In which Ells ponders genre boundaries (or what the hell is anti-folk anyway?)

Ben Marwood

Ben Marwood - image 'borrowed' from the BBC Berkshire website

The other weekend I went to see Ben Marwood and Oxygen Thief playing at The Victoria in Swindon. It was a fun night and we ended up chatting with Ben and Barry (Oxygen Thief), to discover that they are both lovely as well as fantastically talented – but anyway, that’s not the point.

The point is that Ben Marwood has a shiny new album out and when I went to buy said album (I know, how current and trendy am I?!), the website described him as an ‘anti-folk singer-songwriter’.

Anti-folk? What the ****??!

Ok, I know that human nature is to define oneself against something. Punk is a fairly easy to bring to mind example: the music, the fashion and the attitude were (still are?) all to be what the mainstream wasn’t; to differentiate from the ‘normal’ ideology and to belong to a group of like-minded people. But that’s kind of what folk already is – it is the music of the people. It comes from people like you or me singing about the normal concerns of normal people.

Admittedly, the ‘folk tradition’ conjures up thoughts of more traditional songs, but to label anyone’s music as anti-folk is to miss the point, I think. I know that the definition of folk as a genre has changed, it has become more of a ‘sound’ these days. But still, to be ‘anti’ something, you must be against it, and how can you be against the music of the people when you are, in fact, a person making music?

It is very easy to jump on the label band wagon of anti-folk, post-rock or nu-metal (arrg, that one always annoyed me – it was never really new nor really metal…*), but maybe we should think just a little bit harder before we tag a name on things…

Or maybe we could just enjoy the music for what it is without getting bogged down in ye olde genre argument.

I will finish with a quote from Mr Frank Turner, who has eloquently said in the booklet of his recent Rock and Roll EP what my little rant here has tried to express:

“So when I am asked to pick a genre tag to describe the music I make, I hesitate. But I shouldn’t. I could call it punk, or folk, or rock & roll. But to me personally it’s all of these things: together they represent a continuity, different faces of the same idea. And that idea is that music is something simple that brings us together, makes us more than the sum of our parts and tells us something inexpressible about the human condition. It might only be something as simple and as small as rock and roll, but it might yet save us all. Or just sound really, really cool.”

See – what he said!

*I just want to clarify, I like some nu-metal  – it’s just the name that annoys the hell out of me! Especially as some idiot decided to spell it nu. Give me strength! You’ve shortend a three-letter word, dip-s**t!


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