It pains me to admit this, but I’ve become jaded, musically speaking. This chap, who once pored over release schedules and went to the record shop most Mondays to pick up something farm-fresh, hasn’t bought anything new for ages. Don’t get me wrong. I still love a nice tune, but there’s just nothing being made today that makes me go ‘bloody hell, who’s that?’. The next CD I buy (do you want woofers and tweeters with it, grandad?) will be something from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band catalogue, to follow up on my recent purchase of a ‘best of’ compilation (although how it can claim to be a ‘best of’ without including ‘Boston Tea Party’ is beyond my comprehension), but I’m currently undecided which one to go for.
The first problem is that when I hear something ‘new’, I can usually pick it apart and identify all of the influences. In particular, it rankles that so many bands have done well by sounding like a pale imitation of XTC or Squeeze, while either band has yet to receive even 1/10 of the kudos and royalties they deserve. I admit that it’s always been the case. My mum would come into my bedroom (never bloody well knocking, until a traumatic incident made her very punctilious in this regard) asking “Is this Three Dog Night?” when I was listening to something I thought was wonderfully original. I’ve just crossed over to the other side of the fence.
Secondly, there seem to be a lot of artists who have become successful not by exciting anyone’s passions, but by being acceptable to a large enough number. I’m sure it’s always been the case, but it just seems more obvious now. Even the wock and woll webels are crushingly ordinary. The Kaiser Chiefs seem to be about the best we can manage, but the strongest reaction they provoke in me is ‘meh’. Does anyone really get passionate about them, or have they become big because nobody really minds them? Meanwhile, who let that mumbling bore Jack Johnson – for people who find John Mayer a bit too edgy – become famous?
I’m not asking for uneasy listening. As I get older, I find myself unapologetically reaching for my Dean Friedman (Maturity = realising what a bloody clever song ‘Lucky Stars’ truly is, wisdom = realising that he did loads of other songs that were even better on that album alone, including ‘The Deli Song (Corned Beef on Wry)’ and ‘Rocking Chair’), Andrew Gold (‘Hope You Feel Good’ from ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture?’ being a real stand-out) and Rupert Holmes (I’ll see your ‘Pina Colada Song’ and raise you the sublime, cynical ‘Him’ – complete with ‘my Mini-Moog’s broken’ comb and paper solo) records. Even Peter Skellern. Stuff like ‘You’re a Lady’, ‘Hold On To Love’ and ‘Our Jackie’s Getting Married’ is quirky pop of the highest order. I can take or leave the faux-1930s stuff he did later – it’s nice, but it comes across as a good musician relieved to find a lucrative niche after years of struggling with his own original material. I just find their modern equivalents paralysingly dull.
Or maybe it’s just me.