Key to deconstructing C Eddy/ S Reynolds

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thanks to James' statement I found my punk sucks and metal doesn't (if punk includes Husker Du and indie stuff) doesn't. Punk, being more PC in many ways, is wan and bookish in ways metal rarely is. If Chuck uses punk to legitimize metal, it's by saying punk ain't as fun! But again, the qualities that make good punk and good metal are very similar. It's the ways they suck that show the difference in the genres.

Anthony Miccio, Saturday, 9 November 2002 23:59 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't see Stairway as an endorsement of ANY of those records -- it's not necessarily a list of favorites, it's an excuse for him to flex his rockcrit muscle and make bad puns and draw great and unusual parallels.

Is this just a nice way of saying that he's wanking off?

I actually couldn't finish Stairway -- I got bored after the first hundred, slogged through the second hundred, and said "fuckit". There were bits that I thought were brilliant, but wading through the morass to get them was too much for me. And Kix is marginal buttrock at best.

J (Jay), Sunday, 10 November 2002 00:18 (seventeen years ago) link

I wouldn't say any album is a bonafide classic (after all, I'm not trying to make a point or anything), but I think Kix are pretty great. Chewier hooks than most metal bands and some very fun lyrics. J.D. Considine got it right in the R.S. album guide when he called them a feel good AC/DC or whatever. How much did you hear when you decided they were buttrock? Though seeing how cute and tame Kix can be, buttrock is a better term than shitrock or assrock.

Anthony Miccio, Sunday, 10 November 2002 00:38 (seventeen years ago) link

Haha return to Kogan's notion of superwords again. One key part of what constitutes a superword, I think (punk and metal being almost categorial examples) is the constant rewriting of history and restructuring and streamlining of the canon in the course of the combative evolution of a superword genre. So SR and CE have their own particular takes on links, takes which are absolutely there (punk to metal and postpunk to house [Reynolds is quite clear on the way this took place in "Energy Flash"'s early chapters] -- which is via Europe and back again.) while DeGeorgio for example identifies a transhistoric "black music" whose evolution he traces rather than rooting himself in the actual history and practice of the music.

The debates are really over "influence" -- for superword fetishists influence runs backwards and choses its heroes in the process of defining the genre (i.e. "the ultimate metal album doesn't yet exist, but if it did, it would take these elements from the past and put them together -- hey let's start a band like that!") while ce and sr to the extent they do this (which by no means is even the key and consistant strand in their work, i think) prefer to treat "influence" as the sum-total of as-then-defined social categories and their outlook as the ferment in which the new is born.

see also here where I talked some about SR's historical method.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Sunday, 10 November 2002 00:54 (seventeen years ago) link

Though having had a million discussions on the subject with people of all persuasions, I had yet to hear the term "superwords". I must thank Frankie K and Sterlie C for this invention.

Anybody know why SR thinks A.R. Kane is important (see his Spin Alternative Record Guide entry)? I don't want to assume its a Living Colour thing but I'm tempted. I bought 69 and Up Home megacheap based on his take and needless to say I was startled by the anonymous post-J&MC 4AD-ness waiting for me.

Anthony Miccio, Sunday, 10 November 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Might be a case of context there, Anthony, that doesn't work as well for some in the cold light of day. But I'm no good on this subject, I am an unabashed AR Kane fanatic. If you see i or Americana megacheap, try those (or I can assemble the collection of weird rarities I have that still have never seen the light on CD).

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 10 November 2002 01:30 (seventeen years ago) link

Main musical difference for me is that Punk tends to be fast, while Metal songs frequently pass the six minute barrier. Also, of course, Heavy Metal fans care about instrumental virtousity- i.e. "Dude, that guy can really play! Cool!" vs "Dude, that guy can't play AT ALL! Cool!" (which is not to say that one can't enjoy both, of course.)

I think part of the point is that in the overall scheme of things, all contemporary Western pop music forms really share a lot of fundamental characteristics and have a lot of basic things in common. Especially when we get to two 'genres' like punk and metal which particularly often tend to share a lot in terms of instrumentation, use of that instrumentation (power chords, palm mutes, distortion), intended effect, attitude, ideology, and audience. One can classify pop music artists for various purposes based on whatever criteria one wants but it should be plain that artists with this much in common can also be classified or compared using other criteria depending on what one wants to look at. e.g. If extended song form and instrumental elaboration are the criteria we are using to classify artists, why not compare Yes, Sonic Youth, Tool, Public Image Ltd (who begin their most celebrated album with an 8-minute track) and Shellac with each other and compare System Of a Down (who barely even play guitar solos compared to Husker Du or Black Flag), The Clash, and Blue Cheer with each other? (OK, so I'm randomly choosing bands but you get the idea.) Why not try to compare the trilogy from Daydream Nation to "Hemispheres" (as bob snoom did, I think) or "Close To the Edge" - guitar rock extended to larger-scale compositional frameworks based on the contrast between the peaceful and threatening, between beatless and droney sections and rhythmically active sections with the instruments often used in similar ways - > e.g. arpeggiation contrasted with forceful strumming with repeated melodies - rather than to something by the Pixies or the Velvet Underground? (Or you could compare it to another trilogy like "Starship Trooper".) (By this point it should be clear that I'm a total fronter about both punk and metal and I'm just grabbing at the nearest artwank project I can find.) Why not compare the noise break in "Silver Rocket" with the one in "Rocket"? Why not see parallels between how Loverboy and Joy Division started to work disco elements into rock within 5 years or less of each other?

sundar subramanian (sundar), Sunday, 10 November 2002 04:20 (seventeen years ago) link

". . . celebrated double-album" FWIW

sundar subramanian (sundar), Sunday, 10 November 2002 04:22 (seventeen years ago) link

Or if "Paranoid" and "Highway Star" and "Razamataz" are classic heavy metal, should it necessarily be too much of a stretch to see "Interzone" or "Too Drunk To Fuck" as also being successors as well as "For Whom the Bell Tolls"?

sundar subramanian (sundar), Sunday, 10 November 2002 04:53 (seventeen years ago) link

His problem is that he never read Molesworth ... ' "Any Fule Kno That" is a hopped-up Zep rap with obligatorily misspelled gangsta title.'

Christopher, Sunday, 10 November 2002 06:50 (seventeen years ago) link

For what it's worth: It's not only Punk fans who grew up on Metal. Metal seems to be more a gender thing: Most male music fans (I know at least) used to be into metal as a teenager (which, in my opinion, ties in with the sexual aspect of it).

I didn't get Simon Reynolds for a long time, and his made-up words still annoy

You obv won't like most Post Modern writers. I really REALLY like Simon Reynolds just BECAUSE of that. He tries to use Kristeva, Barthes et al in his writing... with great success. Chuck Eddy? Don't really care all that much about his writing (or editing) because it feels far more male (than for example Simon R).

nathalie (nathalie), Sunday, 10 November 2002 08:57 (seventeen years ago) link

"Nirvana is the biggest heap of crap I've ever seen. They should do alright, they've got that Black Sabbath sound down" - Mark E Smith
"Heavy metal bands are turning people into oafs and idiots. Van Halen - music for morons" - Joe Strummer
"Horses, horses, HORSESHIT!" - J Lydon

dave q, Sunday, 10 November 2002 10:45 (seventeen years ago) link

Re punk/metal - was the rough beast slouching toward OC really the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"?

dave q, Sunday, 10 November 2002 11:05 (seventeen years ago) link

Or is it "I'm Eighteen"?

James Blount (James Blount), Sunday, 10 November 2002 11:09 (seventeen years ago) link

"Nirvana is the biggest heap of crap I've ever seen. They should do alright, they've got that Black Sabbath sound down" - Mark E Smith

"It just feels like everyone's listening to fookin' Black Sabbath again"- Damon Albarn

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Sunday, 10 November 2002 13:38 (seventeen years ago) link

obv won't like most Post Modern writers. I really REALLY like Simon Reynolds just BECAUSE of that. He tries to use Kristeva, Barthes et al in his writing... with great success.

Wow, I couldn't disagree more. First, I'm generally a PM fan, and complex wordplay is admired in my world. I once spent two hours dicussing one paragraph from Lacan's "Agency of the Letter," because although I couldn't figure out what it meant, I knew it meant *something important* (nb--it did). I dislike SR's made-up words because most of he time he hasn't bothered to make up any concepts for them to refer to--he's just doing bad puns. And then, when we do get both a word and concept (I'll be nasty and pick "post-rock"), it's something too silly to mention.

As for the Barthes, Kristeva, et al. . . . I think it's pretty superficial use. I'm sure that he knows more about French Poststructuralism than I do, but in "Energy Flash" his use of theory amounts to drop a name, add a primary concept without analysis, and move on. I'm far more impressed with, say, Mark Sinker's utter destruction of Jacques Attali, which demonstrates facility with (an admittedly silly, but fun) theory, or Greil Marcus's use of Debord in "Lipstick Traces."

J (Jay), Sunday, 10 November 2002 14:11 (seventeen years ago) link

Heavy Metal fans care about instrumental virtousity
Considering the cult status of Absurd, Vlad Tepes or Ildjarn, that certainly is not true today. Although things were indeed different in the late 70s/early 80s...

Siegbran (eofor), Sunday, 10 November 2002 14:46 (seventeen years ago) link

Brief sketch of what I mean by Superword: A Superword is a word like "punk," which is, among other things, a battleground, a weapon, a red cape, a prize, a flag in a bloody game of Capture the Flag. To put this in the abstract, a Superword is a word or phrase that not only is used in fights but that is itself fought over. The fight is over who gets to wear the word proudly, who gets the word affixed to himself against his will, etc. So the use is fought over, and this - the fight over usage - is a big part of the word's use. That is, we use the term in order to engage in arguments over how to use the term.

Meta use is use!

A Superword is a controversy word, but not all controversy words are Superwords; for what makes a Superword really super is that some people use the word so that it will jettison adherents and go skipping on ahead of any possible embodiment. Like, no one and nothing is good enough to bear the word "punk," and I wouldn't join a band that would have someone like me as a member anyway. (Supposedly, in the late ’80s I once claimed that Michael Jackson and Axl Rose were the only two punks going at the time.) “Rock,” “pop,” “punk,” and many other genre names sometimes act as Superwords. So "punk" (for instance) can be an ideal, and every single song that aspires to be punk can fall short in someone's ears. But for the word to be super, not only must people disagree on the ideal, but some people must consciously or unconsciously keep changing what the word or ideal is supposed to designate so that the music is always inadequate to the ideal, even if the music would have been adequate to yesterday's version of the ideal. And the music then chases after this ever-changing ideal. Words bounce on ahead, and the music comes tumbling after.

Sterling's got a good handle on one way to work this mechanism. Another way is to put the ideal hopelessly and inaccessibly in the past: e.g., we realize that there's no way, even if we copy the notes and the look, that we could ever be what the Stooges were in '72 or Britney was in '99, so we try to be something that is different but equivalent.

I'm curious about the evolution of Tom Ewing's use of the word "pop"; I'm guessing - though I could be all wrong - that he'll sometimes, depending on the context, use "pop" to mean chart pop or something that sounds like it, whether it's good or not, while at other times he'll banish a song or band from "pop" for not being very good. And maybe Backstreet-Britney-*Nsync are initially pop simply for being teenybopper acts that charted, but by '01 they're no longer pop (again, depending on the conversation Tom's engaging in) because they're different from what they were in '99, and not as good. So pop is dead, and being dead, it's an idea without an embodiment, hence it's an ideal to be pursued, not just a form of music to be identified.

This thread has barely gotten warmed up (though, like all threads by the time I contribute to them, it's at death's door), because it has had very little discussion of social category. Come back, Nathalie, we need you. Chuck and Simon never lose sight of social category. And it's crucial to my idea of Superwords, since genre names would be neither controversy words nor Superwords if people didn't use them to differentiate themselves from each other. We differentiate from each other by using words differently (just as we differentiate by pronouncing words differently, by dressing differently, etc.), and we differentiate by categorizing each other as different. And we jigger the controversy words and the Superwords when we want to escape being identified with people who tend to be categorized as like us and when we want to be identified with people who tend to be categorized as unlike us.

(Slade, Dolls, Stooges, and Mott were all rejected by the metal fans [at least in the USA], maybe in part because the were all willing to play to get the glitter babes and the teenyboppers; these bands only became "metal" in retrospect, when the '80s glam-metal bands began looting their look and sound.)

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 11 November 2002 04:10 (seventeen years ago) link

My use of "pop" is lazy writing more than an application of a theory, but yeah, I use it in lots of interrelated ways -

1. "Pop" meaning what is popular i.e. in the charts, roughly regardless of quality. Other words can override this because of meanings 2 and 3 operating on meaning 1, i.e. I'd sooner call MBV 'indie' or 'shoegaze' or something even if their record is in the chart because calling them 'pop' feels like a violation of meanings 2 and 3.

2. The specific current style of Pop(1) - in 1999 this was Britney, Christina, Backstreets - very compressed, melodramatic, hooky tracks with a dance base and R&B elements used as a production trick rather than to provide rhythm of image. This was the style that I suggested might be 'dead' in 2001 and has now been replaced by something similar but different thanks in part to the operation of meaning 4.

3. A personal ideal of mine, a kind of music which individual records and even periods of Pop(2) can live up to but which Pop(1) as a whole cannot. The shortfall between Pop(1) and Pop(3) gives following the charts its interest, in the same way that following a football team would eventually become tiresome if it won every match. Describing or trying to catch the nature of Pop(3) is my reason for writing.

4. A convenient name for one end of a continuum of images, stances, and actions relating to the presentation and production processes of an artist and their music. i.e. heavy marketing, major label support, not writing ones own music etc. Pop seen as inauthentic at the point of production. By using rock music or R&B tropes most of the new pop stars are shifting their position on this continuum (which I still think is kind of a losing strategy because the continuum was defined long ago and not by them). This meaning of Pop is one I seem to end up using a lot and rather wish I didn't because it leads me into very circular discussions - but on the other hand it seems, particularly at the moment, to have lots to do with how the music is being made, marketed and perceived.

Tom (Groke), Monday, 11 November 2002 12:23 (seventeen years ago) link

I buy the superword idea, I think (I've direct experience of contesting both punk and pop from time to time). How many are there at the moment? Or are superwords like the weather, everywhere all at once, but only exciting / violent in certain places at certain times? (Place here meaning situation I suppose).

Has 'rock' lost its superword currency? Has it stopped being contested?

Sorry for the dumb questions. Also trying to map the model onto reggae, which seems to have an opposite thing going on, but I probably need to think about it some more.

Tim (Tim), Monday, 11 November 2002 13:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Well, in regards to social category and punk, here's a big one. Is punk the apocalypse or the idealists built to survive it? Iggy Pop or Jello Biafra? Johnny Rotten or Ian MacKaye. If the interview from Popped still stands, then Kogan would vote for the nihilists. But Joe Strummer said in SPIN that nobody's punker than Fugazi, so there's one strong vote for the other side. Since I personally prefer broad definitions, I tend to think of punk basically means someone ACTIVELY outside of the mainstream who takes pride in the middle finger and/or the electric guitar.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 00:17 (seventeen years ago) link

I dunno, for me pop is basically everything that crosses over into the mainstream. And if it has sonic or social similarities to subgenres, in come the hypens. Dance-pop, pop-punk, etc. And personally, getting pop put next to your name means you MADE IT! Good job!

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 00:30 (seventeen years ago) link

Is punk the apocalypse or the idealists built to survive it?

Just diferent ways of dealing with Whoa, This Shit Is Fucked Up, I always figured- "whoa, this shit is fucked up, aaaargh!" (Johnny Rotten), "whoa, this shit is fucked up, let's make it so damn cartoony that it loses its menace" (The Ramones), "whoa, this shit is fucked up, let's change it!" (The Clash)

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 01:27 (seventeen years ago) link

I agree with ya, Daniel. If you're actively outside the mainstream, you likely assume its fucked up. Though if you read the Frank Kogan interview on he gives a more personal take of Iggy-Rotten punk as being as muched fucked up shit as a reaction to it. You don't search to destroy and destroy passerby and not be part of the problem. I'm not sure I agree with this take on pure punk (though I definitely agree that punk cliques are pretty skewed, punk at its purest does imply you don't fit in ANYWHERE), but I wanted to see if others do.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 01:40 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't think it does any good to assign punk bands into "idealist" and "nihilist" slots, were it even possible; a lot of punk sort of predicated itself on making precisely this dichotomy a non-starter. Ditto any concept of "pure" punk. If you're driving at something though, bring it, by all means.

I wore a Zep t-shirt to my first day at Doyle High School, in August of 1989. I didn't know anybody, so at lunch I sat by myself. Eventually two girls sat down across from me, taking no notice of me whatsoever. Then they twigged my t-shirt. "Zeppelin, wow! You're a freshman?" "Yeah" "You're pretty cool for a freshman!" I have no idea what relevance this story has but I thought I'd share it.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 02:03 (seventeen years ago) link

(1st graf is directed to Mssrs Daniel_Rf and Anthony Miccio)

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 02:05 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't understand your statement "a lot of punk sort of predicated itself on making precisely this dichotomy a non-starter."

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 02:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Taking one example - is "no future" a warning or a condemnation? I think it allows itself to be both. Metal could conceivably be more ably contained within the glass-half-full/glass-half-empty categories you describe - Whitesnake vs Celtic Frost, for instance? - but what would be gained?

I think one of the curses of being a superword is that your niche is never fixed, you have to keep packing stuff back into boxes and moving to a new place, even if it's just down the street. Sometimes you get to stay in the same apartment but the walls all have to move like 2 inches to the left. What a pain in the ass!

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:05 (seventeen years ago) link

All pop genres have vague slogany lyrics, so I don't think gets off the hook in regards to classification. What's gained is just a sense of why we say one band is or isn't punk. Like any superword, it would be meaningless if it had NO boundaries and definition. So laying down some ground rules like "all punks assume shit is fucked up" is harmless.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:24 (seventeen years ago) link

b-but some of them don't!

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:29 (seventeen years ago) link

what punk doesn't assume shit is fucked up?

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:31 (seventeen years ago) link

"shit" = too broad to define = gives the superword its power.

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:33 (seventeen years ago) link

(but, if you really want albums: eater - all of eater; beenie man - "who am i?"; pil - "theme"; klf - "doctorin the tardis")

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:36 (seventeen years ago) link

Jess, I am so confused. Are you saying PIL doesn't think shit is fucked up. Shit being the world at large? I can't think of a band that is considered punk that has a "don't worry be happy" outlook on things. Frustration or fightin' seems a given. plus is Beenie Man or KLF called punk by anybody?

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:40 (seventeen years ago) link

(how can the children of chuck eddy be such goddamned literalists?)

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:44 (seventeen years ago) link

well, see, Chuck would say HOW they're punk. For those who don't know.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:48 (seventeen years ago) link

heh, sorry anthony, i didn't mean for that to come off as snotty as it probably seemed. (do i ever?)

as i understand the superword concept (and if i'm misinterpreting then i'm merely freeing it from the tyranny of frank's fixed defn...haha "superword" is a superword), it's the exact UNreliability of the word itself which gives it its power. attempting to fix any defn to it is what stimulates the debate, arguments, pissing contests, whatever. to say that punk "takes shit as fucked up" is to affix a defn to punk is taking PART in the superword idea, but fairly useless in deconstructing/understanding the idea of the concept itself. likewise, me calling beenie man or the klf punks (which i wholly believe btw) is another way to take part in the superword idea, but again, fairly useless in defining the concept, which slips in and around artists/scenes/sounds with frustrating (or wonderful, depending on yr take) ease.

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 18:56 (seventeen years ago) link

See, I would say you need a DAMN wide net to harness a superword, but if literally meant ANYTHING, than why would you say it at all? Punk definitely falls under either bohemianism or cynicism or adolesencent anger, all of which certainly believe that shit is fucked up. I know KLF does.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 19:02 (seventeen years ago) link

Keep in mind I think the overwhelming majority of post-modern thought is complete and utterly worthless bullshit.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 19:03 (seventeen years ago) link

But doesn't that answer your own question, Anthony? At least about if the KLF are called punk by anybody -- they could just as easily say it about themselves and probably do (I'm not up on my KLF mythology in general).

For what it's worth I'm listening to the Poison Girls right now and they're one of the best punk groups ever from what I'm thinking, and half the songs are gentle ballads sung by a woman who rivals Marianne Faithful for general expression!

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 19:06 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm fine with people believing unobviously punk bands are punk, if they give a reason. Chuck Eddy's got a wide view of what metal is, but he does provide what that view is in the front of his book. However, I don't think Superwords are undefinable. They may have multiple definitions, but there are definitions.

I've never heard the Poison Girls, but you say they're punk from what you're thinking. Well, you must be thinking something that we can comprehend and you feel is a viable definition of punk or else you wouldn't have said that word to us.

So yeah, I can see why the KLF are punk conceptually (they poop on rules and all that). But the point remains that there's good reason to attempt to define punk, otherwise it would be worthless superword to throw around. Superword means we debate, not that there's no answers.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 19:36 (seventeen years ago) link

I've never heard the Poison Girls, but you say they're punk from what you're thinking. Well, you must be thinking something that we can comprehend and you feel is a viable definition of punk or else you wouldn't have said that word to us.

It's certainly contextual (friends/labelmates of Crass, noted anarchists, etc.). But then again Crass themselves tried all sorts of styles and approaches under the rubric and anarchism doesn't have to mean sounding like the Sex Pistols (or whoever).

Superwords are fun (hey! that word!) to throw around. That's why I'm bemused by the fact that apparently Avril Lavigne is hated because she claims she's punk. Is that really a reason to hate?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 19:47 (seventeen years ago) link

Man do I have a crush on her. Especially after reading the RS interview where she says she's not punk but likes Dillinger Four! If was 18 I would be so endeared to her openness to sounds and styles.

Actually, wait. When I was 18 I was a bitter music-nazi who would have hated her punk co-option and been trying to make myself like free jazz. I was so stupid then.

Anthony Miccio, Tuesday, 12 November 2002 19:51 (seventeen years ago) link

I like Tracer's "No Future" example. Even better would be the dual readings of Richard Hell's "Blank Generation".

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 20:12 (seventeen years ago) link

Anthony I'm not saying "no definitions, all is permitted, give it up and stop trying" I'm precisely defining punk as both a tying-together and exploding of the twin concepts of optimism and apocalypse in order to flee the stagnancy caused by the relentless categorization of people as either no-hopers or go-getters, of music as idealistic or nihilistic, even of kids as "punks" and "non-punks". It's not that I have a problem with "definitions", I just have a problem with YOUR definitions.

I suggested that metal's project may have been different. The Led Zeppelin t-shirt story illustrated part of the difference, at least as I saw it in high school. Then again, that exact dialogue might just as easily have occurred if I'd been wearing a Bad Brains t-shirt (given the right girls). But it would have worked differently. The subtext would have changed.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 12 November 2002 21:40 (seventeen years ago) link

Hmmm. Definitions. What do I think of definitions? Well, I don't think that definitions are ever adequate to all the uses of any word, not just of a Superword. But then, I don't think it's a definition's job to - as it were - define the use of a term, but rather to aid people in using the term better. Dictionary definitions often do a good job of this. Or they can aid in helping to understand how someone else is using a term - "what do you mean by 'pop' in this instance?" But lack of a good definition doesn't make a word meaningless, obviously, and often enough people will use examples rather than definitions when trying to explain a term (which is basically what I did in my "brief sketch of what I mean[t] by Superword"). Things get interesting, though, when differences in usage are related to social category and to social differentiation ("social differentiation" includes both defining yourself as an individual different from other individuals ["unlike Tracer, Anthony thinks of punk as..."] and defining yourself as belonging to a different category from other people ["unlike people such as Tracer, Anthony is one of those people who thinks of punk as..."]). (Aaargh: I don't take any responsibility for the use of the word "defining" in that last parenthesis.) Anyway, then your definitions might put you at odds with other people's. The job description for "definition" would change from "aiding people to use [or understand my use of] the term better" to "differentiating me from him" (though the definition might well help people to understand the differentiation better).

This thread still hasn't gotten into social category.

So here goes. There are two types of people in the world, Pseudointellectuals and Real Intellectuals. Pseudointellectuals talk about Chuck Eddy's motives, while Real Intellectuals talk about Chuck Eddy's ideas. OK, I'm being rough, and Jody and Dave Q probably will talk about both. And I certainly don't think that discussion of motives should be taken off the intellectual table. But come on. Most people who talk about Chuck's motives do so as a way of evading his ideas. [More to come.]

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 18 November 2002 08:59 (seventeen years ago) link

How to separate 'motives' from 'social categoricalness' tho?

dave q, Monday, 18 November 2002 15:57 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't have anything to add, but I'm really enjoying this thread.

J (Jay), Monday, 18 November 2002 19:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Dude, Frank, you're lucky everybody digs your posts. I don't think many could get away with putting [More to come] at the end of their post.

As far as social category goes though, I'm usually not comfortable with them. People who define themselves as part of a group usually feel the need to live up to some outside standard, and therefore might ignore their personal tastes. The only times I don't flinch are when people say it with some humor (i.e., "oh god, look at my record collection. I am SO emo.") or when their definition is rather broad.
I know we all do it, but it's dangerous to get hung up on it. I think most of the time Chuck uses it to explain why people's tastes get messed up.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 00:40 (seventeen years ago) link

Of lexicographers?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:44 (seventeen years ago) link

yeah. right. I used to hang out with all the word definers in high school and we used to whip eggs at those who didn't and only liked movies about word definers. Got me.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:44 (seventeen years ago) link

haha yes of course "indie" that nebulous free-form word that can happily include everything from britney to ECM — you got me

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link


Ben Williams, Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link

mark, strike word and replace "genre" and you got it.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:52 (seventeen years ago) link


mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:56 (seventeen years ago) link

Please remember I think that a definition of a superword must be extremely broad.

I mean, we can safely assume indie rock is not a pastry or an interesting new way to whittle. There for the definition of indie rock must exist, lest people think we're talking about pastries. However, if someone thinks ECM is indie-rock, there's logic to it. And if somebody is trying to say "Britney" is indie for some god-unknown reason, there might be logic to that too. But since no logic would define Millard Fillmore as "indie rock" we can assume the definition of Indie Rock would exclude Millard Fillmore.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:07 (seventeen years ago) link

my other point is just that I don't trust people obsessed with social category because social category can hinder individuality. I believe that's all I'm arguing here.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:08 (seventeen years ago) link

Individuality only means something in relation to social category is what my point is.

If there were no social categories, then everyone wouldn't all be individuals, rather we would all be the same, or at least unable to distinguish if we were individuals.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Did I say there are no social categories or that they shouldn't exist? Nope. Just said I don't trust people obsessed with BEING in one.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:16 (seventeen years ago) link

i.e. someone who thinks they're punker than the punkest punk.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:17 (seventeen years ago) link

But by refusing to define yrself as punk don't you see yrself as the punkest of them all?

Yancey (ystrickler), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

well, all we are saying is that argument over definitions of genre is a major way of putting down boundary-markers for said categories

they can't be punker than the punkest punk cz that's me

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:22 (seventeen years ago) link

duh to the former. nuh to the latter.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:24 (seventeen years ago) link

Why is social category so important in music criticism? When it isn't, really, in any other form of arts criticism. Movie critics don't make value judgements based on the audience's class/ethnicity/gender. But music critics do, often quite obsessively.

I blame Dick Hebdige.

Ben Williams, Thursday, 28 November 2002 13:52 (seventeen years ago) link

four weeks pass...
Ben, you're surprising me. From reading your posts in general, I'd expect you to like that social category is an issue. I've never read Hebdige. I doubt that he has much to do with it. I can't think of a time in my life when social category wasn't an issue. The thread title top 600 songs that would [have] gotten you beat up if you walked down the hall singing them loudly in grade six gives a reason why.

Movie critics don't make value judgments based on the audience's class/ethnicity/gender.

Yes they do - well, change "based on" to "taking into account," and they do. They may not be aware of it, though. Maybe they're not as thoughtful as music critics. (Should probably change that to "maybe they're even more thoughtless than music critics.") But smart movie critics like Otis Ferguson and Manny Farber and Andrew Sarris didn't ignore the relation between taste and social category.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Thursday, 26 December 2002 05:22 (seventeen years ago) link

I was being a little disingenuous...

I don't dislike social category as an issue. I do think it tends to be deployed in somewhat kneejerk fashion in music criticism. To wit: what the "working class" like (or rather are presumed to like) is usually valorized as good, real and authentic (because it questions and/or unmasks society's status quo through some combination of primitivism and montage effects), and what the "middle class" like (or rather are presumed to like) is usually dismissed as bad, fake and inauthentic (because it upholds the status quo through some combination of "lightness" and holistic investment in "quality"). Often class is invoked as a guarantor of value in itself; the question of who exactly constitutes the classes in question is rarely examined, or indeed whether there are any other classes besides this convenient binary. I mentioned Dick Hebdige because he created what has proven to be a very durable paradigm along these lines, one that still holds conscious or unconscious sway over British music critics (but not at all among Americans) who did a bit of Cult Studs at some point in their lives...

I haven't read Otis Ferguson and Manny Farber. I do read Andrew Sarris in the Observer, and can't say I've ever noticed social category playing much of a role in his work. But I'm not familiar with anything like its entirety. I'm not so well versed in movie criticism in general, but I've read a fair bit and issues of class just don't seem to be nearly as prevalent--although it might be fair to say that the difference between taking class into account and basing judgements on it is exactly what I was thinking of...

I think there's actually a simple reason why music critics tend to be more concerned with social category than movie critics (if you'll allow me to maintain that for a moment longer), which is that music is used much more as a marker of personal identity than movies are. Kids (other than movie geeks) don't get into fights at school over tribal identification with Spielberg vs. Scorcese.

I just wish the treatment was bit more sophisticated sometimes...

Ben Williams, Thursday, 26 December 2002 20:08 (seventeen years ago) link

Ben, keep going. I think I look at "social category" in a more local way, the locale not being so much geographic as socio-intellectual. And my particular locale (though this doesn't necessarily correspond to whom I see in person day-to-day) is Marginal Artists And Intellectuals And Bohos And Hobbyists. And I'm interested in social category not just as it plays out between this group (Boho Arties & Ints) and others, but within it. ("Within" being a problematic term, of course.) And that's pretty much all I'm going to say right now, because I promised myself to work on something else today. But here are some ideas: (1) Brits like Frith, Sinker, and Reynolds all take seriously the fact that there is oppression and that music can be propaganda, both good and bad. But they also take seriously that people in social groups other than our own often do a lot better job than we do of entertaining themselves. (2) Hebdige, as you describe him, is trying to recuperate "working-class" entertainment on behalf of the Protestant ethic. This makes people like Frith and Sinker and Reynolds (and me) very suspicious of people like Hebdige. [Notice I've just claimed to have identified two social categories.] (3) In my fanzine in the late '80s I'd complained that '60s progressive rockers wouldn't play what they couldn't justify, and that alternative-indie-postpunk rock had become the new progressive rock (hence wouldn't play what it couldn't justify). I said that this was the Protestant Ethic in hip and then punk guise. But I'm not altogether against the Protestant Ethic.

The best Ferguson is the out-of-print Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson, rather than the in-print Otis Ferguson Reader. The classic (and only, as far as I know) Farber collection is Negative Space, also called Movies. My complaint - "wouldn't play what they couldn't justify" - is one that Ferguson and Farber would recognize very well.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Thursday, 26 December 2002 22:09 (seventeen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
Also trying to map the model onto reggae, which seems to have an opposite thing going on, but I probably need to think about it some more.

Tim, did you ever do this, ever make your map? Did you post it?

Well, in regards to social category and punk, here's a big one. Is punk the apocalypse or the idealists built to survive it? Iggy Pop or Jello Biafra? Johnny Rotten or Ian MacKaye? If the interview from Popped still stands, then Kogan would vote for the nihilists. But Joe Strummer said in SPIN that nobody's punker than Fugazi, so there's one strong vote for the other side. Since I personally prefer broad definitions, I tend to think of punk basically means someone ACTIVELY outside of the mainstream who takes pride in the middle finger and/or the electric guitar.

But Anthony, to be actively outside the mainstream is such a mainstream ideal. "Middle finger" and "electric guitar" are hardly relegated to the fringes. Johnny Rotten comes from the main stream of modern life more than Celine Dion does. Iggy declared himself the mainstream in his very first stanza. It's 1969, OK, all across the USA, another year for me and you, another year with nothing to do. So here we are. I speak for you whether you listen or not. In every single person is a Slim Shady lurkin'. He could be workin' at Burger King, spittin' on your onion rings, or outside in the parking lot, circling, screaming "I don't give a fuck," with his windows down and his system up. So will the real Shady please stand up and put one of those fingers on each hand up and be proud to be out of your mind and out of control, and one more time, loud as you can, how does it go? But notice how you split up against yourself, how your inner Shady is spitting on your own onions, and anyway, I'm the real Slim Shady, and all you other Shadies are just imitating. I was Johnny Rotten before Johnny Rotten was. No one does Kogan like Kogan. So:

Is punk the apocalypse or the idealists built to survive it?

Both, both, both at once, each against the other, each embracing the other. Punk is (among many other things) the conflict between the apocalypse and the survivors. And this conflict can be within a person as well as between people. This is what Tracer is getting at, I think. Iggy and Johnny are idealists, not nihilists. The distinction you should be going for is between two different ways of using ideals: (1) To hold the ideal up against a world in order to keep prodding that world, tearing at it; the ideal is a Memphis that you can never get to, a Johanna that you can never have, but you use 'em to prod and pummel poor Mobile and Louise, because you like to pummel and tear, even or especially if you yourself are the one being torn; turn around bitch, I've got a use for you. Come and be my enemy, so I can love you too. Besides, you've got nothing better to do, and I'm bored. (2) As a practical guide for creating and correcting an ongoing structure (such as ILx) in which interesting people can pummel and tear and bond with each other.

(I developed the concept Superword to explain Dylan's "Memphis Blues Again" and "Visions of Johanna," took it from there to genre.) (Movie double bill: From Here to Eternity and From There to Genre.)

(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Farewell to Arms.)

See, I would say you need a DAMN wide net to harness a superword, but if it literally meant ANYTHING, than why would you say it at all?

Anthony, you're running off the rails here, and also changing the subject, since no one said that it could mean anything. You don't need a harness and net to constrain a dolphin from flying to the moon.

punk rock /= punk

Don't know if you mean (1) that "punk rock" and "punk" are different concepts ("Yum, that chocolate eclair à la dead squirrel is so punk rock." "No, it's merely punk") or (2) that punk rock isn't very punk, or isn't punk enough, or isn't as punk as some other things. Would you elaborate?

Please remember I think that a definition of a superword must be extremely broad. I mean, we can safely assume indie rock is not a pastry or an interesting new way to whittle. Therefore the definition of indie rock must exist, lest people think we're talking about pastries.

They won't no matter what, since they know that pastries are punk rock, not indie. And "definition" isn't the word you're looking for. "Meaning," perhaps? But you're wrong no matter what word you use (see floundering W's below). But even if you were right, I don't see that you're addressing the topic at hand. For instance, if I differentiate myself by saying "Michael Jackson is punk but the Gang of Four aren't," it's simply beside the point for you to say, "But very broadly speaking, you and the Gang of Four fan mean enough of the same thing by 'punk' to prevent either of you from mistaking it for tuna fish." I'm sure that I and the Gang of Four fan have lots in common - otherwise, I wouldn't be trying to distinguish myself from him! - but what's at issue is where he and I disagree. And I'm arguing that if we didn't disagree on how to apply "punk rock," the term would be much less useful.

(Those teacher's pets in Gang of Four ask, "Is this so private, our struggle in the bedroom?" I don't know, is it? Listen to "Billie Jean" and "Dirty Diana" and find out. Or "Under My Thumb" and "Back Street Girl.")

wittgensteinisms flounder like lenored blouses in a warm breeze.

I'll stop imitating. Here's the real Slim Wittgy:

Imagine someone's saying: "All tools serve to modify something. Thus the hammer modifies the position of the nail, the saw the shape of the board, and so on." - And what is modified by the rule, the glue-pot, the nails? - "Our knowledge of a thing's length, the temperature of the glue, and the solidity of the box." - Would anything be gained by this assimilation of expressions?


Consider for example the proceedings we call "games." I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? - Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'" - but look and see whether there is anything common to all. - For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look! - Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences to the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost. - Are they all "amusing"? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.


But if someone wished to say: "There is something common to all these constructions - namely the disjunction of their common properties" - I should reply: Now you are only playing with words. One might as well say: "Something runs through the whole thread - namely the continuous overlapping of those fibres."


For how is the concept of a game bounded? What still counts as a game and what no longer does? Can you give the boundary? No. You can draw one; for none so far has been drawn. (But that never troubled you before when you used the word "game.")

"But then the use of the word is unregulated, the 'game' we play with it is unregulated." - It is not everywhere circumscribed by rules; but no more are there any rules for how high one throws the ball in tennis, or how hard; yet tennis is a game for all that and has rules too.

I've quoted all these for Anthony's benefit, since they ought to take care of his concerns, unless he's pathologically addicted to the Problem Of Universals. But as Wittgenstein himself would have pointed out, the ideas I've just quoted don't have any consequences one way or the other for how you yourself might use the words "tool" and "game," don't argue for preserving standard usage or modifying it. And they don't speak at all to my point, which is that standard usage of a term like "punk rock" includes our disagreeing over its usage, and that such disagreements are a creative, constructive, normal, everyday use of language. They're not a flaw, not a problem to be stopped. Agreement doesn't have to be the goal. (Check the Sociology of Pop thread, where I make a similar point about value judgments in general, not just about Superwords.)

[More to come. Ha!]

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Saturday, 11 January 2003 03:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Kogan yr. great! (Do you know anything about Levi-Strauss? -- post to my thread on ILE)

Have you encountered my relating of superword to supersounds theory cf. Reynolds on the "Amen" break in Energy Flash? I forgot where I posted it.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Saturday, 11 January 2003 04:15 (seventeen years ago) link

wowsers. Sweet post, Kogan. I haven't read much aside from music reviews and Pauline Kael books these days (sad, I'll admit, but I have pretty much no idea where to begin literary-wise so I've stuck to my bread'n'butter movies'n'music) so I did indeed appreciate the hefty Slim Wittgy sample.

It's been so long since I read this thread that I can't really remember what's being argued though.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Saturday, 11 January 2003 17:32 (seventeen years ago) link

Frank's former roommate Elizabeth once reported that no matter how when she dressed for a date, and asked, "Well? What do you think you think?" he would *always* reply, "Not slutty enough." Superword has spoke. ilx is thee superpost.

Don Allred, Tuesday, 14 January 2003 02:12 (seventeen years ago) link

But this field is not so super. Again: Frank Kogan's former roomie Elizabeth once reported that when she dressed for a date, and asked "Well? What do you think?" his verdict was *always* "Not slutty enough." Superword has spoke,ilx is thee superpost.

Don Allred, Tuesday, 14 January 2003 02:21 (seventeen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
Ben Williams emailed me this comment: "In that thread where I brought up Hebdige, and you mentioned the Protestant Ethic, I didn't get the bit about the Protestant Ethic at all. I understand the Protestant Ethic to mean the virtues which thriftiness, hard work etc. supposedly hold in the eyes of god, which according to Max Weber were translated to the service of Mammon. This is pretty much the opposite of Hebdige, who is all about rebel boys on the streets undermining the capitalist system."

My response:

Protestant Ethic = through the grace of God, if you're one of the elect, your actions, including your leisure-time pursuits, will serve a useful social and moral purpose.

rebel boys on the streets = the elect
undermining the capitalist system = serving a useful social and moral purpose

By the way, I have nothing against art or Frank serving useful social and moral purposes. I just don't like the clampdown that comes into effect when "serving a social and moral purpose" is tied to a vision in which (1) the capitalist world is fundamentally corrupt and all-engulfing (= puritan conception that worldliness is fundamentally corrupt); (2) if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, so if you're not actively undermining capitalism, you're reinforcing it; (3) since your actions should serve a useful social and moral purpose, and since your actions - every single one of them - either undermine or reinforce capitalism, you should endeavor to make all your actions undermine capitalism; so (4) these people wouldn't play what they couldn't justify, and they have to justify their playtime and that of the people they champion by saying it undermines capitalism. So if some gutter punks are getting fucked up and going wild, and this rocks, by golly it better undermine capitalism too.

However, in r'n'r, the Protestant Ethic isn't so much the committed leftist's attempt to undermine capitalism as it is the hipster-freak-punk's attempt to maintain his vision of himself as outside of the mainstream; the ethic in full effect tells him that any action moves you either towards or away from the mainstream. Of course, not all punks buy into this (as a matter of fact, before punk became a movement, one thing that distinguished proto-punk-types from the freaks was that the punks didn't buy into the counterculture's vision of itself as a counterculture; but that was back in the days when punk = intelligent), just as not all leftists buy into the idea of capitalism as an all-engulfing system, or the idea that if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

The r'n'r Prot Ethic has interesting permutations: e.g. a full-time sex-drugs-and-r'n'r funster is still a puritan (undermining the prot ethic = serving a useful social and moral purpose); if he's attempting to purify rock'n'roll, cure it of its social pretensions and make it full fun like in the nonexistent good old days, he's still only playing what he can justify, even if he's flip-flopped the terms so that full-time morality = seven-day weekend.

A little bit of Prot Ethic is better than none, I think; it can be useful for pushing words into Superwords. If to be a freak or a punk you have to be outside of society, then "freak" and "punk" will always keep slipping from your grasp, will dart on ahead while you try to chase them. Any and every freak/punk will potentially fall short, will always be playing catch-up.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 10 February 2003 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

(sorry to interrupt: kogan i need yr deathless elven memory on my silly "qua" thread)

mark s (mark s), Monday, 10 February 2003 17:29 (seventeen years ago) link

Has anyone actually seen this Protestant Ethic person walking around in the last, say, twenty years? I gather that Hebdige actually exists, but then he resides within the cryogenic realm of the academy, where any number of extinct creatures feed and defecate. Even so, P. E. is by now something of a straw opponent, yes? And the rebel boy on the street is about as lively a figure as the embattled worker. Relative to this, Frank, would you care to enumerate those aspects of life that fall outside the capitalist world?

Luc S., Monday, 10 February 2003 19:33 (seventeen years ago) link

(Is evil a superword?)

Cozen (Cozen), Monday, 10 February 2003 21:56 (seventeen years ago) link

Praps by defining yrs elf as solution you become part of the prob-lem, probb-lemm oops my old vinyl Bollocks got stuck again sorry(examples of such ID might icl George W, and the (original, West-Endorsed)Saddam, and anysaviour really. Mark: "qua" comes from reading Ayn Rand's version of Aristotle while you should be listening to your 9th grade Latin teacher (at least in my case). Don't know which "form" 9th grade equivalates but obv. formative years (aint they all)

Don Allred, Tuesday, 11 February 2003 03:26 (seventeen years ago) link

three years pass...

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 16:24 (thirteen years ago) link

I smoked pot with Chuck Eddy's kid

Cee Bee (Cee Bee), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 16:45 (thirteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

this thread is the best

caulk the wagon and float it, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 19:43 (six years ago) link

i desire an anthology of the ancient posts with as wonderful a thoughtful content : jokes/trolls/insults ratio as this one

caulk the wagon and float it, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 19:44 (six years ago) link

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