Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Curation

It is an indictment of the cyclical nature of popular culture that one of pop music's greatest qualities is its curationism. We subject ourselves to endless rehashes of the past while convincing ourselves that it's something new. This would usually be seen as a bad thing; for the seasoned pop connoisseur, however, it provides an excuse to dig deep in the influences of your latest love.

Some bands are greater than the sum of their parts. The eighteen-year-old me would be horrified to know that actually Super Furry Animals weren't all that. I'm sure, however, that some of the greatest pleasure in being a Super Furries fan was exploring the music that they liked: Love, Dr. Octagon, Roxy Music, The Beach Boys. It stimulated exploration, giving focus to otherwise aimless time poring the record shop racks.

The rise of the All Tomorrow's Parties and the Meltdown festivals in the UK celebrate this curationism, where bands will book their influences to play. Some of the bands with the highest curational value, Massive Attack and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, have curated Meltdown, providing previously dismissive younger listeners with improbable exposure to Gong and Motörhead.

Usually, a band who are curatively very good are very interesting, probably because they have a wider palette from which to produce their patchwork pop music. Saint Etienne would be a great example of this, mixing obscure Sixties and Seventies pop with contemporary electronic dance music. Saint Etienne are as good at curating the present as they are the past.

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