Thursday, October 18, 2007

Smoothed Out Shite

At the folk club tonight (which isn't really a folk club, it's more of a place where people who like to play instruments and sing gather and do both at each other) there was a man playing who comes there quite often and is, well, terrible. Terrible people at folk clubs aren't unusual, far from it. My personal favourites are the tone deaf old man who sings with, erm, charming enthusiasm and the middle aged woman who sings Bob Dylan and Joan Baez songs - seemingly with the conviction that if she delivers them with sufficient ferocity the chords will get into the right order on their own. But there's this one man who can't be so easily blocked out, or avoided by a swift trip to the bar.

He sings songs that he writes himself, about various predictable subjects - there's one about a break up, one cloyingly sentimental one about his grown up daughter, one generic lovey dovey song, and one about killing nuns... well, actually no, there aren't any about killing nuns, it'd be much more interesting if there was*. Anyway, as I was saying, this man is bad, but there's no specific thing that you can point out about his performances and say 'this man is shite'. His lyrics are clich├ęd and derivative but they aren't bad exactly - they are competently put together, more so than many songs out there. His guitar playing, whilst not face melting, is above the level of your average folkie - certainly better than Bob Dylan, and his voice is always pitch perfect. The thing is that when all added together these things seem to somehow subtract from each other, or at least, don't add up to something listenable.

He's terrible in the same way that a packet of sausages that only costs 20p are terrible - there's nothing stringy or oddly hard to incur disgust, it's all just ground up so smooth that there's nothing in particular you can object to. This man has perfected a style of songwriting that isn't good, it's just really finely honed, practised and polished crap. He's managed to take the normal cringe-inducing low points and occasional flashes of talent and merge them into one uniform whole. A whole which can only be described with the word 'meh'.

He is living proof that, with enough willpower, you can polish a turd.

-Ben

*And such subject matter really wouldn't be out of place at a folk club, folk songs are waaay more violent and sexual than people realise. I'm guessing it's because it's the music of everyday people, and as everyone knows, the average person is way more filthy minded and sweary than characters on TV