Saturday, June 20, 2009

Still relevant today

I was looking through an '95 New Plymouth based music newspaper called Raw Beats for the Malcontents that Brian Wafer put out with a few other people and came across this Nick Stoneman editorial entitled Puncture. Even if commercial music has changed a lot over the years, it still rings true over ten years later.

"I was reading an old MAXIMUM ROCK AND ROLL and came across an article called "NIRVANACATION" and it pertained to bands who shift from indie to major labels and thus "sell out". Sure, this is a big thing, but in my mind at least, the success of these "grunge" (a term I despise, more later).

It has become "cool" to like rock music again. But rock music that you are told to like. The success of the Seattle sound has infiltrated the media. Ads for Coke, Levi's and Reeboks now have grunge soundtracks and all the "cool" people are wearing flannel shirts and Doc Martens. Would we have seen this five years ago?
Five years ago I was in sixth form. I just had my initial exposure to grindcore, and things like Sonic Youth, The Pixies, The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and even Boss Hogg, Snuff and Silverfish via an inspired homemade compilation. All of a sudden, there was this other world of music opening up to me. But apart from a like minded group of friends that I can count on one hand, no one would give it the time of day. It was just noise to the general crowd, and not worthy of their time. This did not bother me, as it doesn't bother me. If you don't like what I'm into, fine. But it's not going to stop me from trying to introduce you to it, or tell you that your tastes are shit. It works both ways. A year later, at the annual end of term concert, which usually amounted to fart jokes and cripplingly funny caricatures of the headmaster, three of us got up on stage with musical instruments, and played a thirty minute version of Joy Division's "Transmission". In retrospect it was an inspired excursion into freeform improvised noise. It culminated in the destruction of a guitar and a sizeable prortion of the vastly expensive laminated stage. No one saw the humour of it all. No one saw that we were saying, that
a) music doesn't have to be performed by people who are geniuses on their chosen instruments, and
b)there is life beyond RTR Countdown
(look for a fuller account of the above performance in future entitled "Why drunk people should be allowed to play to 500 of their peers)

As I moved on to Polytech, a guy (who became a good mate) spied my folder with Black Flag scrawled upon it. "Hey Man", he chuckled, "why have you got a brand of fly spray on your folder? Yuk. Yuk." He didn't know who the band was. But now he has a record collection I would like in mine. It was the year that "Nevermind" hit. People bought it in droves on the basis of one song. I don't mind the record, but I don't own it. To be labelled as part of that group that scoffed at my thing a year ago just wasn't kosher with me. Kurt Cobain always said Black Flag, along with The Wipers were his biggest influences. These days I take Black Flag with a grain of salt, as with the Dead Kennedys. If the time and mood is right, fine. Thy'll get a spin. But I think I've moved on (that is if Anal Cunt can be seen as a progression.)

Anyway back to the initial thing about grunge. Can anyone tell me what it's meant to be? When I think of a grunge record, I think of Superfuzz Bigmuff" by Mudhoney. Noisy, distorted lo-fi rock, with an influence that goes back to the late sixties "power trio" rock thing. All the bands that are called grunge these days is 70's rock. That whole blase stoned blandness. If Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots are the future of rock and roll, kill me now.

This brings me to another thing. Where does it say being a slacker is cool? Don't get me worng, I like nothing better than sitting around doing absolutely fuck all, but there are times you've got to go out and do something. These people who look like they've walked out of a Soul Asylum video, acting out their fantasies. And they think this is rebellious? And just how rebellious? I was walking of a gig with a mate, and this guy was throwing bottles at another friend's car. We asked him what he was doing. Was he going to pay for the windshield if it broke? Did he realize we could have been policemen, or that we might have actually owned the car. If the car had been damaged, I would have been pissed off. The guy who owns it works hard for what he's got, and doesn't need to fork out for a new windshield. Mr Bottle was remorseful and blamed it on being drunk. What a load of nonsense. I'm no straightedger, you're more likely to see me very cut at a gig than not, but people who lose it everytime they have a few pints should know better. The Social Welfare and Inland Revenue buildings were across the straight. If he was punk rock he would have been throwing his bottles at them rather than the car. But he might have got into trouble. So he picks on an easy target. Now I'm not blaming Nirvana or Pearl Jam for his vandalism. I'm just saying there is an anomaly in the whole thing. Kurt Cobain kills himself, and is a martyr to the despair of rock and roll. Drug addicts kill themselves and are seen as useless junkies whose suicides are all their own faults. What was Kurt Cobain? Jimi Hendrix? Jim Morrison? Wounded geniuses or junkies? You tell me.

If I had been throwing bottles at a car and had been wearing a Dark Throne shirt, I am a Satanist, bent on destroying things on God's earth. If I was wearing a Pearl Jam T-shirt, I am a misunderstood youth trying to be heard in a big world.

Music should be what it inspires in you, not what the TV inspires in you. If you went to a gig and stagedive, fine. But don't try to drag me into the pit and "mosh" with you if I don't want to. I like to stand at the front. I don't want some clown crashing up behind me from the other end of the room because he's punk and I'm not. Punk isn't going to gigs and flailing around. Punk is not accepting everything you see or hear at face value. Punk is picking up a guitar and making noise. Punk is not just buing the records, it's going to the gigs as well. It's getting to know the bands. It's wearing what you like and it's telling someone that you think they're shit, and being able to back it up as well. Read the lyrics to "Chickenshit Conformist" by the Dead Kennedys, you'll see what I'm getting at.
Listen to your Pearl Jams, your Stone Temple Pilots. But don't try to tell me it's new and exciting. I won't listen, as you didn't listen to me five years ago."

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