Thursday, May 23, 2024

retro and proud of it

 The Retro Critique refuted, by a Melody Maker reader, November 2 1996

Well, it's a point of view, and on its own terms, watertight. 

And as for us elitist-miserabilist-obscurists... I feel seen. 

Although I had stopped writing for MM by this point, it feels like this piece from several months earlier might have contributed to the Britpop-lover's backlash - in it I start to describe Tribal Gathering as a kind of anti-Britpop convergence, then correct myself: actually the Tribal Gathered are blissfully unconcerned with Oasis-at-Knebworth etc, and it's actually Britpop that is the anti-formation - anti faceless techno bollocks etc etc

Also letters like this might have goaded Joe Handy to the rescue of his fellow ladrock-lovers


steevee said...

The '90s were so bleak and broken we had to turn to the past for inspiration? If only this guy could foresee the 21st century!

Anonymous said...

There were plenty of blokey bollocks in dance music. Underworld and similar rock-like dance acts were just as bad as the boring Britpop retro lot. As with most genres or scenes you have to look beyond the obvious for the good stuff. Besides new stuff becomes retro quickly. Everything is retro now, and it seems forever. But Kula Shaker and others were kinda still born anyway and a lot of Britpop was unexciting compared to rave and what followed. But Prodigy and some others, while exciting, just felt like they were invoking punk-rock. Which was in a pretty mouldy state and thoroughly retro.

Nothing really changes, even when at the time it feels as if it does.

Anonymous said...

A spirited letter from Joe Handy, and one which taps into something that I've often suspected about anti-Britpop feeling -
A sort of vague resentment among raveheads that the indie saddoes had something fun and sexy to play with for a change,
suddenly seemed confident and well-adjusted, getting out and meeting people, etc.

Personally, I've always seen the sixties retro thing in regard to Britpop as a great big red herring. The people who formed Britpop groups were surely the kids who had grown up listening to The Jam/The Smiths/The Stone Roses, and that's the lineage they were following. I get some back up here from John Harris' book The Last Party where it is revealed that both Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher didn't really get into sixties music until they were in their early twenties, so for them it was more about discovery than revivalism.

One reason why I got into Britpop, aged 14,15, was because the kind of sounds it was harking back to - classic 60s acts like The Kinks and The Small Faces, honorary Brit Scott Walker, certain threads of glam, New Wave, The Smiths circa 1984,
was exactly the kind of old music that I was getting into, anyway. It would have just been churlish to reject a new mode that brought all these together.

Besides, the content and attitude was very much of the nineties. I would suggest that Animal Nitrate, Girls & Boys, Live Forever, Sorted For E's & Whiz are songs that could only have been written by people who had lived through the rave era
(or in the case of Oasis - Madchester), but maybe not the desire to make rave type music.


>more about discovery than revivalism.

what's the distinction you are making here? anyone doing a revival has to "discover" the thing they are going to revive... no one revives something unwittingly

Sixties-ism a red herring?
erm, Oasis's biggest hit was called "Wonderwall", borrowed from the title of a George Harrison album. In '96 they appeared on the front of Melody Maker with the words Beatles 1967-69 written on Liam's out-facing hand. They covered "I am The Walrus". Noel's favorite bedtime reading for many years was Ian MacDonald's Beatles song-by-song book Revolution in the Head.

They might have liked and grown up during the era of The Jam/The Smiths/The Stone Roses, but... the first and third of those are very Sixties-ish influenced and sounding (the Stone Roses almost singlehandedly brought back the Beatles as a reference point -during the postpunk to indie era, they really were off the table as an influence). And Oasis don't sound like any of those groups, except vocally Liam Gallagher got something from Ian Brown.

"the kind of sounds it was harking back to - classic 60s acts like The Kinks and The Small Faces, honorary Brit Scott Walker, certain threads of glam, New Wave, The Smiths circa 1984"
yeah Britpop was the perpetuation of an ever-narrowing canon.

Whereas the Beatles and others groups in the Sixties were listening and responding what was going on in real-time in all kinds of music - musique concrete, soul, R&B etc - and pulling unusual-for-pop things out of the archives (Indian raga, music hall). Plus they were intellectually curious in a way that Oasis were not - they were only interested in the Beatles, not the things the Beatles were interested in. Noel Gallagher only reads books about music (and disdains fiction - "why should I read made-up stuff").

Anonymous said...

The distinction would be between stuff that is informed by the past and something that is going all out to recreate it.

When I hear Wonderwall, I can pick up on some sixties fixation, but I wouldn't say it was swamped by it. I can also hear
something in the delivery that plainly belongs to it's own time, whereas, a band like Kula Shaker, say, actually were taking it to that Austin Powers level. When I'd hear the opening bars of a Kula Shaker song on the radio, then straight away, I'm thinking
the clock has stopped in 1968, here.

As for the ever-narrowing canon - I should think that I was fine with the narrow-ness, at the time. By the time, I was 17, 18, I was looking for some expanse. Sometimes, you do find yourself sticking to one avenue, for a while. That doesn't mean it has to be a cul-de-sac.

Matthew McKinnon said...

Underworld ‘blokey’?

If you were talking about Chemical Bros. or their big-beat clones, maybe. But doesn’t really fit Underworld’s music or presentation.

Anonymous said...


Underworld literally had a chorus that went "Lager, lager, lager, lager".

Matthew McKinnon said...

I knew you were going to come back with that.

That doesn’t exactly typify their output though does it? It’s like saying New Order were Barry White tribute act on the basis of the sleazy vocals on Fine Time.

Got any other examples of laddish lyrics or music from them?