6TH JANUARY 2013
Faux-Folk: What is it so smug about?
Just recently I came across this video. There wasn’t any sound so all I could see was a handful of people wandering round what seemed like an old wooden house with a group of people that looked as though they were having an excellent time (apparently without the need for drugs, alcohol or even 1950s Beat literature!).
What was disconcerting about this video however was that having fun didn’t appear to be enough for them, they had that look on their faces that seemed to say: ‘We’re definitely having more fun than you. Look, look at how much fun we’re having – I bet you’re not having this much fun’.
I certainly thought they were having fun, so I watched the video properly, with sound this time, and realised it was that song: apparently very little to get very excited about. It’s been out a while – I mean, technically there’s nothing wrong with it, it is fine and just about carries a verse and chorus, but certainly not enough to get all self-righteous about.
It’s the sheer smugness of it that riles me – it’s even got a smug title: ‘Ho Hey’, by The Lumineers (named after a form of dental treatment) seems to follow in the line of other yawn-classics such as ‘Hey Soul Sister’ (oh Train, how far you’ve come since ‘Drops of Jupiter’) and ‘Hey There Delilah’ by the equally dull sounding ‘Plain White T’s’, proving these days, if you really want to write a song to bore someone to the point of them leaving you permanently, throw a ‘ho’ or a ‘hey’ into it and watch them quickly retune onto something less mundane.
I understand that music can be happy, doesn’t have to change the world and can just be, well,nice; but songs that are successful in doing so tend to know exactly what their purpose is, and don’t try and pretend they are part of some kind of social revolution. ‘Hey Ho”s pied-piper style video goes one step further, trying to preach to us about their perfect vision of the world (presumably one where The Lumineers plays on repeat) combined with their correct form of escapism, emancipation from the bitter 9-5 work day, troubles of finding a car parking space on a particularly busy high street or trying to soften that awful blow when you discover they’ve run out of Hoisin Duck Wraps in Tesco. But it shouldn’t take a video to do it; for fear of sounding like a Gallagher, it should be the music that does it. Man.
The truth is, you’ve probably heard this song off that Eon advert. And to tell the truth, The Lumineers’ would have probably done better to have just used the advert as their video as the Eon version has a better storyline. And they’re an electricity company, supposed to be as soulless as a man with no feet. The video, which revolves around a family making various cups of tea for each other does include a slightly smug man, but at least he’s contributed something to his family, in cups of tea; all that bloke from The Lumineers has done is knock a basket of flowers off a cupboard, make everyone dress up as if they were some form of Amish paradise, destroy light bulbs (perhaps a nod to the Amish motif?) and frog march them to their own open mic night seemingly lit by a collection of tiles from the new Windows phone; a form of smarmy totalitarianism.
Louis Armstrong has been credited with the phrase: “There are only two types of music, good music and bad music” and while it would be rather nihilistic and arrogant, not to mention my lack of mandate or qualification, to make these decisions it just seems bands like The Lumineers, who, from New Jersey (Bruce Springsteen territory) should know better than to hijack the acoustic guitar to apparently cash in on the euphoria experience and that ultimate ‘friendship moment’ at the end of a night out.
The Lumineers are by no means the only band guilty of this, and there is a lot worse music out there, but at least it knows it.
And I bet he’s probably that guy who plays Wonderwall on guitar at parties. Parties he probably throws himself, and probably forces everyone in the local area to attend.