I wouldn’t make much of a Picky Bastard if I didn’t have an opinion on everything, would I? And perhaps I’d also not be doing my “job” if I always agreed with the prevailing opinion about who’s on fire and who’s past it, who’s worth your time and mine, and who’s wasting it. I’m here to give opinions, and I always have my reasons, but in the end I’ll be honest: I’m a contrary git.
It’s not just that this can annoy my friends, as I dig into an opinion that they suspect I don’t believe in myself, and knot themselves in the twists and turns of my argument. There is something deeply contrary in my nature. It’s always been there I think, making me look to argue against the very thing that the majority support.
A simple example: As a teenager I was obsessed with only American bands when everyone I knew was into ones from the UK (and even Manchester specifically – just to be clear, I missed the chance to go to the Hacienda in its heyday, so I could sit at home and listen to Bleach).
And then a step further: When that same Nirvana were booked to play GMEX in Manchester in 1994, with my favourite band Sebadoh in support, I was so perverse I insisted to my friends I’d go for the opener and then walkout (a gesture that would have shook Kurt to his very core, I’m sure).
Then I was lucky enough to move to Massachusetts, USA, living only about an hour from Sebadoh’s lead singer, my musical idol Lou Barlow. Shock horror, I started to turn my attention to telling people I met at house parties about how Manchester was the centre of the musical universe, and Joy Division were all bands.
It’s still with me too, despite my well-worn maturity. Take the entire world of pop music. Even with all the pressure of hearing well produced, complex and clever pop albums often now, PBs podcast listeners might have noticed how hard I’ve struggled with not dismissing the entire genre out of hand, and maybe it’s time I reflected on whether it’s the popularity that’s the problem.
Objectively, there is obviously nothing inherently “wrong” with pop. In fact, it provides real joy to millions, so why should I resist it so adamantly? I guess, in part, it’s just because it’s always been a test to see if I can. So I need to continually work to fight that kid in me, that won’t let me easily be the listener I want to be: thoughtful and considered. Instead, the kid wants to just shout down wisdom, in favour of just seeing how far my rhetorical skills can carry me.
I don’t take this whole writing/ podcasting shit too seriously, but I somehow feel I do owe our vast audience some kind of honest, balanced thoughts on the music I engage with. Here’s to the battle then – the petulant child will just have to move over.
Words by Nick Parker.