Saturday, February 11, 2006

I’ve often thought that if there’s one thing that will always remain immune to the hipster's ghastly grasp, it’s mainstream black music. I’m talking about the way you
can go into Other Music and there'll be a Shuggie Otis reissue sho'nuff, but you’ll never find a Gap Band best-of. Oh, the Metro Area/"negroclash"-headz might have latched onto some of that NYC postdisco/electrofunk West End/Prelude/Kiss FM Mastermix type action, and there's a whole other hipsterati set, the kosmigroove lot, with their own canon of arcana--RAMP, Sylvia Striplin, etc. But the stuff I’m talking about--Heatwave, SOS Band, Ohio Players, Earth Wind & Fire, Rose Royce, Slave/Steve Arrington, SWV, et al.... well, it's simply not obscure enough to be ripe for subcultural capitalization. Call it "common groove": hundreds of thousands of vinyl copies--millions, probably, in some cases--of albums by these groups are in circulation still, and getting tattier and less desirable by the month; the artwork looks absolutely horrible, often--but not always--due to the fact that the clothes these groups wore were hideously kitsch even at the time; there’s little in the way of overt futurist cachet or outsider chic attached to any of this music, which was by and large aspirational, non-rebellious stuff, eager to crossover, and with few pretensions (apart from the occasional dose of dilute mysticiism a la EW&F) beyond entertainment. Of course, it just happens to be some of the most glorious music ever made, and beneath its pleasure-principled functionalism, some of the most innovative too--but that’s by the by. Well, I don’t know if this is the first glimmer on the horizon of the hipsterization of this hitherto neglected zone ( I’m pretty sure these guys would puke at the very idea, they’re just bigging up some records they love), but there is now a blog-cluster dedicated to all things R&B, launched earlier this year by some of the House Is A Feeling crew, and like HIAF a collective operation. True, they do cover some Kirk DeGiorgio-type arcana (Bobby Lyle? No, me neither) but they also have posts on Luther Vandross/Change, Minnie Riperton, Stephanie Mills... So hats off to Back and Forth and its sista-blogs Boogie Fever and Bourgie Fever.

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