Friday Ephemera
Friday Ephemera

All Pop Music Will Henceforth Be Terrible

Owen Hatherley is pondering the return of the pop band Pulp and their “acute class consciousness.” In doing so, he offers up one or two contenders for our series of classic sentences:

Pulp’s upending of class stereotypes, their anger and their experimentation matter now more than ever, as a government waging naked class war elicits no response at all from our cowed, moribund pop music.

It’s naked class war, see? And only Pulp can save us, armed as they are with a “relentless, uncomfortable attention to class.” I’m not at all sure that pop bands should be taken quite this seriously, but class is clearly a fixation of Mr Hatherley, such that he uses the term no fewer than nineteen times. And the “cowed, moribund pop music” of which he speaks is apparently the result of “a ruling class… having waged successful class war” and our society therefore being insufficiently leftwing:

But with the decimation of the infrastructure that produced them, from access to education to arts council grants to the dole itself, has the British political and pop cultural landscape changed so much that a group like Pulp is now impossible?

Why, it’s the end of music, obviously.

At some point in the 1990s this literary-experimental pop tradition disappeared. Some reasons are structural – workfare schemes meant that claiming the dole as a “musicians’ grant” was less and less practicable, art schools were absorbed by universities, council flats were unobtainable for any but the desperate, and squats became rarer, so the unstable alliance between bohemia and estate was broken.

Making vaguely alternative pop music is, it seems, all but impossible without indefinite subsidy, an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat to call your own. Yes, these young titans of the left need the state to make them edgy and countercultural. And there can be no better use for taxpayers’ money than indulging would-be pop stars while they become “class conscious” and find themselves, musically. However long it takes. 

Readers may recall the 2006 Reading Festival being animated by a sing-along music video titled Cunts Are Still Running the World, which had been sent across the English Channel by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, along with an appeal to “smash the system.” No doubt Mr Cocker’s admirers could feel the heat of his socialist belly fire all the way from the singer’s second home in Paris.