by carl wilson

Faggot Liberals for Fugazi

The responses to this week's column so far have ranged from Bill's thoughtful appreciation of Derrida to the phone message today that called me "one of those faggot liberals who knows nothing about rock music" (ending with the flourish, "Why don't you move to Cuba," which made me feel nice and American). I think the guy was mostly upset about my (admittedly too quick) dismissal of Sergeant Pepper's. It's a beautiful world where everybody can express themselves.

Here's a somewhat more temperate letter from Colin Campbell, a grad student in the Program in Social and Political Thought at York University,


which I thought was interesting enough to reprint.

On his first point, I'd note that I think concept albums and concept bands are very different things. Concept bands were very much a part of punk rock, and not of classic rock, while concept albums were the reverse. As to the second: Is conceptual art decadent by definition? I think yes! But I am kind of crazy in love with decadence. Is that so wrong?

All flattery only retained for the sake of repeating his entertaining invective against other Globe writers. And I don't get the Lenny Kravitz reference. Explanations, anyone?

Hello Carl,

Thanks for your article in today's paper about concept albums - some of your articles are some of the reasons why I haven't yet cancelled my Globe subscription, in spite of John 'what century is this again?' Ibbitson, Christie 'necrophiliac' Blatchford, Margaret 'we all need a little bloody revenge sometimes' Wente, and Marcus 'we all need a little blood sometimes' Gee.... anyway in a spirit of critical conversation (pace Derrida) I wanted to note that you missed a few things.

1) the rebirth of the concept album is a process that has been simmering throughout the 1990s. Ween, for instance, ARE a concept album, since the beginning. And I think everything that Tortoise did was to make the concept of a unified-yet-diverse set of compositions possible and 'cool' for the post-punk market. Nevertheless, I think your article is well-timed.

2) I DO think the rebirth of the concept album is, like it was in the 1970s, a sign of decadence. Maybe this is what you are gesturing at by the need for the 'contingent, complex, etc.' I prefer Anton Newcombe's Mantras: 'Keep Music Evil' and 'The only thing you find in the middle of the road in dead animals and dumb americans.' The decadence should not, as it always is, be blamed on the lack of creativity of the artists, but (pace Adorno) on the process of industrialization of culture - in the 1990s, of punk rock - which forces artists to move to a conceptual level. Remember what Hegel said about Minerva's Owl - when the concept appears, the show is already over. Lenny Kravitz is right, but for the wrong reasons. "In a world in which everything is permitted, all must escape and all must obey."

3) Along with most people, you missed, I think, what was not only one of the best concept albums ever made, but also one of the best punk albums ever made, and even one of the best albums ever made, which is Fugazi's The Argument. The album is packaged, you may notice, unlike any of their other albums - there is a clear 'message' in the cover art. This, as with the Beatles, is a determinate result of their declining ability to play live music. And like all great art, the album is prophetic. As they were writing those songs, they already saw what the world would look like 'after the events of 9/11.' Notice the plane flying over the parking lot on the inside photo? Notice the lyrics to Life and Limb: "When the bit pulls tight/the grip is sewn into the reins/you can't breathe it out, you just breathe it back again/Come on mental-pack your chambers full for no reason you can name" - maybe you can already see the concept, which they didn't make but which is forced on all of us from both sides, 'here comes the argument,' etc.

Read More | The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, October 17 at 01:29 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)


Zoilus by Carl Wilson