Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Is The World Full Of Crashing Bores?

I have some inane pop channel on the TV as I give the house a much needed tidy. The name of the channel is of little relevance as there is little to choose between any of them. The point however, is that I’m bored before I’ve finished dusting the fish tank, and it’s a very small fish tank. My mind is numb with the puerile drivel spouting from those luscious red lips, only to be followed by an insipid mandate to ‘Put my hands up’  from underneath a  Donatello haircut (and before anyone asks, no, not the f*%king Ninja Turtle).

I grab the first Cd to hand from the countless that line the walls and turn the volume up. The album is Morrissey’s ‘You Are the Quarry’. It’s not long before It has me wondering, who is carrying the torch for great lyric writing today? With the physical format certain to go to its final resting place in the not too distant future, how much does the written word matter to this generation of music fans.

Gone are my salad days of playing truant from school just to be first in line to purchase and pour over the sleeve notes of the Jam’s ‘All Mod Cons’ or the latest offering from The Clash. I remember how I first felt when tracing with sticky fingers under the lyrics of ‘Down in a Tube Station at Midnight’ or wondering if the girl next door had really done’ Too Much Too Young’. In later years The Smiths, Kate Bush, Jarvis cocker’s wit and the fun had deciphering Mr Stipe was always a joy. And all of this before I’d really discovered the likes of Dylan, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell and Cohen.  Hip Hop aside (a can of worms too far for this man), it was a breath of fresh air when Alex Turner’s view of the world made it to my speakers and Guy Garvey and the boys finally got the recognition they deserved, as he too can paint vivid pictures with his words.

But what about POP music? I know it’s for the young, for lovers and dancers, and I know plenty see it as a disposable medium. But does it really have to be devoid of any worthwhile content or unique rendering even of common sentiment. Don’t song writers have a duty to deliver better? At the very least can’t writers make better use of the beauty and wit that lay within the English language, after all, words can be such delightful and exquisite things.

Is it a failing in our education system? Or on the other side of the same coin, are artists, A&R and marketing men alike, scared of alienating what they believe to be a stupid audience, and thus are happy to wallow in the lowest common denominator? Is Mozza right as he spits from my speakers;

“it’s just more lock jawed pop stars
Thicker than pig shit, Nothing to convey
They're so scared to show intelligence
It might smear their lovely career
This world I’m afraid is designed for crashing bores”. 

Meanwhile, Lady Gaga, who’s doing her best to become bigger than Coca Cola and McDonald’s combined has had her ‘Born This way’  album banned in the Lebanon over lyrics deemed to be offensive to Christianity. In particular, the song Judas seems to have got the Lebanese officials hot under the collar.

“I'm just a Holy Fool, oh baby, it's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby!
I'm just a Holy Fool, oh baby, it's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby!”

#*@% me! I would have banned it, but perhaps not for quite the same reasons. Ok, so I’m joking, there are far worse offenders than Gaga, but surely it makes a point. Of course there are plenty of songs which have stood the test of time with poor lyrics but they must trade solely on an exceptional melody, for those who are truly intent on leaving a legacy will have to deliver on both counts. Just ask yourself how many Cole Porter or George and Ira Gershwin songs you can sing along to.

So is the art of writing great lyrics on its last legs, well, probably not, but it certainly seems to be in need of a shot to the arm or a few vitamins.  Even the new crop of stylish indie darling wannabes (who historically have had much to say) seem to be dumbing down these days. Is it just a Sign of the Times? Perhaps I should have feared the worst when NME readers voted Muse’s Matt Bellamy fourth best lyricist of all time in a poll last year. Matt Bellamy? Really! Is that what I can hear in between guitar noodles and synth runs?  

Of course if things get really bad you can always take the DIY approach by making up your own lyrics, particularly when audibility of the car stereo is not quite what it could be. For at least a week after release I was sure Paul Weller was singing ‘the Flo-bo sucks’ rather than ‘the floorboards up’. And there is simply no convincing my lovely wife that The Drums are not singing ‘Lemon, I wanna go surfing’ to this day.

So as a simple last request I will ask only this. If you are involved in making music in any way, whether as an artists, writer, producer, or even if you work for a label (in fact definitely if you work for a label), please encourage the art of writing great lyrics. Trust me; it will be well worth the wait.

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