Enough’s enough, we need to bring genres back to basics

Enough’s enough, we need to bring genres back to basics

In 2006, Klaxons and NME surreptitiously invented a genre. Suddenly, nu rave was in and music magazines were collectively fawning over the Dayglo nightmare. Cue glow sticks appearing at gigs everywhere, teenagers in obnoxiously bright clothing and more rave-friendly-smiley-face logos around than at a Watchmen convention.
A year later, the bubble burst, perhaps due to Klaxons declaring themselves as the avant-garde of the pop world at the Mercury Awards (much to the annoyance of anyone with half a mind, or half an ear for that matter), perhaps due to the masses hopping on the bandwagon. Everyone was sick of nu rave. The moment it well and truly died could well have been when an overly enthusiastic Myspace-friendly teenager appeared on a BBC Switch video declaring, “I am a nu raver!” Of course you are, but please don’t shout about it. In case you’re wondering what the human embodiment of the indie genre is then head over to the Beeb’s site to watch a painful video featuring Amy, a self-confessed “indie” who lists the three commandments of being indie: Reading the NME, “the indie bible”, using hairspray and being really

We all know that music magazines create genres, in fact, the NME has made a sport of it and this very paper has joined in on the fun before now (we’re still pushing ‘Blah-core’ at wall of sound gigs) but nowadays the genre gauntlet has been passed from hacks to music listeners themselves. A quick visit to popular music-scrabbling website will give you more genres than you’d ever need. Wondering what genre to group Grouper under? How about “fart ambient”, or “not shoegaze” or even “eargasm”? Or then again, maybe not.

But now the problems caused by genres aren’t just down to journos and over-active taggers, it’s also to do with the connotations each genre brings to mind. Take, for example, post-rock. Any half-decent band within this troubled genre will deny being any part of it, instead relying on the age-old favourite quote, “don’t pigeon-hole us, maaaan”. Similarly, freak folk is another created-out-of-nowhere genre that musicians are grouped under, including Devendra Banhart, have now decided is a “fucking lame” term.

You can forgive critics and fans for wanting to create some order out of the chaos, but it seems that whenever a genre is coined, whether it’s nu rave, post-rock, freak folk or even the new NME fad “shitgaze” (which neatly groups Psychedelic Horseshit, Times New Viking and No Age together), there is ultimately a backlash from both bands and fans alike.

And now would perhaps be the perfect time to offer a solution for this self-created genre-tagging horror. Unfortunately, I don’t have one, but I do have a way of deferring the problems genres cause. Allow me to introduce “Alternative & Punk”. iTunes users will already be aware of what a God send this genre is. Thanks to Gracenote, which is in control of iTunes’ music IDs and therefore tags, everything under the sun falls under alternative & punk. If you’re still pondering what genres Throbbing Gristle, The Arcade Fire, Metric and Mount Eerier fall under, then instead of setting up faddish genres you’ll come to reject in a few months, why not just shove everything under alternative & punk? I have and have never looked back since.


Originally published in issue 4 of Loud And Quiet, March 2009

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