With my descent into the classics resurrecting my interest in vinyl (unlike my previously-stated opinions surrounding it’s inevitable death), artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Bob Marley (the list goes on…) reignite the growing concerns I have concerning Band Ephemerality: short-lived bands caught up and eventually swallowed in, the scene-rush in under a decade. Allusions to Horsell Common are irrefutable. 2010’s farewell tour is simply a concession to its eight-year history in and out of four EPs, three Singles and a debut album (eventually released five-years after the band’s conception) without follow-up; honestly, what’s there to say goodbye to?
One irresponsible culprit is the ongoing nineties-noughties genre, indie: inconspicuous, independent bands self-releasing albums in relative obscurity to an underground of teens, tweens and potential backers on a budget with some talent. Effectively weaned on the technological advancements of the past decade – laptops, MP3 format/players, cheap equipment and the digitization of music – have made self-sustaining, tech-savvy artists capable of self-producing their own debut, predominantly without label backing. The aftermath has seen a rise of artists produce, promote and distribute by themselves, for themselves; and when the money runs out, or their popularity sinks, they slip between the cracks and slink away in defeat.
Suddenly, I realise, my generation might never see the equivalents of The Beatles or even Pink Floyd: Sgt Pepper or The Wall. Instead, we have the likes of Radiohead, Coldplay, and the now mainstream-polluted U2. And while their music is (somewhat) substantial and (occasionally) satisfying, we are reaching an age where the terms Classic and Ancient will soon be employed to define Kanye West and Queen, respectively.
There’s enough blame to go round, I suppose – it’s not just indie; label-backing has seen a rise in privately-selected artists shamelessly promoted on the likes of MTV and mainstream-radio. Repeatedly. One-hit-wonder singles together with an album of fillers. A few tours. A few years. Followed by a follow-up death. Reality-television has not helped this: these false Idols only proffer semi-celebrities from outback/suburbanite scenarios. These average Does performing unenjoyable covers that disrespect their heroes and disillusion teen-taste. All embossed in loathsome pop, monotonous rock, love-mush lyrics and (overused) universal chords. The Axis Of Awesome show that literally everyone has used or is using them – Beatles, Marley, U2 – with their hilarious performance.
It’s hard to say what I want from artists today: most of this angst is driven with breakup suppositions regarding Interpol and The Killers – bands I’ve grown-up with. Bands oozing potential. Bands too young to give up. While The Killers are on hiatus, bound for a fifth studio-album (hooray!), Interpol’s fourth – conspicuously self-titled – album further underlines an imminent dilemma. Whether due to a lack of funding (unlikely), side-projects (Magnetic Morning, Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper) or simple boredom, bands are reaching their peak early-on; in their prime and out of it in only five to ten years. Rockstar-status over decades is subsequently being sacrificed for short-term, in-pocket bliss. Sagas of the music-scene are quickly being replaced episodically with vignetted, lattice-like structures; bands interwoven into one another, incestuously sharing leads or vocals to conspire in duality. Massive Attack is such an example, while Dark Night Of The Soul (despite its success) another album contrived mutually in eclecticism. There is no real development of sound over time, no evolution of song. The out-with-a-bang mentality of the current generations is having an effect. Bands are delivering more, quicker. And as a result, they are burning themselves out, being proverbially Bladerunner in physique – “… The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long…”
My counterpart previously wrote a well-conceived, thought-fledged article concerning The Internet & Music; and while I wholeheartedly agree with what’s been said, repercussions are perhaps being felt elsewhere. Artists touring instead of creating, to maintain themselves, are reacting to the effect illegal downloading and sharing of music has had on profit margins. While profits off albums largely go to the labels themselves (capitalistically driven as they are), artists are profiting solely on gigs and concerts where they are their own bosses.
Every action has its equal and opposite reflex-action, and Band Ephemerality may simply be another symptom to a much greater, technologically-induced disease. Our preference for bands to be a 100% EPIC ENTERTAINMENT all-time-every-time, and sacrifice their life-expectancy as a result, is a slowly but surely all-encompassing mindset. Accordingly, I don’t see anyone rivalling, or even mounting a similar lyrical effort to that of Dylan, to the genre-memorability of Marley or to the emotional-displacement indicative of Floyd. Ever.