Saturday, June 30, 2007

terrific contribution from the terrifyingly erudite Owen at Sit down Man You're A Bloody Tragedy to the emerging intellectual archaeology of POPism

i suppose that on a rather different and far humbler level you could trace a sort of anti-intellectual archaeology to Popism, taking in The Modern Review (what was its slogan? something like "talking smart about stupid stuff"? "taking dumb trash seriously"? it was much snappier than that), and John Carey’s
The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939
... both of these not real-deal anti-intellectualism so much as faux-anti-intellectualism, a kind of pretend-philistinism/siding with the Common Man impulse that anticipated the more recent attempt to de-guilt our guilty pleasures ("come offit you don't really enjoy films with subtitles and reading alain robbe grillet do you? be honest you'd rather watch Batman etc)... a sort of English cut-the-crap/puncture-the-humbug homegrown version of Bourdieu's ideas that aesthetics is all about snobbery and shoring up cultural capital and feeling superior

coming from a different place but vaguely connected is the level-all-distinctions-all-hierarchies impulse underpinning Richard Meltzer’s Gulcher : Post-Rock Cultural Pluralism in America (1649-1993), taking seriously the lowly and trivial detritus (pro wrestling, bottle caps) of mass/trash culture in an almost sort of Americanized Barthes (Mythologies mode, anyway) style, except i don't mean style cos the actual writing style couldn't be further from Barthes, being this sort of quasi-colloquial bleary rambling "unwritten" anti-style that's way-way-WAT more contrived and posed than trying to write elegant and proper-like (and itself constitutes a forced/false rhetoric of down-with-ordinary-joe-schmoe-ness)(noting here en passant that Meltzer is hero/anxiety-of-influence-perpetual-agonist #1 vis-a-vis Poptimist godfather Frank Kogan)

Back to Owen, who points out that, “the important point, for a rationalist theory of Pop, is the maintenance of the critical”--pointedly distinguishing itself from my own decidedly irrationalist pop aesthetic, currently at the development stage, but which would probably replace the word "critical" in that sentence with "convulsive"....

more, later...
gutterbreakz makes a case for chain reaction’s "second wave", personally i started finding the stuff a real slog after CR20 and have this theory that it all went to shite when they changed the label font

and

gutterbreakz on on the other metal box(es) (and yes i believe goldie was a fan of PiL)

and

gutterbreakz on (conscious echo of “albatross” from metal box here?) the Spirit of 97 in drum and bass

(goodgod izzit really TEN YEARS since d&b went shite but speedgarridge came to the rescue?! it is you know)

Monday, June 25, 2007

oh yes and i forgot Noise boy Attali,his theory of
music's evolution in terms of sacrificial violence and sacred noise...
To create a coherently irrationalist and amoral philosophy of pop, in addition to Bataille, Baudrillard (plus smidgeon of his acolyte Kroker), the pagan Paglia (who seems to have given up on her sequel to Sexual Personae, a massive volume on 20th Century popular culture, from Hollywood to rock), and Nik "Superpop" Cohn, you would probably also require:

>>some Wilde

>>some Warhol (inventor of the original Popism eh)

>> dash of Robert Pattison's under-appreciated The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism

>> a goodly amount of Kenneth Anger. Not so much Hollywood Babylon (and wasn't he working on Rock Babylon at some point too, but never finished it?) as the movies like Invocation of My Demon Brother, Lucifer Rising and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome -- Acephale fever dreams of ceremonial glamour--the Sixties-superpop soundtracked Scorpio Rising -- and above all, Eaux d'Artifice. A clip whence you can look at here along with his other movies. Filmed in a Italian water garden, it's a visual tone poem paean to sovereign excess. Fountains have long been the symbol of aristocratic gratuitousness, a flaunting of the ability to make sport with a precious resource (which for most at that time would be something that was painstakingly laden or well-extracted for agricultural subsistence at its most servile), a fruitless irrigation of the air for the delectation of the regal eye. Frothing in foaming curlicues of conspicious consumption and ostentatious onanism, Anger's silvered spurts remind me again of the Victorian slang for coming: "spending".

The title Eaux D'Artifice was linked to Anger's previous short film Fireworks. As Alan Williams points out: "Eaux d'artifice does not exist as a correct phrase in French; instead, the title is constructed by one of language's oldest artifices, the pun. Eeux d'artifice means "Fireworks" (literally artificial fires), and so eaux d'artifice are logically waterworks or 'artificial' waters."

Which connects to the pyrotechnic essence of pop as a form of wasteful splendor and dazzling display. Indeed the ice queen Siouxsie Sioux expressed the glam impulse thusly: "we are fireworks".

^^^^^^^

more on Anger here

^^^^^^^
an old review of mine of the first-time video reissues of Anger's movies:

KENNETH ANGER'S MAGICK LANTERN CYCLE, VOLUMES 1-4
(Jettisoundz videos)

When they get around to unpicking the tangled threads
that connect The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Psychic TV,
somewhere at the web's centre will lurk the tarantula figure
of Kenneth Anger. Aleister Crowley fan, ex-chum of Jimmy
Page, and chronicler of the psycho-sleaze behind Hollywood's
glittering facade, Kenneth Anger is also the maker of a
series of films whose themes uncannily prefigure the abiding
fixations of leftest-field rock. Pass beyond a certain
limit, and you enter a realm where magic and ritual, S&M,
Crowley, Manson, Nazism, bodypiercing, tattooing,
hallucinogenics, mytho-mania, voodoo dance, all interconnect
as facets of the same quest: for the ultimate transgressive,
transcendent, self-annihilating mystic HIGH.

Both "Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome" (1954) and
"Invocation Of My Demon Brother" (1969) are about this search
for supreme bacchanalian release. ("Inauguration" was
inspired by taking acid, "Invocation" by the counter culture
created by acid). Both are a kaleidoscopic montage of images
grotesque and bizarre, with all the key Anger motifs (cocks,
pagan ritual, bikers, Swastikas, cabbalistic symbols) brought
into play. "Inauguration", with its strident Janacek
soundtrack and vampily made-up actresses, is simultaneously
camp and disturbing; "Invocation", with its maddening moog
soundtrack by Mick Jagger, captures the apocalyptic vibe of
the bitter end of the hippy daze, and must surely have
influenced Nic Roeg's "Performance".

"Lucifer Rising" (1970-80) shares much the same pre-
occupations as the other two films, but expresses them in
less histrionic fashion, through images of serene, stately
beauty, set to a beatific soundtrack by Bobby Beausoleil (an
acolyte of Manson's). "Lucifer Rising" is a rehabilation of
Lucifer, reclaiming him as the Light god, a Rebel Angel whose
"message is that the key to joy is disobedience". Anger's
biker movie, "Scorpio Rising" (1963), on the other hand, is a
"death mirror held up to American culture". The biker
represents American myths of Lone Ranger individualism and
Born To Run freedom, taken to their psychotic limit.
"Scorpio Rising" is a giddy miasma of death's-heads, Iron
Crosses, cocaine and blasphemy, with Anger salivating over
the well-stuffed crotches and leather-clad torsoes of his
subjects - and all set to the incongruous soundtrack of
Sixties pulp pop!

Of the five shorter films also included in this series,
"Fireworks" (1947) is a blue-tinted homerotic nightmare about
being brutalised by sailors (the final image is of a sailor
with a Roman Candle jutting out of his zip), while "Eaux
D'Artifice" (1953) is a beautiful Midsummer Night's
dreamscape, with a full moon suffusing off the cascading,
gushing and spurting waters of the Tivoli fountain gardens.
Sheer brilliance.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

ah and i forgot Monitor's own foray into flexi-zining -- the Wilson Sisters flexi in our final issue. Wilson Sisters being an exercise in glitterbeat deconstruction, proto-schaffel (very proto, 1986), the tune bizarrely given a favourable mention in greil marcus' real life rock top ten column in artforum... i wasn't involved in its creation sadly having moved to london by that point...
retro-fetishism of outmoded music formats, pt 174: a well-researched essay on the history of the flexidisc in Stylus

in peculiar synchrony, there's an excellent eulogy to the C86-era flexi-zine Are You Scared To Get Happy in this month’s Wire, written by Sukhdev Sandhu as one of those Epiphanies columns in the back of the mag (it’s in the latest issue, TGristle on the cover). I’ve got a couple of issues of Are You Scared To Get Happy tucked away in some box from my days as
not-quite-participant/observer writing ethnomusicological treatises on the shambler-cutie tribe. As I recall, the editor, Matt Haynes, was a rabid ideologue who believed that the only true, pure format for pop music was the flexidisc---which should be played on a Dansette for extra lo-fi reproduction and authentic teenaged kicks. Everything else was too high fidelity deluxe sound and therefore adult/hippy/sold-out.

And then in further synchrony I stumble on this, a Trunk release I missed: Flexi Sex

But talking of zines, a long time ago I read a fascinating interview in Tuba Frenzy (same issue as their classic and ahead of its time piece on 99 Records) done with this dude Ian Williams, then playing in a post-Don Caballero math-rock outfit called Storm and Stress. Intellectually heady, highbrow stuff, although when I got hold of the group’s album it wasn’t all that (beautifully pacakaged though in some kind of translucent cd-casing with lettering printed on). Anyway it’s the same Ian Williams who is in Battles--an equally brainy operation judging by this.

here's a taster of Ian’s patter of yore taken from an old press release:
Storm&Stress is of course an historical reference to the German literary movement, Sturm and Drang. Ours is more of a modern day version, where the characters still yearn for revolt, but unfortunately cannot. We would like to feel, but have no feelings left. It’s about an impossible situation: the ridiculousness of another era in our new skin (the wigs hurt), the improperness of pop artifice mixed with legitimate attempts at being serious, and then all of the attendant problems, i.e. teenage aspirations tripped up by music that teenagers probably don’t want to listen to, rock without a beat, etc.
Woebot on Mauve House

Love that filleting metaphor, that seems the “way ahead” (in the absence of an actual, erm, way ahead), to look for these threads or seams that run through the whole historical body of a music (or Music), secret passages or underground rivers. Unlike official genres though, these threads perhaps can only be identified retrospectively though.

At times “Mauve” as Matt describes/imagines it sounds a bit like House-Not-House,
(or even the Mutant Disco concept as exemplified less by ZE than say Sleeping Bag.)
But then again many of the people who would self-identify as House-Not-House half-a-decade or so ago, I expect Matt would consider too tasteful (or the wrong kind of tasteful maybe?)

Like I wonder if Basement Jaxx fit or are they too self-consciously messing with the house template. Are they perhaps not innately Mauve-souled enough to qualify for "Mauve" -- not effortlessly fruity, but kinda labored about their aberrations and aberrant-ness.

The colour-choice "Mauve" vaguely suggests Prince... maybe Prince* is the ultimate touch-of-Mauve to whatever genre he handles (well, when he was good at any rate, ie. half an aeon ago). So Dirty Mind would be Mauve New Wave...

And thinking Princely house, then Jamie Principle’s “Baby Wants To Ride” must surely be an ur-Mauve House moment

Or maybe not...

Is it all in the ear of the beholder?



*it’s weird how extremely rarely I feel the desire to listen to Prince, he used to be a god to me…
trip the light fantastic

My little daughter had the first major aesthetic experience (pictorial arts division) of her nearly-sixteen months today, courtesy of ‘Untitled’ aka 'Dance Floor' by Piotr Uklanski, currently showing at the Guggenheim and something like a cross between Mondrian and the flashing floor tiles discotheque in Saturday Night Fever. You can see it here although to actually step across its surface and be in its rapid-flickering midst is WAY more kinetically hallucinatory than that pic suggests. This
one is better in terms of the intensity of the light but doesn't have the scale of the piece. Here's another and another. The soundtrack was things like Sean Paul and Missy Elliott.

I had to tear Tasmin off it in the end, she kept coming back for another go.

I liked Uklanski’s commentary that with ‘Dance Floor’ he was trying to create a work "that would be all generosity and no ideology. An object that would give and give and give but that would, at the end of the night, be unknowable, as its true nature resides in our own pleasure."

Here is an article from Artforum on the man and the piece, written by the improbably named Kate Bush
the moronic inferno, pt 319

Jail Bush Not Paris T-shirts, on sale, in a store in my neighbourhood

is this like the bite-size version of the “foreshortened critique of capitalism” critique of paris-haters that some on the left are wasting their breath with?

i mean i dunno I thought the inheritance of wealth was one of the ways the class system perpetuated itself

(of course Bush is as much a dynastic heir in his way as PH so there's an equivalence secreted within the inane slogan)

anyway it occurred to me that the only truly convincing and coherent defence of Hilton would be one that based itself on Bataille's ideas*, a case based entirely on the celebration of her as a figure of pure excess, non-productivity, wastefulness (e.g. the carbon footprint of her UK promo trip, massive entourage including three tour managers for no actual tour, all flying first class). Paris as a solar anus of expenditure-sans-return. Indeed precisely through not having earned the money she spends, she is all the more “sovereign”--sovereignty defined in Bataille's value system by the distance one has from the “servile” and profane realm of production. The sovereign, according to Bataille’s mystical economic theory as outlined in the Accursed Share * * never does but only is. Which is precisely what the Paris-haters complain--"she doesn't do anything!". She does get paid for "work" admittedly--modelling, appearing at parties--but that's as close to publically "just being" as you can get, and the beyond-handsome pay is way out of proportion to the effort so therefore as little like work-work as is imaginable. (The comedy of The Simple Life was placing the two heiresses in adjacence to production at its most gross and earthy and abjectly profane -- manure, the engorged and varicose udders of dairy cows, etc)

Talking of “sovereignty” and chiming back to Krystal’s “royalty to me” comment re. the Hilton dynasty, there is a good line in Tina Brown’s Diana book (not read it,of course, just seen it quoted in the New York profile of TB), about how public relations-savvy Diana twigged that “the aristocracy of birth” had been supplanted by “the aristocracy of exposure”. Which would make Paris our age’s Lady Di, icon of the new aristocracy sans the old blue-blooded one's noblesse oblige (philanthropic works, charity, hanging out in hospices etc) or decorum and tasteful restraint re. flaunting of one’s wealth and parasitism.

Di and Paris had/have a similar sheen about them, this sort of refulgent (solar anus-y)incandescence... the skin, the hair, the clothes, they all seem to be made of gold (the sovereign metal, perhaps because it is like condensed sun-stuff -- and Bataille has a bit of a thing about the sun, going about a will to glory in us that would have us live like suns, shining for the sheer aimless splendor and cosmic bling of it).

* Bataille with a bit of Baudrillard, maybe some Nik Cohn folded in, and a pinch of Camille Paglia

* * here's an old review i did of The Accursed Share

The Accursed Share, Volumes II and III
by Georges Bataille, translated by Robert Hurley
Zone Books

"The Accursed Share", written in the twilight of his life, was Bataille's
attempt to pull together all his ideas and obsessions, and construct a coherent
theory of human civilisation. Volume I (also published by Zone) focussed on the
problem of economic surplus. In Bataille's view, what distinguishes cultures are
the different ways they have of spending this 'accursed share': these range from
Aztec sacrifice, to Native American potlatch (ritualised, ruinous gift-giving,
in a society where rank was determined by the ability to squander resources), to
Tibet (where excess wealth was absorbed by a large 'parasitic' class of monks
devoted to non-productive contemplation). Bataille's positing of a fundamental
human drive towards expenditure without return, challenges capitalist ideas
about the psychological motivations that govern economic activity. And while his
contention that humanity's real problems concern luxury rather than scarcity
would seem to be contradicted by our current reality of global poverty and
imminent ecological catastrophe, Bataille saw no inconsistency. The current
crisis is the result of capitalism's break with pre-Modern methods of disposing
of economic surplus, in favour of accumulation, investment and runaway economic
growth.

With the following volumes of "The Accursed Share", Bataille attempted to
integrate this provocative, if rather sketchily substantiated,
economic theory with the rest of his thought. Volume II, 'The History Of
Eroticism", is, for the most part, a rather ponderous and convoluted reprise of
the theory of sexuality previously explored in 'Erotism: Death and Sensuality'.
Bataille distinguishes between profane life (secular, bourgeois, productive) and
sacred life. Profane life is based on the denial of man's animalism, a refusal
of the animal's subjection to sexual drives and to death. All the labour and
achievement of profane existence is a futile denial of mortality, that
paradoxically condemns the profane individual to a living death, forever living
for the future rather than in the present. But sacred life is a repudiation of
the profane world's values of utility and productivity. Bataille is clearly on
the side of the beasts and the angels, rather than the bourgeoisie.

As in "Erotism", Bataille explores the affinities between sexual desire and
mysticism. Both are fuelled by a longing for total fusion, an incandescent,
immolatory merger of the self with the cosmos. The mystic and the lover desire
total consumption, pure expenditure without return; "their life is aflame and
they consume it" . Love's real object isn't the beloved, but what the
Situationists called "the lost totality" and what Bataille calls "a lost
intimacy": an end to alienation, union with the universe. And of course, utopian
thought has always aspired to this ideal state of being, sometimes locating it
in a lost golden age, sometimes at 'the end of history'. The psychological
origin of this notion of heaven-on-earth is most likely our dim memories of the
blissful inertia and kingly indolence of life in the womb.

In Volume III, Bataille defines this state of pure being as "sovereignty".
Historically, the sovereign was defined by the consumption of wealth, rather
than its production (which in Bataille's view is always servile and alienated).
Bataille expands this particular meaning of sovereignty to include any form of
existence that isn't subordinated to utility, that doesn't involve the
employment of the present for the sake of the future. It's the old utopian
and/or mystical dream of living in the now. Since knowledge is always in some
sense instrumental and thus subordinate to useful ends, sovereignty is a state
of unknowingness, accessible only in moments. These occur only when strong
emotions disrupt the chains of thought. Bataille's inventory of sovereign
"effusions" - laughter, tears, intoxication, play, festivity, sexual
ectasy, sacred terror - are all privileged moments that allow human beings to
live in the present.

Haughtily contemptuous of bourgeois values (deferment of gratification,
accumulation, providence) Bataille's own table of virtues are aristocratic.
Historically, the aristocracy have been the class of humans most able to devote
their lives and resources to prodigality (dandyism, combat, gambling, 'perverse'
sexuality). Appropriately, the society that's most antithetical to Bataille's
notion of sovereignty is Soviet Communism, which was created in reaction to an
obscenely wasteful feudalism. Impelled by the need to make the industrial
revolution happen in less than a decade, Stalin's economics turned bourgeois
accumlation into national policy. The result was state capitalism: a society in
which the individual's access to extravagant consumption was totally
subordinated to the goal of increasing national productivity. The ultimate goal
of Communism was an end to alienation (after the dictatorship of the proletariat
had withered away, Marx envisioned a society based around aesthetic, sovereign
activity). But in the mean time, Soviet Communism increased alienation, creating
a society whose inhabitants were less and less able to live in the present
moment. For Bataille, the real problem with Communism is its inability to
conceive of life in terms of play, only in terms of work.

Where Marxism mirrored the economicism of the bourgeois worldview, Nietzche
and de Sade are Bataille's ancestors and prophets of sovereignty.
Both were aristocrats, opposed equally to capitalist values and Christian/Socialist
philanthropy (hence their usefulness to fascism); both felt that solidarity
with other human beings debilitated them in their quest to become their own
gods. Borrowing Sartre's distinction between the rebel and the revolutionary,
Bataille recognises the reactionary nature of de Sade, Nietzche and even his own
thought. The revolutionary wants to replace a bad (because dysfuctional) order
with a good (because better-functioning) system. But the rebel only wants to
break the rules, and is secretly complicit with the order he revolts against.
His trangressions are unconstructive and childish. But because he's disciplined
and self-sacrificing on behalf of the future, the revolutionary rules out for
himself the bliss of wicked, wasteful behaviour. The rebel alone has access to
sovereignty and jouissance. "Pleasure, unjustified by any utility, is sovereign
insofar as it denies to the point of ecstasy a world that is infinitely
deserving of respect." **

Bataille's sovereignty is a sterile splendour, the unconstructive waste of
energy into the void. Chiming with in with the mystical tradition that stretches
from Taoism through the Gnostics' 'cloud of unknowing' to the philosophy of
Norman O. Brown, Bataille's final paradox is that the sovereign's last word is
"I am NOTHING". So perhaps the ultimate modern of form of sovereignty is heroin
addiction: a return to the invulnerable, solipsistic self-sufficiency of life-
in-the-womb, a total escape from the servile ignominy of the productive world,
the purest form of wasting your life. But perhaps even Bataille would have
blanched at the idea that the junkie knew how to live like a king.


** compare with "Pop or a better world--the choice is yours", the clarion call-like sign-off (more ambivalent than it sounds)to "Indecency", an old thinkpiece penned by me and David Stubbs in 1986, which no less an expert on these matters than Tim Finney has described as a perfect statement of Pop(tim)ist principles (Certainly "rock" figures as a dirty--or more exactly, an anorgasmically dull-and-worthy--word in that piece, which takes a sudden swerve towards the ecological towards the end, basically aligning pop's jouissance with the resource-squandering ruination of the planet).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

entertaining blast of vituperation from the impostume taking in and taking out smugonautical sardonicists the melvins, zappa, nurse with wound, mike patton and A.N. Other who can't be named for spoiler reasons


entertaining blast of vituperation from k-punk aimed at the hiltonistas

Friday, June 15, 2007

on YouTube Jon Dale stumbled across the very Public Information Film i mentioned in the Haunted Audio Wire piece, the one about the dangers of playing on a farm. Amazingly gruesome and also long (stretched over 3 different YouTube segments, it goes on for about 25 minutes -- I guess there must have been lots of empty space on the telly schedules back in the 70s to fill up), it's astounding frankly to think they'd have shown this to kids. The nightmares it must have triggered. It clearly left a vivid impression on my tender psyche as writing the piece I recalled a lot of it in detail, e.g. the kid who tumbles into a pigpen and "drowns in hogshit", and i think i probably only saw it the once!
i'm not quite sure what to make of this lot, (linked to recently by robin carmody) ... while you kind of have to admire their drive and chutzpah, not sure if blagging grants and subsidies is really what the nuum is all about, if indeed that is what they are referencing with the moniker/brand 'hardcore is more than music' (and all the articles about grime and sub-lo would suggest it is...)

also kinda on the "branding generation" tip, this lotdon't seem to quite have a grip on the philosophy of the Situationiste International. they certainly have come up with an extensively mangled reading of me and Paul Oldfield's way way back in the day critique of the Situationist influence in pop

nice to Vaneigem's name mentioned here, always my fave Situationist
"looks out to sea like a pair of modernist Easter Island statues"

K-Punk on the hauntological coastal landscape of Suffolk, where he lives these days

no mention of one of Suffolk's finest sons, Brian Eno, born in Woodbridge. his
masterwork On Land was heavily inspired by that part of England.
"Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960" is just one of several hauntologically-tinged tracks (tres Boards of Canada, that title) on the album. See also "Lantern Marsh", named after a place in East Anglia, near where Eno grew up but an exercise in false memory ("my experience of it derives not from having visited it -although I almost certainly did- but from having subsequently seen it on a map and imagining where and what it might be" ) and "Leeks Hill" inspired by "a little wood (much smaller now than when I was young, and this not merely the effect of age and memory) which stands between Woodbridge and Melton."

Strangely Ghostbox fave H.P. Lovecraft wrote a story called "The Dunwich Horror" but it is about a fictional town in Massachusetts.
this kind of tear-down-the-monument exercise is always fun, even if it's one of your most revered and adored albums that gets a battering. the pick of the litter is the one by Green Gartside, as well as being nicely expressed, it's got the ring of truth to it...

Arcade Fire The Neon Bible
Nominated by Green Gartside of Scritti Politti

People who enjoy this album may think I'm cloth-eared and unperceptive, and I accept it's the result of my personal shortcomings, but what I hear in Arcade Fire is an agglomeration of mannerisms, cliches and devices. I find it solidly unattractive, texturally nasty, a bit harmonically and melodically dull, bombastic and melodramatic, and the rhythms are pedestrian. It's monotonous in its textures and in the old-fashioned, nasty, clunky 80s rhythms and eighth-note basslines. It isn't, as people are suggesting, richly rewarding and inventive. The melodies stick too closely to the chord changes. Win Butler's voice uses certain stylistic devices - it goes wobbly and shouty, then whispery - and I guess people like wobbly and shouty going to whispery, they think it signifies real feeling. It's some people's idea of unmediated emotion. I can imagine Jeremy Clarkson liking it; it's for people in cars. It's rather flat and unlovely. The album and the response to it represent a bunch of beliefs about expression and truth that I don't share. The battle against unreconstructed rock music continues

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paris is (the) burning (issue)

This banner month for sleb-schadenfreude (viva ressentiment indeed!) reminded me of something I meant to blogg about when it happened, which is the penultimate episode of I'm From Rolling Stone. The contestants, you'll remember, are aspiring music journalists looking to win a paid position at the venerable rockmag. One of their last assignments is to do investigative pieces on corporations or agri-biz companies that have bad records when it comes to environmental issues, pollution etc. But while her colleague-rivals are being despatched to the far corners of the USA to inhale the reek of atomised chicken-dung dust at gigantic battery-farms and so forth, one of the team, Krystal, manages to weasel out of the assignment, even thought it's clearly crucial to the assessment that determines the winner. What she does instead is attend various red carpet events in New York City, even posing for the paparazzi herself at one. Another party she attends--or rather loiters outside--is the launch for Paris Hilton's album. Buttonholing Hilton's mother, she gushes uncontrollably about the delight and the honor of meeting her, referring to the Hiltons as "the iconic family... royalty to me" as the mother somehow manages to back away with her face, recoil without actually moving. Then Paris herself materialises, a waxy expression of frozen disdain on her face as Krystal burbles about how much she loved The Simple Life . Her parting shot, as Paris fades into the velvet-rope interior, is "I wish I could be on the show with you", her tone plangent with wistfulness.

Now perhaps one shouldn't read too much into this, but when the wanna-be-a-rock-critic competition is decided in the next episode, Krystal (early in the series, considered a prime contender) finishes last. The names are read out in reverse order, and Krystal's is first, meaning she's bottom.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Paris is the burning issue of our day, apparently. Considering the peg is ostensibly a record that came out a year ago (and tanked royally!) (okay there's been all that business with incarceration/re-incarceration etc) this makes interesting reading. The mass email that Frank Kogan sent out about this new column of his for the Las Vegas Weekly ends with the sign-off "Free Paris!" Apparently there are people who are buying and wearing--in public!--T-shirts that bear that slogan.

It's intriguing to speculate about what the motivations could possibly be. For some, it's probably a gesture of irony, a wind-up. For others, perhaps a genuine and heartfelt statement that they care about Paris as an actual living human being, feel she's been wronged (the court verdict compounding further the injustice of so many people not giving the album "a fair listen").A few people, of a Baudrillardian bent, might conceivably enjoy the giddy vertigo of voiding out the meaning of the tradition of appeals for justice starting with the word "Free..." (as in "Nelson Mandela", "Guildford Four", "George Jackson" etc)and the radical/progressive discourses they issue from. Then there are those who fancy themselves heroically free-thinking and self-questioning sorts.

Finally, you could imagine that maybe some people might buy the T-shirt as an expression of their peasant-soul, someone like Krystal with that reflex to
curtsey in front of royalty--or, its obverse, the deluded fantasy of becoming the princess who gets curtsey-ed to. Musing about all this I suddenly thought of "vogue": the vogueing subculture, Madonna's "Vogue," and also--and I swear I didn't notice at first just how aptly titled the film is--Paris Is Burning. Here's a portion of what we wrote about that documentary in The Sex Revolts:

"... In the film, a soft-spoken, willowy Hispanic teenager who's called Venus
Xtravaganza, declares that his/her dream is to be a "a spoiled rich white
girl--they get what they want whenever they want it, and they don't have to
really struggle with finances, nice things, nice clothes
." Many of the voguers
fantasise about becoming a successful model, then branching out into movies or
singing, eventually marrying a rich white man and adopting children... The voguers' fantasies are so conventional, so colonised, as to verge on a parody of straight values. They want to possess the opulence of the millionaire, or better still the rich man's wife. Their ideas of what it is to be female are as reactionary as they come--being a real woman means knowing the arts of seduction, having everything but not having to pay for it, passivity, conspicuous consumption, vanity."
Now I saw this show Popworld K-punk writes about here for the very first time when I was in London a few weeks ago. Watched it in a jetlag morning haze before going down to the Hay Festival. It's a Saturday morning pop show presented by "smugonauts" Alexa Chung and Alex Zane. Its whole vibe did seem both offputting and just off. Not exactly kids-y.

For instance, there's a segment called Big Ones where Alexa asks pop stars a bunch of Smash Hits-type whimsical questions. That week it was Erasure in the chairs, looking quite haggard after 20-plus years on the popmusik treadmill, Vince Clarke especially seeming totally uncomfortable with the rigmarole.

Alexa asks: "if you were an ointment, what ailment would you alleviate?"

Clarke mutters tentatively: "Acne".

Alexa says: "Not syphilis?"

Now this is 10 in the morning, flipping heck, kids could be watching etc!

Apparently they're not watching, though, not in the numbers they used to be. The audience for UK pop programmes, (I'm told by an old friend who works in television music booking) skews increasingly twentysomething/thirtysomething. Hence perhaps this off-colour "quip" more suitable for the Friday Night Project.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Talking of venereal disease, the marvellously evocative phrase "suppurating and syphilitic funk" appears in this right ripe read over at the Impostume.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

interview with me at Ballardian about... well, J.G. Ballard obviously, but also s.f. in general, Eno, h****ology, BtN, bloggs...

plus

Bat interviews me re BtN for Socialist Worker