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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sunday morning ramble - Music snobbery.

Music snobs, as opposed to fans, are a strange breed.
On one hand they profess to love music, but dig a little deeper and what they mean is that they love what they like.
Very often that's just one genre.
Everything else is rubbish.

A friend recently commented about the cliquish nature of aficionados of folk music, and how he has a very small degree of loathing for them.
Although loathing may be too strong a word for it. Even when prefixed with small.
It actually wasn't a word that he used to be honest.
In fact I very much doubt he lies awake at night dreaming of fire-bombing folk clubs and burning effigies resplendent in Arran knit sweaters.
Although he might.
I mean you never can tell can you?
So lets change that from minor loathing to a great deal of distaste for them.
That's better.

Anyway, this wasn't any sort of snobbery on his part, nor was it a dig at folk music in itself.
Or even a jab at every single solitary folk lover.
What he was really getting at was the attitude that is displayed from a certain type of fan.
The sort of fan that carries a silent eh! tagged onto the end of the descriptive term.
The snobbish sort.
I suspect his distaste is actually rooted in how they consider that the music has to fit into a neat little box, and how some woolly view on authenticity must be adhered to.
It is the woe betide anyone who doesn't commit to their very rigidly self imposed views of the genre attitude that is the thing that is really off putting.
There's no room for growth, experimentation or much stretching of the genre at all when that sort of view is clung to.
This is refined and exclusive snobbery at its best.
There's nothing very healthy about it, and thankfully it does seem to be one that is losing its grip on people to an extent.

Or maybe it is just shifting a bit?
Sort of evolving into something else, but I will get to that in a bit.

In the past, when I was a young man, we had tribes of music fans, and in some cases never the twain could meet.
Mods vs rockers, everyone vs punks etc etc.
There was a minefield of unwritten rules about what you could like, and if you liked that one thing then how you couldn't like another thing.
It was an attitude that I was well aware of, but it didn't really have much to do with.
Those of a certain vintage will remember it well.
For myself I always found it to be a strange, and petty, mindset.

(This was probably because as the oldest of three I had no one to guide me in discovering music and had to forge my own path forward.
Another reason for my failure to subscribe to one tribe or another is because I lived in a village that by dint of size didn't lend itself to pockets of disparate music fans flourishing.
It's entirely possible that if a had been a city kid with an older brother, or sister, then my formative years as a music fan would have been very different.)

Now after decades of genres crossing over most people who claim to be music fans are comfortable in having an eclectic range of taste.
No one would raise much of an eyebrow any more if an individual expressed their love of Frank Sinatra and Slayer in the same breath.
In fact their wide tastes would be applauded.
You could be forgiven in thinking that musical snobbery really was a thing of the past, but it's not, and this is where the evolution of it comes back to bite us.
Instead of it vanishing I would claim that all the sub genres appear to have made an alliance together in opposition to what they consider to be the common enemy, and that enemy is pop music.

Now I will readily put my hand up and admit freely to often bemoaning the state of popular music, but my lack of enthusiasm isn't rooted in snobbery, as give me what I think is a good song and I'm unashamedly happy to tell anyone how much I like it.
I don't care who sings it, or even if it comes from a franchise like the x-factor.
When I write a song off as rubbish then it is of course a subjective view, but it is also based on my opinion that much, but not all, of popular music is shockingly one dimensional and rarely strays from a template that has very little artistic worth any more.
It's the repetitive nature of much that is popular at the moment that is a turn off.
After a few hours of a music channel that focusses on pop music playing the latest hits in heavy rotation I - like others who profess a love of music - need to be kept away from sharp utensils in case I harm myself or others.
That's not snobbery.
That's an aversion to a sort of chinese water torture.
Or maybe I'm rationalizing my own loathing.

Now here's an example of snobbery as I see it.
When Scouting for Girls released their second album I sent some friends an mp3 of one of the tracks without telling them who it was.
Everyone who got a copy felt it was okay to very good.
No one thought it was rubbish.
Or to be more accurate no one did until they found out who it was, and then most did.
The song didn't matter any more, and the fact that it was a pop band was enough to sway their opinion into the negative.
Similarly many years ago I expressed an opinion that Luke Goss and his Band of Thieves had released a good song and that was met with much derision due to it being 'the guy from Bros'.
More recently Charlie Simpson (he of Busted) has been getting played a great deal as his solo album is in my opinion what we in the west of Scotland would call a 'belter'.
That he was part of a very successful boy band means little to me.
All that matters is the song, or songs in his case.
Why is there still some baggage hanging around what he is doing I don't really know.
Isn't it more relevant what his current projects are rather than what has come before?

I suppose my rambling about this is really just getting at one thing, and that's that it is 2013, and while we have moved on a great deal from the tribes fighting on Brighton beach it would seem that we still have a way to go before the walls are completely knocked down.
That's not to say that everyone should like everything, but just that maybe we should all open our ears a bit more and just get down with whatever it is regardless of the name tag that is attached to it.

There's a great deal of good stuff out there and it is a great shame that some of it is being ignored for nonsensical reasons.

Here's some Charlie to enjoy.


  1. charliesimpsonsjamrag13 January 2013 at 21:41

    Busted and Bros.
    The sound of the barrel being scraped.

  2. Your dismissal of both, and the point of the blog update, just highlights that snobbery is still alive and well.
    It is heartening to see that you have sussed out how to include a name when posting a comment. It took long enough for the penny to drop.

    My faith in humanity has been restored.