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Libertines and the rule of diminishing music industry returns

March 31, 2010

PETER Guy hit the nail firmly on the head with this sensationally well written demolition of The Libertines in the wake of news that they are to reform for a festival this summer for a monster fee not unadjacent to 1.5m of your British pounds.
Not bad for two nights work which will work out at about 120 minutes in total stage time. I can’t imagine they will overburden themselves with intensive rehearsal to get ultra tight – it was never a concern in the first place.
Central to Pete’s thesis is that the cult of The Libertines/ Pete Doherty was based on a slavering music press sycophancy which needed to rapidly create new heroes but which ultimately opened the door for eight years of terrible guitar bands which have failed to light up anything, let alone what passes for charts now.
The continual glut of uninspiring indie guitar bands which still routinely appear to steal time which we, as eternally interested but perennially underwhelmed consumers, will never get back, come directly from the time in which The Libertines emerged.
It was a period of plunging music sales and dwindling music paper circulations in which A&R men and music journalists fantastically sought to battle these twin perils by trying to recreate the last, in every sense of the word, glory time for each industry – Britpop.
So the A&R men headed down Camden way or Old Street or got themselves off to the gritty North in search of some slim hipped rapscallions, but not before gathering up the vintage Epiphone guitars, picked a football team for each band (if they didn’t have one), got the Fred Perry polo shirt/ tight jeans/ vintage parka look bang on, signed up the likeliest crews and sent the boys (always boys) out to misbehave just like Noel and Liam had done.
The boated music PR industry, seeing the devastation among the major and big indie labels and the potential losses from their dwindling coffers, got to work polishing a bewildering series of turds.
At the same time, music journalists (myself included) forced to file columns on a daily or weekly basis on the thinnest of new gruel were, at best, forced to acquiesce and cover that which we knew as cack, or, at worst, actually blindly became trumpet majors for a period of utter dross in a bid to cut a diminishing niche in this new media ecosphere of plenty.
It was the hoariest of music industry clusterfucks – no-one wanted to put their heads above the parapets and say that which was going to bring down the bright red beach ball of fun which we all needed to keep floating.
But, it was a singularly depressing time where anyone with any recent historical frame of reference could see all the old joins being imperfectly glued back together by desperate people.
Mod/ Britpop stylings, cool punk/ post punk producers (Andy Gill/ Mick Jones), Union Jacks and Victoriana were utilised to give a communion wafer thin concoction some sense of timelessness and history in the hope that it would not disappear with the same rapidity of the average communion wafer.
The new fads of the internet were also utilised to give this old stew some new seasoning: bands did ‘guerilla’ gigs arranged on the internet and other acts were signed due to live shows streamed on the emerging phenomenon of mySpace. ‘OOOH, look.’ we cried, ‘Sandy Thom and the Arctic Monkeys were signed due to the new self empowering and utterly democratic spaces of social media.What a story to kick their careers off with.’ Mind, we didn’t call it social media until much later.
The Libertines held impromptu gigs in whatever needle strewn, shite and blood stained hovel they were inhabiting and there was always a phalanx of journalists and hand held camera ‘documentarians’ to capture the bohemia for NME TV or BBC3 or whatever. With more channels and new demographics emerging there was always a home for this stuff.
In Liverpool, the Deltasonic label made an absolute virtue out of a post modern retread necessity by simply taking youngsters and telling them what they would sound and look like. The Coral were an identikit scally stoner act, The Zutons a rockier version, The Little Flames a bit the same with a good looking girl singer and The Dead 60s were a former hard core four piece turned into a reggae tinged Clash-a-like who were ultimately upstaged by one single wonder Southerners Hard-Fi.
It really was depressing to see most of them lauded and more pertinently, to be involved, partially, in the lauding.  
I remember one gang of big indie label chancers called The Others who were sold to me by a PR as a potential big thing. The were the apotheosis of this generation’s mediocrity: an identikit shower of cack put together like a self-assembly IKEA band – a good looking young fella who resembled Lee Mavers and three session musicians – one of whom looked like a fat member of The Cure. They were dreadful and even for the weekly £60 from the Daily Post, I wouldn’t polish the aforementioned doggie waste product.
The saddest thing is that, Arctic Monkeys aside, it’s still going on. The Courteeners are at best derivative but more realistically plain bad. Scouting for Girls, Kaiser Chiefs, The Music et al continue to get a few moments in the spotlight thanks to a supposed primacy of indie guitar bands in both Britain and its music press.
The reformation of the Libertines in July or August will hide, momentarily, one simple fact: we need no more British indie guitar bands because that seam has been mined to extinction and we need no more of them.
If we had stopped and looked in 2002-2005 that would have been wholly apparent and we would have saved ourselves a pile of time in the process.

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