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« 'Notes On Twee' | Main | Dusty Tunes »

June 07, 2009



Good post. Agree with lots of it, of course.


Great post, Alistair - and there was me, almost having given up the battle...

Tim Footman

'Grandad' by Clive Dunn is twee as fucking fuck.

david nichols

Aside from Clive Dunn then (assuming we all agree on that), what WAS twee? If anything?

Tim B.

Good one Alistair. Just for kicks I looked it up on and this is what it says:

–adjective Chiefly British.
affectedly dainty or quaint: twee writing about furry little creatures.

Kevin P

Wasn't grandad co-written by the creation's kenny pickett? in which case that's more pop-art punk rock which is where the tv personalities came in and all this seemed to start ...

masonic boom

You know, I hate twee as much as the next Dirty Dronerock Girl, but, erm... isn't this article just an exercise in moving goalposts and defining "not-twee" = 'stuff I like' and "twee" = 'stuff I don't like' and then picking some labels (political or otherwise) for those reasons why you like or dislike something?

But then again, all attempts to address bifurcation of sub-genres is really like painting on the head of matchsticks, I suppose.


yay for this! (crayola ( should be here to applaud it as well, i think. i miss his rants in the same spirit.)
lemonade and kittens are just gross. kind of sticky.


Maybe it comes across as an excercise in moving goalposts; that's obviously for others to decide (as indeed you have Ms Boom!), and I've got no problem at all with that of course. Personally I don't think it is - my core objection, regardless of whether I dislike Twee sounds or ideas, is the retrospective branding of artefacts from previous generations to fit with a contemporary viewpoint. I know this is how history has been generally been revised/reinterpreted over time, but it just feels wrong to re-contextualise something without a secure grounding in the events of the time. Maybe this is how people have always felt when they get to their forties and see new generations re-interpret their own eras... maybe we're just overly sensitive about it. Maybe it really doesn't matter a good goddamn. But it's fun to argue about. It's fun to be grumpy. It's fun to paint on the head of a matchstick :)

masonic boom

Well, that comes back to the good old question of whether a piece of artwork's message is dependent on its original context, or whether it can be reinterpreted afresh by each new group of viewers/hearers/consumers/whatever.

(I was reading a passage in a very interesting book called Godel Escher Bach which was talking about sending pieces of music to alien civilisations - that perhaps a Bach piece would be recognisable totally out of human context as being some pattern - but that a John Cage piece would be almost meaningless stripped of its context of 20th Century music and what had gone before.)

I do think that a lot of older folk think "you're missing the point!" as the artforms of their youth are stripped of their context and reexamined. I spend a lot of time myself, shouting "YOU DOING IT WRONG!" at Nu-Gaze kiddies - but then again, are they? I think they missed the point, but perhaps they have simply picked up another point.

Because to me, as an outsider, that whole wilful infantalising thing always seemed the *point* of twee-pop or cutie or whatever we should call it. Maybe it was a reaction against something in the dominant culture, but I never liked that particular culture. So to me, kittens and lemonade seems a refinement of the idea, rather than a perversion, but I admit I could have it wrong.

Maybe I should write a blog post of mine own about this, instead of painting on your matchstick, as fun as it is. ;-)


A bit late to comment perhaps. But. Doesn't the retrospective application of the word 'Twee' to slightly hyper slightly shy '80s indie pop fit into that noble category of reclaiming derogatory words? Like, say, 'Pop', which would originally have signified things like: 'not serious' and 'for kids'. By the time it came to mean 'all that is totally immediately unstoppably great to me now and nothing that isn't' (it is a while since I read 'Young and Foolish', but that is the gist, isn't it?), it had became obvious too that 'not serious' and 'for kids' were actually good things, done right.

The 'Twee' label works in a similar way (the values are different, but totally defensible - excitability, acceptance of emotional frailty), but has spectacularly failed to lose its irritant value. Which would make it the more punk rock of the two labels, no?

Christie Malry

At the time, the terms used by the press were 'shambling', 'C86' (by the NME, of course) or, as AF says, 'cutie'.

As a teenager, I found the whole 'scene' (ahem) entirely invigorating, and, as has been said, punk as fuck.

For me, the last band from that era/movement/whatever were Huggy Bear. The 'twee' lollipops and hairslides thing may well have begun with bis, but it's mostly American bands waving that particular flag and its attendant label.


Indeed, i was often referred to as 'Shambles Al' by my colleagues at Art School. I THINK it was meant affectionately...

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