What’s in a song?: Stump – Our Fathers

Before we begin I feel I need to draw a line. David Bowie was a towering figure who rightly cast a shadow over all aspects of popular culture. A shadow that blackened my youth and gave me the courage and belief to be myself, something I thank him for relentlessly in my music and my writing. But one week on it feels time to wind back our sorrow and orientate ourselves to the current musical climate. We have to seriously consider the fact that our icons are leaving and we are left with fewer and fewer competent leaders to enrich us creatively. As these heroes slowly become myth there will be those who no doubt scramble to re-write history to insert themselves into stories where they have no right to belong. See Angie Bowie claiming that she ‘gave’ David custody of Duncan to save him from his drug addiction. There can be no rebuttal and so in the blink of an eye Bowie’s legacy is subtly altered. In time it will follow Lennon’s in having a cultural purpose completely different from the one intended. There’s an interesting video on Youtube of John Lennon meeting a hippie who’d been camping on his land; what follows is Lennon telling the man very calmly that his music is utterly personal and isn’t intended to be a cultural klaxon. But now he isn’t around to defend himself he has been forged into a prophet. The same will happen to Bowie; it’s happening already. I just want to remember him as he was and the importance he holds. I draw a line under mourning.

How quick sadness turns to anger and disappointment. What is this world? Where the increasingly bland artists of the mainstream influence the next generation who in turn influence the next. All nuance and artistry lost to the money. An endless cycle of filler. It’s a subject I’ve been thinking much of lately, most likely because another minor cultural death happened last month; Mick Lynch from the experimental rock group Stump. Before Christmas I got seriously obsessed with their beautifully elegant ‘Our Fathers’, a song which tackles this cyclical redundancy head on and guns cocked. Over an exceptionally louche groove we hear lyrics of being taken ‘at an early age’ as they ‘march us to their chosen bridge’. We hear how ‘we never get a chance to choose’ and how ‘if we doubt we lose’. A text that refutes the blind belief in anger and hate and violence for another’s cause. Lyrics likely written about the futility of tribal conflict, but a message that has keen relevance in the cultural swamp and political intransigence of now.

Parents (barring any serious quarrel) are our final point of understanding. When the world comes crashing down around our ears we will turn to them for reassurance and advice. It’s a monumental responsibility. Equally our cultural parents, those who we resonate the most with while taking influence and second hand advice, bear the responsibility for our societal development. Bowie, for example, became a light for LGBT groups and New Romantics and the many sub-cultures that were ignored and withered by the establishment. Lennon did the same for the Flower Children. These giant, multi-faceted and interesting figures forged paths that simply didn’t exist before. But the message becomes muddled in the second generation. We should be following their trailblazing philosophy and not retreat to our comfort zones, cherry picking which facets we like and which we don’t. Passing on this hollow knowledge to our children as gospel and rebuilding the walls Lennon and Bowie tore down. This is stupid and wrong. Our children must be allowed to think for themselves. Musical artists must be allowed to think for themselves. They have to be enfranchised by the whole industry, not punished because they don’t fit a box. Stump understood this and fired ahead with their difficult yet enriching blend of Primus-basslines, New-Romantic guitar lines and solidly intriguing words. They were lucky enough to work at a time where Channel 4 made them a video for their single ‘Buffalo’. They were lucky enough to reach number 2 in the UK indie charts (which, I kid you not, is currently held by Adele). Perversely they were operational at a time where the bloated industry actually allowed room for them.

the-state-of-the-music-industry

I can’t see a group so unique and daring gaining success now, even limited. There needs to be a commercial patina and a foot squarely in the mainstream to even have a chance. Foals, Everything Everything and Dutch Uncles all likely profess to being forward thinking, but they are still a product of their selective fathers. The creativity is disingenuous and recycled. Don’t get me wrong, they still write good Pop; they just likely won’t leave any lasting groove in our collective culture. The bands they influence won’t either. We are losing our parents and few remain to fill the void.

Live your fathers lies,
Die your fathers shame,
Pass them on to your son,
He will do the same.

Well that was a depressing read. Make yourself feel better by judging my meagre output because I wouldn’t dream of casting aspersions without putting myself up for criticism. Plus I have a new EP out after all and would value your opinions. Ta!

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