Excellent piece over at The Mire by Tony Herrington in response to Amanda from Not Not Fun, extending some of the arguments that Reynolds took up in his original piece on them.
Herrington’s rather diplomatic, no doubt he has to be, but under the restraint I sense a desire to shout, YOU”VE GOT NOTHING TO SAY! YOU”RE A BUNCH OF BORED, SPOILED KIDS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON GOING THROUGH THE DRESSING UP BOX ! YOUR LACK OF ANY KIND OF POLITICAL SENSIBILTY OR PROJECT VITIATES YOUR ART UTTERLY! WHERE IS YOUR SYMPATHY OR SOLIDARITY, WHERE IS THE INTERST IN AYTHING OUTSIDE YOUR OWN NARROW NETWORK OF SCENESTERS? AND NOW YOU WANT TO BE BOTH APOLITCALLY COOL AND RADICAL AT THE SAME TIME?
Of course one also has to consider the degree to which the Wire itself is part of the problem here: it’s been fashionable to disparage the Wire for years now, but largely that disparagement comes from the wrong direction, ie from the uber-hipster’s desire to find it too geeky and cliquey and not really getting what the truly clued-up (themselves) know is cool, whereas my own disinterest in it is that, with the exception of one or two writers (you’ll know who they are) it’s oppositional to nothing. The Wire is also completely happy with the continued existence of Justin Bieber as long as it can make it’s small profit sympathetically tracking numerous micro-scenes and arguing about what's in or out this year.
I suppose that’s its remit but where’s the interest there? It’s just about music then, innit? Some people might care about music in its own terms but again to me that’s dull and bloodless, I care about the gestalt of music, politics, theory and practice, in other words music in dialogue with exactly those antagonistic social forces Herrington lightly chides himself for still being interested in and I conceive of the artist as being someone who is first and foremost intent on fundamentally altering structures of thought and feeling, an attacker and underminer of complacent subjectivities especially his/her own. NNF simply want to play with the signifiers of yesterday’s radicalism, desperately hoping that by travelling at light speed between any number of them they’ll hybridize the way into something new: they can’t, they can only increasingly desperately chase their own tails, it’s a kind of cultural race to the bottom, (over here, over here! listen to my black-metal digi-dub afrobeat drones with Dada-esque phonetic poetry interludes), each stage more ludicrous and undignified than the next.
The problem with hybridization of this kind (ie affirmative hybridization: this cool thing plus this cool thing equals new cool thing) is that it misunderstands much of the original hybridizing impulse which was to “correct” the racist or sexist or regressive elements of traditional rock and its representations (say PIL or The Slits), or to foreground alternate models of culture and sociality (Two Tone), it was an act of aggression. The problem for NNF is they want to be interesting without rejection and negation, without refusal and a concomitant commitment to the horror of refusal, to it’s vertigo, to its potential desolations: this commitment to the awful empty space that a thorough-going negation opens up, this vacuum, is anathema to lives surfeited with cultural goodies, lives which have enjoyed a superficial repletion, yet it’s exactly those moments of past radicalism that still set them tingling and whose aura they want to enfold themselves in again and again to protect them from the chill wind that comes whistling up from their own depths, and which were arrived at by precisely this rejection, this set of strictures, this refusal to follow the logic and realism of the time, through painful self-interrogation.
But as we know, earnestness, self-criticism, pain, failure and commitment are all a bit of a drag, stay within your comfort zone if you must, by all means risk nothing, but don’t expect then to be found interesting, let alone have the cheek to consider yourself an artist.