21 May 2009

No Eno Wave

Over at Blissblog, Simon has flagged up a few new posts on the Sonic Youth debate (the unexpected good news being that Matt Ingram, having detached Woebot from the blogosphere to launch it into the sphere of the blogged-about, has made a quiet return to blogging here).

Picking up on a comment at Airport Through the Trees, Simon mentions John Lydon's notoriously detourned Pink Floyd t-shirt, the one on which he scrawled 'I hate...' (perhaps the definitive punk gesture in the way it hijacks a readymade, defacing and desecrating a complacently commodified consensus?) . . . the challenge being, what would you graffiti 'I hate' onto in 2009?

I considered free jazz. As much as I love and listen to Ayler, Shepp, Silva, the whole BYG catalogue, some terrible things are done in its name / its honour by swathes of the free/weird/folk/noise/drone spectrum who know how to ape the sound of chaos, but not actually create any. Not barefoot in the head, even if they're barefoot on the analog delay pedal. And hiphop was another candidate. I used to love H.E.R. as Common put it, but it's getting harder every year to recuperate what was once so radical and intoxicating about it. Perversely I think this long decline has made me think about hiphop more than I ever used to, when its vitality could be taken for granted. But the winner:

'I HATE . . .'
Brian Eno. Again, I don't hate the historic Eno, the Eno of Roxy Music, the '70s solo records, the Ambient series, No New York, Talking Heads, is practically peerless, and even after that there are plenty of fascinating ideas at work. But isn't there something very odd about the perception of Eno, whereby he gets a free pass for his last 20-odd years spent producing U2, James (!) and now Coldplay. (And James!) The strangest thing about this period (JAMES!) is that in theory it really could be good. You would think that if you applied the oblique strategies of Another Green World, Taking Tiger Mountain etc to music as boldly unadventurous, as warm-water-bottle, as Coldplay, you might end up with that rare thing, a mainstream pop record articulated through genuinely forward-thinking sonics; that Coldplay might come up with, if not a Kid A, then something close. But instead it's like those U2 and Coldplay records inadvertently became the unacknowledged apotheoses of the (failed) Music for Airports project: rock windtunnelled into a frictionless form of non-denominational spiritual succour (to be pronounced sucker), emotional affirmation to be taken like travel sickness pills, packaged with a smooth pharmaceutical blandness. One day I'd like to listen through all those productions and write a long post about them from the perspective of Eno's earlier art-experiment incarnation – round up these big critical blindspots in the Eno discography into a kind of secret history (albeit of course it's a secret history hidden in plain sight, 'hidden' only from the point of view of say, a Wire subscriber).


Seb said...

See, if you had gone with hip-hop, then you could have switched up slogans: all you have to do is switch the inflection on "Brooklyn, what?!" to change it from a boast to a put-down.

Sam Davies said...

Very true. 'Keep it unreal' always seemed like an ethos-in-waiting too. Andre 3000, Kool Keith being early adherents.

www.designersilkscarf.com said...

I went to the pictures with Brian,when I was at Art School.We saw The Ballard of Joe Hill (my choice).You have to admire how a small,ugly,chain smoking man managed to get it together through sheer ego.He had nothing else going for him.

Sam Davies said...

Many of the finest musicians, artists, actors, writers and footballers have been short. It's an honourable category.

That aside, please go on... Did you only accompany him out of pity then...?