Friday, December 4, 2009

there's a misconception behind this kind of revisionism (which okay admittedly i've done within the rock narrative, highlighting neglected by historians periods like postpunk) which is that history writing is like census taking or something, it's meant to dispassionately record what people "really liked"

it's not: history-writing is always partial, always partisan, it's arguing for a particular cause, it's invested in one theory or ideology, or on the side of one historical class... however much it might pretend not to be. certainly critical histories of the arts are.

so it's not the fact that historians have neglected or overlooked all these genres, it's the fact out of the masses and masses of people apparently into them, few of them were motivated later to write a history of them. the disproportion in the amount of history itself, that is the telling thing. and of course it relates to that motivational power that rock (and rap, and rave) possesses, the fact that it generated these incredibly energised discourses around itself, that pulled in the kind of people who'd later be moved to write histories of them.

Another angle on this: no actual Celine Dion fan would write a book as interesting and culturally-contextualising as Carl Wilson's book on Celine. It took someone who'd been through the rock-discourse mill, to have the capacity and the motivation (perverse as it might seem).
on print media entryism

i actually am into lucidity and directness as ideals and find it easy to switch between newspaper-style writing and bloggoid infolded type stuff -- and also kinda enjoy the challenge of seeing if you can get ideas across without them seeming capital "i" Ideas -- but for some writers Style=Voice=the Message = something they don't want to sacrifice. it's that old idea that a writing about rock'n'roll should be rock'n'roll.

if you think about it "style" = anything in a piece of prose that is an impediment to instant understanding, clear transmission of data. a totally style-less piece would be utterly lucid but lack all flavour and personality -- but the more stylish a piece of writing, the harder it is to read quickly and the smaller its readership will be.

it's a trade-off
the reversal of my metaphor of tree/fungi and whale/maggots is very clever,
yes the little critters do good work reprocessing stuff.. but these
organistic and biological and ecological metaphors only go so far. we've had
garage punk revivalists and Stooges copyists since the end of the seventies
if you back to the likes of The Barracudas and the Cramps and Billy
Childish's bands and the whole Australian scene, and we've yet to see
anything amazing grow out of the humus these carrion-eating critters have
created. A band covering the Sonics in Idaho is as pointless as a
traditional Dixieland jazz band -- it's genre-mining, antiquarianism.
Sucking on dead meat.

My metaphor doesn't really work, or at least serve my intended purpose --
because my complaint is not these parasite bands are breaking down and
decomposing and reprocessing the rock myths, but more that they are
reproducing and regurgitating. They're parasites because they're living off
the cultural creativity of their predecessors. How is repeating something a

A maggot might indeed seem beautiful if you've never seen a tree in full
bloom-- i've lived through the flowering of a couple, i just missed punk but
caught the post-punk era which was amazingly exciting. And then there's the
whole rave/hardcore/jungle thing -- to me that's where the spirit of garage
punk/Stooges resurfaced by some weird process of migration. There was also a
phase in the late Eighties which never quite made in terms of the history
books but my comrades and i at Melody Maker had a good shot at
mytholologizing as it happened-- an amazing turmoil of creative tangents, an
absurd surfeit from noise-rock to the neo-psychedelia MBV types to hip hop
and early house.

Those trees weren't myths, at least not while they happened -- but very real
upheavals that combined formal rule-bending with popular energy and a sense
of hurtling forward and fevered discussion about what music was for; where
every month there was some new twist and there were more great records than
you could keep up with.

I'm not calling for new macro-myths per se, but the kind of paradigm shifts
and upsurges of excitement, that as byproduct of happening tend to get
mythologized -- calling for things worth mythologizing perhaps?
Spengler meets subcultural theory

Decline of the West's whole culture versus civilisation thing, i realised underpins quite a bit of my thinking about music, i wonder where i absorbed it from... must be Nietzche presumably

i think you could do quite an interesting mashup of Spengler into subcultural theory/Dick Hebdige, etc, cos if you think about it a lot of subcultures are just CULTURES (in the Spenglerian sense) as opposed to CIVILISATION (market-oriented, eclectic, cosmopolitan, audio-decor/audio-couture). subcultures are pockets of tribalism and of less-civilised, less-effete modes, more participatory and social-cathartic forms of music...

there are also, often, warrior-cultures.... which is what a lot of gang culture is anyway, bastions of a Medieval mindset.... subcultures are all about hierarchy, display, aristocracy etc....

even the concept of "race-feeling" has some applications to things like rave and jungle (junglists as a people, a sort of post-racial race)... cf Black Moth Super Rainbow's "Start A People"
at this point anybody who advances a big overview or puts forth a
major proposition deserves a pat on the back. And that applies to
viewpoints I disagree with. Sure it would be painful to have someone do some
major devastating critique on some little pet area of music, but I'd
probably get more out of it, ultimately.

Wood not trees approaches always miss nuances and details and stuff, but the
benefits outweigh the disadvantages. They are generative moves, whereas the
nitpicking thing that net culture seems to have devolved into, largely, just
grinds everything down into smaller particles.

A good example recently of the Big Look is this piece that Keenan did
in the Wire on what he called 'hypnagogic pop'. It wasn't fully-baked,
ideas wise (i still don't quite understand where 'hypnagogic states' come into it) but he identified a whole area of interesting music that was going on and threw
a whole bunch of interpretation and deep reading-into at it, some of it more
persuasive than other bits, but in the end something to think about it, and
it alerted me to a lot of music I would otherwise been much less likely to
notice, if each band had just been reviewed separately as totally autonomous