Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Something I forgot in that bumper bookcrop round-up: The Rock Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge by Steven Daly and David Kamp. Daly's a smart cookie (I was going to write "that rare thing, the intellectual drummer", then remembered Chris Cutler, Robert Wyatt, Charles Hayward, dozens of them, I expect...). Still this is a curious exercise (are you meant to laugh? actually use it as a reference book?), suffused from the core outwards with a kind of bad faith, in so far as it flaunts the knowledge it professes to disdain. It's sorta Pop-ist in its "I've grown out of all this" stance, yet ultimately too attached to the rockist totems to relinquish them in favour of Kylie or Britney, good honest pop entertainment. So the book tries to have its cake and moan about it: out-hip the hipster while discrediting the hipster impulse, impugning the latter's enthusiasm for the unknown and outlandish as merely a risible Bourdieu-esque exercise in accumulating arcane knowledge as a means to social distinction and cultural capital. The result of these contradictory impulses is an arch tone of mandarin disdain that come over more supercilious than any actual insufferably-cooler-than-thou type you might ever have come across (or be, even!). On the plus side, it's actually quite an informative read (I was surprised by the number of scraps--and the occasional entire swathe--of "arcane knowledge" I'd not managed to accumulate after two decades of avid pursuit of same). There are also, naturally, a fair few surprising absences and errors (plus some utter bizarreness: who on earth refers to Dylan as "Zimmy"?!?!). Pointing this sort of thing out, of course, walks straight into the trap set by the book. Still I can't resist reprinting their description of John Martyn as an "affably rootsy, gracefully aging, Scottish singer-songwriter whose catalogue is ripe for the Bonnie Raitt treatment".