Brit punk and the world of a new sense of mainstream music

In a hummus shop, I heard the Vaccines.

At first I wasn’t sure, but once I heard the singer, I knew it – “If You Wanna” was being played in Hummus Bros on Southampton Row.

To say “I was stoked” would be to say it lightly.

Hearing gems such as the Libertine’s “Can’t Stand Me Now” being played casually in stores, shops and pubs is something I really need to get used to, and boy, I better let it soak in.

Every now and then back in the US, you’ll walk into a store like Forever 21 or AllSaints and hear something like Au Revoir Simone or tUnE-yArDs, but normally you hop in a cab, and the same top 40 is being played on the radio.

I should clarify something. This isn’t a rant against top 40. In fact, pop and mainstream music has paved the way for independent bands to either rebel against that type of sound or play off of it and make it unique. Pop as we know it in the 21st century is something that constantly changes, so completely writing it off is also hard to do because, well, what of pop are you dismissing?

That being said, I get really tired of artists like Miley Cyrus sometimes.

Why do we turn to people such as that? Because we’re told to listen to her. She has the visual, and bands such as Palma Violets – a fantastic new age punk band with a loosey-goosey attitude that played at Lolla this year – don’t. Then again, not every band wants that same kind of visual.

But, I’ve grown up with not being a fan of top 40. It doesn’t mean I hate all of it, but I am, in the most true sense of the phrase, not a fan. I don’t go out of my way to follow it because I don’t have to since it’s everywhere, and most of the time I’ll either flip the channel to XRT or plop in a CD since I’m still affectionate of albums on CDs. It’s where it started for me – CD players, not iPods.

It’s very easy, as a rock, indie, and alternative fan, to completely dismiss pop or top 40. It’s easy to get into rants, and to feel self-righteous that you listen to the Sheepdogs instead of Kanye West.

But there’s a catch! Indie is starting to become mainstream.

There’s a couple of ways this is happening – indie artists are starting to be top 40 artists. Thank Foster the People for that with “Pumped Up Kicks” (although why that song out of all of them made it big still fascinates me).

Also, Ellie Goulding is becoming a sensation, but she’s not completely new. “Lights” is from 2010, but in recent years it’s become a household song.

This is also happening with the Black Keys – Brothers made it big and you’ll have to go out of your way to find someone who’s listened to Thickfreakness.

Who do we have to thank for this? The Brits, of course.

Now, you can’t completely generalize it, but a lot of these sort of rock or indie bands that make it big in the US were initially hits in the UK.

The reason why I am such a big Kings of Leon fan is because my dad gave me the CD of Because of the Times – which was a sensation in the UK. It wasn’t until “Sex On Fire” and then, more widely played, “Use Somebody,” that Americans started hearing the Kings on Kiss FM and the like.

So I have been given a golden opportunity.

Being in the UK for the semester, I have the opportunity to see rising British acts and acts that have made it big in the UK, but are only a whisper in the states at this point. The most relevant example of this for me personally is the Vaccines. They played to a reasonably sized Lollapalooza crowd in Chicago. In London, they played to a packed O2 Arena, which houses 20,000 seats.


Whether or not the Vaccines reaches Kings of Leon fame doesn’t concern me. But, if they gain success and enjoy it and use it to their advantage, then all the power to them. I cannot stand it when people criticize their bands for getting big. I’m sorry, you don’t like seeing their success? Or the fact that your friends can actually join in a conversation about them now?

Again, as an indie fan it’s easy to have that attitude. The “I was here first!” syndrome.

So, while I’m here in London, I’m going to be musically exploring as much as I can. If I go to a show, check Amplified for a review.

For now, cheerio.