Simon Middleyard wonders what genres are all about - what do they really tell us?
Indie, for example, means something very different to me (I would centre the genre on Britpop and include the lighter side of rock, the heavier end of folk and the guitar-influenced wing of pop as being of the ilk) than it would to many others (who may say that true Indie is simply music that was released by an independent label, therefore bringing in Britney Spears’ debut album – not to mention a growing amount of the current charts’ downloaded bedroom-creations – to the mix).
So at which point does Rock turn into Metal? And what makes that Metal Heavy, or closely associated with Death or big Hair? And is there really anything more to Alternative than it just being an Indie/Rock/Metal dumping ground for those too scared to get involved with the entire genre thing in the first place?
All these questions came to mind when I reviewed “Bustin’ Out: New Wave to New Beat: The Post-punk era 1979 - 1981”, apparently the definitive account of music of the post-punk era. Now, my interpretation of post-punk would be that the genre encompasses all that came FROM punk, so I would expect to still hear the foundations of the punk movement, but with new elements being used to move it forward. Indeed, Wikipedia defines Post-punk as:
…a rock music movement with its roots in the late 1970s, following on the heels of the initial punk rock explosion of the mid-1970s. The genre retains its roots in the punk movement but is more introverted, complex and experimental.
What I found on the CD, though, was a version of post-punk that was as different to its predecessor as postmodernism is to modernism. The tracks on the album (reviewed separately) were largely proto-dance, with many creating the formula by which a lot of modern pop records are created. Sure, there was angst and anti-establishment feeling in there, but it was heavily hidden, in direct comparison to punk’s heart-on-your-sleeve ethos.
The important question that must be asked is: does genre matter? Certainly, in the UK we don’t have the segregation of music by type that the USA does, but we’re moving in that direction. Whether or not this is positive will remain to be seen.