Listomania brings you a weekly top ten from the world of music. Following on from last week’s round-up of muso tricks to annoy fake punks, here’s the top ten diamond geezers in rock.
In a recent monthly magazine cover feature, the lead-off quote from Elbow’s Guy Garvey – ie the juiciest line meant to hook you in, filled in the Manics’ first ever press interview with “We are the decaying flowers in the garden of the rich” – ran thus: “Most of all, we love a quiet pub and a bloody good chat.” Motley Crue on tour, this piece was not to be.
To be fair to said magazine, there were more attention-grabbing soundbites contained within (“This government is a disgusting sham!”). Fact is the editors obviously and rightly recognised that the above quote is exactly what Elbow’s fans want from Elbow. For Guy Garvey and co, along with their smidgen-more-edgy American counterpart Dave Grohl, are the kings of good-bloke-rock, the music that currently rules the public consciousness.
They are the bands that are a few solid albums in, the latest of which is always “the one that is going to make them stars” (but never actually does); the bands who “like a drink”, but whose most outlandish drunken exploit is that late night – 2am – last week when they were gyrating to Britney Spears during a karaoke session; the bands who never, ever moan about having done too much press, happily opening up (there isn’t much to hide, apart from the fact they smoked weed at school) as far as their interviewer asks them to.
These interviewers, in fact, are absolutely key to the rise of this polite phenomenon. The maturification of alternative music has a lot to do with the fact that it now exists as much in broadsheet newspapers as it does on Pitchfork. Gone are the days when, reviewing ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’, The Guardian were moved to comment that “Liam has never sounded as sweet as he does on ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’”. Now they and all the other broadsheets have music – sorry, ‘Culture’ – departments staffed with clued-up, hugely knowledgable adults ready to describe albums using words like “terrific” or at the other end “ghastly”.
While their colleagues in the Film department will happily trash Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, these music critics will laboriously dissect, attempt to comprehend and then impartially judge music aimed squarely at people a third of their age. Getting carried away and calling bands “The best thing in the world ever!’ is not their brief. Along with pieces as to the “significance” or “importance” of this or that band from yesteryear, calling Bobby Gillespie a bit silly and long conversations about the lyrical inspiration for ‘Jesus Was A Rochdale Girl’ with Guy Garvey most definitely are.
Couple this with the never-fading presence of Jo Whiley – the Live Lounge cover version a crucial component in the appeal of good-bloke-rocker – and it’s not difficult to see how these bands have apologetically squeezed their way to the bar of moderate stardom.
This is not intended as a diss. To diss these bands would undermine the point of this article. They are undissable, even to the most fire-spitting teenage dirtbag. They are The Good Blokes, who, most of all, love a quiet pub and a bloody good chat.
So let’s raise a glass – pints of medium-strength lager or locally-brewed bitter all round – to the ten best good blokes, coming soon to a mid-arvo Pyramid Stage slot near you soon. And if the above-mentioned critics reckon this is sexist, don’t worry: next week we’ll be counting down the ten best racks in indie (I’m joking, of course).
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Consider if, say, The Horrors or Two Door Cinema Club had had their secret power ballad covered by the winner of X-Factor: they would have been crucified. To a band of gradually-rising lifers like Simon Neil’s lot, though, it’s more: “Good on them! They deserve the money!” Largely because they’re quite clearly going to spend it on a Range Rover and “the missus” rather than a Rolls and a hotel suite full of teenage hookers.
Does a food column for the Guardian. Worships respectfully at the altar of Orange Juice and Postcard records (ie the music most broadsheet journos grew up with). For a time was in a hot, young band, despite being a bit older and thus, despite the wry look in his eye, much more tangible to the that-bit-older consumer. The whole “We make music to make girls dance” thing was the ultimate adult-orientated Grand Statement.
A massive aid in the pursuit of become a Good Bloke Icon is having bitten one’s lip all the way through being in a band with a junkie/artist crazy. Dave Grohl recently re-iterated that “Kurt felt uneasy about Nivana’s success” before adding: “Shit, I didn’t.” This is central to his enduring appeal: he did what he had to do in Nirvana, in other words be the Handy Andy to Cobain’s Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and gained huge, undying respect for this. Then he started his own band which, rather than leaping from bottom of the Reading Festival bill to the top in the space of a year, began a long slog up the mid-afternoon slots to its-brilliant-that-he’s-made-it-this-far status. Which bring us here, to a new Foos album that is so goofily, undeniably likeable it’s not true.
James Dean Bradfield
During the early years, enthusiastically squeezed his muscular frame into his mum’s pink blouse (now bearing the spraypainted legend ‘I AM A SLUT’); embraced the C&A years of the Manics in combat trousers; then when Nicky Wire decided it was all getting a bit stale and started dressing like a queen again, opted for the smart dignified middle ground. Once got blokily drunk for a year or so. Also had the sense to actually learn how to play his instrument ridiculously well, so as to cover his childhood friend’s inadequacies, and beefed up to kick the shit out of any drunk hecklers who called Richey a poofter. Hero.
The Godlike Genius of Good Bloke-dom. Obviously had a rep for being a bit of a needlessly malicious bastard immediately post-Beatles, as did Lennon. John managed to become a “real music” icon thanks to his bear-all confessionals, while Macca was unfairly regarded as the cheesy alternative. He has flourished in recent years, though, with people forgiving his maudlin excesses, siding with him in the whole Heather Mills business, and helping him eclipse the increasingly grumpy Ringo as The Beatle You’d Most Like To Have A Pint With.
British Sea Power
Possibly the youngest band currently in operation to regularly be dubbed “a British institution”, their fondness for gigs in some of nature’s most beautiful, off-the-beaten-track settings make them ideal weekend jaunt fodder. ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ was also a landmark release in the perceived war on posey Topshop indie bands.
A great sideman, who endlessly tolerates all his paymaster’s immensely irritating habits, from not showing up to gigs and leaving him in the lurch to putting out solo records and doing solo gigs without notice, to surrounding himself with lots of not-pleasant hangers on, to apparently insisting on going out to score drugs himself rather than a) getting one of said, less-recognisibly famous hangers on to do it for him, or b) getting it delivered. One day, if there is any justice, he will release his own ‘Everlong’ and sell out a week at the Rhythm Factory.
Being goal-round-up fodder is a perfect way to instill yourselves in Good Bloke Folklore.
An interesting one “the Burge”, in that he only really entered Good Bloke territory when he moved to the land of pseudo-eccentric arseholes, Los Angeles. Slogging away as the bridesmaid to first the Roses, then Oasis, helped matters immensely, as did his bowlcut and looking like The Horrors’ dad. But the key things is: he gave up drink and drugs, yet remained sociable and friendly, rather than going on about how much better his life is.
And so we come to The Chosen One, the Luke Skywalker of Good Blokes. Everyone wants that “bloody good chat”, and everyone who encounters him by chance, goes up and asks for it will doubtless get it, too, rather than a curt, “I’m busy”. You get the sense that if it was ever reported that Guy had been rude to a fan, or had any kind of strop, the whole of England would collapse. That’s a lot of pressure. But he’s up to the task.
So there you go, a plethora of politeness. But have I missed anyone? Not that they’d moan or anything, but…