Well it wasn’t me who said it. The words actually came from the lips of one Robyn Hitchcock. But then again he has a new album to promote – which is very, very good – and it is his 60th birthday.
But it does strike me that there might be a grain of truth in his words, what with those hip young gunslingers The Rolling Stones headlining Glastonbury and the summer full of reunions of 80s and 90s bands hoping for one last big pay day.
And this week I had a bit of an epiphany in comparing the latest releases from NME’s flavour of the month Peace and the new album from 80s indie rock legends The House Of Love.
The Peace album has its moments, but it clearly isn’t anywhere near as good as the hyped review from the NME and others makes it out to be. It sounds like B list Brit Pop – and not in a good way.
As for The House of Love’s She Paints Words In Red, it boasts lots of crafted tunes, inspired guitar and intelligent lyrics. It lacks a little of the oomph of the band in its heyday – especially on their epic pair of first two albums, but it is way better than the Peace album.
It also strikes me that the latest crop of hyped bands – like Peace, the Palma Violets etc aren’t that great. Last year’s mob – Jake Bugg, Toy, Temples etc were a lot more interesting.
However before you write me off as an ageing curmudgeon with a Suede fetish, I actually listen to more new music than at any point in my life courtesy of the wonder that is Spotify.
What is wrong with British music fans?
My theory is that rock music has become an old man’s game – but only in the UK and that is because of the weird legacy of the old music press and the way it shaped how we saw new bands.
In the UK we are still suckers for the concept of the package – the band with the personalities, clothes, images and haircuts – as much as the music. Trouble is they don’t come along very often. The last band to perfectly fit the bill were The Strokes (who took off in the UK long before they mean anything in the US) and they made, well one great album and one good one, and the new one is horrendous. Maybe The Arctic Monkeys too, though before Alexa rocked up they looked like a few northern plumbers on a Thursday night pub crawl. It is why we are still obsessed with The Libertines too, who were a great soap opera, but musically nowhere near as good as their heroes.
So the great stars of yesterday – who had the image and the music and something to say too – the Stones, Roses, Bowie etc still fit the bill of what we except from our rock stars.
It feels like the rest of the world doesn’t share our obsession with the package. Tame Impala are a huge global band now and they are clearly way more passionate about their music than they are about their trousers. As are countless of other American, Australian and European bands.
So maybe it is time us Brits stopped fretting about outdated notions of what rock stars should and shouldn’t be. It really is all about the music now. And until we embrace that hundreds of really great British bands and artists like The Horrors, Ulysses, The Clientele, Magic Theatre, The Real Tuesday Weld, Darren Hayman and The Soundcarriers to name but a few, aren’t going to get the attention their superb music truly deserves.