The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, January 31, 2001

We Agree To Disagree, Or Maybe Not

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: "I am guessing that Howard Hampton is of a certain age, a member of that generation of self-satisfied rock critics that embraced punk and new wave as a welcome change," writes James A. Johnson III of Athens, Ga. His "Letter to the Editor" appeared in the Jan. 28 "Arts & Leisure" section of New York Times. "Fair enough, and there is certainly cause for cynicism when discussing the gradual 'commodification' of rock that occurred during the 70's. But Roxy Music? Pere Ubu? Please." Johnson was one of six people whose letters ran in the Times; all six disagreed with the flawed logic of Hampton's piece, "70's Rock: The Bad Vibes Continue," which ran in the Times on Jan. 14, and with which I also vehemently disagreed ("Another Day, Another End of Rock Rant"). Johnson champions the Eagles in his letter; Barry Faulk of Tallahassee stands tall for Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and "Mr. Hampton's béte noir, Led Zeppelin," noting that "bands from Smashing Pumpkins to Nirvana to Radiohead leaned heavily" on those bands as "the only way out of the aesthetic cul-de-sac of punk minimalism." We come to music from such different places. That LiLiPut album that I've been savoring is worthless noise to some. The Eagles may have one of the biggest-selling greatest-hits albums ever, but I could fill a stadium with rock fans who hate every note they played. I remember when Neil Young performed with Pearl Jam at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park in 1995; I heard a few Pearl Jam fans complaining about the old geezer on the stage. I will argue to the death the merits of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry (in their heyday, anyway) and Pere Ubu, 'cause I know how much impact their music had on my life and worldview. What was wrong with Mr. Hampton's essay wasn't his taste in music, it was his failure to acknowledge that great rock (or punk, or whatever you want to call it) didn't end in the '70s. My reading of Hampton's essay was that he had fallen into the common trap into which rock critics fall easily as they grow older. He can no longer feel the current coursing through great contemporary rock. Perhaps he got lazy, or perhaps he just grew up. Sometimes I think punk — I subscribe to Greil Marcus's description of punk as "...a certain form of the public attempt to discover one's own voice, let's say, a likely embarrassment protected by anonymous noise..." — is a music that only the young (in spirit, if not in age) can really hear. "Each subsequent decade has spawned new artists (R.E.M., U2, Nirvana) that have balanced creativity and commercial success, and this is likely to continue," wrote Joel Confino of Westfield, N.J. Added David Garland of Manhattan, who hosts the radio shows "Spinning on Air" and "Evening Music" on WNYC-FM: "The experimental spirit of '60s music didn't die; it moved elsewhere... The listener who wants to discover something new and exciting can lament that it's not brought to his doorstep by mainstream pop culture, but except for lucky coincidences like the late 60's, each of us who wants the unusual has to seek it...." Can you hear it?

Datastream: The fourth Yo Yo A Go Go music festival takes place at the Capitol Theater at the center of the musical universe — uh, we mean Olympia, Wash. — July 17–21. The festival will coincide with Lakefair, an annual carnival on the shores of Olympia's Capitol Lake; according to the folks at Yo Yo Records it's "the world's coolest gathering of punks, beatniks, riot grrls, and misfits of all stripes." Such artists as Beck, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Sleater-Kinney, the Halo Benders, Jad Fair and Elliott Smith have played previous fests ... The fourth Arab Strap album, The Red Thread, will see the light of day Feb. 27. With Aidan Moffat singing in a Scottish accent thicker than the San Francisco fog, and his longtime buddy Malcolm Middleton on guitar, Arab Strap make dark, moody and oddly beautiful music. You'll have a time deciphering the lyrics, which are apparently about romantic disillusionment, sex and obsession, among other things. Songs on The Red Thread include "Amor Veneris," "Love Detective," "Haunt Me" and "Turbulence."

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

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