Where’s the significance?
Where’s the significance?
A few months ago, when we were slowly crawling into darker damper weather, I went to see Polica at the Roundhouse. I have to be honest the performance wasn’t quite as I expected. Three years previous I had seen them at ‘End of the Road’, where they were vibrant, daring and uninhibited. Lead singer, Channy Leaneagh, was awashed with energy and enthusiasm that day.
In fact, it was the day I started to take notice of the band.
So evidently I wasn’t an early comer to Polica’s music, but when I saw them at the Roundhouse, the energy levels were muted. This isn’t to say the music was muted. I am a big fan of their latest album, ‘United Crushers’, and feel the dark undertone of the music is perfectly complimented by her ‘trancey’ vocals. But then again, I’m not one to comment on music, and have little interest in debating the rhythm, beat, melody, synths etc etc.
I’ve always been one for simply sitting down and listening. For taking away any preconceived thoughts or feelings you have towards the genre or even artist. Start each song as a new experiment, where you empty yourself and enjoy.
A small sidetrack, granted.
The performance was muted. Yet it is understandable after a gruelling tour hitting its final moments. This is not to mention the fact that Channy is now a mother, and this, as we can imagine, brings other unique challenges.
The event got me thinking about tours, and music in general. The industry has taken a hit from the introduction of free streaming and illegal streaming. Spotify and Apple Music have created an oligopoly which makes it uncomfortable for upcoming artists. And let us make one thing clear, they do need to make a living.
That being said, there is still money in live music, as people are becoming more and more willing to pay. Pushing artists to do longer and longer ‘World Tours’.
There are issues in every industry, and music isn’t an anomaly.
However the main reason for me writing this is to do with an insight into music, and perhaps slightly optimistically, attempting to see a change in the universal tide. We all know the effect music has on the world. Just look at the Punk era and the cultural barriers bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash had on a dying Britain. Rewind further and see Elvis Presley who created music many people wouldn’t have associated to a good-looking tall dark white man. Think Beethoven. Think Beatles. Think David Bowie. Think NWA. Even think of The X Factor, because unfortunately enough, it changed the course of music. Things change, they adapt, and music is often the arena to see its infancy.
Having listed names, and certainly missed many off, there is one thing that has often come to my mind. Music has been male dominated.
I know, I know. There is Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Madonna. There are a whole host of successful female musicians. But I am talking about the norm over the outlier. Female musicians have recently been sex icons in pop and R&B, which is unfortunate, but makes sense in a highly consumerist society.
Now I have seen a plethora of startlingly good music led by women. This year has seen the introduction of Let’s Eat Grandma, two seventeen year olds inventing a unique and eery sound, I have also enjoyed Honeyblood, the new Daughter album, of course Polica, Christine and the Queens, NAO, Kate Tempest. Looking at past years I couldn’t get enough of Wolf Alice, and am still itching to see them. I am thrilled that they will be on the soundtrack for the new ‘Trainspotting’ film.
I look back and think of Laura Marling, PJ Harvey, OH Wonder, Gwen Stefani in No Doubt, Alison Mosshart in The Kills, Hayley Williams in Paramore, Tegan and Sara, Claire Boucher AKA Grimes, the late Amy Whinehouse, Lily Allen, MIA, and the list does go on.
I have left off the obvious ones you may be thinking of. Mainly because I’m not convinced mainstream music changes anything, and also because I don’t feel popular music is resonated in the majority of the world. It doesn’t speak to them. Flashing your body or stylish cars and clothes is a by-product of the degeneration caused by music’s growth in the 90’s.
I am mentioning artists in the alternative, indie, acoustic, trance pop, and rock scene. Which, I believe, has genuine merit to change the psyche for the better. I also believe it will be led by female artists. I believe this because male artists are distinctly uncool. You see the same long hair, impervious facial hair, baggy clothes, vain attempts to use glasses with no lenses, torn jeans, bla bla. Men have lost their swagger. Potentially because they still copy Mick Jagger. 50 years on.
It comes to the age old saying of ‘there is nothing cooler than a woman who plays guitar’. Which isn’t just a stereotype, but highly condescending. What I am alluding to is the laid back, ‘go with the flow’, striking attitude that is being brought by Ellie Rowsell at Wolf Alice and the like.
Ellie was interviewed by NME a while back. She wore thick wellington boots and a strong black overcoat, she was relaxed, perky, and fancy this…she smiled. Not something you associate to Noel Gallagher. She, along with others, is a true breathe of fresh air in an industry which for too long has predicated itself on appearance and ‘back-chat’.
The lead singer for Daughter, Elena Tonra, has been open about how she used music as a child to escape from the crippling emotional effect bullying had on her. And may I make a judgement, an opinion, that a bullying system which is fed by the popular culture of ‘look at me’ or ‘building a palace of me’ as the poet turned rapper Kate Tempest firmly puts it.
You may see where this is heading. It's in the view, I hold, that when something is created its opposite will be born. Just like the central nervous system of a human body, and just like white blood cells. There is never one thing, per se. I say this because music took a turn a while ago. A turn for the worse, when it became more about entertainment than enjoyment. With this it shed its skin, and naturally grew a new one. Which I believe is coming now.
This goes onto something bigger and still bigger. It may seem optimistic, and it may seem as if I’m connecting dots that I want to connect. There is a lot of truth in that. But hear me out.
There is a rise of something ‘odd’ in the air. When I was growing up people were quite poisonous about politics, and the general consensus was it didn’t relate to a younger generation. For some reason, an elder more closed minded society thought this meant ‘excitement’. So we now live in a world where a celebrity is becoming the President of the United States, where opinions are sought as facts, where everywhere you look there is a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. I argue this is unnatural, and I also argue that this isn’t a bad thing.
If you are ever outraged by comments made in the media by someone in power, or worried about dying empathy pushed forward by the enlightenment of social media, know this. There is an opposite born, and you’ll find it in music and art. There are thousands, check, millions of people who feel the same way. The youth of this country are not addicted to social media. They voted for an open society in two of the biggest political events in a lifetime, but will go unheard. Through the millions, only one or two need to find courage, because they already have a following. Someone is being born, at this moment in time, who will change the world. And now. And now. And now. There is no theory of relativity to that.
The “Great” British Empire bred a humble Indian lawyer who chose not to fight fire with fire, but with water. It rings true that this will happen again.
It upsets me that art subjects are being cut back in schools. It upsets me that some grown adults aren’t interested in their counterparts, and walk around with a false sense of entitlement. It upsets me that the male oriented society we live in goes for cheap thrills, makes poisonous comments thinking they’re humorous. But when we went for entertainment in music, these women were born. And when we go for it in “politics”, others will be born.
When I saw Polica at ‘End of the Road’ all those years ago, I saw something special. I honestly did. She could move in a way not seen enough in music. She was sprightly. She flew along with the music, hood up, microphone pierced to her lips, enthusiasm bleeding sweetly from the dark summers evening. Music changes from attitude more than it does from lyrics. When I speak of female, I am talking of a different attitude, not anything predetermined by sex.
I say this from a personal perspective too. I have recently found myself wanting to be alongside women more than men. Women give an aroma of being open to a world and people, and through a time where it is becoming more and more closed, this is a necessity which could become a facet for survival.
Luxury is no longer contemporary. The corporate world has been desperate for the introduction of women to senior roles, and clearly needs to pay women as much as it does men. It boggles my mind that they are unable to solve this problem. With music, as art, problems aren’t as stringent. It simply needs a breakthrough, not many years of grinding through work. It’s more fluid and organic.
These artists are cool. When I look to the men in similar positions, perhaps higher up in the tree, such as The Black Keys, The Libertines etc. You couldn’t get less cool. It’s been done before. It’s too narrow. Safe. That isn’t to say the music isn’t great. But Blur, Oasis, Radiohead were also not ‘get out of your chair’ cool. They had an appearance which worked, and there was no attitudinal change to break barriers.
I leave you on a quote from Let’s Eat Grandma. Two seventeen year old girls, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, were interviewed by the equally old classed unimaginative Guardian recently. I leave the excerpt below:
“If I was somebody outside who heard our music, I’d think is this really good or really shit?” says Hollingworth. “You don’t know – I don’t know.” “Is it?” they ask each other, blithely. With that spirit, the pair have the freedom to push pop forwards – recorders in tow.”
This ‘let go and let God’ attitude is breeding. It is also an attitude which cannot be fought. Through the changing of this universal tide will breed an open minded creative spirit.
God created man in his, or indeed her, own image. I feel we simply need to bring down the barriers to this, to see the image. I believe this is happening.
Music will change. Whether we like it or not. But having whinged progressively through my teen years that music was dying and fading into a classless mechanism devoid of spirit. I am now comfortably surprised and optimistic that a generation of female led bands will restructure the sector, and therefore, the world.
By Callum Junor
Huge thank you to Callum for allowing me to use this piece!
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