"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 27, history graduate & human rights student
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| Hoover Genealogy Project
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Listening to the Embrace album recently, I started wondering where the line is between inspirational (if at times rather didactic) moral truths and the agenda of individualistic personal responsibility that characterises most attempts to deflect from social and structural issues today. For example, when Ian MacKaye sings, in ‘No More Pain’
"Your emotions are nothing but politics, so get control"
it’s a powerful (if blunt) statement of the personal-is-political, urging people to realize they are not entirely at the mercy of social and cultural forces without at least some agency in how they can respond to them. Even if that is initially only through defiance, it offers hope of change. But what if such agency is illusory - what if the corollary is
"Your behaviours are nothing but economics"
and (too complex to fit in a lyric) control is something you already have, and must
have, at least to the extent which the economic system allows.
I’ve just got to the part towards the end of The Birth of Biopolitics where Foucault asks “is not economics the analysis of forms of rational conduct and does not all rational conduct, whatever it may be, fall under something like economic analysis?”. We see this in popular terms today with things like Freakonomics, and more generally in the expansion of neoliberal ideas to the operation of previously ‘social’ and non-economic areas of life.
This “colossal definition” is difficult to argue against except with a firm conviction in ideological alternatives or an awareness of the scientific weakness of economics or behavioural psychology; but it seems to me that the latter objection, while convincing, is contingent and provisional on inferior knowledge. Already advertising works by deliberately exploiting the irrationality of human behaviour; or in other, perhaps more Foucauldian terms, it has rationalised the irrational so as to better fit it into the economic schema.
What this all has to do with Embrace I’m not really sure. I guess I’m just wondering if the individual they’re addressing, trying to break away from the tide of nihilism and cruelty caused by the breakdown of the post-war accommodated capitalist society, isn’t perhaps more similar to the constructed individual under neoliberalism which we rail against today, post-crisis. I think the frank addressing of mental and emotional health is really important, but the tricky thing is identifying the amount of agency the individual really has in their social and economic context.
wolfpartyjoe said: I agree with you about bands like Loma. That sound seems to "pass" in both d-beat/"fast hardcore" and emo leaning scenes, where twinkly stuff is pretty niche and had to reach a critical mass of people to get this amount of attention.
I just listened to I.V. there and realised/remembered that it is heavy as fuck - especially as an arc across the first few songs up until the point where the sound literally disintegrates (in fidelity). That dynamic does seem plausible - although the whole ‘skramz’ thing was I suppose the attempt to define that particular revivalist subgenre of abrasive/chaotic hardcore.
"The genre endured a lot of dramatic shapeshifts over a relatively short amount of time, and different audiences fastened to different embodiments. Not that house or hip-hop didn’t experience similar quicksilver evolutions; I guess with those it’s just easier to perceive a foundation, whereas emo is sort of already an aerial evolution of hardcore. There’s also maybe less allegiance to a core aesthetic among emo listeners. There are always Minor Threat or Black Flag fans that think of those bands as forming some essential fabric of hardcore from which further bands are sort of more compromised translations. Maybe I’ve just never encountered someone who thinks of Embrace and Rites of Spring in the same way. The music was always sort of immediately changeable."
A Rational Conversation: Is Emo Back? : The Record: NPR (via andrewtsks)
Brad Nelson saying some really intelligent stuff about that most misunderstood of genres (maybe? not really I suppose).
I’ve never been into the poppier side of emo, or the more technical/twinklier end of screamo, so for me the high point of contemporary emo was stuff like Sinaloa (still going I think/hope) and …Who Calls So Loud and the various other post-Orchid groups - good point made above is that the ‘revival’ is coming a little more than a decade past the genre’s previous peak, rather than the more usual 20-year cultural “retromania” cycle, which is perhaps a good indication of its groundedness and continuity in counter/sub-culture. Then there’s the more abrasive stuff like Loma Prieta which, while highly reflective of certain early 90s styles I think, is the kind of thing that will probably always crop up but isn’t quite accessible enough to make a broader trend - although I could be wrong on that (as with most other things).
On the point about emo being a boys’ club: there are a few prominent female-fronted punk bands around, like White Lung or most recently Perfect Pussy, that while not exactly ‘emo’ are definitely emotionally aggressive; and for the past while I’ve been finding that its female artists such as EMA or Torres who’ve best represented the expression in lyrical and musical terms of the emotional intensity I associated first with emo (of course much of the same could apply to most singer-songwriters, but I guess I find some echo of the underlying post-hardcore - guitar - forcefulness in them, or something).
breckfastfood said: Kerosene 454
Am I a fan: Definitely. Or, at least, of Situation at Hand/Race - I never got into their later albums and I mainly like that album for its intense ‘sound’.
First song I heard by them: Probably ‘What Was’, via the Epitonic page for the band (discovered a lot of post-hardcore stuff browsing that website back in the days when individually downloading mp3s was a thing) or maybe if it was on the Fourfa page - at least if I didn’t hear it there, I got the description:
"A temple to the DC octave-chord noisy over-distorted SG/Marshall guitar. This is the guitar sound bands dream about. These are all sweet pop songs made impossibly heavy by the crushing weight of the loudest guitars ever recorded."
Bonus points for the Kerouackian use of the adverb “impossibly”, which certainly appealed to me at the time (and to be honest still does).
Favorite song: I think maybe ‘Greener’, just cos it’s the opener and kicks you with that headlong rush of sound. I’m not the greatest at the best of times for remembering particular songs, and the ones on Situation at Hand tend to run into each other in the best way possible. Andrew makes a good case for ‘Pointer Ridge’/’Nines’ here though.
Seen them live: Lol no (this is probably going to be a recurrent answer)
Favorite member: Whichever (or both?) of the Wall brothers who were involved with Slowdime Records and a few Hoover family bands.