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 Everett True

eight ‘classic’ bands… a rejoinder

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Julian says: “Everybody’s always like, ‘Oh yeah the music used to be better in the 80s’. No it fucking didn’t.” So what current bands are as good as The Fall, Joy Division, Buzzcocks, The Birthday Party or Dexy’s [sic] in their prime? Not to mention Blondie, Ramones, Jonathan Richman… (This comment originated on another post. I think it’s interesting enough to merit its own blog entry.)

First rule of music: it’s not a competition.

All the bands you mention have been discussed and analysed and praised and written about countless times. And that can’t help but affect individual perception as to what is ‘great’. But why leave it up to other people? Why not determine this for yourself? Think. Why are records considered ‘classic’? Because there is a dominant zeitgeist that agrees so. Yet this zeitgeist is fluid over time.

I’d put The Thing (played last night at the Judith Wright Centre)
Agent Ribbons
La Sera
My Disco
Herman Düne
Taken By Trees
Sonic Youth
Pete And The Pirates
Thee Spivs
Fabulous Diamonds

up against any of that lot. You might disagree. but that’s my prerogative. Would I be telling the truth? It depends on the mood I’m in that particular day. Sure, I don’t have as much emotional investment in (some of) those bands as I do in the list Julian gives me above… but that comes from time and circumstance, and also the fact the music you first hear when encountering the outside world is often the music that has most resonance with you throughout later life. This isn’t a reflection of the perceived aesthetic qualities of the music, however.

Plus, let’s have a closer look. Dexys. I fucking love Dexys. Most days I’d place at least two of their albums among my favourites ever. Yet I greatly prefer both Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin’s version of ‘Respect’ to theirs, and that demo version of Sam & Dave’s ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’ is pure Commitments, frankly. (Great film, incidentally.) Does this mean their music is somehow less ‘classic’ or ‘good’ than what went before? It entirely depends on your perspective. Throughout my late teens and forever onward, I lived and breathed Dexys, and it would be both dishonest and foolish to deny that simply because other folk might (and do) have different experience.

Another example. The Birthday Party. I fucking loved The Birthday Party – to my mind, still one of the fucking greatest live bands ever, full stop. Yet I was in my prime (dancing shoes-wise) while I was experiencing them, and if I hadn’t been there’s no way they’d be elevated to such a privileged position in my head – someone else, maybe Mudhoney or My Disco or Bikini Kill or Dirtbombs or Quasi. Or maybe from another strain of music entirely. I’m sure if I’d seen Troublefunk or George Clinton more than once, I’d have been proclaiming them from on high. As I would be if I was experiencing Thee Spivs or Lady Gaga as a raw teenager.

One last, even more appropriate, example. I will bow to no man or woman in my appreciation for Jonathan Richman, and yet I do believe I love the songs and live shows of Herman Düne even more. Some days, certainly. Ridiculous, right? Especially bearing in mind what a debt Herman Düne owe to Jonathan. (Flick back a few years, and you could also mark my love for The Pastels in a similar way.) It’s certainly true, however. (Also, Jonathan’s never played a gig in my living room.)

To look at it another way, let’s paraphrase John Peel: “If I don’t like a record then I feel that I must be at fault somehow”. One strain of thought holds that there’s no such thing as bad music, only bad listeners.

The 10 bands listed are, by necessity, merely those that popped into my head in the space of 20 seconds.

3 Responses to eight ‘classic’ bands… a rejoinder

  1. Jean Encoule January 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Conjecture makes the musical world go round . . . what the fuck else would we argue about? I once read a post from someone (female, I guess) claiming that this kind of discussion is a ‘boy thing’. . . the post went on to make accusations/generalizations of an autistic spectrum disorder based nature . . . mmm, well, I’m male, for sure, and have some form of OCD or another, granted, but that’s a left-side brain affliction, one exacerbated by ABI (alcohol brain injury) & THC damage, not a right-side feature . . . anyway, I digress . . . the thing is, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one, and, in time, if we like to obsess about music, eventually, we amass a bunch of critical opinions whose taste and parameters match our own, and we use them to guide us in a domain of ever-growing depth and breadth!

    Meanwhile, back at the plot, I can list with the best of them: currently . . . Alcest, Sharks, Flats, Alasdair Roberts, Trembling Bells, Natalie Portman, Wild Nothing, Corrupted, Warpaint, Cheveau . . . versus: the past . . . Crime, Metal Urbain, The Germs, Alternative TV, Rudi, The Dead Kennedys, The Congos, Augustus Pablo, Captain Beefheart, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators . . . are the former better than the latter? Obviously, that’s a moronic question, surely. As ET rightly says, it’s all about generational signifyers . . . when we were kids, of course we hated the previous generation’s music, even though, secretly, we all had ‘guilty pleasures’ . . . I guess the only real difference between ‘us & them’ is that we had the punk rock police, and they have a world of music at the click of a button . . . be thankful for small mercies, and freak the fuck out! The future is unwritten:

    “Now it is 1984/Knock-knock at your front door/It’s the suede-denim secret police/They have come for your uncool niece”

  2. cullenskink January 28, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I like this. It’s impossible to be objective about music, which would be necessary for meaningful ranking. It’s especially impossible to be objective about the music that coursed through your veins and made your heart pump when you were young.

  3. mmc January 29, 2011 at 9:19 am

    How do you read comments like the last one and not feel like the Dalai Lama talking to someone who just tried meditating for the first time? I mean this in the kindest way possible to both of you. As in, where does one get the patience to start the conversation over from scratch, every day? I think I know so it’s actually kind of rhetorical, but feel free to respond.

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