In our teenage years we are further shaped by the culture around us: books, movies and especially in my case: music. My generation had music of atmosphere, mystery and intrigue. Arcadia, David Sylvian, New Order, This Mortal Coil and the 4AD label. It was looking to the future… The Human League dared us, OMD dazzled us and Simple Minds gave us a new gold dream, though by the late eighties the tide, as Roger Waters lamented, was already turning and not necessarily for the better.
Now it seems shiny buttocks and explicit content are the new pop. One could argue Prince was a pioneering force of this by blurring intrigue with explicit back in the day however in recent years it seems a game of oneupmanship; who can out do the last in getting commercial airplay ever more sleazy which is ok within reason but what of the more discerning teenager, are there any and what are they listening to?
One thing is certain when the clock turned to 1990 mystery and the romantic era was in decline or more so forcibly removed from our lives by record company execs and/or whoever else engineers the zeitgeist. There was still hope, the League told us to Kiss the Future while Glen Gregory’s UGLY exclaimed BOOM the Future! Simultaneously Simple Minds had quit dreaming and found real life, and OMD (well Andy McCluskey) were embroiled in taxes of the saccharine kind. Then You Turn Away indeed and we were turning away from a lot.
So what happened? Was the world breeding too many dreamers? And if so what do we do with people of that ilk leaving school? If anything the digital world of blogging and Behance has shown us that legions of people would be creative full time if they could be. Unfortunately for those of us born of creative flair there are only so many outlets for our needs and the accompanying jobs that go with them remain as elusive as always. Perhaps this is why the onus at the moment is centred around the MBA rather than mastering an art.
Getting back to the ‘Who’ is producing music of mystery for the teenagers of the now generation. I don’t know. Sometimes I hear names mentioned, HURTS anyone? Chvrches too bear resemblance to the pasts fanciful notions of the future; Altered Images meets neon disco. But the music of intrigue I speak of isn’t technically a genre at all and aside the bravado of Chvrches, is more or less being carried out by the same musicians who crafted it then.
Arcadia’s majestic masterpiece So Red The Rose may have been a one off but it’s an enduring rose much opined in the Duranisphere from which it came. Check out Fragment from Pop Trash or The Universe Alone from Paper Gods. Simple Minds may have left the New Gold Dream far behind, after all middle aged men shouldn’t be recreating the music of their youth. They have however settled somewhere between the pastoral shades of NGD and the stadium rock they became by producing Big Music; a middleweight dynamic which suits them. OMD continue with dazzling design reduced to the size of a cream-cracker and though they paint a pretty ditty it’s a metaphor for a bleak picture; the future you anticipated has been cancelled.