Royal Blood, not the kids in the Dundee crowd, are supremely uncool – Euan McColm
Sometime in 1985, I saw a photograph of the band The Velvet Underground, a moment that was to have catastrophic consequences. I decided band member John Cale – a scrawny fellow, dressed in black with his lank hair combed into a severe parting – was just about the coolest guy I’d ever seen. I resolved to adopt the look and invested in a leather jacket and toe-crushing winkle-picker boots.
I looked, I can now admit, ridiculous. I wasn’t a tall skinny guy with razor-sharp cheekbones, I was a dumpy 15-year-old, defiantly – Glaswegianly – short, with a pumpkin-sized head and frizzy hair.
Fortunately, I was soon to grow out of the desire to be cool. Concern about cool is – or should be – an adolescent thing. Adults who care about what’s cool are weird and boring. They dismiss the popular and limit their horizons. There are few more conservative than the self-consciously cool. I cringe for them.
Most recently I have been cringing for the rock duo Royal Blood – two men in their 30s – who appeared at Radio One’s Big Weekend festival in Dundee on Sunday. As self-appointed arbiter, I declare that things which are genuinely cool include crowds of young people enjoying themselves at pop concerts. What could be more joyous than the sound of happy kids?
But the edgy men of Royal Blood were resolutely unimpressed by the audience in Dundee. Front-man Mike Kerr sneered at the crowd’s “pathetic” reaction to their performance. “This is rock music,” he declared, “Who likes rock music? Nine people? Brilliant.”
Eventually, Kerr stomped off-stage, middle-fingers aloft. It was a display of such excruciating pomposity that I kind of hope he never becomes self-aware enough to realise just how awful his behaviour was for, if he does, he might never leave his home again.
I’m not entirely sure what Kerr expected when he accepted the booking at a festival that also featured Lewis Capaldi and former One Direction star Niall Horan on the bill. He agreed to appear in front of a crowd of teenage pop fans. This, I think, was a privilege, not a burden. The worst of it is that the crowd was perfectly responsive. Kids were cheering and clapping along. But that simply wasn’t good enough for Kerr.
In my experience, caring about what’s cool, so far as popular culture goes, is a largely male phenomenon. Women don’t need to read a ten-page reappraisal feature in Mojo magazine to know the Bee Gees are great. Women don’t need to hear the case for Abba.
Men, because we are idiots, are susceptible to falling for what is deemed cool. This can lead to terrible places: it can make us listen to all four sides of “Trout Mask Replica” by Captain Beefheart; it can make us read the poetry of Charles Bukowski; it can lead men to form a rock duo called Royal Blood.
For all this, I frequently – without irony – describe people I know as cool. But, in every case, what I mean is kind. What makes a person truly cool isn’t the culture they consume or the clothes they wear, it’s the way they treat others, isn’t it? That's why Royal Blood are supremely uncool.
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