Monday, December 04, 2000

The Phony Historian Syndrome

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: I'm not sure how it happened, but music writer Anthony DeCurtis is now being described as a "rock historian," at least by Newsweek. We find one of the author's ridiculous theories featured in the "Periscope" section of the November 27, 2000 issue. "There's this rise and fall of music quality with the Dow," DeCurtis is quoted as saying. The evidence? Bear markets produce "punk bands like the Dead Kennedys in the late '70s, socially aware rappers like Public Enemy and raw-powered grungers like Nirvana in the depressed early '90s," Newsweek explains, apparently paraphrasing DeCurtis. Bull markets deliver "Britney Spears, 'N Sync… the 'Thong Song'." Only none of that makes sense. Anyone who has actually been listening for the past few years can list dozens and dozens of amazing albums, from artists as diverse as Blackalicious, Guided By Voices, Grandaddy, Beth Orton, Lucinda Williams, Garbage, Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo, Spoon, John Hiatt -- on and on and on. In fact, the last few years have been something of a golden age of rock, hip-hop and electronic music -- you just wouldn't know it from what's at the top of the charts. But then, perhaps the "rock historian" is too busy looking back at history (or getting nostalgic over his prized Mick Jagger solo albums) to pay attention to what's actually going on right now… Of Note: Come February 20, 2001 Kill Rock Stars will re-release the complete works of long-gone Zurich post-punk band Kleenex/ Liliput (the band was called Kleenex but changed its name to Liliput in 1980 when Kimberly-Clark came calling). Guitarist Marlene Marder, bassist Klau Schiff (who is the painter Klaudia Schifferle), vocalist Regula Sing and drummer Lislot Ha (AKA Lislot Hafner) formed Kleenex in 1978, just as the first waves of punk (U.S.- and UK-style) were burning out; they went through various personnel changes, released a mess of singles and an album, and were gone by the end of 1983. Greil Marcus has written that Kleenex/ Liliput were "the only female punk band -- maybe the only punk band of any description, save for the Sex Pistols -- to grow more extreme as they continued their quest to find out what it was they wanted to play… [They] played with the possibilities of freedom; they practiced freedom as play…" The reissue will include new liner notes by both Marder and Marcus.

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