Your Music Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad

New Tab writer Tom Robbins explains why he can’t enjoy clubbing

Are We Having Fun Yet?
Photo: In:Motion

It’s widely accepted that students know next to nothing about fine dining and good wines.

In a similar way, children and pets are notoriously bad at deciding what is and what isn’t good to eat. I have on separate occasions seen both dogs and children suddenly decide that they would like nothing better for tea than a trodden-on ice cream cone found in the park.

Students do have a better excuse for putting things in their mouth that they perhaps shouldn’t. The two words most likely to make a student squirm (behind “tested” and “positive”), are “overdraft” and “limit” (past and current residents of Wills Hall: an overdraft is something poor people use instead of parents for making money come out of the wall).

This lack of funds means I can excuse students for favouring the morning kebab over the salmon supper and being surprisingly indifferent to the volume of methanol in their vodka.
But you are not excused for your generally terrible taste in music.

As might become clear from this article, I’m not much fun at parties. Those two invariant staples of student socialising, pre-drinks and clubbing, have the same thing in common: loud and utterly intolerable music.

One Direction: Ruining Music?
Photo: Eva Rinaldi

I know it’s a cliché to moan about modern music. You’re probably expecting me to bang on about how no good music has been recorded in the last 20 years.

Or about how back in my day (which when it comes to nearly all music snobs, regardless of age, is the 1970s) we had acoustic instruments played by people who wrote their own music and weren’t entirely manufactured by Disney.

In a way you’d be spot on.

But unlike all of the other music snobs who all claim to be different to all of the other music snobs, I actually am different. I don’t believe that popular music went bad in the 1980s, I think it happened nearly half a century earlier in the 1940s.

I ask you now to leave your comfortable student bubble, leave behind Bristol and its ‘chic’ this and its ‘retro’ that, and picture yourself in 1930s America.

Imagine widespread economic depression, and nothing good on TV. Or if that’s a bit of a stretch, imagine here and now only without the Premier League.

“How did they make it through such a miserable decade?” you may ask yourself. The answer: the music was unbelievably good.

Pre-war America was a place where you could turn on the average radio and hear anywhere upwards of a swingin’ 15-piece jazz band, lead by men whose names are still revered within jazz circles today. Swing music was new and exciting, so jumpin’, groovy and cool that people would spontaneously dance in American shops when Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing came on. And they weren’t even drunk yet!

But then economics killed the big band of the 1930s. Musicians became more expensive to hire after the Great Depression ended and the record-buying public’s interest was being distracted by the emerging styles of boogie-woogie, which would later evolve into rock and roll.

By the time Elvis Presley came into the picture, the popularity of swing music had diminished and jazz was banished to obscurity.

So what can we learn from the 1930s, other than not to give banks a free rein (which we did anyway) and not to elect Austrians (which Californians did anyway)?

We can learn that music, to people who really know and love it, is art. To many people, saying this will get you brandished a pretentious snob, someone incapable of having any fun without the approval of some esteemed critic, and probably also a virgin.

Today music isn’t art. Today music is functional.

“Here is the music I listen to to get pumped up before going out.”
“Here is the music I listen to that relaxes me.”
“Here is some music that I’ve heard over and over again because it’s in that advert. I listen to it to remind me of when I was watching TV, which makes me happy because I like watching TV.”

We are the generation that took Gangnam Style and Call Me Maybe to number one in the
charts. Glee proves that presentation comes first, music is an afterthought. And don’t even get me started on X Factor.

Taylor Swift: Riot Starter?
Picture: Eva Rinaldi

The entire music industry is geared towards the surprisingly substantial buying power of 12-year-old girls. Everyone else is just being swept along with it.

My last hope is that piracy finally brings the music industry to its knees, and in the resulting chaos of no one knowing for sure whether or not Taylor Swift is in a relationship right now, riots will break out.

Hopefully in all the the confusion every record made in the last 20 years will be either deleted or destroyed. Then we can all go and have a pint at the Old Duke on Queen Charlotte Street and listen to something good.

As I said, I’m not much fun at parties.