Monday, July 25, 2005

Late-breaking, and obviously relevant to the above. Went online to post all the above, had a Spidey-sense that this would be the very moment when Sasha would step up, and sure enough. I assume that the stats included, related to the artists Rob mentioned, who SFJ mostly approves and thus aren’t what he’s talking about when he talks about indie-rock, aren’t the argument, but the preliminary to a coming post, where we will hear why it is that the monocle is so oft trained so as to focus an unflattering beam on a music marginal yet hegemonic, too commercially unseaworthy to reach the fabled golden city of Pop, surely too artistically anemic to have ever been any sort of serious “challenge” to the ascendancy of hip-hop*, and yet somehow too annoyingly present in the discourse to stop writing about.

(*clause comes off as sarcastic but isn’t meant to be so)

A music that commits the cardinal sin of not behaving as though it wants to “take over the world.” (This goes back to Tony Perkins.) Indie-rock: I too dislike it, as it stands and as it stood, esp. in its smugness, its blinkered certainty that it has found The Way. But this bit about not seeking certain forms of dominance, or valuing itself mainly on its ability to achieve same – that’s not one of the things I dislike about some of its less chartbusting practictioners. Quite the opposite. (Especially given that it is such a white music.) Why is it that these characteristics that I dislike so strongly in political figures or just in private persons are suddenly supposed to become desirable when presented features of a band’s relation to the “field,” commercial and aesthetic? I will need to have this explained to me.

But I anticipate. And it’s very difficult for me not to do so, because it is in fact an issue of, if I’m using the word correctly, praxis, for me. Look: Between 1990 and now, I’ve made about 11 full-lengths (plus however many CD-EPs, Shrimper cassettes, 7”s). I can’t see any way out of understanding them as indie-rock that does not involve even more sophistry than I managed to master on my way to a doctorate. (Though oddly, the generic facts failed to convince many “indie-rock obsessives” to direct their custom our way. One problem was that our rhythm section weren’t loadies.) I don’t think one of them has sold more than 4,000, and I’m embarrassed to tell you how few others have. With a couple of exceptions related to playing w/ kindly headliners, I don’t believe I’ve ever been paid more than $400 for a show. I enjoyed the years of heavy activity, felt poor-but-honest most of the time, but I also think I was a bit of a sucker in some respects that I won’t go into here. In any case, it’s difficult for me see how I can avoid instantiating a conclusion or at least implication of pieces like K.’s, and SFJ’s EMP piece can be entirely avoided:

You, Franklin Bruno, as an exemplar of what we’re talking about: Your records (a) suck, (b) do harm. And given who you are and what you come from, it is quite unlikely that those you make in the future will do otherwise. And curiously, part of what actually makes your music bad is that enough people do not enjoy it.

Now, in one way, this sounds funny to me; how could there be an argument whose conclusion is that I should not do what I love? (Since I don’t love, e.g., maiming fellow poets.) And of course I do not mean to say that anyone means to attack my output in particular. (I suppose I’d have thought it beneath notice, given the forces at work.) But to the extent that I've come to accept a great deal of what seems to lead in this direction, you can see how one such as I might become exercised. 'Cos we all know what silliness comes if one tries to think oneself an individual, an exception, and agent.

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