The release of Jim Jarmusch’s Stooges biopic Gimme Danger, has prompted me to think about the lack of danger in modern music.
I don’t expect anyone to hit the levels reached by the Stooges in the late 60s and early 70s. However I expect more from the world of music than the comfort blanket of Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.
Modern acts who could go for a cup of tea with your grandparents and afterwards be told that they were “lovely young men”, are exactly what’s wrong with the current music scene. Long gone are the days when people would go to heckle Stooges’ front man Iggy Pop just to see his (over)reaction – usually along the lines of hair-pulling, cutting himself with the glass from thrown bottles or even squaring up to the heckler. Today, heckling a group like Coldplay would only result in a polite request to be quiet.
There are a few bands, possibly possessed of the Stooges spirit, that buck this trend. Yak frontman Oli Burslem echoes the hair-pulling and stage-diving of Iggy himself. His band always seem an aggressive statement or two short of truly threatening behaviour; although new single ‘Semi-Automatic’ calls out the new alt-right movement for the fascists that they are.
Danger is so crucial to music, particularly live rock and roll. When you experience this music live you want to be kept on the edge of life itself – at least until the 11pm curfew kicks in. Meanwhile acts like Coldplay and Bastille play mega-arenas populated by thousands of seated salad stuffing bores.
For a further example of a band that brings danger and ‘Raw Power’ to audiences, look no further than Sweden’s finest, The Hives. Front man Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is possibly the greatest front man since the turn of the millennium, and he knows it. Almqvist is so confident in his band’s ability that he makes claims on stage such as “Wanna know how you spell The Hives, G-E-N-I-U-S”, or, “Clap and scream while I drink some water, or I’ll kill you.” His comments provoke a reaction from his audience: they either fully believe (in) him, and show it by sacrificing their bodies to a sea of pogoing, or completely reject him by heckling, resulting in Almqvist responding with lines like “Fuck you, boo man, I’ll boo the shit out of your face.”
There are of course some who attempt to perform ‘danger’ and end up turning it into a joke. A band that tries too hard is Bring Me The Horizon, their set at Rock En Scene featured a pre gig video sequence telling the audience “we’re edgy”. Of course if you have to tell your audience you’re going to be exciting before you come on on stage, you’re probably not. The video sequence provoked laughter from the crowd instead of the delirium that Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist can create with just his presence alone.
Dangerous and threatening bands are starting to appear finally in the form of Savages, The Orwells and of course the previously mentioned Yak. It is crucial for rock and roll (“Both kinds of music” as Howlin’ Pelle would say) to have a working production line of ‘dangerous’ bands in order for it to stay relevant. The exact nature of rock and roll demands it challenges the establishment, represented by bands like Coldplay and Bastille who claim fraudulently to be indie rock. We need the dangerous bands in order to grab them by the hair and call them out.