As a consumer of any kind, there is one thing that makes me really cross. I seem to have been noticing it more and more lately.
That's feeling like people are trying to con me. I don't mind commerciality, but I don't like it pretending to be something it isn't.
Where I live, in Brighton, the big Borders has now turned into the big Urban Outfitters. I have long been a bit suspicious of Urban Outfitters, despite never having set foot in the place; a friend suggested that something I wanted to buy may have been available there, so I took a deep breath and braved it. It was just so depressing - over-priced mass-produced sh*t being sold under the guise of being 'original' and, god forbid, 'quirky'. A Nirvana T-shirt and a Guns n Roses T-shirt NEXT TO EACH OTHER with no sense of irony - even sharing a little plaque that explained their musical relevance, as if the two were even related!
Now, I appreciate that when I was growing up, in a small and very ordinary town when the internet was only just getting big, this sort of store would have been a dream come true - an accessible place for buying things that I would have thought were 'individual'. It's just that there seems to be a lot of very homogenised individuality going on these days - Alexa Chung is not a maverick just because she shows acres of bare leg rather than cleavage, and the fact that people seem to think that this is so is very, very weird to me.
Anyway, where I live, in Brighton - where there are hundreds of brilliant independent shops and artists selling their wares - there is NO EXCUSE for Urban Outfitters. If you live somewhere less rad, go on Etsy! Support people doing genuinely independent and creative things!
While we're on the subject, this makes me nearly as cross as All Saints buying up sites in places like Camden and Portobello and trying to make them look like cool independents, whilst at the same time actually forcing independents out. Gross and really not OK - do something about it. Equally, if you have an excellent shop near you, use it or lose it! You can't buy all of your books from Amazon and then be disappointed when your local bookshop closes down!
It reminds me of the flawed but very interesting book, 'Pop Co' by Scarlett Thomas - I strongly suggest a read.
I feel similarly about Florence and the Machine. I bought her first record, thinking she looked kind of interesting - I thought it was really patchy but had a couple of good songs. What I was surprised and disappointed to see, however, was that most of the songs (including, let's face it, the good ones) were written by long lists of people, many of whom I had heard of as seasoned musicians and songwriters (Steve Mackey from Pulp, for instance).
Then a friend told me that he'd been to see Florence live back when she was pretty unknown, back before she was styled by Grace Woodward - she had been considerably bigger (no bad thing, as she is now very much fashion-skinny) and wearing a preppy look of jeans, shirt, loafers, etc...
Now I have no problem with Florence Welch; I do have a problem with being sold the idea that she is an artist in the tradition of Kate Bush or Siouxie Sioux, when she patently, um, isn't. Her 'eccentricities' seem to be less the product of art school sensibility, and more the product of meetings in offices at record companies.
It's an idea that's wearing thin. Her new single, co-written by the person who writes Will Young's songs, is such a sub-standrad rip-off of the far superior Bat for Lashes, that if I was Natasha Khan (a true art school visionary) I would be laughing my head off whilst considering legal action.
As Cat Power said: 'to me, indie means individuality, and you can't buy individuality - sorry!', to all of those people trying to rip off her look and her sound, not to mention her charming persona that just can't be faked. Sadly, people will always try.
It's why the success of the genuinely talented, unique and truly different Amy Winehouse lands us with years of Duffy and Adele. Why Nirvana left us with a legacy of Bush. Why Anna Calvi will never be as good as PJ Harvey. The reason why Kate Moss looks so good is that she seeks out the original - if she's wearing a Pistols T-shirt, it will be an original Westwood one, rather than a copy. And that is why 'Kate Moss for Topshop' makes you look like the opposite of Kate Moss.
You can't buy it. Sorry!