From bizarre nostalgia to weak formats, 6 New music is obtaining an identification crisis | Tunes

‘The vogue party of the year is below,” declared pop artist Self Esteem in March, of a new addition to her merch store. “The 6 New music Father caps are now available.” The 6 Tunes Father character – referring to the BBC radio station – is section harmless joke, part slur. Broadly talking, it is aimed at persons who experienced their formative musical several years someplace in between the late 1970s and early 90s, ducked out of subsequent tunes passionately although get the job done and family life took around, and now with grownup kids, and some disposable hard cash to burn off, father is receiving back into vinyl, lacing up the Converse and busting out the ergonomic garden chair for competition season.

6 Songs is a a single-quit-shop for different songs if you have no wish, or time, to look for additional afield. So breakthrough bands on the station – such as Wet Leg, Yard Act, and even Self Esteem – normally bring in a healthier next of these re-energised dads. It’s typically lighthearted ribbing, and the Self Esteem merch feels additional endearing nod than cruel swipe – there is also a “6 Songs Daddy” cap – but they are also frequently explained in mocking caricatures: as balding, ale-drinking blokes solemnly nodding alongside bouncing youngsters.

It’s the “OK boomer” of the indie music world a flippant and generalising piss-acquire that does not possess considerably pounds or sting but carries an undercurrent of ageism, and characterises its concentrate on as culturally shallow. But teased and uncool as they might be, the 6 Tunes Dads are also gobbling up gig tickets, documents and merch – they are a very important portion of music’s ecosystem.

Tom Ravenscroft and Deb Grant.
Genuinely outstanding … Tom Ravenscroft and Deb Grant. Photograph: Jon Shard/BBC

Possibly 6 Tunes has taken this jibe to coronary heart. There has been an plain tradition change at the station, which feels as if it’s attempting to shake that vibe (the recent community system is aimed at increasing audiences aged between 25 and 44). There have been various reshuffles: Marc Riley and Gideon Coe both equally dropped longstanding particular person demonstrates this calendar year, as a substitute merging for a new, later, one particular. In came Tom Ravenscroft and Deb Grant’s New New music Correct present together with the Artist in Residence sequence. Persons grumbled and petitions were produced. Stewart Lee mourned their loss in the Observer: “Those night session shows formed a technology of tastes.”

The shake-up is easy to understand: Monday-Thursday 4pm-midnight consisted solely of 3 white blokes in their 50s and 60s – Steve Lamacq, Riley, Coe – enjoying guitar audio. While provided Riley has been a tireless winner and breaker of younger new bands, supplying primetime places for reside periods, it feels a strange, practically disingenuous, transfer to demote him to prioritise new tunes.

Grant and Ravenscroft’s new exhibit is genuinely fantastic, nonetheless, presenting up a punchy and eclectic mix of genre-spanning songs, from a label focus on Pc New music to spotlighting local Do-it-yourself scenes, these kinds of as Sheffield’s queer collective Gut Stage. Similarly, Jamz Supernova obtaining much more air time and the prolonged overdue departure of Liz Kershaw are both welcome moves.

But despite all this shuffling and focusing on of more youthful listeners, it all feels fundamentally at odds with the tiring cycle of themed times: Rave Eternally, All Working day Rave, 6 Tunes Goes Again to the 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s etc. For a radio station with nearly zero background of specialising in dance tunes – with the exception of a handful of DJs, these as Nemone, Mary Anne Hobbs or far more modern additions these types of as the Blessed Madonna – it would seem odd that it’s now attempting to place alone as a mecca for rave. Even a lot more so that it is opting to do it by means of this kind of a coerced and weak structure.

The bulk of the 6 Songs presenters are only not ex-ravers, so the reveals usually do not land. On a latest Craig Charles demonstrate, with Chris Hawkins sitting down in in the course of the 80s Rave Forever day, you listened to slamming club anthems by Joy Division, Elvis Costello and, er, Hurry. Filling in for Lauren Laverne on Rave Forever 90s, Huw Stephens blasted ATB’s 9pm (Til I Come) and Darude’s Sandstorm. It may well properly be that Stephens is a diehard superclub-era trance enthusiast but presented his revered name – he replaced John Peel on Radio 1 in 2005 – of championing new, underground artists, his talents feel wasted with this sort of a restrictive and slender mandate.

Steve Lamacq.
The station crafted its title on the popularity of DJs this sort of as Steve Lamacq. Photograph: Leigh Keily/BBC

When radio veterans Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, who have demonstrates covering folk and avant garde on Radio 2 and 6, are instructed to enjoy all day rave, who specifically is this for? How do they as presenters, their audience, or the station, gain? Audiences and DJs have open up minds and wide preferences – and eclecticism and experimentation is essential – but absolutely the presenters are able of steering this without imposing unwell-fitting, formulaic retro displays on them?

This conflict is mirrored in the station’s playlist, much too. There has been a noteworthy change away from its indie rock foundations, resulting in a considerably a lot more appealing collection. But has expanding the remit resulted in it currently being so wide that it fails to entirely satisfy everyone? The apparent resistance to staying categorised as a 6 Songs Father station also feels excess muddled when you issue in items such as the the latest 8-portion 30th anniversary Britpop collection – a topic so worn and threadbare certainly even Lamacq has run out of things to say on it – or the Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr actively playing 13 Guided By Voices tracks back-to-back in a person Artist in Residence present.

In a way 6 Audio has snookered by itself. The station has developed its title up on the popularity of DJs these kinds of as Riley, Lamacq, Coe, Laverne, and the now-departed Shaun Keaveny, but failed to crack ample new young talent or numerous voices along the way. So when old names synonymous with the station – who probably do not align with the existing eyesight – get sidelined, it sparks backlash from loyal listeners who cry ageism. Then some of the newer shows and presenters can truly feel shoehorned in instead than the byproduct of nurtured expertise.

This flitting in between pressured nostalgia and a determined emphasis on the new, even though shaking off the continue to-beloved previous, feels like an identification disaster the corporation’s other radio stations each have a a lot better honed and extra easily comprehensible eyesight – and consequently a closer and extra all-natural affinity with listeners. Bosses at 6 Audio would likely argue that its strength is in its unpredictability and style fluidity. But it feels as if the station does not know what it is or wants to be – or who it needs as its viewers. One minute it is aiming for hip NTS territory and the future it is Radio 2 for acid home retirees, all although losing the core essence of what produced it the most well-known electronic radio station in the country in the initial position.

The best irony is that probably in hoping to escape the desperately uncool 6 Songs Father image connected to the station, it has sunk itself into its have midlife disaster.