I’ve Got Blisters On My Fingers: 2013, The Year Of The Guitar Band
Guitars are back, people, but this time they're bringing the swagger to match the tunes.
Simone Scott Warren
Obviously, for a lot of us, guitar music never actually went away. It just stopped bothering the charts so much. Sure, rock music, that's been having a pretty good time over the last couple of years, but for 'indie' (believe me, I hate that term too), well, that's been a bit MIA.
Maybe we should look at the last example of an interesting mainstream guitar music movement for clues as to what's been wrong; Britpop. Before you start arguing that I've forgotten the whole Pete and Carl thing, I haven't; but in terms of record sales and the general masses, they just don't measure up to that triumvirate (Blur/Oasis/Pulp). And yes, there was the mid noughties guitar boom with Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party et al, but it lacked a certain ingredient that Britpop had. At one point, your granny knew who Damon and Liam were, they were all over the News At 10, discussed over dinner, and she'd probably already decided which one she wanted to win Number 1 (Blur, they looked like nicer boys). Of course, musically, they weren't all pushing the boundaries of anything, not in the same way that, say, Foals have been doing for the last few years. Oasis were putting covers of 'I Am The Walrus' on their b-sides for fuck's sake, they weren't even trying to hiding their throwback status.
Music always goes in cycles, and if you look at it, the period prior to '96 is remarkably similar to now. You just have to substitute 'Gangnam Style' for 'Saturday Night' by Whigfield which induced it's own synchronized arm movements throughout the land. We needed Liam and Noel, Damon and Justine, Jarvis and his wiggling hips, because mainstream music had become so bloody bland. We needed bands who weren't afraid to get arrested for jumping onstage and making a mockery of a particularly appalling Michael Jackson performance, on national telly. Who'd be falling out of the Good Mixer on a regular basis, and publicly wishing aids on each other. We needed their voices, as much as their music.
For the last few years, it's felt like our would-be-popstars have stopped actually saying anything much, probably because their every opinion is dissected and disseminated on the internet within minutes of any ill-conceived thoughts leaving their mouths; there are people still clinging to Morrissey, not because he's relevant, or right, or even bothering to make music anymore, but because he's not scared to say something stupid. He's been doing it for years. It is what made people take Lily Rose Cooper to their hearts, back when she was an Allen.
But finally, finally, we have a bunch of bands who not only have the tunes, but have remembered that you need the swagger. Take Palma Violets for example. Here's a band who actually sound great, who can inspire a properly sweaty reaction at their gigs, and who'll drop their trousers the second that a photographer's back turns at a shoot. They have that all important gang mentality; they finish each other's sentences. And so far, they don't look likely to screw it all up by robbing each other's flats. Or Peace, who diversify with every single song, and it's nothing to do with worrying about being pigeonholed, but because they can. Their live shows inspire such a frenzy that extra security has to be drafted in (just ask those at last week's Cambridge show if you don't believe us). Or Deap Vally, who've perfected their dirty rock blues onstage, but chat to them for a few minutes, and you'll realise, that's just who they are. They even manage to make knitting sound rebellious.
This isn't a movement for those who have already lived through this (maybe more than) once, but it's eight years since the last Libertines album. There are young adults of voting age who were 10 when it was released. Even Arctic Monkeys debut was six years ago. For those ready to believe they've invented the wheel all over again, it's a rite of passage. For anyone else there's always something else - the 'post internet' music scene is such a wondrous and varied world there's no need to angrily piss on someone else's chips.
There might not be the rivalries that made those mid-nineties bands such a soap opera – in the case of the B-Town boys, it's a positive love in – but that's not a bad thing, it's not that we actually want to see our stars come to blows. It's just that we want them to show their personalities - both the good and the unhinged. Combine that with the tunes and it's clear; 2013 has six strings and it's not afraid to use them.