One of the side effects of the You Tube era is a bypassing of the natural evolution of the music fan. The suggestions side panel, as useful a device as it can be in judicious hands, has also helped rear a generation of undiscerning listeners with mutated tastes, where the automated, data-mined recommendation of a software program is accepted as undisputed without dissent. Keeping aside debates over subjective ambiguity for the time being, it is obvious that there really isn’t a common thread running through many young people’s musical inclinations these days. Where is the need (or the time) to actively seek out band and genre back stories, and to develop a kinship with a particular niche of music, when one is already distracted by the prospect of what can be heard next, often, sadly, before the current piece has completed. Attention spans, in general, are in a constant state of weakening, and You Tube and various other forms of entertainment media earn their keep through this manner of subtle audience manipulation. The P2P downloading boom of fifteen years ago worked in a similar fashion, creating mounds of unrelated mp3s on file systems, but for all the idiots it spawned, it certainly wasn’t as spontaneous as modern streaming, still required a modicum of research, and, most importantly, it didn’t attempt to subvert the user’s thought processes (a matter of degrees, to be perfectly honest), inducing in them a feeling of instant gratification and self-empowerment. A lot of this is naturally contingent on the type of personality accessing these services; it would be wrong to brand all new entrants fickle, but usually the ones that are heard loudest are also culprits to this form of ADD.
Grindcore in India has registered its threadbare presence chiefly due to the perseverance of a small crew of fans and musicians in Bangalore City. The Undergrind series of concerts has promoted the cause of this most pariah of genres for the better part of eight years, emphasizing the DIY ethos synonymous with punk; from dingy community hall basements with substandard equipment to getting down the likes of Putrid Pile and Wormrot, these gigs have come a long way, serving as an avenue first and foremost for the organizers’ projects, most of which are too crass for even hardboiled metal fans in the country, regularly jeered at in private discourse for their lack of musical sophistication. Indian music fans, on principle, don’t put much stock in ideology at the best of times; “sick” and Frank Mullen hand-slams are about the extent to which we are prepared to go to, so is it any surprise that a style as inherently abrasive and socially self-righteous as grindcore has such few takers?
A slightly more heartening spill over from the Undergrind shows has been an upsurge in enthusiasm for extreme grind-derived offshoots among a certain demographic; what was once a fairly close-knit scene of about ten people regularly forming projects between themselves has now influenced other kids to take up the banner of loudness. Who would’ve thought there would be power violence/grind core hybrids in this country, even five years ago? But ubiquity of the internet has increased awareness and bands like Necrofilth and Abolish Mornings are giving the lie to that former presumption, dialing up the anger and flipping the finger at mass notions of what comprises good taste. Gorified have been kicking about with their brand of goregrind for a decade while grindcore upstarts Nauseate have even managed to release a split with scene legends Agathocles. Significant things are happening, and have been happening for some time, away from the glare of brighter lights.
And yet the overwhelming feeling persists: what is it all about? Undirected aggression can be cathartic but without an imperative borne out of conviction, this recent trend – and this includes the Undergrind bands – can only be considered as a diversion for bored kids. For all the indignant proclamations of “We don’t give a fuck about anything”, seeking dubious inspiration in sources like GG Allin, and note-perfect replication of foreign sounds, there is a profound vacuousness to it all, missing a well-ironed mission statement, and a sense of pride so essential to any burgeoning movement. Maybe it is the You Tube phenomenon at play yet again, where new listeners have managed to circumvent the odd bits and ends, and have plunged headlong into a form that means nothing without its subtext. Noise for the sake of noise, without any sort of artistic or moralistic ardor, can be an effective weapon for only so long but ultimately has to be treated on its own terms for a lack of ambition and self respect.
On an amusing sidenote, a friend brought to light a recent article (accessible here: http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/apr/07/heavy-metal-bangalore-india-iron-maiden), spouting the usual glut of cliches and platitudes about the Indian heavy metal climate. While nobody looks to such a poorly researched piece for accuracy, the utter ignorance about the seedier underbelly of Indian extreme music still stands out in relief, a scene that has been alive for far longer than the worthy names mentioned. Yes, I do appreciate that publicity in such rags would amount to all but a death knell for grind, but the more pertinent point here for Indian grindcore is: Nobody gives a fuck about you. In the same spirit, why the fuck should you?