Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Simon Frith writes to deny that he is the godfather of cultural studies! That would be in fact Stuart Hall, “director of CCCS and link between RaymondWilliams/New Left and Gramsci, Althusser and other Euro-theorists". Professor F adds that his own reputation among cult-studs types “is more usually as a simple minded empiricist and anti-theorist carping at CStud from the sidelines…sociology and cult studies pretty soon parted company in Birmingham. I agree that anti-rockism (which I think of as being formalised by Paul Morley et al at NME) relates to cultural studies populism with all the problems you describe but I don't think that was ever my line exactly (Jon Savage and I specifically attacked it and got quite a lot of flack from cultural studies people as a result)." Re. Celine Dion, "my problem was not that I didn't like her and the masses did, but that I did quite like her--ie played some of her material for pleasure--and the masses (of critics) didn't--and Streisand was interesting as an example of how someone else who seemed to generate strong feelings got written about. My inspiration (not that I have any memory of what I wrote) was undoubtedly Glen Gould rather than any of the arguments about rockism…” I emailed Simon back but forgot to ask what he meant by the most intriguing reference to Glen Gould (the pianist/Idea of North dude?). Any ideas?

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must admit, having expended all that energy in critique, I’ve become pretty intrigued by Carl’s Celine project and the general notion of writing about things you detest and have an almost physical aversion to…. What appeals is not the highminded side to such a project (I don't think any critic owes any music an impartial listen, let alone all musics, and am not even sure that Criticism does either; rock crit is neither journalism nor sociology [although it may borrow licks from both when it suits it] but an impure hybrid of lots of things, and it's lifeblood is partiality if not always outright partisanship). No, what intrigues is actually the perversity of it--the idea of “thinking against oneself”, to borrow a phrase from E.M. Cioran.

so I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of what would be the equivalent for me. There’s no shortage of things that are repulsive to my ears—Joe Cocker, Journey, Iron Maiden, the list is long—but for the undertaking to be of interest there would have to be an extra element, a sort of symbolic abominable-ness beyond the surface foulness; the band or artist would have to reresent an Idea of What Music Is About and What It’s For that was anathema. And for some reason I couldn’t think of something that would serve that role.

then, going through old cuttings while pulling together the anthology of 20 yrs of my writing,
I came across one of my favourite slag-offs: a 1988 live review of the Pogues playing the Fillmore in San Francisco And it hit me: The Pogues, that's my Celine Dion equivalent, the test case for deconstructing my sonic worldview. Putting on a Pogues-fan head would be a form of auto-mutilation of sensibility. A titanic struggle.

still I must admit my opinion of Shane McGowan was improved slightly some years ago when I read in Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff how Shane got really into acieeeed and raving, to the point of
lobbying the band to do a 20 minute 303-blaring acid instrumental titled something like “Get Yourself Connected”. They could have been the Happy Mondays! Sadly the band proved recalcitrant.

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