Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Moon Isn't Big Enough

By the time John Lennon died, the hippies were either hunkered down in the woods somewhere smoking weed or finishing law school in an effort to change the world from the "inside". Their Peace, Love & Acid vibe was derided by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Jello Biafra as self-indulgent, bohemian childishness. They were changing not because of societal pressures, but because their heroes had been exposed as charlatans, snake oil salesmen disguising LSD induced psychosis as enlightenment. Syphilitic hedonists who, at the end of the day, were nothing more than nihilists in tie-dyes, contemptible cowards hiding from life, hookah at the ready. Rock & Roll had become a caricature: amplified guitars amplifying the sex and the drugs, forget philosophy, fuck Peace & Love, it doesn't get us high and it doesn't get us any tail, throw some half-dressed sluts on the stage! fire! sparks! pot smoke! cue the sexy muscle car film! LIGHTS, more LIGHTS, fucking blind them all, call out the Emperor, more Christians to the lions, TO THE COLISEUM! Keith Moon's vomit soaked ghost hovered above them, smiling benignly, raising Jim Morrison's arm in victory like boxers, winners of the belt of Dionysus, pathetic corpses. Of course, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks, were already there, along with too many others to name. Some of them, like the Clash, were trying to change the paradigm, but others, like the Pistols were empty constructs, crass for the sake of publicity and fame, suckling at the teat but spitting on it at the same time, more snake oil, but they didn't even know it, so complete were the blinders of fame and heroin. In Washington, DC, though, something...odd was happening. Not to imply that it was the only place in the country, but the examples there are perhaps the most striking. A band of black music rebels, a kid in his parents basement, and the local high school kids were doing something, something new, something...well, pure. They made their own records, they distributed them, they managed themselves, they played everywhere, high school gyms, convention centers, tiny basement clubs, they had their own thoughts, their own morality, they were there for all to see, not an iota of make up, pyrotechnics, or flashy guitar riffs, just energy, pure and untamed, lightning and sweat. And they knew us. They were living our lives, they were in our heads, they were us, sulking, angst-ridden, moody, adolescent golems, slaves to our hormones, no challenges, no learning to hunt or handle a spear, no tribe, suburbanites who didn't even know there was anything to miss, hearts of lions, lives of sheep.
Whatever else might have been going on, it spread. The area around DC from '80 to '87 or so was alive, a giant, teeming algae bloom on the ocean of youth, shaved heads and blue hair, leather and flannel, boots and Chuck Taylors, unintentional raggedness, proud lower middle class, reasonably educated, tough kids. Tough mentally, tough-hearted, lean, sweaty kids, with too-big feet, lurching on a dance floor that twenty years earlier would have been filled with twisting, well-dressed folk, unaware that their children would be the Horsemen of melody's Apocalypse.
The Music had not died, thank you very much Don McLean, it had shed unnecessary pretense, eschewed twisting, poetic metaphor for plain, 20 point type, threw out the sinuous five minute, masturbatory guitar solo in favor of fast, stripped down, punch in the throat rhythm, impossibly fast, beautifully aggressive noise. Who really gives a shit what the Walrus means, when you get right down to it? Screw the Pinball Wizard, he's shriveled and impotent anyway, I want a tribal chant, a rain dance, I want my whole body to convulse, the carbon atoms speeding through space, a musical super-collider, hurtling me toward unknown levels of intensity for three minutes, nothing more, the rest is self-aggrandizing bullshit anyway. "...And I don't wanna listen to it, You don't wanna dance to it, We don't wanna hear it, Rock & Roll bullshit...."
But as often is the case, the critics arrived, punker than thou, we know what is good, what is bad, we are ARTISTS, for fuck's sake, we KNOW, you are suburban trash, Andy Warhol in hundred dollar leather pants and fire engine red manic-panic hair, the Corcoran set, "I was at CBGBs for the Jim Carroll show", music fascists, DEFINERS, reading Kierkegaard but not understanding it, carrying a copy of the Village Voice, bringing the New York art vomit vibe to F St., no one is interesting, you bore me all. And a lot of us believed them. We started to replace S.O.A. with Billy Bragg, threw out the Youth Brigade records, and bought The Smiths at Tower Fucking Records, for chrissakes, we are older now, we have learned, we are in our TWENTIES now. Punk is dead.

But that is FAR from the end of the story, my friends. Because it refused to die. It became City of the Living Punk, the zombie effect, we will eat your brains, we will consume you before you even have a chance to cannibalize your own. Fuck New York. We are DC.

I leave you here, for now. More to follow.

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