Must we still fling this white-boy indie guitar music at our pop kids?



For all the dizzying changes in the music industry over the past few years, one thing remains constant: the music press’ fetish for four-piece, indie guitar bands who will slip easily into the space once occupied by The Strokes and The Libertines.

That there is still this slavish adherence to the guitar-bass-drums line-up is an oddity in itself, given that the genre doesn’t sell. What makes matters worse is the constant and overriding need to (and here we paraphrase the infamous Sunday People headline) fling this white-boy, skinny-jeaned, floppy-fringed, indie guitar music at our pop kids.

Is there a genetic predisposition among the media to the indie, white, male four-piece? Is it an artifact that needs to be recycled every two years?

Stepping up this year to the “latest, greatest, most up-to-datest” plate are Palma Violets. Already the subject of critical hyperventilation, Palma Violets have ticked all the usual boxes: an appearance on Later . . . with Jools Holland, an NME front cover, and a record deal with Rough Trade (which also signed The Strokes and The Libertines).

Already suffering from a media-driven delusion that they are the saviours of ye olde indie rock, Palma Violets have only released one single to date, Best of Friends, which has earned them the Song of the Year award from the increasingly demented NME.

Now, Best of Friends is a very good tune, but we’re not talking anything overly innovative or sonically arresting here. The debut album isn’t due until March, so between now and then we’ll just have to live with the fact that Palma Violets are the anointed ones.

It’s shameful in that there is a lot of good-going-on-great music that has been elbowed out to allow white-boy indie guitar music its reserved parking space. Much of the blame can be laid at the penthouse door of The Strokes (always a ridiculously over-rated band).

There was little originality in their music. They gave good image and could, in the early days at least, put together three minutes of catchy guitar pop. But simply because they were an archetypal white, male indie four-piece, they were elevated to a status far higher than their ability merited.

They were followed by The Libertines, who were cut from the same cloth but perhaps with less of the overt Velvets influence. Another indie-music four-piece, another bunch of musical messiahs who, once the headlines yellowed a bit, sloped off the scene.

Thus, the omens are not particularly favourable for Palma Violets. And such is the fragility of today’s indie music that a two-star review from Q mag could finish them off before they’ve really started.

Sure, they talk a good game: bass player Chilli Jesson (excellent name, sir!) says about the group’s formation: “We suddenly realised that the majority of bands we saw, you couldn’t fuckin’ believe in them. You didn’t feel anything for them. When I go to a gig, I want feeling so, from that moment we decided we wanted to go in and fucking write some songs that people could fucking feel.”

Which is all very well, but The Stones Roses did that sort of standard issue, us-against-the-world talk far better. And had the songs to back it up.

Best of luck to you, Palma Violets – you could be the last of the Great White Hopes.


Love:The rather excellent Crossfire Hurricane Rolling Stones documentary is out on DVD.

Hate:Too many music celebrities make cameos in the must-see Portlandia show.

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