Sunday, May 29, 2005

Might use that Anderson/Vangelisiti/Watson-Hurley event last night -- which turned out to be in a photographers' studio around the corner from The Echo and Sea Level Records in Echo Park -- for something else I write, but gotta make a couple of notes here: There was some kind of all-ages venue none of the organizers knew about directly upstairs, interfering pretty badly with the proceedings. Division Day and an opening band whose name I didn't get died down by the time Paul read his "Gof in Singapore," but during Anderson's discussion of citizeship, cynicism, and Chinatown, one of the bands was playing, I swear, an '90s-ironic cover of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," from Top Gun. I guess there might have been a Red Krayola set if Mayo weren't presently in Scotland; as it was, we got an instrumental version of most of their current book. Casual, yes, but I like the songs well enough to hear them once this way, and what, I'm not going to watch George Hurley rock the kit?

Good taco truck across the street: NYC's got its corner slice, Chicago, I guess I'll find out, has its dogs, we've got our buche and cabeza -- on wheels.


No way can I respond to everything that's revving under the Utopian Turtletop, nor am I interested in mounting a full defense of Greil Marcus. First b/c he hardly needs it from these quarters, and second because I have my share of difficulties with his work myself -- the main one (which isn't something John focuses on) being the "historical break" model he tends to apply both pre-rock/rock and rock/punk. This is something I bought for a while, and learned -- and frankly, played -- my way out of. And, yes, I've read him against various forms of 'effete'ness and 'sophistication' more than once -- there was a New West column that I've never been able to find again (I don't think it's been reprinted) that made some annoying arguments against some Tin Pan-centric critic who was in turn making some even more annoying argument against the supposed across-the-board rawness and amateurishness of rock. I have no patience with either side of that debate -- and I'd add that Xgau has gone much farther out of his way to find a sense of what's of value in pre-rock practices (and not in rockonormative terms, either).

But, all that set, I gotta stick with my original point: GM is just too wide-ranging, intellectually curious, and slippery a writer to be of much use as a whipping boy for the sort of anti-rockists who are at pains to i.d. themselves as such. Couple of points:

(1) Not an anti-intellectual. (Sometimes wishes he could be more of one.) At his best, for me, when connecting pop music to some very fancy-pants stuff.

(2) Penchant for romanticizing "untutored" musicians, doesn't seem to have stopped him from digging art-schooled (preferably at Leeds) or highly self-conscious ones (EC -- and Dylan).

(3) Please look in Ranters/Fascist Bathroom for the piece on The Go-Go's. (Small wonderful shock of insight the first time I read the phrase "that enduring piece of conceptual art called Top 40 radio.") Or New Order. Or a karaoke cover of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time." Even his piece on Sonic Youth's Confusion Is Sex makes a popist argument -- the music, for him, a sort of cartoon-negative bubblegum that gets somewhere despite its huge pretensions.

(4) At the last two EMPs, I've heard him enthuse* about Roxy's "More Than This," and defend Blueshammer (the mock band from Ghost World as being not as bad as the director intended. Not rockist choices/positions.

*[Format of this archived post is a bit confusing -- first two paragraphs are Jane Dark, GM starts just after.]

Two last things:

John, in an earlier post, writes of "Greil Marcus’s opposite assumption that music is an esoteric mystery religion of which only a select few mysteriously annointed musicians are worthy." I think this is not quite right: He's also interested in the moment/s where a fairly pedestrian musician or singer taps into something larger and stranger -- pop moments, I dare say -- hence his fascination with artists who have a knack for doing so with some regularity. (Now, this isn't quite my way of looking at things either, and, as I've said, GM's way with hyperbole is not something I'd care to imitate in my own writing, lest I end up here. But the distinction should be made.)

And -- this isn't really to the point, but I have to say that the reason I don't discuss "Pills & Soap" in AF is simply that on rereading the title piece of In the Fascist Bathroom, I was cowed by the thought of trying to add anything.


I have no insights on Romanticism, and such divided sympathies regarding the formulation "writing about music" that I'd best stay silent.

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