1.22.2014

I Still Love The Music I Love, I Just Can't Believe I STILL Love The Music I Love

Just a few things now that I've been linked to a few times (thanks, blckdgrd and Simon):

First off, the thing about Rough Trade NYC is that it is large, but it doesn't actually have that many records in it. It feels like one of those fashion boutiques that barely has any clothing. And I guess that serves to underscore the feeling that the records that made it "in" are somehow more totemic, unimpeachable, if that makes any sense. It's not filled to the brim either with the new, like a dance music specialist shop, or with the old, like some classic overstuffed used store. In fact, Rough Trade doesn't stock any used vinyl at all. This contributes heavily to the sense of the stock being curated, not only by the staff itself but also by those who do the work of deciding what records should and shouldn't be in print; what's "proper" for music in 2014, determined seemingly externally to the actual wishes of the customers. There are no accidents, no chance for the DJ or enthusiast to posit a counter-cannon due to the impossibility of purchasing non-"important" records.

I know it seems crazy to dismiss the entirety of the past. I can't do it. You can't either, and does it really make any sense to try? But, as I wrote in an email to a friend, maybe it's time to start blaming the past for the present.

Here's a weird analogy. Maybe alternative culture is like the constituency of the Republican Party (bear with me). No matter how much power the Republican Party gains, their membership always feels put upon. Even during the periods in the first decade of this century when the Republican Party controlled all branches of the Federal Government, it was still, supposedly, us coastal liberal elites that prevented the changes desired from occurring. To paraphrase someone else, the voters wanted an abortion ban and got tax cuts for the wealthy.

What was interesting about the Tea Party movement (and let's put aside the issue of the Koch brothers, etc.) is that the Tea Party actually started to attack elected Republicans for once instead of blaming the Democrats. Where is this leading? Well, what if "we" won? As Mark Fisher pointed out years ago in another context, where is the actual mainstream that rejects Sonic Youth? Instead of still imagining that there is some establishment keeping us down, it's time to consider what our "elected representatives", those bands, artists, scenesters, label owners, etc. that supposedly speak to "us", are actually doing with the power that they have been given.

Simon wonders how to prevent whatever it is that could be made in opposition to the oppressive tastefulness from being swallowed by it? I don't know. My best guess is that, in trying to better-define the ideology of post-ideology, in mapping its contours, we may be able to find that which it is NOT. And that NOT may be able to become something positive. How to write a record that gets a 0.0 on Pitchfork's website and is also so excellent in its own way as to delegitimize that website? I can't even imagine this aesthetically.

Speaking of aesthetic critiques, I have been careful to offer none. It's not a question of "intrinsic" merits. As has been discussed here, Johnny Rotten had to have owned the Pink Floyd shirt first before defacing it. PIL and Pink Floyd sit quite happily next to each other on my LP shelf.

What I find interesting about the near present versus the past is that no amount of commodification and copying seems to undermine the original. The advent, for instance, of really mediocre bands trying to sound like Joy Division or Gang Of Four a decade ago paradoxically only served to burnish the reputation of those bands (originals and copyists), instead of making them uncool. How many biopics of Ian Curtis will it take to make him just as frustrating to hear about as Bob Dylan? When will The Smiths not matter to the alienated and literate and bed-ridden teenagers of the future? Why are all of the kids starting to believe the stories the adults are telling them? The punks said "no future" but surely it should be "no past" now? We voted for revolution and we got… download coupons.
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I wrote this about a year ago:
Listening to 1960s bands is a bit depressing, now, isn't it? For all of the resentment I felt towards ye olde boomers growing up, as their history was constantly sold as History in order to market nostalgia, I miss the feeling of culture being dominated by a group of people with a clear sense of the world and their place in it. Those years seem really, really far away now. The irony of retro culture is that, if it is an attempt to discover history towards finding a footing on which to build the future, the process has yielded quite the opposite result.
According to what bit of Harold Bloom's The Western Cannon I remember from flipping through it a trillion years ago: he said something to the effect of… as we go further back in time, the cannon necessarily narrows. To me, that makes a tremendous amount of sense, a very positive thing for culture, for community, in terms of building consensus, in terms of the revering and jettisoning that constitutes personal and collective identity. But now the opposite is happening. Worrisome. Why? Another day...

3 comments:

Harold Caidagh said...

Dude, you sound like Crow with your misunderstandings of Team Elephant.

Lifelong Team Donkey members, who at some point in their adult lives became disaffected reluctant Donkophiles, usually don't have a very good grip on the Elephantine landscape.

If all you know of the Koch Bros is what Jane Mayer told you, and you're not looking at the Donkeys' analogs to the Evil Moneymen Koch, then you're not really seeing reality.

If all you know of the Tea Party is what some hyperreactionary soi-dissant leftist tells you about the Teap Arty (essentially, a distilled emotional fear-fest), then you don't know it at all.

I don't really think your analogies explain Rough Trade NYC, or your love-hate-love relationship with favorite artists/labels/genres.

And I don't think the motive force of Team Elephant is "feeling put upon."

If you're going to swing the bat so fervently and miss with such great energy, at least hire yourself out for fan-boy to one of Team Donkey's withering elite to catch your bat-borne breezes.

:-p said...

Thanks! I feel dumbfounded!

Harold Caidagh said...

As long as it lands with a SPLAT! I feel good about my comment.