"Boring Revivalism," in a retro-Tom style

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Do you ever say this about new music? If so, why? If not, what do you think when other people say it? What do you think about the sorts of new music it gets said about? Does it matter to the statement whether you've listened to or liked the "original" sound? Is "boring revivalism," in general, a fair charge to make against something?

nabisco (nabisco), Monday, 9 September 2002 20:43 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

People say it so often that I'm appalled there haven't been any answers to this thread yet!

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 00:49 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I've been thinking about this just recently - revivalism, "boring" or not, is frowned upon in dance music circles, while being (tacitly) accepted within the rock "arena" - why is this?

I think it's impossible to say the phrase "boring revivalism" withbout having liked the "original" sound - but the proof of the pudding often lies with the motivation of the accused "boring revivalists" themselves - are they merely looking back in order to move forwards (cf. Flaming Lips) or doggedly copying a much-loved "old" sound (Paul Weller, The Strokes)? Hmmm...

Charlie, Tuesday, 10 September 2002 01:22 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

It depends on whether the things being 'copied' actually sound like the 'revivalists' - in other words the differences are more important than the similarities. Generally it's a criticism I try to avoid makind these days - it's tempting but essentially unfair.

We need to discuss specific bands I think. For instance Oasis, who "sounded like" The Beatles - except they didn't. They draw on late-period Beatles but by that point the Beatles had ceased to function as a live band and so their records had a lightness of touch that Oasis' - who need to write stadium-size songs - don't. Also both Noel and Liam are much blunter as melodist and singer than any of the Beatles were. One or two Oasis songs - "All Around The World" - sound like heavy-handed Beatles pastiches and that's about it.

But still the charges stuck - why? Because they encapsulated a greater 'revivalism' that Oasis seemed to endorse - a turning of the clock back not to a specific band but to a general mode of rock practise, with proper bands writing proper albums and playing huge gigs and doing loads of drugs - a late-60s early-70s mode. That's I think when the revivalism criticism holds weight - when a band seems to be trying to avoid living in/relating to the present, in favour of pursuing dreams of somehow slotting in, Forrest-Gump-style, to old rock and pop newsreels. It's kind of why it's such a common criticism of the Strokes too - actually the people they 'sound like' don't sound like them but the 'era of cool' they seem to be harking back to makes them look retro.

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 08:14 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Perhaps it's not entirely fair to say something like "But still the charges stuck" if you're talking about a band that deliberately aped the Beatles rooftop performance and went around saying that certain songs were their "I am the Walrus". I don't think they've done a whole lot to shrug off that particular mantle - if the critics take the obvious route and connect the dots in that order, it may seem a bit lame and predictable, but has Oasis really challenged them to see more?

I suspect consensus will be that the onus of finding a challenge is on the critic instead. Is this true?

static (Kim), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 09:20 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

dratted cookies.. well there goes my little falter ego.

Kim (Kim), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 09:27 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Well the whole perception of bands as 'revivalist' or otherwise is down to the critics - so yes I think challenging that perception is their job too. But I wasn't suggesting Oasis didn't want to be like the Beatles, just that musically they weren't.

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 09:29 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Important- while Oasis' music might have certain Beatles influences, their image and public behaviour was/is 100% Rolling Stones.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 10 September 2002 12:25 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Absolutely Daniel, now we know why they are bastards...

alex in mainhattan (alex63), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 12:27 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Tom: I said this question was in a retro-Tom style because you're good at not loading questions with your own answers and I'm very bad at that. But I guess in this case it would be better to get specific.

My thinking is that the very charge of "boring revivalism" is both bullshit and biased against the very progress it pretends to favor, and that in practice it just gets used as a high-minded-sounding way of dismissing things people don't like at face value, revivalism or not.

Part of my problem is that it only gets thrown at styles that (a) were sort of distinctive to begin with, and (b) faded away for a while. Vaguely concrete example: I don't think your average Fischerspooner tune has any more to do with "Blue Monday" or the Normal (or whatever) than your average Wilco tune might have to do with Revolver or the Byrds or whatever else -- but since those latter rock influences have been in free-floating use for so long, the charges revolve less around "revivalism." Thus isn't precisely the influences that are most played out that get a free pass here, while the things that seemed distinctive and innovative in the first place are the ones that the "boring revivalism" tag guards people against following up on.

Also it seems born of fear, a fear of being suckered: it's like this talisman so you can make sure no band of synth-weilding charlatans might fool you into liking something you think you should have heard and liked before. I.e., it assumes that anyone doing something outside of the canonical tradition is trying to fool you into thinking that they invented it, and I don't see why that has to be the case.

I agree with you about the difference thing, Tom, obviously: some people really are boring revivalists, just sort of taken with something that's been done before but not really contributing anything to it. I suspect, though, that the reason lots of people say "boring revivalism" is to excuse themselves from having to actually listen and decide whether that's the case or not. This needn't even be conscious: with something like electro, if your listening comes enough from a rock background, the mere fact of the sounds they use will create these heavy mental links to "things done before," even if they're being done differently -- the sounds will seem a more notable or distinguishing part of what they're doing than how those sounds are assembled, which wouldn't at all be the case for someone who's been listening to loads of dance music all along. (And I do think the bulk of nu-electro really is much deeper rooted in techno and dance styles than the surface-level synth/electro touches they get claimed as slavishly reviving.)

Most all of what I've said above is colored by annoyance at a subset of indie kids who say these things about electro, and in saying them seem to reveal that just don't like the idea in the first place. Like I said, that needn't be conscious and one needn't have listened to the "original" sources to be able to say it -- in fact not having listened to the "original" sources will make it seem much more true. But I still think the whole thing uses some "progressive" principle to disguise the real fact that the people saying it just aren't interested, revival or not -- and I think doing that winds up stifling progression more than encouraging it.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 16:54 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

(nabisco the ilxor shorthand for some of all that = "no such thing as influence")

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 17:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Well, I want to condense it as follows. If you do something canonical everyone's been doing for years, even if you don't add too much people will just take it as a straightforward genre piece. If you do something only a few people did for a few years, you can add a lot to it but people will still say "oh, someone did that in 1982," as if you were trying to fool everyone. Thus a wall is built against any movement from canonical, traditional things, and nothing outside of that canon is allowed to develop traditions of its own.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 17:17 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I'd say there is nothing BUT influence, seeing as how there isn't an original thought in the world etc. etc. etc. It's all about how you mix what's already there.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 10 September 2002 21:32 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

well yeah daniel: no-such-thing/nothing-but, these are not so very different, usefulness-wise

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 10 September 2002 21:34 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
i find the amount of covers from popidols and the like to be quite redicules, they dont push for any experimentation with the arrangement or try break newground, they waterdown the songs to soft easylistening removing the vibrance. i have no problem with them not writing thier own stuff nor with them trying to revive the retro feel of some pop songs but at least they should get new songs.

reffering to the oasis comments, i am the walrus represented a point in the beatles carrear which oasis felt that they had reach, this is why they called it their i am the walrus.

ryan cooper, Sunday, 10 November 2002 17:01 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Actually, Tom to thread again in light of Under Construction, though his point is that it is unboring revivalism. ;-)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 10 November 2002 17:33 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

What's original about Electroclash is that, unlike guitar-rock, it has NEVER BEEN REVIVED BEFORE!

Curt (cgould), Sunday, 10 November 2002 17:50 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

twelve years pass...

This NPR piece (linked in the Worst Music Writing thread as an example of good music writing) resonated a lot with me, but also made me ask myself some questions I can't really answer.

10 years ago I loved revivalist rock, but these days the concept has no appeal to me at all, I've actually developed sort of a distaste - how can I explain this without resorting to romantic or rockist fallacies such as "revivalism isn't authentic!" or "revivalism isn't original!"

was thinking p hard on this yesterday, best idea I could conjure up is that there seems to be some implicit assumptions in revivalist rock or soul that the music made in between the revived period and the time of revival is somehow irrelevant, and I don't like this kind of genre policing - but then again my distaste for revivalism seems to be genre policing!

anyway, that's my best offer, since revivalist rock doesn't have obvious (to me) political aspects like the new old soul case in linked article.

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 18:44 (three years ago) Permalink

it's like any question of taste, you can analyze your own if it matters to you, but the more you try to theorize about why other people shdn't like something, the shakier yr argument becomes

OshoKosho B'Gosho (Noodle Vague), Monday, 21 September 2015 18:47 (three years ago) Permalink

I should probably try and memorize that sentence

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 18:50 (three years ago) Permalink

i do think there's mileage in questioning your own values tho - "why do i like the things that appeal to me? what connects those different kinds of art in my head? what don't i like about this thing that's annoying me?"

OshoKosho B'Gosho (Noodle Vague), Monday, 21 September 2015 18:52 (three years ago) Permalink

Well, I'm glad if it's not all useless.

Since most music turns me on it's kind of weird that revivalist music turns me off - can't figure out if it's cause I'm playing cool or bcz I think it's a very silly type of music or bcz of the feeling that there's something rockist or genre protective to revivalism that I dislike... p weird since I like the stuff that's revived a lot - maybe it's the sort of "sepia filter" thing I don't like, the nostalgic aesthetics... dunno

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:01 (three years ago) Permalink

i agree with the problem of uh......policing. i don't know though. everyone is going to have their own idea of what is worth remembering and preserving. in any genre. the more conservative the approach the more problems i have though. i don't listen to a lot of new traditional folk/country/bluegrass/blues/soul unless i feel some other element or elements is/are added to make it more interesting to me as a listener. if there aren't any added twists or quirks it just makes more sense to me to go back to the source and listen to that. but i always have to remember that there are people who LOVE endless hours of unreconstructed styles. to them there is no such thing as too much of the same thing. there were hundreds of solo dulcimer records made in this country in the 70's and 80's and they are all pretty dulcimer-y. that's all some people need. and that's true of anything. it's true of me and metal. i can listen to hours of 80's-inspired metal that doesn't add much to the discourse.

scott seward, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:02 (three years ago) Permalink

i try and remind myself as well that every new 16 year-old that hears a sound for the first time isn't gonna automatically be aware that something is "revivalist" - when something's new to you its impact usually stays with you, one way or another

OshoKosho B'Gosho (Noodle Vague), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:04 (three years ago) Permalink

i think i'm a progressive traditionalist. which is why i am endlessly stuck in the 70's. so many avenues were explored in the 70's. the mixing of old and new was inspired. i feel like every week i hear another record that blows me away with a progressive approach to old styles. i don't hear that as much with stuff now. the production is often new, but they aren't adding anything new to the conversation. and i like when music is a conversation. though, like i said, some people just like comfort. and can listen to the same styles repeated by artist after artist year after year.

(there are tons of exceptions though. as far as now goes. plenty of people exploring out there...)

scott seward, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:13 (three years ago) Permalink

yea i've been thinking about that npr piece a lot, realize your question niels is bigger than the NPR piece specifically, but anyways i posted this in the other thread

i generally agreed w/ emily lordi but i also thought she was perhaps a little too harsh on leon bridges? i mean i agree that complete devotion to replicating a retro sound is not particularly interesting but it did seem like she dumped a lot of criticism specifically on bridges himself and perhaps less so on the general phenomenon of white audiences feeling particularly pulled toward this purely retro sound.

her discussion was centered on political implications of revivalist retro soul specifically rather than all revivalist music and she knows her shit of course but i also felt like she maybe just prioritized political music because it is political, like the fact that neo-soul had afro-centric themes and was often political made it more meaningful to her than something like leon bridges' sam cooke revivalism, especially since the latter doesn't musically or thematically acknowledge decades of black radical music esp. hip-hop (though cooke did have "a change is gonna come" but whatever). the question of political vs. apolitical music seemed really to be at the core of that interview almost as much as retro vs. new.

idk i just recently read that raccoon tanuki "what happened to political rap" thread that was somehow salvaged into a decent ILM thread and it made me kind of question this overall negative judgement against apolitical music that was running through the npr piece. anyway i am not a huge fan of leon bridges, his music is very pleasant but not particularly interesting, and i would prefer to listen to same cooke or something. i also thought lordi's points about the music video were pretty spot on and interseting.

marcos, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:14 (three years ago) Permalink

(which is why i end up appreciating someone like erykah more than that guy they focus on in that NPR thing.)

scott seward, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:15 (three years ago) Permalink

dang that Leon Bridges song is really boring

welltris (crüt), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:16 (three years ago) Permalink

my answer in general to whether revivalism is worthy anything varies a lot i guess. i mean MV + EE are just aping this 70s neil crazy horse vibe with more distortion and psychedelia and it isn't particularly innovative but i have a lot of time for it. i've already exhausted my neil albums and i appreciate people paying homage if it is fun/interesting to listen to/has good vibes. same goes for sleep/om/dead meadow/electric wizard doing endless variations on basically 4 black sabbath albums, i still dig listening to it

marcos, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:18 (three years ago) Permalink

xp to Noodle: It's true that realizing revivalist music is revivalist may be a turn off, but it can also be the point - I knew very well that stuff I was getting into was revivalist back then - it was part of the appeal! I remember thinking something along the lines of "how incredible is it that this kind of music is STILL BEING MADE!"

I guess I also have something like Scott's 80s metal where too much of the same of a good thing is just perfect (can't think of it now, but I'm sure it's there)

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:20 (three years ago) Permalink

hehe marcos, indeed when trying to figure out what revivalist thread to revive, I skim read this one but it had too much good time rock&roll appreciation going, and I know a lot of people who love that kind of music, and actually, if I had to pick a revivalist genre to enjoy I might go for stoner rock

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:22 (three years ago) Permalink

(see, hip hop, in general, fits my definition of progressive traditionalism. which is one of the reasons i still love it after all these years.)

(but yeah what marcos said. why listen to not-sam cooke when you can listen to sam cooke? but there are a LOT of people who just love the idea of new sam cooke. and i get that.)

scott seward, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:28 (three years ago) Permalink

what started these confusing thoughts was me not fully enjoying a show this saturday with danish psych rockers spids nøgenhat who last year (after years and years of playing to a pretty small psych crowd) had a proper hit with this cool ode to growing weed


and I was thinking maybe the reason I didn't fully enjoy it was that it was too revivalist (I did enjoy it though, they play well and had some really cool visuals and I was a bit high even)

and earlier this year I saw Horisont at a festival and I couldn't really get excited about it (again, I thought because of the revivalism) but maybe I'm just not target audience? this youtube commenter seems to get it: "i like these guys cos there so different there right up there with kadavar. they really take influenced from scorpions & ufo so much especially this song"

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:33 (three years ago) Permalink

hip hop is great for progressive traditionalism!

but don't like traditionalist hip hop too much - saw Jurassic 5 a month ago and had to wonder if the band members just don't care for contemporary sounds at all? maybe that's the key - that I see some revivalist music as conservative, and I don't like conservatism?

Like, Sam Cooke was not a conservative artist at all, right? So there's something very paradoxical in honouring him through mimicry?

niels, Monday, 21 September 2015 19:35 (three years ago) Permalink

I remember when I was in college and first got into Desco soul/funk revival stuff (which I think more or less morphed into Daptone, although I'm not clear on the specifics), I was immensely excited about it. The way they not only revived the styles but actually recreated the studio techniques, recording quality etc. actually felt RADICAL to me at the time rather than reactionary, although it's hard today to justify why that is other than just I was all hormonal and collegy and excited about everything. Of course it was partly because the energy of that music itself, at least the best stuff, was just so high. It was performed in a way that seemed to really inhabit the spirit and not just recreate in an overly reverent way. The vibe wasn't "lets remember the days when music was MUSIC," it was more this strange, ecstatic exercise, like the sheer strangeness of someone actually bothering to make these records that could really fool me into thinking they were from 1969 or 1972 had a certain creative energy to it.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:42 (three years ago) Permalink

xp BTW I felt exactly the same excitement when I heard the group choruses on Jurassic 5 EP, which I still think holds up pretty well. Because I had just never heard ANYONE do that kind of old-school rap revivalism. But then it got stale pretty fast.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:43 (three years ago) Permalink

I mean their style did.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:43 (three years ago) Permalink

OTOH I remember seeing Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings live man years later and thinking that, as much as I loved her and the music overall, some of the band members had this faintly necrophiliac vibe to them.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:44 (three years ago) Permalink

*many years later

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Monday, 21 September 2015 19:44 (three years ago) Permalink

"but don't like traditionalist hip hop too much"

i've never had any need for it in a genre that honors tradition so well while adding the new effortlessly!

scott seward, Monday, 21 September 2015 20:06 (three years ago) Permalink

The way they not only revived the styles but actually recreated the studio techniques, recording quality etc. actually felt RADICAL to me at the time rather than reactionary, although it's hard today to justify why that is other than just I was all hormonal and collegy and excited about everything. Of course it was partly because the energy of that music itself, at least the best stuff, was just so high. It was performed in a way that seemed to really inhabit the spirit and not just recreate in an overly reverent way. The vibe wasn't "lets remember the days when music was MUSIC," it was more this strange, ecstatic exercise, like the sheer strangeness of someone actually bothering to make these records that could really fool me into thinking they were from 1969 or 1972 had a certain creative energy to it.

I kinda had this response to Blue, the recent jazz album by Mostly Other People Do The Killing. For those who don't know, it's a note-for-note re-creation of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, right down to the reverb, room sound, etc. They really tried as hard as they could to sound exactly like the original recording. And of course a lot of dickhead jazz critics took the bait and A/B-ed the records so they could point out that MOPDTK's drummer didn't get the kick drum part right on this one measure, blah blah blah. But what I thought when I heard it was, Wow! Now imagine if they recorded their next album of original music using those exact same reverb settings, microphone placements, etc. It would be new music, full of circa-2015 technique ('cause despite this experiment, MOPDTK are not normally a retro act at all) but deliberately designed to sound like it was recorded to analog two-track tape in 1959.

The thing about that NPR piece, though, is that it seemed to presuppose that all innovations in "black" music since the 1960s have been improvements, and that politically engaged music is better than apolitical music. I disagree on both counts.

the top man in the language department (誤訳侮辱), Monday, 21 September 2015 20:38 (three years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

pleased to find that this particular Leon Bridges song is a jam and not boring revivalism at all


niels, Wednesday, 5 December 2018 21:59 (five months ago) Permalink

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