Tuesday, 19 February 2013

I'm A Believer (and what's happening this week)

Two very different pieces of writing have led me to a single conclusion this week. The likelihood of a link between Alexis Petridis' review of the Palma Violets debut album and the Daily Mail's vicious response to Hilary Mantel's thoughtful dissection of the role of Princesses in history would appear slim and yet looking at both examples there it is, pure and simple; an inability to accept truth. In the case of the review, Alexis' rejection of the band as the saviours of indie, in the case of the Mail, a desire to represent a thoughtful look at media presentations of royal women as an attack on an individual. In both cases, the only loser is truth.

Granted, the Palma Violets review is somewhat out of the ordinary. Using half of the review to discuss other reviews and presentations of the band may seem out of kilter to some but given that the 'story' of Palma Violets is as much about the hype as the music, (and the need of the UK music media to acclaim something every year as the saviour of something), for a broadsheet cultural section to discuss this in the context of the album does not seem particularly odd. Further, with that review following the music monthlies and weeklies, Alexis has put a new voice into the debate and opened up a forum for discussion that is sorely needed as we watch potentially excellent bands put to the sword year on year by unrealistic expectations. This is what I want the upper end of music criticism to do; remove the 'will they, won't they' approach to coverage of bands and instead focus on the meaning of their music and their presentation within the context of culture.

Any discussion of the Daily Mail distorting the truth is, frankly, a waste of words. However, the fuss that has been generated by a two week old Hilary Mantel lecture following the Mail's undoubtedly opportunistic decision to front page it a fortnight later reveals a similar unwillingness to look at something in depth. Whilst the blogosphere abounds with outraged Mail-ites (and more) buying into the wholesale idea that Mantel launched a personal attack on the princess few seem to have bothered to both read and THINK ABOUT the lecture she delivered. As with the Palma Violets there is a refusal to engage with an argument, its simply easier to shout and point and, ultimately, miss the point. Somewhere in all of that is a delicious irony given that a piece about the reduction of women to vessels for the projection of meaning and power has seen a response based on the ugliness of its female author.

Britain has never been easy with intellectual debate. For all our Shakespeare's and our Dicken's from country gossip and witch hunts to penny dreadfuls and the tabloids the overriding culture of this island, whilst complicated, has revolved around a mistrust of anyone who wants to think about things too hard or pull away from the consensus to suggest that the Wizard may actually be a little man behind a curtain. Whilst Mantel's piece about royalty (and therefore power) may be more important in the grand scheme of things, to those of us who care about nurturing and encouraging a truly interesting alternative music scene Alexis' review was equally important. If there is no truth, there is no meaning......

Aside from making tenuous connections between historical novelists and up and coming indie bands this week sees our own new hopes play a very special gig tomorrow. Night Engine's achievement in selling out the Borderline is notable, few new bands manage such a thing so early in their lives. Night Engine are NOT the saviours of indie, no one is or should be, but they are a fantastic band with a wonderful attitude to and engagement with their music and I am very much looking forward to seeing another milestone in their story tomorrow evening. This lovely interview with Fader is a good way to get started for those new to the band.

Monday sees Balthazar release their album, 'Rats'. Another excellent live band, this album continues to reveal little mysteries to me on repeated listens and I love the way that Jinte and Maarten, the two songwriters, have created a world with their music, evocative of smoky bars and stolen looks.

Elsewhere, The Joy Formidable end the week with a support to Bloc Party at Earls Court before setting off for the second leg of their UK tour, more on that next week and there will be news on Jack Daniel's plans for this year in music and, hopefully, a couple of new additions to the Loudhailer family to announce next week. And a new Velcro Hooks video. What more could you want?

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