Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Death of the Alternative

If there ever was a dirty word in the music industry it's "alternative" because, by distinction, it appears to be aspiring to be out of the box, or obtuse; far removed for the current status quo. As for the actual "alternative" acts... they slowly either fade into obscurity but held onto by dear fans, or become gradually less alternative by either success and acceptance of their original sound or by becoming the exact antithesis of the genre they were prescribed to. The real alternative to most musical movements is just the next musical movement.

For example, Nu Metal (pardon my French) was the genre du jour of my youth, and I dressed up and sang along with the rest of us kids, and we loved it. Our parents despised the Slipknot songs and they hated the clothes that came with the genre. They were the glorious alternative to the pop music of the era. It was later in this short lived phase that I found the worlds of Jimmy Eat World and the emotive lyrics, later heralded by the advancing behemoth that was My Chemical Romance and the Emo-shitstorm. I was already far too old to appreciate this, and by the middle of the decade my "alternative" was no longer any more -it had become mainstream, selling millions of albums and I had to move on.

Quickly, I found the spiky guitar pop of Bloc Party and Maximo Park. And, sure enough, they are now selling the millions of records. I suppose you could argue that is mostly because they are actually pretty good crossover acts, but I'd disagree. As soon as any alternative scene reaches a critical mass, it becomes the mainstream and hipsters like us have to leave them alone for fear of catch the middle of the road bug.

The clueless worlds of the record buying public are tempered by adverts, radio shows, magazines... and word of mouth. How could anyone else explain the explosion of soft-indie in the early 2000s? There were very few superstars there, but a lot of people who were just doing their job (and years earlier, like Belle and Sebastian, would've been ignored) made a lot of money. It breeds in the pressure and hype created. These days, most bands are built from their debut album and can fall from there. White Lies are a good example (Klaxxons too, less recently) where a massive debut album hasn't helped the kids get on. Their hype, whilst it gave them a good push out of the blocks, may just have killed them. The scenesters who are supposed to like them (and later stick with them no matter what they release) have no chance because as soon as they have some exposure they're on the NME Lists, the BBC Lists, and then Radio 2 have their noose ready... it breeds a certain type of disposability that is rife in the industry.

Tipping of such bands will never stop though. Commerical tipping of bands is part of the game, which we all play (this blog indeed will play a part too) and the point scoring of getting a band that you like and then they suddenly blow up is a desire many have. Add into that a certain sense of "fuck you" to the likes of The xx, 65daysofstatic or Fennesz being heard in common day life, people will always want to shine on these bands. The genre, and the title it's self, may have lost much meaning, but there is still an alternative out there, I guess, but my time of defining it of it might be over. I'll listen to my post-rock, minimal techno, jangly acoustic anti-folk, and I'll look over at the kids and their scuzz rock, jumpy pop rock and electro-band crossovers and shake my head.

Then again, maybe that is the true alternative.

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