Music in Liverpool
By MADeA 14/08/2008
Outside of and after the Beatles, our greatest triumph of musical individuality and freedom, Liverpool music's story has been one of conformity and constraint. Today to be a successful "Liverpool" band or artist embraced by the local media and propelled to national and international levels, one must don a stylistic “scouserock” straightjacket. It is a cliché adopted readily by wannabes and the local media alike such that artists located here who want nothing more than to explore the fuller language of music and share that exploration with open-minded listeners (and build an audience of those open-eared open-minded people) are derided and classified as ponderous, self-indulgent or pretentious. Let me say - there is no “pretending” here - this is real.
The conclusion: I will continue to do what musically interests me and gather what audience I can along the road regardless of parochial fashion and expectation. Anyone who cares about MUSIC, making Music in this City, should remember that we are artists of the WORLD (not only of Liverpool) who knows, maybe the ears and brains of the movers and shakers will soon open up and Liverpool may innovate again.
Happy to open up the debate to anyone who wants to comment…
From the outside looking in, both as a real fan of The Neil Campbell Collective and as an independent music and arts journalist from Liverpool, I applaud the stand the band are currently taking against the narrow scope of the local media in its coverage and promotion of music and the local media's critical approach to anything that is not mainstream.
I feel that this band's music stands outside the circle of commercialism (praise indeed). It is perfectly performed with no need for production tricks and in the current cultural climate i.e. X-Factor is highly unlikely to capture current large-scale audiences, brainwashed by competitive musical-TV programming.
The Neil Campbell Collective’s focus is on their music alone: the sort of music to keep your sensibilities strong rather than weighted down with bags of hype or a bunch of haircuts (the latter being a nickname I overheard as a description for lesser-talented, copy-cat bands, trying to get away with a three chord cocky front man).
“Ponderous” might be deemed by some as thoughtful?
Neil Campbell has prompted me to think about my role as an independent music journalist. It’s true to say all creative folk receive good, mediocre and bad reviews, some are justified, some not; it depends on individual taste and mood.
Musicians of Liverpool have a choice, and for what it’s worth, I think the commercial bandwagon needs a good servicing so please don’t jump on it.
Merseyside stands shadowed by the world-legendary Beatle phenomenon; a legacy from our grandparents generation; it is great for tourism, but little else. Sadly, there is a new generation of school-leavers without a stamp of sound on their era; their transition into adulthood. They are plugged into their virtual-reality worlds and new (selfish?) musical technology any time they want at the push of a button. No waiting for the radio weekly top-forty count down or for Top of the Pops.
Listening with friends and talking about the experience has made live gigs increasingly popular, but musical super clubs are closed because the police can’t handle drug problems.
Oh, remember that thing you do – you know… er, moving your arms and legs, swaying hips, nodding heads… what is that? You must know? When everyone is in a room and sort of upright and close, full of energy, tapping, clapping and spinning around with one another; complete strangers with only delight for music in common…
This city has proudly attracted creative students (both national and international) to its universities and to Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. The city-centre could easily accommodate a football, a Lambanana or a guitar in every square metre of flat land. There are hundreds of below average and average musicians vying for attention amid a highly-talented few. What's more, the city continually attracts hundreds of 'outsiders' - the melodic buzz is that loud. However, away from big venues for live music (such as the new dockland arena, our many festivals and sometimes the smaller concert halls) musicians are playing to other musicians and mostly for free.
It is rare for the media to seek the best, because it’s a complex task in a fast-changing realm. Some journalists try – and are pushed aside. The simple fact is that businessmen want safe bets; well-known stars (who are often past their sell-by date) musicians who are likely to draw in punters who will pay exorbitant ticket prices. For the most part, the media is reluctant to praise emerging musical talent until that talent has a substantial following. I wonder why? I sometimes think local media is serving the proprietors of the bigger music venues. I could be wrong, but what’s that arena called?
My message to all Liverpool musicians is to play for yourselves first, then for those who want to hear along the way, and then for the world. The best will get the recognition they deserve. Realise your strengths and weaknesses as you grow into your sound. Be patient and don’t hide away.
You can read the recent blog 'Music in Liverpool' at www.myspace.com/theneilcampbellcollective and contribute to the debate there.
Comment on this review: