Friday, November 14, 2008

You'll Never Be Cool

I hope you've all watched the new Comet Gain video, for "Love Without Lies"? It's a great music video, shot by Pavla of TAF, and a veritable who's who of UK indiepop 2008. I recognise a few dozens of people, if not more. It was shot in August in Glasgow and London, with lots of footage from The Buffalo Bar of course. But part of me is happy that I don't pop up somewhere in there, as Brogues first thought. The part of me that still resists the idea of the cool. Indiepop has always been one of few subcultures not struggling under the weight of trying to be cool. Unlike for example punk, post-punk, metal or any other group of people who survive their teens by hardening themselves to the world - or 'growing up', in their own way. Of course we have also grown up, and there are kids out there whose parents were part of the 80s pop scene as much as the punk generation has settled down and started familys. We too, have hardened ourselves, but we have done so through inverting the reaction, ironically. By opening ourselves - to love, friendship and hope. Since when has listening to Comet Gain been cool, I have to ask? Not during the years I've listened to them - that's for sure. And least of all now, after the half-arsed gig at Indietracks and a farewell to their faithful fanbase with a record that compiles a heap of tracks from 7"s and 12"s that those fans are likely to have lining their walls. And about three unreleased tracks, let's not forget.

The 'hipster condition' is also a problem with TAF, and I seem to recall kind of the same thing happening during the height of the Swedish indiepop craze 2002-2004. Here at least, it ended with the mock superiority of the so called 'indie talibans'. My feeling was that it wasn't
exactly a welcoming community, and you were not accepted into it if you didn't have the right clothes or listened to the right bands. The same thing seems to be happening in London now. Thankfully, the Swedish hipsters soon moved on to electro pop, and other newfangled trends. These things are never really about the music.

The video unarguably portrays the indie kids as cool - and 'kids' are what you see. Where are the older indiepop fans, the overweight, and the plain hideously ugly people? Stephen Pastel seems to be the only one above 35 in the video, cause he's still hip apparently. Or maybe just a child at heart. He smiles nervously into the camera from behind the turntables, as if this is exactly the sort of racket he hopes the footage will not turn up in. And maybe it seems silly to mention the way that drinking and smoking are presented as natural accessories to vinyl fetishism and unruly hair, but still. If I was fifteen this would be the sort of people I'd look up to (and imitate, cause I wouldn't dare to be myself). Our lives are as decadent as anyone else's, but perhaps we should try to change this rather than cementing bad habits. Nothing's been edited out, and I don't think it should be, but maybe this simply isn't the right forum for cinéma vérité.

Looking at this video is like entering a world so completely different from visiting Indietracks this summer it's not even funny. Apart from the fact that probably no one could've looked cool in that terrible heatwave, what would strike you about that crowd is the wide spectrum of people. It wouldn't have surprised me if the local employees in the buffet had started talking about Primal Scream in '85 with me. That's why it was so funny to hear Harvey sing the following in the church:

Take a trip to Anorak City
All the girls are young and so pretty

And the boys all walking around
They're all really groovy in Anorak Town
Take a trip to Swanwick Junction,
In the buffet they're serving up luncheon
So don't let your credibility slip
Let's all take a trip to Anorak City

Blasphemy, if ever I saw it! The only thing you need to do now is replace 'anorak' and 'Swanwick junction' with London and the Highbury & Islington tube stop. I bet the hipsters would be abhorred to be called 'groovy'. *Shudder*

Having said all that, cinematographically and photographically it's a brilliant video - and a fantastic new single of course! And you should also check out Pavla's video for Slow Club's ep track "Come On Youth", which apart from some gritty Super 8 shots, also features an interesting narrativity.

14 comments:

JL said...

Voilà !
c'est exactement cela ...

dumbmagician said...

Just for fun, let's assign blame. I nominate (early) Belle and Sebastian. Certainly many younger indie-pop fans have come to the music through B&S, and I can think of no other band associated with the genre so dedicated to cultish bohemianism, whether documenting it in songs or cultivating it in record covers, publicity photos, and the like. I'm sure that the Postcard and Living Room scenes had their coolness quotients, too, but Orange Juice, at least, merrily punctured hipsterism in its lyrics. (Whether the the early-'80s Creation folks' wide-ranging interests in mod, punk, psychedelia, postpunk, and do forth translated into social openness, I dunno. But I can dream...)

brogues said...

I think it's a bit harsh to blame Belle and Sebastian. I was at the launch of "If You're Feeling Sinister" and their mums and grannies were there! They by no means pulled a cheek sucking-in poseur 'cool' crowd. It was a very homely event and one which at the time seemed completely inclusive.

I was also at the Glasgow Twee As Flump night documented in the Comet Gain video and if they'd just panned the camera round a few yards they'd have got a 'hideously ugly' 36 yr old Scots bloke for their video which would have hushed the naysayers' voices :)

I'd like to salute Peter Parker for being the opposite of 'coo' and for being some of the most inclusive and welcoming people I've had the good fortune to meet at a gig. Their sense of fun and desire to see EVERYONE have a great time was actually quite moving. I know I sound like a soppy old duffer saying that but that's how I felt on the night.

Sorry for wrongly IDing ya, Kris. I guess the YouTube window was too wee and my specs too grimy!

dumbmagician said...

And, yes, I know plenty of lovely B&S fans, many of them longtime, too. And certainly the band has sponsored a homey event or five, and its most active fans have been very inclusive.

But you have to admit that B&S is lyrically (and visually) hung up on glamorous bohemianism to the nth degree. And there's no doubt that some listeners--not all, and probably mostly younger ones--identify with some of the enigmatic, hipsterish folks in B&S character studies. (This phenom has been fact-checked by talking to a friend who got into B&S while he was in, gulp, high school. The arty-hothouse world evoked on Sinister beckoned to him emphatically.) Those characters are different than the kitchen-sink-/teenage-drama Everypeople of Smiths lyrics, and they're not ridiculed in the knowing, postpunk way they might have been in an Orange Juice, Felt, or Microdisney song, so they can seem very appealing. How dreamy to take pictures of your obsessions or sculpt figures of the Velvet Underground--or at least to be among those who might!

stevie said...

Good piece Kris! My initial thought on watching the video was that I didn't realise so many people still smoked. And seemingly think it is cool as well!! I agree with you. It is a world away from Indietracks.

Marianthi said...

Great post Kris. I often get a bit frustrated and angry by this attempt to suddenly sell indiepop as cool but then I remember that it isn't and it'll never be and I fall asleep listening to Horowitz.

annika said...

Exakt min tanke, när jag såg videon för första gången häromdagen. Att gå till TAF är lite som att dras in i en cool competetion, och komma sist.

JulesLt said...

Oh, I think it was there well before B&S - the Sarah bands were pretty much split between those into 60s cool (Sea Urchins, Sweetest Ache) and those that weren't.

In the Creation era you had Primal Scream and Pete Astor and the Mary Chain - it was no surprise they all jumped to major labels. McGee was always looking for Oasis, as much as he loved Felt or The Pastels.

BUT . . . I've seen the other side too. When you get people who believe that indiepop is just about tweeness and extreme amateurism, or some other really elitist definition that excludes good old joy in pop music and dressing up.

jack gibbs said...

Since when has listening to Comet Gain been cool, I have to ask? Not during the years I've listened to them - that's for sure. And least of all now, after the half-arsed gig at Indietracks and a farewell to their faithful fanbase with a record that compiles a heap of tracks from 7"s and 12"s that those fans are likely to have lining their walls. And about three unreleased tracks, let's not forget.

such statements of entitlement and exclusion stem from the exact same place as a)being "cool" and b)feeling excluded from the very same.

Nothing's been edited out, and I don't think it should be, but maybe this simply isn't the right forum for cinéma vérité.

yes, let us impose rules similar to those stylistic ones you decry in the same post. you see how your doing the exact same thing you claim to critique?

The Boy and the Cloud said...

i'd say such statements stem from disappointment and not much else. any sense of entitlement or exclusion lies in the interpretation of the reader, as is the case with my interpretation of said video.

i don't think i'm in any position to impose rules on anyone, do you? style is not so much about rules as conscious imitation anyway. you adopt a style - you aren't assigned one.

jack gibbs said...

well, i fail to see how a comp of singles, ep's, etc is a "farewell to their faithful fanbase" and does not imply some element of entitled status for being part of said "faithful fanbase."

you may not be in the position to impose rules, and no one may be, but are you not attempting to do so in your critique?

i guess it seems, in some regard, that this dissapointment you feel does have a relationship to this concept of cool you dismiss. now it may be a different concept of what is "good" or "cool" or whatever term you choose, but it is a similar idea of maintaining a notion or standard of how you wish things to be. your idea of "cool" is different from tom's which is different from dick's which is different from harry's.

and a point that the "bad" behavior of smoking and drinking presented in the video is repeatedly being done by members of the band whose video it is.

The Boy and the Cloud said...

by farewell i simply meant that they announced it as their last release.

suggestion is far from imposition, i think.

i also think 'good' and 'cool' are very different adjectives. good mostly has to do with personally approving of something, whereas what is cool is much more determined by a consensus within a certain social spheres. i don't think anyone believes smoking is good. some people probably think it's cool however.

i love comet gain but i don't care if that's cool or not. and i'm not saying that to be cool.

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