Well, having ranted quite a bit yesterday about the darkness that lurks in the hearts of politicians*, today I think I’ll rant about the Darkness which lies on the periphery of the pop charts. Oh, and the end of the world as we know it. No, not the song.
The Darkness have a single out, so it must be getting close to Christmas. That sounds unkind, but let’s be honest and admit that their combination of screechy vocals and early-era Queen musical stylings makes them, at best, a novelty act – one best experienced in short bursts and only occasionally, and what better time of year to enjoy such a thing than Christmas, when all manner of substandard music is traditionally treated indulgently? If I recall correctly, their previous Christmas single had a title that was a play on the phrase ‘bell end’, and wasn’t number one. Hang on, was that the year that the ‘Mad World’ cover from Donnie Darko was number one at Christmas? Maybe there is some kind of meritocracy to the charts after all.
Anyway, perhaps it’s just another symptom of the galloping cynicism that I mistake for sophistication, but even though the Darkness made me smile slightly the first time I saw one of their videos on TV, it was abundantly clear to me pretty much straight away that they weren’t going to be troubling the chart compilers for long, and in this they join an apparently ever-growing number of groups or solo artists who seem designed to arrive on the scene with loads of fanfare, and then to go away again with equal speed.
A friend of mine, on first seeing R Kelly on TV, immediately said ‘Oh, is this the latest bloke we’re supposed to get all worked up about?’, and this was true then as it is now about so many other acts – especially the ones who’ve sprung from talent shows (where the audience increasingly seems, as with the Eurovision Song Contest, to like the voting, but to care much less about the end result) – who appear and then vanish. These careers seem to be like those sped-up bits of footage of mushrooms you see on nature programmes, blooming and dying within a short time.
In my young days (you have to read that bit in a northern accent to get the full effect), even groups like T’Pau would have a single that did quite well, then another that went high in the charts, and then release an album and a few more singles. After a bit of touring and the like, they’d knock out another album a year or so later, and this would either consolidate some kind of popularity, or start the decline. Okay, it didn’t always go this way, but nowadays the process appears to have accelerated alarmingly, with a drop off in publicity and apparent interest by the time the second single’s come out. Where now, Eamon and Frankee? And so on.
To reach back two paragraphs to re-grasp and indeed pluck the mushroom image, the popular psychedelic advocate (no, I don’t mean a trippy barrister) and writer Terrence McKenna once suggested that the purpose of the universe was for new things to be discovered, and that once everything that could possibly be known was known, the universe would simply cease to be. It’s generally held that the rate of innovation and invention is accelerating, and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily cite the above pop chart examples as evidence (though the idea that the output of the Darkness in some way accelerates the end of time as we know it does amuse me), it does look rather symptomatic of the general speeding-up of things McKenna and others have talked about; it can be seen in technology, as iPods get smaller and faster and computers double in capacity in a decreasing period of time. And I think this applies to the perception of entertainment (including pop music) as well – films are much-hyped on release then drop off the public radar within weeks, for example – and who knows, this voracious appetite for novelty may indeed be leading us unwittingly towards the end of time and space as McKenna predicted.
Interestingly, McKenna predicted that at the current rate of innovation and discovery, humankind would know everything there is to know, and thus existence as we know it would end, in 2012. Which, interestingly enough, is the same year as the ancient and yet hyper-accurate Mayan Calendar famously runs out. I think McKenna’s prediction for the end of the world in 2012 was something like October 11, though as he died a few years ago, he didn’t live to see it.
Which is a bit of a shame, because he would have found out if his theory was correct. Mind you, if it is, then it looks like London will get to host the Olympics, and then the end of the universe will mean we’re all some tuneless bilge being the 2012 Christmas Number One, so as apocalyptic scenarios go, it could be a lot worse.
*Apologies to Walter B. Gibson