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October 08, 1992 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-10-08

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. October 8, 1992 Page 1

What's your
favorite color,
A round of the white men
round Harlein otun ger
ones whom we called "hippies,"
acted more Negro than Negroes.
This particular one talked inore
'hip' talk than we did. He would
have fought anyone who suggested
he felt any race di fference. "
-Malcolm X.
" Autobiography Of Malcolm X"
You've seen 'em. At the mall,
walking in packs down the street,
boomin' the sounds from dad's car
down South U. Well-scrubbed,
well-fed, suburban white boys, re-

New Brit ba
"I. Amer
b N m
or all of the hype
behind underground t h i n g
music scenes, and the might happen when we startedt
fl anti-mainstream appeal get all the record companies cha:

nds invc
ICan shc




o d

splendent in Starter caps and 'im-
berlands, doin' the "black" thing.
They've got the B(eastie)-boy
swagger down pat, heads bobbing
to the latest joints by EPMD and
Gang Starr. They nod at the passing
brothers, silently telling them (and
themselves) "Yo G, I'm down.."
And don't lie. You've got your
own silent question as they pass
you by: "What do you think you
are, Black?"
Hey, don't be afraid to admit it.
I too, as a young, 1990s African-
American male, wonder why
America's most privileged segment
of society would want to emnulat e
us, the most oppressed and fucked-.
up demographic in the nation. I
mean, what's the attraction?
Pulling on my 40 Acres and a
Mule thinking cap, I ponder this
age-old phenomenon. Rap culture
(aka Black culture) is the only true
rebellion left for American kids.
Heavy metal is played out (Satan
just doesn't command the respect
that he used to). What bet ter way to
scare the hell out of mom and dad
(and everyone else) than to start
bringing home records called "Fear
Of A Black Planet" and talking
about "clockin' ho's?" The folks
may not understand it, but they
know they don't like it.
Butitgoes deeper than just ado-
lescent rebellion. The White Negro
(Norman Mailer's term, not mine)
is often more than just akid looking
to shock. There are people such as
rapper MC Serch, or my friend
Aaron, Whites who grew up im-
mersed in Black culture. While their
skin color may not reflect it, they
grew up shooting hoop with the
brothers, playin' the dozens on the
playground, listening to scratchy
Parliament 45s in Pookie's base-
ment. Who's to say that they're not
coming correct when they sport a
new Georgetown brim, or kick that
phunky Cypress Hill shit?
I know how they feel. I grew up
immersed in the wide world of
White America. Attending subur-
ban private schools from the jump.,
my perspective was accordingly
shaped. I never saw anything weird
about buying Aerosmith records or
Heather Locklear posters. Hang-
ing with my friends at the local
arcade or shopping mall was never
a big deal, even though mine was
the only black face for miles.
But as we got older, it was a big
deal. And people saw to it that I was
constantly reminded. From kids in
the 'hood calling me "oreo, " to the
angry stares and whispers from
folks in suburban fast food joints, I
learned thatI was somehow wrong.
It didn't make any sense to me
then, and while I understand where
the anger came from, (read: rac-
ism) in some ways I still don't.
So I learned. I read. I grew up. I
understand and love my culture,
my history, my blackness. But if I
snort Perl Jam T-hirt or null



of college radio, some

things never change. Familiar, yet old, mu-
sic staples such as the Cure and R.E.M. have
managed to remain atop the A-list of many
an "alternative" (for lack of a better word),
teeny-bopper's list.
These musical scenes have been around
as far back as a few decades ago when a
young band out of Liverpool, England was
first catching the eye of music listeners.
After the Beatles made it "big," so to speak,
there was an immense
influx of other British
bands that infiltrated
American shores. Now,
in the '90s, there has
been some talk of anew
British music invasion.
Young, "talented"
bands out of Britain
have exploded onto
American college radio
charts at the rate of a
dime a dozen. And
while dinosaurs such as
Robert Smith and f
Michael Stipe continue
to attract their usual fill
of attention, some
newer bands are begin-
ning to overthrow the
tried and true.
The list of these
young fledglings is
endless. Some of the
more popular names
thrown around include
bands such as Carter
the Unstoppable Sex
Machine, EMF, Jesus
Jones, Kingmaker, and
Ned's AtomicDustbin.
These bands have man-
aged to attract loyal,
almost fanatical fol- Howell
lowings in Britain. Combining eclectic
techno-beats, noisy guitars, and even a hint
of political activism, the new wave of Brit-
ish bands toss aside the ideals set forth by
older musicians.
The first band of this sort to break through
in the U.S. was EMF. Their 1991 summer
single, "Unbelievable," went all the way to
number one in the pop charts, and in the
process, the group inadvertently set the im-
age of many other British bands to come. A
rough, party attitude with a "who gives a
shit?" demeanor won overmany young fans
seeking some form of rebellious outlet.
"It's like we didn't know what success
was going to be anyway," explained EMF
drummer, Mark Decloedt. "We've all been
in bands before and played for years, so we
were all like subconsciously aware that

ing us."
The success of EMF opened the door for
quite a few other questionable British bands,
letting them enter the music market and sign
lucrative deals with American record la-
bels. Within the span of just one year, bands
like Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Kingmaker,
and Senseless Things had American label
contracts comparable to those given to older,
more experienced performers.
Unfortunately as far as the bands were
concerned, the rapid-
fire success of new
groups led to classifica-
tions in similar catego-
ries. Bands who did not
necessarily possess the
same sound, or play the
same style of music,
were thrown into pre-
made "scenes" for the
sake of clarity.
"What happens usu-
ally is you get lumped
together with these
groups of bands like -
Ned's, Carter,
Kingmaker, Senseless
Things, and EMF," said
Kingmaker bassist
Myles Howell in a
phone interview. "I
think at the end of the
day, we really don't
have too much in com-
mon.I don'treally think
that Carter and Ned's
would be too pleased
being lumped in with
us. To the same extent,
we wouldn't be too
pleased with being
lumped in with them. I
think people get a bit
tired of constantly be-
ing in the Ned's, Kingmaker, Carter scene."
The ironic aspect of this new British
music invasion is that the British press has
tailored itforthe American marketplace. By
pushing forth the notion that each new band

out of England is the next "big deal," the
press has constructed a ready-made pack-
age for American consumers. However,just
as easily as the British music papers (New
Music Express and Melody Maker being
the two large ones) applaud musicians,
they've been known to destroy them as
well. This superficiality hasjustifiably pissed
off a number of musicians.
"We've been very lucky, really,"Fruitbat
of Carter USM said. "We're actually one of
the lucky bands that's actually gotten into
the British press because of merit. They
started writing about us because we started
having hit records, because we started pull-
ing loads of people to our gigs. It can't
happen with other bands that they decide
one week (are) ...
going to save the
world. So they
build them up to
stupid propor-
tions, and the band
obviously can't
deliver. And when
they (British press)
discover that, they
start putting them
down again. I think
they're quite pow-
erful. They can
change the
public's percep-
tion quite radi-
"I think they've
maybe started
s c e n e s ,"
Kingmakeres s
Howell concurred. ..;
"I think you could .
go further and say
that they've actu- Carter USM
ally invented them in their own minds, basi-
cally. The Manchester scene was going to
happen regardless of the press ... Although
the British press, I suppose, initiated it.
They tried to reinvent a Liverpool scene,
which was a complete farce... After a while
it became a bit of a joke. Half of it was a
desperate attempt to revive British music."
Propaganda can be ignored, yet the fact
remains that the American press picked up
on these "scene-making" procedures them-
selves. Respected music publications like
Spin were caught shamelessly promoting
bands such as Teenage Fanclub as the "great-
est band in the world," when all they did was
basically plagiarize old Big Star tunes.
It could be argued, quite successfully I
think, that this new emergence of British
bands is nothing more than a reaction to a
rather stale pop music environment. Al-
though these bands are just a notch above
fluff, they are undoubtedly different from
the even duller dribble that was consuming
the radio airwaves and record store bins
before them. After all, a band like Duran
Duran, for all practical purposes, has been
dead for a good number of years, and people
have been starving for some fresh new wave
In the U.S., groups like Nirvana blos-
somed over the past year. The Lollapalooza
Festival is proof of just how much things
have changed in the music industry. A pack-

age tour comprised of "alternative" bands
would have been scoffed at by record com-
pany executives only a few years ago. These
days, that tour beats out a great many of
other summer tours as far as sales are con-
However, should this British invasion
be taken with anything more than a grain of
salt? As one band gains popularity, hun-
dreds of other bands attempt to imitate that
sound. It might appear easy, then, to write
this off as another dud.
"You know," EMF's Decloedt said, "if
half the people buy our next album to what
bought the first album, we'd be happy. At
least people still like the music. And if they
don't, well they don't ... We wouldn't
change for people to buy the music. That's
what I feel a bit about Jesus Jones.
'Liquidizer' was a brilliant album ... but the
second one, 'Doubt,' was a totally different
thing. It was so radio friendly, and very
clean and clinical. I didn't like it at all."
Totally contrary to the thought that this
movement is a dud, some of the British
bands see the acceptance and approval of
their music still skyrocketing, once public
awareness grows.
"We're definitely a bigger band in Brit-

ain," Fruitbat said. "The way we sort of
broke in Britain was by continuous touring,
really. We continuously toured for three
years. Eventually everyone got to hear of us,
because we were getting really good re-
views. But it's not really possible for us to
do that here.
"The immediate thing is to make this
tour really successful. What we aim to do is
to build as we go through this tour, so that at
the end, we are going to leave America a
much bigger band than when we came here.
Whether that'll work or notI don't know ...
As word gets around that our previous gig
was good, more people will come."
Guessing the future of this alleged music
invasion is anything butcertain. In the course
of a year, bands who would "change the
world" have completely disappeared into
anonymity, while others have maintained a
consistent level of popularity. This year it's
England, maybe next year it'll be Finland
(?!). If one thing comes out of this, it's that
music will be around a lot longer than any of
these bands. Enjoy the success today, be-
cause it may be gone tomorrow.
"You can never really tell what's gonna
happen next," Fruitbat said. "If you could,
you could make a helluva lot of money."
Don't worry, my friend. I think you
already have ...
Annette Petruso contributed the EMF inter-
view to this article




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