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Miscellaneous - April 2008

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 22 / 3 / 2008

Miscellaneous - April 2008


In the latest in his 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' album, Ben Howarth asks if it is ever possible to really say what music you like

"What music do you like ?" I've long since given up trying to impress anyone with the music I like, because I know that nobody cares. But I have been asked the dreaded question on a couple of occasions recently. How on earth do you answer ? It’s a cruel question. If you are above the age of 20, you have probably been buying music for over a decade, and will have amassed loads of bands you like. Steve Lamacq always asks people who call into his radio shows this, and he must do so with a wicked grin on his face. He has championed thousands of bands as a DJ for over fifteen years, but he expects members of the public to answer this question in fifteen seconds. I could make things simple and say "the Beatles." I do, after all, really like them, to the point of owning the entire Wings back catalogue. But who doesn’t like the Beatles ? Similarly, Bob Dylan. There would have been a time when mere mention of the great man would be greeted with wide eyed stares, and occasionally outright violence. But in recent years, he has enjoyed not just intense critical attention but also broad acceptance from a public, now even prepared to indulge a film where people pretend to be him. You could say you like Joy Division. But my natural assumption for someone who tells me this, if they aren’t a student, is that as a student they were in a band that didn’t get anywhere, and they haven’t gotten over the experience. This is music that can be admired on a technical basis, but if someone actually made me sit through 'Closer' again, I’d have to ask for some Leonard Cohen afterwards to cheer myself up. Alternatively, you could be mainstream cool, and say you like Amy Winehouse. As I have mentioned in this space in the past, I don’t understand the phenomenon of Amy Winehouse. Of course, like everyone else, I find her antics amusing. That’s what we pay pop stars for - palpable acts of idiocy that we would never contemplate ourselves. But 'Back In Black' appears to be back at number one, so most of your friends and mine probably have it tucked away somewhere in their CD racks. More tricky is admitting you like Kate Nash. Lots of people do, and I happen to be one of them. But I can also realise that her fake cockney accent has drawn not just ridicule, but intense hatred. If people are slagging her off, it’s better just to stay quiet. Better to lie than to find yourself strangled. I once heard someone explain that they’d been trying to decide between the Artic Monkeys and the Kaiser Chiefs, and had decided that the Arctic Monkeys just about edged it. Pretty embarrassing. The only thing more embarrassing, actually, is indie fans trying to impress girls by explaining that they’ve "really been getting into Girls Aloud recently, the production is amazing." Saddest of all, they probably mean it. Besides those occasions when people show off the fact they are idiots, the worst outcome of this game is its development into a conversation between someone obsessed by music, and someone who just wants something to keep them busy on the tube. I try and avoid this at all costs, because it will either lead to boredom or an argument. Theological questions are best debated amongst believers, after all. In fact, it is a question that may just be impossible to answer. I clearly need to come back to it again in this column, and I may start asking it myself.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

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