May 18, 2010

While my guitar gently sods off

The recent news that pop music is outselling rock music is as an important a cultural change as the renaissance, the industrial revolution and processed cheese.

For too long now, the tyranny of the guitar has ruled over us. We have bowed and scraped to our six string masters, as if rebelling against the jangly bastards was as bad as strangling Bill Wyman to death with a jack lead.

The indoctrination starts early. Pony-tailed parents soundbomb their Smiths collection at pregnant tummies to 'train' their newborn into having good taste. Any gawky teenager showing a creative bent has a guitar and a Nirvana chord book shoved into their hands.


And what has it given us? The Beatles, who were responsible for the worst haircuts ever and fixed Liverpool into the '60s for all eternity. Turgid rock behemoths like the Rolling Stones and Status Quo, who somehow made stadium rock acceptable and are therefore responsible for Coldplay. And James Blunt. James Blunt.

Official Charts Company figures show a third of sales in the UK are now pop, compared to rock's tawdry one-quarter share. We have rendered our Fenders to the dustbin. Given ebows the heave-ho. Turned rage against the machine into a polite letter of complaint.

Because pop music is more enamoured with the keyboard as opposed to the guitar, this means electronic music fans win. The keyboard wizard is supreme: Adamski can finally rest in the grave of his forgotten career.


Okay, it's only pop music and not, say, ambient or dubstep or breakcore. Having Lady Gaga and JLS at number one is not great - we'd obviously prefer it if Aphex Twin went platinum, and I'm not talking about his hair. But an unpopular, painful compromise is the step in the right direction. It's true. Just ask a Liberal Democrat.

There are dangers in this brave new world. If rock bands start ditching their guitars, we could be saddled with more Ben Folds Fives and Keanes. They need identifying early. I would suggest border police at the door of every recording studio, with faceless but sinister staff asking everyone "are you now or ever have been a guitar player?"

They would lie of course. But then the cunning officer, feigning informality, would mutter a comment about E flat minor seventh not being the sexiest chord. The secret guitarists' instant and obvious revulsion would see them dragged out the back, cut to pieces with an overly-sharp plectrum and buried in their own guitar case with the word "IRONY" emblazoned across the top in glam lettering.


Having said all that, The Who were quite impressive weren't they? All that windmilling and smashing stuff up. And I quite liked Madchester. The XX and Lonelady have a kind of amazing energy, y'know? In fact, guitar bands are fantastic. Who wrote this crap?

Vive la rock music! Guitar bands are brilliant. If I find you buying pop music, I will slice you. I will smother you with Lady Gaga's hat until you are nothing but a vegetable blithering "ro mah ro-mah-mah" in the corner of an institution.

No, seriously. For too long now, the tyranny of the keyboard has reigned over-- (nurse's note - Fat Roland has gone to sleep now. You can visit him again when he's rested.)


Tim F said...

Theremins. There's a thing. And melodicas.

Dawnriser said...

A Cappella

Tim (Kalyr) said...

Prog Rock! It's got guitars and keyboards.

OTOH, what about the mighty Hawkwind - one minute their grinding out bottom-heavy guitar riffs (with two bass players!!), the next moment they're all bent over laptops and sounding like Orbital. And that's in one song!

And does anyone else think that metal has more in common with some forms of electronica than either genre has with three-chord landfill indie?

Fat Roland said...

Tim F - and kazoos. They count, right?

Dawnriser - You probably weren't quite thinking of this, but everytime someone says a cappella, I think of two things: Greenbelt scratch choirs - and the Cheshire Chord Company:

Tim (K) - No, no, no, no, no. If it still has guitars, it's wrong. Although Hawkwind had a naked drummer, which somehow makes up for the guitars. (I hope you realise I don't actually mean any of this. As a work colleague asked me yesterday, scathingly, "are you now just writing stuff to be deliberately controversial?".)