by carl wilson

A Thought (Beta) & Good Luck to Us

Building the calendar (below) takes up time, and like the whole world I am too wigged about tomorrow to post much - which I figure is the reason Kelefa Sanneh's front-page feature in the Times Arts & Leisure section about Ashlee Simpson & "Rockism" hasn't drawn more commentary.

I thought it was a fine piece that seized a good moment to address the matter, but had a couple of reactions - that anti-rockism, even though it's correct, always seems a little hysterically magnified (ignoring the fact that pop-ism has in fact long won this argument on a broader cultural level, except maybe number of books published from its p.o.v., and number of books seems kind of a rockist-minded measure; also ignoring that rock is in large part still pop and always has been; also never resolving whether it's rockist to apply rockist principles to self-proclaimed rockers); that the lip-synching argument didn't get made well here (lipsynching allows the pop singer to do more, such as to put on a big flashy pleasure-centre-stimulating visual performance, but was Ashlee up to anything like that on SNL, where the value has always been the 'live-ness' of the performance instead?); and finally, and this is the "thought" referred to above ...

... isn't the distinction between rockism and pop'ism exactly the same as the one between modernism and postmodernism, and in that case might we be a tad more forgiving to slow-adapting rock fans on, well, epistemic grounds?

Ready, set, riposte!

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Monday, November 01 at 07:13 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



1. to be self-congratulating check out the prescience with which i anticipate this whole debacle on 20hz.

i post as captain easychord....

2. OK i'll admit as an aficianado and purveryor of dance music i'll admit i spend the better part of my discursive life baiting rockists (especially easy in the indie scene...). however, popism needs to be checked by a healthy dose of underground sensibility once in a while. you're right, carl when you say that popist rhetoric is rather gleeful in its unabashed gloating over the rockism and is definitely made less potent in the current cultural climate (i.e. - blabbing on about how great li jon is when the culture is inundated by it, esp. in terms of theoretical investigation is really easy and avoids questions of worth, meaning entirely, instead favouring an "it's all pop so therefore it's all good" sensibility which manages to not really get anywhere.)

it's real easy to make fun of stodgy white rock critics anyway. just go read pitchfork LOL. but at the end of the day i can't accept the poptimist argument without some caveats. just going against traditional values of authenticity, auteurship and craft doesn't provide a healthy alternative.

in my opinion the cultural sites which both repudiate tired rockist values AND manage to sidestep a wholesale acceptance of the charts are the great dance music scenes of the past 30 years - detroit techno in the 80's, british rave in the early 90's, current german house, UK grime etc.. all of these scenes came with:

bold, new aesthetic codes, certainly impossible to attain through aping current pop trends.

a rejection of both the conventions of auterism and the conventions of 'square' rockist lifestyle (e.g. the embrace by the DJ of reproduced material, the dancers as the show, all-night parties etc.)

and most importantly....

defiant underground stances ('ardkore, you know the score/ the techno white label/ pirate radio etc.) which yielded both aesthetic and cultural fruit. so even though puffy may sample disco he ain't close to replicating its context and its meaning, it's still just a generation down from the rock song. championing the latest chart-topper just cos' its not rock seems juvenile...

Posted by luca lucarini on November 2, 2004 12:39 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson