Friday, 16 January 2015

Call It What You Want

Before we get back to the important matter of writing about specific records, let's pause for a moment and consider the multitude of labels that we apply to our music nowadays. While discussing my last blog post in a local hostelry, a friend commented that my top 10 of 2014 and indeed my record collection are rather lacking in classical music. I responded that I also have no soul (insert your own joke here) and there are probably a few other genres missing. This led to a debate about what exactly is in my collection; my friend wanted to categorise it all as post-punk but I don't think that really does it justice, as anyone who has set foot in my frankly terrifying music room will testify.

There are many artists whose sound I would struggle to sum up in one or two words. With modern musicians often mixing elements from a variety of styles, are music genres now obsolete? I find it particularly vexatious when record shops and especially record fairs split their stock into very specialised genres. Their categories are arbitrary and at a record fair they will vary from stall to stall. If I'm looking for a particular record then I have no idea which crate I'm likely to find it in. My own collection is ordered alphabetically by artist and I don't feel the need to impose any other kind of segregation. Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine and Johnny Cash, for example, play very different styles but happily sit side by side without any risk of Carter trying to rugby-tackle Johnny or Johnny shooting Carter just to watch them die.

OK, I know what you're thinking. Just last week, you witnessed me using terms such as prog and drone metal on these very pages. It can be useful to have a few categories that will give a very rough idea of what to expect from an artist. If I'm talking to a fellow muso and describe a new band as shoegaze, they will immediately know what I mean. The problem comes when a work colleague, knowing I go to a lot of gigs, asks what kind of music I listen to. I don't want to respond with a condescending "stuff you won't have heard of" but would I just get blank looks if I said psychobilly or no wave or gloom-pop or krautrock?

So, over to you, my three loyal readers. Do you classify your music by genre and how do you describe your favourite bands to anyone foolish enough to ask?

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