Sunday, 22 May 2011

2001: Laments And Foretastes For A Fallen World

7 comments:

Alex Niven said...

2001 was interesting wasn't it?

A friend of mine put a post up on his blog last week about a tape compilation I made him that year (http://kingsonic.tumblr.com/post/5639164846/grant-is-a-man-side-a-david-axelrod-the). It's a pretty standard set for the time but I think revealing in that it's a snapshot of the exact moment before the "nu-rock" bomb dropped (the whole NME/Topshop/nu-rock alliance was like nineties neoliberal retro-consumerism but on autopilot, even more univocal and void of modernist/critical elements).

I suppose what I miss is just this basic experimental mainstream culture - post-rock running into dance music running into older rare groove stuff, with indie guitar music as a complementary marginal presence rather than a hegemonic centrifugal force.

Radiohead get a hard rap, probably fairly sometimes, but they did a pretty good job of embodying this sort of popular avant-garde culture, and I can't think of an equivalent today. Dirty Projectors and TVOTR in the States perhaps?

I keep meaning to do a post on 1999 as the pinnacle of the "meaningful eclectica" period, but other stuff keeps getting in the way ...

W. Kasper said...

Shortly before 9-11, there was a widespread, worldwide mood of protest - which got particularly ferocious in Genoa, arguably more traumatic than the battle of Seattle. Radiohead were very conscious of this with Kid A and Amnesiac, and of course the more 'indie' (in its true sense) stuff like GYBE and Def Jux hiphop. Despite what many assume, hiphop was instensely, directly political around then; apart from its obvious superstars. Indie was on the brink of a new radicalism. Even TV was discussing this stuff far more than it ever would now.

It was like the mega-spectacle of 9-11 erased that whole atmosphere. At least from any mainstream channels. All attention was diverted elsewhere overnight. Refocussing it has been a long, confused process. I'm not sure if the west is anywhere near that level of organised, articulate dissent yet. Certainly not artistically. The fragmentation of it has been hard to reassemble.

Alex Niven said...

This chimes with my memories of the time. And perhaps the light ridicule that had since been attached to the Radiohead/No Logo tendency has been one of the "refocusing" strategies?

A lot of those Radiohead experiments - Kid A, the gigs without sponsors, the pay what you like ventures - were only prevented from being worthwhile because of the scepticism with which they were greeted by the liberal press. It was felt that Thom Yorke wanted to "do a Bono". God forbid that he might have actually believed in something.

Meanwhile, the terrain shifted to make way for completely inept, auto erotic media spectacles like Live 8 - "politics" as a series of smug PR exercises for the wealthy.

I've still got a lot of time for Radiohead. I know they can be fucking irritating and sanctimonious, but there are many worse things to be. Can't help thinking that if another 2 or 3 bands had acted like them over the last ten years, things might have panned out very differently.

Alex Niven said...

And actually, thinking about it, Carl's White Diaspora (written 2002 I think) is another example of exactly what you're talking about it. Reading it I was reminded that the turn of the millenium was actually quite a politicised period - Carl's Barcelona is full of anti-capitalist graffiti and just about to host an anti-globalisation demonstration. I'd written off the whole of the post-1997 era as a steady decline for leftist protest, but there was a flourishing around 2000-2002 wasn't there?

I suppose the obvious endpoint is the Iraq thing in Feb 2003. The five years from then until late 2008 must rank as one of the most lobotomized and hopeless periods in recent history.

W. Kasper said...

The 00s have been a real nadir, I think. In a way that we're only beginning to understand. Culturally, artistically, intellectually and politically, they make the 80s look like one long May '68!

Even people's everyday behavior has changed in a subtle way. A lot of people seem quite muted, numb, while behind their eyes you can see them screaming "let me out! LET ME OUT!" Actually, a lot of Radiohead songs are basically about that.

But of course that's just my melodramatic impression of the situation...

Alex Niven said...

No I agree, but then maybe that's mere homosocial team-playing!

W. Kasper said...

Don't even go there. I've got enough issues with the War on Terror!

But sying that, I've got the urge to Radiohead a reassessment. Hive mind blogging!