I don’t really like karaoke.
If I’m forced I turn to “If I Can Dream” by Elvis or “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles…which is ironic because I really hate The Beatles, but I get around this by saying that what I am doing is the version of that song performed by Britpop luminaries Gene on their “To See The Lights” compilation.
I really don’t like tribute bands.
I once saw an Oasis tribute band play a student union in Dundee and couldn’t get over the fact that, despite their not being particularly good, the “Liam” was followed around for the rest of the night by a flock of pretty art school girls. It seemed…peculiar. And I was a bit jealous. Tribute bands also have awful names and I can’t handle bands with “funny” names and I really can’t stand puns.
Karaoke and tribute bands are things that are really only enjoyed by people under the influence of large amounts of alcohol. Sober all one can see/hear is a pasty, anemic, pale, immitation of something that, very often, isn’t very good even when it’s being performed by the real band or artist. These are staff party entertainments. They are not…art.
Sometimes in awful British films that are set in the fifties or sixties the director gets around the issue of not being able to afford the rights to use the actual music of The Beatles, The Stones or some such by having someone create a band for them. They do that head wobbling thing, they sing specially written songs and everyone in the audience feels a strange desire to murder them or themselves as soon as they start to perform. I’d rather have no music in the film.
Tired British film.
The veneration of the sixties.
Not everybody feels this way of course.
Some people really love karaoke.
Some people genuinely think seeing someone called something like Maybe Morning Giants – A Tribute to Oasis is a great night out.
Some people like really dreadful British films just because they have somebody who was in a scene in Trainspotting in them and all the cast are wearing Beatles wigs.
The thing is this…the sixties was a long time ago and, truthfully, it wasn’t all that great. Most of The Beatles records were ropey at best with occasional flashes of fine and even more occasional bursts of just a bit better than fine. The Kinks were always much better…but you can’t immitate that and you certainly cannot replicate it because Ray Davies was a bona fide genius and there are very few of those in the world.
All of which brings us to The Mariners.
Every person in the band has more talent and more creativity in their little fingers than I have in my slightly tubby, middle-aged, frame. They can play, they have written and recorded a whole album and they have built up a gaggle of folks who think they are the business.
I can’t get on board the good ship Mariner.
This isn’t the sound of something inspired by the music of almost sixty years ago but is, instead, the sound of something mimicing the music of almost sixty years ago and you have to ask yourself…why? Hasn’t that particular river run dry? Is there anything, and I mean anything, new or interesting to be gleaned from that era? Maybe there is…but this isn’t it, this is just, sadly, derivitive.
When The La’s arrived they took the same period as inspiration and used it to deliver something that sounded utterly fresh and, crucially, relevant. Not a single note sounded like a tribute to something or an attempt to simply play to revivalists or revisionists. Lyrically Lee Mavers was singing about things that felt real and was doing so without “moon” or “June”. The same could be said for fellow Scousers The Coral who, on those early records, were playing with sixties influences but who never seemed to be in awe of The Beatles.
With “The Tides of Time” there isn’t anything new. I’ve heard it all before. Which means that you have certainly heard it all before too. If you attended some sixties weekender with LARPer Mods and rockers strolling around a field outside of Burnley and The Mariners were the band booked to play at the Saturday night dance…you’d feel a bit let down. You would be yearning for The Konks or The Bootles.
There is a song here called “Cuppa Tea” which, genuinely, includes the sound of someone tapping a spoon against the side of a teacup. “Sitting in my garden, drinking my tea, as I’ve nowhere to go…”. It’s a song about someone drinking a cup of tea. It isn’t a metaphor for something else or a commentary on English identity. It’s a song about drinking a cup of tea. “Drink my tea in the morning, drink my tea in the evening”. When Thurman pulled a similar trick with “English Tea” it was layered in irony and was, very definitely, a comment on the limitations of revisionist culture. That isn’t the case here.
Now before people get cross, I get it…not every pop song has to say something. Sometimes you just want a jolly tune to help sweep the clouds away from the humdrum of your life. That’s fine. But when people start suggesting that an album like this is a sign of a renaissance in “guitar music” (I hate that phrase) then I think we are in trouble. This isn’t the sound of a renaissance, this is the sound of revivalism.
That people are so willing to embrace bands like The Mariners isn’t a reflection on the band or their ability but on the desperate desire of that audience to refuse to move outside of the cultural cul-de-sac they live in.
“I like what I like and what I like is stuff that sounds exactly like that other stuff I like.”
When there are genuinley thrilling new bands who are taking inspiration from the past but who are then doing something more than just photocopying it, then I don’t know why you would need something like this. The Automatic with their eighties electronica and John Carpenter soundtrack mash-up, The Murder Capital with the brooding wonder of Joy Division and the Bunnymen, NSG and their incredible sound of modern England and so many others but all using their inspirations to create something new, something thrilling and something inspirational in its own right.
Maybe The Mariners want to make records like the ones they own. If that is the goal then they have succeeded. But I’m not sure why anyone else should want to listen, not when they could go and listen to the originals.
“The Tides of Time” and the time is five past 1966.