What really destroys me is not that Mumford & Sons were chosen to headline Glastonbury this weekend, but the disappointing lack of protest and/or general social-media backchat while the event occurred. This is how the new-bland wins, its success is entirely due to its failure to cause offence. It’s not even capable of inspiring a sniffy tweet, or sarcastic aside. It isn’t worth anyone’s effort, even to complain. And it is through this apathy-inducing soporifism that the many agents of vanilla dullness are allowed to thrive and prosper.
Emily Eavis may as well have let Maria Miller pick the Glastonbury headliners this year. They fitted perfectly with her loathsome ideas of the market being a reliable yardstick of artistic merit. That the measure, the only measure, of cultural value is how much money it can bring in. The Mumfords have perfected a sound so insipid it could find a home on just about any form of advertising. A Mumford tune could sell life insurance, frozen food, footwear or mobility scooters, equally appropriately. They are what market lead music sounds like.
The other two Pyramid Stage headliners should not pass without comment either. The Arctic Monkeys’s set beautifully demonstrated how drowning a bunch of working class upstarts in money will smarten up their suits, iron off their rough edges, and give them a much broader appeal. The fact that it has also made them approximately 300% less interesting is but a side effect. And of course The Stones, great as they are, were essentially a multi-national financial concern headlining Britains biggest music event. The parts of their show the BBC were allowed to broadcast (once the relative profit/loss consequences of such as decision had been cleared by RS Inc’s legal department) were fantastic – after getting past the initial shock of seeing the undead performing your dad’s record collection – but they had the cool factor of Howard from the Halifax ads. Front men for financial behemoths. The Mr Burns’s of rock.
Even next to this musical epitome of corporate greed, Mumford and Sons were still the most insidious of the weekend’s evils. They were an assault on the very idea of music, headlining our biggest music festival. They are a band whose most anarchic gesture is the wearing of a waistcoat where one would normally sport a jacket. Hailing from the same country that produced the Sex Pistols, The Specials and The KLF. Mumford and Sons are in the business of offending as few people as is aurally possible. And there are few things I find more offensive in this context than inoffensiveness.
There was quality to be found on other stages. There are a limited range of adverts that could be soundtracked by a Fuck Buttons track. Or a Portishead. Or a Cat Power. Which is why these acts belong on festival stages, not in marketing meetings. This how-many-advertisers-could-use-this quotient is, on consideration, probably a much better test of artistic merit than Millers, when applied to music at least.
This was the first post-London-Olympics Glastonbury. The second since the Cameron regime took hold (the first of which was headlined by multi-millionaire ‘strivers’ U2, Coldplay & Beyonce). Two years ago Britain was rioting over the wealth inequality of the coalition’s cuts. Now we are happily placated by a bunch of well-paid posh boys playing gentle, inoffensive pop. With a bit of fiddle.
Mumford and Sons are emblematic of the banality of evil, how if such acts are committed in a matter-of-fact way they can sneak through without comment. It is important that their utter shiteness is not ignored. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops. It should be screamed in the face of any Radio 2 listener who argues that they’re ‘kinda ok’. They’re not okay. They were put on the Pyramid Stage as a test of Britains docile complicity. And we passed with flying colours. Our apathy towards them is even more pathetic than their music. If you tap a foot at Mumford and Sons today, you can expect that boot stomping in your face forever not far behind it.