Tom Clayton’s book When Quiet Was the New Loud: Celebrating the Acoustic Airwaves 1998-2003 is now on general release.
The New Acoustic Movement, a musical era that although happened relatively recently, is already being purposefully forgotten. Much of the erasing began with Alan McGee’s infamous damning response to Coldplay’s debut album Parachutes, which he described as ‘bedwetters’ music’. In the book, Tom Clayton points out that yes, the era was dominated by the headline, radio-friendly artists such as Coldplay, Travis, Dido and David Gray, but there was a much broader, unifying undercurrent from a range of more low-key, independent-minded artists that reflected, and captured the spirit of the times – the sense of unease at the turn of the millennium when we transitioned from one era to another. Kings of Convenience, Turin Brakes, Kathryn Williams and The Electric Soft Parade were finding their feet, and the great bellwether of English music scenes, Manchester, was in on the movement too, with Doves, Elbow and Badly Drawn Boy emerging there from the ruins of Britpop and Rave with a gentler, inclusive sound and attitude.
Through the prism of the music at the turn of the millennium, this is a book that looks at the birth of a millennial attitude, a transition from the brashness of the late twentieth-century, to a more considered, gentle outlook that emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first that was reflected in the music of the time.
With many of the albums featured in the book approaching their 20th anniversaries, now is a good time to reflect on what this music represented and how it fits into the broad sweep of British music history. And perhaps in our current turbulent climate, where so much of life is loud and cruel, this music may strike a chord again. Humility, compassion and patience aren’t words associated much with our culture or politics anymore, so perhaps the time has come for a bit of quiet.
‘Knocked out by When Quiet Was the New Loud. First book to put late 90s early 00s New Acoustic Movement and related bands in context. A very assured and passionate read that might just be the most quietly important music book of 2021 IMHO’ Patrick Wray
‘A charming and important reveal on the acoustic outsiders of the early noughties and beyond.’ Olly Knights, Turin Brakes
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