One of the great things about ageing is developing a greater sense of perspective and shedding the adolescent stubbornness that characterises so many young males. The jury's out whether this makes up for the onset of hair loss and susceptibility to crippling hang overs. As a youth, in between declaring my devotion to Noel Gallagher I would take time to spout vitriol about the Manic Street Preachers. A number of my friends were big fans of the Welshmen and took great pleasure in attacking my love of the Beatles and their subsequent clones. Like many at that age I was fundamentally unable to distinguish musical output with the personality of the creators. Nicky Wire's attention seeking provocative endorsement of Mark Chapman's slaying of Lennon ensured I was firmly in the anti-Manics camp. As you'll suspect, in older age this view has changed dramatically. I still believe Nicky Wire to be a bit of a wanker, but can appreciate the brilliant feistiness of early Manics and have enjoyed their recent resurgence, particularly their 'Journal for Plague Lovers' album. It seems we both have aged for the better.
Last night my twitter feed was overwhelmed by exaltations for late eighties-early nineties indie bands. It centred largely around two bands who were routinely hailed as the finest the world has ever known. One was The Stone Roses, and though I stop short of declaring them untouchable, I heartily agree that they were a truly magnificent band. If you remain unconvinced have a listen to Mersey Paradise, which was only a B side. The other band drawing such a lofty praise inspired me to write today's blog after a month's hiatus. Reactions to my disclosure of 'not being a fan' of this band have ranged from disbelief to fevered outrage. Rob Blanchette gave a typical response 'the greatest band of all all all time bar none. Best lyricist. Best guitarist. Genius of epic proportions.' Covering this territory yet again I thought I'd share with you five artists who I'm constantly told I should love yet am yet to catch 'the bug.' Starting with the centre of last night's storm...
The Smiths remain a source of continual frustration for me. They are like a phobia I need to conquer - much like how abseiling down a cliff in Cornwall dealt with my vertigo issues, I continue to search for a cure to my aversion for a band that more than any other, people tell me I should adore. Even my leader in life Ryan Adams considers them the best. They're right; I know they're right! The melodies are imaginative, the musicianship on the money, and lyrically I can appreciate how for many they are poetry. To make matters worse I have actually become partial to a Smiths cover - This Charming Man , Ask and There is a light that never goes out. So why have I failed to cross the Rubicon and embrace their alleged greatness? One simple reason:
Another band who I should probably like but do nothing for me. I find Eddie Vedder pompous and they to me always give off an impression of inflated self-importance. I was quite fond of 'Jeremy' for a time but the frankly comedy lyrics meant it soon descended into farce. It also upsets me that Vedder in particular spends so much time massacring artists I hold sacred with abhorrent cover versions. I once had the chance to see Pearl Jam at Leeds Festival but much to the ire of a few of my mates watched Maximo Park instead. Je ne regrette rien.
Doves and Muse
These two deserve co-billing as they fall into very much the same category. Both brought out first albums that had me crowing to all and sundry that they were the future of music, blah blah. Both have spent the remainder of their career seemingly doing their utmost to prove me embarrassingly wrong. They have fallen in to disregard for contrasting reasons - Muse have become overblown showponies who seem to value histrionics over songcraft, and Doves appear to be on a mission to produce music so anodyne and dull that they could cure insomnia. Like The Smiths and Pearl Jam I have often been told how great they are but whereas there is still hope for me if I can conquer my Morrisey antipathy, these two I fear are lost causes.
Joy Division were an incredible band. Ian Curtis is rightly considered one of the finest lyricists of his generation and his energy and magnetism characterised what made the band great. There is not greater testament to the brilliance of Curtis than the result when his influence is tragically taken away from the band. I had the misfortune of seeing New Order at Glastonbury in 2005 and the fact that the highlight was chanting for John Barnes gives you an indication of the poverty of entertainment on offer. The decision to play some Joy Division tracks was somewhat masochistic in the way it exposed for all to see the startling contrast between the thrill of their previous incarnation and the turgid dross on show. Their are some who have extolled the virtues of New Order to me, some going so far as to cite the tedious Blue Monday as a landmark moment in Dance music. To me New Order are the musical equivalent of men in their late thirties hovering around on the perimeter of the local nightclub they should long since have consigned to their lost youth.
Comments welcomed, particularly your own similar experiences of bands you should like.