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The Rotters Who Spoiled Music

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Fraser McAlpine | 18:17 UK time, Thursday, 6 December 2007

Spoiled Music

Years ago the NME ran a feature called The B*****ds Who Ruined Rock, in which they pointed an accusing finger at a number of classic rock acts, and told them off for being so good at what they do, that other, lesser acts have flocked to cash in, by copying their every cough and scrape, and missing a huge chunk of the point.

It was such a long time ago that original list featured such acts as the Byrds, the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, but there's no reason why we can't apply a similarly stringent nit-comb to the art of modern song. After all, this kind of industry gold-rush for soundalikes, which happens as soon as a band becomes popular, is still going on, as anyone who witnessed the run of post-Arctic Monkeys Yorkshire terrier-ists will tell you.

Here's five examples, feel free to suggest some more:


The Sound: Using the booming reverb of a cave in a car park in a cathedral as a lead instrument. Heavily-delayed, un-distorted guitars over pianos and monolithic, unfunky drums. Singing softly about being nice to loved ones, in a high-pitched voice which cracks occasionally, as if you're crying.

The LEGACY: Whether they invented it or not (Radiohead and U2, I'm looking at both of you), Coldplay's influence has been so huge that people are now referring to bands who dip their toes in cavernous waters as being 'Cold Rock'. Honest!

Luckily it has calmed down a bit now, but for a while there you couldn't move for indie chancers with a piano and a cheap delay pedal, making with the epic.

See also: Starsailor, Travis, Keane, Athlete, Snow Patrol, Thirteen Senses, Grace, Editors, OneRepublic...

Green Day

The Sound: The more tuneful end of classic '70s British punk rock (Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69 in particular) given a jolt of energy, a dab of polish, and a whole bunch of off-colour gags about...stuff you do in your leisure time that I can't possibly comment on. The rise of a 'genre' called pop-punk, and a massive heap of arguing over who was it and who wasn't.

The LEGACY: The idea that nothing makes a song better than singing the main melody in "nah nah nah" form. That curious compressed, weedy non-voice (Dexter Offspring, take a bow) that a lot of the bands have. Lots of songs about failed sex and solo sex and general teenage boy stuff. Oh, and before emo took over, the whole post-Green Day thing was so huge that even the Scooby-Doo theme got a pop-punk makeover, courtesy of Simple Plan.

See also: Blink 182, Busted, Sum 41, My Chemical Romance, Avril Lavigne, Freefaller, the Faders, All-American Rejects, the Ataris, Bowling For Soup, Boxcar Racer, Good Charlotte, Jimmy Eat World, Madina Lake, New Found Glory, NOFX, the Offspring, Plus 44, Plain White T's, the Ramones, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Simple Plan, Son Of Dork, Taking Back Sunday, Wheatus, Yellowcard

The Libertines

The Sound: Scuffed, unpolished guitars, played with more gusto than accuracy. Songs with varying tempo control, which seem to stop, start and stagger on a whim. Shouting like a cockney barrowboy in a voice which is more phlegmy than a spitoon with a cold. Lyrics like one of those games where you write a story a line at a time, passing a folded sheet of paper around a table, which in this case is occupied by Fagin, Patti Smith, Captain Jack Sparrow and Morrissey.

The LEGACY: Everyone Pete Doherty has ever met has made a record - FACT. All of the records made by everyone Pete Doherty has ever met sound quite a lot like the Libertines, including those of Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things (which is understandable) - FACT. Indie guitarists now have two settings on their amplifiers, 'Too Much Reverb' or 'Dry As Nails Down A Blackboard' - FACT. Some people are just rubbish at writing poetry, no matter how hard they try - FACT.

See also: The View, the Others, the Holloways, Arctic Monkeys, Milburn, Pigeon Detectives, the Paddingtons, Dogs, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong, Jamie T...


The Sound: Before NWA's 'Straight Outta Compton' really took hold, hip hop was proud to consider itself a very broad church. You had ferocious political activist rap (like Public Enemy), silly fratboy rap (2 Live Crew, Sir Mixalot) psychedelic mind-expanding rap (De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers), even jazz-rap (Gangstarr), and all of it was selling in huge amounts. With the advent of the whole 'gangsta rap' media storm, everything changed.

(This is just about the only NWA song I can put in. Interesting to note how drastically Dre's drugs stance changed over the years, eh?)

The LEGACY: Well, you don't seem to hear as many songs about how brilliant jazz is any more, do you? Any rapper whose main lyrical themes are anger, guns, swearing, girls being moneygrabbers, trouble with the law, guns, shocking stuff, girls being rubbish, how annoying other rappers are, buying stuff with the money you got from illegal endeavours, guns and fighting owes a debt to NWA and Dr Dre. Just ask Eminem.

See also: Jay-Z, 2-Pac, Notorious BIG, 50 Cent, Eminem, Ja Rule, DMX, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West...need I go on? As far as the bulk of mainstream hip hop is concerned - half of Outkast excepted - it can sometimes feel like it's NWA's world, we just live in it.

New Kids On The Block

The Sound: Either super-soft ballads about being your forever boy, or laughable attempts to be 'street' while dancing about in a toned and muscular fashion. May contain very poor attempts at rapping, or Beatles-pastiche soft-pop about life on 'the road'. There are five singers in the group, and yet most of their songs contain only one melody, shared between everyone.

The LEGACY: Seriously? None of that rings any bells? What you've got there is the template for all boybands and girlbands, ever since. You need five members so you can make interesting shapes in your dance routines (a rhomboid! A cross! A pentagon! The five of Clubs!), and they can't ALL be clean-cut and handsome, or roughened-up muscle-mingers, otherwise you lose potential fans. Close harmony singing is a no-no, because only three of the band can sing (the other two stand at either end of a line, and are known as 'wingers'), and they're all revving up for their solo moments.

See also: (deep breath) Take That, Boyzone, Five, Westlife, Spice Girls, Steps, A1, Phixx, Girls Aloud, One True Voice, *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Blue, Lyte Funky Ones, BBMak, 98 Degrees, O-Town, Us5, the Osmonds, the Jackson 5, All-4-One, Blazin' Squad, Bros, Brother Beyond, Color Me Badd, Damage, D-Side, East 17, Menudo, New Edition, OTT, Upper Street, V, Worlds Apart...

Oh, and don't get too smug, mums and dads, the same methods that made all these bands are now being used to create new and 'exciting' variations on the G4/Il Divo template. Sleep tight!


  1. At 01:16 PM on 07 Dec 2007, Jamie wrote:

    Fraser, we've talked before about the legend that is Dexter Holland, I don't wanna have to get into it again.

    Are you sure Green Day were before The Offspring?

    [Both bands released their breakthrough albums in 1994, but to my way of thinking, Green Day's influence was bigger. Although more people sing like Dexter does, sadly. - Fraser]

  2. At 03:41 PM on 07 Dec 2007, Jamie wrote:

    Hmm, I feel if they both released their breakthrough albums at the same time then The Offspring deserve equal billing with Green Day (despite clearly being the superior of the two).

    It's better that more of these bands sway towards Mr Holland's style than Mr Armstrongs. Billy Joe always sounds like he has a blocked nose.

    [The Offspring superior to Green Day? Well I think I can see where your CD collection and mine go in different directions... ;-) - Fraser]

  3. At 05:52 PM on 07 Dec 2007, Jamie wrote:

    I guess so. The world would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing (especially if that thing was Green Day, sorry that was a cheap shot!)

    I wonder if everybody likes both Green Day and The Offspring, or whether it's one of those things people can only like one of. . . like pie or quiche?

    [Good point. Well if you just mentally re-write the whole Green Day section as if it was the Offspring, it still works. Which is nice. - Fraser}

  4. At 08:53 PM on 07 Dec 2007, TehTeh wrote:

    Go Jamie! I do like both but hell yeah Offspring are way better.
    Offspring was the first rock band I ever listened to, ever before Green Day or Linkin Park.

    Fraser: Have you thought about putting in some nu-metal band? Like everyone doing what Faith No More were doing over a decade (I guess) ago?

    [Good idea! - Fraser]

  5. At 09:32 PM on 07 Dec 2007, Kerri wrote:

    I don't see why you can't like both, though I can only judge The Offspring on what I've heard single wise whereas I own most of Green Days albums.. though what I have heard I do like

  6. At 11:05 PM on 07 Dec 2007, Kat wrote:

    I like both.. but I love Billy Joe ^_^ *gushes*

  7. At 10:52 PM on 09 Dec 2007, Pacey1982 wrote:

    The Jackson 5 and the Osmonds were certainly waaaay before New Kids on the Block. You could as well have added the Supremes!

    [So were New Edition. The template for all '90s boybands was set by NKOTB though. They took a lot of their ideas from the J5 and the Osmonds, which is why these bands are in the 'See Also' section. - Fraser]

  8. At 12:33 AM on 10 Dec 2007, yorkieross wrote:

    Whoever compiled this list knows nothing and does not love music. Much like Radio 1, really.

    [Really? Gosh, and they seemed so sure of their facts too. Just goes to show, eh? - Fraser]

  9. At 07:19 AM on 10 Dec 2007, Dominik wrote:

    I think that the reason why New Kids On The Block weren't really good at rapping was because rapping was only just invented - at the beginning of 90s. They were probably the best rappers around then!

    [Much as I would love to believe you, there's a whole decade (plus) worth of hip hop you've just ignored there. Plus they were really bad at it! - Fraser]

  10. At 08:09 AM on 10 Dec 2007, douggie wrote:

    What a load of rubbish this is, Everyone Pete Doherty has ever met has made a record - FACT. Ive meet pete and i aint made a record.

    [Give it time...you will. - Fraser]

  11. At 10:25 AM on 10 Dec 2007, CarsmileSteve wrote:

    bludy kids, NOFX pre-date them both innit ;)

    also clodplay are ENTIRELY travis's fault

    [NOFX didn't sell like Green Day (they still haven't), their influence was on bands, not record labels. Read the intro again, this is a list of bands whose massive success provoked a gold-rush. Travis and Coldplay both nicked the 'whooshy-ghost' thing from Radiohead and U2 and Jeff Buckley. But it's Coldplay that prompted the term 'cold rock', due to the ubiquity of that sound once 'A Rush Of Blood...' had really started selling. - Fraser]

  12. At 03:47 PM on 10 Dec 2007, Jamie wrote:

    So much to discuss!

    Teh Teh (cool name): I think KoRn would be a more apt band if there was a nu-metal section as opposed to FNM. For the same reasons Fraser has cited for NKOTB being in the boy band bit instead of the Jackson 5.

    Kerry: I do like Green Day, they're alright, I just feel that The Offspring deserve just as much credit.

    Yorkie Ross: If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything. . . ever. You hear me?

    Dominik: That would be so cool if NKOTB discovered rapping, but it just really isn't true.

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