Bland On-Brand

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.

posted July 1st, 2013

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Dominick Soar said...

“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.”

Should all music be anarchic?

Luke Temple Walsh said...

Just read this, linked from UsvTh3m. Never knowingly heard Mumford & Sons, but find myself in agreement with the underlying disgust with the corporate and political bs that is being shoved in people’s faces that is evident in this piece.

Kris said...

“It is important that their utter shiteness is not ignored.”

At least one band has openly attacked M*mford PLC for exactly the reasons you specify:

Sobibore said...

Your apathy for the historic context of your choice of comparison speaks worse of the current state of British culture than any music you don’t like.

I’m no fan of M&S either but you’re frankly doing them a favour with such cretinous obloquy.

UNCUNT said...

Great article. Been hating on them for a while now. But as you point out, it’s not Mumford and Sons’ fault that they’ve become so successful whilst being so shit. It’s partly the BBC or Glastonbury or the music press’s fault. But mostly it’s the British public’s fault. It’s our collective willingness to follow the herds of cloth eared sheep into the abattoir of bland mundanity that allows evil to prosper.

Avangelist said...

Glastonbury IS Mumford & Sons. The facade of dead ideals and dreams. Michael Eavis had a patchy hippy concept when he started the festival and that died a good 20 years ago.

Mindless Self Indulgence said it best, albeit about another group of people:

“you say that 50 million screaming fans are never wrong, well I’m telling you that 50 million screaming fans are fucking morons”.

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