Simon Reynolds - C or D

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I know there was a thread on Simon Reynolds a while ago, but I didn't see one put quite this way (unless I missed it).

Certainly I think Reynolds is earnest and sincere, yet I give him DUD hands-down. My reasoning being (among other things):

I teach philosophy at an American university and I'm sick and tired of kids handing in useless recyclings of Reynolds' pretentious and just plain ill-informed pastiche of superficial, trendy "cultural crit" gunk, be it half-digested semiotics, Cliff Notes rundowns of Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida, Cioux, et al., and/or stooping to (gag me) reverently quoting the likes of Susan Sontag or Julia Kristeva. Granted, I'll be the first to agree that 99% of academia is hopelessly laden with mealy-mouthed bullshit saying (in effect) fucking nothing at all, but even worse is the idea of one such as SR aspiring (and failing!) to emulate such dreaded claptrap, all the while attempting to validate such high-falutin' concepts by shoehorning them into the dubious "lifestyle" propagated by some English working class, ecstasy-gulping slack-jawed yobs or other. All of whom - so-called *real* yobs, more or less - would probably kick SR's lilly-white Oxford-air arse the length and breadth of Croydon (or wherever). As Richard Meltzer said of the likes of Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau, SR is - like George Will - an outsider desperately wanting a look in, a square, a fake.

Reynolds also stands accused of NOT DOING HIS HOMEWORK. For instance, the "Sex Revolts" book contains so many glaring factual errors - all easily clarified by consulting album credits. Two years ago, Holger Czukay and I laughed heartily reading what that book had to say about Can. Reynolds consistently placed wrong singers in the wrong songs, seemed genuinely confused about the Can discography, and, well, let's just say that he conclusively demonstrated that he had no clear idea what he was talking about. (And why haven't these glaring errors ever been corrected anyway?)

As for the book itself, its premise, resting on half-understood gleanings from pop philosophy journals and Granta and its ilk, is a complete fraud. Just where ARE the strong, individual, creative female artists that give the lie to the book's dubious premise? Certainly I don't see any mention of, say, Annette Peacock, Limpe Fuchs, Haco, Julie Tippetts, et al. anywhere in the index.

Forgive my American bias (if indeed that's what it is), but I really do think Reynolds is the heir - the crown prince, if you will - of the absolute worst tendencies of three decades of English music journalism: the half-assed (or arsed) cultural semiotic gunk (Dick Hebdige and the like), the anti-"rockist" high horse, the Debordian dada doggy forever chasing his tail, the effete finger-wagging at all things "anti-pop", the love/hate obsession with soul music, the idiotic attention to detail over insignificant pop 'n' fashion trends weirdly elevated to Matters of Supreme Cultural Significance (Wallys/Wankers on ecstasy! Morrisey dressed in black! Tricky's glossolalia as harbinger of the Cultural Transformation!). Good god, should I continue?

And don't even get me started on SR's truly clumsy and far-off-the-mark attempts at injecting some humor into his droll monologues. In those moments he becomes what he claims to despise the most, that of the whining upper class twit.

Reynolds (laughably) states in his intro to "Blissed Out" that he and his MM cohorts were creating an "ultimate" music criticism. As we say in Texas, suuuure you did ...

Yeah yeah yeah. I remember someone saying something a bit nasty (it wasn't really) about dear old SR in a thread some time last year, and the forum administrator threatened to delete the post, saying that SR occasionally frequented these boards. OK, so be it, but methinks that seeing as SR fancies himself a cultural critic and can allegedly dish out said criticism for a living and all, one can only reasonably expect that he could conceivably handle such critique pointed toward his direction.

J Sutcliffe, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

i think it i fine for you to bring this up, and your points are valid (certainly interesting), i don't believe in deletion of threads debating the work of a public figure. i have to be honest and say that i find much to agree with in what Reynolds says (i know i know, one of the many here!). i haven't read either of the books you have mentioned, so am basing much of this on Energy Flash (a large part of why i like Reynolds so much was the fact that he covered rave music properly, which hasn't been done before, and that he covered it in an entertaining and interesting way)

i think, in the book, he states that yes he was an outsider at raves when he first started going (although at that time i think raves were very inclusive, and not as overwhelmingly proletarian as is now painted - vibe circa 92 was very everyman suburban). at 16, when i was going to these things i was certainly part of the demographic (probably not so now though)

you may well be correct about the kristeva and baudrillard stuff, i'm not sure, but i like the democratization of ideas, so don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, but things like kristeva are something i would like to read rather than something i have actually managed (did do a dissertation on baudrillard though, not sure i would choose the same subject matter today)

gareth, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

One thing to ask if you are dissatisfied with Reynolds' understanding of continental philosophy is, what alternatives are there? Do the thinkers he refers to have ideas that are of "practical" use? If not, are there alternatives (particularly ones that might be palatable to use as a probably analytic-tradition philosopher)? Are there people actually employing those alternatives, in criticism of contemporary popular music?

There are other things to ask. One complaint of yours with Reynolds is that your students turn in half-assed papers that take advantage of his ideas. But would they be giving their experiences with dance music, for example, serious thought if it wasn't for him? Are you offering them viable alternatives, and attempting to give them ways of writing about what's important to them, in ways that are acceptable to you? I don't mean for this to sound just like "well, what are YOU doing?" Just to indicate what I take to be the importance of getting people thinking and giving them a vocabulary.

Josh, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

As the forum administrator I'm going to pop in and say that:

- we didnt delete the post.

- the reason we said we might is cos at the time we had a policy of deleting personal abuse aimed at another poster. SR had posted here and been met with the thread title "Simon Reynolds Is A Gobshite!". As you pointed out, this isn't high on the Richter Scale of abuse, so the thread stayed. Simon Reynolds - C or D? is fine, as is the sort of critical mauling you're dishing out.

As for what you're actually saying? Hmm. For a Texan, you're very class-conscious. I can't really say much about your accusations because almost everything you're holding up as a great sin of English rock criticism I totally endorse and encourage. I'd also prefer a writer like Reynolds - who whatever his starry-eyed conception of the proletariat is at least writing regularly about the music that excites him right now - to someone like Meltzer who has as far as I can tell spent 30 years playing the same solitary I-coulda-been-a- contender tune.

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

As for the cult-crit stuff, it's amusing cause your position echoes from the other end of the spectrum that of my Dr-of-Philosophy friend - you reckon they should stay away from Derrida etc cos it's all bollocks, he reckons they should cos they can't do it properly. I think that judging students' papers and pop criticism by the same standards is a bit silly - the question is, does what he's saying make you enjoy the music more and think about it in different ways? If the answer is yes - and it was for me - then the criticism is good and the ideas are good, however bastardized their theoretical underpinnings.

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Don't believe the hype.....the real deal is that Simon owes Sutcliffe 5 dollars for those jamaican patties last year....big deal you hung with Czukay....my sister fucked Jamie Foxx

Ramosi, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

But seriously, I started reading Simon Reynolds very recently (after last year's Cannibal Ox review, which clicked with me in a way a music review never has) and once I got into his other recent pieces I was very impressed - his stuff on rap is way more sharply observed than any US critics I'm familiar with - I'd been waiting to read something like "B-Boys On E" for a long time - his stuff resonates with the most hard-headed cratediggers I know when I regurgitate it for them, and they trust noone, basically, so that's quite a feat - for me, his cultural crit angles, for rap at least, are dead-on. I dunno, U seem pretty riled up & dramatic about the "insignificant pop 'n' fashion trends" he chooses to cover and blow up, but maybe they're just the ones that happen to piss you off (they're real to me), and maybe you wouldn't be as pissed off if he just stuck to the down home rock thing. But that's a little tired for me, man. Like a few years ago, my friend visited from Portland, right? He had these really nice Bolle sunglasses so one night I stole them.....when he left, I retrieved them so I could wear them, but I ended up throwing them out because they reeked of barbeque flavor from the Pringles tube I'd hidden them in for 3 weeks. Watch and learn.

Ramosi, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh, before everyone starts attacking me for the sunglasses thing.....I had no choice.....I was afraid the barbeque toxins would give me acne....my temples have not been my favorite areas of skin, let me tell you...

Ramosi, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

All high-brow (or wanna-be high-brow) music writers and academics are duds. Simon Reynolds is no exception. Neither is Mr. Sutcliffe actually.

By the way J, calling someone earnest and sincere and then pointing out not one paragraph later that same fellow is basically a "desperate square" in love with the idea of seeming hipper than he is seems to be bit of a contradiction. Reynolds cannot simultaneously love and enjoy the rave scene and be the same sort of calculating hipster hanger-on that Meltzer clearly thought Christgau and Marcus were/are. Those two were genuinely disconnected from much of (if not all of) the music and the scenes they were writing about. Unless you are implying that Reynolds has never been to a rave (a claim easily refuted) or that he didn’t enjoy the “raving experience” (another claim I think would be pretty easy to refute) I fail to see the connection. Just because he doesn’t fall into your rather limited preconception of English ravers (slack-jawed yobs?!?) doesn’t mean that he didn’t “belong” and/or wasn’t accepted in the community he documented. Christgau and Marcus would have difficulty claiming such a thing and this is what Meltzer was pointing out.

I have no real idea whether Reynolds is earnest and sincere. He may be engaged in quite a bit of self-promotion and hipster quotient enhancement, but if that is your “real” criticism, J, I find it a bit ironic to be coming from a someone engaged in building the same sort of mythology about himself. Did we really need to know that you are a professor of philosophy at an American university (I wager it’s not a very prestigious one or you would have mentioned it)? Or that you read over Sex Revolts with Holger Czukay? Hmmn. Is this necessary to building your arguments or you simply pulling a “Reynolds” so to speak? What do you think your hero Richard Meltzer would say about you?

Alex in SF, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Agreed about the Brit fascination/love/hate complex with soul music. It's pathological and makes the UK crit establishment look ridiculous, not to mention the music itself.

dave q, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Hi J

You seem to be blaming SR for his [influence] on students, which isn't very productive: lots of bold, original writers are terrible influences. For what it's worth, I'm all in favour of misreadings of Theory mavens in popcrit, as long as they are fruitful misreadings. I think SR just takes the bits and pieces of Theory that he fancies (pleasures of the text, ecriture feminine, abjection etc), and doesn't necessarily try to be "true" to the sources. What's important is the energy that is generated by the meeting of the [magnesium of] idea with the [water of] the audience/readership. Speaking as someone who had his thoughts about music turned inside out by SR etc, I found it quite a productive encounter. {ps I think if you are going to criticise people for misunderstanding Theory, you shd make sure you spell Cixous correctly - am I alone in thinking that a Philosophy prof who disapproves of "hi-falutin' concepts" must have made some curious career decisions?].

You seem to disapprove of Reynolds using Theory to talk about "slack- jawed yobs" (I'm not sure that he does, but anyway...) - this seems to me snobbery of the worst kind. Should such people be undiscussable? Do you have an approved reading list of ways of talking about such people? Should one feel class-shame for one's education? I think Reynolds - who has been raving since the early 90s, incidentally - is much less the square rockprof than entire American rockcrit establishment (Xgau, Marcus, etc).

I can't really defend The Sex Revolts, I found it overly-schematic, a book that seemed like it had been written by a committee.

Nevertheless, I would say that Reynolds at his best (the early Monitor essays, most of Blissed Out, Energy Flash, the new book on postpunk by the look of it) weaves together the defining strands of English popcrit: analysis, theory, prosody: he has a peerless ability to place the primary experience (record/gig/event) within a number of contexts (artistic, cultural, political) and pretty much alone among current pop writers marries a sense of the seduction of the aesthetic with the responsibilities of the social.

It strikes me that popcrit is all about "idiotic attention to detail over insignificant pop'n'fashion trends". You think you have made an incisive critique of SR? As we say in Rotherhithe "you're talking out of your arse, mate".

Edna Welthorpe, Mrs, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

dave, could you explain a bit further re: the soul thing?

gareth, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Reynolds is unreadable, though well-meaning, which puts him ahead of all the other MM hacks of his era. But imagine if he'd put his energy into something truly evil, rather than merely overanalysing pop records.

Snotty Moore, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

yes it is time we anti-rockists turned our attentions to PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY and its pitiful shortcomings heh

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

my perspective is that Reynolds sometimes heads off into pretentious twuntland, but in general manages to say interesting things about stuff. His post-punk article in Uncut a few issues back was sehr interressant, while the Energy Flash book is a big bag of fun.

I have that Sex Revolts book at home, have dipped into it a bit, and lean towards thinking it's a load of rubbish. I'm not such an expert on the discography of Can so factual inaccuracies there don't bother me. But I thought the general tone of the book was a bit reductionist (rock/pop music is all about lyrics) and the way most artists get a page at most on their work seems like Reynolds is just skimming the surface of their oeuvre.

DV, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

First off, I'm firmly in the same boat as the Dr-of-philosophy- friend, wholeheartedly in agreement that far too many people just can't do this right. I'm hardly an analytic philosopher. My background is decidedly aesthetic, mostly continental; I never stated that Derrida, et al. was bollocks (though some of it is, but then so were parts of Aristotle), but SR's take on it sure the hell is. I'll also be the first to agree on the so-called democratization of ideas, but can't we at least get these things right before we disseminate them? (Let's ask Derrida about that!) Gilles Deleuze took great pains to constantly point out that, unless you had a grasp of the entire western philosophical canon, you weren't about to eben begin to understand what he was on about; and it's patently obvious that dear old Simon Reynolds hasn't spent much time reading any of the hoary old non-trendies, such as Duns Scotus, Kant, Hume, Spinoza, Bergson, or even Nietzsche or Benjamin. His take on Debord is decidedly more Malcolm McLaren than Hegel, Marx, or Lefebvre. And THAT is at the root of my contention (one of them anyway). It's easy to pass off this pose in the pop press or the VLS when a) your editors are dumber than you are, and b) no one gets a fair chance to ever take you to task. Pop kids may indeed heap all sorts of inordinate praise upon our humble Mr. Reynolds, his wife may even call him a genius, and the pop press can wheel him around as their token "intellectual", but I know damn well that his lazy, superficial cultural-crit shuck and jive wouldn't cut muster in any freshman philosophy seminar.

Now I don't prescribe subject matter or content in any of my classes, nor does my aesthetic approach necessitate some pragmatic "usefulness" factor either. If SR inspires these students to view the music they like in a more thoughtful manner, fine. I just wish they had a better role model, then. Namely, one who knew what the hell he was talking about. I don't doubt that SR knows something of the rave scene - I certainly wouldn't presume to know much of anything about that, as my own tastes run more in the direction of Keiji Haino and Iancu Dumitrescu and not towards the dancefloor - but he sure doesn't know much of anything about philosophy, semiotics or cultural theory. Problem is, he sure tries to pass himself off as someone who does.

Well, I guess my American sarcasm doesn't translate so readily at all times. The Texas class conscious thing is funny (really!), as I was taking my cues (and taking the piss, I guess you'd say) from the class stuff in Energy Flash. As Lester Bangs wrote, I don't know shit about the English class system and I don't care shit about the English class system. (Well, I did once receive a paid trip to Cambridge University and found, with few exceptions, the profs and students alike to be the most snooty and arrogant bunch of toffs imaginable. One more snide, whiny "witticism" and I was ready to join the IRA! I admit it, the English class system is an impenetrable mystery to me and the English xenophobia is an inseparable gulf.)

As for Richard Meltzer, well, he seems to possess everything I find lacking in Reynolds, namely, wit, passion, and poetry. Compare that to SR's faux-Oxford grad student jive - the existentially neat, effete chiding/finger-wagging, half-baked theorizing. Meltzer hasn't claimed to be keeping up with current music, so tell me: just what is the point in running down something for being something that it's not? Talk about specious reasoning. Besides, Meltzer is the Voice of the Crank extraordinaire - perhaps the only valid voice left to anyone in this day and age. (And Meltzer certainly has a much more thorough grasp of the philosophical canon - tossed out of Yale for his troubles - than SR ever will - and is confident enough in his knowledge NOT to have the neurotic compulsion of a nervous clasroom swot, shoving his book-learning down the hapless reader's throat at every turn.)

Well, I figure that the Meltzer barb is a not-too veiled attempt to steer this thread into the tired old "rockist/anti-rockist", 1980's English pop weekly discourse vs. big bad US Forced Exposure aesthetic, Brittania vs. America camp. I ain't buying that argument, and I'll tell you why.

Jeezuz. Why the fuck are so many ILM posters obsessed with a 23 year old non-issue that I found silly when I was reading the NME in 1979? Here we are in 2002 and SR is now waxing nostalgic about his vanished youth (midlife crisis, I suppose; just watch, he's going to denounce rave music as decisively as he previously denounced Morrisey or long- forgotten "oceanic rock" combos), revisiting ye olde Rough Trade shoppe circa 1979 and gravely and pompously informing the world that we are all the poorer for not properly appreciating the true genius of A Certain Ratio or the tinny, sub-skiffle sounds which manifested from the skanky confines of Green's scummy boho squat. At least Tanya Headon can see that Scritti Polliti knew and accomplished fuck all. A fair and honest assessment, surely, but here we have Simon Reynolds insisting on presenting such long-dead insignificance as a matter of earthshaking importance. I just don't happen to think that some daft ICA/Dick Hebdige-semiotic reading of the length of this year's coat collar or Green mumbling "Jacques Derrida" or Tricky droning on about "oompa lumpa I be awful stoned and paranoid" or some such amounts to much in the way of, well, much of anything at all. A cultural and/or intellectual barometer ("supported" by some sound bites from Baudrillard and Debord)? You've simply got to be joking.

I don't mind being the crank around here. I find the discussions at ILM quite lively and intelligent. Next thread I start will be a thorough demolishing of Momus' "cute formalism" thingy, i.e. - attitudes such as this exemplify everything that's wrong with this world.

And before you jump all over me ...

1) I quite like and respect Momus as a thinker, even if I disagree with him 50% of the time. (Maybe 70% after reading his Bjork comment on a recent thread.)

2) Ye olde Rough Trade shoppe comment. Records by This Heat, the Fall, the Raincoats, Red Crayola, TV Personalities and Young Marble Giants rate among some of my all time favorite records, so you certainly can't accuse me of Anglo-phobia (yeah, I know, Mayo Thompson was a Texan too.) HOWEVER, Scritti Pollitti, The Smiths, the Virgin Prunes and Aztec Camera should all have been strangled in the cradle. Along with Bjork and Derek Birkett, Momus. (I remember when Birkett usta be an ANAR-CHIST along with his brother and the Crass gang, long before his transformation into Larry Parnes-meets-Richard Branson. British pop kidz are so fucking FICKLE, eh? I personally blame it all on D. Bowie's postmodern Al Jolson guises, the shape- shifting vaudeville dog and pony show.)

J Sutcliffe, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I've just been having a chuckle over this thread with former motorcycle ace Randy Mamola. Unfortunately he won't let me reveal all his thoughts in public, but he did wonder out loud whether those who enjoy 'idiotic attention to detail over insignificant pop'n'fashion trends' ever wake up in a cold sweat, worried about wasting their time. Or am I alone? I mean, is Randy alone? I mean, at least SR gets paid for it. Presumably. As we say round our way, 'you want to get a proper job'. I missed him first time around, is it worth going back? I hate the early nineties anyway.

Peter Miller, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"J Sutcliffe" must surely be Hollywood Jaimeson!

Does he reckon that Beanie Sigel whups the asses of BOTH Jay-Z AND Nas?

Terry Shannon, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

His take on Debord is decidedly more Malcolm McLaren than Hegel, Marx, or Lefebvre.

and what's wrong with that, exactly?

(except for the tired hobby horse of: blah blah, trying to pass himself off as deep theoretical something or other. blah.)

jess, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Methinks what Sutcliffe's really trying to say is: SR condescending, thinks all music press readers/fans are thick, so will do scratchmix of standard PPE reading list in (probably correct) belief that readers will be so dazzled by names and quotes that they won't stop to think whether any of it makes any logical sense or constructs a tenable argument, i.e. throw in a bit of Kristeva, bit of Toril Moi, bit of Baudrillard, stick next to Public Enemy/MBV/Pixies/whoever, and whoopee it's culture!

The telltale thing about Blissed Out is that he spends the whole book inventing names for genres but when someone else (e.g. AR Kane) has the tenacity to think up their own genre names, SR moans on about their "sulling the purity of their music."

Me? I just think he tries way, way too hard.

Terry Shannon, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Meltzer quip not an attempt to kickstart rockist/anti-rockist thing (SR's teleological readings of pop history are rockist if anything is, as somebody mentioned) - it was just me being sarky. My personal preference is to read someone who likes some current music cause I like some current music - no Meltzer doesn't claim to like any but his constant I-invented-this-shit* self-promotion/hatred of any and all current rock crit wears me out anyway. Just go off and write your 'proper' book then!

*Which is true, fine.

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

s.reynolds = j.sutcliffe = rockists

meltzer = mother of all anti-rockists obv

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

meltzer = mother of all anti-rockists obv

mark s = mentalist.

jess, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Eh .....

Cixous, yes. So I'm not always the world's most accurate typist. Big fucking deal.

SR as earnest and sincere. Doncha recognize sarcasm when you read it?

Slack-jawed yobs and high-falutin' ideas. Doncha recognize irony when you ...

PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY. Of course academia is full of shit, and philosophy as a discipline is one of the worst offenders. You think I don't know that?! Do you think I play that game? Do you want to take a guess how my vocal stance against the entire farce has worked out for me? Do you think I have or will ever have tenure? Take a guess. Go on. I dare you.

Prestigious university. As if that matters one fucking whit. It's the fourth largest university in the UT system. You figure it out, if it matters to you.

J Sutcliffe, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

(ps it seems a pity to spoil this gag but i haf nevah used the word "rockist" non-sarcastically, so the the texas<->uk irony non- communication prob seems ahem two way)

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

A lot of this argument is coming down to style, too, and there's more English vs American in that than there is in the rockism bugbear. I think Reynolds is readable, sympathetic, quite amusing, and excellent at describing some hard-to-describe sounds. I like his quippy Englishness: it suits me as a reader. JS on the other hand finds it a red-rag and presumably - see repeated use of "effete" - wants something a little stronger (liquor-swilling yobbery as opposed to E- gulping maybe?).

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY. Of course academia is full of shit, and philosophy as a discipline is one of the worst offenders. You think I don't know that?! Do you think I play that game? Do you want to take a guess how my vocal stance against the entire farce has worked out for me? Do you think I have or will ever have tenure? Take a guess. Go on. I dare you. Stop whining and get a propah job then eg rock critic like me

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I don't know the last few times I've read Reynolds he has referenced the Art Brut movement in relation to Blectum from Blechdom (among others although I can't remember the second specific instance) and, as an art history major, it doesn't really resonate with me in any way. But that's just a pet peeve.

Otherwise, I think it becomes an example of what other people are saying..."Well, who else is going to do it?"

Todd Burns, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

One missed question here is - Does SR actually do the cult- crit stuff in his writing any more? I certainly don't feel beaten- over-the-head with it these days.

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

i would have assumed that invoking his name this many times would have conjured him up, candyman-like.

jess, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

(ps mentalist mark s fans will be let down to hear that EVEN *I* haf nevah read Duns Scotus!!)

DUNS SCOTUS!!

(SR did EngLit didnt he? not even a Real Subject, only introduced in 20th century)

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Next thread I start will be a thorough demolishing of Momus' "cute formalism" thingy

Come on then, big fella, I'm ready for ya!

Pocky sticks at dawn in the doll's house...

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I haven't really noticed any cult-crit content in Reynolds's pieces lately, and I don't remember there being that much in Energy Flash either.

RickyT, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Of course academia is full of shit, and philosophy as a discipline is one of the worst offenders.

This obliquely reminds me of the revelation about the philosophy department here at UCI. In the men's restrooms there, there's a huge amount of anti-Derrida graffiti, obviously prompted by his residence here every spring. One time I asked someone in the department about that -- "Geez, are the grads here really ticked off with him?" "Oh no," came the reply, "that's from the professors."

I align myself with Tom in this particular debate, unsurprisingly.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

That's a right! I'm gonna get me a propah job. Trouble is, I'm trying to decide which.

Scenario 1: I'm gonna follow in the footsteps of other (non-Simon Reynolds) Brit super rock-crit Jon Savage and write a best-selling book all about how the souls of millenarian homeless loonies have invaded the spirit of this year's current pop practitioners, resulting in a utopian look-in/look-see shining future, sadly and surely to be crushed by the tide of History (capital H) and New Labour Market Forces, with quite a few pages devoted to the intrinsic world-historical importance of hand-me down Teddy Boy and long- castoff Carnaby Street fashions. I'm currently applying for a research grant, in order to enable me to devote the next year divining the dialectical import of the Nehru jacket. Like Savage, I hope to sneak such straight-faced phrases as "snookering one's betters" into my text.

Scenario 2: Move to London and assemble a boyband to manage; then I too can be Larry Parnes/Joe Meek/Malcolm McLaren/Richard Branson/Brian Epstein/Andrew Loog Oldham/Derek Birkett etc. and then some. The name of the band is Snotty & the Wankers. S&tW's aren't pure fluff. They like to have a laugh or two, go down to the pub, have a few drinks, but also in firm possession of a meaningful social conscience. Songs include "We Vote New Labour 'cos We're Thick" and "Gatwick Airport, How I Love thee".

Scenario 3: Become chair of philosophy at Oxford. Now that's the funniest one yet.

J Sutcliffe, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

The name of the band is Snotty & the Wankers...Songs include "We Vote New Labour 'cos We're Thick" and "Gatwick Airport, How I Love thee".

Now look what you've done, you've stolen Dave Q's plans for management world domination from under his nose.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Bet ya didn't think a Texan could so convincingly pull of all those little Englandisms, did ya?

Hey! Is THIS what J Savage meant by "snookering one's betters"?????!

Did I snooker you? Did I snooker the English? Did I? Did I? (Do you REALLY have a culture over there that sez things like "snookering one's betters"? Do you? Do you?! Tell me, damnit!)

Talk about duration and delirium ...

J Sutcliffe, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Write 100 times "I Mark Math Snob Sinker Must Not Be Sarky About People Wot Dun Eng Lit At Oxford" like wot I dun.

Terry Shannon, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

What about ancient and modern history? See see how it enabled me to fool the thick readers with Darius reference on the Sclub7 thread!

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"Do you REALLY have a culture over there that sez things like "snookering one's betters"?"
No.

DG, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

heh "snotty and the wankers" sounds like upper middleclass idea of what oik band MIGHT call itself

(formula "x and the ys", with its in-built and apparently overtly celebrated class hierarchy, is ALMOST NEVAH seriously adopted in UK rock/punk/pop self-naming, and when it is — Peter and the Test-Tube Babies? Slaughter and the Dogs — seems calculated to ensure failure to TAKEN seriously despite apparent pretensions; actually i wd term it a Strategy of Deniability, in that band in question were AFRAID to place themselves in role of responsiblity of ARTISTIC SERIOUSNESS)

(help me out foax, is this true: it FEELZ true...)

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Well there's Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, though not actually British so fair enough. Though of course prevalent in Merseybeat.

Didn't Mike Batt do a song called "I'm Snookering You Tonight"? Used as theme tune for top TV gameshow "Big Break." Now how would Mr Jim Davidson go down in Texas? (though he has worked with Greenaway, so some cred)

Terry Shannon, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Adam and the Ants. X-Ray and the... er, no.

Dr. C, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Did I snooker you? Did I snooker the English? Did I? Did I? (Do you REALLY have a culture over there that sez things like "snookering one's betters"? Do you? Do you?! Tell me, damnit!)

Golly! Would you like someone to fax over to you a nice cup of chamomile tea?

Michael Daddino, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"Real" academic subjects: mathematics (obv); natural sciences; philosophy (socrates-berkeley); divinity; the classics; languages (modern i.e. French but not German); and THAT'S IT. Everything else tainted by SCEPTICISM, ATHEISM, CATHOLICISM and othah CONTINENTAL CONFUSION.

The Higher Criticism indeed. Any minute now they'll be recalculating Bishop Ussher's chronology.

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Insomnia is a wonderful thing.

Christgau and Marcus are indeed jerks and squares, but to be fair, I believe that Marcus went to Graceland and hung out backstage with Jon Landau and Springsteen. Probably drank Evian with Randy Newman and Robbie Robertson too on several occasions. Maybe even actually attended a Mekons concert and lectured to them on Johnny Cash's true place in the American Studies pantheon after the show. Probably tried to fuck Sally Timms too, who I bet wouldn't touch ol' American Greil with a ten foot pole. (Would you?)

Christgau undoubtedly attended appropriate industry functions and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame events, being the Dean of all things rock that the Dean of the Pazz & Jop poll would expected to be.

So how can you say that these twits are disconnected from the culture swirling round the gunk they write about in a way that your vaunted Simon Reynolds is not? I for one have no trouble believing that SR attended many raves, unsuccessfully tried to pick up many an ecstasy- addled sweet sixteen hot young thang, and noodled his (near) middle- aged arse in slightly-askew rhythm bump 'n grind, fancying himself a hotshot with culturally redeeming legit-reason-to-be-there, pausing occasionally and thinking through his halllucinogenic haze, fancying that rare A Certain Ratio cassette and his yellowing, autographed Crispy Ambulance flexi disc, and just remaining merely DAZZLED at how it ever came to all this ...

J Sutcliffe, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

(merseybeat of course explains it terry: they nevah made it into ahem "rockist" canon, so anyone ditto-ing in erm "hommage" is secretly saying CANON no THANX!!)

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

The difference between this and Meltzer being that RM's pick-up attempts were successful...?

Tom, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

**pausing occasionally and thinking through his halllucinogenic haze, fancying that rare A Certain Ratio cassette and his yellowing, autographed Crispy Ambulance flexi disc, and just remaining merely DAZZLED at how it ever came to all this**

Do I KNOW you, J?

Terry, you're Marcello?

Dr. C, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"Snotty and the wankers" makes me think one of the things that often makes it difficult for me to take Marcus seriously: he wrote a song called "I can't get no nookie"! And then boasted about it in his author biog! Lawks.

Edna Welthorpe, Mrs, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I finally read Retromania and it was just as frustrating as I had assumed it would be. I was pretty angry throughout the whole book and I kept adding post-it notes to highlight things that I was going to come here and comment on, but by the end I was so exhausted I didn't care anymore. I used to like Reynolds but lately I just feel like he's hitting DeRogatisian levels of wrongness.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 19:53 (seven years ago) link

like a lot of popists i think he doesn't have that much enlightening stuff to say about the music so he just projects a bunch of half-baked cultural crit ideas onto the audience

tbf this is kind of a widespread thing in music criticism

the late great, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 19:54 (seven years ago) link

Wait are you saying you're a popist or he is? Cause he isn't

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 19:59 (seven years ago) link

I feel like he's personally conflicted about the state of new music and his nostalgia for the old "new" (or NOW!) music of his youth. In Retromania he consistently talked about rave and post-punk as if it were an objective truth that those two genres were totally new or even the only totally new music of the past 30 years. And he did it seemingly without any self-awareness that his opinion was totally colored by personal nostalgia.

In that Hard Summer article he points out that the music doesn't sound that much different from the '90s but then in the end he describes all of the ways in which it sounds and feels new. It's like he's always on the verge of this revelation but he never quite connects the dots and realizes that something can borrow from the past and still be new, or that there can be subtle innovations and evolutions within a genre that are only noticeable to the people who are deeply involved with it. All throughout Retromania I felt like everyone he interviewed and everything he discussed throughout the book was leading up to this revelation. That he was just kind of trolling us and the book was actually going to illustrate the process of debunking the thesis he put forth in the beginning. I kept thinking he was surely going to make a 180 degree turn at the end and realize that he was wrong.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:11 (seven years ago) link

I disagree with the above, a bit - he uses rave and post-punk a lot b/c they were ~his genres~, but while

(a) I wasn't around for them (literally for post-punk, was < 11 when rave was happening); and
(b) I like new music plenty

I also think there's a big difference between the extent of musical possibilities opened up in a few short years in those eras, and the extent we've seen in the last ten years or so.

Like, you can agree that:

something can borrow from the past and still be new, or that there can be subtle innovations and evolutions within a genre that are only noticeable to the people who are deeply involved with it

while also saying "yes but the innovations and evolutions used to be a lot more sweeping than that, as a general rule."

I don't get doom and gloom about that, and I think that one needs to unpack the relationship b/w macro- and micro-transformations (or inter- and intra-) to appreciate that a lot of the time the former are just examples of the latter that were in the right place at the right time.

but I don't think his basic thesis is fundamentally incorrect.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:25 (seven years ago) link

the book definitely disproves itself despite itself!

funnily enough I'm reading totally wired atm and it's brilliant, twice the book rip it up is. Cause reynolds is pushing his thesis but the interviewees are pushing back.

don't hate this guy at all, I think he's cool although he says mindblowingly stupid shit sometimes

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:26 (seven years ago) link

(xp)

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:26 (seven years ago) link

i was identifying him as a popist which I guess he's not

the late great, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:40 (seven years ago) link

while also saying "yes but the innovations and evolutions used to be a lot more sweeping than that, as a general rule."

Another problem with the book is that there was very little discussion of changing technology. Yes, there were a lot of new sounds in the '60s when things like multitracking, wah pedals, and moog synthesizers were new. And there were a lot of new sounds in the '70s and '80s when synthesizers became more widely available and drum machines and samplers were new. And there are some new sounds being made now although the technological changes aren't as radical on a surface, sonic level. But there was no discussion of any of that in the book from what I can remember, and now real exploration of micro editing, tuning, the ease of computer home recording, or the kind of digital sheen and hyper compression styles that he touches on in the Hard Summer article.

but I don't think his basic thesis is fundamentally incorrect.

He doesn't really give a shred of evidence to support it and he gives a ton of historical evidence that illustrates that "retromania" is nothing new! Nor does he ever give a convincing argument as to why the appearance of "newness" is actually a valuable element in art. And every artist he interviews in the book has more intelligent and interesting insights on the topic than Reynolds, but nothing they say seemed to influence his thinking at all.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:44 (seven years ago) link

There was a time when electric pianos were a new sound, and clavinets were a new sound, or hammond organs, spring reverbs, fender guitar amps, marshall stacks, analog synthesizers, 808 drum machines, analog string machines, etc. And now there's a time when all of those sounds can be fairly convincingly emulated on a laptop with the built-in samples and effects that come with a program like Logic. That is one of the truly radical recent advancements in music technology, and it's no surprise that musicians are therefore using all of those old sounds again. But I don't think he really approached the topic with any kind of curiosity. He had his mind made up going into the book and he stuck to it.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 20:50 (seven years ago) link

Gaaah, now I can't stop thinking about it. I guess I should take it to the retromania thread, but oh well, I'm here. There are a couple of other major things that bothered me.

He didn't talk about how much of the musical innovation throughout history came from different cultures being exposed to each other and their musical forms intermixing and emerging as new hybrid styles. With the rise of mass communication and recorded music during the 20th century, that cultural mixing reached an all time peak to the point where we arguably hit an almost total globalization of culture. That type of cross-cultural synthesis arguably won't happen to the same degree in the 21st century now that we're all culturally interconnected instantaneously.

I also thought he hit on an important point early in the book when he briefly mentioned retro porn that focuses on natural hair and breasts. But he seemed to dismiss the idea immediately and didn't entertain the possibility that different body shapes and body hair styles are an issue of personal taste and that it's the homogenization of body images in porn (universal implants and waxing) that leads people to seek out the "retro" stuff. Likewise, corporate consolidation, radio deregulation, clear channel, etc. has led to an increasing homogenization in mainstream music. But not everyone wants slick futuristic sounds all of the time, so some people logically look to the past to borrow sounds form other eras in music that were more sonically diverse.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:19 (seven years ago) link

the slick, futuristic sound of Adele

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:26 (seven years ago) link

No seriously, everything you mention is relevant, and he downplays most of that too much, but from memory he also frames increasing retromania as in part a reaction to all of that stuff. Definitely technological changes have encouraged it.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:29 (seven years ago) link

Another problem with the book is that there was very little discussion of changing technology. Yes, there were a lot of new sounds in the '60s when things like multitracking, wah pedals, and moog synthesizers were new. And there were a lot of new sounds in the '70s and '80s when synthesizers became more widely available and drum machines and samplers were new. And there are some new sounds being made now although the technological changes aren't as radical on a surface, sonic level. But there was no discussion of any of that in the book from what I can remember

what happened to mark s's book anyway

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:29 (seven years ago) link

i totally agree with wk, wonder if i went on about this on ilx already as much as i thought i did

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:29 (seven years ago) link

mb the biggest problem is that his 'increasing tide of retromania' works for, like, dance music and pitchfork rock. but how does he deal with genres that have achieved some kind of formal stability -- i'm going to say metal, hardcore, jazz, all of which v arguable obv but like: there's not been a tide of 70s style heavy bands obliterating recent developments in the form, nor a second coming of trad jazz

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:33 (seven years ago) link

i really want to work this argument around to calling him a racist but enhh

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:34 (seven years ago) link

Genres heavily engaged with pop culture vs genres not

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:35 (seven years ago) link

bullshit

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:38 (seven years ago) link

Another problem with the book is that there was very little discussion of changing technology.

The chapter on YouTube is great imo re: technology and transformed engagements with music.

MikoMcha, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:39 (seven years ago) link

the chapter on youtube is the one where he has some quotes from lopatin and ends "and i guess these people have opened up interesting new affective possibilities but i'm just going to handwave about that for a bit", right

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:40 (seven years ago) link

i feel like there are a lot of kinda retro sabbath type metal bands now tho

"If you like the Byrds, try Depeche Mode" (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:48 (seven years ago) link

thomp went in hard on the retromania thread, I remember that, it was great

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:49 (seven years ago) link

and I didn't dislike the book

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:49 (seven years ago) link

the slick, futuristic sound of Adele

Well, right the alternative to "NOW!" sounds is to use sounds from the past, right?

Arguably every style of music that sounded radically new was created because of either new technology (electronic music), borrowing styles from other cultures (post-punk), borrowing overlooked styles or ideas from the past, or all of the above (psychedelic rock or hip hop). I would have liked to see more of an exploration of how that process actually works, and whether or not novelty has actually slowed down, or how art reacted to similar periods in the past.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:50 (seven years ago) link

the chapter on youtube is the one where he has some quotes from lopatin and ends "and i guess these people have opened up interesting new affective possibilities but i'm just going to handwave about that for a bit", right

Yeah, I thought the Lopatin interview quotes were the most interesting parts of the book and I was sure after that Reynolds was headed for a reassessment of his thesis.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:51 (seven years ago) link

bullshit

― i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 9:38 PM (9 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

how so? I admit that dichotomy is tossed off, but given retromania is a fairly-widespread (but not monopolising or universalising) tendential phenomenon it stands to reason that genres more beholden to generalised fashion trends / developments in social media technnology / developments in radio and music video trends / etc. are more likely to pick up on it.

Whereas genres whose contemporary critical dialogue is more internalised will not.

In dance music, for example, the more internalised/tribal/cut-off-from-the-broader-world a sub-genre is, then the less retro it is, as a general rule.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:53 (seven years ago) link

Arguably every style of music that sounded radically new was created because of either new technology (electronic music), borrowing styles from other cultures (post-punk), borrowing overlooked styles or ideas from the past, or all of the above (psychedelic rock or hip hop). I would have liked to see more of an exploration of how that process actually works, and whether or not novelty has actually slowed down, or how art reacted to similar periods in the past.

― wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 9:50 PM (2 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Agree with this though. The biggest problem with the thesis is that it hypostasizes a particular type or manifestation of novelty as innovation. I think SR probably would acknowledge that's an issue but it's too determinative of his general worldview for him to effectively move past it.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:55 (seven years ago) link

yeah it's not really bullshit, i just didn't feel like articulating a proper argument /:

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 21:58 (seven years ago) link

i guess i would probably point to hip hop as a space where things are way more complicated than 'increasing retroness' would allow. i spent way too much time arguing with this book in my head and getting annoyed at it/myself to be able to think about it much at a later date

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:00 (seven years ago) link

Agree with this though. The biggest problem with the thesis is that it hypostasizes a particular type or manifestation of novelty as innovation. I think SR probably would acknowledge that's an issue but it's too determinative of his general worldview for him to effectively move past it.

yah on the book's thread i claimed something like this but in hokey jamesonian terms because i was doing that for some reason: "addiction to the novum, as an aesthetic mode, is as much a symptom of culture under capitalism as dependence on pastiche"

i better not get any (thomp), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:01 (seven years ago) link

how so? I admit that dichotomy is tossed off, but given retromania is a fairly-widespread (but not monopolising or universalising) tendential phenomenon it stands to reason that genres more beholden to generalised fashion trends / developments in social media technnology / developments in radio and music video trends / etc. are more likely to pick up on it.

Whereas genres whose contemporary critical dialogue is more internalised will not.

In dance music, for example, the more internalised/tribal/cut-off-from-the-broader-world a sub-genre is, then the less retro it is, as a general rule.

That doesn't ring true to me at all. There are insular niche genres that have remained almost completely stagnant for 20 or 30 years including large swaths of metal, punk, hardcore, and dance music. Or they have undergone subtle evolutions that are not perceptible to outsiders but are very important to aficionados. Plus there are many niche genres that are completely absorbed in nostalgia and pastiche. And on the other hand, contemporary pop music seems to still be primarily focused on all that is shiny and new. But you seem to be saying that retromania is in fact something new and therefore music that is focused on changing fashions is currently steeped in retromania. Which seems to be the conflict at the heart of the book that Reynolds can't quite reconcile.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:04 (seven years ago) link

Simon Reynolds - C or D

Not all messages are displayed: show all messages (1455 of them)

i wanna be a gabbneb baby (Hungry4Ass), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:06 (seven years ago) link

pointing out the number of messages in a thread is kinda retro

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:08 (seven years ago) link

And on the other hand, contemporary pop music seems to still be primarily focused on all that is shiny and new. But you seem to be saying that retromania is in fact something new and therefore music that is focused on changing fashions is currently steeped in retromania.

1. I don't think "retro" and "shiny and new" are necessary opposed. A lot of SR's writing since the book has come out focuses on the intertwining of these dynamics in current pop music and while I don't agree with all of it I hardly think Ke$ha somehow disproves retromania.

2. Never said retromania is something new. Again, the idea that something may be an increasingly prominent quality in current popular culture and the idea that it's been with us for a very long time are not necessarily opposed.

I'm really only taking SR's side here b/c these days I try to avoid adopting a totalising view with these sorts of arguments where if I can find 20% of stuff that is inconsistent with it I proudly proclaim the entire idea to be bogus.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:13 (seven years ago) link

where's the fun in that

^do not heed if you rate me (wins), Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:14 (seven years ago) link

There are insular niche genres that have remained almost completely stagnant for 20 or 30 years including large swaths of metal, punk, hardcore, and dance music. Or they have undergone subtle evolutions that are not perceptible to outsiders but are very important to aficionados.

Haha how do you even propose to distinguish between these.

Plus there are many niche genres that are completely absorbed in nostalgia and pastiche.

Right, and my previous comment should be subject to the caveat that some niches explicitly define themselves as revivalist. I was talking more about the dynamic of genres which don't self-identify as retro at the outset. So, for example, in the internal-mainstream of middlebrow contemporary dance music, the fondness for early 90s US garage has been on the rise for several years, but not as part of some explicit early 90s garage revivalist scene. That's just what (for a lot of people) house happens to be in 2013.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:18 (seven years ago) link

1. I don't think "retro" and "shiny and new" are necessary opposed.

Neither do I. Is Adele retro or something new? I think she's both really. That's the core of the problem I have with Reynolds' thesis. Doing a slightly different spin on something old is one of the primary ways that art evolves into new forms.

A lot of SR's writing since the book has come out focuses on the intertwining of these dynamics in current pop music

I'm just getting around to commenting on the book itself so that probably shows how closely I've been following his writing since then.

2. Never said retromania is something new. Again, the idea that something may be an increasingly prominent quality in current popular culture and the idea that it's been with us for a very long time are not necessarily opposed.

I guess that describes the weakness at the heart of the book to me. Reynolds acknowledges that revivalism is nothing new but he thinks that it's currently reached a degree that makes it notable. So in order to strengthen his thesis he downplays how prevalent it was throughout the history of art imo. And I guess that blurry line between something being new and something being old but reaching such a degree of popularity that the surge in popularity becomes essentially new is exactly what happens in the music too.

xp

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:31 (seven years ago) link

Haha how do you even propose to distinguish between these.

I don't. That's the point. Stagnation, innovation, and "retro" are all far more relative and subjective than Reynolds lets on. There might be just as much difference between a "garage rock" band from 2013, '03, '93, '83, or '65 as there is between say house music from '13, '03, '93, or '83.

So, for example, in the internal-mainstream of middlebrow contemporary dance music, the fondness for early 90s US garage has been on the rise for several years, but not as part of some explicit early 90s garage revivalist scene. That's just what (for a lot of people) house happens to be in 2013.

haha, so how do you distinguish which is retro? an interest in 20 year old music isn't retro, it's just where that music "happens to be"? Why can't another form of music happen to be in a mode that looks back 40 or 50 years?

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:37 (seven years ago) link

I guess it's the difference between a continuous tradition vs. a revival of something that was lost or forgotten. But to me the latter is actually more interesting and holds more possibilities for coming across as something genuinely new, while the former often feels like stagnation.

wk, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 22:45 (seven years ago) link

I think an important point is that NOW!ism doesn't only relate to whether or not the sounds are new. When I've been to an EDM-concert, the NOWish feelings come a lot from the structural lack of patience, the incessant dropes, at least 70 per hour, which keeps everyone forgetting about what happened more than five seconds ago.

Funnily enough, I sorta get the same feeling from the hipster-black scene. A complete lack of deference for the past, and a focus on constant dynamic bliss.

I think the drop-dynamic is fundamentally different from the attack/decay/sustain/release-dynamic, but admittedly I get most of my knowledge of dance-dynamics from Simian Mobile Disco-covers.

Frederik B, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 23:05 (seven years ago) link

hipster-black?

not just parenthesizing a racially loaded term but wondering what music is being referred to

Neither do I. Is Adele retro or something new? I think she's both really. That's the core of the problem I have with Reynolds' thesis. Doing a slightly different spin on something old is one of the primary ways that art evolves into new forms.

He doesn't disagree with you. Perhaps one way to frame the debate is whether as a matter of probability the first slightly different spin on something old is more apt to give rise to new forms than the twentieth, esp. if that twentieth is also informed by spins two through nineteen?

One of the issues here is precisely the other factors you raise: the availability of new technology or potentially untried genre fusions to enliven and render unfamiliar the "something old" component.

These intervening factors don't break the causal connection though, because I always get the impression that SR sees increasing retromania as partly responsive to those factors.

haha, so how do you distinguish which is retro? an interest in 20 year old music isn't retro, it's just where that music "happens to be"? Why can't another form of music happen to be in a mode that looks back 40 or 50 years?

No, I'm saying it is retro, and consciously so, but this is not part of some scene-wide decision to abandon the present in favour of a particular moment in the past. Next year the same DJs / dancers may be interested in something that doesn't sound remotely like US garage or the early 90s for that matter. So that's what makes it a really good example of what SR is referring to: the fact that here is a scene where people are listening and dancing to sets full of tunes from 20 years ago and contemporary tunes that have been recorded specifically to sound like they're from 20 years ago, while those people may not even be committed genre-revivalists per se.

I don't. That's the point. Stagnation, innovation, and "retro" are all far more relative and subjective than Reynolds lets on. There might be just as much difference between a "garage rock" band from 2013, '03, '93, '83, or '65 as there is between say house music from '13, '03, '93, or '83.

Sure. And? I think Reynolds would agree with you.

I guess it's the difference between a continuous tradition vs. a revival of something that was lost or forgotten. But to me the latter is actually more interesting and holds more possibilities for coming across as something genuinely new, while the former often feels like stagnation.

Isn't that the basic reason SR offers for the attractiveness of the past as a source for potential innovation/newness? The issue then becomes how much possibility is inherent in repeated revivalism of a particular idea. And there's never gonna be a hard and fast rule, never a moment where we can say "that's it, garage rock or straightforward house music will never surprise us again". But I would hazard a guess that it becomes harder to pull off over time.

In general terms I think you're punishing SR for not being able to isolate some pure retro-gene which can be distinguished from newness or nowness or whatever, whereas to my mind he's not even remotely trying to do that.

Tim F, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 23:31 (seven years ago) link

xp

skrillex is the musical analogue of the transformers films - except much better - so, yeah

ogmor, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 23:34 (seven years ago) link

nobody got irremediable brain injuries in the making of a skrillex lp

well idk, ray manzarek didn't last long

ogmor, Tuesday, 9 July 2013 23:49 (seven years ago) link

Perhaps one way to frame the debate is whether as a matter of probability the first slightly different spin on something old is more apt to give rise to new forms than the twentieth, esp. if that twentieth is also informed by spins two through nineteen?...

The issue then becomes how much possibility is inherent in repeated revivalism of a particular idea. And there's never gonna be a hard and fast rule, never a moment where we can say "that's it, garage rock or straightforward house music will never surprise us again". But I would hazard a guess that it becomes harder to pull off over time.

I think it's the other way around. It takes time for new forms of music to evolve and emerge. The idea of overnight revolutions is a fiction manufactured by the music press. I think it's possible that music that's currently being written off by some critics as being too retro is going to evolve into distinctly new genres that will become unrecognizable from their roots. Look at the evolution from the blues revival into Hendrix/Cream/Zeppelin style electric blues, and then the subtle shift into heavy metal with Sabbath and then trace that lineage all the way to something like black metal. It was a slow and continuous evolution that led to a result with no discernible connection to its blues revival roots. The critics who wrote off Sabbath in the '70s couldn't anticipate how influential they would become.

In general terms I think you're punishing SR for not being able to isolate some pure retro-gene which can be distinguished from newness or nowness or whatever, whereas to my mind he's not even remotely trying to do that.

No I'm annoyed by the fact that he takes all of these processes that are totally natural and even necessary to the creative process and gives them the dismissive label "retromania." I'm not the one trying to reduce everything down to some kind of retro-gene.

wk, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 00:21 (seven years ago) link

hipster-black?

― the most promising US ilxor has thrown the TOWEL IN (Nilmar Honorato da Silva), 10. juli 2013 01:24 (2 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Metal. As in Liturgy and such. The most nowish concerts I've been to lately has been with EDM and BM. But yeah, hipster-black was way too vague a term, especially in this discussion.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 02:18 (seven years ago) link

http://www.factmag.com/2013/07/11/filmmaker-and-massive-attack-collaborator-adam-curtis-on-why-music-may-be-dying-and-why-need-a-new-radicalism/

this adam curtis interview could be simon reynolds speaking. i wonder if hes read retromania. or maybe its reynolds whos read adam curtis.

StillAdvance, Thursday, 11 July 2013 17:24 (seven years ago) link


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