Monday, July 9, 2012

Matt, Dan and R. discuss Billy Corgan and Danger


Did you hear this on NPR yesterday?  

  I loved Billy Corgan's take on the modern state of rock n roll. 

"When you deal with rock and roll,  you know,  it sort of played itself out,  you know? You can't play any faster. You can't play any louder. You can't be any crazier than Iggy Pop or Jim Morrison or,  you know,  Kurt Cobain. You pick your guy or your girl,  right?, So what ends up happening is it gets kind of staid and safe,  even though it appears to continue to be dangerous and everybody looks dangerous - nobody's really dangerous,  and they know that.

So when you actually push a button in rock and roll,  even if it's your own,  you're actually accomplishing something pretty incredible because that's really all there is left to do is find those spaces that haven't been trod over."

I'm not sure if he captures those spaces, but what he said rings true for me about the emperor's new clothes.  That little dab of extreme truth caught me off guard.  Not used to it. 

I think I probably like him more than his music.


He's one of those guys whom I mock, but then I would totally listen to a few songs, especially Cherub Rock, Today, and that 1979 song, so who am I to mock him? That's more than The Grassroots get, or Steeler's Wheel and I'd be totally jazzed to meet one of those guys.

Sounds like an intelligent if possibly grandiose guy. The thing about rock being dangerous, well, we've known that since punk broke. But there's still the world of art and music having a subversive cause and a home for the sensitive and dysfunctional. I do think it's more like the heyday of the jazz-age, when songwriters were just toilers not champions. The key is getting some cool songs out of the deal.

Rock and roll can be dangerous (just ask Euronymous, or get your nose broke in the pit at a Trash Talk show).

But it's true... danger is just set on repeat. But just because it has been done before, does not mean it won't be done (and be dangerous) again.

There will always be someone summoning Satan and/or stabbing his bandmates death, someone screaming and flinging his feces (or HER feces!), some band being jailed for political reasons (Pussy Riot), it just will never be--and it never was--a whiny boy named Billy.

Billy tried so hard to be dangerous, too... what with his "zero" gothica reinvention... he's a twat. He's saying it's played out because he is making pre-emptive strike against the reviews of his new record.

You want danger, Billy? Move to Syria.

Of course a question is, what's the point of being dangerous? There's the artistic sense of breaking free of norms, not being like your parents or stifling community which is liberating, but there's also the greater dangerousness, which on some subconscious or conscious level seeks to overthrow large chunks of society. 50s rock had a larger lever of reaction to racism, the 60s to the war (STILL a bigger, nastier war than anything like what we've got today) as the 70s wore on, the social rebellion road on the coat-tails of the political rebellions of the past for authenticity, while replacing self-destruction and un-earned majesty for any real non-conformity. Synths and suits rebeled against guitars, but then they all got subsumed by capitalism.

What could be dangerous today? I think it's important that you not be dangerous for dangerousness's sake, otherwise it's something ultimately stupid, like satanism, which is just a monster mask, or actually evil, like racism.

I think with the internet there's a chance to create a DIY arsthetic that didn't just look like ripped up clothing. Corporate rejection could be dangerous.

Madonna used to be dangerous. Y'know what happens to dangerous people? Sometimes, they survive long enough to be boring.

All this said, someone hit me in the head with something really hard when I went to see the smashing pumpkins in 1991 at the Moon in New Haven. I was jumping up and down (pogo-ing, I guess you could say) and someone didn't like it and hit me. Didn't feel like a fist... felt like a bottle. I turned around, but no one would own it. Dangerous, indeed.

Bowie took on anti-gay prejudice and Madonna took on sexual hypocrisy. For a while there, it was cool to be bi, but I think AIDS set things back. Bowie stuck around long enough to become "straight." Madonna's ownership of her sexuality led to a generation of whores/teases. Now music sucks, but you can masturbate to it. Of course, I like how sexy everything's become, but it's empty, and it gives the jocks more power. Ultimately it's geeks vs. jocks, and the jocks are winning. Someone said The Red Hot Chili Peppers meant jocks were getting into Rock. Were they the first beefsteak rockers? One could envision either a religious, button up movement or an apocalyptic loose sex movement, but either would suck, and danger for danger's sake is too dangerous, just like dysfunction for dysfunctions sake gives you Syd Vicious or G.G. Allen. Just looked up G. G....nephew of Woody Allen!


That was you at the show?  I knew I was right to deck ya. 

Danger as a concept is a little confusing. Social, sexual, political?  If I was backstage at a Black Sabbath show when I was 12, I'd think those guys were way dangerous. 

Pete Seger was dangerous. Dylan was dangerous. Elvis, Hendrix, Zeppelin. Springsteen,  Madonna, U2 in Sarajevo. Janes Addiction during the LA riots.

It's that sense that something is getting pushed a little too far.  That this might not end well. For real.  Or that I'm personally not on my comfy sofa anymore. 

But I don't fault them for getting old.  It's not the person, it's their message and every era has it's relevant messages. 

I was just assuming -- and seriously hoping -- that the mantle would be taken by a new generation of post GenX kids who had their own reason to flip off the system, have angst and blow something up.  And they didn't.  At least not in the form of an arena-sized band (though this may be a good thing. Are revolutions televised?)  A generation of Pitchfork snark battles? How utterly unpowerful. 


"Younger adults are faring worse in the private sector and, in large part because they have less political power, have a less generous safety net beneath them. Older Americans vote at higher rates and are better organized. There is no American Association of Non-Retired Persons. “Pell grants,” notes the political scientist Kay Lehman Schlozman, “have never been called the third rail of American politics.”

They are numb. They are living with their parents. They are neutered. Power isn't asked for. It's taken. 


The other day, on impulse, I wanted to hear What's My Age Again.  What a serious 4-on-the-floor beat.  F-you guitars.  A great punk/pop confection.  2 minutes of fun.    I grabbed it off YouTube and went for a drive. 

We started making out and she took off my pants

But then I turned on the TV

And that's about the time she walked away from me

Nobody likes you when you're 23

I never really listened before.  I had no idea how fantastically stupid this band was.  These are sick sad puppies.  Talk about whiny.  He's about to score with his girl and he suddenly turns on the television?  What a colossal jerk.  I just started harshing on anything remotely related to them.  (Though it's still a great song.)

I suppose I got what I deserved, but geez... these bands literally *line up* to get merchandised, jingled, sold out, co-opted, etc.  

On the bright side, I saw Bruce Springsteen's keynote at SXSW this year.   He's old, but it felt just a little dangerous.  We didn't know what he was going to say. He was funny, but edgy and he came with something to say.   It's nice to see an old loose cannon still going off.  

I think it all depends how we define "danger." A 12 year old at a Black Sabbath show is scared, but there's no real danger.

I think danger might simply be a collective, emotional state of mind that precedes change. Because we naturally fear change. So look at the rockers that helped bring about change, and maybe that's where you see "danger." Elvis and Dylan might be the only "dangerous" rockers (what's that hippie quote...? "...Elvis freed our bodies, Dylan/Beatles freed our minds...").

Billy Corgan is dumb (and revealing his repressed urges) when he singles out Iggy/Jim. When you get down to it, they were merely exhibitionists. RHCP were/are the same, except stupider and "fon-kee." Blink-182 are dangerous in that their crappiness and ability to sell records is a harbinger to a fascist state. No shit.

--Matt Casper

Dan Kilian


1 comment:

  1. You guys should read my essay on identifying the 'soul of rock and roll', a take-off of a 1991 SPIN Magaziine article.
    Having read your post, I come to this conclusion: Danger has a shelf-life, relegated to our time-capsule brains, softening over time as a period in our stories (his and hers). But that's it. We constantly have to conform and otherwise reinvent ourselves. I'm hesitant to chastise Corgan on his points. There is always danger, especially in the proper live rock show. But it must always be maintained, like a car with its diminishing returns.