What’s in your headphones? It’s a great question (one we ask pretty much everybody). You can tell a lot about a person from the tunes they inject into their ears – their mood, their tribe, perhaps their aspirations, maybe even class. You name it, you can make pretty much whatever pigeon-holes you chose from somebody’s music confessions.
And – of course – you can tell a lot about ‘the times’ by the music we make in it, and give our support to. From the uncompromising anger of punk to the flamboyant egocentricacies of mainstream New Romantics.
So here’s a thing, in my ears at the moment are the twenty something rebellions of Miley Cyrus, all Deep South cussing and teenage mall-running.
Then there’s the Nottingham dear diaries of Sleaford Mods, with trips to the off-license and arguments outside the chip shop.
Not your thing (come on, who doesn’t have Miley on a playlist somewhere?!)? Then how about the North London lion talk of Chip (formerly Chipmunk, but the munk got ditched somewhere along the way), painting linguistic portraits of the aspirational, sometimes angry, frequently struggling young metropolitan.
Each of them flies their regional credentials with pride. Ditching the smoothed out sheen of consumable internationalism for something a little more genuine, believable, raw. Do your thang, Miley.
At the same time, you can’t avoid the visible shift in what we eat, drink, how we consume. Perhaps it kicked off with food miles, when we were all told that the apples from Kent that we loved had been shipped twice around the world to get a waxy spray and a Union Jack shrink wrap. As we woke up to shopping a little fuel-smarter, we also rediscovered taste (that we didn’t even know we’d forgotten), the joy of regional variation (settle down wine buffs, we know you were there ages ago #terroir), and maybe even a little pride that our sausages were made by the guy down the road who drinks in the same pub.
Our current love affair with Craft Beer comes from the same place, so too the (less well known) micro-distilleries that are popping up all over the UK and serving up Gin and Vodka the likes of which have been decades in the forgetting.
The list goes on and reaches into every bit of us – Farmers Markets, youtubers, writing co-ops, locally owned water supplies, and flat-pack democracy like Frome and Sidmouth.
So what’s going on?
Well, here’s a theory, not very scientific, but I like it and it’s yours if you want it:
Global – that shrinking world and marketplace that was the big promise for Generation X, is in fact a bit shit. When our arms (no pun intended) reached around the world, when the all-too-fleeting rush of one-ness subsided, what we got left with was conscience-less conglomerates, polluted or privatised water, and whole villages lost at sea on makeshift rafts.
When the future glow of the world wide web – at first the realm of mavericks and socialist ideals – faded into the Internet, what was once our ticket to emancipation gave us trolls and misogyny. Instead of revolutions and power, our social networks and information-rich lives gave us sex, self-harm and suicides.
Our global politics haven’t brought us much salvation either. Regional conflicts – not nice in the first place – have been mutated into global terror, the borderless, randomised expressions of hatred from the likes of ISIL and countless disenfranchised young men with a gun.
So, drink, eat and revel in those regional curiosities, the unfenceable nuances, and the flavours that fade within fifty miles. They may feel frivolous (important things often do), but they may also be your only route away from the savagery of the global and back to the tolerant, forgiving and manageable world of your near neighbours.