May 30th, 2003

I haven’t been blogging this week. Not sure why. I’ve been busy, but not much busier than usual. Maybe it’s the weather. It’s been raining for, what, two weeks now. And it doesn’t look like, other than this short break this morning, we’re gonna get any relief any time soon. I have to say that I’ve just about had it with this shit (the weather, that is). One more spring without a spring here in New England. Gets me down. Summer needs to come on soon.

The only thing music-related I’ve been thinking about much lately is this question about experimental pop that comes up in this week’s Bombpop, which is about the Canadian collective Broken Social Scene and their terrific new record (well, new Stateside), “You Forgot It in People.” Still haven’t managed to get a handle on what it is that ties all these bands — Giant Sand, Calexico, Califone, Flaming Lips, the Polyphonic Spree … — together. Other than the obvious stuff, that is. And maybe I never will get it.

I do know that I like what they’re doing. I also know that it seems to me that rock is in its twilight years as a popular music form. So it’s probably about time it started reflecting on its life. And this experimentalism, in my mind, is a part of that process. Rather than attempting to expand the boundaries pop, it seems to me, the experimentalists are looking inward, trying to discover what rock is by breaking it down into tiny pieces and then pasting them back together in odd ways (or, in the case of bands like Califone, not really pasting them back together at all), seeing if the music coheres in these different ways as well as it does in its more linear forms. And the mere fact that it does cohere some of the time is a pretty strong indication that rock might have been many things other than (or in addition to) the many things it already is. That might suggest that there’s much life left in the old girl, much left to be done, but somehow I don’t think so. I think movements in the arts, much like people, come to their end with more potential unrealized than realized. That’s where retro and revivalist movements come from. The big difference between people and art forms, of course, is that art forms can go on living long after they die. Even if rock is on its deathbed, I’m confident people will still be playing it 100 years from now. And maybe, as in jazz, there will in a few decades be a split between those who play the old, accessible forms and those who still believe in moving the music forward, and attempt do so by making it such an intellectual exercise that little, if anything, of its original sound is left, even if much of its original intent (sprit?) survives, perhaps manifest in both groups, though few in either will admit it about the other.

Am I just over thinking this? Maybe. And maybe I’ve got it all wrong. I certainly don’t plan to stop thinking about it. If I figure I need to reverse my position (not that I’m taking a position) at some point, I’ll surely write about it. In the meantime, looks like I’m back to blogging. Let’s see if it keeps up once the storm clouds move back in.

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