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Revenge of Popular Culture #2: Lying

“I may be back next week with my attempt to find a brand “new” band for you”

I lied. Like we all lie, I lied. I lied. I lied.

Well, when I say I lied, I mean exaggerated. I’ll be talking about some new music, but I did exaggerate. Like we all exaggerate. Like The Telegraph’s reviewer exaggerates when he calls 11-piece folk band Bellowhead’s new album “grandstanding”. Like The Guardian’s man exaggerates when he says Bellowhead “constantly surprise”. Like The Independent exaggerates (“clever, tremulous, huff-puffy and post-ancient”) and The Scotsman exaggerates (“exuberant, rousing, bleakly atmospheric, spirited”). Like even the BBC- entrenched in a corner of some foreign field of music writing that is forever falteringly level-headed – exaggerates (“inventive, instantly infectious”).

“Inventive”. “Exuberant”. “Infectious”. These are examples of the words over-used. The words that spill too easily from writer’s mind > writer’s page > reader’s eyes > reader’s mind. You’ll see them underneath The Stars on the posters and TV ads, each one of them neutered by repetition (except “huff-puffy” – ridiculous and feisty that – nowhere near enough huff-puffy on tube posters these days …). Read the first paragraph of this article back. Tired of “exaggerates” yet? Use the same hit enough and you’re left punching a dead arm.

Hype is virulent. It spreads through word of mouth in people that have been living with it so long they barely recognise they’re ill. We tell our friends a new song is “great”. But is it? Or is it “good”? Or even “alright”? Imagine saying and hearing “I love you” until “I love you” became “How are you?” or worse, “Alright?”.

Perhaps we’re more enthusiastic about music now then we were? Or perhaps we’re more extremist? With greater choice and less time to listen it’s tempting to break out our rubber stamps – “inventive”, “exuberant”, “infectious” – to put a giant red + or – where the review is supposed to go.

We can keep ourselves in check and self-medicate. Like NME writer Mark Beaumont, did this week when he re-visited his September 2000 review of Radiohead’s Kid A for the Guardian:

“Would I change anything about my original review of it? I’d make it less sweary, and cut about 5,324 exclamation marks.”

So let’s tone it down. Ration our “grandstandings” and save our “excellents”. Be less panicky. Have faith that there will be great music again, but that it’s rarer than we’re currently happy to admit. That’s what makes it great in the first place.

As promised – this week’s “new” music: P Money’s Ho! Riddim and James Blake’s Limit To Your Love. + and +. No exaggeration. No lie.



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