Earlier today, The Daily Swarm pulled out this quote by James Lachno of the Daily Telegraph about his unashamed love of Fleetwood Mac. Apparently, it’s a generational thing and a Millennial thing:
Where a decade or so ago the success of New Yorkers The Strokes and British quartet The Libertines led young music fans to devour the visceral debuts released during 1977’s punk explosion – from Television to The Clash – the resurgence in hook-laden guitar-pop has led us back to Rumours.
My generation, meanwhile, can enjoy the album without any of the baggage. We weren’t born until a decade after it came out, and didn’t live through the punk tribalism of the late-Seventies that would have made it so uncool to be the fan of such a “safe” album.
This us versus them mentality extended well into the ’90s. And if you, like me, came of musical age in the early ’90s during the grunge explosion, then classic rock, pop and disco were still very much enemies and were strictly off limits to anyone with taste. Furthermore, to be a sell-out, and trade your independent status for a major label who trafficked in such things was the worst insult anyone could lob at a musician.
Today, those barriers have largely broken down. Even amongst critics, there’s a strong popist movement which believes music is music and we shouldn’t disparage someone because their lineage extends to Fleetwood Mac or they happen to be a creation of the still very much alive major label machine.
Lachno cites Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver as two artists who owe much of their success to the trail blazed by Fleetwood Mac, but this is hardly the only example of new artists eating from once forbidden fruit. There’s Grizzly Bear and their unabashed adoration for the new romantics of ’80s UK pop like Spandau Ballet.
In 2006, Spin Magazine famously ran a headline, “Why Hall and Oates are the New Velvet Underground” and to this day, Hall and Oates use that headline to promote themselves. As if they need the help. Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Brandon Flowers of The Killers are both avowed fans.
Others, may be reading along and are surely thinking, so, what’s wrong with Fleetwood Mac and Hall and Oates?
Do you want to know what’s wrong with this? Oh, it’s great that modern music doesn’t bother itself with cool or uncool, but Rick Fucking Astley. Michael Fucking Bolton. Richard Fucking Marx. Do I have to go on? Why don’t you start a Michael Bolton reappreciatioin society and have fun with that.
There’s a lot wrong with hitching a ride with Hall and Oates and Fleetwood Mac.
Taking inspiration from the secondhand soul of Hall and Oates would be like starting a grunge band in 2013 with stated influences of Candlebox, Creed and Nickelback. Something gets lost in every translation. Today, those who cite Hall and Oates as an influence have zero soul.
Similarly, artists like Grizzly Bear, Feist, and Bon Iver, are less interesting than their soft-rock forefathers. It’s a matter of influence mathematics. Safe music begets safer music. Soft music begets softer music.
This isn’t to say, when starting a band you have to go back to square one and listen to Leadbelly. Rather, it’s a warning. When you ignore all that came before soft rock, before it got stripped of any musical feeling and became overloaded with late night, call-in show emotion, you’ll be left with nothing but Mumford and Sons and all the bands on modern radio indecipherable from Mumford and Sons.
Look, I’m prepared to lose this fight. As one of the last living tastemakers, Pitchfork long ago decided soft is the new loud, and many who didn’t live during the us versus them eras of punk rock and college rock obediently followed their lead.
To those people, be free, I say. Enjoy your future of Fleetwood Mac acolytes and Hall and Oates soul. I’ll keep my enemies, thank you, and laugh at you and not with you as Fred and Carrie, and the cast of crew of Portlandia, make my point for me.