18 September 2011


And really, that last bit originally started out as a short piece on that one Residents album; but then as I started writing other things came to mind...other efforts in other decades that seemed to echo the spirit and sentiment of the artifact at hand. So: The work of three different artists in which, despite all their obnoxiousness and po-mo irony, there's a desolate and sometimes doleful narrative lurking underneath. Or so it always struck my ears. Ultimately, I suppose it has something to do with schizophrenic legacy of the 1960s -- revered by some, deeply reviled by others -- and how it's played out in the culture and the politics ever since.

At any rate, it may be the last I have to say on the 'retromania' matter for a while. Didn't set out to say much about this time, originally; that's just how it developed. As it is, I haven't even had a chance to read Simon's book. But thankfully I was just given a copy for my birthday, so I guess it's time to finally have at it.


W. Kasper said...

Although I never particularly enjoyed listening to the Residents, you brought to mind how they paved the way for a more 'streamlined' ambiguity about the 60s. Namely the SST/Sonic Youth/Raymond Pettibon indie scene of the 80s - all those songs/images about Little Red Riding Hood types getting lost in madness, looking for a new Eden (half of SY's songs seem to have that theme, or Husker Du's concept albums). Manson looms large over it all, of course - but the smirky satire of Residents, Zappa etc was (a)toned down in the face of Reaganism (note also how 80s indie preferred to use the more mournful, druggy sci-fi of PK Dick, Pynchon, Vonnegut etc, rather than the b-movie kitsch of the previous decade).

That's my pet theory anyway - 70s art-rock was largely a reaction against the 60s. In the 80s, it became a deeply ambivalent requiem. They couldn't sneer with as much conviction by then.

Greyhoos said...

Some really good points, actually.

Yeah, when you read accounts from the big "come-down" of the early '70s, and it's usually a litany of the same things: acid casualties & burn-outs, "alternative spirituality" devolving into any number of freakish cults, etc. Which I suppose is why Manson became such a iconic figure, because he eventually became a signifier (to the point of cliché) for all that.

But those looking back in later years could also see other things that weren't so apparent right off -- mainly the economic and political aftermath of that whole pivotal era. Which (I suspect) is where all that ambivalence enters the picture -- a sort of fatalism and resignation, and being unable to engage the matter except through some variety "pomo" distantiating irony or gallows humor.

Greyhoos said...

And in that context, that why that Residents' album always struck me as odd -- seems to have been a little early for anyone to be looking back on the decade in question in either fashion -- either with irony or nostalgia. Which is why the thing seems to have such a "blank" quality about it, in some respects; like they were merely using the music as raw material. Yet still, some listeners were bound to take it as an act of audio vandalism.

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