17 Sep

There was a time when no-one had ever heard of Christmas. And before then there was a time when a white bridal gown was a new idea. There was a time before you were taught to make marks and mix colour according to the ways of your people, long understood. There was a time before musical instruments, before scripture, before The Illiad and The Odyssey. There was a time before ‘my first car’ and we have photographs of the world as it was then. Tradition started somewhere, sometime.

Traditions will change when times change. If they do not, or cannot, they break. Tradition must be flexible because its heart is brittle.

In the 1960s jazz rode high and then was swept aside by a wave of electricity. The dawn of the digital age wrang the bell for rock. Like jazz, rock reverted to tradition. But whereas jazz reverted to an orthodox form grounded in the discipline of certain dead gods, rock was too tribal to make any orthodox idea of ‘good music’ possible.

The groups that’ve invaded my consciousness over the last decade seem to me facsimiles of past bands. Style collages. I won’t name names. But my impression of early 21st century rock has been of something derivative and stagnant. I knew there was good stuff out there, I’d heard The White Stripes. But my mind was on other things.

There’s also been an explosion of rock mags. I call ’em rock history mags because more often than not they feature photographs from the 60s and 70s. There are no new gods. Rolling Stone still lives, partially, because of its continuing excellence in political journalism. Of the lot I reckon Mojo is the best. I don’t think I’ve read a single piece in the mag, but they put out CDs so I know they know what they’re doing.

Every issue features a disk. Four so far have been Beatles albums. Cover albums featuring the performances of bands I’d never heard of. There are theme compilations and artists’ playlists. This winter just past I had the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ contribution on high rotation and finally plugged into Zappa. This morning I gave Bruce Springsteen’s a go.

Lots of midwest authenticity and Joe Strummer too. You’d expect that. For me Springsteen’s like Eric Clapton or AC/DC, I respect ’em but they don’t turn my clock. Still, I wanted to hear the DJ Boss set. Always on these disks there’s at least that one track that’s special. For me that was from a band from Nebraska where I’m surprised to find there’s a big scene. Omaha? who’d a thought. The lyrics to the first verse go:

If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it,’til your blind
And if ya swear that there’s
No truth and who cares
How come you say it like you’re right?

Why are you scared to dream of God
When it’s salvation that you want
You see stars that clear
Have been dead for years
But the idea just lives on.

“We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”
Bright Eyes
I’m Wide Awake And It’s Morning, 2005



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