MAHB: Mu­sic

We’ve heard it all be­fore. Plus, Ger­ard Singh.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - mahb / mu­sic by Zack yu­sof freedesert­ @Zack­yu­sof69

ON YOUTUBE (along with ev­ery­thing else of vis­ual and au­ral in­ter­est, it would seem), there is an in-depth in­ter­view with leg­endary mu­sic scribe Lester Bangs that he gave to his friend, Aus­tralian broad­caster Sue Mathews, back in May 1980, in which he ranted pas­sion­ately about the state of new mu­sic and tech­nol­ogy at the time. Thirty-five years might have passed, but some of his com­ments still ring true about the state of the cur­rent mu­sic scene.

“There’s a huge nos­tal­gia cul­ture that has been built up, be­cause very lit­tle that any­one is com­ing up with is gen­er­ally new,” opined Bangs. To­day,

“[Amer­i­can soul and jazz mu­si­cian] Gil Scott-heron is fa­mous for the line ‘The Rev­o­lu­tion will not be tele­vised.’ But in a way, the op­po­site has hap­pened,” said dish­washer Pete, no­to­ri­ous zine pub­lisher, in an in­ter­view pub­lished in Zines! Vol­ume 2. “noth­ing’s given a chance to brew and de­velop any­more, be­fore the me­dia takes hold of it and grinds it to death. Also, there’s an in­stant com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of ev­ery­thing that might de­velop into some­thing revo­lu­tion­ary.”

nos­tal­gia re­mains one of mu­sic’s most pop­u­lar cur­ren­cies. Nos­tal­gia sells and be­cause of that, old styles and trends are be­ing re­hashed by young mu­si­cians not yet born when the trend first hit. Mean­while, cool her­itage groups are re­form­ing ev­ery­where you look in order to cash in on their new­found pop­u­lar­ity at an alarm­ing rate. So is the fu­ture retro? It would cer­tainly seem so.

As nos­tal­gia con­tin­ues to do the busi­ness, more and more acts are choos­ing to by­pass ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and orig­i­nal­ity in favour of up­dat­ing a by­gone sound or style. I mean, as bril­liant as Daft Punk are, is their mu­sic re­ally any dif­fer­ent from what Kraftwerk [pic­tured] were do­ing back in the late ’70s? Are the much-lauded Muse re­ally any­thing more than Queen for the In­ter­net gen­er­a­tion? What about the new wave of trippy psych rock­ers like Pond, Tem­ples and Tame Im­pala, who are cur­rently prov­ing im­mensely pop­u­lar on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit? Surely some­one from the Pink Floyd es­tate must have been in touch to com­plain about iden­tity theft!

With the ad­vent of punk back in the mid-’70s, it’s as if the slate was wiped clean, al­low­ing mu­si­cians to go back to the draw­ing board and start again—year zero if you like. Bands were em­pow­ered to throw the rule­book out the win­dow and fol­low their in­stincts with scant re­gard for the past. What came about in the wake of this pe­riod of mu­si­cal en­light­en­ment was the post punk move­ment, one of the most fer­tile, in­no­va­tive and pro­duc­tive pe­ri­ods in mu­si­cal his­tory where dif­fer­ent styles and cul­tures were hap­pily mixed to­gether in one big melt­ing pot of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Dug, elec­tron­ica, reg­gae… noth­ing was off-lim­its. To­day, mu­sic has put it­self in a box and stag­nated to a point where cur­rent hip mu­si­cians are still “bor­row­ing” ideas in mu­sic and fash­ion from that golden pe­riod of cre­ativ­ity in a bid to sound con­tem­po­rary.

In order for mu­sic to shake it­self out of its cur­rent un­healthy nos­tal­gic funk, there re­ally needs to be a sea change in at­ti­tude first. Mu­si­cal taboos and the hyp­notic spell of the past must be bro­ken in order for evo­lu­tion and progress to hap­pen. An im­pec­ca­ble aware­ness of clas­sic in­flu­ences is all well and good, but they should be used as a guide and not a tem­plate. Oth­er­wise, what’s the point?

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