But not the 5,000 words around them that might get me some money. Though probably not. Exactly where would something like "I hate Daft Punk and hate you for liking them too" get published? Here of course. Maybe I'll finish it someday.
More obvious: a certain
strain of rock-ist ideology posits (implicitly, possibly without being understood, even) the idea that all music except
rock exists only to rescue rock from its constant lapses into aesthetic
moribundity. That's it. Jazz. R&B. Soul. Funk. Reggae. Dub. Disco. House.
Techno. Rap. You know, all the real innovation, just fodder for white people
with guitars. Rock is (an) Empire, and all the other genres are the colonies
sending all of their raw materials to be processed into consumable goods.
Corny is a word used to describe incomprehensible desire.
The first part in a probably-not-continuing series...
New-ish Nissan commercial:
"The only thing left to fear is your imagination"
I guess if you are an indie musician or a deep house producer, you have nothing to fear at all (rimshot).
"Which ad experience would you prefer?"
Whichever one involves good acid and Pink Floyd?
Ok. Not that funny. But the use of the word "experience" really gets me. Every time. I can go and read Thomas Frank for the 100th time and understand intellectually why that word being there is the culmination of years and years of social change and the integration of the counterculture into consumer culture, etc., but, like, I still don't get it. To be fair to everyone else in the world, I don't throw things at my computer when I hear it, so how can I expect you to do so as well?
I never got around to writing a roundup of the year 2014 in music for me because for me, nothing really happened. I can't really think of any album or even single that really made a difference in my life.
I'm trying to get back into it, really, because I am bored with old stuff. But it's not working, so far.
But I need to do it anyways. Except, of course, that I keep thinking that it's still, I dunno, the 1990s. Like once I get back into it there will be something to get back into.
I mean, it's not really as bleak as that. I just miss feeling motivated to listen to music for some reason beyond my own pleasure. 'Cause that part's easy. I just noticed that the vast majority, if not all, of the music the Cocteau Twins released is up on Spotify. And that AR Kane box set that came out a few years ago. And so so so so so much Blue Note. But it's starting to make me sad.
In fat, when I did try and write my 2014 roundup, the only thing I came up with is that the below is the saddest record I heard in the entirety of 2014. I did not hear this record for the first time in 2014, but, for months, I was obsessed with it. That piano riff. Fucking brilliant. Why sad though?
Well. Let's get to the easy part first. I still want to go out and live a vibrant life. I'm getting scared one is passing me by. I am getting older, but I am not old. It's just. Like tonight. Beautiful up here. Spring. The air smells of possibility and new experience and adventure and I am stuck inside. Partially, because I am broke. I guess I could take a walk. But to where? Nowhere particularly beautiful or interesting to go. And if I had money? The same old bars, the same old people, the death of inspiration. I am a seeker. It's not over yet. It's alright. I just know I don't want to waste any more beautiful spring nights. "Hey DJ" is the sound of a night I'm not living. I mean, those girls, dancing on the rooftop, let's go. Thirty years ago. Fuck.
Ok. That's the easy part.
Why else sad though? I guess why I've been cool with listening to old records is not because the past was so, so, so much better. There's plenty of good records out there now, I'm sure, that are new and competent and listenable and etc. But the future the past believed in is better than the past the future believes in. And also, of course, the future the future believes in isn't really that interesting, either.
But the fact that the future the past believed in hasn't arrived, well, now it's making those old records hard to listen to sometimes. Sad, even.
If I were to write about something, it would be two ideas from Mark Fisher. The one I'll just comment on and the other I'll regret not being able to write about in depth.
The first, well. In this interview, Mr. Fisher mentions that "in 1995 the 60's had been a lot closer than they were in 1980". Yup. But, really, not really. It seems to me that Mr. Fisher is talking about aesthetics. So I don't think he would disagree (and he would have to bin all the hauntology CDs in his house if he did) when I say that, actually, the 60s, as well as the 70's, 80's and 90s all feel terribly distant. I mean really far. The desire being fulfilled by the music that was created in those times seems completely unrecoverable to me. It really hit me hard, especially, listening to Sketches of Spain again a few months back (t had been a while, for no good reason). I've heard it a million times. I love that album. But listening to it recently, I could no longer imagine the society that could produce such a thing. It felt totally alien to me. Who thought that was a good idea? I mean, besides Miles of course, WHO? I can't answer. So that's that.
The other one is maybe not quite Mr. Fisher's, though I don't think the interviewer or editor who wrote it is way off base. Still, I'll quote that person. Here we go: "but don't blame the hipsters". Ok fine. This is the one I can't write about today. I just want to say, as far as neoliberalism convincing us all that the future is not possible, yeah, fine, don't blame them (or blame them for not fucking reading books and for not getting pissed off). But. I can't also help but feel like those of us in the "pop culture sucks nowadays" camp might be projecting, might be assuming on some level that there are hordes of people dissatisfied like we are. If so, I sure as hell don't meet them.
Here's the thing. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people benefit from the way things are now. My city is full of them. I don't want to rant about this city again. So I'll keep it to... Lots and lots of people benefit from the way things are. I mean the people with tattoos, too, even, especially.
A great title, probably not the first time it's been used, and rather ambitious for what I am about to do, which is just say a few things and then duck out again.
I've been meaning to write about To Pimp A Butterfly for a week or so now. But, the thing is, it's a dense album, one of the few albums as of late where I feel like I don't even want to consider my own impressions until I feel like I have fully come to terms with it. There's a lot of words, a lot of sounds, and it's not an album seemingly meant to be understood fully upon the first listen. Whether I end up caring about it, I'm glad to have a new piece of music that may actually reward the effort it takes to digest, that even requires effort to digest.
(Man, can you tell I haven't been writing much lately?)
I have to admit, though, that I am a bit bothered by something. Something that I hope is mere nitpicking and not my "unique insight" into a profound problem, one that I am going to fail to explain adequately, so bear with me.
I don't like street rap/trap that much. The lyrics are a bit same-y and there is a limit to how creative one can be discussing the same subjects over and over again (you know what they are). When everyone is talking about the same shit, that limit is first pushed back by the collective creativity, but, as so many people steal all the possible options, those options run out and become tired real quick.
But I do love the sound of the music. A friend sent me a CDR last year of mostly DJ Mustard productions and some of them sound like Cybotron-reborn. Not as in an exact replica of 1980s electro, but rather a contemporary update. Impossible senses of space, weird whisps of reverb, a great starkness. Almost, even, futuristic. But because of the lyrics, I couldn't get as excited as I wanted to. It just seemed like: even if we put a colony on Mars, there'd be nothing to do there but get drunk and try and meet promiscuous women at clubs.
So that's last year. And then Black Messiah, which I haven't gotten around to yet, and To Pimp..., and I had already been thinking about what I am about to talk about, when, of course, Simon went ahead and beat me to it. For once I thought I would be able to say something interesting without having to link to his fucking blog (no offense, mate)! So now we add the new Jam City, improbably enough, to this list of possible protest records under discussion.
I'm at risk of losing my ideas by trying to write well. An isolated paragraph or two follows:
The new Kendrick - jazz musicians and lineage back to the 1970s and older forms of black protest music and etc., a sound completely unlike your average Mustard or Mike Will Made It cut. Most, likely, very much on purpose.
And here's a quote from the FACT review of the Jam City album that Simon links to:
...the whole album feels like a rejection of the precision-tooled, steel-and-glass urbanism of Classical Curves and a re-insertion of the living, breathing, fucking, shitting, failing human into its antiseptic landscape...
See some parallels? Maybe, maybe not? OK. I wasn't done anyways.
I just have to skip ahead. I keep losing my point building up to it.
Perhaps the highest expression of Capitalist Realism is the concession of the contemporary, the new, the modern, and, especially the future, to Capitalism. To make your protest album sound more human, more chaotic, more whatever, is to not protest at all, but rather to buy into the ultimate lie that the future can't be "yours". Remember that both the grit and the glamor are products of the same system; they don't exist in opposition. Pick the one you actually want to live in and claim it as your own.
I wish Kendrick had gone off into one of Jam City's skyscrapers with nothing but a bunch of digital synths and Timbaland and Egyptrixx in tow. I wish Jam City had added some "steel-and-glass" lyrics to his "steel-and-glass" sound. Instead.
But here's where I have to worry.
Why did the twentieth century suck? Simply put, all of the mass murder could be described as coming from one single idea: new worlds need new people, or at least the right ones. But that was also why the twentieth century was awesome. No, not the mass murder! But consider. Do you remember? When people used the word "poseur" without irony? There were actual value systems from which to deviate. Something was at stake.
I don't know where I am going with this. Certainly not calling for the death of everyone who isn't in to Model 500, or something like that.
I think it's just.
Failure of imagination, a protest whose response is totally mediating by that being protested against:
...a re-insertion of the living, breathing, fucking, shitting, failing human into its antiseptic landscape...
Failure of imagination, an inability to claim the future that could exist:
...even if we put a colony on Mars, there'd be nothing to do there but get drunk and try and meet promiscuous women at clubs...
We humans will always breathe and fuck and shit. Most living things, um, do the exact same thing! But what else? As long as we consider it "protest" and "progress" to bring ourselves back to our most uninteresting characteristics as a species, as long as we don't aspire to something more, as long as we don't recognize that our antiseptic landscapes could just as much be the manifestations of dreams as opposed to nightmares, it's just going to be the same breathing fucking shit forever.
Edit - from an incomplete essay that may always remain as such, related more to the argument I can't get out of my head than the one I've managed to spit out above - I may be jumping the gun a bit - need to listen to Kendrick's lyrics like thirty more times: If poverty is authenticity and authenticity is good then poverty is good. Poverty isn't good. So now what... ...I think there has been some sort of a projection of those old Romantic notions (or are they Christian?) of the noble, suffering artist onto the black populace generally, and black artists specifically... ... within the context of the liberal version of this romanticization, the poverty, the suffering, provides an automatic legitimacy that others must actually attain through their work... ... it's not just white people who do it; go watch Ken Burns Jazz again and see Cecil Taylor and the Art Ensemble getting dissed for being "uppity"... not by crackers... ...but whereas the average French artist's exile in a Parisian garrett in 1893 was most likely self-inflicted, the black artist, facing structural and systematic exclusion, can only suffer from or profit by the the Romantic ideals projected on to his or her skin, without ever being able to truly control that Romanticization or claim the majority of the capital the exploitation of that ideal creates... ...there is an inherent conflict: the young black male of "our" worst stereotypes can't be both in defiance of white America and its most cherished fantasy... This sucked. My ideas couldn't survive my typing speed. Someone tell me just what the fuck I was trying to do here. Please induce labor. The idea is overdue. Thanks for reading. Back to random videos.