In Your Face: Music Should Be Confrontational

In Your Face: Music Should Be Confrontational

I’m bored. Bored with the kind of studied apathy that’s cool. You don’t give a fuck. Well done. You’re so edgy bro, I’ll need to be careful that I don’t cut myself.

I wish. What I’d give for artists to deliver a sense of urgency, danger and poignancy than was tangible. Instead, and I should say this mostly applies to the kind of music I’m involved in i.e. heavy and alternative music, I’m greeted with practiced stage moves, party boy attitudes, casual misogyny, a total lack of imagination and a sneering at anything that expresses an opinion. As much as I listen to music, watch TV and read for pleasure I also want to be challenged. I want to be exposed to new ideas, question my own preconceptions and be challenged. I want to be confronted.

If that’s not available though I’ll settle for a good one liner.

Rainfalls // photograph by Calum McMillan
Rainfalls // photograph by Calum McMillan

I’m not sure exactly when saying “I don’t give a fuck” became cooler than saying what you thought but I’m over it. I’d say I couldn’t give a fuck about your not giving a fuck but I’d be lying. Your apathy sickens me. I think it’s small-minded, pathetic and it makes you so boring I can’t even be bothered to finish this sent…

Thankfully there are still some bands who don’t shirk away from the kind of enraged spontaneity and sincerity that made heavy music so compelling to me in the first place. Just last week I photographed both Swallows and Rainfalls in Glasgow and both bands delivered visceral sets where they played themselves into the ground.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

Not only that, but both bands called out songs about the difficulty of dealing with addiction, more specifically the addictions of other people. When you’re presented with cretins who glamorize the idiotic “rock star” life style such as Danny Worsnop taking up the column inches in mainstream music journalism, shows like this just about restore my faith.

If you ask me, heavy music is an ideal medium for exercising your demons, or the demons of others who hang around in your shadow, and its perfect for lifting the sense of desperation, alienation or uncertainty that just muddling your way through life’s complexities so often cause. I’ll put my hand up and admit both these bands have lifted my spirit, eased my fear or made me feel empowered through their music.

And they did it all without resorting to offensive t-shirts.

Which isn’t to say that I demand confrontational subject matter from a band. An intense musical performance delivered with a kind of fevered passion is confrontation as much as bearing your personal demons down a microphone. To take another two Scottish bands as examples, both The Colour Pink is Gay and Sectioned and pushing at the boundaries of extreme music and doing their best to challenge themselves and their audience.

Sectioned // photograph by Calum McMillan
Sectioned // photograph by Calum McMillan

Whether that its in the form of the intensity and dissonant nature of Sectioned’s music or the dexterous and confusing arrangements of The Colour Pink is Gay both bands produce music that’s genuinely challenging and their live performances force you to engage with their art. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. I firmly believe that a certain amount of discomfort is essential to push past boundaries.

Nothing inspires a move forward quite like a sense of hope birthed from having your preconceptions questioned. The Colour Pink Is Gay and Sectioned have both helped me understand just how exciting extreme metal can be, a genre I’d largely shrugged off as childish and pointless.

The Colour Pink Is Gay // photograph by Calum McMillan
The Colour Pink Is Gay // photograph by Calum McMillan

Maybe this approach doesn’t apply to all music, but when we we’re presented with so much heavy music which has nothing to say and doesn’t challenge us I find myself wondering what’s the point? Is it just an aesthetic? I guess that’s ok, but you then have to acknowledge that screaming into a mircophone and posturing to loud music in low lighting is intrinsic silly.

Which it is. But those silly aspects are the perfect channel for challenging, thought-provoking and cathartic and if we’re going to abandon those traits then its just become a pantomime. If you’ve read this then you’ve realised that I’m no stranger to the theatrical, but there is a difference between Beckett and Cinderella.

And it’s not just the guy dressed up as a woman.

I guess if I’m after music like that I’m better off spending my evenings in the small clubs of wonderful cities like Glasgow instead of in the pages of the mainstream music press if I want to find music that really has something to say.

You’re better off doing that too.

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