Leading article: Beyond belief

Click to follow
The Independent Online

These are turbulent times for the music industry. The old structures are disappearing so fast that even pop practitioners are having trouble making sen se of what's going on. A world in which Prince releases an album free via a Sunday newspaper, Radiohead invites people to pay what they like for their album, and the whole raison d'etre of record labels is called into question is one in which, to misquote Led Zeppelin, the song does not remain the same.

It's against this background that one must consider the disgruntlement of Elvis Costello, an artist at the forefront of change when he came on the scene in the new-wave era of the late 1970s but who now dislikes what he sees. In questioning the worth of record-making at a time when downloading individual songs is the modern way of music consumption, the man who brought us My Aim Is True should not be accused of firing off indiscriminately. The concept of the album as an artistic whole is seriously threatened when record companies are not there to help shape them and listeners are urged to bother with only this or that track.

But Costello's attack on England as a whole is much more scatter-gun. "I don't dig it, and they don't dig me," he says. Well, tough – he just sounds like a man out of time. Whatever else might be said about the music scene it is nothing of not vibrant – a healthy mix of contemporary creativity, cultural cross-fertilisation and strong awareness of what's gone before.

We trust Costello is just feeling a little blue. This country would be a poorer place without the author of some of the most savagely political songs of our age. But accidents will happen, won't they.