As the colleges go back, new students all over Ireland will start forming bands to distract themselves from study. I do wonder if it’s really worth all their effort, though. As Wilde said, “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” It’s a safe bet that Oscar didn’t dream up that line by lying in a Wexford Street gutter on a Tuesday night, electric guitar in hand, wondering why only quarter of his guest list bothered to turn up to watch his band support little-known Brooklyn art-twank band Jeet Cujinette in Whelan’s.
Still, as a new term begins, halls of learning all over the country will be hotbeds of aspiring rock stars – the vast majority of whom will end up in bands who will languish in heroic or apathetic obscurity. This isn’t supposed to be a discouragement, everyone who wants to be in a band should be, it’s the best hobby on earth – but to what end?
There are thousands of bands in Ireland at the moment, most of them trudging around the Dublin circuit supporting each other, copying each other and playing to the same faces, or collection of similar hairstyles, every time. Usually, there are only half a dozen obvious influences shared between them. All of which might, depending on the crowd, be good for the local economy, particularly in licensed premises, but, in bands’ anxiety to get themselves noticed, what seems to be suffering more than anything else is originality. Even some of the more high-profile new local bands are so aggravatingly derivative that they deserve nothing beyond highly local notoriety – and critical contempt.
Too often, bands take the compromise route; they keep a lid on their creativity and go for tried and tested formulas. And it can work too. It’s just too bad that idleness often pays in terms of mass publicity; the safer, more derivative, less wacky and generally blander you are, the more likely it is that the creaking, past-it editors of ancient publications are going to laud you as spokespeople for a shrugging new generation.
Cheerfully, this year’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival highlighted one or two acts whose passion, imagination and live brilliance gave this reviewer a lot of hope for the immediate future. So please, students of 2008, give us something great to listen to, something exciting to see, something to get truly enthusiastic about – and don’t just use that tired old mantra so many bands seem to use, even if they don’t realise it: “sure, if Razorlight can do it, anyone can…”