Interesting article in The Guardian (the home of pointless Morrissey pieces) a few days ago, appraising the vibrancy of the Scottish music scene through vague notions of national identity. I say “interesting” – I could just as easily written “simplistic scatter-gun nonsense where dull-eyed cliché buttresses the hackery”. It’s not that the piece is badly written (it isn’t), or that the various interviewees (Aidan Moffat, James Allan, Vic Galloway, etc) don’t possess valid insight when it comes to the geographical nuances at the sharp end of the record business. Rather, this is writing that epitomizes those constant failings of a media that can’t help but view anything occurring beyond the metropolitan compound of clique as something quaint, something to be served to the reader with a generous side order of stereotype.
I’m not Scottish. But (for good or ill) this blog holds permanent residence status in some Caledonian barrio, the type of musically-literate neighbourhood where we’re constantly en route between bar and backstage, from soundcheck to stereo… or to put it a little less fragrantly, you don’t have to be indigenous to understand the dynamics of something we loosely define as scene. And there-in lies the problem with The Guardian’s words; the de facto assumption of homogeny when it comes to disparate acts who happen to share nationality, inspiration from environment, and little else. To read this article is to view the predominant outlook of a fairly narrow strand of genre to be suddenly conscious of its default locality, when if you strip away the references to Scottish independence and replace the nation in question with any regional variation, national subset, or street near you, the premise remains unchanged; certain acts consciously attempt to disassociate themselves from where they’re from in order to appeal to a wider audience, to sound less parochial, or simply to ensure a decent advance from their American record company; others celebrate location, and still more plough their furrows without the slightest acknowledgement for, or disguise from, their roots – because music isn’t a badge of nationality, and very few artists consult their passport before heading into the recording studio.
And this ain’t a recent state of affairs, either.
In other news, Scotland suffers from such a wealth of exciting, innovative, evocative acts that I sometimes suspect that the various burnt-out buildings, derelict tower blocks and shady emporia that act as a front for smack dealers only exist to hide the talent mines from prying eyes – places where delicious hooks, savage bass lines, grinding vocals, aural bliss all are hewn from the bowels of the earth, then couriered to the recording studio by scurrying figures in the dead of night. Would explain a great deal…
The Phantom Band / A Glamour