Rock'n'roll was born out of the 1950s economic boom, when a generation of affluent teenagers suddenly found they could purchase their own, distinctive identity. However, in recent times, it would appear that the poorer the state of the economy. the better the state of music. So does that mean we have much to look forward to right now?
Punk exploded in an era of chronic economic gloom, as much a reaction against the bus-shelter awfulness of the 70s as it was against Pink Floyd. Then came post-punk and the desperately hard times of the early Thatcher years. This period also engendered an abundance of new bands; the ultra-noir likes of Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire, and the more colourful Human League, ABC and the Associates represented an oblique defiance to the hardships of the time, whereas the Specials and the Beat were a more overtly political reaction.
Money, it seems, is not conducive to great music. If you need further proof, just look at the era of Britpop, Loaded and Three Lions, when indie guitar music reverted to a strictly retrograde style and has sounded pretty much the same since. Over the 16 years of sustained economic prosperity that we have enjoyed since the mid-90s, mainstream music has gone into a steady decline,
culminating in the noughties, perhaps the most nondescript musical decade since records began – Coldplay ünter alles. It brings to mind the Orson Welles remark in The Third Man about 400 years of democracy and peace in Switzerland and all they produced was the cuckoo clock.
Now, however, all projections point to an economic downturn. As the implications of this sink in, what are the consequences? What shape or form will a countercultural reaction take? Some angry, thrashy, guitar-based counterblast - a "new punk" - would be too obvious. Maybe the economics of the record industry itself will change, as the consequences of EMI's appalling, corporate, accountancy-based conservatism under Guy Hands come home to roost. Will Burial trigger a wave of neo-gothic dubstep - angry, faceless, and refusing to play the game with the industry? Will pop get more ragged, cheap and cheerful, all messy, make-do and mend with outfits picked out from Oxfam and video slickness replaced by a live shambles? Will guitar music shed its retro straitjacket and take up where My Bloody Valentine left off in 1991 with their "holocaust" of noise? Will some mutant, ecological strain of acid folk frazzle a burnt out nation's consciousness? All of these things, until recently impossible, feel a great deal more likely now.