A friend of mine dislikes hyperbole. He hates hyperbole more than anything else in the world. He’d also hate that sentence, because he really dislikes hyperbole. I don’t think it’s simply because he’d been erroneously pronouncing it “hyper-bowl” well into adult life. What causes the roof of his mouth to itch is the notion of best and worst being applied to something as subjective as art. And in his case music, because he loves music more than anything else in the wor… You get the idea with that.
And yet, hyperbole is my favourite language and I always use it to describe music. The absurdity of doing so is an integral component of overblown praise. I know it’s not the best but when I say it’s the best I truly believe it’s the best even though I know it’s not the best but… It’s a virtuous cycle that makes me so giddily happy that I frequently screech like a macaque. The neighbours don’t like it but it’s infinitely preferable to hearing me bellow vulgar epithets at my printer. Which I also do.
There have been three best bands in the world in the past decade, according to me. The first was Scottish/ Scottish/ not Scottish tune-benders Lau. I bestowed the title upon them in the virtual pages of Channel 4’s dedicated music website, Slashmusic. This resulted in the band turning up to play at a festival in Germany to find the stage adorned with an enormous banner proclaiming: “The best band in the world – Channel 4”, as if Jon Snow himself had decreed it.
Lau’s own Martin Green (not Scottish) personally handed the trophy (there’s not a trophy) to my next best band in the world, The Staves, at an informal ceremony backstage at Cambridge Folk Festival in 2012. Watford-born ecstatic harmonisers The Staves had yet to release their debut album (with its sleeve inspired by Peter Bellamy’s Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye, sleeve fact fans). But I like to get in early with my gushing declarations of fandom, as bands tend to go rubbish quite quickly. However, The Staves have rewarded my urgency by getting better and better at being the best band in the world with each record and every gig. Because of this I abandoned the established tradition of having only one best band in the world, an honour they now share with Irish trad dronesters Lankum. Lankum are the best band in the world as well.
There’s no need to hold back on superlatives as if you need to leave room for someone better to come along, like pudding. If you’ve ever told your partner that theirs is the most beautiful face in the world, that wasn’t true (not unless you’re married to Shakira, the young Frank Sinatra or an Irish Wolfhound.) But neither were you lying. It’s how they make you feel and saying it only makes you feel it more. I know things seem pretty terrible right now but that’s only because things are pretty terrible right now. So trust the words of an habitual hyperbolist when I say that enthusing ludicrously about your favourite band can convince you there’s still hope and happiness left on this scorched scrap of minerals.
That is unless you like the worst band in the world, then you should probably keep quiet about it. They’re awful.