Thursday, October 13, 2005
AN OPEN LETTER TO SIMON REYNOLDS (PART ONE?)
I know this sounds like a Half Man Half Biscuit song title. But, seriously, I mean it. I have recently been having an email conversation with Simon on the topic of the early-90s UK post-rock scene - which he was single-handedly responsible for pointing-out the existence of, and naming. It stemmed from a mild resurgence of interest in said scene, particularly an article on Pitchfork (of all places!)
Anyway, seeing as Simon has encouraged me to start blogging again, on a couple of occasions, I though I would post my latest answers in a public forum. I hope he doesn't mind.
One problem. I actually CAN'T open the last email Simon sent and I can't even seem to open the last one I sent to him! This has never happened to me before. My Yahoo account usually works like a dream. Perhaps this is destined never to happen but I'm pretty determined to get there in the end.
As far as I remember, the main comment he made in the last email was that UK post-rock was never destined to have widespread popular appeal or commercial success. Maybe he's right. Certainly, the large audience that now exists for "left-field" music wasn't around back then. In fact it was the moment that UKPR represented that created it, to a large extent. Before 90s post-rock, post-techno etc., it wasn't the case that the audience for experimental music largely consisted of people who were weened on indie rock and electronic dance music. I even remember, at the time, giving up on the melody Maker and starting to read The Wire instead. A truly seminal moment for me and one that generally sums up the transformation of the avant audience from being a small enclave of people interested in contemporary composition and free improv to being a rather larger enclave of jaded indie rockers and burnt-out ravers.
Having said that, post-rock did produce a fair number of catchy pop songs (Disco Inferno's "Sleight of Hand" and Bark Psychosis' "Blue" spring to mind). Certainly, I think the most accessible post-rock songs were a much better, more honest and more compelling commentary on 90s British society than anything produced even by the more intelligent Britpop groups. I guess Moonshake's "Second Hand Clothes" was never going to be a bigger hit than "Common People" but it's still surpising to me that it, and songs like it, didn't garner a substantial cult audience at the time. I suppose the feeling of the nineties was one of surpisingly positive pre-millenial optimism and people didn't want angst-ridden social commentary.
So I guess Bill Clinton is to blame for the commercial failure of UK post-rock.