The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Another Day, Another End Of Rock Rant

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: So now the New York Times has decided that rock is dead. Or close, anyway. According to a long, rather ridiculous essay by rock critic Howard Hampton in the Sunday, Jan. 14 "Arts & Leisure" section, "Something happened to rock music in the 1970's that it has never quite recovered from." The problem, Hampton says, began with bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and AC/DC, but also the Eagles and Jackson Browne who "aimed squarely for the middle of the road." In the '60s, to hear Hampton tell it, "playfulness, humor, chaotic weirdness and wayward passion had reigned supreme." But in the '70s "even excess and outrage came to seem stage-managed by some invisible bureaucracy of FM station consultants, management firms, technocrat producers and record company apparatchiks." He goes on to trash Radiohead ("Kid A recycles Pink Floyd's dark-side-of-the-moon solipsism to Me-Decade perfection") and the Wallflowers as "mere rock composites." He goes on, for many hundreds of words, to make his case that the '70s destroyed rock, with such sweeping statements of "fact" as "Indeed, there was more great music floating around in the mid-'70s than there is at the moment..." This is, of course, neither true nor original; it's a variation on the recurring theme that rock had a golden age — the '50s? the '60s, or, now, the '70s? — and most of what has come since is but a shadow of those great golden oldies. When I read these windbag pieces, whether in a mainstream publication such as the Times or some esoteric magazine such as The Baffler, I think of fat old cows chewing their cud in a pasture somewhere far, far away. I think of that old Beatles song "Nowhere Man." Hampton ends his piece with a tale about a recently released 1976 recording of the underground/ punk combo Pere Ubu. "The music's dark humor — a sense of life as a cosmic joke and a boundless conspiracy — is shrouded in a corrosive, unforgiving noise. That sound is like a transmission from a vanished world of refusal and doubt, about as far from what rock had become as one could imagine. Heard today, it can make you wonder if the purpose of most of what is on the market now is simply to help you forget that anything like this music was possible in the first place, or could ever be again." Hampton is a gifted writer. If what he wrote was true, it could chill you, scare you, make you feel that rock had indeed died, long ago. But it's not true. You need only put on Sleater-Kinney's "The Professional" or At the Drive-In's "One Armed Scissor" or The (International) Noise Conspiracy's Survival Sickness or Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast to know how false those words are, that they come from someone who can no longer hear the new with fresh ears.

Datastream: R.E.M. played their first show in 16 months at the Rock in Rio Festival on Monday, Jan. 15 before more than 135,000 music fans, according to band manager Bertis Downs. The group performed two new songs from their upcoming album, Reveal — "The Lifting" and "She Just Wants to Be" — along with hits such as "The One I Love" and less frequently performed "Find the River" and "Finest Worksong." On the group's official site,, Downs wrote that the show had a unique "spirit and an energy that seems overwhelming in such a large place filled with people who truly love the music." Reveal will be released in May. The group has re-launched the site, which looks great and features a section of regular newsy "Dispatches," often penned by Downs, with occasional reports from the bandmembers ... Momus' next album, Folktronic, is coming Jan. 30. He hits the road later this week with Stars and Alchemy Jones for a West Coast tour, beginning at the Knitting Factory in L. A. Jan. 18, then proceeding to the Capitol Garage in Sacramento Jan. 21, hitting San Francisco for shows at the Bottom of the Hill Jan. 22–23, and heading north for shows in Portland at Reed College (just for Reed students) Jan. 25. The tour concludes in Seattle at the Crocodile Café Jan. 27.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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