It occurred to me today, as our bus frantically sped through the tight, narrow roads of the Wiltshire countryside. I was listening to a song by The Cure on my ever-faithful iRiver (Mark II). I was listening to High, a song I'd heard a countless number of times before. I had always described it as my very favourite song from their 1992 album, Wish, along with A Letter To Elise. However, it was today that I listened to High and I realised that it was probably the happiest song I'd ever heard, along with Friday, I'm In Love.
I suddenly became preoccupied with this idea of the polarities of popular perception. While a casual listener of The Cure can describe their music as dark and gothic, a fan can identify something far more glowing and optimistic. Similarly, fans of The Smiths have the tendency to obsessively dismiss the popular "miserablism" tag which is frequently associated with the band. Fans will insist that Morrissey's lyricism possesses great wit and pathos. To that, you will hear the classical retort: "But they have a song called Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now!"
I'm reluctant to suggest that the perception of the casual listener is invalid, indeed, it's a perception that has been cultivated by a multitude of sources, from print publications to high-powered marketing executives. Almost every successful group possesses this cohesive and convenient descriptor. The point is that music fans and casual listeners alike can have this intrinsic understanding of where a group fits in the grand scheme of things. Even without hearing a group's music, we have some idea of how to identify their style, purpose and audience.
I don't believe that it's quite as straightforward as, "the noobs think it's sad, the fans think it's happy". In my experience, many fans are keen to see beyond the flimsy, cohesive and convenient. In their appreciation for a group, they tend to develop a personal, complex understanding which is both multi-faceted and authoritative. When a flippant casual listener engages with a passionate fan, the fan's tendency to assert their authority ultimately results in that polarity. In matters regarding musical snobbery, it tends to come down to that demonstration: "I know and you don't."
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: New Romantic Podcast #47
David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes
Spandau Ballet - To Cut a Long Story Short
Adam & The Ants - Ant Music
The Human League - Love Action (I Believe In Love)
ABC - The Look of Love
Simple Minds - Speed Your Love To Me
Duran Duran - Union of the Snake
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl - Somebody To Love Me (feat. Boy George)