Considering Mojo’s original remit was to appeal to an audience of thirty and forty-somethings, it’s been odd that the magazine has continued its obsession with all things sixties (and especially those ‘loveable’ moptops) for so long. The generation now that age were either not born or barely sentient before 1970. The magazine seems to be adapting to this slowly, and after last month’s (admittedly impressive) Radiohead cover, they’ve gone all indie-pop on our asses in the current issue.
I’m of that generation for whom the bywords of quality music to accompany the growing pains of adolescence and early adulthood were labels like Factory, Rough Trade, 4AD, Postcard and, a little later, Creation and Sarah. It’s kind of ironic that in the first half of the eighties when many of us were happy with our Chameleons, Fall, Josef K and Cocteau Twins records, the NME was insisting we should be listening to Blue Rondo A La Turk instead.
Back to Mojo, and its UK Indie top 50. It’s a bizarre list. In trying to cover 30 years from the Swell Maps to the Arctic Monkeys, there’s neither a stylistic coherence to it, nor a commercial one (many of the selected tunes are on major labels or pseudo-indies). St Etienne don’t have much in common with the Fall, nor Huggy Bear with the Happy Mondays. It’s a quixotic task anyway, but it seems to have been done with all the scientific reasoning of a quick trawl through someone’s dusty vinyl collection, picking out the records they like. There are some great records in there, but they are obviously not the 50 best, if such a thing was even objectively possible. It’s good to see a few forgotten favourites being given a brief spot in the sun, of course. The Wild Swans’ “Revolutionary Spirit”, the Sea Urchins’ “Pristine Christine” (probably only as the token Sarah act) and the Fire Engines’ “Candyskin” all deserve more than the obscurity they’ve been left in. Interestingly, nearly a third of the selections hail from Scotland.
British Indie’s time as a creative force pretty much expired during the late eighties. On the one hand, there was a load of exciting bands from the US making their mark, like Sonic Youth, Big Black and the Butthole Surfers. On the other, there was the explosion of dance culture. As a genre, it’s constantly recycled itself from year to year, cannibalising sixties and late seventies influences – each time, like nth generation photocopies, the result is less interesting than the last. These days I find it unbearable. Each new NME championed band is quickly picked up by the forty-something broadsheet journalists and Radio 2 DJs who are desperate to keep up with the illusion that they are “down wiv da kids”. And each seems to have 18 months of over-exposure before being shoved aside in favour of something even more mediocre. Along with X-Factor manufactured pop, it’s probably the most soul-destroying music around at the moment.
By the way, kudos to Mojo for the Wu-Tang feature. Curses that it seems to have been edited to within an inch of its life, leaving the normally reliable Angus Batey looking like an incoherent hack.