There was a recent Twitter trend #MyMumisaMotherfuckingBadass.
My post on this trend was about how my mum, aged 67, and on a Zimmer frame after 25 years living with Parkinson’s disease, walked 3 miles to see a Radiohead gig in a tent.
And then the next night, she did it again. Badass.
Bear in mind this wasn’t even OK Computer-era Radiohead. I happen to think OK Computer is the best album ever made, but it seemed to send Thom Yorke a little bit insane, and he reacted to its success by deciding to fuck with every music lover on the planet.
It was, it has to be said, a bizarre couple of years for Radiohead fans. Imagine Radiohead are a chef, and they’d just served you the best burger you’d ever eaten. It made you weep, it was so astonishingly good. And not just you: everyone agreed, it was a truly wonderful burger, fit to stand in the pantheon of all-time great burgers. It was rich and satisfying and curious, and it lingered on the taste bugs for months without ever souring or getting old. You just wanted to go back for more and more, and savour the ever-deepening complexity and creativity of this truly wonderous burger.
Then, a year later, Chef Radiohead changed his menu, and we all rushed back to find out what fresh wonders he’d created. But this wasn’t normal food any more. Sure, the Kid A burger could still be described as a burger, of sorts. There were ingredients; some of them recognisable, but many belonged in no burger you’d ever want to eat, such as lemons, a herring, coal and some wire. And try as we might, none of us really wanted wire in our burgers. I chewed and chewed and chewed, convinced I’d find something to like if I stuck with it and my teeth didn’t shatter. But eventually I spat it out and went back to eating the much more satisfying Dark Side-Order of Chips by Chef Pink Floyd.
But none of this stopped my mum, because she’s fucking badass. She walked to see Radiohead on her wobbly old legs, sat in the middle of the confused, nonplussed crowd on a fold-out chair the bouncers found for her, and moved to what Thom Yorke insisted was still, technically, music. Or maybe she was just moving to the Parkinson’s disease. It’s genuinely difficult to tell.
You see, unlike me, she’s never got old. She’s a widow now, and her Parkinson’s is getting to the stage where she’s considering going into a home. But do you know what stops her from doing it: she’d never be allowed to play Green Day at 120dB in the Perry Como Home for the Ancient and Beige.
But I’m getting old. I don’t feel it physically, and I don’t think I look my age. My knees are still working, I have most of my teeth and still far too much hair. Sure, I’ve lost a kidney, but I don’t think I was really using it. And I can’t smell a thing, but I can still hear when my girlfriend shouts at me, which is all a man needs to do.
But I see signs of decrepitude, and the first one is music. I can’t like new music. It’s all terrible.
When I was 14, and still recovering from the terminal horror of being caught losing my virginity by my own mother, I realised the best way to avoid those endless accusatory stares was listening to The Smiths.
Very little could keep my parents out of my bedroom as much as Morrissey mournfully wailing about humdrummery and his issues with William and Newport Pagnell, while I reeled around the end of my empty bed, longing for gladioli and pondering the best way to get my mum to agree to my painting the bedroom black. As soon as I played The Smiths my parents went out into the garden for a conference about “what the hell is wrong with the boy”, and started worrying about paying the phone bill for all the Samaritans I was clearly going to need.
At the very moment I wanted to be alone, The Smiths helped me feel I wasn’t. But now I feel alone again, because apparently I’m the only person on the planet who thinks Daft Punk is boring crap.
The only people in the world I currently hate more than Daft Punk are the bastards who put up the dividing wall between me and my neighbour, who has played Get Lucky to me over a trillion times. A trillion. That’s literally the number.
I guess if you’re 14 and don’t remember the last century, you may be persuaded that Daft Punk have created a spectacularly innovative noise. But it’s only spectacularly innovative if you didn’t hear exactly the same noise from Groovejet 13 years ago.
The only discernible difference is that Sophie Ellis Bextor looks like an erotic, airbrushed cat with its head stretched over an ironing board, and Daft Punk clearly don’t, or they’d remove those fucking stupid helmets.
(Incidentally, I remember a best of list from 2000 which placed If This Ain’t Love as the 3rd best single of all time, which tells you how useful best of lists are).
Almost anything by Chic sounds fresher, and more original and a whole lot more fun than Get Lucky. The only “lucky” thing about that song is that people buying it aren’t old enough to remember Nile Rogers.
But I guess it was ever thus. As a Smiths fan I never liked Rick Astley, clearly, but he didn’t offend me as much as he offended my mum. When she first heard Astley’s hollow, robotic version of When I Fall In Love my dear, wobbly old mum swore for three straight hours, and never repeated herself. Now that’s creativity, you Daft Punk helmets (and I mean that in the sense of shiny, salty male genitalia).
Maybe it’s my age, and I’m missing something thrilling about modern music. But where is the David Bowie of today? (Other than David Bowie, obviously). Between 1969 and 1982 he released 14 albums of stunningly original material, each one of which pushed back the boundaries of musical experience. And none of them sounded anything like the previous one.
What’s Daft Punk’s style? Copycat Groovejet pop dance with the pretty lady replaced by a pair of French twats in what look like Liberace’s space-suit.
And what’s Bowie’s style? Folk, pop, discord, rock, world, dystopian musical, metal, African, techno, ambient, funk, indie, soul, glam, country, showtune, drum’n’bass, dance, thrash, German neo-classical and freeform jazz. Usually all on one album. You can buy anything he recorded for over a decade and it will be brilliant, challenging, intelligent, original and compelling.
(You can then skip forward to 1992, when he released his only album since Scary Monsters that’s actual genius. OK, he’s not infallible, but he had a pretty good run!)
And it’s not just Bowie, who might be a one-off and possibly an alien. Where are The Smiths of today? Where’s the Talking Heads? Sure, there are hints of it in Arcade Fire, but are they off making edgy New York punk, followed by a joyous funkadelic assault on the senses, followed by a polyrhythmic odyssey around South America? No. They’re ploughing one indie furrow with diminishing returns.
And for The Smiths you might copy/paste Belle and Sebastian, except they seem to have decided to move away from literate, gentle, studenty songwriting genius, and become a feeble Beautiful South tribute band produced by the Buggles of Video Killed The Radio Star fame.
Most music I hear today is the same music I heard in the 80s, washed at a high temperature until it shrinks and hardens and all the texture is removed by technology. Vocoder that, Will.I.Am, you drab, self-obsessed, vacuous hairstyle! Even in the 80s that kind of music was pretty dismal stuff. Other than 14-year-old girls obsessed with blow-dries, who actually liked Duran Duran? Probably the same mums who now like Take That, but it’s not music. It isn’t. Really. It’s posters, chat shows, teeth-whitening, and a row of stools (and I mean that in the sense of a line-up of turds, steaming on a fancy stage).
I’m not saying we’re completely bereft of gems. It’s just that in between we’re being fed a vat of pap, processed to a bland, soggy mess and marketed to within an inch of its life. I’m a veggie, but even I’m starting to ask of modern music: where’s the meat?
So after a few years, I decided to go back and try that undercooked, highly disappointing wire-and-coal burger that Radiohead had served me in 2000. And do you know what? It’s rather delicious. It just took me a while to get hungry enough to want it.