Princess Stomper

The Age of Clank: Why Genres are Important

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Great, so we’ve established what clank is, and from that he can lead me to tUnE-YaRdS, Abe Vigoda, dd/mm/yyyy, Marnie Stern and Nice Nice. I might have been hesitant to seek out those bands before, but having given it a name that tells me I’ll probably already like it before I’ve even heard a note, suddenly we’re in business.

There’s an irony at work here. Though Last.fm guides listeners from song to song via genre tags, Pandora prides itself on dispensing with genres altogether and mathematically deconstructing each song into its individual sonic components. That works in one sense, in that just because you like one heavy metal song doesn’t automatically mean you’ll like another heavy metal song – but isn’t terming something “heavy metal” in the first place the process of breaking down the song into its component parts and then classifying it so that other people can play the game of if-you-like-that-you-might-like-this?

Then there’s a contrasting issue in that two people enjoying the same song might enjoy different things about that song, hence grouping bands together in a genre that might not have more than the most superficial parts in common. For example, someone who saw Korn and Slipknot in my record collection might assume that I like Coal Chamber, without realising that it was the vocals rather than the arrangement that I was hooking into. A guess that I’d like Faith No More would be correct, but then might lead to confusion when I don’t like some other FNM-ish band who happen not to have Mike Patton in them. So I get why genre doesn’t always work.

There’s also the limitations of the initial definition. It doesn’t matter how gifted a writer Chris Razor is, his descriptions of music cannot match the experience of actually hearing the music. The difference between a good or bad critic is the difference between dad-dancing and ballet: you’re still dancing about architecture (much as we enjoy doing so). Therefore, if clank is “ramping up the colour saturation of keys, guitars and percussion until your eyes are screaming”, have I understood that correctly? Going through Chris’s list of suggested bands, I was measuring them against those criteria and rejecting song after song that I didn’t think was “clanky” enough. I thought these fitted the bill. Was I right?

(continues overleaf)

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5 Responses to The Age of Clank: Why Genres are Important

  1. Matt O'Neill September 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Pretty great article.

    Clank can’t be a genre, though. It lacks hyphens, prefixes and suffixes. It just doesn’t work. Now, post-clank, clankwave, nu-clank, clankstep, proto-clank, clankcore, clank-rock, indie-clank or any combination of the above (proto-indie-clankwave, post-nu-clankcore) – those are genres.

  2. Libby September 26, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    All of this music is god awful. Throw “clank” in the bin now.

  3. Chris Razor September 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Nice article, Princess, and some superb examples. The Nice Nice track you picked is precisely what I had in mind (and I have to thank Lucy Cage for first opening my ears to that one.)

    I would hate to think, though, that “clank” might come to signify a very specific sound, or worse that bands would *try* to make it. (“I’m not getting back in the van until you say we’re clank.”) For me it’s enough to know there’s something exciting and raw and new happening and to have a rough handle on it. The second person to be accurately described as making Matt’s “post-nu-clankcore” will have entirely missed the point, the fun, the exploration, the exhilaration of making music.

  4. Princess Stomper September 27, 2011 at 5:45 am

    @ Matt – well, I could argue that Ohgr’s first album was proto-clank. 😉

    @ Libby – so when I went to Amazon and immediately stocked up on the tunes I’d listed because I just couldn’t live without them, that was the wrong thing to do? Who knew!

    @ Chris – glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I really love that Nice Nice track. Thanks, Lucy! I’m not sure that I agree with the bit about bands not trying to sound a certain way. It depends how it’s done. I mean, in all innocence, it’s plain inspiration. You hear something, think it sounds great, and realise that beat just fits with the lyrics you thought up yesterday and then it all somehow gels. That’s great. On the other hand, I’d hate the idea of some record company telling (since they’re this week’s whipping boy) Gotye that he needs to sound more clank.

  5. Mike September 28, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Yes! More glock-rock!

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