that they all put into their ideas and image that stuck in my mind.

However, I can’t fault people who are genuinely into bands for their image.  If that gives them enjoyment then why deny it to them?  I have my own guilty pleasures too as I’m sure others do.  For instance, even though I enjoyed their music before, I thought much more of Hope Of The States (who aren’t exactly poster boys) when I saw their gig whilst wearing their military jackets, which I thought looked incredibly cool.  I’ve been hoping to get my hands on one since, but haven’t been able to spot one yet.

Quote from: "monkhouse terror"
Ah now I know why doves were never as popular as coldplay and the like, it's because they look like bin men.

That, and they're shite live.

When Faith No More started out they were squatters. The last time I saw them they were playing in suits as a comment upon being forced to fulfill their contract before disbanding. However, when Sade recorded Diamond Life they were squatters too, but they wore suits for the inner sleeve in order to woo yuppies.

None of which is much to do with it.

chand

  • "like Louise Mensch but with a sexy beard"
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Quote from: "BetaKarraTene"
In defence of the NME though, there’s only so many bands around at any one time, so it’s unlikely they can keep it different for each issue.


Well that's not really true, there are thousands and thousands of bands around, and I know of many albums they don't review. I'm not saying they need to review everything though.

But again, my main problem was that it got boring when you knew which bands would get glowing 9/10 reviews and no criticism, ever. It'd be nice to see someone there say 'Actually, this new Strokes album's not that good', or something. There just seemed to be too much uniformity of opinion there. But that's just me, I suppose.

Rock /pop has and always will go hand in hand with fashion and image.

At least with dance music, no one gives a fuck what a dj/producer who makes a killer track in his bedroom looks like!

The point we must all  remember that the record industry is not called an industry for nothing.  It needs product packaged to sell and marketing is done with brand imaging.  Its up to us as consumers and listeners to see beyond the image.  Most music journalists are first and foremost, journalists, ie lazy and happy to plagarise the latest record company press release in order to get their copy out.

We hold the power - listen to what you like, form your own opinions and support genuine talent and originality.

By the way, in case anyone hasn't tried it, NME is nowhere near absorbent enough for the use it is most suited for.