Sunday, October 16, 2005
AN OPEN LETTER TO SIMON REYNOLDS PART TWO
Simon was nice enough to dig out some of the email exchanges that I couldn't access, so I'm able to address a few more of his thoughts on his unloved child UK Post-Rock.
Last time, I wrote about what I think we all agree was the total and utter commercial failure of UK post-rock. This time, I'm going to address one of his other concerns: post-rock's "contraction to basically what it is now, pleasant instrumental music with a tinge of experimentalism (or eclecticism construed as/mistook for experimentalism)".
This is a good point up to a point. All it really amounts to, though is that US post-rock sucked. Most of the British acts either dropped off the face of the earth (Hello? Insides?) or moved into more purely electronic forms (Bark Psychosis becoming Boymerang). Not that some of them didn't also start to suck (I'm thinking of Scorn here, mainly). It's also worth pointing out that there was, to a tiny extent, a second generation of UK post-rock that was divided between those who kept the faith with the original scene (Third Eye Foundation...) and those who aped the American style (Fridge...)
One mistake, I think Simon makes is his association of post-rock with self-conscious futuristicness (if that's a word). I took him up on this and he commented that "well most of the British bands did definitely want to be if not futuristic, then contemporary..." He's both right and wrong here and you have to deconstruct his wording just a tiny bit to know why. His sentence sorta suggests that "futuristic" and " contemporary" mean basically the same thing, which is clearly not true in the literal sense. However, when seen in the context of early-90s experimental rock and dance music, this conflation does make sense, kind of. That is to say, to be self-consciously contemporary in the early 90s was to be de-facto futuristic. It has to do with the birth of the information age and the paradoxical pre-millennial optimism of early 90s life. For Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis and Moonshake, "giving people something real" inevitably meant embraces recent advances in technology and technology-based music. Other acts, like God and Scorn, were more futuristic per se but still very much within the framework of the early-90s discourse on what "the future" was going to entail. Their brand of Futurism was very much of its time.
This leads me to my other point. Simon has always seen post-rock as being distinctly anti-rockist but I would say that UK post-rock is specifically an example of what happens when someone applies an extremely rockist attitude to making experimental music. In that sense, I think it fits in with Simon's concept of Neo-Rockism rather nicely.
Basically, my argument about UK post-rock was that it was not futuristic or iconoclastic so much as it was an attempt to be natural and "real" in a more honest and thoughtful way than is usual in rock music. Simon has suggested that Britpop was a more real reflection of British rock life and music at the time, which is a de facto truth, I suppose. Nevertheless, Britpop was drenched in artifice, irony, retro-referencing and almost entirely overwhelming crapness. It did a bad job of capturing the truth of early-90s British life but provided the white middle class rock consumers with a cosy, matey vision of Britain that made them feel very cosy and not a little proud. I think I covered my feelings about this issue in the last post, so I'll leave it at that.
That's all for now. Questions and comments are welcomed.