Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking back at 2015 in music: so was that it?

Words: Richard O'Hagan

Music didn’t exactly expand its horizons in 2015. If anything, the industry seemed to get somaller, with more bands calling it a day due to lack of progress, more small venues closing (I’ll particularly miss The Black Cap in Camden) and even smaller labels seeming unwilling to take a chance on anything less than mainstream.

All too many times sites like Little Indie are the only exposure which a band ever gets and that simply isn’t right. The slow and prolonged death of NME (I’m pretty sure it began in 2003) leaves no volume weekly music publication. Getting radio airplay is a lottery. There are fewer places to play. And your chances of getting a record deal are similar to any one individual sperm of fertilising an egg. It makes you wonder why anyone bothers at all.

Fortunately, though, they do. Despite all of the negatives, 2015 wasn’t a bad year for music. We had cracking debuts from Chorusgirl and Radkey, shouty brilliance from the likes of Gold Class and NOTS, some elegance from Leapling and a proper, teddy-out-of-the-pram, hissy fit from one artist who shall be nameless.

PiL returned with not only their best album in years, but with a charming little video showing John Lydon bumbling about in his pyjamas, losing his glasses like Professor Branestawm and even knocking up a steak dinner for his bandmates. That said, film of the year definitely went to The Levellers, for producing a documentary which somehow showed both that underneath the crusty exterior live a band of hard-edged businessmen, and that bass player Jeremy Cunningham might just be the most endearing nutjob in music.

On the live front, there was the storming, leg-destoying Indie Daze festival, promising moments from Forever Cult and Saint Agnes (and DOLLS for that matter) as they battled terrible sound and venue issues, the last hurrah of The Replacements and a number of bands – British Sea Power, TV On The Radio, Maximo Park – putting on tremendous shows just to celebrate surviving in this benighted industry for a decade.

Speaking of surviving, the 25-year-old version of Adele warbled ‘Hello’ and, because it sounded so comfortingly like the 18-and 21-year-old versions of Adele, people bought it by the bucketload. Statistical progression suggests that she’ll be 30 before she releases anything else, which is really quite a long time in music nowadays. Will she last like Queen Madge, or disappear down the dumper of memory like Dido?

Staying in the mainstream for a moment, Justin Bieber found himself some decent PR people at last and, thanks to an album of half-listenable tunes and a well-timed sacrifice of the Christmas number one slot, turned himself from an odious human being into... a slightly less odious one.

Stage-bound injuries were a curious feature of 2015. Enrique Iglesias inexplicably tried to catch a drone and almost lost a finger in the process, whilst in a curious set of coincidences Queen Madge, The Edge and Dave Grohl all managed to fall off stage. Of course, it was only the latter who anyone cared about and at least the Nicest Man In Rock didn’t turn his broken leg into a marketing gimmick that cleverly disguised the fact that his latest album was a dreary exercise in Foos-by-numbers. Oh, hang on….

What else? Well, as I hoped for around this time last year, Wand Erection announced that they are splitting up – well, going on hiatus, anyway, which is pretty much the same thing – whilst Coldplay hinted strongly that their latest droning piece of rich man whinging would be their last. Pink Floyd split up and no-one noticed. Noah and the Whale split up and no-one cared.

And we lost a lot – a lot – of great people, from the very well known (BB King, Ben E King, Errol Brown) to the less so (Steve Strange, Scott Weiland, Phil Taylor) to those you really should know but probably don’t (Chris Squire, Carey Lander, Andy Fraser), leaving 2015 a poorer place than when it started. Bring on 2016.

[This was written just a few hours before news reached us of the death of Lemmy from Motorhead. Another rocker who will be sadly missed from the music world.]

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