It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.
O’Hagan: I have noticed something new in the evolution of music for commercials, or ads as we call them in the U.K. TV ads have always been a place to divide opinion, politicly (“my music’s not for sale”), taste (“this cut is lazy, so predictable”…”no, this is perfect”) anger “how could they—that song’s a classic”) and so on. Here in England, we have just been through the flood of under-achieving, folky, hum-dum tracks, some commissioned, some placed. Lots of singing in the vernacular accompanied by a sole ukulele, faltering to an unconfident fizzle which just gets you with its charm. It’s sunny, it’s relatively inexpensive, and its not alpha. Usually used by digital-loan companies or dig-holiday firms or startup banks.
The new thing is using classic ’70s tracks that are a bit obscure. It’s the Stones, no its not—it’s close but not. It’s Earth Wind and Fire … No, it’s the Ohio Players … It’s the Zombies, or is it Montage? Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young … No it’s America. So the chaps who move this all along, the sync chaps, are a well-courted group of gentlemen and ladies. I wonder how this new ’70s consensus came about. Do they all go on holiday together, or are there conferences or away days. I’m pretty sure there must be. Why did they buzz around the folky uke thing for so long. It was unavoidable for four or five years. Though not as lucrative as it was, TV music still commands a buy-out fee, no more repeat fees. But I wonder are these not-so-classic classics copyright free? Or negotiated to affordability? Who knows?