Harlech Castle and the inevitable rise of 'historicore'

Tuesday 5 October 2010, 13:10

James McLaren James McLaren

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Perennial indie favourites (and Manic Street Preachers tourmates) British Sea Power have lauded north Wales' Harlech in a round-up of, erm, their favourite castles for Drowned In Sound.

Yes, it's the interview everyone's been waiting for. But scoffing aside, I'm interested. Phil Sumner's a history buff and he says of Harlech Castle: "I first went here when I was five. If you're ever in the Snowdon area of Wales it's worth taking a look at this one. You could combine it with a trip to the Snowdonia National Park as well. This castle was built during the reign of Edward I when he conquered Wales. Taking a look around this one, it is truly amazing. It was built to last and withstand attack.

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

"It was built with a concentric plan where one line of defences contains another. The castle was immortalised in the song Men of Harlech where it withstood a seven year siege and was the last Lancastrian fortress to surrender. The trick up its sleeve was its supply port.

"The castle is built on cliffs, a natural defence anyway, but round the back of it a fortified passage was built which dropped the distance of the cliff. The sea used to reach up to this part 700 years ago and allowed the castle to be resupplied via shipping during a siege. A brilliant invention. Check out the sand dunes nearby, they're a good place to play castles in."

Music periodicals are always looking for strange angles from which to approach artists; to explore facets of their personality beyond the Ozone-esque "so what's your favourite colour" exposé. Me, I like history. And chatting to a band with more than half a brain cell between them is good; they will probably have interests and aspirations beyond rocking out and drug-fuelled orgies.

Space-filler it may be, but geeky indie men talking about history floats my boat more than most topics. In fact, I may see what The Joy Formidable have to say about the Roman system of maniples when they're promoting their début album next year.

The marriage of history and music has occupied my mind before. I've had extensive discussions with BBC Wales Music contributor and BBC Wales History blogger James W Roberts about a genre of music called 'historicore' in which the leading lights of the genre share nothing but a name derived from history.

Bear with me, this has legs. Imagine how great a band called The Invasion of Manchuria just has to be. How about The Wall Street Crash? The Newport Rising? The Tolpuddle Martyrs? The Rape of Nanking? The Siege Of Stalingrad?

We want your suggestions for potential historicore bands. Have fun; dip into that GCSE history syllabus you did once, and imagine possibly the greatest scene the music world has ever seen.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Yes, because naming a band after a massacre where thousands of women get raped is really cool for the kids (!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    But andrew, shouldn't music sometimes be combatative and confrontational? Sometimes morally ambiguous too, dare I saw it. Holiday In Cambodia by Dead Kennedys plays with the themes of a terrible regime; the work of The Dwarves was in-your-face and visceral and the hip hop of people like Big Punisher was sexually grotesque. I'm not saying that music should diminish horror or shocking events, but sometimes names, songs etc can expose a theme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Naming a song in a satricial fashion is one thing, naming a band after a tragedy is another. What if the band takes off and there's mass merchandising of the T-shirts? I doubt a band called Hitler or Auschwitz would be seen as anything other than a cynical attempt to grab mass media headlines.

    (and yes, I've just hit Godwin's Law on a BBC blog post)

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I should think context and perhaps intention are important.

    It makes a difference whether I name my band The September 11th Hijackers Were Cool, or The September 11th Emergency Services Were Heroic...


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