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 Everett True

Where has the art of genuine protest gone? asks a ‘concerned’ music industry insider

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The Clash, NME cover, August 2011

The editor of the NME writes in The Guardian today how there are no political bands anymore. Isn’t that a little like me going on Collapse Board to complain how there are no good metal bands anymore? Or the editors of Pitchfork and Wire complaining about the lack of female music writers? I rarely write about metal. The editors of Pitchfork and Wire have an aversion to female writers. NME rarely covers political music. So of course – for the NME – there is no political music anymore.

It’s ridiculous to claim that’s true outside the NME‘s pages, however.

Krissi Murison writes:

Time was when rock stars, and not just the Clash, used to have lots to say about lots of very big, important things. Or so I’m told. The truth is that in my eight years as a music journalist, I’ve never found one.

She really, really can’t have been looking very hard. To be honest, the whole article reads like an abdication of responsibility. Let me get this straight: the music industry does not, or SHOULD NOT, dictate a music paper’s agenda. The editors and writers should dictate the music paper’s agenda. Either the NME covers political bands, in which case their editor’s statement is nonsense. Or it doesn’t. In which case, their editor’s statement is meaningless. Either way, it kind of makes nonsense of the cover line on the image above, don’t you think? “How the ’76 punk explosion changed music forever.” Yeah, right. I’ve always hated the fucking Clash. The equivalent NME cover in 1976 would have featured the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra from 1941. Isn’t it about time the UK music press moved on?

What next is the editor of the NME going to claim doesn’t exist because her paper doesn’t write about it, I wonder.

The planet Mars? John Howard? Mothballs? Breast feeding? Ordinance Survey Maps?. Crewe railway station? Polar bears?

Here is where the music press is really at in 2011
Of course, it doesn’t count when women or blacks do it. A collection of 20 present-day political pop songs
Of course, it doesn’t count when women or blacks do it. Part 2.

13 Responses to Where has the art of genuine protest gone? asks a ‘concerned’ music industry insider

  1. Everett True August 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    (From Facebook)

    Sean Padilla, Stevie Chick, Nick Butcher and 53 others like this.

    Carl Loben
    right on, ET!
    3 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Jimmy McGee
    Can I point out The King Blues…I’m not sure you’ll like them, but they fit into “political bands” and they are good people: http://www.kingblues.com/
    3 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Nick Smith
    Absolutely, there are loads of political bands out there at the moment, of varying quality. King Blues but also Enter Shakari. An incresing amount of UK Hip-Hop/Grime is becoming political. British Sea Power.
    2 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Ricardo Wang
    Bravo. I’ve read a few things you’ve written, and liked a fair amount of it, but that is one of the most concisely put pieces of direct communication I’ve had the pleasure to read. Stick it to the Man!
    2 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Dexter Strangeways
    Indeed. Alas, alack, there are no good music journalists anymore on the NME.
    2 hours ago · Like

    Ben Harding
    http://www.theefaction.org
    2 hours ago · Like

    Jimmy McGee
    There are lots of good hair product adverts in NME….hair care products can be political to…. 😉
    2 hours ago · Like · 3 people

    Simon Wells
    Absolutely unbelievable
    2 hours ago · Like

    Duncan Lee Harris
    I read the same article. Piffle. Just not any ‘famous’ or appropriate political bands. It did help that The Clash could write a tune or two though.
    2 hours ago · Like

    Delia Sparrow
    Not as many as there should be I think but there definitely are some…some would say political bands on major labels cancel out their political aspirations when they sign to a major (I would say I’m not knowledgeable enough to fight that corner…) . Hopefully one bright side of riots/fighting/despair/mis​ery is people’s creative side tends to come out in response….hopefully that will prove true this go round too…
    2 hours ago · Like

    Tom Artrocker
    I haven’t read it yet, more important things to do, but, since the latest Comic features The Clash I presume it’s all about selling copies. PR disguised as comment, the way of the world.
    2 hours ago · Like

    Tom Artrocker
    OK, read it now. Hmmm. What Krissi has missed here is that ‘bands’ mean nothing to kids on estates anymore. There’s a class divide, the urban working class are all Grime and Dubstep, ‘bands’ are for middle-class ‘stoodents’. Nothing new, it’s been this way for years. The bands having nothing to say or share with the dispossessed but platitudes while waiting to inherit the family money.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Ngaire Ruth
    Arse! I must go for a walk, get it and have a look. Nothing like reading foolish opinions to inspire one.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Chris Shade
    Is the NME still going?
    about an hour ago · Like · 1 person

    Martin Williams
    Melody Maker dead, NME alive. Bieber alive, Cobain dead. JFK and Martin Luther dead, Blair and Bush alive. Life sucks.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1 person

    Alex Lee Thomson
    Where’s the new generation of punks and outsiders? Maybe the NME should start finding it, rather than insist it doesn’t exist.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Ngaire Ruth
    CS: I read the NME a few weeks ago for the first time in ages. It was awful, so dreadful in fact, that I returned to music writing.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Martin Williams
    It does exist. It usually starts with recession, Tory governments penalising the poorest, students become politicized and it spreads to the general population. Out of chaos comes art. Just wait.,
    about an hour ago · Like

    Matthew Rimell
    There’s plenty of political music about! Yes the NME isn’t writing about it and has the bloody cheek to say there isn’t any…..eg the 10 or so bands that are on its rota aren’t doing political songs.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1 person

    Martin James
    PRs don;t often represent political music, so wold would anyone at NME know about them? They are afterall extensions of the PR industry and without an ounce of original, or brave thought – one and all these days it seems.
    16 minutes ago · Like

    Alex Lee Thomson
    I wouldn’t say that, we work with a 16 year old lad who sings about the Gaza Strip and being a kid from Portsmouth. Some publications, such as The Times and Notion magazine have given him great support, but he’s not an issue seller I’m sure…
    7 minutes ago · Like

    Mike Diver
    I know it’s hard not to, but don’t tar the whole NME with the WTF brush. There are writers there who could do a seventeen-page feature on the most politically active, relevant and downright amazing bands out there right now – and they’d love to do so. The feedback here is born of the divide that exists between freelancers fighting to cover what they want to, and editorial covering what they must (and therefore missing out on ‘the good stuff’, often). I speak from the editorial side, and know full well that there are great releases out every week that I just don’t get to hear because there are only so many hours and, unfortunately, sometimes those hours have to be dedicated to stuff you’d rather leave in a skip than put on a stereo. The NME can be great, even today. Don’t let one article that does rather miss its point suggest otherwise. MD
    2 minutes ago · Like

    Everett True
    Thanks Mike, for the voice of sanity! I’ll post your comment up on the CB article that relates to this, if you don’t mind. I don’t for one second think that the view of the editor reflects the view of the writers, and I am of course aware how some stuff gets covered by necessity (although see my point in the post above). I was just rather shocked at the gross over-generalisation Krissi (someone I’ve actually heard very good reports about) made, for the sake of 85 quid from The Guardian. I am also aware, of course, that her words may have been edited.
    2 seconds ago · Like

    Everett True
    Incidentally, if Krissi has any sense – and I’m sure she has plenty, way more than me – she’ll be following this up with an NME special issue “pop vs politics in 2011”. And writing another article for The Guardian promoting it.
    2 seconds ago · Like

    Mike Diver
    I don’t mind at all. We’ve all felt at one point or another, as readers, that a publication has but one voice. Which from the writer’s perspective is naturally irritating. I don’t doubt that the reaction to this will prompt a piece in NME; if not, it’ll certainly encourage some staffer to dig around for intriguing new sounds. Assuming they get a few minutes free from answering calls for advertorial spots.
    9 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Steve Towson
    I’m sure all music is political simply by what the songwriters choose to include or exclude lyrically in a song or what rhythms someone chooses to use. It all depends on what people call “politics”
    9 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Nick Schuld
    http://propagandhi.com/
    6 hours ago · Like

  2. Everett True August 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Princess Stomper just linked me to this article, by Dave Simpson. From the same newspaper, but in 2007. I think we should be told … does The Guardian have a particular agenda, suppressing political pop music?

  3. hannah golightly August 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I think the issue goes deeper. I think whether it’s chicken or egg, young people who listen to guitar bands are not that politically motivated or inspired. For example Pulp reported playing a reunion concert and saying the sort of political comment that they were known for in the 90s and it went down like a tumble weed. Jarvis seemed to expect a roar of cheers from the crowd in response to whatever he said, but it seemed that the crowd weren’t interested in anything other than the music.
    It seems odd that during a time when politics seems more personal to our lives in the UK than ever- it’s not just debate and ideology, it’s touching our daily lives in real tangible ways- ‘rock stars’ are shy to comment. The students are actually protesting en masse and it seems genuine. And yet there is a void between that behaviour and the records they must be listening to an the bands they are interacting with.
    Where politics of class, gender, ideals about society was prevalent during the 90s- from Girl Power, to Riot Grrl, Kurt Cobain, Pulp, Rage Against The Machine, The Prodigy fighting for rights to party in fields and cammpaigning via songs such as Their Law to Ban The Bill… and we were labelled as apathetic as a generation. If that was apathy, they’re gonna have to invent a new word to describe what’s going on now.
    It seems that caring is passe, being naive enough to think you can make a difference is passe, maybe it’s a generation of self-aware consumers who are simply consuming music and looking backwards for their retrospective political thrills, but not really bothering to get involved and give a shit in the here and now.
    Maybe it’s a generation raised and weaned on a non-stop diet of media images and historic lessons who have seen it all before, whether they were there to see it themselves or not. Has the line between reality and media been blurred to the point of desensitisation and everything is just acceptable as the way things are, no point complaining. Grand Theft Auto.
    I honestly don’t know. But if the NEW Musical Express is forced to put OLD Music on it’s cover in order to sell, then Huston, we definitely have a serious problem.

  4. hannah golightly August 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Campaign to rename the NME the HME (Historical Music Express) on the grounds of False Advertising. Sign the petition today.

  5. chuck August 16, 2011 at 12:11 am

    how can u not like the clash ??????????
    thinking about taking this site out of favs…..

  6. Retch August 16, 2011 at 3:33 am

    The Clash can fuck off

  7. hannah golightly August 16, 2011 at 6:51 am

    what has the Clash got to do with now?

  8. Everett True August 16, 2011 at 8:37 am

    (From Facebook)

    Chesca Dolecka, Kim Sampson, Neil Taylor and 2 others like this.

    Mark Bennett
    Much like many supposedly ‘political’ bands (see The Clash), Krissi Murison’s comments are intended only to appear ‘political’ by their association with events that have a political dimension, like the riots. She could have said fuck all and really, would it have made any difference?
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1 person

    Gary Stafford
    The NME is a has been magazine that speakes for no one, even the magazine used to always have a political edge & even that has been erased, has she never heard of Jon Maclure & Reverend & The Makers & thats without even pondering or thinking of other political bands oh the King Blues too see that was easy…
    10 hours ago · Like

    Mark Bennett
    Forgive me, but what I don’t really get is why we ever expected musicians – some of the most self-interested people on the planet – to be some kind of rallying point for ‘politics’ (whatever that means in this context). Yeah, music has always used ‘social issues’ (for want of a better expression) as lyrical currency, but that’s not what The Clash’s ‘political stance’ – and I’m sorry to keep bashing The Clash; Jamie Read’s post-rationalization of the Sex Pistols is just as suspect – was about. The truth is it looked cool. That’s fine. It’s when we mistake that for anything more profound that I start to have a problem.
    9 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Chesca Dolecka
    As usual they make knee jerk comments about something they know nothing about, because,as you rightly say Everett,they choose not to. There are so many of us writing political music, without needing to label it as such, or become Billy Bragg in the process. Surely all smart rock n roll references the time it is written in, the zeitgeist and the world around the writer? Everything you say about the world is political- it doesn’t need to be banner waving to be relevant-just not totally self absorbed…
    9 hours ago · Like

  9. Everett True August 16, 2011 at 8:39 am

    (From Facebook)

    Everett True
    Princess Stomper just linked me to this article, by Dave Simpson, from 2007. I think we should be told … does The Guardian have a particular agenda, suppressing political pop music?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/musi​c/musicblog/2007/aug/16/wheres​thepoliticsinpop
    What happened to political pop? Ian Brown’s new anti-war single is the first time in ages that a major UK pop star has made such a direct statement on a record. Why is everyone else keeping quiet?
    9 hours ago · Like · · Share

    Richard Morris
    They’ve been printing the same article periodically for a good few years now. That and the ‘death of pop tribes’ one.
    10 hours ago · Like

    Everett True
    Other examples gratefully received. Sad, really.
    10 hours ago · Like

    Matthew Church
    Gotta do it in allegory these days…
    9 hours ago · Like

    Niall Xtravaganza
    They just need to anually reprint one meta article called “Death of the Political Pop Tribes is SO Hot This Year in the History of the Folk Revival Not Selling as Much as Lady Pop”
    9 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Richard Morris
    Oh yeah, the lady pop one. That comes up every year or so too. It’s like when mainstream gay mags decided to cover the bear scene. Just a little bit patronising.
    9 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Libby Guthrie
    Well, haven’t heard the song but it sounds fucking awful. Did he draft in a 15-year-old school girl to write his lyrics?
    8 hours ago · Like

    Kevin Pearce
    There is a fantastic and very funny old book by Michael Frayn called I think Tin Men (I’d need to check that) which is about a guy who works in a university who invents a computer programme where a newspaper is prepared by reassembling the same basic elements of a story time and time again in different permutations every now and then. Didn’t a Guardian writer do a book on protest songs? So presumably tomorrow he’ll trot out a piece on why the protest song REALLY is still a valid art form (even if this paper doesn’t write about them).
    8 hours ago · Unlike · 1 person

  10. Everett True August 16, 2011 at 8:40 am

    (From Facebook)

    Bill Cummings and Alice Love like this.

    Tamra Spivey
    if you stand behind your words you also make decisions about touring and promotion that reflect your commitments. most of those decisions make you invisible to institutions like NME.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Bill Cummings
    No political music?A laughable statement.
    about an hour ago · Like

  11. Niall August 16, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Hannah, I think you may be onto something by saying young people do not expect politics from guitar music. Perhaps it’s a legacy of punk getting assimilated into mainstream pop, perhaps it’s about young listeners turning to hip-hop for their politics, maybe finding guitar music too earnest or detached.

    But you can’t just blame it all on apathy – what do all the students who turned out for the protests listen to? What about the looters – what’s on their iPods?

  12. Conan Neutron August 16, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Fucking RIDICULOUS. I can think of two examples in my FRIEND GROUP. The anti-Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence compilation/culture jam for one: http://karlrovebook.net/

    And the anti-Scott Walker/pro-Wisconsin labor song: Imperial Walker from Ifihadahifi for another:
    http://ifihadahifi.bandcamp.com/album/imperial-walker

    And those are reasonably well known sojourns (Mike Malloy show, raw story, Huffington Post, National review, etc.) just out of my FRIEND GROUP. How far up your posterior must your head be to make such a statement?

  13. hannah golightly August 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Conan, I think the point is that that music isn’t in the NME and therefore according to their editor ‘does not exist’… which as you say is ridiculous.

    Niall- I agree. I am confused by those two points- mobilised politicised youth. No clear soundtrack.

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