Momus writes an interesting article about what he calls Retro Necro – the tendency of music nowadays to constantly reference the last forty years as if nothing new is possible.
There’s a very simple, very big problem for today’s pop musician: if you fail to attack the father and rip up his rules, the father will always beat you. He will beat you because he did what you’re doing first, with more spontaneity and passion, and with less reverence. If you fail to rip up the rules of your father’s pop music and start again, you will see pop music becoming what classical and to some extent jazz have become: interpretive artforms dominated by performers who simply run through a canon of set masterpieces.
Playing as I do in the local domains of the ‘singer songwriter’ community I see lots of people much younger than myself playing music which I can mentally ‘cross-check’ to earlier stuff. And I don’t know if that’s just my tendency as a listener or if they went through the same process of association. I’ve always tended to accept it, enjoying it when I hear something done ‘in the tradition of …’ and done well. And that includes my own performances, which, while they can be good at times, are not particularly innovative or ground-breaking. Momus’s point is that there are few people around who have that as a value, and even fewer in an audience looking for innovation.
Coming back to the ‘pointed stick’ I wrote about the other week, a couple of my companions in Bespoke are of that attitude, tending to push, prod and reject anything that sounds familiar or ‘referenced’, even when it’s songs they wrote years ago. It’s hard at times – you recognise a groove or a feel that ‘sounds a bit like xxx’ and want to prolong it for the same reasons you liked xxx in the first place – but one or other of these characters says ‘No, screw it up a bit’. And it makes sense.