Come on, everybody ­ sing something sinful

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The Independent Online
For the punk generation, Hear'Say are deeply disturbing. When I was 16, bands were from up the road and vented their annoyance about everything.

For the punk generation, Hear'Say are deeply disturbing. When I was 16, bands were from up the road and vented their annoyance about everything. One song might be about fascism, but the next would be about the "scummy bus conductor on the 21A to Sidcup via Footscray. Here we go ­ 'You're a poxy pile of pus/ For kicking me off your poxy bus/ Just 'cos I never had no money/ What's it got to do with you?' " Then they'd get a gig up London for 50 quid and we'd all say "What a sell-out, how could they betray us like that?"

It's often assumed that teenage musical rebellion has always happened, as natural as puberty itself, but the turning point was the growth of teenage independence after the war. Music had certainly been rebellious before then; Mozart, Wagner and Verdi were rebels and, arguably, revolutionaries. Jazz began as a thunderous cry of self-expression. Though when I first heard this I thought, "What, those blokes with boaters and stripy jackets in pubs at seaside towns going 'Oompah oompah'?" Discovering that Bix Beiderbecke was an angry young man, an alcoholic, and a junkie was like hearing that Roger Whittaker was in the Red Brigades.

But none of this was specifically teenage rebellion. Even at 11, the reason I knew the older generation was stupid was because of their music. We had T Rex and Slade and Sweet (I was 11, remember) and they had James Last and Mantovani and The Sound of bloody Music. And Sing Something bloody Simple with the Mike Sammes sodding Singers, which scarred my generation for life.

From Chuck Berry to The Prodigy, music has been the main weapon of the young against the passionless dreariness of the old at heart. And now look. Who's churning out the insipid dross of the age, the Mike Sammes Singers for their day? The young. Worse, who's buying this nonsense in record-breaking numbers? The young.

"I wanna be with you all the time," beam Hear'Say. It's a perfectly legitimate sentiment to wish to convey. But there's not the slightest pretence that they mean it. It's sung with exactly the same expression they'd use if they were singing "You can't get quicker than a Kwik-Fit fitter." Even in The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sounded as if she genuinely believed that high on a hill was a lonely goatherd.

It was bad enough when millions bought the garbage of boy bands such as Westlife. But at least it felt as if their audience were being conned. Teenagers fell for the trick that these boys were a band, rather than a corporate logo cobbled together by showbiz Doctor Frankensteins. But with Hear'Say the fact that they're a fraud is their selling point. It's as if a cheat at cards has announced before a game that he's a cheat, and the other players still put all their money against him.

The irony is that the members of this group probably are talented, but any genuine ability will be seen as an impediment to presenting a sugary smiley hollow image as the MFI of music. If Popstars had been around in 1966, Jimi Hendrix might have ended up as the slightly wacky one who pulled faces in interviews, and did the high notes on "You're my oo-diddley-pop-pop."

Theirs is not to question why. Theirs is to look respectably cool, pose for the photo that goes with the competition in The Mirror, and make statements such as "We'd like to thank all our fans as it wouldn't have been possible without you." Though you live in hope that, half way through their first live televised gig, one of them will say: "Victory to the people of East Timor. Death to the tyrants of Indonesia."

Still, you've got to move with the times, so I've written some lyrics that I hope they'll use on their album. "I first saw her on the 21A/ I have to tell you, well it made my day/ But I never got a chance to say/ 'Cos the poxy conductor threw me off at Footscray."