When Quiet Was the New Loud On General Release

When Quiet Was the New Loud trailer

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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> Spotify playlist and list of featured albums
> Read a feature by Tom Clayton in The Quietus

When Quiet Was the New Loud

Celebrating the Acoustic Airwaves 1998-2003
By Tom Clayton

Post-Britpop. Pre-New Rock. The New Acoustic Movement.

The quiet music of 1998-2003 bridged the gap between two cultures, two generations and two centuries. As the nineties wound down and a new millennium approached, the UK began to look nostalgically to the past – and hesitantly to the future. The giants of Britpop had imploded, rave culture had started to chill out and a new wave of unassuming musicians suddenly found themselves in the spotlight. While Travis, Dido, Coldplay and David Gray may have shone the brightest, the likes of Kings of Convenience, Badly Drawn Boy and Turin Brakes also produced classic albums and won legions of fans.

Even though the New Acoustic Movement created some of the biggest hits of the century – earworms that still fill the airwaves today – it has been unfairly overlooked, too often dismissed as uncool or worse. Two decades on, When Quiet Was the New Loud finally puts the record straight and gives the acoustic era the recognition it deserves.

Tom Clayton’s affectionate look at the key records from the period – bestsellers and hidden gems alike – rediscovers the songs, personalities and stories of the time and reveals a moment when, albeit briefly, the meek really did inherit the earth.

‘An insightful, passionate and thoughtful telling of one music fan’s journey in sound that transcends volume.’ Colin MacIntyre, Mull Historical Society

‘A charming and important reveal on the acoustic outsiders of the early noughties and beyond.’ Olly Knights, Turin Brakes

‘An insight into the outer circles of British music which still resonate powerfully today.’ Kathryn Williams

PRE-ORDER: We will be shipping advance copies of the First Edition Hardback from mid-March, three months in advance of the official release in June. Be amongst the first to read it, click here to pre-order your advance copy.

Click here for Spotify playlist for the book, and a list of the albums featured.

New Acquisition | When Quiet Was The New Loud by Tom Clayton

Route is delighted to announced the acquisition of Tom Clayton’s book When Quiet Was The New Loud: Celebrating the Acoustic Airwaves 1998-2003. The book is a playful yet affectionate look at a brief period of British music that the NME called ‘the New Acoustic Movement’ and Alan McGee called ‘music to wet your bed to’. Despite the enormous success of some of its leading lights – Coldplay, Travis, David Gray (his album White Ladder sold 3 million copies in the UK alone, and 7 million worldwide. It is Ireland’s biggest selling album of all-time) – the negative reaction to it was so fierce it not only died a sudden death, it was quickly erased from history. Tom’s book looks at the broader movement beyond the key players; it is a deeply-researched and measured view of an era that although happened relatively recently, is already being purposefully forgotten.

Here are some words from Tom on the book:

“When Quiet Was The New Loud: Celebrating the Acoustic Airwaves 1998-2003 is an affectionate look at a time that’s often skimmed over when we tell the story of British music. The late nineties and early noughties are too often dismissed as the era of ‘bedwetting indie’ – the epilogue to Britpop, or the prologue to ‘new rock’. With this book I’m hoping to prove it was more than just a stopgap. It takes the form of twelve chapters, each focusing on a key album from the time – both the big bestsellers, and the hidden gems. For a lot of people my age, these records played a huge part in our musical upbringings… whether we like to admit it or not! In any case, I hope it prompts some fond memories and some generous relistens. It’s been such fun to revisit the time, and to interview many of the musicians involved. And I’m delighted to be working with Route, a publisher I admire enormously.”

Route editor Ian Daley says, ‘I’m thrilled to be working with Tom. He possesses the perfect combination of a talent for writing and a passion for his subject. With When Quiet Was The New Loud he has found a quirky gateway into the British psyche at the turn of the 21st century.’

Tom Clayton is a music critic whose writing has appeared in The Sunday Times, Drowned in Sound, Louder Than War and The 405, among others. He was the lead researcher and writer for Messing Up the Paintwork: The Wit and Wisdom of Mark E. Smith (Ebury, 2018); When Quiet Was the New Loud is his first original book. He lives and works in east London.

When Quiet Was The New Loud will be published by Route in 2020.

Video above is Kings of Convenience with ‘Toxic Girl’, a song from their album Quiet Is The New Loud.