Saturday, 29 June 2013

Why We Need The KLF.

A Twitter conversation last night about the shitefest that is Glastonbury provoked an idea so wonderful I can't sleep properly. That Glastonbury has made the journey from counter-cultural peace movement mung bean folk rock oddity to corporate staple of the musical calendar is hardly an original announcement but something is wrong with music and, as with most things, I'm pinning the blame on the Tories  (and by default New Labour).

Music needs to be overhauled every now and then. Beatlemania, Punk, Acid House all lit the fuse under a tired culture at the time. Now, in an age of Spotify and YouTube, where musical discovery is no longer the art of time consuming investigation and risk taking that it was in my day (IN MY DAY), everything seems to be heading towards some kind of homogenous sludge.

I want to be excited by music again. As a kid, there would be a new song every month or so on Top of the Pops that would make me feel something akin to delirium, a fever only soothed by that moment when I was finally able to see the stylus of the family record player hit the first groove of the vinyl I'd spunked my paper round money on. Occasionally I would fuck up and buy something like Toto's enduringly crass Africa but purchases like Eurythmics electro take on the Shangri-La's psychodrama , Frankie Goes to Hollywood's ballistic Cold War funk and this thrilling voyage into the brave new world of sampling made me feel that pop music would forever mutate into new exciting streams and sub streams, that despite the British public's fondness for novelty shit, sentimental shit and Euro holiday shit - there was still the very realistic hope that next week's edition of Top of the Pops would deliver something wonderful for me to feel that strange anticipation of the new.

When the coalition formed a government in 2010, some wise heads consoled themselves with the thought that music would improve as it had under the last Tory regime. Though industries closed and millions of dreams fell by the wayside, the Thatcher era was ushered in by the post punk sound of Joy Division (led ironically by a Tory voter) and over the next decade or so bands as disparate as The Smiths, Culture Club and Happy Mondays made debuts on Top of the Pops that made a nation gawp - an ever evolving national soundtrack providing sweet relief from the miseries of Margaret.

But it hasn't happened. Top of the Pops finally died in the face of public indifference and the technological marvel of unending libaries of downloadable portable music. Indie became a marketing term for guitar pop as groups of identikit middle class kids from the Home Counties formed the "The" bands - Vaccines, Kooks, Fratellis and decided that vaguely hummable choruses were all that was needed to sustain some sort of career in the music industry. The jaw dropping global success of Mumford and Sons, tonight's headliners at Glastonbury, is the last straw. A band whose schtick is dressing like 18th century mill workers whilst playing mildly anthemic dross have sold 2 billion copies of their records. The nation that gave the world Slade, the Specials and Pulp are repackaging the Tolpuddle Martyrs as life-affirming rock and it wont do.


What we need is a band that understand the true fuel of pop music isn't ambition but an understanding that it should be escapist, absurd and thrilling all at once. That bands dont need stories or journeys that the public must be drip fed in the tabloids, that mystery is the currency of pop genius. What we need is revolution. What we need is the KLF.

The KLF took the entrepeneurial can-do mantra of Thatcherism and subverted it via the technological advances of sampling, hijacked an emerging dance culture and invented something called Stadium House. Epic, thrilling nonsense. What Time is Love - a hybrid of acid house, hip hop, illuminati references and air raid sirens was everything pop should be - a shock of the new containing references to the old. 3AM Eternal topped the charts and was banned from a war-sensitive charts due to its machine gun sample. These were gargantuan slices of lunacy that had no right sharing chart space with Beverley Craven and Simply Red but there they were persuading country queen Tammy Wynette to join them in a song about acid house ice cream vans nonetheless. They ended up burning a milllion quid and dragging sheep carcasses to the Brits - now that's rock and roll - irresponsible, irreverent and irritating all at once.

Watching the likes of Mumfords top Glastonbury with the grim prospect of tomorrow evening being headlined by the Dignitas advert that is the Rolling Stones, it's clear that pop music needs an injection of thrilling irrelevance. Dizzee Rascal won't provide it. There's an embryonic campaign kicking off on Twitter - KLF to headline Glastonbury 2014. The nation needs them, your ears need them. There's a generation of kids right now that think paying £150 to camp for three days in a Somerset puddle to watch some old rich men playing tired old songs half a mile away is a rite of passage. Let's save them.

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