The universe is pretty big. There are so many things in it. Things like blueberries and sodium and office supply shops. That’s just the things. Then you’ve got people, like the 13th century Persian poet Saadi Shirazi or Jonathan Durden from Big Brother 8. There’s culture too, like the 1956 British war film A Hill In Korea which was Michael Caine’s debut acting role or US Reality TV show Ax Men which follows logging crews round the forest, just chopping down stuff. And don’t even get me started on ideas—there are sooo many of those. For example: Jewish Anarchism or the buttered-cat paradox.
So why is it that every time a new band comes out, they trot out the same eight or nine influences that every other band has been influenced by since the beginning of music? We get it: you read A Clockwork Orange, wrote your own Nadsat glossary at some point you probably thought to yourself “that would be a good band name.” But after a band called Heaven 17, a band called Moloko, the record label Korova, a bunch of songs called “Horrorshow” and “Ultraviolence” and Gerard Way basically basing his whole career on a Disney Channel version of Kubrick’s —is it really a good idea to rock up to your first NME interview and start wanging on about what Burgess can tell us about tell us about inner-city street violence?
Sorry everyone but we’re drawing a line in the sand. These are the things you’re not allowed to be influenced by anymore.
Let’s start with this, the Fisher Price My-First-Literary-Reference of influences. 1984 remains a powerful read, especially because there are so many echoes of its dystopian vision in today’s global politics. But you know that’s the point of the book, right? Your takeaway should be: “wow, Orwell was a prescient writer” not “I know he was talking about an entirely fictional country called Eurasia but actually me with my brilliant brain has noticed some of those things in the world today!!!”.
But that’s what happens over and over again. Bands hear about some story—of NSA surveillance or government cover-ups—and go “woah brah, this is just like The Ministry Of Truth or Newspeak or Telescreens or whatever, we should totally write a song about it.” That’s how we ended up with Coldplay’s “Spies," Rage Against The Machine’s “Testify,” Radiohead’s “2+2=5,” songs called “1984” by David Bowie, New Model Army, The Clash and The Kooks, and albums called 1984 by Eurythmics, Van Halen and Rick Wakeman. I’d make a Spotify playlist of them all but I’d be worried that money would end up in Luke Pritchard’s bank account.
I guess this reached a kind of pinnacle when Muse—a band that, if they weren’t selling out every arena in the globe, would be tapping you on the shoulder in AP Geography telling you how the government puts fluoride in the water supply to control your water—released The Resistance, a whole album based on 1984. One of the songs was called “United States of Eurasia,” as if Muse, not Orwell, were the ones to realise that Eurasia sounds like some real-life continents. It was packed full of ham-fisted lyrics like “And these wars they can't be won/Does anyone know or care how they begun?/They just promise to go on and on and on.” I mean seriously, why don’t you stick to black holes and Roswell you gimps.
Twin Peaks is one of those strange cultural phenomena—see also: death metal, Doctor Who, comic books—where despite the fact that it's a globally popular, widely-referenced classic of televison, each viewer still acts as if they were the first Argonaut to break Twin Peaks’ hymen and see deep into its carmine soul.
Some of the artists who have referenced the show or its excellent soundtrack, includes but is by no means limited to; Moby, Surfer Blood, DJ Shadow, The Wedding Present, Ben Frost, El-P, Mount Eerie, Sky Ferreira, Blood Red Shoes, Twin Peaks (good one guys) and Noah and The Whale. And Bastille.
Seriously if we get one more song sent to us called “Audrey Horne Knows My Secret” we’re going to David Lynch’s house to go Bob on him.
Everyone loves that shit because it is brilliant. You are not an iconoclastic culture jammer because you think Jodeci and Aaliyah are amazing. They are just amazing.
THE LONDON RIOTS
For about a year after the riots, every single interview with every single British popstar included a pointless three paragraphs in which the interviewer would nudge Coldplay or Dizzee Rascal or Olly Murs about what they thought about “all that business over the summer.” Hundreds of pages of newsprint were wasted so you could know that Leona Lewis thinks that obviously what they did was bad but we need to look at the causes in society to find out why it happened (or whatever shit she said when she was asked about it).
It wasn’t just interviews though, soon bands started writing songs about the riots too. Some were brilliant, like Plan B’s blistering take on aggression and social cleansing in London, some were not, like when Australian shitmunchers The Temper Trap with their take on things:
Now who's the one to blame
When the children go insane
Dancing on their broken dreams
While London's burning from within
We thought this was over, but last month, out here in 2014, La Roux dropped a new track about the riots. Come on babes, get with the news cycle, shouldn’t you be doing something on Nicki Minaj’s album cover?
We don’t mean the Harmony Korine of Spring Breakers: barely-thonged freshers sliding over each other like tadpoles covered in Hawaiian Tropic to Gucci Mane. That’s still dope. But the humble VHS camcorder aesthetic, home to the hostage video and the footage of yourself being breastfed, has been done to death. Typified in Korine’s earlier films—Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy and Trash Humpers, it is now the go to grain of any act your stepmum would accuse of not enunciating.
We think it all began when guitar bands finally gave up the Super 8 promo, realising that the two and a half minutes worth of footage a roll gives you isn’t long enough to catch your organ outro and also makes you look like The Thrills. So, budding Larry Clarks have flip reversed to the flip cam. You can now see the analogue tongue-fur feel—awash with video-calibration screens - everywhere, from Wavves to Ariel Pink to Joey Bada$$ to the Foo Fighters.
Bands might use their 90s camcorder so that you know they did an elective in Dogme95, but filming your frontman mumbling around Superdrug trying to find some tea tree face wipes isn’t Italian neo-realism just because you say so.
Oh does it never sleep mate? Is it where dreams are made of? Fuck off, it’s just a populous urban agglomeration of rat shit and Quiznos.
Saying your music is inspired by your dreams is like getting an A in school and then telling your teacher your imaginary friend did all the work. You know where your dreams come from? Your own imagination. So if you finally realised your psych-trance opus, don’t let your sleeping subconscious get all the credit. It would be a lot more fun if every chillwave stoner came out and said “I am inspired by myself and my fucking interesting brain.”
Look, we get it. You had a few rough teenage years, someone two years above lent you a copy of Unknown Pleasures, you found solace in Ian Curtis screaming about dancing to the radio, and felt OK about being a miscarried little shrimp through puberty. Or maybe you’re not even that into Joy Division; you watched Control in Sixth Form, spotted one of their t-shirts in Primark, or their name in the countless amount of interviews where they’ve been name-dropped. It doesn’t matter. Being inspired to write music by listening to Joy Division is like being inspired to eat by going to KFC—it’s so obvious it shouldn’t count. Even people like One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson are listing them as an influence these days. It’s sort of like the inspiration tick-box equivalent of turning up on the first day of college in a band-branded hoody just to make sure everyone knows you’re legit.
Oh have you found the one person that makes you feel alive? Do you know who else that happened to? EVERYONE.