The Summer Underground is a Cape Town band who have just released their first album, called – wait for it – The Summer Underground. Clearly they prefer to pour all of their creativity into the music, which is probably a Good Thing. They are particularly remarkable for the fact that they are fully endorsed by Mrs Tex Benitez, who gives them free pickled heads and renders other services that I’m not at liberty to reveal. Whether this is a Good Thing or not, I couldn’t say.
Nevertheless, the album launch was entertaining, which is most definitely a Good Thing, but it puts me in mind of the sad tale of Antonín Dvorák. He believed that the primary purpose of music was to entertain, while his chum Johannes Brahms held the view that music had a duty to educate and edify before stooping to something so lowly as providing enjoyment.
Interestingly enough, Dvorák seldom rates more than a footnote in most history books, whereas Brahms has whole volumes devoted to him. The typical reaction when you mention Dvorák in a conversation is, “Anthony who?”, and yet he was hugely popular in his day. People who have a passing interest in classical music or soup adverts may recognise his Symphony No 9 in E minor a.k.a From the New World a.k.a The one John Williams cribbed for the Jaws theme+, but that’s about it. The rest is barely heard over the quiet hiss of obscurity.
So essentially, Brahms was right: providing entertainment is all well and good, but to truly capture hearts and minds, you need to be a bit of a pretentious fuckwit. I can’t speak for The Summer Underground, but I’m not doing too badly now, am I?
+ That’s right, Mr Williams. I’m onto you, you thieving, thief type person, you!