We Celebrate Regional Britain In This Week's Spotify Mix
, February 27th, 2009 09:28
This week The Quietus takes a tour around the regions of Britain for our Spotify mix, and unearths a forgotten pop song about aliens settling in Northampton
The towns and villages, highways and byways of Britain are, in musical terms, well celebrated. Though London certainly has a talismanic hold over the creative imagination, over the years a host of musical movements have celebrated the the minutae of life that exists far away from the rush and hype of the Capital.
However in recent years, the provincial town has developed something of an unfortunate stranglehold on the bland end of guitar music via bands like The Enemy, The View, and Hard-Fi. With their endless dribbling about going out on the lash in search of birds and fisticuffs, they glorify a drift towards the mindlessly conservative and banal that unfortunately seems to mirror a loss of regional identity in bricks and mortar, lifestyle and culture.
I lived in Norwich in the late 1990s. When I arrived, it was a city stuck in the 1970s - after all, the A11 being what it is, you only visit Norwich if you really really want to go there. It was last an important industrial centre hundreds of years ago at the height of the wool trade, something represented in its many churches and fine Dutch-influenced Medieval architecture. It was run down, tatty, going nowhere - but under the vast and cold East Anglian sky, it had strange and unique character. There were umpteen small and dingy tea shops run by sour old dears with ill-matching mugs, a ramshackle market, pubs still lit by gas and at least four independent record shops, one of which was a stall that was also stacked high with second hand grot mags. Yet within the three years I lived there, everything had changed. Two Starbucks arrived simultaneously, destroying overnight the tea shops and sending their tasteless prints of exotic fauna to skips. The market was rebuilt in naff wooden sheds, causing a rise in rents that drove out many of stallholders. And all around chain restaurants and shops, along with two new huge retail developments, stifled the independent trader and spirited, if misguided, small-town entrepreneur.
It's a pattern that has been repeated up and down the country - Britain seems to have welcomed the homogenisation of its towns and villages with an enthusiasm unmatched by nearly any other country I have ever visited.
So today on The Quietus, we use our Spotify mix to celebrate the spirit and character of regional Britain, its unmade suburban sideroads, early closing, lonely Celtic crosses and abandoned pill boxes, the fecund privet hedge (a proud repository of second hand pornography and partially finished cans of White Lightning), stale cigarette bus upholstery, Hull's yellow phone boxes, bench quenchers, public excretions, delays at the Kings Lynn roundabout, young chaps in leisurewear sporting fresh shiners, fish and chips in the car, tar on the beach, distressed children who've had too much Lucozade weeping in garden centres, old road signs pointing the wrong way thanks to local ne-er-do-wells, and expensive to maintain tinder-dry Victorian piers owned by careless smokers.
Listen to the Quietus' regional Britain Spotify mix featuring: PJ Harvey, British Sea Power, Throbbing Gristle, The Fall, Mogwai, Daedelus, Glenn Miller, Jake Thackray, Jarvis Cocker, Sham 69, Six By Seven, Patrick Wolf, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, The Members, Marianne Faithfull, and Queen.
And finally, sadly the song that inspired this week's Quietus Spotify mix isn't yet on the free music streaming service. It can only be a matter of time before this song by Linda Jardim, about aliens setting up in a three-bed semi in Northampton, is added. Thanks to our man Taylor Parkes for putting it our way: