The Future is Past is all about the 70’s. It’s the time I was young free from ties, responsibility and medication. It was a time when music was being produced that we had never heard the like of previously a lot of it was progressive in the very best sense of the word.
Music is different now, it’s a bit like electricity, always on tap, if I wanted to listen to Trout Mask Replica now, at this very moment, I could do. That’s the main reason why music just isn’t as special as it was in the 60’s and 70’s there will never be the shock of the new, there will never be that sense of excitement of finding something that’s really special. Most people have a golden age of music, like I do, for a lot of them that’s enough and they can spend the rest of their lives listening to Abba or the Stone Roses with no desire to move on. For a few hardy souls there’s a lifetime of consuming endless new artists to be enthused about, listened to and then forgotten as, inevitably something new comes along. But even new music has to compete with cinema or theatre or travel or eating out for a slot in our leisure time.
The irony of course is that a lot of modern music is really good. I hate pop music now, but I have to acknowledge that it does its job pretty well. Where there is a gaping hole is a lack of credible bands who can play accessible music like the Police or Squeeze or Blondie or even (I have to say it) Oasis could, equally there are few contemporary rock bands who really float my boat although when it comes to hard rock, not my speciality, the music seems better than ever. I would take Mastodon over Saxon or Def Leppard any day.
So, there’s a lot to like, generally bands play better and record better. There’s more freedom as soon as you get away from pop because record companies are calling the shots less and less. Most modern artists have their feet on the ground because there is no way they are ever going to own a Leer jet. Best of all music is a lot more inclusive and no longer the province of sneery white men.
Since music is actually becoming worthless in terms of money, gigs are becoming a big deal. It used to be that an album cost a fortune and you could get into a gig for 50p. That’s been turned on its head but generally gigs are more pleasant, a smoke free environment, a PA that won’t induce tinnitus in 20 mins and a crowd that is less likely to break out into random acts of violence (partly because that are all al lot older)
And it’s usually all over by 10pm.
This year I have probably caught more live music than any other year of my life, this has been facilitated by quite a few free tickets, but this has evoked quite a scattergun approach to who I have been to see. Here is a random and far from comprehensive review of some of this year’s best live music.
Shonen Knife: Japanese trio serving up childlike punk. I was impressed by their total lack of guile. It seems they really do love Nick Lowe’s ‘Cruel to be Kind’ and couldn’t wait to play it for us.
Penelope Isles: Lank haired psychedelic Indie pop from somewhere the south coast. The woman singer has an interesting voice and seem to be moving in a direction which distinguishes them from the other thousands of indie pop wanna bees.
Goat Girl: It was like the 80’s all over again with a surly largely female band with a muddy sound and passive aggressive presence. About 2 good songs.
The Dead South: An American Pogues for the new millennium. At least they looked like they were actually a band and an edgy one at that. Most of the British indie kids look like they’ve just popped out for a pot noodle during some Netflix binge session.
BC Camplight and David Ramirez .: Not on the same bill but two beery looking blokes with addiction/mental health issues who had some great songs about their addiction/mental health issues. One suspect things were about to turn messy.
Fairport Convention: I hadn’t seen these for 40 years (I managed to miss most of their Cropredy set a few years back) Surprisingly good, although drummer Gerry Donahue is now reduced to tapping on an electronic drum pad (more typing than drumming). This is a band with nothing to prove but still, despite all expectations delivering the goods.
Steeleye Span: Maddy Prior now dances like your mum or, more likely, your sister, or even you, but she still dominates. Where Fairport have gone all relaxed and semi acoustic Steeleye have become more metal. The fiddle player lets loose a stream of notes with no discernible purpose and there’s an overload of electric guitars. Not my favourite incarnation but I admire their spunk.
Richard Thompson: I’ve been banging on about him since the autumn, you don’t need me to tell you anymore.
St Paul and the Broken Bones: I recognised quite a few people at this gig which makes me think that St Paul may be some form of breakthrough band for the over 50’s. Absolutely peerless playing and singing but not that engaging emotionally.
Truckstop Honeymoon: Husband wife and occasional family members doing a kind of send up of white trash culture. A funnier version of The Handsome Family.
The Furrow Collective: Alistair Roberts remains a firm favourite in my household. This is his regular collaboration with 3 like-minded individuals exploring the darker side of folk.
Deep Dark Woods and Kacy and Clayton: The only gig here I had to pay to see. Money well spent. This represents how bands must be innovative in saving money in touring. Here the bands combined, I suspect the last person on stage got to play bass each night. C&C’s album ‘The Siren’s Song’ was one of the best of the year.
There were more but I’ve done well to remember this many. A new year beckons and it will be back to the 70’s as usual.
A happy new year to you all