An article lit up the internet recently, regarding the music scene of 10 years ago. Now I’ll admit to not being particularly with it in terms of the latest pop-rock combos in fear of being too like Hugh Dennis’ Mart Whitehouse Experience dad dancing, instead fill my ears with music from the likes of Pink Floyd, Wedding Present and Queen at the moment, however this article addresses something confining to plague all forms and genres of music – the term landfill.
In the article, Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell talked of the concept of landfill music – where a band appears and has a level of success, be it on the charts, stage or radio plays. Borrell was quick to throw some of his own music into the mix, particularly from his band’s average second album. In the mid-2000s we were presented with a bunch of great new bands with terrific debuts – Bloc Party, Hope of the States, Arctic Monkeys, Libertines, Kaiser Chiefs, Futureheads and Razorlight too.
I followed this scene closely, primarily as the music was great, but also to keep ahead of the game and discover the next big artist. What Borrell pointed out though was that the music industry is also doing this, aiming to make an easy pound following the coat tails of other acts.
He said: “I think the second Razorlight album definitely opened the way for a flood of mediocrity in UK music.
“This whole period was kind of important for bands, but it was a fucking revolution for A&R. Back in the day, A&R meant going out to gigs and watching bands, but in this era, it became sitting at your computer trawling Myspace, then Facebook and Youtube, for the freshest, youngest thing going. Bands weren’t allowed to develop on their own before they were swept up in the machine.”
You can see landfill music following every major movement – for The Beatles see Freddie and the Dreamers, for The Clash see The Alarm, for Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet see ABC, for Bros see Brother Beyond, for Nirvana and Pearl Jam see Jesus Lizard and Atom Seed, for Oasis and Blur see Montrose Avenue and Northern Uproar. All RIP, but if it were not for that lead band, the other would not exist.
Borrell listed a bunch of songs he rated as landfill, including The Libertines, The Kooks, The Ordinary Boys and Kings of Leon.
Some of these bands started out with the best intentions; I saw Kings of Leon when they were unfashionably bearded swamp rockers, and The Kooks felt that they could have been the new Mr Big (google them) or even a predecessor to The Feeling, but instead were two hit wonders with the credibility of Peter from Fame Academy.
At the heart of this is the music press, an industry I once beloved and now see being given away for free. About to be given a copy of the NME at Vauxhall station, I’ll save a critique for another blog. It was the NME that reported on The Cribs saying from the Glastonbury Other Stage that “the biggest challenge we face is mediocrity”. Well NME, in your desperation to break and feature the next big band, you featured a hell of a lot of mediocrity.
There was landfill and will continue to be landfill as long as there is money in music. For the record, I bought the first two Razorlight albums, album two was below average but “Up All Night” was a masterpiece.