Thursday, May 27, 2021

PUNK

 


Punk had several meanings prior to it becoming a label for a music and fashion style representing a coopted idea of resistance and rebellion. None of those meanings were good or complimentary when I was a kid. If you called someone a punk you had to be ready to fight, and if you were called a punk, you had to defend yourself or slink away ashamed and humiliated in front of your peers. Punks were assholes, delinquents, sneaky, thieving, conniving, lying bastards no one else wanted to be around. They grew to be criminals, rapists, drug addicts and hobos. There was nothing admirable about them. In prison, to be sure, the word "punk" meant, as I understand it, a smaller, weaker male inmate who sexually services a larger, more dominant inmate. 

Not the kind of thing one aspires to be, I would think. Somewhere along the line the term was assimilated into the counterculture idea of resistance against the corporate-capitalist-military state, the -enemy -of -my -enemy -is- my- friend rationale. Some of us remember when Hells Angels were considered cool, and hip and Jefferson Airplane sang that we were all outlaws "in the eyes of Amerika..." Then Altamont happened and changed the view of the HAs, but it stops the definition of punk from changing and being adopted and adapted by any number of would-be tribes of rebels, whether poets, musicians, painters, performance artists or pretentious lay-abouts desiring a blunt, monosyllabic term to give themselves and their alleged and varied ethos. And like anything else that becomes central to rock music, the term is hollowed out entirely of whatever useful meaning it had and is now a marketing term and codified musical style that in these latter days inspires more parody than fear among the population.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Eagles take over the City Dump

Quit defending the Eagles! They’re simply terrible - Salon.com:


The first thing that one has to do is give the Eagles their due, which is their ability to write tunefully, maintain tight harmonies and sustain an impressive level of musicianship. To their credit, these guys have always had a sound that makes them stand out in a crowded field, and they've always sounded like a real band, not an assembly of hired professionals. Normally t hose would be items that would lead to be an additional 500-700 words of praise for a particular album or live performance, but I've always hated this band . They are distinct and professional the way Disney Products, especially Marvel Movies, are professional, which is to say their efforts are superbly assembled works composed of elements skillfully, artfully, cynically chosen for their capacity to appeal to a mass audience of males who have a self-righteous and self-pitying chip on their shoulder and the women who love all those misunderstood and misunderstood men. Don Henley's voice is a nasally and grainy combination of Rod Stewart and Neil Young and reduces the calculated pathos of the lyrics to an aggravating noise, like the ice machine goes off next to the motel room you rented just when you're entering a select acre of nod. Their sense of telling sagas of heartbreak, stoicism in the face of hard choice, and despairing about the end of innocence after the party balloons have shriveled and the last flake of cocaine has been wiped from the mirror and rubbed some last-gasper's gums are soilless , overwrought, overwritten , and overacted. 

Their narratives are goon show narcissisms that are designed to impress, not express; they skip the dramatic all together and settle over the melodramatic. Theirs is the suicide -prone "code" of Hemingway, the arrogance that rather than cope, grow, move on with a life to which change ,significant change has inevitably come to , one instead nurtures the hurt privately, does not complain and carries on as before, exhibiting a pretense of "grace under fire" (Hemingway's coinage) while stewing in their own private hell of resentment, jealousy, anger, self-loathing and compensating arrogance in the conceit that their ability to take a punch, to take many blows to the head and to the ego, makes them a higher caliber of human, male human, white male human, than the lesser masses who inhabit the planet. Everything about their message and sound--the guitarwork that is too tasteful in country accents and too rubbery with the more rocking workouts--props up this multi-platinum hoax. I am very fond of Joe Walsh, having seen him a few times from my Detroit days when he played with the James Gang at area venues and festivals, but his personality seemed all but erased when he joined this egregious unit. His persona, a bohemian for whom there are no big deals and that what whatever travails and tragedies befall are likely because he made a decision that was  ill chosen and that life, such as it is despite the bad luck, is good so far ("Life's Been Good"), seemed an odd fit for this professionally pessimistic posse. His sense of humor and life-preserving irony couldn't keep them from absorbing Walsh into their uniformly sense of weltschmerz. Even Joe's famously chunky brand of blues rock guitar couldn't lift the band's  music anymore. The truth of this band  is plain: The Eagles blow.


The serious Eagles fan would come to the defense of this band--seemingly as much despised as they are loved by fans--and maintain that their cynicism, despair, and weariness were anything than the routine posturing of experience-glutted rock stars, the more being that they were artful and could write good song hooks and manage to keep their songs under a certain length. Granted, although a tune like "Hotel California" , paced at a tortoise crawl and it is slow in duration, is a notable exception, notable in that it contains everything that is objectionable to this band a collective projection of the zeitgeist. The lyrics are laden in down cast metaphors where the secreted meanings are grandiosely proclaimed, exhibiting a "you know what I mean " vagueness that is an  bullet to interests in whatever forbidden knowledge these musicians gleaned from their adventures at the edge of their own limitations.  An amazingly successful rock band with some indisputably talented musicians, the Eagles are a band I never cared about. Even in their best songs they seemed, smug in the depths of despair, depression and bad-luck stories their songs evoked. Tuneful, well crafted, laden with nicely arranged guitar textures and incidental instrumentation, the sweetly harmonized lyrics were a first rate evocation of bankrupt imaginations trying their best to out -bottom the rest of rock and roll's iconic desolation row residents. In meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous there there is the tradition of a having a leader "qualify" , that is, telling their tale of what it was like, what happened and what it's like now. The telling, or testimonial , if you will, would normally contain some sordid tales of their past that their  powerlessness over alcohol led them to, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly; the point is to make the listener understand the inevitable destruction this path results unless the alcoholic or drug addict has their moment of clarity and grasps a solution, which are the components of the "what happened" and "what its like now" parts of the formula. There is the habit of some members with years of recovery (such as it might be for them personally) who eschew the solution and instead tell one horrible anecdote after another; this is not generally appreciated by other group members seeking a confirmation of the hope that is supposed to be contained in the rooms where those meetings are held. This turns testimony in a drunkalogue and the effect is of someone who takes an inordinate pride in the horrible things they have done--each instance of bad luck,lying, theft, jail time, divorce, traffic accidents, job loss,  sexual misbehavior become like bullet points on a resume. 

Whether they intended to or done, those who overshare such things wallow in the gloom and their words become pointless. So with the Eagles, who have spent decades writing songs as if they are the only witnesses to the end of the world, a world where only they are citizens worth listening to. Theirs was a music akin to an old car with a great, shiny new paint job; attractive surface gleem, noisy and tired under the hood. For all their gold records and fanatical fan base, they have proven to be even more tiresome than U2.