Saturday, 19 March 2011

Review: Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (Also, a rant about the Hype Machine)

The hype around this band has always confused me. "Innovative", "Best", "Fresh" and so on and so forth; these are words constantly thrown out in adverts and from other people. But everything I ever heard from them has just been...standard. What's so good about them?

Well somebody told me there's some brilliant songwriting etc etc etc so I decided FINE I WILL GO AND DO AN ALBUM LISTEN. I've done this before, because I don't like having an uninformed opinion and if someone keeps annoying me to have an opinion on something, or to change my opinion on something, then I usually cave in after a while and go FINE.

I've done this for Linkin Park's latest (and still rubbish) album (and may do a write up later on) and I also did it for Avril Lavigne's latest in the vain hope that somebody will have at least written ONE good song on there (There wasn't). So I shall do it here.

So far, the first thing that sticks out is the horrible northern accent. Boy are regional accents popular in British music these days, even if they're horrid sounding and completely un-musical sounding. Yet people flock to them because they're so "raw" and "different" and "new and exciting". No people, they sound like shit. I want to listen to music, not pub louts thinking they wrote a 'song'.

So the songwriting? A mix of influences here, its nothing bad but its nothing horribly innovative. I kind of enjoy it, there's a blend of a more folky Radiohead with more traditional pop and indie rock influences, and its fairly well stitched together. This was my main problem with it though - they're just really another band out there in the sea of bands. When people tell me something is amazing, innovative and the biggest UK band in years, I expect to have my mind blown at least a teeny tiny little bit. Instead I get treated to *another band*.

So what we have is another product oh the horrible hype machine. See, a lot of people think I dislike hyped bands because of the hype and I'm elitist and want to be different. And whilst that's true to some small extent, its not the whole reason.

The reason I HATE hyped bands is because 100% of the time, they're disappointments. Bands that have absolutely blown my mind and made me think about music in new ways have always been those dusty ones at the back of the shelf that a few people talk about but nobody really pays them much notice even though they've influenced hundreds of bands who followed them. Bands like Swans, Earth, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Tangering Dream, Neurosis, Brian Eno and so on.

So why do these bands lie dormant whilst samey boring bands get hyped beyond belief? Well, its simply because marketing is such a powerful tool. Yes, Elbow are a good band and they're probably good enough to sell records. But if you plaster ads everywhere that scream OMG THIS IS THE BEST BAND EVAR LISTEN TO THIS SHORT CLIP OF THE BEST SONG EVAR!!!! then yes, they'll sell a lot more of those records. A lot of people buy music based on someone elses recommendation, and despite this being completely the wrong way to buy music, it happens enough for people to base their sales tactics on them.

So back to Elbow. The current song I'm listening to is a huge copy-and-paste from a Zero 7 album. zzzzzzzzz. I can't even be bothered to review the rest of this album - I don't despise it but its confirmed what I thought; they're just another middle-of-the-road band who, with the aid of the hype machine, have convinced the general public that they're better than that. They're not a bad band, but just stop telling me how much they're going to change the world with their music. Radiohead already did that.


  1. I think another huge part of it is that people with no musical knowledge cling to the fact that 'x' band has a following, so they must be a band worth listening to. Mob mentality

  2. Yeah, I agree with Mark. People who are less muscally inclined tend to go with that one annoying tune that sticks in your head and "everyone" likes. Gets under your skin after a while as people lose what real music really is.