The sub-sub-subgenre seems to be the desperate way to get a band recognised now, and as comments on a recent facebook post of mine clearly showed, it’s really kinda difficult to work out what is real and what is taking the p1ss. As a now longtime music critic (I’ve been doing this since 1996), using a genre as a pointer in writeups is occasionally vital – after all, how on earth else are you going to describe something without going into wanky technical detail?
But yes, music critics can also be blamed for inventing new genres and then trying their best to push them, whether they are actually any good or not. And also, sometimes they can get their pigeonholing horrendously wrong.
So, this week I’m going to look at ten genres that have had me scratching me head. And yes, a good few of them I really dislike. If I’m dissing something you like…well, tough. I’m sure you’ll find something I like that you hate, and really, I don’t care. Anyway, there is a Spotify playlist of various bits of it (some things aren’t on Spotify, others you can look for yourself) to accompany it – links are broadly missing as there are so many, I’m afraid.
(Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever written this much for a Tuesday Ten)
The ultimate in making people argue about genre definitions, perhaps. Most industrial nowadays is a hell of a long way removed from the origins, but then, wasn’t industrial always about finding new sounds and new ways of expression? Let’s go back to the origins: Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records went with the slogan “industrial music for industrial people”, which let’s be honest, tells us nothing. Does that suggest, if you want to be literal about it, that it’s purely for people who work in manual labour, in industrial environments? Somehow I suspect not. What I’ve always been fascinated by in the so-called industrial “scene” is how it has evolved. The music was experimental from the start, and part of that experimentation has been how it has splintered and taken a number of different forms. In the early eighties, as Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA, amongst others, were adding funk and more overtly dance influences, EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten were using found sounds and sheer provocation to advance the sound, while Front 242 helped define what became the more club-oriented Electronic Body Music, Skinny Puppy began to experiment with freakish soundscapes, politics and a whole lot of drugs, and Whitehouse and other peers took industrial to extraordinarily noisy extremes. Never mind now, or the late-nineties, even by the mid-eighties so-called Industrial had gone many ways.
But when did it cease to be industrial? I’d argue it never did. The constant experimentation and tweaking, particularly as technology improved and the fanbase began to increase hugely with the breakthrough into the mainstream of bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails – and not to mention metal bands like Fear Factory and Misery Loves Co. dabbling with industrial – has continued to this day. I’ve never been the greatest fan of the term “futurepop”, but music from artists like VNV Nation, (mid and later period) Apoptygma Berzerk, Covenant, Seabound and others perhaps always deserved a different term to industrial – often far less abrasive, but often no less keen on making listeners think. Cybergoth always sounded silly as a term, though, and in the wrong hands can look and sound pretty terrible, too – just look at the latest morons to do so in Ext!ze. And what of “industrial” now? Well, good question. Is it the resurgence of old-school industrial (i.e. nineties-style) material from Cyanotic, Concrete Lung et al, is it the brutal industrial noise of acts like W.A.S.T.E. and Greyhound, is it “aggrotech” like Suicide Commando, or is it actually all of those? We should perhaps stop arguing over the term – industrial has many more problems to worry about, like music sales and club attendance, for a start – not to mention the ever-increasing encroachment of dance music into club setlists – rather than a little bit of petty squabbling.
Speaking of which, who decided second-rate, sped-up house music should be palmed off on so-called EBM/industrial clubs? You know the type of music – usually quite a high BPM, makes people dance like twats, I’m sure someone will correct me and suggest it is supposed to sound “funky”. I for one am sick of hearing it in such clubs. As I’ve mentioned before, we have enough trouble getting “industrial” (see above) music exposure, without getting the time for it reduced even more. See also “schranz” and “hard dance”, none of which I will ever play in my sets.
Anyway, moving on. When did this term first appear? I’d never even come across it until a couple of years ago, but according to Wiki (which perhaps I should take with a pinch of salt) it’s been a description around for some time. I still reckon, unless someone wants to prove otherwise, that this is one made up after the event. Yes, Prong and Pantera in particular have a quite fearsome “groove” to much of their best material, but Prong were always on the industrial metal side of things (just check the slick, ultra clean industrial-esque production of Cleansing, and the mechanical dancefloor carnage of Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck and Controller), while Pantera were simply metal as fuck. Not far off as pointless as the “Nu-Metal” description…
One review called out the much-hyped Hurts on this of late, seeing as no-one could find any record of it prior to their appearance. According to them it’s “heavily electronic, slow emotional ballads”, but could perhaps be a load of bollocks. One thing is for sure, though – Hurts need to work on the music a little more than the backstory, seeing as the album is, umm, rather slow and dull apart from the two absolutely extraordinary singles.
A rather clearer history is now visible for Romo – it was all bollocks. One of the most blatant examples of the music press trying to make up a scene (in desperation, perhaps), I remember watching with incredulity as the Melody Maker tried desperately to lump a few eyeliner-emblazoned indie bands together and suggest people might like them. Where it all fell down was that it quickly became clear that none of the bands were any good (does anyone still actually own any Orlando, for example? I’ll be astounded if anyone can remember them, never mind still listen to them), and the idea quickly fell flat on it’s skinny arse. See also, by the way, “sports metal” (thank the NME for that suggestion).
You see, I love many so-called Post Rock bands. But finding a linkage between, say, Tortoise and 65Daysofstatic? It’s a broad church, and is perhaps just a lazy definition because no-one can think of anything else. Although when you look at how Simon Reynolds – accepted by some to have come up with the definition – described it in the first place, maybe it makes a little more sense:
He used the term to describe music “using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords”.
Certainly, Slint and Mogwai aside, earlier Post-Rock broadly did eschew anything that actually rocked. Like industrial, in some ways, though, this term quickly became a catch-all that to many meant nothing at all. For me it’s music I frequently put on and enjoy, but don’t usually engage with all that much. But maybe that landscape has changed a little in recent years, as bands like 65DoS and Battles have gone towards electronics and dance music, to give post-rock rhythms and even (gasp!) make you want to dance. If we’re calling that something other than post-rock, I’m fucked if I know what that description would be. See also: Post Metal.
Probably the most accurate description of a genre ever, sludge metal eventually hauled it’s arse from the swamps of Louisiana (via the Melvins, of course), in a fog of dope smoke, paranoia and some heavy, heavy riffs. It’s only ever been a genre I’ve dabbled in over the years, but the mighty Iron Monkey – from the very unswampy, but still pretty unpleasant town of Corby – were probably one of it’s finest practitioners in the grand scheme of things, even if they were a little late on the scene. Otherwise, for me it’s Eyehategod and Down all the way.
In some respects, as great as some Hardcore has been, it doesn’t half have a lot to answer for. In particular what Emo has become – it started off, by common agreement, with DC bands like Rite of Spring in the mid-80s, and somehow ended up being lumped in with self-important tosh like My Chemical Romance. How the fuck did it come to this? Back in the 90s, Emo(core) wasn’t even a dirty word – in that era after grunge had blown the doors open for alternative rock of all types to have a shot at success, there were some genuinely fascinating bands, stuff like Sunny Day Real Estate and subsequently Jimmy Eat World who wrote punky songs that had a true emotional core, more interested in songwriting than a striking image. That appears all gone now, sadly, replaced instead by a seemingly never-ending tidal wave of “emo” bands who play plodding pop punk with “I hate myself and I want to die” lyrics that bore me shitless. As for Screamo? I’ve always wanted to know what the fuck it is, and now I know which bands are included, I think I’ll pass.
Anything with “core” in the title usually loses points from me anyway (how many more do there need to be), but generally anything with “Love” in it is a load of bollocks or a desperate marketing ploy to get a band noticed. Which brings me to HIM. “Love Metal”? Bad gothic metal, more like. The vaguely missed Boy Hits Car seemed to have coined “Lovecore” with a similarly titled track, which in fairness seemed to match their slightly hippyish leanings (even if track The Rebirth remains their crowning moment, with lovecore quietly forgotten as a concept), while Lovers Rock is very, very different indeed to “Love Rock” (that “Our Band Could Be Your Life” suggests was coined at one point for the uber-twee Beat Happening) – and Love Rock perhaps deserves a special place in hell for effectively being the antecdent of Belle and Sebastian, a band who for some reason over the years has gained a special level of hate from me.
Finally, let’s take one more trip down memory lane, to a corner of the Black Country that before grunge, and before Britpop, was a vaguely successful media-invention of a genre. That of a handful of indie-rock bands who all sounded a little different to bands from other areas – in Pop Will Eat Itself’s heavy use of sampling and hip-hop influences, in Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s twin-bass groove, and The Wonder Stuff with their spiky, gobshite new wave sound. The music has held up rather well – better than the music press would have you believe, who were pretty damned quick to disavow it as more popular bands took over – indeed rather better than the “fashions” of the time…
So, any other genres you feel need trashing, or even celebrating? Tell me in the comments.