2014 And Limits Of New Romanticism

2014 And The New Romantics

We’re witnessing another New Romantic historical moment end. We see it wind down in domestic American politics, including L’Affaire Snowden. And in Kiev’s Streets. We turn our gaze from Syrian killing fields. Spontaneous, unorganized mass sentiment failed to create real change anywhere.

1848 Europe’s revolutionary, democratic moment and its lessons come to mind. Europe saw its widest ever democratic revolutionary wave quickly collapse into a Continental reactionary resurgence. Historical analogies should always be suspect, especially here. Yet, we can’t help but ask, “What comes next, now?”


The New Romantics Aren’t A Pop Group

Our last 15 years constitute a Romantic Moment. First it flourished with the Colored Revolutions’ early promise. Even elements of Americans’ manipulated arc in Iraq and Afghanistan floated on misguided sentiment. Mass sentiment erupted in Tehran, ignited the Arab Spring, Syria, rock both Thailand and now Ukraine, again. Obama’s improbable 2008 presidency and aftermath are part of the tableau, too.

[Read more…]

Knock Knock Knockin On Boomers’ Doors

Last night’s feeble, geriatric, reverse mortgage ‘Concert for 12-12-12′ should galvanize all to overthrow the Boomers’ tyrannical claim to pop culture center stage.

Springsteen, Rolling Stones, The Who, Concert, Sandy

$25,000 Per Ticket For A Concert Says It All

Consider the bloated, self-satisfied pricing of tickets themselves: an actual event in Madison Square Garden selling tickets for $25,000 at the box office, no scalpers. One can only imagine the Boomers’ paroxysms (without their pills, mostly psychic) induced by their Amex Black invoice. Note that the media is focused on scalpers’ Craigslist prices, not the underlying rapacity itself.

Consider the hollow rationalizations to justify such consumerism: only Boomers can afford $25,000 ticket, ergo we must endure a 1960s nostalgia concert bill. This ‘concert’ was a pretext for a celebration by the 1% for the 1%. The rubes have their trickle down role to play – call operators now.

Too cynical? Some major American cities no longer support any broad-based rock radio station. Even abhorrent ‘classic rock’ is a dying niche. The non-Boomers vote with their radio dials and dispatched rock and especially ‘classic rock’ to oblivion.

This explains the cold calculation of forward brand positioning. It’s no accident, as the Sovs used to say, that we see Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder paired with a 69 year-old Brit. Or the shoe gazing darling Nirvana’s shards with a wizened McCartney.

Gen-X, stand at attention. You, too, soon will be cogs in the nostalgia-celebration-exploitation machine. You’re just not liquid enough yet.

But What About Those Power House Rock Bands?

Springsteen and his now amorphous E-Street Band wobbled out first. Now largely immobile, Bruce tried projecting ‘sincerity’ and ‘presence’ to evoke explosive memories when they truly, but briefly, led rock and U.S. pop culture. Seeing the comparatively limber 50-year old Bon Jovi on stage in juxtapose sent a powerful, but unintended statement.

If you remember the 1970s, local FM stations pumped Pink Floyd laser shows in planetariums. Roger Waters’ few Pink Floyd stoner classics doubtlessly launched thousands of reminiscences about Boomers’ favorite college bongs. Musically, he and his band are tight. But a Pink Floyd concert never was really about just music. As the kidz today say, meh.

Bon Jovi’s set fades from memory. Mercifully. He’s not there for the $25,000 ticket class. But someone has to play to the $150 nose (noise) bleed seats and on TV. Chris Christie’s real home. You know?

Clapton, looking surprisingly spry, wisely avoided “Let It Rain”. His blues felt turgid yet too energetic to rekindle Slowhand memories of quaaludes, heroin chic and stoned immobility.

It’s Only Entertainment, Yes It Is

Then the Stones. We’ve maintained – back when it happened, not just now – that the Stones ceased to be a *good* rock band when Mick Taylor left. Even Jagger cops now and then to the fact for much of 70s they were blatantly mediocre.

As we all know, Jagger and then the other Stones switched gears with the 1981 “Tattoo You” tour. Jagger decided if they couldn’t play reliably, they’d overwhelm with spectacle. And they got very rich.

No surprise their two lackluster songs offered good visuals. “You Got Me Rockin” remains an embarrassment as when foisted on us in 1994. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” even more shambolic and anemic than usual. Still, Jagger’s supranatural gyrations ensured a lurching, creaky pageant. Appalling.

Alicia Keys gets the Billy Ocean award. You remember him? In 1985, Bill Graham organized the Philadelphia Live Aid show without any African American artists. Media confronted him. So Graham at the last minute glommed Billy Ocean on to the setlist. Ocean was forced by circumstances to lip sync bravely but pathetically his then pop hit alone in front of the JFK multitudes.

Alicia does double token duty as a woman, underscoring promoters’ original sin. Minor kudos for not choosing Betty White. Boomers might be puzzled at Keys’ brief and musically out of context set. How many watching thought “Oh, so that’s what I heard in Starbucks”? Or worse, remembered an Amex commercial.

Then The Who. Their incendiary, eruptive prime with Keith Moon continues to haunt them. Musically, this ensemble remains tight – perhaps the evening’s best. Daltrey’s voice is gone and Townshend’s low-volume Strat noodling glaringly far removed from halcyon days. The NYT loved it all.

Fellas, retire. You’ve nothing left to prove.

And so on through Kanye and Billy Joel. Kanye seemed defiantly gleeful as The Other Billy Ocean award winner. Billy Joel’s interminable set lulled Boomers to that special Hell when ‘Piano Man’ was as ubiquitous as ‘Stairway to Heaven’. For everyone else watching, the event must have seemed inexplicable.

Next, Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband’s uniquely ball-less stylings added to the bizarre. Ordinarily, Chris Martin’s Cold Play John Tesh-isms should be banned from joining these bands, debilitated or not. Martin, however, was perfect. Somehow, like Fellini-via-Simon Cowell, after everything before, the absurdity of it all invoked a certain manic, indiscriminate aesthetic abandon. Aural vandalism if you will.

Finally, McCartney. What better closing to the lunacy than a creepy, crinkled vampire trying to feast off of Nirvana’s remnants and rejuvenate his relevancy. And seduce them and their followers. Couldn’t they see his fangs?

His vampirism is a blatant warning and vision for the Gen X, Seattle shoe gazing alt rock fans. Macca’s siren call is to embrace the affluence and self-absorbed nostalgia that keeps him alive. Become the new Boomers.

It won’t be easy for Sir Paul’s victims. The old mono culture is gone. Plus, Boomers’ bubble economies are toast. But kids, you can still focus on 401-ks and equity portfolios. Because, in the words of Monty Python, “One day lad, all this could be yours.” For now, it’s sufficient to follow smiling Uncle Paul and join in the “Helter Skelter” sing-a-long — unironically, please.

Will any of the Gen-Xers on stage last night aspire to mince like this in their 70s? Inspiring their equally aged fanbase to shell out staggering sums for tickets? A huge industry is betting on it.

As grooming exercises go, surely last night’s concert marks a fine start.

Demotic Hierarchy And Exclusion – Get Used To It

What’s most bothersome about this invitation [from the Hirshhorn Museum] is the statement about members: “Members get in free and have access to VIP area.” You can see that line for yourself in the picture at left.

“A VIP area”? At a public museum, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution? . . . And now, the Hirshhorn — no doubt in an effort to raise money (the lowest level of membership costs $100 to $249 a year ) — is creating a VIP lounge within an already questionable activity? After Hours seems to involve gallery tours as well as “music and live performances on the plaza.” Guess which is the draw?

As a subsequent press release said:

From his infamous dance parties (RAW, MIXTAPE) to his guest spots at numerous DC nightlife events, audience favorite DJ Shea Van Horn sheds his drag alter ego, Summer Camp, and returns to After Hours to stir up the dance floor and leave a trail of exhausted revelers in his wake.

We’ve been left behind in steerage for some time. It’s the little details that speak volumes. It’s tempting to see this through the prism of elitist art, etc. — in fact, precisely how the Movement assaults ‘wealthy’ union families earning $49,000 a year. Or perhaps some well-intentioned if clueless ‘Yes we can!’ believer thought a rave party at the Hirshhorn would improve visibility, attendance and promote art (somehow).

We agree the larger, more important issue the symbolic: the non-chalant acceptance of class privileges in public spaces.

Pertinent Question: Are Our Writers As Lousy As Our Bankers?

Are Our Writers As Lousy As Our Bankers?

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

There is a certain kind of art made here in America for a lofty but banal purpose: to enliven the contemporary educated mind.

You know: the mind of you and me, dear 3QD reader — the NPR listener, the New Yorker reader, the English major, the filmgoer who laps up subtitles, the gallery-goer who can tell a Koons from a Hirst.

This art is superior to the cascading pile of blockbuster kitsch-dreck-crap that passes for pop culture, but only superior by a few pips.

This art sure ain’t Picasso, or Joyce, or Rossellini, or the Beatles, or even Sondheim. It’s more Woody Allen than Ingmar Bergman, more Joyce Carol Oates than James Joyce, more Jeff Koons than Duchamp, more Arcade Fire than the Beatles.

It does not expand the borders of art or wreck the tyranny of the possible or enlarge our hungry little minds.

It is art of the day to inform the conversation of the day by the people of the day who need to be reassured that their taste is a little more elevated than that of the woman on the subway reading Nora Roberts.

For want of a better label, here’s a suggested honorific for this kind of art:

Urban Intellectual Fodder.

Read the whole thing . . .

Adorno, Music And The 20th Century?

Few books devoted to so-called ‘high culture’ get much mainstream attention in America; even fewer when the book seeks to explain why classical music is a mirror history for the 20th century. Yet Alex Ross’ “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century” manages to break through. “Steeped though Ross is in Theodor Adorno and Thomas Mann, his own style is mercifully free of the ‘implacable imperative of density’ commended by the critic-devil in Mann’s “Doctor Faustus” (a novel that provides a framing parable for the book’s early sections).”

Discordant Melodies for a Fractured Age

There’s no denying (and Ross doesn’t, apparently) that classical music is now a fringe cultural activity. (n.b. we intend to read this but haven’t yet). One reason is that contemporary compositions are difficult for audiences to embrace live. As he told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, classical composers today forget what pop stars know intuitively — a concert is about a physical experience (if not more so) than pure sonic theory. Atonal, discordant compositions create uncomfortable physical reactions in an audience. Another reason, as Ross sees it is:

A lot of 19th century music is about “the adventures of a theme.” You recognize a theme, and then you start to hear its transformation; a second theme comes along, they start to interact, and you hear a story unfolding. Twentieth century music, a lot of it is about music as landscape, music as texture, sonic events one after the other. In a lot of it, rhythm comes into play, as opposed to melody.

[Read more…]