Monday, June 16, 2008

Coldplay and wet music

The most cryptic review in history and why music and politics rarely mix

Last week The Independent's reviewer Andy Gill explained why Coldplay get on our nerves. As their latest release, the Brian Eno-produced Viva La Vida, is already outselling their 2005's hit X&Y, it's good to know that we're not alone in our distaste. There are millions out there who find Coldplay's music extremely annoying, safe, oily and too much to bear. Coldplay may have learnt how to recycle paper, but they are as apathetic and bland as a Wendy house. Remember those days of Live 8-related excitement? Chris Martin was on telly to celebrate the new wave of goodness and loved-up sentiments but when given the chance to explain why the arms trade is evil and poverty is bad he simply didn’t have a fucking clue and was ripped to shreds.

Andy Gill got it right when he likened Coldplay to "the epic solemnity of state funerals, their huge, heartbreaking cord changes sucker-punching you with emotional logic while sapping any anger or political engagement".

However, here's where we ditch Coldplay and focus on the reviewer. Fuckin' hell, mate, stop writing as if you were penning a PhD in sociology. Gill's endless review - and the good points he argues - are totally eclipsed by the most cryptic language that's ever graced the earth. Each single paragraph has to be re-read several times to make any sense. And it's not a case of wagging-your-finger type of ignorance. It goes beyond dexterity with words. It always baffles me when people feel the need to write in such a deliberately obscure, elitist manner.

Just check this out. Andy Gill wrote: "But at least Oasis promulgated the kind of spirit and energy that galvanises the soul, rather than the notion that all problems can be assuaged by impotent sympathy set to repetitive piano ostinatos". What the fuck is a piano ostinato? After close inspection, I guess he means that at least Oasis carried some raw energy rather than just be about soppy piano ballads.

Or this one: "lines feeding off the soul-carrion of the insecure and lonely while offering no solutions, merely crumbs of solace expanded to wedding-cake size by the music monumentalism within which they're set […]", or "[…] did Blairism effectively wipe out the ideological component of modern pop, emptying it of grass-roots political impetus in favour of less troublesome, easily harnessed celebrity-gesture politics".

But before you end up pissed on self-masturbatory (or, as Gill might say, "auto-onanistic") language, let's remain on this subject of "celebrity-gesture politics".

Gill talks about the Coldplay formula "poisoning" this generation, but perhaps he got lost in his own literary maze. I mean, Mr Gill, look at the previous generation - U2 and Bob Geldof, Simple Minds' Mandela Day, Sting and his rainforest-related distress or Phil Collins' wet odes to the homeless...You'd have had to have been a pretty nasty piece of work to disagree with the vague goodness of their message. Because that's the limit of music and politics together, and one that crosscuts generations. It's hard to pull it off without coming across as a sanctimonious, churchy, wishy-washy Bob Geldof. Bands that managed to convey a coherent, gritty, subtle political message without sounding naïve, pathetic and indulgent can be counted on fingertips. In my book, The Smiths, The Housemartins, The Jam, Pink Floyd and Radiohead were amongst the very few who did the trick. Even The Clash, at times, ran the risk of falling prey to rabble-rousing posturing.

So I don’t know what Andy Gill means when he writes that "rock'n'roll used to be a rallying cry", but I dearly hope what he has in mind is neither Billy Bragg's politicking nor the Sex Pistols pulling faces.


Anonymous said...

Is it the same Andy Gill who was in Gang of Four?

claude said...

...I was wondering myself actually...