Every time I've seen old school friends recently, the conversation has always turned to the same subject: the paucity of guitar bands in today's musical landscape. We look back at ten years ago, when we were in our teens, and see the mainstream success of Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, Kaiser Chiefs and Razorlight amongst others and wonder where their contemporary equivalents are hiding.
Today's mainstream music scene is dominated by hip hop and the increasingly wide bracket that is EDM (Electronic Dance Music). Hip hop in particular has been said to be in something of a golden age, with many of its biggest new artists finding both commercial and critical success.
Perhaps the ubiquity of technology has a part to play. With an abundance of laptops, tablets and personal computers, perhaps it was inevitable that the styles of music that are more easily replicated on software would rise to the top. For many of the younger generations, it is easier to come by a music program for your computer than it is a guitar.
Both hip hop and EDM provide a form of escapism to the listener, conjuring images of aspirational lifestyles, unbridled hedonism and decadent overindulgence. Is it simply that, in a time of economic recession, the majority of people are looking to their music to provide a distraction or a taste of an otherwise unobtainable dream? Bands such as Franz Ferdinand were hardly representative of working class Britain, instead acting as the point of the arrow for other art-school bands to follow in their footsteps.
Maybe it is a case of culture being cyclical, and that a saturation of guitar bands in the mid-2000s led to a backlash of sorts, and that we are now at the tipping point in the other direction. There is certainly historical precedence for this, with punk exploding from a disco-soaked landscape in the 1970s, and grunge rising to prominence in the wake of the late 1980s hair metal and synth pop waves. With high gloss production and dense electronic sounds present in much of today's "indie" music, it would seem revolutionary for a band of the old guitar-bass-drums configuration to capture the nation's attention.
That said, there isn't really a monoculture for a counter-culture to conquer these days. The information age has seen any notion of a monoculture replaced by an endless stream of niche interests of attributed various levels of importance and exposure. Without a tangible, broad idea to react to, it is not surprising that a fully-fledged, nationwide underground movement fails to exist.
As tempting as it is to speak in such broad, cross-cultural terms, the problem may lie with my friends and myself. Every generation speaks of the music of their formative years as having a vibrancy and immediacy that is lacking in today's culture (indeed I'm sure those finding their musical feet at the moment see the current crop of bands in the same way), when it is inevitable that engaging with a culture for the first time, and feeling that it belongs to you (or is at least marketed that way) for the first time, will bring greater excitement than future movements will be able to. When I listen to The 1975's "Sex" and I hear The Dykeenies "Stitches", it is tempting to think that the fault lies with the newer band; given that it's not my first go-round, I should be cutting them more slack, and not so eager to pronounce a culture dead.