I was talking with some friends in the pub last night, and the following query emerged: We all know what the music of the Thatcher Era was. You can probably even guess what this archetypal example is without clicking the link (it isn’t Rick Astley). We can also recognise early-era Blair (Oasis) and late-era Blair (late-era Oasis). These are the artists whose appearance couldnt have happened at any other time and are linked in an ideological way (either knowingly or unknowingly) to the detail of ideologies in government and their desires.
What then, is the sound of Cameron’s ideology?
We can’t treat bands as monoliths, or necessarily as holding the ideology they reflect in a song. But equally if a song is able to be mobilized to back an ideology, something is fundamentally lacking. So I offer 4 songs. If they annoy/upset you to the point of pain there is a panic button to purge your ears here:
OK, on with the sh*tshow.
Mumford and Sons. Mumford. and. Sons. Actually found on David Cameron’s PR ipod, alongside, erm Modest Mouse. Utterly compromised ‘nu-folk’ with no heart to it. A false collective experience, that draws on the aesthetic of artists such as Viking Moses and Jeffrey Lewis, with a bit of diluted 16 Horsepower and Beirut to make for a smoother tone. Unlike Horsepower’s venegeful apocalyptics, Mumford practices the smiley, creepy form of evangelism. As The Quietus points out, the lyrics are full of religious references that seem thoroughly dull and without meaning. A false collectivity driven by crap evangelism and corporate interest? Mumford and Sons, you are the Big Society.
Florence and The Machine are probably the ‘safest’ act to exist right now. Florence is obviously a reasonably talented singer, and its not really something that would embarass most if it was found in their record collection. It’s also bland. There also been well known instances of homage/possible plagiarism involved in the writing of songs- Kiss With a Fist sounds a bit too much like The White Stripes, Rabbit Heart got into hot water about borrowing from Gang Gang Dance- a perfect metaphor for the ideas process in Cameron’s Whitehall- this could be theft, or merely a stultification into a very similar set of forms as previous tunes. There’s also another issue in this particular track: “Leave all your loving, your loving behind/You cant carry it with you if you want to survive”- this is a song about austerity- yets its expressed in the most utterly gaudy and unnecesary wrapping. Florence and The Machine is Cameron’s cuts: someone disgustingly extravagant telling you off for your own extravagance in caring.
Eliza Doolittle in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is a woman trained by a member of the upper class to speak their language. Today’s Doolittle serves the inverse function of disguising a middle class in the dress and garb of a fantasy ‘common’ culture. The purchase of this kind of music by the middle class under Cameron is the spirit of Pulp’s Common People made into a consumer choice. The fact remains: it just isn’t cool to have lots of money or be a Tory. What is cool is having no money, but being happy, or being middle class and depressed. Thus when Cameron’s Britain listens to happy music, it invariably has to come from a place of chirpy, cheeky, poor people, a music hall nudge-nudge wink-wink sexuality, and pickpocket ragamuffins. In other words, it comes from a place that can and never will truly exist: its the world of musicals; Oliver Twist, and the adaptation of Shaw’s play, My Fair Lady. It’s notable that the track singled out here is not a bad pop song in itself, but Pack Up seems to have been played on TV every time anyone, shall we say, ‘of African descent’ appears in a reality show. This is belittling and tokenist hug-a-hoodie Cameron at his most intolerable.
What is Cameron if not the same thing again, only worse?