whither the Limeys of yesteryear?
So while watching Robyn Hitchcock last week, I came to the conclusion that in my personal pantheon, XTC's Andy Partridge is the wise Father, Elvis Costello is the snarky Son, and Robyn is the ineffable Holy Ghost. Pretentious but true - those three artists, all born within a year of each other, are without a doubt my favorite songwriters of all time. (Yes, even including Jeff Tweedy.) They've got it all - great tunes, great voices, a willingness to experiment stylistically, and lyrics which can make you laugh and tear your heart out, sometimes in the same song.
I don't think it's a coincidence that all three artists are also British. The Brits have a rich legacy of combining catchy pop and clever, insightful lyrics, dating back to the Beatles, of course, but also (and especially) the Kinks. Andy Partridge hails Ray Davies as a forebear; I don't know if Robyn and Elvis do too, but the influence is there. The Kinks' legacy has lingered in British music for a long time - I definitely hear it in the Smiths, for instance, and Belle & Sebastian. But maybe I'm just not listening to enough British music nowadays, because I don't hear much Kinks-ness anymore. In fact, I hear very little British music that interests me at all, regardless of influence.
It seems like every British band nowadays is based on one of three templates. Either it's swoony, "Bends"-era Radiohead (Coldplay), Strokes-style pseudo-garage rock (The Libertines), or fidgety Gang of Four post-punk (Franz Ferdinand). The latter two are newer styles, but nevertheless, every time a trendy new British band comes along, I can predict exactly what they'll sound like. The much-hyped Arctic Monkeys, for instance (and imagine how we'll be laughing at that name in ten years), follow the garage-rock template. I'm not making a wholesale dismissal of any of these bands, by the way - they don't suck, but it's like... jeez, let's hear something different for once. Maybe this sameness is an artifact of the slobbering, "hype them and forget about them" British music press. Maybe these types of bands are just what makes it over to the States. I don't know, but it's getting pretty boring.
The only new British band to catch my attention in the past five years has been Clinic, just because they sound... weird (and definitely different) - although admittedly I lost interest in them after one album. I've also been meaning to listen to more Super Furry Animals and Mogwai. But neither of those bands are new, and they'd probably resent being called British, being Welsh and Scottish respectively. (Yes, I know, Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand are Scottish, too.)
So is British rock really a vast wasteland? Give me some recommendations, folks. I don't want to give up on ol' Blighty quite yet.