Before I begin this particular rant, I want to put a little disclaimer forward, I in no way whatsoever harbour any ill will towards Pale Waves or any other band I criticise in this short piece, while I obviously am not a fan, I am merely using these bands as an example for my point. This is simply my take on their music, look and the impact or rather the lack of impact of Pale Waves and bands like it on the music scene at the moment. I am not questioning them as people, I’m quite sure they’re quite lovely. I strongly believe in supporting young acts and I genuinely hope that the band has continued success in the music business, after all not many people can make it out there and every young musician we get out of a dead end minimum wage job and into doing something they love is hugely important. Now that’s been said I can continue with a clear conscience.
Pale Waves represent a problem the indie music scene faces at the moment, this eighties nostalgia gone wrong. Now I love the eighties, especially the alternative scene, from post punk Joy division to alt rockers Hüsker dü to alt-pop sensations The Cure, I love them all. I grew up listening to Boys Don’t Cry in the car on the way to school, or rather on the way home from school after I’d been sent home for misbehaving, misbehaviour inspired by Robert Smiths lyrics. However in this modern age of indie music, that sound has been imitated by many bands but has unfortunately lost it’s all important edge. The Cure were a pop powerhouse, but they maintained an attitude influenced by punk from the previous decade, hell, The Cure started out doing punk songs like I Want To Be Old as many new romantic and new wave bands did. So why has indie lost its edge? Is it due to new technology? After all tape and analog equipment have a different quality than modern digital production. Is it the record labels pushing for a poppier sound to sell more records or is it these bloody millennials ruining things? I don’t know if I can answer this today but I’ll sure try.
It’s obvious Pale Waves are taking elements of eighties pop culture into their style, from a power gothic vocalist to a subdued indie kid bassist, and that’s just talking about their look. The music has the cornerstones of eighties indie music, synthesisers and jangly guitars, and yet Pale Waves fails to add the emphasis and impact to their sound that a band like The Smiths or (early) Depeche Mode, and Depeche were more dance pop than indie, even if they had started on an independent label. Morrissey had haunting vocals and powerful lyrics and yet Heather of Pale Waves has overly processed generic pop singing and writes basic love songs. The production as a whole is far too much. Over production can work on a song, such as Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, but on a song that’s claiming to be cut from the same cloth as Siouxsie and Banshees? Come on!
Pale Waves have found mentors in The 1975, yet another band ruining the good name of indie music. They toured together and it’s clear they rubbed off on each other. They both have that same bad pop songwriting that’s all too prevalent in today’s music industry. I’m not saying all pop is bad, look at an artist such as Prince, or for a more modern example, Billie Eilish (ignoring the fact she did a song with Bieber) both Prince and Eilish possess a darker, edgier sense of songwriting. But this is what I mean, music has to have an edge, otherwise it just doesn’t have the same emotional impact. Some might say it’s great that indie guitar music is coming back into the mainstream, but these guitars are watered down, processed and in my opinion lacking the ability to inspire young budding musicians to pick up their instruments. Some areas of guitar music are doing things especially well such as in the modern punk scene but indie? Indie is really struggling to retain the emotion heard in earlier generations of indie music.
To summarise, this modern age of indie pop lacks that all important edge largely due to poor songwriting and over production. However, as I like to keep this blog largely positive and don’t want this whole rant to be me shitting on a band, a few good bands have shined through in spite of this modern pop rubbish, such as Blossoms, who also have an eighties vibe, are quite heavily produced and write love songs. Yet the songwriting and atmosphere is so powerful and brilliantly raw despite the production. It just feels more genuine and therefore has that needed edge. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this ramble I wrote at two in the morning.
Peace, Love and Cowbells,