Sunday, July 14, 2013

savages versus banshees

Funny post from Tendenzroman on Savages that echoes Adam Curtis's remarks:

Do you like Siouxsie and the Banshees? Then you’ll love Savages!*

*Subject to terms and conditions. Savages do not accept responsibility for listeners feeling that they are trapped in a nightmare reality where they are doomed to listen to music that sounds like a carbon copy of music their parents listened to, and that they live on an exhausted husk of a planet which has nothing new or surprising to offer any more. If symptoms persist consult a doctor. Side effects of medication may include but are not limited to: Nausea, loss of appetite, feelings of hopelessness, lack of awareness, dizziness, shallowness of breath, compliance, apathy.

Funnier thing, though, is Tendenzroman is this dude Curtis I had an interesting dialogue with a couple of years ago about Retromania, in which he took dispute with its thesis (before having read the book!) and in fact one of his arguments was that postpunk groups had been often quite derivative and retro-pastiche oriented. (Actually the dialogue was me responding to an earlier post of his).

I disagreed with that "postpunk just as retro argument as music today" naturally (as I vehementally disagreed with people who tried to make out that the Beatles and the Stones were derivative and "retro"). When postpunk groups were derivative it was a second-division group copying a first-division one (eg Red Lorry Yellow Lorry vis Joy Division). And retro-eclectic Orange Juice and The Specials were the bridge out of postpunk into New Pop aka postmodernism aka the Dawn of the Era of Retromania.

But it does raise the question of what is it that makes the leading postpunk groups's relationship with their precursors and inspirations (in Banshees's case, glam, Krautrock, Doors, Velvets,  I would say a bit of Jefferson Airplane, etc) different from Savages-type bands's relationship with their precursors/sources/inspirations? Is it something to do with a narrowing of the musical gene pool, or a degree of precision that makes the effect more replication than evolution?  How much is it to do with the spread of the notion of curation, which is not a self-conception that postpunk groups would have had of themselves?

What takes place, in terms of actual musical practice as well as guiding outlook/approach/sensibility, that results in the former (postpunk) being so much more generative than the latter (neo-postpunk)?

Because Siouxsie and the Banshees were literally genre-ative - they gave birth to Goth, a huge and longlasting musical-style movement-subculture. Savages are not going to lead to anything. In the same way that the early-2000s neo-postpunk wave - Interpol, Franz, Rapture etc - hasn't led to anything.

At the same time, Banshees were not averse to showcasing their influences in a vaguely postmodern way, although truthfully really in a glam way (in 1987 they did that whole, rather dispiriting treading-water album of covers, Through the Looking Glass, in the mode of Bowie/Pin Ups and Ferry/These Foolish Things).  But  very early on they covered "20th Century Boy" by T. Rex, and their biggest hit was "Dear Prudence" off the White Album. 

But a cover version made from a position of aesthetic strength (the state of having already innovated) is different from the disavowed cover versions, the all-but-a-cover-version of the Savages-type bands, who write putatively new, "original" songs in an older, other's style. With the Banshees (or Ferry), it's s just a gracious tip of the hat to ancestors that you have in some sense equalled, pulled up alongside in the pantheon. It's saying to your fans, "you want some more greatness? Go check out what nourished us when we were just fans too, like you".

No comments:

Post a Comment