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The James Clayton column: create your own music genre!

October 10, 2008

James Clayton

Our brand new columnist ponders Justin Hawkins’ recent genre branding, and considers others who have tried the same thing…

Justin Hawkins, he of falsetto vocals and ridiculously tight flared catsuits, is back! Ah, the music scene has been miserably low on personality since The Darkness declined and Hawkins subsequently resigned and crashed into rehab. The former frontman of East Anglia’s finest is now fronting a headband-wearing group called Hot Leg who deal out deliciously ebullient rock ‘n’ roll with all the stagecraft and gleeful gusto that made the man famous.

Having been catapulted into the stratosphere on the back of “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, The Darkness were callously discarded by the fickle public who dismissed their real-good-time rock as a fad whose novelty had worn out by album number two. The true believers knew though that this was no joke: this was rock ‘n’ roll, heart and soul. There is no place for pernicious critical snobbery in the realm of real unadulterated guitar geekdom. The Darkness – and concomitantly Hot Leg – may be daft and deliriously ‘ridiculous’ by everyday standards but, damn it, isn’t that the whole point of popular music?

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Hawkins described how Hot Leg play “Man Rock”. Last time I browsed through a record shop, there was no “Man Rock” CD section. This is a genre that Hawkins has come up with himself and decided defines his band’s sound. “Why Man Rock?” he muses rhetorically. “I think anything with ‘man’ at the start sounds impressive. Man-sized tissues. How big are they? They’ve got to be huge haven’t they?

Once you get beyond scary thoughts of what kind of creature would have such a nose that would necessitate such supersized sheets of Kleenex, you realise that Hawkins may be right. “That’s one rockin’ man-riff!” sounds like a decent enough way of describing a potent power chord. “Shut the hell up or I’ll kick your head in with my man-boots!” certainly sounds impressively threatening and tough. “Man child” maybe doesn’t have the extraordinary element, but there’s a sense of fun in that phrasing for sure. It’s when you get to slightly pathetic lexis like “man-flu” and “man bag” that you realise that Hawkins’s rule isn’t a cast-iron universal truth.

Regardless of the merits of the “man-”suffix, Hawkins is crowd-surfing on a cracking idea here. Why narrowly confine yourself to industry-prescribed generic labels that most often mislead and lump you in a vague categorisation that no doubt carry negative connotations?

There’s more  of this article (not HL related) at

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