What the fuck does ‘seminal’ mean?
Seminal is one of those overused words that means everything and nothing.
In the dictionary it has two meanings…
1. ‘Of, relating to, containing, or conveying semen or seed.’
2. ‘Of, relating to, or having the power to originate; creative.’
For fellow LTW! writer Dan Lucas it’s ”Ëmusic with a modicum of ambition, not just a lazy exact copy of something a band once heard and thought was cool’ which is a perfect description and if you add to this ”Ëinfluential’ I think we have a rough idea of what seminal means when it’s used by music journalists- the trouble is how do you decide what is seminal.
Bands that are quoted as seminal have nicked as much stuff as bands that are sniffed at for being retro.
There seems to be a strict list of seminal bands, an unthinking list of groups that can never be deviated from.
It’s become one of those journo buzz words to be attached to the clutch of bands that can never get a bad review from the Fall to the Pixies to the Velvet Underground but there a masses of other bands who, in the terms of rock, also fit the description but would never be called seminal in polite company like the Levellers, the Stranglers, Black Sabbath, Trex, early Adam And The Ants- each one original and influential in its own way. Missy Elliot is really original but is she ever called seminal?
One person’s seminal is another person’s derivative, it’s all about perspective. For example, The Pixies are endlessly cited as inventing the loud/quiet thing and they were very good at it – but it had been done before.
There is a rock history consensus – agreed bands who are cool to like but the reality is a bit more blurred – the holy bands of rock criticism are lauded for being original/seminal/cleverer than the rest but when you been around a long time you know the process is the same.
Oasis were slagged for their obvious steals whilst Blur were patted on the head for being cunningly influenced by bands and doing pastiche. Stone Roses are retro and Radiohead are originalb- but like all musicians they are all magpies – Radiohead, like David Bowie, copy what’s happening in the music scene to keep their brand alive, is that seminal?
Being original is great on the ears but then so is writing a great tune or putting an emotion into a song, the music can be a vehicle for set of feelings- sometime the bands bending over backwards to make ”Ëseminal’ records for music critics to love miss out the melody and emotion and create fine bits of architecture, like an impressive glass building which you look at and are impressed by its weird shape and scale but it makes you feel nothing of being human.
Bands that are meant to be stunningly original have just as many influences as bands that are meant to be slavish copyists- they just have better PR’s.
Maybe its time to loosen the shackles, you don’t have to like music because it’s in the seminal list, music is too instinctive to like to have reasons attached to it.