Comment: Do You Pass The Rockist Test? Part One

March 10, 2009

Our mate Adam Khan likes a rant. So much so that we invited him on board at Test Pressing to let him rant in public. He can rant about anything so look out for more coming your way. In the cross hairs today are bands muddying the waters and Giles Peterson. Duck and cover.

As you are reading this chances are you are part of the enlightened few whose tastes in music are catholic and meandering. When asked what your favourite music is you probably shrug your shoulders and answer uneasily because your choices, ‘Err, downtempo music, krautrock, Stevie Wonder, Moodyman, early Cure, Brazilian, dub, electronica’ (although saying the word ‘electronica is like drinking vinegar) make you sound like a liberal democrat architect. You can’t easily convey the breath and enthusiasm for different sounds that a love of dance music in all its forms (not just the current form smeared with white jeans, parched eyes, 80s haircuts and let’s all move to Berlin can do) has opened your ears too.

Lined-up against this is the rockist attitude. A Calvinistic strain present in those unhappy many listening to the internal monologue of plodding drive time Virgin Radio and the monthly Coldplay marathon. Rockism is the ultimate genre specialism, rock without the roll, or any discernible blackness (right on Norman). Current symptoms, a love of bands not any bands but BRITS nominated “bands” and routinely a firing four piece.

Four people together is an unhappy car trip or a crap party, not the musical equivalent of prime numbers. This is a farmers market of, insipid, clueless wonders caked in shit. Q magazine cover stars – The Killers, Muse, U2, Coldplay, Keane, Kings Of Leon – we’ve all heard Jeff Buckley but you and I didn’t go off and write anthems of personal insufficiency about a French exchange that went wrong (‘Oh Didier why hast thou forsaken me’). Bands who don’t just take the moral high ground but built a fucking tax dodging, sanctimonious, carbon free palace on top of it.

Rockist attitude is like IBS. Latent until some stressful event triggers full combustion, i.e. visiting the Virgin Music festival AND being disappointed that KT Tunstall has cancelled because she’s taking lessons from Annie Lennox on how to exist as a twat.

So why care? Because rockism is pervasive and everything culturally is viewed through this monocle of mediocrity and half-cut power ballad. Rockist journalists peddle the “no personalities or opinions” of dance music or the gaudy materialism of black music or flippancy of pop as a catch all rejection, whilst wondering aloud how the Kooks can follow their last opus ‘Jammin’ on a groove and shit’. It’s got to be U2 or speak and spell Radiohead, everything else is contemptible.

The musical wing of rockism is just headline dog whistles. At the kernel is an innate conservatism, a distrust of the other and a passive acceptance of join the dots culture. Actually while here, when Giles Peterson bangs on about joining the dots does he realise that most join the dots pictures are actually blindingly obvious pictures of parrots or pirate ships? Well they were last time I looked at my four year old’s colouring book. What colouring book has Gilles got? One that was produced by Jazzafuckingnova that’s what.

Anyway, after trashing Michael Howard for ‘having something of the night about him’ (i.e. please insert your own form of bigotry), Anne Widdicombe went off to see Embrace supported by Starsailor at the Forum. Even she was disappointed by the sexless atmosphere.

This rockist attitude shows a lack of passion and no real enthusiasm for anything other than a dirge. Some lacklustre criticism from rockist journalists has landed on “landfill indie” as the cancer eating our souls, but that lets too many off the hook and we shall come for them later. We all know that every time Neil Young appears on a magazine cover an angel dies.

So what’s it got to do with me? Well the upshot of this is that we must celebrate our different-ness, the many paths in music and culture, reject press pack collusion, embrace our love of immigration even if this means Somalian pirates washing your car window at Staples Corner, mourn the death of John Martyn, 1000% tax on Paul Weller, or sit on the sidelines making rude gestures.

[Adam Khan]

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