Scouting For Girls- Is this the end of alternative music?I was floating in the multi media bubble when Scouting For Girls appeared in the ether- there they were on my TV.

I had never heard them before. I knew they were staples of ‘alternative’ radio and assumed they were some sort of watered down guitar schlock- the kind of lite weight indie schmindie that has become the staple of the form. I was shocked to hear something so watered down it was like weak piss streaming out of the TV- somehow they are still considered alternative, but what are they exactly alternative to?

When alternative or independent started it was in the punk wars- for me alternative means someone like Crass- a visceral, powerful and political music that was representing alternative culture and existed outside the mainstream. How the fuck did this become Scouting For Girls, how the fuck did a genuine alternative culture get turned into this mush? What do Scouting For Girls offer in terms of alternative? How come a whole culture – a whole way of life, gets turned into a marketing handle employed by major labels to sell shit but with a pretend edge to make people feel that they were, somehow, special?

How did we end up with radio stations pretending to be alternative by playing this mush but blanking out any noisy, spikey music because it wasn’t ‘radio friendly’? How the fuck did we allow these spineless wimps to dictate our culture back to us? Why did we allow Crass to become Scouting For Girls?

There is no problem with mainstream culture- there are many great pop records- we love great pop songs when they don’t pretend to be some sort of alternative culture. The problem with these bands is that they squeeze out the genuine adventure and move the goal posts so far away that alternative culture now means bland radio, dull mid-table festivals with added ironic boy bands on the bill, mainstream shops flogging ‘alternative’ clothes- a weak piss culture of anonymity, dull pop-lite records with zero meaning sold to the same middle management goons who have wrecked this country and listen to this pretend naughty music on the way to work.

This is not a matter of who is better or worse and of course there are some people who love Scouting For Girls- good for them but we demand our culture back and we demand our space to get heard and not edged out by this idea of what alternative is.

Once when I was in Barcelona I walked past a mainstream clothes chain that was selling ‘punk’ t shirts, someone had sprayed ‘hands off our fucking culture’ on the window- is there a way to do that to the music biz clowns who have stolen the clothes of the revolution?







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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. SFG were the headline act at a past XFM winter wonderland. All evening the crowd shouted crude but humourous abuse everytime the dim witted presenter tried to big them up. Then when SFG appeared there was a sizeable exit from the building. So a minor protest was made and I don’t hear SFG on XFM but neither do I hear that much challenging new music either.
    It always tickles me how XFM have a top 1000 records review at the end of the year and then never play 99% ever again, I guess an interest in the diversity and creativity of music isn’t commercial enough to draw in more lucrative car scrapping and PPI advertisers.

  2. very good article, you are spot on. I think ‘pop culture’ is in an absolutely dire position these days, the word ‘alternative’ now means crap as the people who push this rubbish have absolutely no idea about genuine alternative music/culture. Everything has become homogenised and watered down to the lowest common denominator. As is always the case, any ‘threat’ has long since been defused and the passage of time has seen the erosion of alternative culture as the mainstream business people move in on things, suck them dry and take away what they believe to be ‘marketable’.The end result is bland crap like SFG and many others.It happened with punk but unfortunately the reaction to this from the ‘punk’ fraternity was often negative as the culture ‘dumbed down’ and very much appealed to the lowest common denominator and was taken over by a yob mentality or as TV Smith succinctly put it ‘it crystallised into something we didn’t like, foul mouthed yobs playing guitars at a 100 miles per hour’. All ‘alternative’ cultures get destroyed by the mainstream, capitalism is so powerful and they have all the tools at their disposal to destroy things. It makes me laugh but the situation is a 100 times worse than it ever was in 1976, pop music and pop culture are now so much a part of mainstream ‘celebrity’ culture, everything is interchangeable and you are as likely to see a so-called ‘alternative’ group on something dreadful like ‘loose women’ as you are any so-called music show.Society has moved in this direction generally, everything is so uniform and ‘samey’ these days, everything is bland and unthreatening, we need something like the sex pistols more than ever now but of course we will never get anything remotely like them now, we couldn’t as everything they represented has been absorbed to a large extent although the true essence of the band and punk in general remains as dangerous as ever despite the best efforts of the exploited etc, etc.All the truly subversive elements of pop culture have been neutralised and swept under the carpet and because people are generally speaking so dumb and easily satisfied these days, very few make any attempt to seek out the truth.Without being overly pessimistic, i truly believe that this is a terrible time to be around in terms of pop culture as things are worse than ever and i cannot see any change forthcoming.

    • Simon, there is great stuff going on it just gets edged out by this new cosy definition of alternative- we need to expand waht alterntive means agin and let the nosier and weirder stuff in…!

  3. This is honestly the ONLY time I’ve heard Scouting For Girls seen as alternative, or even called anything other than pop. Alternative is still out there, struggling to make ends meet, just, really, like it should

  4. Lets face it, for the first time in civilisation the older generation is more Rock and Roll than the younger., and those youngsters “cluded” in listen the the stuff that we were listening to., not the current big Mac choice. e.g. My lad, 12…fav band….Stiff Little Fingers…early stuff…Daughter 14 ” Dad Led Zeppelin sounds like music for people who can think”……In the old days when you got ripped off by a record label you would go to the office and “explain” why it would be a good idea to pay you…….they just bend that little bit further over the table and take what is given.

  5. Eh? You saw Scouting For Girls on your TV, and you wondered why it wasn’t Crass? When did you EVER see Crass on mainstream telly? Or hear them on mainstream radio? Or see their records distributed by a major label? The alternative culture you’re getting oozily nostalgic about wasn’t part of mainstream media back then, and it still isn’t. Scouting For Girls are a latter day equivalent of The Vapors or The Jags. That’s all. XFM playing Scouting For Girls is no different to Kid Jensen playing Howard Fucking Jones back in the day. The real question here is: if you’re really looking for the new Crass, how come you can’t be arsed looking any further than your TV screen?

    • I think you will find we are looking further than our TV for music! We are not against mainstream culture just against the way alternative culture has been narrowed down to this Scouting sound and alternative music can’t get heard in the places it should be heard because of this…

  6. Come down the Railway Hotel in Southend on Sea – we are spoiled for live music practically every night of the week, whether it be ‘alternative’, punk, blues, R’n’B, country, jazz, avant garde, rockabilly… The other week at a fundraiser we had 9 bands upstairs, 2 in the main bar and acoustic jamming in the garden all at the same time! And we had Penny Rimbaud out of Crass doing a spoken word gig in the bar a few months ago….


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