Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Nitsuh Ebb



Some Bloke mumbled to us something at the Pains of Being Pure at Heart gig about us not doing indie-pop anymore. But as Crass might have had it, of course we fucking do. This is, surely almost painfully obviously, an indie-pop fanzine.

As such, one of the things that consistently gets our goat(whore) is that when we mention Sarah Records to someone, well obv they've never heard of them, so they google them, and of course the first line of the Wikipedia entry they then get says "Sarah Records was a UK independent record label active between 1987 and 1995..." (ok so far) "... best known for its recordings of twee pop." NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. NO. *Sigh*. (If they added, after the words "best known", the words "BY IDIOTS" - and it would have to be in capitals - we might let it lie). So let us add to the dungheap of blogscrawl on the subject what we've learned from recent skirmishes in the twee wars. Some of it's tongue-in-cheek, but not much.

1. We all have too much time on our hands. The most recent glut of less twee-than-thou blogs remind us of the debate running through Terrorizer's letter page, where collars have been heating and tension rising as to whether Annotations of an Autopsy (who played the Garage the night before the Pains btw, though we didn't see all of you there) are deathcore or death metal, rather than the more fundamental question of whether they are any good (fwiw, we're not sure they are, although moments on their last album still seek to persuade us otherwise).

2. History repeats itself. Twenty years ago we were having this same debate, only then it was the word "cutie" instead of the word "twee" that aroused such emotion and that we all queued up to claim we weren't (despite, in our case at least, the fact that we blatantly were). Look at pretty much any fanzine from the time. "Cutie" was usually part of the same discourse that saw a loaded contempt for "anorak bands". At the time we got upset and defensive. But we're mellow now. (Intriguingly the sleeve notes to the "London Weekend" reissue also claim we called each other "popkids", but that's a new one on us, and in Essex it would certainly have got you a smack, even from a fellow "popkid").

3. Language is an imperfect tool. "Twee" is a word that should be applied to chintzy teashops with walls bedecked with ivy that serve Assam in delft china cups in tacky tourist-trap villages in Austen country. It just sounds mental in a pop music context. (Funnily enough, "cutie" was a much better descriptor). But we are where we are.

4. So we can't choose how we're labelled. Words don't mean what we want them to mean, as Alice discovered in Through The Looking Glass. Journalists deal in lazy, shorthand stereotyping. It's their currency. It's just how they do. It would be great not to be called "twee", just as it would have been rather ace not to have been called "cutie" in day. But so long as, per capita, we offer our detractors a larger proportion of stripey shirts, hairslides, cupcakes and Hello Kitty than any other genre, that's just what's gonna happen to the bands we adopt, foster, harbour and love, even though you and I know the absurdity of people calling the (will-be-missed) MLS twee or the Pains of Being Pure at Heart twee or (a recent example from an HMV display) of the Vaselines being twee...

5. "Indie pop" can't be defined by us, either. If you say "indie pop" to most people they will not think of (or, in the real world, have heard of) any band that's ever recorded for Cloudberry or Matinee or even Sarah. (A quick straw poll at work attracted mostly confusion, but the general consensus that we must be fans of - as opposed to passionate, avid despisers of - Athlete, the Guillemots and the Fr*t*ll*s). We just shouldn't get too upset. We still love what we call indie pop (ooh, standing in the Garage, listening to the gods and goddesses of Spiral Scratch spinning "Comin' Through", "Come Get Me", "P.U.N.K. Girl", "Happy All The Time"... and then to TPOBPAH's "Everything With You", "Come Saturday", "103" etc... recipes for grins from ear to ear, from yesteryear to here), and only that can matter. After all, those of you as old as us will remember how "indie" initially applied to the record label rather than the band, how we celebrated our new "indie" ghetto full of 'our' bands like the June Brides and Felt and the Weddoes and the Minks or whoever, but then we got upset that 'our' indie charts were getting clogged up with the Pete Waterman Label and Rhythm King (who'd hooked up with Mute), because we wanted to be the ones that defined what "indie" was. We had no hope of that then and we have no hope now. As everyone knows, in 2009 "indie" music is a catch-all for 'drab landfill guitar band'. (Oh, and in retrospect there are few indie labels that produced better music than Rhythm King did. PWL, we're less sure about).

6. Steven Wells, may he rest, was right. Well, most of the time. He was right about football, he was right about Napalm Death (he conveniently skipped his anti-vegetarian angle with them though, we note), he was right about Los Campesinos! and he was often right when scrawling in the NME about some of the excesses of the cutie scene in day (even though at the time we LOATHED him for it). And he was right about this piece, which we mention solely in order to justify the title of this post.

7. "Twee" is not a term worth celebrating or reclaiming, not that we quite understand who is doing the reclaiming, or, more pertinently, why. (And the idea that reclaiming the word is even remotely anything like reclaiming "queer" or "nigger" is somewhere between naive, far-fetched and offensive).

8. TAF! are doing no harm, mind. Nothing we see of what they're doing has much of a link with our vision of "indie pop", however you define it, but look at their relative success, the "in" they seem to have with the Grauniad, the quality of some of the bands they put on. Not our scene, you understand - we dislike students far, far, too much - but there are far worthier targets of our ire.

9. Never let yourself get involved in an argument about whether handclaps are twee.

10. But handclaps are twee. Very.

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