Alternative music reviews

June 25, 2006

You’re So 70s, You’re So 80’s

Filed under: ramblings — @ 11:12 pm Comments (2)

looking cool back in the 80's
Sometimes I’m a little slow. Sometimes exceptionally so. No more slow than in my realisation that my whole approach to music has been mistaken. I have always searched out the new. Always looking for something totally original without precedent. How often have I actually found that complete originality? It’s been rare – The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, The Fall, Cabaret Voltaire, Teenage Jesus, Swans come to mind. But even these bands, when I check out their antecedents, I realise that they are really often just a very unusual mix of influences with a new twist added.

One of the biggest problems I had with the whole 1976 Punk explosion was that I considered I had heard the music before. Having spent a lonely musical adolescence with my Stooges and New York Doll’s albums, I already knew that any more than three chords was showing off. My time came later when bands were formed around the concept that you could just pick up an instrument, learn to play, and release your own record (but you could almost guarantee there was at least one card-carrying Muso amongst them).

But if I was young now, I would have the chance to look at 40 years of Rock and Pop music. I could take Lou Reed’s story telling lyrics, some My Bloody Valentine guitar glissando and mix it up. But I probably wouldn’t have much choice about revealing my essential music history and it’s roots in the 70s and 80s. There are only 12 notes in music (not quite true but I won’t go into John Fahey or Ligeti and beyond) so there are not really any new combinations left.

In truth, if I point out the 60’s/70’s/80’s influences of a band then what I mean is that they have a sense of history and musicianship. I remember John Peel talking about having a curry with the White Stripes before they recorded a session. He mentioned his love of Son House (a bluesman). Jack White then recorded a cover of a Son House song for the session. Now, that is knowledge. It tells me that the White Stripes are worth listening to (ok, I knew that from hearing the first single). Their music is not an accident, even if I choose not to get excited by the most recent recordings.

So, Apollo 13, Mars Bonfire, Phideaux, Breakup Breakdown – if I mention comparisons to earlier music, then I am saying that you know what you are doing and you are producing a deeper, more varied musical experience than any other band that just fits into a current genre.


  1. how dare you compare us to another band? LOL, i love this essay. It is true and worth realizing that some 50 years into the phenomenon we call Rock Music (I know it started in the 50’s I just don’t know what much of it sounded like…) there is such a rich quanitity and quality of history and cross pollination. Genres that were cutting edge to one era are passe in the next and so on and so forth. To work in rock music today, it seems one must be aware of the plethora of stuff that came before and what is being made of it in the current times.

    When I look at my POD (which geek that I am have organized by year) it spans the ages. It also spans the genres. I love how you said within every DIY punk upstart was a card carrying muso. It’s true, but ever more so, if they weren’t one when they started, the bug bit them on the journey. Not that they are the template for punk, but Banshees and Siouxsie are case in point. The varied, tripped out stuff they got into through their career in and out of that band takes you on a white knuckle ride through what “is” rock music.

    Thanks for exhuming that absurd olde photo. That’s gonna be an album cover one of these days! I got some olde tracks coming out one of these years.

    much love
    phideaux xavier I
    (that’s what they call me at work, and I thought it was sufficiently pretentious to append the “I” to my moniker)

    Comment by Phideaux — July 25, 2006 @ 12:03 am

  2. A thoughtful essay, and full of what I’ve said for years–every one of us is a unique combination of a dozen universals–so it is all about the particular alignment that makes us interesting, different or boring and trite. As a phan of phideaux for more years than I can count, I’ve delighted in his particular twist on some familiar routines, and the intelligence that shines through his meticulous recordings.It is no accidental transfer; he’s the real thing. Thanks for the words (and the music!)

    Comment by Jeri Riggs — July 25, 2006 @ 1:43 am

Leave a comment