My dad and I have usually seen pretty much eye to eye when it comes to musical taste. Whether it’s Talking Heads or Tame Impala, there’s generally few complaints from him regarding my road trip records of choice. With that in mind, this is not a criticism of someone stuck to the big haired flair-wearing wonders of his time who believes that good songwriting ended with Bob Dylan or that no one else can muster up a melody like Johnny Cash. However, his dismissive reaction to electronic music annoyed me a bit. I can’t remember exactly what track I was playing on this particular afternoon, but the bassy techno tones coming from my bedroom must have filtered down to the kitchen, probing disgruntled said parent to stomp up the stairs demanding what on earth I was playing, that he ‘thought I had good music taste’ and ‘where had it all gone so wrong’. I shrugged it off and told him to stop being such a grumpy old fart, or something along those lines, but his comments stuck. So, in an effort to enlighten, I brought it up with him later and made him listen to a few samples so as to ‘at least give it a chance’ before writing off a whole genre. His opinion didn’t budge, however, his defense being that it was ‘overly repetitive’ and ‘not real music’.
Perhaps it is the lack of credibility that comes with stereotypical modern music that brings this quick-to-judge attitude towards electro. It’s no secret that we are living in a throwaway society constantly being plugged with new hits, where everyday one-hit-wonders are pushed through the system and subsequently shat out in a shower of Dom Pérignon. That being said, although it’s particularly potent amongst the princess-pop of 2016, I’d argue that this is not a recent thing. Looking back through the decades of shows from late BBC series TOP OF THE POPS, you can see that the top 40s weren’t just a sea of Beatles, Bowie and the Bad Seeds. On the contrary, they were plagued with some serious crap. Good or bad, there’s no denying that the plugged-in population are in it for the hits; the catchy songs that we can pick up, over-play and then put down once sufficiently ‘over-it’, safe in the knowledge that a new one will come along tomorrow concocted using the familiar comforts of a I-V-Vi-IV chord progression, with a couple of ‘millennial whoops’ thrown in for good measure. What I’m getting at here is that there is a mound of modern music being produced every day, gaining a great deal of popularity and shaping the mould for this ‘post-norties’ era, that will probably never set foot on the Cristal covered horizons of the top 40.
Music, like every aspect of culture, is constantly changing and involving, and thank god… how boring things would be if everything stayed the same. We still have rock and we still have pop, but now we also have a whole microcosm of genres and sub-genres from ‘ectofolk’ to ‘abbstracto’, ‘freakbeat’ to ‘fidget house’… the list is endless. I’m not saying for a second that people who dislike electro are in some way wrong - after all, the beauty of music lies in the fact that it is wholly and completely subjective. My point is towards those who dismiss it as something that is in some way less valid and less creative, less ‘worthy of critical acclaim’ because it was all made on a screen. From distortion to drum fills, knowing how melody works and how to harmonize, musical knowledge, skill and talent are still just as necessary for a piece of music made on a screen that uses synth pads instead of a plectrum. But most importantly, when done well, it has the ability to evoke emotion.
I remember having a debate with my music teacher in my last year of school about Ludovico Einaudi. I was explaining how much I connect with his music when my teacher shut me down, calling his pieces dull and repetitive with ‘very little technical ability’. What irritated me wasn’t that my teacher didn’t like his music, but that he was basing his idea of good music on how technically advanced it was. I’m of the opinion that a successful song is one that gets to people, one that makes them feel something. Whether it’s techno trance or 17th century inspired baroque that you’re making, it’s hard to deny the ‘worthiness’ of any music that has the ability to evoke emotion.
It would be unrealistic to believe that there will ever be a day when I walk into my house to find my Dad kicking back to Pete Tongs Ibiza classics on Radio 1, but maybe him and other technophobes alike will take a second to reconsider and perhaps, at the very least, consider it as ‘real music’ after all.