Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Madchester backlash - 20 years on

I've blogged in passing about this blog Fuc51, which rails against lazy nostalgia for Manchester's musical heyday. There are updates on Words Dept and Fat Roland which bring up the same themes about how that Factory imagery has contributed to Manchester becoming some kind of theme park, much as some accuse Liverpool of being a Beatles wax museum with a pulse.

Much ire is directed towards Peter Hook, bass player of New Order, who has opened a new club Factory 251, with all the Factory and Hac icons to the forefront. There's a positive review here but it all rather serves to add grist to the critics' mill. And I've also written about Hooky at Raw 2010 here.

I can see how it's mildly annoying, and Fuc51 is a wake up call to move on from this, but surely it's not the worst thing that's happening in Manchester at the moment? In fact, it could be said it was far more annoying when the cultural marketing of the city ignored an important part of the musical history and employed a golf loving tourist boss from Northern Ireland and used slogans like "We're Up and Going". The McEnroe Group - as in "You cannot be serious?" was set up in 1996 to counter this. Many of those peripheral snipers are now the cultural and political establishment - Colin Sinclair, Nick Johnson, Tom Bloxham, Peter Saville, Andy Spinoza and Carol Ainscow.

This is one of those that could get drawn into a "I'm not saying....but..." So here's a cautious disclaimer, but a question: is this a shrill, but witty and spiky overreaction?

I can't claim to know where young bands get to play these days, I'm 43 and grew out of clubbing long ago. I know not how they stretch their creative sinews, but the logical conclusion of all of this anger is that everything else gets killed off if it doesn't fit into this faux nostalgia. This can't be right, can it? It's like Doves and Elbow never happened. And wasn't that amazing hazy, dizzy summer event during the Manchester International Festival a nostalgic indulgence - Elbow playing with the Halle? I notice too that Guy Garvey is guesting, promoting and supporting new bands and artists. When does his backlash start?

1 comment:

David Quinn said...

I think yes, to an extent, the whole Fuc51 "manifesto", if I can use that term, is a bit of an overreaction. But sometimes you have to make a point forcefully just to get heard.

Personally I'm not really a fan of Elbow but at least they are real. I can't imagine a backlash against them (for now) because although it's in some senses nostalgic, there's not that crass, moneymaking, Disneyland element. Performing with the Halle at least has some imagination and technical and artistic craft about it. It also has nothing to do with the cultural baggage of Factory, which is what the "Madchester deniers" are railing against.

There's a video on that NME review you link to, which shows Hooky and his cronies playing Blue Monday at the FAC251 launch. The most obvious thing about it is that right in front of the camera there's a bald 40-something bloke standing there fiddling with the cotton wool in his ears. Kind of sums up everything that's wrong with the whole dreary idea.

Anyway, I'm fairly sure FAC251 will fade into the ranks of Manchester's indistinguishable student indie clubs before too long. After which we can all start thinking about something else.