Sunday, September 2, 2012

Struggling against the mainstream

Yesterday I went to see my ex-flatmate's band, the Superhelix, play in that achingly hip live music scene, Camden Town. I've seen them about half a dozen times. Now obviously you're going to think I'm biased, but they are pretty bloody good in my opinion. Here's one of their songs:


Camden Town, and places like it, feel like the last bastion of great, underground rock'n'roll music in this day and age. Spend an afternoon or evening in one of its live music venues and you're bound to see some great rock music. But you also have to sadly realise that their chances of breaking in to the mainstream, which would have been slim in the past, are next to non-existent now.
Is rock music in crisis? It sometimes feels like it. This generation has no defining band or movement: no Sex Pistols, no Smiths, no Joy Division, no Stone Roses. Yes there are still good rock bands out there, but they don't seem to be making an impression on the charts.
What are the reasons for that? Well, perhaps it's because we live in a world of passive consumerism, where students are far too worried about their careers to take to the streets and protest like they used to. Where people are judged on status symbols, and so when they can't afford them, they loot for them, like they did in last summer's riots. It's not the only reason, or even the main cause, for the riots of course but mere looting and thievery were what the majority eventually got involved in.
Photo courtesy of Pranksky Media

I'm not suggesting rock is the only form of popular music that can meaningfully engage with socio-political issues and express the psychological angst and uncertainty of living in today's world. But it has been a leading light in doing so in the past, and it saddens me how rock music is effectively dying.
If nothing else, it does pull me out of my 'woe is me' state of mind at how my own YA novels, gritty, dark and contemporary as they are, have to compete with a dystopian/supernatural romance/fluffy chick lit avalanche in my genre. Dark, edgy stuff  that deals with real issues that today's teenagers face does make it, of course. If anything, my supposed struggles are nothing compared to those faced by up and coming rock musicians.


  1. Ironically, I would listen to rock more if mainstream was more like what you linked to!

    I agree that it's definitely helpful to think of the struggles which other artists face when feeling blue about one's own challenges as a writer. Music is probably the hardest industry to break into. I knew an amazing musician and composer in college and four years later he's only barely beginning to make an impression in just the local scene, despite working at it constantly. I definitely don't face that much struggle, even if I do write literary fiction, which isn't exactly being snatched up by agents. Thanks for the reminder to keep that perspective when thinking about success.

  2. Any perspective one can put on one's own struggles with the world of publishing is healthy :-)