Thursday, April 24, 2014

some retromania-related reading:

A Pop Matters article looking at the resurgence of cassette culture by Elodie Roy, who I interviewed for that Fanzines Resurgence article five years ago account of her paper-and-print publication Applejack.


"Exithippies' reading of modern British tribal history is gloriously wrong, like a bad dream about a Simon Reynolds book. That has to be more interesting than another band who have boned up on exactly how it went down thirty years ago (or whenever), and can replicate the tics, cliques and tunnel vision to a tee"-  from Noel Gardner's Straight Hedge column for Quietus, which looks at a bunch of neo-punk bands, including Japanese outfit Exithippies who "obsessively mine two stylistic seams: neolithically primitive noisecore with vacuum cleaner blare and incomprehensible grunts, and barely-more-refined Castlemorton-style zombie rave", i.e. two genres that never actually merged despite the lifestyle crossover between squat punx and squat raves/travelers. Sounds both typically Japanese in a Boredoms/Acid Mothers Temple jump-cut archival-import collage mode, and like what will be increasingly common as a strategy of recycling and recombination as the resources of the past become depleted.

Most of the bits on Youtube of Exithippies don't sound very Spiral Tribe-y though - just like your typical frenetic crustpunk cacophony -  except for this one - 
which, conversely, doesn't sound remotely crustpunk.


Poet Mark Scroggins on Susan Howe's Bibliography of the King's Book or, Eikon Basilike and its connections to hauntology in both the Derrida/Specters of Marx sense and as a musical genre-not-genre.

An interesting article, but I would have to say that his opposition of rockism versus hauntology is off-point -- rockism's other is pop (and more recently its ideologification from the early 2000s on as poptimism). Hauntology is off somewhere else altogether.

Yes, there are rockists who have a hang-up with live performance as the site of authenticity and presence, as the liminal space where the rock community comes together, but that is only one strand - and a particular old-fashioned one -- within a larger set of assumptions, biases and beliefs to do with significance, seriousness, substance versus surface, rebellion, etc (most of which I agree with or at least am in sympathy with). You can be a records-man with not that much investment in live performance and still be rockist about your recordings (I'm the living proof of that).  You can be rockist in your value system when celebrating/analysing/taking pleasure in hip hop, post-rave electronic dance music, dub 'n' dancehall etc -- all of which have largely left behind the live-performance paradigm.  Again, I'm a good example of this myself.  (And of course, it really shouldn't need saying at this point: rockism in essence has nothing really to do with electric guitars or the four-man band. The rockist mindset/value system preexisted rock -- jazz was its previous site - and it will post-exist it too)

Further,  Hauntology, in so far as it is a post-millenium discourse of seriousness and mind-expansion that posits the idea of music that is in some way dissident, counter-hegemonic, unsettling, etc etc is not just not opposed to rockism, it is arguably  rockism's continuation, the next level of it, its afterlife.  Again, yours truly -- nu-rockist and hauntology-fan simultaneously - is the unliving proof of that.

(And FHI, I have read Specters of Marx and its sister-volume Ghostly Demarcations -- just didn't find (and still don't) much in the way of overlap between its contents and the music discussed in that Wire piece. Barely any in fact. )


  1. That's a pretty idiosyncratic definition of "rockism", isn't it, if it's entirely detached from rock music?

    It also feels as though it's setting up a false opposition against the "poptimist" position. It's a caricature, I think, to suggest that everyone on the poptimist side thinks "this is terrible frivolous rubbish but I enjoy anyway". I am sure there are many people who would argue for the seriousness and substance of Britney Spears, Beyonce and Kesha.

    Maybe we need some other word than rockism to signify faith in significance in popular music.

  2. it's not entirely detached from rock music, rock music and the discourse around it was and has been one of the major sites, the major engines, for this way of valuing and claiming things for music.

    but i think it's the only coherent and consistent way of viewing it as an ideology or set of assumptions / biases

    an example: for me the group Jet failed all my basic ideas of what rock should be about (innovation, etc etc), but I enjoy "Are You Gonna Go My Way" as a blast of fairly empty energy and attitude on the radio. So my enjoyment of this guitar group and their parodically "rawk" song is a poptimist enjoyment. Depthless, disposable, etc - a sugar rush of ear-candy.

    And of course you're right in the sense that a lot of pro-pop writers are just as dreary and pious as any Springsteen-exegete in their close studies of the songs, career moves, persona shifts of Beyonce or whoever
    -- they are being rockist about pop. That's what most of the tenured critics at the big magazines and newspapers are largely in the business of - extracting significance from Top 40 album artists. They are rockists who have expanded their remit to the full spectrum of what sells. Generalism is what some people call that kind of poptimism - very responsible, very conscientious, very anxious not to exclude anything. Not very pop, really. The poptimism aspect is more to do with the obligatory optimism that there is always something worthwhile to write about, that there are never nadir-years in pop history. That is a structural necessity of the job of course, reviewing and analysing music on a weekly basis. No one could keep that job long if every column was grouchy or dismissive of current pop.

  3. Another example - Chuck Eddy, who in his book Stairway To Hell, wrote about what would seem to be the ultimate rockist music -- heavy metal -- but in a way that celebrated metal for its lack of socially redeeming value. He celebrated it also in terms of hooks, funny (sometimes unintentionally funny) lyrics, absurdity of postures, for its groove, etc. And in fact excluded a lot of metal that didn't have enough hooks or groove or humour about it (as i recall Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, many other obvious candidates for a guide to heavy metal, all get left out of the book). So that would seem to me to be a poptimist appreciation of metal -- for its surface appeal, its entertainment value, for the amusement that can be extracted from it -- as opposed to the way that most metalheads appreciate metal which is fairly earnestly in terms of heaviness, intensity, truth, rebellion, darkness. Eddy sometimes celebrates certain metal groups in those terms but generally he plays it for laughs -- as light entertainment rather than heavy truth.

    Rockism i would define as any critique / valorisation system that looked to some other value beyond the purely sonic or purely pleasurable. The "more than entertainment" factor. Art, revolution, enlightenment, transgression etc etc