Music as an art-form and as social commentary, however, is a long way from being relevant. There is a real need for a polemic with modern British pop practices as critics have raised ordinary music made by middle class kids designed-to-be-hits up onto a pedestal (we suspect because the critics are of a similar hue).
Records are no longer an intrinsic part of our lives. We hear music in commercials, we see it on bubblegum TV then we leave it behind. It is one more element in the meh which surrounds us. Critics exhalt, we read the critics, we close the web-page or throw away the ‘paper.
Whilst we accept that the disposable and democratic nature of pop music as an art form is part of its charm: we in the guild crave pop music which will find longevity. Art is supposed to be, we feel, a two-way communication. Pop music used to develop – and it ran hand-in-hand with social and individual needs (we make that last statement with the hindsight of history of course).
Most musicians can only make a living at the behest of corporate paymasters as a sales tool. The essence of the likes of Mumford & Sons is that they use the clichés of rock and play the suffering poet; but they simply reflect a bourgeois way of life. It is banal because the ruling classes need it to be banal. The ruling classes recognise the history of pop and rock music as potentially dangerous so have simply refracted its message – what Terry Eagleton called “ a glamorous substitute for baulked political energies, an ersatz iconoclasm in a politically quiescent society”.
Thomas Mann saw the artist as an outsider: “..so the art does not devolve into a mere function of social need. The essence of art involves maintaining a certain oppositional position vis-à-vis reality, life, society”. An artist accepting a bourgeois society is useless. Socialised art can only be achieved through autonomy. We live in a society with an emphasis on the cash nexus and notoriety. The concept of creative ingenuity has been replaced by the concept of “getting to the top”.
Thee Faction do not exist to “get to the top”. Thee Faction exist to get to the people.
Thee Faction own their means of production. Thee Faction have the ability to interpret and comment on reality. Thee Faction strive, via the template of R’n’B, for a pure aestheticism with meaningful communication and a sense of beauty. A mix of art and politics is not a fundamental solecism, it’s the reason for the bloody art in the first bloody place.
Thee Faction use the conceits of R’n’B because the avant-garde in music (whilst challenging the norms) is essentially content-free. There is no need to be purely visceral, one must be intellectual too.
Thee Faction have a specific political agenda, as you may have noticed: thus cannot use the lingua-franca of rock ‘n’ roll lyrics. Lyrics tend to be about the self. No matter how idiosyncratic, surprising, fascinating or shocking these lyrics are they will always lead up a cul-de-sac and therefore makes it difficult for the lyricist to re-enter the world at large, which is why so many musicians signed up into the sausage-machine of the music business are so frazzled: they are using personal experiences, family deaths and arguments with girlfriends to make money. Western art and music has a pre-occupation with self-reverential “therapeutic” forms, voyeurism and romanticism. How dull. The state will always feel more comfortable supporting a “therapeutic” rather than a interrogatory culture.
Finally, on the question of humour – Socialism ain’t sour. It’s fun to agitate. Thee Faction, through the form of R’n’B, suggest a position of alternative social values. R’n’B is the root of all great pop: therefore it was chosen by Thee Faction as the perfect tool – as the original R’n’B has become accepted by bourgeoisie. It’s a “dangerous” sound in the correct hands. The subversion of the ephemera/conceits of pop music/R’n’B, is used by Thee Faction in the same way the Dada movement of the 1920s used the ephemera of their time – i.e. to make farcical jokes and minimalist works of art – but always with a critical purpose. Thee Faction are not jesters. Thee Faction entertain, so folks will come along. And listen.
Modern music is full of facile careerists and “retro fetishists” stealing from and diluting all we in the guild find beautiful about pop music. Musicians have the power to prevent their sounds being used to sell product. Musicians that allow this are disgusting. Thee Faction occupy a quasi second-culture, marginalised. But like persistent and ineradicable weeds Thee Faction flourish.