Rock aesthetics

27/10/2011 § 1 Comment

And now for a culture post…

We went to the Meat Loaf concert last night. It was a lot of fun, regardless of what the Dominion Post says. Yeah, okay, it was a nostalgia trip…but what great times we had!

The opening act, Luger Boa, was fascinating, because the aesthetics were all mixed up. Drummer: pretty boy, played in a singlet. Lead guitarist: looked like cookie-cutter high-school rock band kid.  Bassist: built like Joey Ramone, played like CJ. Rhythm guitarist: had this Bohemian Rhapsody thing going, and are those shoulder pads? Lead singer: massively self-absorbed, exactly like Michael Stipe when I once worked backstage at an REM show. Lined up across the stage, they were a doggie bag of rock cliches.

It reminded me a rock critic’s column years ago. He described two band members (from U2, maybe?) who did that ‘lean our backs against each other while we play’ thing. It’s supposed to be an expression of fraternity, a weary camaraderie. They did it because they were supposed to do it, because that’s how you’re supposed to act when you’re a rocker. The act didn’t refer to an emotion or experience, but to another act.

That old rock duo and Luger Boa were both presenting simulacra. The realm of rock-n-roll representation closed in on itself.

Now, in post-modern language you could call Luger Boa a pastiche. Okay, sure. But what made it not post-modern was the apparent lack of irony. That was what really struck me. Each of these guys had adopted a look from the archives of rock, but with no hint of self-awareness or mockery or irony or – what? – hipsterness?

Irony is mother’s milk for my generation. I never realised how much until I was performing a bossa nova piece (ironically, of course), and a hippy I knew asked me why I couldn’t just play it straight. It was a lovely song, after all. And Luger Boa showed me again what Strauss and Howe have pointed out: irony is my ge-ge-ge-generation’s pose. It was weird to see a band without it. But at the same time, they weren’t able to pull together the pastiche into anything coherent without it.

As for their music? Well, about what you would expect from a doggie bag of rock.

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