There’s a fine line between being artfully artless* and actually incompetent. The closer you get to the divide, the riskier your enterprise becomes, but sometimes – just sometimes – it’s worth all the danger because the returns can be phenomenal. When I say ‘artless’ here, what I’m trying to express is that sense of effortless naïveté that defines many of my favourite performers; the sense that the musicians involved have never even seen their instruments before, let alone played them, but that they instinctively know how to make them work, how to get the sound they want from them. It’s what made acts like Bauhaus and Dylan sound so natural. Hell, it’s what made frank so special.
To start a band and be unique is hard. How many acts in the charts can you honestly call new? To pick up your instruments knowing that millions before you have done the same and that you have to find something different, something new, something good, takes a rare kind of courage. ‘New’ in pop music is a subjective term, of course. If we really wanted new we’d turn to the avant garde classicists, and the abortive twentieth century exertions of Boulez, Schoenberg, et al can testify that ‘new’ is tantamount to ‘unlistenable’. new in the world of pop is taking existing elements – drums, bass, guitars, a singer – and putting them together in a way that displaces the inherent familiarity.
*I really did try to find a better phrase to express this idea, but this was honestly the best I could come up with.
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Posted on January 31, 2013 by Tom