very single music scene since the dawn of time has been burdened with the weight of really, really shite bands, hangers on, last gasps, panic signings by major (and not so major) labels desperate to keep up with the nebulous and contrived zeitgeist. If we rewind ten years to the last time the London media so fascistically and maniacally dominated the landscape of British music, we get the dregs of Britpop; personable but lightweight groups like The Bluetones scoring number one albums because anyone with a guitar and half a harmony could, hideous dross like Kula Shaker taking up residence in the Top Ten back when you had to sell more than 15,000 singles to get there, unmitigated shit like Catatonia polluting Radio 1, the massive and depressing success of Ocean Colour Scene, the ilk of Space, Marion, Sleeper, and reams of other bands that I’ve long since consigned to the blackhole of memory.
Fastforward to now, and the scene currently on view is one of London-based post-punk action, boys with guitars and edgy fringes. At one end of the spectrum is the near boundless creativity of Bloc Party and the pop nous of The Futureheads, at the other end the disturbing mess of Babyshambles / The Libertines / Pete Doherty, a proliferation of bands prefixing their name with “The” in order to get a deal, Kaiser Chiefs’ tuneful but witless derivation, cynical and hollow US imports like The Killers and (especially) The Bravery (The Post-Killers EMI Strokes, anybody?). And now we have The Others, the final (please, please let it be the final) instalment in the “nu-rock revolution” or the “London art rock” or the “garage rock revival” scene.
The NME is the lone voice of weekly “alternative” print music journalism left in this country. Is it not going gladly into this goodnight, is it raging against the dying of the music, is it hollering for truth and passion and inventiveness? No. It’s a glorified version of Free Advertiser with headache typesets and the budget of IPC Media behind it (NME is now part of IPC Ignite, the publishing company’s “male lifestyle” wing, depressingly) (IPC Media is owned by AOL Time Warner, just in case you didn’t know). Its circulation remains at a constant and tightly-bound 70,000 and extra market share (read “income”) is no longer derived by seeking to expand that readership by covering a diverse range of music in an intelligent style, but rather by milking the loyal core readership with ringtones, t-shirts, and other sundry merchandise. Every time I read about the state of the NME, every time I pick the fucking thing up, I want to cry with frustration and regret and fear at what has been lost and what has risen in its place.
Rumour has it that Conor McNicholas (who is more concerned with his haircut than with the state of journalism in his magazine) pimped the debut album by “edgy London guitar outfit” The Others to all the staff writers at NME, hoping that someone would give it a good review, “because they’re one of our bands and we should push them.” No one offered it praise, so he pimped it around NME’s numerous freelancers until someone agreed to cover it positively. If the NME were a political party this would count as gerrymandering or spin-doctoring of the worst kind, cynical media manipulation to present a false account of the truth. It is the slow procession of ideological state apparatuses through our cultural landscape, withering growth and tarmacing over natural creation with the stench of business and lies and ulterior motives and weak, trend-chasing editors desperate to be cool.
The Others won the “John Peel Award for Innovation” at this year’s NME awards because they’ve played some guerrilla gigs on the London Underground (read “gone busking”) which they organised via the internet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t Flash Mobs been a phenomena for several years now? Never mind the idea of bands playing small, illegal, exclusive gigs to fans which arranged online—if it happens outside London, outside NME’s jurisdiction, it doesn’t happen at all.
The cover sticker of The Others’ debut album is adorned with glowing quotes cut from reviews about iconic frontmen and irresistible teen anthems, painting The Others as thrilling and inspirational. Don’t believe everything that you read. The Others are one of the worst bands I have heard in a long, long time. The are witless, tuneless, charmless, a fog of aimless energy that masquerades as passion, three lumpen, seemingly middle-aged men (one of whom appears to be cloned from Robert Smith) banging guitars like apes while a preening, posing cockfarmer of a singer snarls in an overly affected London punk sneer. Sure, “William” has half a tune, but the likes of “Lackey,” “This Is For The Poor,” “Psychovision,” and “Stan Bowles” are so inanely stupid, so grotesquely contorted beneath their own simplicity and ignorance and ugliness, that any even mildly mediating factors are rendered useless under the assault of incompetence and mediocrity. And yet this is “Britain’s most worshipped new band” according to the NME freelancer who finally gave in and wrote the review. The Others are flatulent, crapulent, and worthless. I despair.