Friday, January 23, 2009

A thread about Animal Collective at Dissensus takes an interesting turn with a comment by one Chris, in response to a fellow called Josef K's complaint "where is the beastliness? The ferociousness? The murderous chaos and violence of nature? The red in tooth and claw part. It seemed to us that there is not enough evil and violence in the animal collective world view."

This Chris wonders aloud about how dog-eat-dog was what we had these last eight years, politically culturally economically ("the Beasts of the Corporate Jungle were letting their animal sides run wild too. Like with animals, it's just a competition, a race, there is no meaning, just the game"). There's a good swipe at the whole idea of "darkness" as a left-field music default mode, an apocalypticism that is often not so much about a documentary realism as a sheer wallowing in doom n' gloom "just for the rush of it"--and whether that's the case or not, I don't really see the point of reflecting the darkness at this time... What does it actually contribute? Surely it just tells us what we're abundantly aware of already.

This Chris continues:
"in the face of today's EVENT" (guess he wrote the post on Inauguration Day) "with it's layers of significance, not just culturally, but idealogically [a typo, presumably, but a resonant one!], I'm happy to bask, for a moment, before we get cynical again, in this sense of good will, of possibility, of optimism, CHANGE(tm), HOPE(tm) (who knows, maybe this CHANGE spirit might even peak it's head into the music world. LOL PROBABLY NOT).
I'll be happy to hear a bit of roughness, of struggle, in music soon enough, it'll probably suit the times. But for this naive moment, the lightness and transcendentalism of this album hits the right notes, for me. There's nothing that I'd want to hear less right now than something invoking savagery and law-of-the-jungle self interest

A Man like Dominic chips in with some stuff about the rash of positivity bands in Brooklyn.

Now all this chimes harmoniously with the Appollonian angle I was taking in the Vampire Weekend piece

And after all Beach Boys, Animal Collective's faves, are the ultimate Appollonian band... all sun-worship and hymnal harmonies

It reminds me too of the sunniness of African music, and something Kevin Shields once said to me in 1995:
"Someone wrote that black American music, being born of oppression, is downbeat even when it's meant to be lifting your spirit, but that African music is always stepping off the ground.. I think that's what jungle rhythms do, and there's so much room for making the music air-borne..."

Now Obama, one of the things about him is that he is completely outside of the whole "Blues People" narrative. That's not his story. He's from elsewhere (Hawaii--talk about sunshine land. Perhaps that's his armour of serenity, soaking up those rays so young.)

But generally speaking Appollonian principles--order, regulation, clarity, calmness, being "on point"--seem to where it's at, at this point in our culture.

Obama is like the return of the Super Ego after this long period of "getting away with it", spending tomorrow's wealth today, at every level of society from national debt and corporate potlatch to individual credit card balances and 110 percent mortages. The return of the Reality Principle (remember how the last lot mocked the idea of "the reality-based community," meaning the responsible liberal media, but in a sense the very idea of responsibility itself, as well as the relationship between words and referents, truth, science, etc). Obama's whole things is stability and sanity, sacrifice and service. Okay, governments generally aren't Dionysian... but the last lot, they got close. They were reckless.

I keep coming back to this vague idea to do with Obama and rock'n'roll, the complete turning of a circle... I think of the image: the Poitier poise, the Nat King Cole grace and urbane elegance... You get pundits actually comparing him to Eisenhower, the steady hand on the tiller... Okay he also has the New Frontier/Camelot image gloss and rhetoric of a JFK but the actual substance of policy is, we can already see, going to be Austerity. Like a peacetime (not that we're actually at peace of course) version of war time belt-tightening.

There's all this research been done recently, with related articles in the press, about how consumerism makes people unhappy. Whereas during WW2, when there was rationing and hardship--not to mention trauma,anxiety, and bereavement--levels of mental illness went down, attributable to the sense of collective purpose and resulting reduction of anomie.


On a different Animal Collective note I had a conversation with Kevin Pearce, who objected to my mod theory of AC-dislike, on the grounds that he, uber-mod, really likes the new album. But then he admitted he can't stand their audience of young beardy types, and I can't help thinking this antipathy fits the mod profile to a tee!

But it got me thinking: loving a group's music, hating the group's audience. It must happen fairly often. (I'm sure there's got to be an ILM thread on this subject). But if you think about it, wouldn't that mean you had in a sense misunderstood the music? Isn't a band's following in some sense a manifestation of their music's meaning? A mirror-image of its spirit, enacted in crowd rituals and dress and discourse?