So where are the true rebels, you may ask? Where are the mouthy ones, the daring ones, the hell-raising risk-loving leaders? Where are rock and roll’s authentic voices? It’s an ever-changing thing, hard to define, harder yet to hold and not snuff out. But when I think of the phrase “rock and roll,” I don’t automatically think sex and drugs; I think of daring, I think of risk, I think of being challenged and even a bit (/a lot) unsettled. I think of a band like Pussy Riot and Tinariwen. I think of PJ Harvey and Fela Kuti. I think of Pearl Jam and The Virgin Prunes, of Grinderman, of Run DMC, of Public Enemy (who did, by the way, also get inducted yesterday), of Massive Attack, Throbbing Gristle, The Cramps, of Patti Smith, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Scott Walker. I think of Meshell Ndegeocello. I think of Jacques Brel and Leonard Cohen and Little Richard …and and and. Artists with something to say, something to prove, a unique way of saying it and an incredible propensity to create various levels of thought, reflection, insight, perspective -even discomfort in listeners/viewers. They’re artists with a visual side (or defiantly non-visual, as is the case with Pearl Jam, a statement in and of itself) as well as a brash, beautiful sonic side. They don’t need to prove their groundedness; they answer only to their respective muses. There’s an authenticity that stands firmly outside grooming too, even if some (hello Misters Cave, Bowie, Cohen) maintain(ed) an intoxicating air of smashing, scintillating physicality.
Tag: The Virgin Prunes
Is it me? One sounds like the other, to my ears:
And here’s a track from The Virgin Prunes that’s well over two decades old:
Fill in the holes between now & then; Einsturzende Neubaten, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Massive Attack, and Neu! all come to my mind, but I’m sure there are way more. (Do feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section.) The influence and importance of these bands, seminal in the industrial-meets-electronica-meets-new-forms-of-rock-and-roll arena can’t be overstated, and yet so often, the names and faces and songs are forgotten.
Tying them all together with contemporary sounds makes for fascinating musical thread-spotting, but it’s equally interesting to see just how deeply these threads twist and spiral through the visual art realm; all these bands have a strong aesethetic (people today might use that over-used, tired term “brand”) where the worlds of painting, photography, video, and filmmaking are every bit as vital as the music.
Not everything is pretty, nice, and easily digestible here. I like that. There’s something about viewing something surreal, uncomfortable, and confusing that is hugely refreshing -it’s like aerobics for a brain more used to the pablum of dependable narrative arcs and tidy conclusions. I like the raucous visual attacks of Neubaten, NIN, and the Prunes, KMFDM’s Soviet-meets-Pop paintings, and Massive Attack’s embrace of experimental filmmaking partnered with their deeply atmospheric, unsettling sounds. So it makes sense that I was struck by the accompanying photo of Crystal Castles on the AUX site, which reminded me of Godard, Helmut Newton, and Wolford all at once. Nicely done.
Appropriation, influence, mainstream, underground -all these labels (and their concomitant definitions) are melting and forming a kind of morphed culturo-sonic Frankenstein, simultaneously scaring, shocking, delighting, and inspiring.
2010 Music: incredible.
Now, if only the major labels would get on the inspiration train.