It feels like we should be offended by The X-Factor. No matter what it gets up to when we invariably are not looking, come the end it seems that we have to oppose the winner. That is what a ‘proper’ music fan should do, right?
Last year, a novelty campaign to get Rage Against The Machine to the Christmas number one slot in the UK ahead of competition winner Joe McElderry gained momentum and when it actually worked, it was a vindication of the power of the internet; it showed that The X-Factor could not compete with ‘real’ music. It lead to one of the funniest moments on radio you will hear, with Rage not censoring themselves while playing the song live. Duh.
So The X-Factor can take our Saturday night entertainment, but it can’t take our music palate.
So it seemed like a personal insult when it was revealed that this year’s winner, the lovely wouldn’t offend-your-gran Matt Cardle, would be covering a Biffy Clyro song. The worst thing seemed that he was renaming the song from ‘Many Of Horror’ to ‘When We Collide’, presumably so as not to offend anyone.
Biffy Clyro are a Scottish three-piece who dabble in rock. They are the quintessential hard-working, constantly-touring rock band that gathered a fan base while nobody was looking. Wait, scratch that: while the ‘mainstream’ wasn’t looking. They were ‘our’ band.
Biffy Clyro were a band who I adored. I grew up with them. I saw them for the first time at Cork’s Half-moon Theatre in 2004. I knew one song at that stage, something that would not be expected in 2010 if you were going to watch a ‘new’ band. As a 16-year-old, it was unforgettable seeing a band this good, this close. I got a drumstick. I got it signed by the bassist. I went out and got the first two albums. I was hooked. Biffy were the only band I stood outside of a venue for, listening, because I was a few months short of the legal age.
They were ‘my’ band. This was a band who, it had been decided, wouldn’t sell out. They were doing everything for the love of it. Their albums got progressively more ‘difficult’, and third album Infinity Land, took a while to love. But once you ‘got’ it, it was like the band were close, personal friends. And then Puzzle happened.
Simon, Ben and James had apparently gone for a different sound. They were no longer signed to Beggars Banquet. They released Puzzle on 14th Floor, an offshoot of Warner Bros. Were they turning their back on their rock fans? Well, not really: the album was loud, fast but not what you would call difficult. Some of the acoustic tracks on there were meant for lighter-in-the-air moments. ‘Machines’ was their first stab at such a moment.
And they still toured harder than my band you care to name. Support slots with Queens Of The Stone Age and Linkin Park meant they would add fans every date.
But as all this happened, the realisation was that Biffy Clyro were no longer my band. Their final Cork show was in The Savoy, which was a massive show in comparison to their other shows. They were too big to come back after that show. Their most recent album, Only Revolutions features The X-Factor song, ‘Many of Horror’/ ‘When We Collide’. It was an album that I didn’t build a relationship with. It just seemed like a bit of an overblown album. It wasn’t the band I fell in love with. Songs like ‘Jaggy Snake’ were replaced with ‘The Captain’; the ultimate singalong song ‘Justboy’ was replaced with the derivative ‘Mountains’. I didn’t listen to it much. The devotion I had shown before, (making a three-hour trip to see them in Limerick while in Leaving Cert – on December 8 of all days – seemed like unbelievable devotion) was replaced with a shrug, when it was announced they were playing Dublin.
So why was I offended that Matt Cardle was covering an acoustic song off of Only Revolutions? Because it felt like the ultimate cliché of selling out. Their songs should be defended from the likes of Matt Cardle and Simon Cowell. Luke Lewis, writing on NME said: “So bring it on, Cage Against The Machine. Sure, it might be childish, a pointless act of sabotage. But anything that pours scorn on this loathsome farce deserves to succeed.”
He is referring to the lackadaisical campaign to get ‘4:33’ to number one. It is four-minutes and 33-seconds of silence. It currently stands at number 19 in the mid-week charts.
Another NME writer, Dan Martain said “But consider that what happened last night – token indie contestant Matt Cardle winning the show and plotting a course for Christmas number one with a ‘Many Of Horror’ cover – amounts to something approaching a revolution. Certainly, it proves that we’ve moved past post-credibility post-tribal, post-sell-out, post-everything, into a new pop epoch entirely. And the old rules can never make sense again.”
One for, one against. Yet, I shrugged once more. Biffy Clyro are no more my band than Matt Cardle is still a painter/decorator who will whistle at all the girls that pass by.
People still got offended. On their Facebook page people wrote (poorly-spelt) things like “Cant belive you sold out to the X-factor boys, shame on you! Matts cover is piss, and they can’t even get the name right. Hope it was worth it….”
Is it right to get worked up over the fact that a band’s song is being covered by someone more famous? No, life is too precious for that. And the idea of getting worked up about The X-Factor is as bad as claiming it is a reflection of the true music industry. New Biffy Clyros are forming every day. People still fall in love with bands and there will always be a band who belongs to you. Are Biffy Clyro selling out? Who cares? It was a nice affair we had for five or so years. But break ups happen.
But Biffy Clyro’s version of ‘Many Of Horror’ for number one, yeah?