[sic] Magazine

Editorial – Two Tribes

Are music fans becoming like sports supporters?

This is an observation I’ve been harbouring for quite some time but in a half-buried, almost sub-conscious manner. However, the release of My Bloody Valentine’s mbv earlier this month and subsequent internet buzz pulled that thought out of me and crystallised it. For so many, it seemed you had to be either for or against the album. No common ground, no discussion, no sharing of what is interesting about the album, no ‘third way’. No. It had to be a flat ‘I love it, it’s another masterpiece’ or ‘I hate it, it’s rubbish’ .

People have the right to their opinion of course. Also the right to be decisive, and indeed to argue their case. The sad truth is that most didn’t (argue their case, that is) Most chose to attack the opposing viewpoint, rather than add original thought of their own. What a pity. It is this ‘clash’ mentality that is holding Western society back. Take politics as an example. Your typical political debate is nothing more than a slanging match where the real questions are totally avoided in favour of condemnation of your opponent’s policy. Nobody ever says that they agree with their opposite number on ‘x’ and ‘y’ but not ‘z’. Never happens. Only endless bickering. In the UK, Prime Ministers Questions is a joke. Nothing more than a jeering contest. Why is this? Why do we accept it? Why do the standpoints have to be polar? We’re smarter than this.

Let’s reject it.

I put a lot of time and effort into my music reviews. The artist has, so I feel I should too. Usually I listen many times, I make notes, then a draft and then the final piece emerges. No ‘phoning it in’ from me. That said, when mbv dropped I thought it might be fun to try something different. Essentially the notes I was taking as I listened to the album in full for the very first time, got published raw and unedited. An instant reaction.
A snapshot.


I confess I was very disappointed with mbv . And coming in with low (or no) expectations, that’s really saying a lot. To me mbv sounds exactly what it is; a collection of inferior cuttings, from a time when Shields work had far more relevance. It is a record lacking in ideas and progression which is crucial because that’s what My Bloody Valentine stood for before their hiatus. We’re not talking about Status Quo or New Order comeback albums. This is MBV! MBV, who shocked and thrilled us when Glider came out. It was like the day Jackson Pollock began his drip period, hearing the Tremelo EP for the first time – anti-establishment, bending the rules, bending…. everything. Wow. And it remained musical. Real discernible melodies can be found behind all the effects on Loveless . The same cannot be said of mbv . Ideas are sadly lacking, as are melodies.

The heart and soul of all music is melody and harmony. mbv is. therefore…. love less . For me mbv is not an album of music to listen to and enjoy. It is an art installation. We explore it, stroking our chins and scratching our heads. We look for meaning and relevance, and we cover up the fact that the music isn’t moving us.

The thing is, even if Kevin Shields hasn’t moved on, I have. Those previous MBV records meant a lot to me at the time – a skinny arsed student living in Brighton. I cannot say that I have gone back to them all that much in the ensuing years. If Loveless doesn’t excite me any more, small wonder mbv disappointed. But that’s me. That’s my opinion. Others are available and it has been quite an eye-opener to see just how far in the minority I am on this one.

Fortunately I am connected to a great deal of musicians, fans and friends and boy am I out on a limb when it comes to mbv it seems. Most of the people in my circles are very happy with mbv which is, of course, great. Goes without saying, they are not ‘wrong’. It’s me who’s missing out, clearly. I speak of really respected people in my network with terrific knowledge and taste. This is not my point. None of this is really my point really. It has nothing to do with whether we like or dislike but rather how we discuss. In all my discourse on mbv I have never once said that anyone liking it is an idiot or is limited in any way, or settling for something lesser. Yet other remarks I’ve seen infer that anyone disliking mbv , is either a) wrong, or b) has an agenda. Neither is true, obviously. So why do we resort to this? It strikes my mind as something almost tribal. As though Person A has to align themselves with Group A, for what? To feel a sense of purpose?

What about free thought and individuality?


It is, in essence, like supporting a Football team. You’re in with the crowd – your crowd. You get swept along. You share your passion and you share your victories. In doing so the payoff is heightened but the price you pay is your own objectivity. At my second ever Boxer Rebellion concert somebody was recognised for their fiftieth show. Fifty!!!! It really is like the Football supporter who goes to all the away games. Why? Obsession? Does never missing a match make you the greatest fan? We see the same phenomenon in movie franchises, in politics, in fashion, in collectors, indeed anywhere where an overload of enthusiasm and passion leads to close-minded obsession.

My friend Jon Attwood from the band yellow6 said that mbv was one of those classic records that instantly polarises people in the way only certain classic albums can. No lowest common denominator for sure. And for sure Jon is right. mbv polarises people. But do we need to take up a position so rigidly? Does it have to be a black and white debate?

Beatles Vs Stones?
Oasis Vs Blur?
Michael Jackson Vs Prince?

Isn’t it a bit silly? Why not cherry pick the best stuff from everywhere?

(Obviously it’s Prince) 😉

All I am saying is that artists and musicians are not like sports teams. We don’t have to be partisan. Let’s appreciate these works fully ‘in the round’. 360° please, not a slanging match. So, if you like mbv , explain why. I feel I’m missing something. I’m just waiting for someone to tell me what that ‘something’ is.

The Last Airbender