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Another letter to the poor sods at Uncool magazine…

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Mumford & Sons - Grammys

By Lucy Cage

Mumford & Sons’ singular importance in rock’s current moment cannot be underestimated,” is not a sentence I ever imagined I’d read.

Especially not in the debut article deployed by a potential music webzine  as a Kickstarter carrot, and especially not one which trumpets itself as offering A NEW KIND OF MUSIC JOURNALISM.

And extra especially doubly definitely not in one which has just come under articulate fire for its lack of diversity/ambition.

Mumford & Sons! Seriously?

Look, here’s the thing, Uncool: Mumford & Sons have become the embodiment of the kind of privilege-blindness you’ve just been accused of; why on Earth would you write a feature focusing on their apparently glorious, genre-spawning ascent at all, let alone this week?

Maybe it didn’t cross the water, all the righteous furore about them and their nu-folk compadres, the privately-educated kids with guitars hijacking rock’s avant cool and using their boorish mass to de-claw its fury at the exact same point in history when the working class is being battered by cuts and joblessness. (Here’s an overview of the debate; unfortunately Simon Price’s fantastic article in The Word which sparked it off is not available online.) Maybe it hasn’t bitten the blogging rock writers of America how fucking frustrating it is that people who are top of the heap privilege-wise (I’m thinking specifically of the frontman of M&S pals Noah And The Whale, Charlie I don’t think where we come from really comes into it Fink) can dismiss class as way of analysing music. Or that they can refute so easily the idea that someone’s sociocultural location might contribute to the content/sound/reception of their music in ways worth dissecting. Maybe this particular Brit-crit seethe, the reason why the band is referred to the length and breadth of Facebook GB as Bumford & Cunts, has escaped the editors of Uncool?

Which, OK. Whatever. You’re missing it because they’re missing it because you’re both from the same particular dominant demographic in the indierockverse. As Dorian Lynskey says in his perceptive blog post on rich kids in rock, it’s not a coincidence. That’s the way the kyriarchy works. (He also says this: “Entitlement and complacency – the sense of going through life without touching the sides – are the enemy of good art, and I hear them in a lot of young bands” which is a crucial consideration if you’re not just going to be slagging off posh boys for being posh boys, fun though that might be.)

If kyriarchy’s a new one on you, I’d advise you to stop what you’re doing, click and learn and come back when you know what the hell I’m talking about. You’re welcome; here to help. It’s all about who you are (in terms of your race, sexuality, gender, physical ability, age, financial security, cisbodiedness, education, class etc) and how where you’re caught in those complex intersectional webs of dominance/oppression affect what you understand of the world and what you project out into it.

You’ve just projected Mumford & Sons. This  see above  is not a coincidence.

So when people respectfully suggest that you take a long hard look at the way your own privilege and sense of entitlement gives you cultural and political tunnel vision the last thing I’d suggest you do is run your first article about a band infamous for epitomising just that.

And, furthermore, don’t use that old chestnut, the Death of Rock, as leverage to give your new-minted genre oomph. Because if you think “festivalcore’s ascent has sacrificed some nuances upon the altar of mass appeal” and then go on to say, “So be it: let them die so rock may live on among EDM and hip-hop and pop” then that’s its appeal stone cold dead for me. (Dampening nuance for mass appeal is meant to be a good thing?! Since when where those things necessarily at odds anyway? Who the hell are you writing for? And why?)

Plus, of course, anyone who says, “And it might be the last hope for the future of rock music” about ANYTHING, even the most sparky, eccentric, outsider strain of pots’n’pans girlcore gloriousness, let alone heard-it-all-before, happy clappy nu-folk waistcoatery, has not a single clue about history. We have no idea at all what marvels will unfold before us but the ever-mutating, ever-evolving, curve-ball-chucking glittershow that is rock music keeps on rolling on. (Lord help us if its only salvation were really in the kind of meh music even the author of the piece says doesn’t move him unless he’s watching it at sunset with his mates at Coachella. Fucksake. The only people who think rock’s dead are those who are mourning the death of their own youth. Rock does not belong to one generation. Write that out a hundred times and go listen to some Micachu.)

(continued overleaf)

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20 Responses to Another letter to the poor sods at Uncool magazine…

  1. ContainuhDrivuh November 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Well let’s all remember MES words on Mumford – In the interview, Smith complains about playing festival shows with bands comprised of “ass lickers.” Then, this: “We were playing a festival in Dublin the other week. There was this other group, like, warming up in the next sort of chalet, and they were terrible. I said, ‘Shut them cunts up!’ And they were still warming up, so I threw a bottle at them. The bands said, ‘That’s the Sons of Mumford’ or something. ‘They’re number five in charts!’ I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers.”

  2. colbyrasmus November 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    These last two articles about UNCOOL are basically the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read.

    On the first article, it’s totally possible to have a good staff comprised entirely of white males, just as it is to have a good staff comprised of black lesbians. If all the people who apply to write for you are white males than it’s fine to not want look harder. No one’s under any moral obligation to diversify, you can just can’t actively suppress other groups and viewpoints and there’s no evidence they are doing this yet.

    On this second article, wow, holy shit…

    So when people respectfully suggest that you take a long hard look at the way your own privilege and sense of entitlement gives you cultural and political tunnel vision the last thing I’d suggest you do is run your first article about a band infamous for epitomising just that.

    Sooo many things wrong with that. For one, Mumford and Sons is undeniably an important band. There’s nothing wrong with writing about them just because them “embody white privilege”. Shutting out one class of people is exactly what you’re accusing them of doing.

    Also respectful? LOL

    God, it’s so much effort to dip your hands into the hegemonic basket and pull out something NOT simmering on the surface, isn’t it? Well, fuck you.

  3. Lucy Cage November 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    “For one, Mumford and Sons is undeniably an important band. There’s nothing wrong with writing about them just because them “embody white privilege.”

    Sigh.

    I’ve quoted/linked to many fine articles written about bands that embody white privilege; it’s not the writing about them that’s the problem it’s the doing so uncritically.

    Hell, I wouldn’t mind if people wrote about them explaining exactly why they think M&S are so goddamn AMAZING; writing about them without even particularly liking them because they’re *economically* significant (rather than politically or musically) is just deadly dull.

    “Shutting out one class of people is exactly what you’re accusing them of doing.”
    How am I doing this?

  4. Jim Slade November 20, 2012 at 1:40 am

    This article and this nasty little excuse for a writer helpfully embodies every single reason why I got the fuck out of the diy/indie/punk/navel gazing scene and was happy to wave it and its assorted fuckwits goodbye. Full of bitter self important brats more concerned with their own narrow minded world view and smug superiority complex- totally joyless with surplus anger but nowhere useful to target it. Also stunningly blinkered to the contradictions inherent in their own arguments.

    Oh well done Lucy Cage- you have slain that most feted of Scared Cows- Mumford and Sons. A band even my mother cant be bothered with. Arent you daring. However bad or good Uncool magazine proves to be know this one thing above all else! Whatever they do will be more worthwhile than this mean spirited little hatchet job. I pray for your own sake that you are 17 years old. If not? *shakes head*

  5. Scott November 20, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Everytime I see the abbreviation “M&S” I think of Marks & Spencer. And I think everyone should follow Jim Slade’s example and try to be less angry and bitter.

  6. Everett True November 20, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Scott, I think we should all just be grateful that Jim Slade has chosen – however briefly – to get the “fuck back into the diy/indie/punk/navel gazing scene”, and give us the indisputable benefit of his well-reasoned opinion. And they say that message boards on the Internet are stifling debate by encouraging wannabe bullies to leave threatening comments under the security of anonymity! Here is living proof that, in one small corner of the ‘web at least, it is not so.

  7. Chris November 20, 2012 at 6:49 am

    It all sounds quite reasonable to me, what Lucy says.

  8. Joseph Kyle November 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Who is Jim Slade?

  9. Everett True November 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Also known as Noel Gallagher and Chester Whelks (at least one of whom has found themselves banned from here for misogyny).

  10. Erika November 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    at least UNCOOL named their magazine aptly.

  11. Stephen from Acton November 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Erika has an excellent point – I’ve been enjoying all kinds of writing on Collapse Board for ages and I haven’t seen it collapse once!

  12. Everett True November 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Actually, it’s collapsed on several occasions… but bored? NEVER!

  13. Mark Corrigan November 20, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    I’m sorry if you assume I eat red meat and… don’t necessarily think money or Tony Blair are a bad thing but if there isn’t room here for people who stand against everything you believe in, then what sort of a hippie free-for-all is this?

  14. Sid November 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Actually I was having the same problem with CB these days. Lately it’s been a Scott Creney show, hasn’t it. Not that he’s not good and all, but where’s the fucking love for Beyonce y’know? (heh sorry I do get that every one here is working for free with limited to no resources)

    I remember some mild internet furor some time ago, to Everett saying he’d like to hire only female writers (or something along that line of thought). But if the current popular conversation around music is anything to go by, it simply proves that the lack of diversity perpetuates a monotonous conversation.

    Simply put, white People are boring and are prone to making boring music. And oh damn, whats with the righteous “correct” point of view (which can only be borne out of privilege)

    Wish CB had more writers like her – http://shana–e.tumblr.com/ (not a music blog, but, damn I get lost in what she posts)

    or these women – http://blackgirlstalking.tumblr.com/

  15. Daniel November 21, 2012 at 2:24 am

    I can’t help but think that this piece and the original Uncool article have nothing to do with the music of Mumford & Sons because it really is that unworthy of mention. Disability has a profound impact on where one sits in the kyriarchy, and the Uncool author is more than likely hearing impaired, so that’s worth noting.

    Lucy gets to deal with the ire of commenters, because (unlike the Uncool author) she wrote about something she actually gave a shit about.

    That being said, that Telegraph article is only a breeding ground for dreaded authenticity arguments and other bullshit that doesn’t ever dirty its hands with actual music. Boring white artists make the same quality of music as boring black artists. It’s BORING! Artists born of privelege receive a substantially better musical education (Mica Levi attended Purcell). Not all of those artists are lining up to become concert pianists and violinists. That’s not a terrible thing, right?

  16. Scott Creney November 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Not that this will do anything to dispel the ‘Scott Creney show’ accusation, but…

    http://www.collapseboard.com/reviews/albums-reviews/beyonce-4-columbia/

    Here’s another one NOT written by me.

    http://www.collapseboard.com/blogs/beyonce-is-not-your-enemy/

    CB is always looking for writers. I’ve invited people to write in at least 3 different articles in the past year. Maybe having the freedom to say whatever you want scares people off? I don’t know. I’m truly at a loss to explain it. You seem able to string a couple of sentences together, Sid. What’s your excuse?

    But the one thing I will NEVER do is read a blog about stalking a black girl. That shit is just WRONG.

    Kidding. That was great. Thanks for sharing it.

  17. Everett True November 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Also, Song of the day – 126: Beyoncé

  18. Tom November 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I’d just like to point out that Mumford and Sons recently opened a pop-up bar on Oxford St in Sydney to promote their album.

    http://www.au.timeout.com/sydney/music/events/32080/mumford-and-sons-general-store

    http://thethousands.com.au/sydney/out/mumford-and-sons-general-store/

    Speaks volumes, right? About the band, and about this fucking city.

  19. Darragh November 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    This may be a Scott Creney show. But since I like Scott, I don’t actually mind at all.

  20. huuuikl December 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    In the decade plus I spent as a musician in Brooklyn I saw a lot of people become “successful” in indie rock. How many were working class? None. How many were middle class? Almost none. How many were upper-middle class? Tons. How many were upper class? Tons more.

    Why do we even debate this anymore? Indie rock is the stuff of the ultra-privileged. I’ve witnessed it more times than I can count. And yes, it DOES matter.

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