The indie world has long had an uneasy relationship with celeb culture, but we shouldn’t be murdering Tom from SCUM for his recent gossip mag horror… yet
A fortnight ago, the alternative nation got quite upset when Tom Cohen from SCUM appeared on the cover of Hello! magazine alongside his pregnant bride-to-be Peaches Geldof. To many, the fact that he would so openly exhibit himself within the filthy, plastic, superficial world of celebrity has tainted forever his band’s attempts to conjure “bleak isolation and extreme euphoria”. To the slightly more forgiving, it was merely the latest eye-opening chapter in indie’s ongoing, always fascinating, on/off relationship with gossip column culture.
It will be interesting to see how Tom justifies this in interviews (he was, coincidentally, booked in for NME’s Peter Robinson Versus last week, but it got cancelled). Or, indeed, if he feels the need to justify it at all. Would it be fair enough if he said, “They asked us, and they offered a shitload of money which I can use to bring up my child and make a second album with, and that was it”? And if we assume this is the reason, why does he get a load of shit, but – to pick one of countless examples – Frankie & The Heartstrings can give the same excuse and get away with having their music used in a Domino’s advert? Anti establishment icons Iggy Pop and John Lydon are, as everyone knows, no strangers to a bit of corporate cash these days, while Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ found its way into the background of The Only Way Is Essex, and barely anybody noticed. Are any of the latter really more acceptable than getting your photo taken for the cover of a trashy celebrity magazine?
In fact, if we’re “all about the music”, is it not better to cheapen yourself rather than the music itself? Think back to when Preston from The Ordinary Boys went on Celebrity Big Brother. Personally, I had absolutely no problem with him doing it. I agreed with him when he noted that his band weren’t really going anywhere, so he thought it would be more exciting to roll the dice and see what happened (it was only when he retrospectively tried to claim he was – cliché alert! – “subverting the system from within” that he started to look like a knobhead). Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but, fêted though they may be, the whole SCUM “thing” has not exactly captured hearts and minds. Their first single was three-and-a-bit years ago. It’s probably time for a shake up.
Thus, in the unforgiving climate of the modern music industry, surely it’s worth SCUM taking a leap into celeb-world, gaining some mainstreamer converts curious about their dark art – even if they lose the fandom of a few posey Nick Cave wannabes along the way. Because let’s be truthful: if you spent 2011 going on about how much you love SCUM’s music, and now you’re turning your back on them for this, that suggests that your relationship with their music was purely superficial, worn like a badge of hipness. That you like(d) them because it makes you feel cool. In which case, you needn’t worry: Toy will be at the Shacklewell Arms for you to be into before everyone else was. Until the singer starts stepping out with someone from Made In Chelsea because, y’know, he thinks she’s nice, and doesn’t stop to think how person X will reflect on his psychedelic warlord post-punk experimental credentials. If he did, in fact, would that not make him much more of a dick?
At least SCUM have set themselves apart from the realms of cartoon-cool bands perpetually playing to shoeboxes full of cartoon-cool types and thinking they’re at the very darkest edge of the alternative. SCUM may lose the respect of those people, and to many others they may forever be That Band Whose Singer Was In Hello! With Peaches Geldof. But that’s a better lot than that of the bands from their former scene who, while they might scoff, are in reality as hungry for notoriety as the goons in Hello!, just on a smaller scale. It may only be momentarily exciting/amusing. But it is something.
This article originally appeared in the February 4th issue of NME