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3/02/2006

A Half-Baked Cake: Year Zero (a)

The old future fear is at my ankles again. At Simon's postpunk panel the other night, Orange Juice's Steve Daly asserted that their passion for Chic was partially because they sounded like they were from a distant era and James Chance quipped that today's socioeconomic climate basically prohibits the kind of "rock & dole" (to use Vivien Goldman's phrase) insurance that cushioned the radicalism of 80s musicians. Sum: a reiteration of the Year Zero myth, either the chicken or the egg for aforementioned ripping up, starting again.

I often joke with my girlfriend that I'd be much more entertained (but fare much worse) in the world if we had a societal apocalypse; funny that Slick Contrarian Chance bitterly suggested that it would be the only thing to prime us for anything new. The humor was there and it was black, but there was something nostalgic in his words; nostalgia is part retreat, but it's also part tenderness, and weirdly enough, it was one of the most bittersweet things I'd heard anyone say in a while.

So what does the present think of the future now? A while back I was fixated on the John Coltrane/Sun Ra/Funkadelic --> Detroit techno idea of futurism and final frontiers; Space is the Place because it's half as shitty as things are here. But do we have that anymore? Do we want it? Funny that the most salient expression of a desire for newness is actually forced regression; combine the scorched-earth imagery of Chance's assertion with the idiot rumble of say Mars or DNA and mix in a bit of the communo-idealism of those space jazz fantasies, and you've got some sort of building blocks for the nu-primitivism trend. Freak-folk, not so much; I only half-buy what they're saying anyhow, and I'm more inclined to lump Animal Collective in with later Boredoms/Voordoms -- big-hearted cavemen in hoodies with digial processing racks, fetishizing the barely lingual/cavepainting shennanigans of B.C. as cautiously as the idealistic quartz & circutry signs of the future.

Weirdly enough, the gaping hole in AC/Boredoms and in older Year Zero iterations (or at least the attempts at time-erasure), is the present. I had actually thought about this before in terms of ELO (who seem funny in this context), but it's really the same kind of deal: present sucks; past seems pretty good and the unknown future is at least promising, so conflate the latter two and you have a new, seemingly unfeasible present. Even the phrase "rip it up and start again" and the whole notion of "starting over" at least half-suggests to me that you're doomed to go pick up some of the old signifiers on the way (Devo saying that they wanted to make "outerspace caveman" music is pretty blatant, if you ask me).

What I can say for sure is that NASA beat Sun Ra to space and all we've got now is earth; the iconography of nature - from Black Dice's Beaches and Canyons to endless Wolf ____ or "Animal" _____ bands (and even a zombie fetish, really) seems to all point to a surrender of the fact that the future actually already happened sometime around 1980, when Chance/Devo/PiL/etc. shamed space dreams by making something twice as potent as laserbeams, and now we can't even get the peace and quiet to make clanging rocks sound like a beginning of anything.

Not sure just where to go with this because the present inspires me in really ambiguous ways (is panamorous resignation a sign of inspiration? har) - at least half-evidenced by the fact that Chance's depiction of early 80s NYC put the yearn in me more than anything else.

Who am I kidding; I'm listening to Merle Haggard reissues and drinking coffee, I am not the 2020 man.

(Addendum: I'd be totally irresponsible to *not acknowledge* the fact that AC are white and from rural Maryland, while Sun Ra did his most famous work in Chicago and Philadelphia; Funkadelic were from Detroit -- i.e. AC's escapism is a bit flimsier when you think about the fact that they're not exactly pulling free from the jaws of racism or poverty or urban blight or anything. I don't see many parallels on the disenfranchised front.)

1 Comments:

Blogger blackmail is my life said...

Everyone has these Merle Haggard reissues but me! Who do I have to call?

7:11 PM  

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