October 05, 2006

"the sensationalist requirements of vicarious catharsis"


I totally missed this, and chances are you did too. Tim Kinsella did an Op-Ed in Alternative Press's August issue urging every band inside to break up. From what I understand, the people that wrote back were famousish nu-school emo-tauntes (Max Bemis, Saves the Day, people with mortgages paid by emo's devil wages et al.) who just accused Tim of being bitter because he's in "an unsuccessful run of the mill mathy emo band." Which would be true if Tim was in, say, Rise Against, not Joan of Arc. They also called him, in total english-language one adult speaking to another seriousness "a self-hating emophobe". Lord almighty on a cracker... the future of music that shall be reaped from now-emo's example makes my blood run cold. Colder.

PS. Despite having something like a 60% female readership, AP has not put a woman on the cover since...maybe a year and a half? Two years? See also: "hidden hand of power" mentioned below.

Anyhow, Kinsella's thing, culled avec typos from the AP reader board--

Beirut. The Patriot Act. Palestine. Africa. Wal-Mart. Clear Channel. Peak oil. Global devastation. The backward talk of those in power that dominates and suffocates our cultural discourse. Overpopulation. The dawning of neo-feudalist Theocracy in America. It's a busy, interesting place we've got here. Lots of information aimed at us. The hidden hand of power.

But beyond our control, dark energy, string theory, conceptions of an infinite mutiverse render any issues of free obsolete. We are really only allowed questions. WE can't understand anything. How could we? We live at the lip of the bubble of understanding of our own designs - never not curious, and never able to poke through.

So my point - I do have one - is that in our world, the most basic requirement we share is kep in balance only if it's shaken in many directions at the same time. And what can any of us do to help rectify the situation? We must integrate our politics into our lifestyle, acknowledge that every bridge, hook, melody and sales strategy has political demensions.

In short, I am asking that every band that appeared in the August 2006 issue of Alternative Press break up.


Despearte times require desperate measures. There's no good reason why "ex-rockstar" shouldn't be the most common job in the future. It's obvious from flipping through an issue of this magazine that there are too many bands, all trying in different ways to look and sound like each other. It's unsustainable. Why don't you guys all save yourself the inevitable worry and humiliation the future holds, break up now, and be the first mass movement in cutural history to self-consciously commit suicide?

There are pictures of maybe half a dozen people in that issue that I know, trust, respect and consider my friends. And I'm sorry to ask this of you guys, some of yo uhave helped us in the past, and I appreciate it, but our country needs you. Your bands have to break up. You guys on the cover (one of you was 13 in 2001, so you're now at draft age), we need you to quit.

Even you guys that just had a thumbnail band photo in an ad, sorry. Collateral damage, I guess. However you each choose to understand it, let's all agree we need to draw the line clearly. Every band whose name is even mentioned in the August 2006 issue of AP must break up immediately. So, Cute Is What We Aim For, consider your new aim ansering the call of our country. Underoath, pledge allegiance to the freedom of your fellow citizens. Circa Survive, you ran an add, and I'm sorry, that's enough. You must not survive.

I know this seems like a bummer to you guys, but think about it. Throughout history, music has been at the center of every culture. Music is what people have always had between them to help each other understand how to live. The values of a culture are hiddin within its music. And I dont mean that in a Christian-rock or straight-edge way. I mean our culture is not only sick, but its taking the whole world down with it, and its symptoms are in song structures and rituals of performance.

The simplistic, sensational, emotionalistim of soaring crescendos - whose success or failure relate only to how familiar they seem on first listen - must become tired and redundant by design. When you reach your saturation point and can no longer react to these octave chords' urgent demands, then what? Will all displays of emotion seem silly? Mustn't it be true, like the boy who cried wolf, that every feigned-spontaneous emotional signifier thrust upon you by some band will just deaden your sense of empathy in the future? Perhaps even in a real-world situation, with real-world consequences? If TV and reality can be so interwined, past signifiers of rebellion is rebellion, and this is punk rock, why not?

Don't the sensationalist requirements of vicarious catharsis ask so much, that our empathy will be spent before it ever has a chance to blossom? I mean, I might not be able to understand when someone is hurting - and in turn know how to help them - if my formative experiences with understanding emotions is via these fashionable men and women.

But it's not too late. If the bands break up, maybe we can have music again in the future, and we will be able to hear it for what it is - not what it's being sold as.

I know this is a lot to ask of bands. And no one 22-year-old New Jersey kid is to blame - it's the design that is flawed. But one can't stay quiet. One has a responsibility to stand up for what one sees as god and right in the world, and if my plea can make a difference in even one young band's life - if just one band breaks up - my work here will have been worth it.

Posted by Jessica at October 5, 2006 02:13 PM | TrackBack