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Sunday, May 02, 2004  
Genre Munching
I was this close the other day to emailing John Darnielle and asking him what genre he’d like The Mountain Goats to be categorised as on my iPod. I had them down, jokingly, as ‘Indie’, but since I only ever use that term as a pejorative these days it seemed unfair. And so I purged it from iTunes. Belle & Sebastian and Clearlake became ‘Alternative / Pop’ alongside Pulp, New Order, Cornelius and The Cure. Delays, Yo La Tengo and The Clientele became ‘Ambient / Dreampop’, sitting alongside Bark Psychosis, Bows, Spiritualized and My Bloody Valentine. Embrace are now ‘Alternative & Punk’, in the company of !!!, The Specials, Disco Inferno and Teenage Fanclub (maybe TFC should be ‘Alternative / Pop’?). The Postal Service became ‘Electronic’, in the company of Vive La Fete, Depeche Mode and Junior Boys. Maybe New Order should be ‘Electronic’ too? And I have to get rid of ‘Ambient’ – it’s silly to have a separate section for it with only 30 or so songs in, when they could all happily fit in either ‘Electronica / Dance’ or ‘Ambient / Dreampop’. And don’t even get me started on what The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and Wiley are! Anything even loosely fitting the template gets deigned ‘Hip Hop / Rap’. Except the stuff that’s down as ‘R&B’. But there’s one Salt ‘n’ Pepa song in ‘R&B’ and one in ‘Hip Hop / Rap’. And is Kamaal The Abstract actually Hip Hop anyway? Or Tricky? Because Massive Attack ended up in ‘Electronica / Dance’. Talk Talk have some stuff in ‘Alternative / Pop’ and some in ‘Avant-garde’, along with Scott Walker and The Penguin Café Orchestra. And then there’s The Tosca Tango Orchestra’s soundtrack to Waking Life, which is down as ‘Soundtrack’ even though it could fit in ‘Avant-garde’, or even have it’s own ‘Tango’ genre made for it. I got rid of the ‘Classical’ section a while ago, deleted Mozart and Arvo Part. Who wants to listen to Requiem on the train? And then there’s the ‘Folk’ genre, with The Strands and a few Nick Drake songs in it. And ‘Funk’ which has Sly Stone, some Lee Dorsey, Funkadelic and Gene Harris. And it seems nuts to call Guns ‘n’ Roses and Jeff Buckley and David Bowie and Love all ‘Rock’. And Robert Wyatt. And Rufus Wainwright. And The Cult. And that one Pearl Jam song (“Given To Fly”). And “Louie Louie”. And why are Big Star ‘Alternative & Punk’? Should Cocteau Twins be ‘Ambient / Dreampop’ instead or ‘Alternative & Punk’? Should Disco Inferno be ‘Avant-garde’? I’ve often said that record shops should only have two genre sections – ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’, but this is obviously insane and is just an example of me being an idiot. In truth it would be much more helpful if they either had none at all, or else thousands and thousands. Actually, scrub that last suggestion.

I think I ended up putting The Mountain Goats in ‘Country’, alongside Gillian Welch, Sparklehorse, Wilco and Lambchop. I hope that’s OK, John.


5/02/2004 10:53:00 am


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

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