Sunday, June 27, 2021

brand new you're retro (Britpol's rhetoric of revivalism, revived)

"Culturally I am stuck in the 1990s, so I feel nostalgic that the clothes and political culture is back" - Jess Philips

Not sure what she meant there - unless the tweet is in reference to Tory too-long-in-power-malaise of corruption and scandal versus a new New Labour being in the offing  (dream on Jess, dream on). But what really struck me was that it was the return of Retro Analogies to the Discourse of UK Politics.

In case, you can't remember, here's some revival-bloggage of my own - from 2015 - 2016 when it seemed like everybody, EVERYBODY - anti-Corbyn bods, Cameron's Tories, and sometimes the Corbynites themselves - were firing off scornful accusations of their opponents being the political equivalent of a tribute act, a revival, a reenactment society etc

2015 post

Contestants for the leadership of the Labour Party, and media commentators, are in a free fire war to tar the side they don't like with the concept of "retro politics" - accusing each other (or in the case of most media pundits, castigating Jeremy Corbyn) with attempting to turn the clock back, being a throwback, being an Eighties revivalist, a restorationist (reinstating Clause IV) etc.  Years of retrogade infamy or historic defeat - 1983, 1997, 1992, 1979 - are being hurled back and forth as damning instances of replay and reenactment. 

A quite different argument is this one made by Matthew d'Ancona from a few weeks ago in which he presents Corbyn (and Trump) as figureheads for a kind of NOW!-ist politics that offers a salve for the injuries caused by globalisation / neoliberalism.

D'Ancona starts by saying that Liz Kendall is justified in labelling JC "as a retro-politician, peddling  'Bennism reheated, a throwback to the past … We are the party of the future not a preservation society'.” .... 

But then he argues that "such attacks slide off the Teflon Trot because they misconstrue the role of history in contemporary culture.....  When Blair announced his intention to transform his party, he simply renamed it New Labour. When the freshly elected Tory leader, David Cameron, wanted to unsettle his veteran opponent at his first PMQs in December 2005, he said of Blair: “He was the future once.” Yet we seem to have moved on even from that division between nostalgia and modernity. Corbyn’s appeal to his party is not diminished by the association of his ideological position with almost every disaster that befell Labour in the 80s. According to the new rules, the candidate’s past is not only struck from the record but irrelevant."

This is because

".... a quite different form of politics is emerging, with a quite different structure. To borrow the jargon of semiotics, it is “synchronic” (cross-sectional) rather than “diachronic” (part of a serial narrative, with a before and after). It is governed by what Martin Luther King, in a very different context, called “the fierce urgency of now”. It recognises that today’s voters are the children of the digital Big Bang, bombarded with an unprecedented blitz of information, data and noise.

"They exist in bubbles of digital mayhem, less bothered by the future and the past than by getting through life moment to moment. Their universe is defined by the immediate and the deafening data stream. The contents of that stream are not ideologically coherent but they are identifiable. Corbyn, for instance, speaks to the fear that global capitalism, for all its success, has made serfs of us all, no longer citizens but the puppets of planetary corporations that are accountable to none."

JC's rise is "a response to a very specific, vivid sense of alarm. In countenance and bearing alone, Corbyn soothes that pain"...

"History did end, but not the way that Francis Fukuyama meant. It was simply absorbed into an all-encompassing present.... In the Babel of the digital nanosecond, voters are driven less by pristine moral imperatives than by the crushing weight of the immediate and of proximate stimuli. Successful politicians of tomorrow will be those who stretch out a hand and offer an analgesic. That’s why Corbyn is winning. He understands that the axiom of our era is not “Lest we forget” but “Make it stop”.

Cross-reference perhaps with Douglas Rushkoff's Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now 
(which I started to read a few years ago - but have not - boom-boom - had enough time to finish)

Yet another time-based argument about Corbyn's appeal is the "lost future" / "restoring the future" tack - the idea of going back to go forward (in which privatising the railways and the energy companies was the retrogressive step, etc etc - neo-liberalism being a new Victorianism - so why wouldn't we want to pick up again where the social democratic project was paused / sent into reverse? Renatioanlise the utilities, de-privative the NHS, etc). A Seventies revival that would actually be more advanced and forward-moving than the post-socialism of Thatcher-Major-Blair-Brown-Coalition-Cameron.

A sort of hauntological argument, even .... Corbyn's beard and clothes reassuringly reminiscent of a kindly teacher you might have had in the 70s or 80s, earnestly attempting to speak to the kids on their own level, talking about loving Dark Side of the Moon.  The ghost of an Open University lecturer.  A figure from a Look Around You bygone era.  

Not to be outdone or left out of all the "backward" accusations flying hither and thither (but mostly in his direction)  Corbyn has himself accused the Tories of 1979 revivalism

"Parliament can feel like living in a time warp at the best of times, but this government is not just replaying 2010, but taking us back to 1979: ideologically committed to rolling back the state, attacking workers’ rights and trade union protection, selling off public assets and extending the sell-off to social housing."

Update 8/29/15 - missed this prime slice of of retro spectre argumentation from last week's Guardian's by Rosie Fletcher, a young woman who sees her Corbynmania as a response to the fierce urgency of NOW - how can she be nostalgic for a moment she wasn't even alive for? 

"These patrician warnings that Corbyn only serves to drag Labour backwards serve to make me, as a young voter, feel patronised and unwanted. I had never considered that Corbyn was a throwback until people started banging on about how bad the 1980s were, seemingly forgetting that we are not actually electing a leader to be sent back in time into the exact circumstances of Jim Callaghan’s resignation. You’d think Michael Foot himself was running, attending debates in a hammer and sickle-print donkey jacket, from the amount we’ve been talking about him.
We are warned not to look to the past from people looking desperately to 1997. The Blair landslide is itself old enough to vote; it’s going round Ikea buying saucepans and looking forward to taking on £45,000 of student debt. The anti-Corbyn message clings to the past as much as it accuses his supporters of so doing.
But instead we are looking to the future. The passion and enthusiasm in these Labour members and supporters doesn’t long for the Good Old Days, whenever they may have been, but looks forward. I don’t view Corbyn as some kind of vintage nostalgia, tied up in bunting with a Keep Calm and Renationalise the Railways poster. He offers progress, not the safe stasis of the other candidates."
Her passion riled up the Ghost of 1997 himself for one last ditch blast of capitalist-realist reasoning, whose message is "resign to yourself to dreamless existence". Opening sentences: 
"There is a new phenomenon in politics or perhaps the revival of an old one. But whatever it is, it is powerful
Update 9/4/2015

More time-based "who's really the throwback" rhetoric in this Independent piece which draws analogies between Corbyn and Thatcher as conviction-led politicians on the fringe of their party who come in and take it over - to the consternation of the party establishment / "grandees", who fear that their new leader is an "unelectable extremist" - but in fact set it on the path of victory and nation-transformation / political-consensus reshaping for decades:

"The past is a comforting place, but it’s the Blairites who seem to be living there, rather than Corbyn. People who for so long believed wearing a business suit immediately conferred electoral credibility.
They seem shell-shocked by Corbynmania, but really theirs is a failure to understand that politics in Britain is being reconfigured by a bewildering array of forces: austerity, Cameron, Ukip, the SNP, immigration and inequality, to name a few. Reading off a fading Xeroxed script faxed to them in 1993 by Peter Mandelson just ain’t going to cut it anymore."

Update September 10 2015

Via the Guardian, a late contender that takes the biscuit:

Jon Cruddas tells Cruddas told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he's worried that a Corbyn-led Labour party "might turn into an early 80s tribute act, a Trotskyist tribute act, which has a culture around it which is very hostile to anybody who disagrees. "

another 2015 post:

Hilary Benn's speech was just a shallow historical reenacment, says Spectactor fellow

"It was eloquent, yes, but content-wise it reminded me of those historical re-enactment shebangs where sad men in their fifties try to inject meaning into their lives by pretending to be a Viking in a field for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Only instead of donning archaic armour and a horned helmet, Benn and his overnight Bennites – those currently clogging up Twitter with wild claims that his speech was the best oration since the Gettysburg Address – are wrapping themselves in the moral garb of the mid-20th century warriors against Nazi Germany.

Benn’s speech, and the feverish reaction to it, confirms that British politicians, especially Labourite ones, really, really miss the Second World War. They crave the moral certainty of that conflict that pitted Us against the worst Them imaginable: a vast, murderous system of Nazism.

This is why Benn madly talked about the decision to fire a few rockets at the godforsaken city of Raqqa in the same breath as Britain’s long slog of a war against Hitler and Mussolini. Such a comparison is the height of historical illiteracy....

"But it’s clear why Benn rolled out the Hitler talk, like an elderly, nostalgic lady dusting down her Vera Lynn collection: because in an uncertain, values-lite era like ours – where relativism rules, ‘Britishness’ is treated as a swear word, and ‘Who am I to judge?’ is the cloying cri de coeur – nothing looks more attractive than the sharp moral divide and mass momentum of the events of 1939 – 1945. Benn was indulging in generational envy, bathing temporarily in the light of what our grandfathers thought and did.

But his act was unconvincing. There was a striking disparity between his descriptions of what British forces must do against Isis now and his citing of the war glories of the past. British missiles in Syria can ‘make a difference’, he said; we can give Isis ‘a hard time’. Scary stuff!

Try to imagine Churchill uttering such soft, schoolteacher-style platitudes during the war with Germany. Where’s the talk of blood? Sacrifice? Victory?" 

What's interesting to me - regardless of pro and con of the piece's argument - is how the use of retro-as-pejorative as become a standard fixture of political debate in the UK. The metaphor of Corbynism as an 80s tribute act is well-worn at this point. People on either side fire back accusations of being a revival, a throwback, a replay,  reenactment....

and another

"“We can’t go back to an old fashioned Labour party – not just back to the politics of the 80s but of the politics of the 50s – treating women as incapable of the top jobs, and a party led by two men,” Cooper said...
Personalising the subject, Cooper added: “It’s been a startlingly retro campaign debate. Andy’s campaign seem to be calling for Liz and I to bow out and leave it to the boys, or suggesting that somehow women aren’t strong enough to do the top jobs.
“Liz has been asked about her weight, I’ve been asked (on [BBC Radio 4’s] Woman’s Hour of all places) about whether I can possibly do this job because of my husband, and any talk about me being a working mum has been used as a sexist way to divide Liz and I and criticise Liz for not having children.
- from the Guardian

2016 post (title 'Second Time as Farts" haha)
Retro rhetoric deployed in political commentary - including Oasis analogy -  ahoy!: International Business Times's James Bloodworth accuses  Labour Party of "becoming a historical re-enactment society"

Recalling a visit to a People's Assembly rally in 2015, he notes that "there is always a whiff of obsolescence about proceedings. It is invariably the same people making the same speeches to a familiar crowd. The audience will be fired up with talk of Chartists, Cable Street and the 'rank and file'..."

"One of the biggest events like this is the Durham Miners' Gala, held annually during the second weekend of July. Now in its 132nd year, the gala is a carnival of nostalgia, featuring a huge march with brass bands and an assortment of magnificent red and gold banners. The march, which can still attract as many as 100,000 people, finishes at Durham's old racecourse, where rousing political speeches are delivered to the assembled crowd of former miners, local people and left-wing activists of all ages. The gala grew out of trade unionism and Britain's position as a major coal-producing nation on the back of the industrial revolution."

But "with the virtual disappearance of the collieries the gala functions today as something like a historical re-enactment society. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with that. The memory of something better – or to be more precise, the memory that better things had to be fought for by workers through trade unionism and struggle – is one that is well worth preserving."

"But when the past becomes an obsession it can act as a dead weight on meaningful action in the present. This was strikingly apparent at the Durham Miners' Gala this weekend, where it became clear that for those running British trade unions performative leftism has well and truly trumped any desire to improve the life chances of Britain's new working class.... the glowing reception offered to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the Gala – and the corresponding message sent to anti-Corbyn MPs that they were 'not welcome' – ought to set alarm bells ringing. No serious person believes that Jeremy Corbyn can win a General Election; yet the old men at the top of British trade union movement continue to back a useless leader because he plays a nostalgic tune that they and a dwindling number of their comrades recognise....

"At the Durham Miners' Gala this weekend, as at so many left-wing events these days, speakers took to the stage amidst the paraphernalia of an abstract idea of what being working class once was – collieries, brass bands and communist tents with portraits of Joseph Stalin... "

"When historians of the future document Britain's decline, they will invariably seek askance at the call centres and distribution sheds which dot the landscape of once proud working class communities and wonder what on earth happened to the unions. If they look a little closer they will find that sloganeering and historical re-enactment ultimately replaced genuine solidarity with the poor. 'The Beatles aren't coming back,' someone once joked, 'and so people make do with Oasis'. The socialism of the 20th century is dead and so comrade Jeremy Corbyn's worthless tribute act rolls on."

You know, I remember feeling like this a bit in 1985 - when I went to some kind of outdoor fair  in Oxford on behalf of the miners. That there was a lot of old banners and ceremonial paraphernalia harking back to the storied glory of the early unions and friendly societies...   such that the whole thing felt a bit like a traction engine rally.


If Corbynism is a throwback, what does that make the Leavers? (Or May versus Leadsom - Thatcher's unelected resurrection versus Thatcher's unelected resurrection)

And Eagle & Crew are worse -  not a Beatles remake, but a tribute act to Britpop (Blair triangulation -  but without even the media-savvy slickness and presentational / public relations skills...)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

"The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living"

Rolling Stone piece on "The Sudden, Lucrative Gold Rush for Old Music"

Andy Green and Kory Grow note that: "catalog sales, biopics, holograms, and other media are extending the lifespan — and sometimes enormously expanding the value — of rock's classic brands."

"Some well-heeled investors are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for lucrative publishing catalogs; others are making use of TikTok and developing technologies like holograms; others envision deepfake software that could create “new” songs by departed artists. Industry experts say that’s just the beginning."

The retro-goldmine has deep roots - 

"Starting in the mid-Seventies, Hollywood realized the potential for rock biopics and produced films about Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Subsequent decades introduced tell-all memoirs, docuseries, jukebox musicals, Vegas residencies, full-album playthroughs at concerts, traveling museums, and other endeavors to hold on to consumers’ interests."

But holograms is a new frontier of necrophilia: 

“Eventually age does become a factor,” says Jeff Pezzuti, CEO and founder of Eyellusion, a company that stages classic-rock hologram tours. “How do you extend that? Does it just end? Do they just break up and they call it a day? Do they just release DVDs of the old shows? Or is there a way to actually continue that and make something cool and exciting that would cause buzz?”

"... Touring holograms of Buddy Holly, Frank Zappa, and Ronnie James Dio made respectable money before the pandemic....  ” Olivier Chastan, CEO of Iconic Artists Group — which now owns most of the Beach Boys’ intellectual property — hopes to bring the group’s California girls to the final frontier. “In five years, I could send you a text and say, ‘At 2 p.m., let’s put our Oculus Rift glasses on, and let’s go see the Beach Boys record ‘Good Vibrations’ at Western Recorders,’” he said after the acquisition. And a lawsuit Chris Cornell’s widow has filed against the late grunge superstar’s bandmates cites her interest in tours with a replacement singer, hologram concerts, and “deep-fake renditions of Chris’ vocals drawn from extant recordings by artificial intelligence that could mint brand new Soundgarden hits.”

Another one is the transplant of a new member to replace dead tissue, giving the band an extra lease of life: 

"Queen are a rare example of a band that’s managed to find a new audience on the road decades after the death of their frontman. They’ve been gigging with Adam Lambert for nearly 10 years, but it was in 2019, after the release of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, that keyboardist Spike Edney started to notice something incredible. “People were lustily singing along to every song that was in the movie,” he told Rolling Stone in 2019, “and looking blankly during every song that wasn’t.” The movie grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide and earned Rami Malek a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. It allowed Queen and Adam Lambert to launch their biggest tour since the Eighties, but the 

"Nowadays, [Pezzuti]'s especially eager to work with living artists on creating holograms they could use now and after death. “With living artists we would actually set up a stage of some kind, and we would actually record one show with the intention of creating holographic performances,” he says. “So basically you’d be creating a show where the artist looks like they’re there. Obviously, they’ll sound like they’re there because there will be live sound. But basically it could be in five or 10 or 15 places at once. So the idea is, the older acts could actually be out there in front of people generating revenue and quote-unquote ‘touring.'” windfall it generated went far beyond ticket sales."..

... “We were offered an AC/DC hologram of Bon Scott,” says CAA agent Christopher Dalston, referring to the band’s singer who died in 1980 (he didn’t say which hologram company approached him). “We asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to represent something with Bon Scott?’ And it just wasn’t right for us at that point. It’s a very personal thing to the groups. … You have to be careful what you do there. AC/DC is still a very current band with Brian Johnson singing.”

Biopics are relevance-reinstaters and revenue drivers: 

"There’s even talk of a new Doors movie. “The Oliver Stone one was 31 years ago,” Jampol says. “That means that everybody on planet Earth who’s 31 and under was not alive when that movie came out. That’s why we’re looking at making a new one.”

Biopics create life after death.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

time-warp cruise

this floating festival / theme-park could lend itself to a kind of DavidFosterWallaceFamousandBestestEverEssay reenactment-with-a-twist...

Press release:

"Cruise to the Edge, the world’s greatest progressive rock experience, has announced the artist line-up for its 7th annual voyage, next May 2nd-7th. 

Featuring over 35 artists, the five-night exclusive cruise charter is sailing out of Port Canaveral (Orlando), Florida aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas® and set to visit two ports: The Private Isle of Labadee and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas. 

The public on-sale kicked off today (6/9) at 12 Noon ET, with cabins starting at $1,199.00 per person (double occupancy). Government fees, taxes, and gratuities are additional and mandatory for all passengers, regardless of age.

Cruise to the Edge 2022 will feature two music-filled days at sea with an all-star line-up that includes: Marillion, Alan Parsons, Transatlantic, Al Di Meola, Riverside, Saga, Al Stewart, The Flower Kings, Adrian Belew, Protocol, Martin Barre, Haken, King’s X, Pain Of Salvation, Pendragon, Headspace, Stick Men, McStine & Minnomen, Lifesigns, Moon, Safari, Gong with Steve Hillage, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, Glass Hammer, Le Orme, IO Earth, District 97, Stu Hamm, Pattern-Seeking Animals, Dave Kerzner, Alex Machacek, McBroom Sisters, Fernando Perdomo, Adam Holzman, Gabriel, Marbin, Ben Woods, Brook Hansen, and Late Night Live, with more artists to be announced. Plus, official cruise hosts, Jon Kirkman and Roie Avin, will be moderating Q&A’s and activities. 

 Beyond the sun, fun, and exquisite dining there will be artist/cruiser photo experiences, Q&A sessions, special theme nights, and other events designed to optimize the artist/fan experience. This year’s cruise will once again feature the unparalleled CTTE Late Night Live, where fans can sign up to showcase their own musical talents in four different performance scenarios: Late Night Live Pro Jam (guests are invited to play with a headline act), Artist's Choice (featuring fans and prog legends performing together), The Main Event (where guests can shine with fellow Late Night Live musicians), and Overtime Jam (where guests can choose a song to be featured in a late-night jam). 

 Cruisers will get to experience the newly amped up Mariner of the Seas®, providing more ways to play, delicious new dining concepts, and a few surprises to thrill even the boldest cruisers. Spanning the length of Deck 5 and offering quick access to all performance venues, as well as a hot spot for cruisers to connect, the Royal Promenade features restaurants, coffee bars, and shopping. Other activities aboard the ship include boogie boarding or surfing the waves at the FlowRider® surf simulator, challenging yourself on the rock-climbing wall, soaking in one of the many hot tubs and pools, or pampering yourself in the world-class Vitality℠ Spa. New attractions to the ship include: Sky Pad® (a brand new bungee trampoline experience that launches you sky high for gravity-defying fun combined with virtual reality headsets), The Perfect Storm℠ waterslides (plunge down three stories of twisting, turning thrills on these dual high-speed race slides until you hit the bottom), Laser Tag (grab a blaster, choose a side and gear up for a stellar glow-in-the-dark time in this bots versus aliens battle for the last planet), and the Escape Room (team up with fellow cruisers to find hidden clues and crack secret codes in your quest to rescue a time-traveling scientist). 

 The first port stop on CTTE 2022 is the Private Isle of Labadee, the ultimate private destination for cruisers, offering adventure, exploration and relaxation amongst its many bars and pristine waters. Vacationers can amp up the adrenaline on the Dragon’s Tail Coaster, a thrilling 30-mile-per-hour ride with incredible views of the island. For more action, adventurous passengers may choose to strap on a helmet and harness and soar 500-feet down on the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line, the world’s longest zip line over water. In addition, there are plenty of exciting options to choose from, including wave jet rides, parasailing, snorkel safaris, kayak tours, and much more. Looking for the ultimate way to relax? Consider booking a Barefoot Beach Cabana, which has several types of cabanas with privacy options, or being close to the action, there is sure to be something for everyone. 

 The next stop, Perfect Day at CocoCay, is a private destination located in the Bahamas that’s exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests. Offering endless ways to enjoy its beautiful beaches and pristine water, including some of the tallest waterslides in North America at the Thrill Waterpark® with the Rise & Slide Pass, or the 1,600-foot long zipline to get a view of the island at a heart-racing speed, or the Up, Up and Away─a helium balloon that floats up to 450-feet in the air. Plus, the Perfect Day at CocoCay offers loads of food options to fuel up at in-between adventures, and access to the exclusive Coco Beach Club® includes elevated Mediterranean flavors paired with breathtaking ocean views. 

With a myriad of events, activities, and music spanning decades of prog (dating back to the beginning of the genre all the way to present day) to keep fans entertained day and night, CTTE 2022 promises to be a fantasy camp, personal paradise, and the vacation of a lifetime for progressive rock enthusiasts." 

Friday, June 4, 2021

I'm (not) against the Eighties


A tour de force of retro-graphic design

7/10/2021 update: also this wittily styled and slogan advert 

and also this well-done promo video for the single

"I asked myself, ‘What music makes me feel like everything’s going to be OK?’ ” he said. “And it’s the music I listened to growing up in the ‘80s. There’s a security-blanket aspect about that sound that reminds me of a safer time” - JM

I have very little sense of what John Mayer sounds like  - but I thought he already sounded like in the vicinity of '80s AOR?

This lot got a lot of plaudits for their Dire Straits-y sound a few years ago. 

Actually it wasn't a "few years ago", it was 7 years ago - weird how time flies, or rather recent history gets mushy, chronology crumples into the endless digi-now....

File under 'running out of past - or at least the good bits of the past'.