published: 12 /
In the latest in his 'Condemned by Rock 'n' Roll' column, Ben Howarth asks why when we need music for rest and relaxation there is so little for it, before finding some respite with the French duo Air, who have just released a new album 'Pocket Symphony'
Tired? No, I’m exhausted. What I really need to do is sit down, have a hot drink, read the sports pages and put a record on.
A combination of early starts, reckless post-work pub trips, a succession of weekends away from home and - yes - even a bit of work have left me needing rest and relaxation rather desperately.
I have found myself wondering what music is best for my current state of mind, and the sad answer is that there isn’t much of it. What we require here is music that will block everything else out, but won’t have too many surprises and certainly won’t require too much effort on my part. But I can’t find much of it, and, as I don’t really have the time or the inclination to look that hard, this is a problem. Nick Drake’s first two albums have been mined extensively, and I’ve never really been a fan of Brian Eno, so I really do need something else.
Why doesn’t more of this music exist? There are a number of reasons, I would imagine, but I can think of two in particular. The first is completely un-sinister - most pop/rock/indie music exists to be played live, and one thing that going to a gig in a dank, smelly, sweaty club/converted public toilet/bar isn’t and couldn’t be is a relaxing experience. The job of live rock bands is to block out the surroundings by making us concentrate on the stage, to excite us so we can ignore our overheated, aching, cramped bodies. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, but still that is not an experience I am eager to repeat at home.
The second is one I have touched upon in some of my reviews recently. There is a rather unfortunate and alarming tendency in modern indie music (still my favourite kind, if you are wondering) towards self indulgence. Artistic exploration is admirable, but surely utter contempt for one’s audience is less so? Not if certain sections of the underground music press are to be believed, however. Too much music is made, it seems, solely to impress music writers, who are only interested in music which allows them to construct elaborate, self conscious reviews. If you don’t have to deconstruct an album and recreate it as 500 word freeform poem, you are more likely to be interested in the tunes. Too much indie music doesn’t have any, and too much of this music is released, at the expense of music which paying customers might actually enjoy.
Thank God, then, for the imminent return to music stores of Air - the French duo who have a new album, Pocket Symphony', just out and which I intend to buy myself a copy of in the near future. I’m looking forward to their lush strings, gentle melodies, arch wit and 70's references. There I go… reviewing an album I don’t even own yet! But, as it happens, I won’t be considering the opinion of anyone who already has reviewed it, so who cares? Despite their huge popularity, critics haven’t always taken Air seriously. But why does that matter? I won’t be analysing Air’s new album, they aren’t that kind of band. But I will be listening to it - very often if its as good as its predecessor 'Talkie Walkie', which I never seem to tire of - and often, that’s enough. Now, who’s making that tea?