What’s the alternative?

I know this is cheating, but I haven’t blogged in nine days. It does defeat the object, but at least anyone passing through will have something new to read this week while I prepare the piece detailing the most exciting news of my life so far.

This is in fact an old article of mine, written a year or so ago when I was historical advisor to a (now defunct) website called precious-metal.tk. I’m still kinda proud of it, which is unusual for me: often I come back mere months later and think “what on earth posessed me to write that?”


So here it is. Enjoy:


A few months ago, not long after the release of ‘Complicated’ in fact, a friend of mine told me that the local skate-punks and metal-heads had a rather low opinion of Avril Lavigne. That really got me thinking in a ‘wonder why?’ sort of way. I mean, to put this in perspective, her voice isn’t too bad, ‘Sk8er Boi’ has everything you’d want from a fast rock track, Avril’s lyrics are more intelligent (and meaningful) than most punk and metal tracks at the moment, and she’s kinda pretty for someone who sneers so well. Examining the situation, Avril Lavigne has everything you could reasonably demand from a rock star…


And then the answer hit me; and when it did, it made me want to cut my hair and buy Westlife’s greatest hits in disgust.


Curious? Well, the answer is that attitude held by the vast majority of hardcore neo-punks and many nu-metal fans: namely that anything mainstream is shit. The many gripes I’ve heard about Limp Bizkit and Blink 182 have rarely centred around a critical appraisal of their music (which is well-produced if nothing else) or even a general dislike of their style, but simply that they’re ‘too commercial’.


‘Too Commercial’ seems to be the ominous phrase of doom levelled against any rock act, regardless of actual talent, that happens to have over-healthy sales or is signed to a major label. Has it not occurred to anyone that the reason these bands are signed to major labels and sell so well might be because their music is actually better and more accessible than most of the over-distorted, angst-ridden tripe that floats effluently on the underground market?


Let me put it this way: how many rock songs can you name from ten or more years ago? How many of those are by the major rock acts (Queen, Iron Maiden, GNR, Aerosmith etc.)? And how many of those are by Stiff Little Fingers? Who, when nu-metal gives way to another rock style, will remember P.O.D? The anthems that get remembered from decade to decade are most often the work of mainstream artists, not because there is some almighty conspiracy in the music industry, but because those mainstream bands are actually better than underground ones.


Pre-packaged pop may well be a bad thing, but the reason it sells is because people like it, not that they’re brainwashed by the music industry. The reason underground music remains underground is because the major labels can’t sell it to a wide audience, and the same goes for individual bands: it’s not that record buyers have no taste (although I do suspect sometimes…), it’s that unsigned bands are usually really bad, working with a pretentious concept of what their style of music is rather than trying to make music that people like. The average rock fan nowadays seems hell-bent on being ‘alternative’ rather than actually using their ears. What sounds like music to the rest of the world just gets dismissed as ‘cheesy’.


We can’t seriously act like fourteen-year-olds forever; it’s time to shake off the pretension of being ‘alternative’. Surely it’s better to just appreciate music for what it is than dismissing everything that isn’t totally inaccessible to the common man as ‘cheesy’ or just plain ‘crap’. Metallica never sold out, they just bought in; and had they listened to their fans at the time, they would have been consigned, like so many other bands, to that tiny corner filled with dinosaur relics of the eighties. Let’s grow up; let’s have some sense.


And just because you can appreciate popular music, doesn’t mean you have to like the Cheeky Girls…


~ by Scary Rob on 19 August, 2004.

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