Indeed. I wrote this to be included in Pulp Mag’s final hurrah but it never materialised. Massive thanks to Jon Coupe, Stephanie Webb and Simon Stanley Wright for contributing! (it’s a few months old so there may be time-specific oddities in there)
Without further to-do here goes:
The Death of Mancunia?
I really, really don’t need to list the bands and characters that form the clichéd view of this city’s musical heritage; you know who they are.
I’ve seen lines drawn in debates, but the dichotomy of knuckle dragging retarded monkey vs beardy Chorlton bedsit bedwetter doesn’t hold weight. It’s the time-honoured default argument that if you don’t like one, you are automatically the other.
We’ll I’m neither.
I wasn’t born into affluence, silver spoon skilfully wedged up my arse. I’ve never been able to embark on an extended period of parentally funded bohemianism; playing at art before growing weary of this plaything and demanding ma-mah buy me more money.
But then I am not a paid-up subscriber to the ‘I’m influenced by the rain and the dole’ fraternity, spewing out pathetic genero-chimp indie under a flimsy charade of working class grit. A noticeable lack of intelligence also seems to be the order of the day, but since when did ‘working class’ equate to ‘idiot’?
There’s a truism that goes: ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn’. Are we in pitch black territory?
I’m reminded of one tale related to me concerning a highly paid city slicker moving into the Hacienda apartment complex and seeking to change his flat number to 808, in honour of 808 State. With the ‘glory days’ of the Hacienda long behind him, he’s scrabbling at the walls for a foothold.
It’s the notion of distilling the legacy of a great act into a fucking door adornment that sickens me, never mind the folly of building a luxury apartment block on a historic site.
Sure, it may keep Mr 808 and the apartment proprietors in a false state of contentment. It may even prevent them from angrily jerking off into an old gym sock to distract from the soulless route their lives have taken; but as a both an artist and a native of this city I cannot stand idly by and watch the parasites and the leeches ruin all that was created here, stifling the new breed.
I have no great desire to put money or effort into something as wantonly inane as FAC251 (beautifully parodied by FUC51)
Northside were shit first time round, and the rose tinted specs have been jettisoned.
Peter Hook may sleep soundly whilst he desecrates the memory of Ian Curtis to fund his pension, but I won’t be contributing to that fucking gravy train palooka.
Of course it could be dismissed as any other novelty revival could be. There’s a Stone Roses bar in York full to bursting with shamble-shuffling simian types – but then York does not possess Manchester’s musical heritage, you can dismiss it with a wry smile.
When you’re in the trenches you can see the truth of what is happening all around you.
It’s when mass media hijack the bandwagon that the problem is brought sharply into focus.
Unable or unwilling to really see Manchester as it is today – a fucking behemoth of diversity – they revert to cliché and take the easy inches.
Case in point: an ex-member from surely the dullest group in existence opens just another dogshit venue. He’s not concerned though, the press are killing themselves to plug and cover it.
Pretty soon, the mask slips. The veneer peels away to reveal a fuckwit and his ridiculous acolyte coining it in from naïve acts he doesn’t give two shits about. Pension 1 Legacy 0.
The advent of Web 2.0 has morphed into farce. Twenty years ago, artists would have chewed their sacs off for the freedom the web offers. And what happens? We fuck it all up.
Warhol turns out a prophet and utter mediocrity becomes the new black. The people cannot handle all this information coming at them. So they switch off; see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
Mute automatons all, superlatives reduced to weasel words, and a fucking great big Orwellian nightmare in prospect.
In a move straight from the focus group, a massive number of venues start putting bands on for fear of falling behind the Joneses; but they haven’t the first clue how to run a successful, interesting night. Quality control massively haemorrhages and everyone’s in the fucking mire together. Jon Coupe (Salfordmusic.com, Salford City Radio) says Manchester ‘is only surviving through its reputation. It should be innovating, thrilling and experimenting- but as far as I can see- it is slowly choking itself to death.’
Simon S. Wright (Alchemy/Geevor/writer) says:
‘More music venues = more live music = a bigger music community, right? Not really… It would appear that over a number of years, central Manchester music venues have unwittingly colluded in reducing the chance of any scene to flourish or reach its potential. Closer to the truth is, more music venues = more competition = more need to make money = more venues choosing money over music.’
The depressing truth of the matter is that people vote with their feet. There’s clearly a market for the nostalgia-tinted halcyon days to be revived and raped, and a lot of punters attend. It’s almost as if people don’t want to create a heritage of their own; they don’t want to be able to look back and have their own ‘I was there’ moments. They’d be content with a colour photocopy of the Mona Lisa that’s been passed through the device a million times, convinced it’s as worthy as the real thing.
Jon Coupe summarises that Manchester is:
‘lazy, fat, self-serving, ineffectual, all-consuming- and in all but a few cases- BAD for bands. It is an obvious magnet for musicians because of its size, reputation and number of venues- and it perpetuates the belief that you can ONLY make it if you suckle on its legacy-clinging teat. Bollocks I reckon. I am of the view that it feeds upon the neediness of local bands (and their long-suffering and loyal supports) and gives them bugger all back.’
Attendance of live events has never been based purely on the love of acts and their output. There are undeniable aspects of being seen in the ‘right’ places, and hanging out at trendiest nights. It’s been amped to maximum though.
The dawn of the ‘Everyone’s a Celebrity’ generation has led to people becoming hyper-obsessed with how they are perceived.
They flock to hyped acts on the strength of one song, ignoring the act when they play something they don’t know.
Well…there is the spamming around of new pictures of themselves via their social networks to consider…
They instantly dismiss the acts if they are not flavour of the week anymore, driven by a desire to be seen at the pinnacle of the social tree, perpetuating their own self-importance.
Weirdly, if it isn’t rammed down their throats at every available opportunity then the event is meaningless to them.
For fuck sake! Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall was attended by about 35-40 people…35-40 then unknowns who went on to do great things off the back of the energy they drew from this show.
Where is the drive? Where are the cojones?
All is not lost.
If you’re willing to hit the brakes and stop gorging yourselves on what you are force-fed you will find a vibrant mesh of scenes, whatever your poison. Sure, there will always be individuals who chuck in Keane’s latest with their spuds and macrobiotic shakes, but music is not a loss leader for everyone.
Yes there are uber-conglomerates peddling bullshit there are also reputable information sources.
We are lucky to have a good number of these, including (but by no means limited to) manchestermusic.co.uk, High Voltage, guestlistmusic, The ‘zeen and Hey Manchester!
Indeed the gargantuan efforts of one Cath Aubergine are well known to every (and I mean every) band in Manchester.
Radio-wise there is BBC Manchester Introducing, North Manchester FM, Radio Republic, Salford City Radio and many more. You want a truer picture of what is really going on? Start with the aforementioned.
Stephanie Webb (writer, promoter, music enthusiast) says Manchester ‘Hit a wall’: ‘It’s a good job we hit that wall, because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have ever started to see the stars, so long may it continue!
The Black Knights, Janice Graham Band, Spokes, Butcher and Bolt, With That Knife, The Vipers (RIP, didn’t see them stars quick enough), The Virgin Marys, Gideon Conn, Kid British…I’m not just trying to say that all bands of Manchester Olde are tired and rubbish, I was brought up on the stuff, didn’t’ do me no harm, but if you eat beans on toast every night for your tea, eventually you are going to crave something different. Not just for the taste, but for the benefit of your health.’
Manchester Olde have laid the foundations for us to build on, except some salty fuckers from the old school are busy rigging up the C4 charges. They can’t let go; they need to let go. Why sully the memory of what they achieved by hanging around? And if they insist on getting involved, stop with the self-fellatio and ego-stroking by booking acts who sound exactly like they did.
It’s far easier for national journo’s to pigeonhole a city into one easily described bracket, but they can go fornicate themselves.
Go and earn you stripes by doing a proper investigative job…not all the music produced in this city is to everyone’s taste. I’m not a super-eclectic music devourer, but there is plenty to satiate as much as annoy me. That’s the beauty of diversity.
There’s a massive crop of places to go in this city offering far, far more than is credited. MAPS Festival continues to go from strength to strength, and Sounds from The Other City is a proverbial juggernaut. In The City descends every year ensuring a massive hive of activity. Friends of Manchester just had its second year, with a massive selection of acts.
Simon Wright speaks of:
‘Promoters such as Now Wave, whether you love or hate their taste in music, seem to be passionate about promoting music in which they believe. Similarly, Wotgotforgot (aka. Ciaran Cullen) creates thoughtful events that are slowly gaining a positive reputation. Likewise, the Ruby Lounge has become a favourite with touring bands, as this venue unlike so many others, considers their line ups, choosing quality of music above reliance on local bands bringing fans down. They know that quality line ups are much more dependable than fickle friendships. It’s no coincidence then, that The Ruby Lounge along with the Deaf Institute (where Now Wave put on many of their nights) are voted as two of Manchester’s best venues. It’s also no coincidence that these venues are most popular with Manchester bands who are leading the charge in a bid to escape the yesteryear sounds wafting over from FAC251.’
Drawing on the innovation shown by their predecessors you have Love and Disaster; formed out of the ashes of Channel M and already taking great strides. They released a very well received compilation, featuring new Manchester acts they feel deserve to be heard. Is it for everyone? No, but it’s representative of an active niche.
There is also Recreation Records (www.recreationrecords.com). A ‘truly independent record label’
It’s the brainchild of Andy Chester, a seasoned vet of the Manchester scene, and is run as a collective headed up by Graham Thomas of Blowout infamy. In contrast to classic setups (and in keeping with the slightly unhinged ethos) 100% of royalties go direct to the artist. The roster consists of My Computer, The Hong Kong Blood Opera, The Black Knights, The Witches, Black Jackson, Captain Caveman, Bugs in Ember and Pete King. Each band different from the other, but equally excellent.
Perfect idyll would have the past and present working in harmony to ensure the future.
But the old guard don’t give a fuck.
And neither do we.
The battle lines are drawn; kill or be killed.
Their luster is fading by the day and we grow stronger.
Spare a thought for our founding fathers…
Patricide never sounded so good.
The world is ours. The nation of Mancunia is famous across the globe.
Strike down the gluttonous despots and send the parasites packing.
‘Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks,
Ten thousand men that fishes gnawed upon,
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scattered in the bottom of the sea:
Some lay in dead men’s skulls; and in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept,
As ‘t were in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
That wooed the slimy bottom of the deep,
And mocked the dead bones that lay scattered by..’
The Dark Reverend Gary L Hope