In which your less-than-humble blogger adopts his music-critic persona of a spoilsport seagull, shitting on the shiny car of ‘things you enjoy’.
Reader, I need your help. I’m feeling a profound sense of cognitive dissonance. I’m fresh from watching Mumford & Sons on the telly and I cannot for the life of me reconcile the hype with the performance I saw.
I need someone to explain to me, with words other than “I like them” and “they’re fun”, precisely what makes this band so special. What makes them the headlining act on the final day of Glastonbury? Sunday night on the Pyramid stage – this is as close to the absolute summit of Britain’s musical-cultural landscape as anyone could ever hope to be and I just can’t figure out how they got to sit on the top. I know what you’re thinking and this isn’t about me disliking their music. It really isn’t. There’s plenty of artists I don’t particularly enjoy who I’d never deign to question if they were given such a prestigious triumph (Beyoncé for example) but in their case there’s factors like their prodigious discography, their enduring popularity, place in music history, or sheer scale of their live performances working in their favour and I just don’t see
Motherboy Mumford & Sons having any of those things.
At the time of writing this I’ve not seen any (embeddable) uploads of their Glasto gig, so for reference here’s their big crowdpleaser song ‘I Will Wait‘:
I don’t even dislike them, I’m generally ambivalent to their music. Nonplussed. It’s inoffensive, twanging along with assorted string instruments and a singer whose accent I find impossible to locate, a few songs that you could jump about a bit to (but not too much) and that’s that. They’re not shit, they’re just okay. Safe. Unchallenging. Like a country/folk version of Coldplay. I can see why people might enjoy them in passing but I fail to really understand the adoration and critical praise heaped upon them; so help me Mumfans, I need an explanation. Here’s an (extremely shortened) list of things their headline gig didn’t make me feel:
- Hungry for more
Now, by way of an unfair comparison, let’s take a look at another band’s impromptu live performance in the BBC’s Glasto studio:
Now if that doesn’t tick off some of those absent feelings I mentioned earlier then… well… I’m not sure what will.
You probably think I’m making far too big a deal of this. There’s a whole class of vampiric overlords out there sucking the economic lifeblood out of my country and dodging their taxes while blaming disabled “scroungers” and impoverished single mothers for all our woes, shouldn’t I be writing about them instead of the banal music their kids listen to? Maybe, but that’s a task I’m even less qualified for. Regardless of all that, art is sacred. Music is holy. Festivals are the living muddied churches in which we conduct our shamanic rites. Mediocre & Stuff playing the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night? It feels like someone hanging up one of their Facebook baby photos in the Sistine Chapel.
Or maybe I’m just the grumpy ol’ bastard at the back of the room who can’t understand why the kids are having so much fun.
I am a little concerned by what Mumble & Shrug’s primacy seems to say about us. This retro aesthetic, dressing in their twee Countryside Alliance fashions and hearkening backwards with their folksy sound is just another drop in the constant drip drip dripping of the One Nation Toryism tap that’s been left running ever since some marketing fuckbastard ‘rediscovered’ the “Keep Calm and Carry On” rejected WW2 propaganda bullshit (translation: “Be Silent Peasant and Know Your Role” or “Shut Up and Work Harder” – take your pick) back before the Jubilympic summer of Sweeping Social Problems Under the Carpet of Don’t-Spoil-The-Party Patriotism. Maybe Glasto and Mumford and a perfect fit, given the prohibitively high cost of the tickets and time-off-work barrier to entry (says the hypocrite who desperately wants to go next year); maybe the zeitgeist of our (relatively) affluent Glasto-age volk is at least partially wrapped in a desire to retreat into a comfortably remembered (false) vision of the past (all Downton Abbey yo), with it’s imagined authenticity contrasting against the plastic falseness of today’s advertisculture, its stiflingly safe woollen-wrap and Union Jack-waving preferred to the endlessly proliferating confusion of possibilities and challenges presented by the de-centred flux of the globalist present. The fact that even the ostensibly left-leaning Guardian’s Glasto coverage was tempered by cloying gossip about Prince Harry‘s presence in the exclusive backstage privilege-fortress says it all really.
Britain is dire need of better art, or – to put it more correctly – for the better art which already exists to be more visible. Right now, if the best we can do on the biggest of our stages is faux-folk with forgettable choruses and architectural atrocities like the Corporate Steel Magnate’s Personally Sponsored Meaningless Non-functioning-Rollercoaster-Thing (the architect’s design statement was to “make an iconic statement about ‘Tower-ness'” – I’m not even joking) then we’re psychically fucked.
Momething & Other’s Glastonbury set and the ArcelorMittalOrbit might be liked by a lot of people (they’re certainly both loved by their event organisers) but I’m going to need a lot of help if I am to see either of the two as anything more than some things that happen to exist.
For the sake of fun, here’s a palate-cleansing (new/old) playlist and you’ll probably hate half of it (but in doing so at least you’ll actually feel something visceral):
I’ll admit I kinda/sorta cheated by including The Knife, but seeing as their lyrics are explicitly referenced by Chvrches I couldn’t resist, and with Scroobius Pip, whose newer work I couldn’t find in any tolerable audio quality on YouTube.
And just for the hell of it:
Peace the fuck out yo.