Tuesday, May 05, 2009

K-punk diatribe against Sonic Youth as retro-necro godfathers. He mentions their Karen Carpenter fetish as in "Tunic (Song For Karen)", which I'm kicking myself for not bringing up in my own SY-as-curators thing. Reading Mark's piece it also struck me that the title of Bad Moon Rising is itself a rock scholarly citation: Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of THE American bands of 1969, the year they were obsessed with at that point.

"Tunic (Song for Karen)" came a few years after the hoo-ha about Todd Haynes's Superstar, his animation movie about Karen C, which was forced-from-circulation but which you can watch here. Although that's indie film rather than downtown art, again it indicates how Sonic Youth were plugged into sensibilities and practices outside rock.

SY seem initially to make a good pairing with J & MC--a cloak of kill-your-idols noise covering worship-your-idols traditionalism (with the riots being meta-riots, enactments of a desire to have a reason to riot.) On reflection that's a little unfair to SY, their noise being more structural and deep-technique oriented than the patina of feedback J&MC slathered over their melodies. I don't think it can be denied that for all the citational flourishes (which aren't really that encumbering or obstrusive in the late Eighties work) there is a three album run back there-- EVOL/Sister/Daydream Nation--that doesn't actually sound much like anything that came before: a gorgeous noise where No Wave's stringent modernism merges with numinous psychedelia (a new psychedelia, one that barely references anything in the vocabulary of Sixties rock). As irritating as they can be that shouldn't be taken away from them. One might even feel an empathetic twinge for the vanguardist hoisted by their own reinvention-of-the-guitar petard and faced with the problem of reinventing themselves. Why shouldn't they be like Neil Young, an alt-institution, criss-crossing back and forth within the range of sound they've established? That doesn't mean anyone should necessarily feel obliged to bother with their albums after a certain cut-off point.

Re: Portrait of the Artist As A Consumer I forgot the most glaring and earliest example: the cover of Sgt Pepper's. However this was coded (you had to know or work out who the people were) and it did extend beyond music (Did it have any musicians in the pantheon? Stockhausen, yeah, but rock'n'roll musicians?).

Some of Mark's polemic chimes with the laments of Aaron over here.

Some days I'm totally of this mind, feeling that the most pointless thing in the world is to make more good music. (Our house is packed with the stuff, my computer is crammed to bursting with the stuff… years and years worth…. if Music was just about "good music" I could spend the rest of my life listening to what I've already got and what's already been made that I've not got around to hearing… what Music in the capital M sense needs to do is give us new concepts, new sensations, to create both new disagreements and new convergences/communalities…)

On other days, swept up in the majesty of music that could be from this year or twelve or twenty two years ago, such concerns seems silly, "why not just enjoy it".

I think the first response is the better one, the more productive one in a sense: keeping keen the blade of one's dissatisfaction, one's impatience … It's just a harder place to live, it's easier to relax into the enjoy-it-all mode.

This relates to Sonic Youth in that the subtext with a lot of discussion of the new album is: what's the point of there being ANOTHER Sonic Youth album in the world, in my life… precisely because they've mattered, done so much, in the past… why listen to the new one when you could listen to Daydream Nation for the 63rd time? Indeed the longer they go on, by this logic, the more they erode their peaks--an analogy that could be extrapolated in reference to rock as a whole, couldn't it?)

Perhaps there are two kinds of responses here that are rather revealing in a glass half-full, glass half-empty kind of way -- "Sonic Youth? A new album? Oh goody" versus "Sonic Youth? A new album? Oh no..." Perhaps you have to be a certain kind of person to actually feel that "Oh no" in this and many other situations... a dismay/distress that can be there as an undernote even when it's things you actually love and on some level are eager to hear

right at the almost very start of writing, fanzine days, (and the only interview Monitor ever ran, funnily enough, was with Sonic Youth circa Bad Moon Rising, done by Gina Rumsey and featuring virtually no quotes), I came up with this phrase that I've recycled at regular intervals ever since, "pernicious adequacy"... its sister term would be something like "pernicious carrying-on" or "pernicious not-dying"

this is why I understand only too well the calls for the death of the hardcore continuum, or announcements of its demise... the impatience to close one chapter and open a new one... believe it or not I actually feel it myself... i suppose what I believe is that these chapters open and close by themselves and there's little we (those of us who aren't DJs and producers, and even there I think there is limited individual agency in terms of steering the direction of a music culture)can do to hasten the demise...

in a real sense we are readers.... waiting perhaps like Dickens audience (Little Dorrit has been on TV here) for the next instalment of a serialised novel, not knowing how many chapters are left or whether the next one is the last instalment...*

that doesn't mean the book or oeuvre (and the nuum is a body of scenius-work of a Dickensian scope and prodigality, whose main subject is London) isn't capable of being read and reread for some time to come... studied and interpreted but also gloried in...

and here's where I'd link to DJ Luck feat. Shy Cookie, Spee & Sweetie Irie's "Millenium Twist" if it was on YouTube...

* of course with music culture it's slightly different in so far as what seems like the penultimate chapters of one book turn out, in hindsight, to have been the start of another book altogether.... and that's almost impossible to determine until you're a good way into the new book