Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Good friends and the occassional Evil Forces reader will note my gross tendency to proclaim so-and-so band as the "future of rock" or releasing the best rock album "in the last 4 years." I have been guilty of a fair amount of silly hyperbole. Which is too bad because Idlewild has just released their follow up to 2000's Broken Windows - The Remote Part - and I wish I had saved all of my proclamations for this album alone. In order to anticipate the typical disbelief of any praise I have to offer, I will instead counter with a bit of understatement: The Remote Part is a really good album. While not quite "the future of rock," it is a promising gem of what England has to offer to contemporary music these days, and a fine retort to the recent slew of retrograde American punk revivals (read: Hives, Vines, etc). The album recalls mid-career REM, a la Document, but Idlewild also pick up on the late 80s cues of good British new wave pop (post-Substance New Order, Ocean Rain-era Echo and the Bunneymen). Thus, fittingly, the lyrics are also quite excellent: "American English" is every bit as wry, British, and pointed as you think it would be, while "The Remote Part" is one of the sweetest love ballads I have heard since, well, REM's "You Are The Everything."

Anyway, I actually don't even need to proclaim the new Idlewild as "album of the year" because New Music Express has pretty much already done so (review reprinted below). And we all know that NME is the only decent music magazine (excepting No Depression) out there right now. Their all-important, trend-defining reviews have also declared the new Saint Etienne, for all intents and purposes, the shit, which further confirms my suspicion that NME is the definitive arbitrar of good music.

A concluding minor rant: I hate British snobbery and I love American culture, just as I revere Mark Twain and Bruce Springsteen and despise TS Eliot and Oasis, but it is distressing that a great deal of the best music out there is unavailable to the American public as domestic releases. I will avoid the usual diatribe on American cultural ignorance, but surely Japan and England must have some sense of music apprecation if the American indie rock community is constantly forced to order shit off of Amazon.co.uk or various Tokyo music boutiques. This is total bullshit: I don't drop 100 dollars on UK imports because I think it's cool or I like to spend a lot of money. I'd rather buy the new Catatonia at Virgin than wait 3 months for its eventual domestic release.

I can't even buy a copy of NME in this country, or get the new Idlewild here without putting out 27 dollars. Is there something wrong with this picture? Or am I a snooty jerk who should just buy the new Yo La Tengo instead and learn to love Matador and Drag City again?

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Spectator Watch, Week II: The Irony Edition

With all due modesty, I consider myself something of an aficianado of irony; if I am not a dweller in its thirtieth-floor penthouses, then I am at least a denizen of its transit-accesible bungalow belt. I have made a zealous study of Brother Soren's The Concept of Irony, with Continual Reference to Socrates, my Bible of all things ironic (and ironic treatise on all things Biblical); I have discoursed not only on Cleopatra and Hamlet, but on the Wife of Bath and the Nun's Priest; once upon a time, I watched Pulp Fiction entirely too often. Yet those wily Limeys at The Spectator have left me scratching my befuddled provincial pate in wonderment.

This week's issue opens with a clarion call to neo-imperialism by David Pryce-Jones. There are good reasons to prefer aspects of imperial policy to the detached, morally inept mediocrity that characterizes post-imperial departments and ministries of state, but people like Pryce-Jones take an unseemly pleasure in pointing out the upsides of colonial rule.

But what made this better was a sort of counterpoint by John Laughland called, with delightful subtlety and sophistication, "A War for Oil." Laughland follows up last week's piece on the steely determination of Iraq's Sunni Baathist elite to fight for Saddam with a profile of a Russian oligarch--whose stake in oil has helped him attain a net worth of roughly $9 billion--who warns against the war. Where will Laughland take his pacifist road show next? The North American Man-Boy Love Association? Vichy-era "civil servants"? After reading this piece, I started to wonder if Laughland wasn't dialectically promoting the war by interviewing such absurdly unsavory opponents. Hell, I was starting to come around to the pro-war position after finding out how opposed the Russian oligarchy is. My untutored American political consciousness was utterly unprepared for the devious-devising Mr. Laughland.

Even weirder is an article (apparently) praising Gerhardt Shroeder's pacificist pandering called--really--Deutschland Uber Alles. Andrew Gimson makes a reasonable, though probably absolutely false, argument that Shroeder's move was a rejection of cant and false consensus. But he also makes it sound like a recrudescence of Nazi ideology. After spending upwards of 45 minutes contemplating Mr. Laughland's curveball, this article necessitated an extended coffee break and a stroll around the grounds of the Art Institute. I have still not recovered equipoise.

I was finally able to relax with Leah McLaren's dissing of Norway--a country that, let's face it, has had it coming for a long time. She caused a bit of a stir in the magazine's pages some months ago by trashing British men (a group who, let's face it...well, never mind), and this is a worthy follow up. Her related gripe, writ nation-state-wide: Norway is boring. Boredom is an underused social indicator; after all, why do people leave Canada despite free health care, low crime, and soon-to-be-legal weed? I can guess at the answer, and I can say with some certainty that the legal weed will NOT help.

Anyway, she gets in some good lines at the expense of the declined land of the Norse:

There are no junkies, beggars, flash cars, club kids or alcoholic grog in sight, just these clean-living recreationalists, a couple of licensed street performers and a mob of tourists in town for a night before they embark on pre-paid fjord cruises. Everybody is trying very hard to look entertained...

What became of the goblet-smashing, damsel-screwing, sword-clanging macho imperialist drive that put Norway on the map a millennium ago? Leif Eriksson would be ashamed of these swing-dancing squares. Would Eriksson have made it to Vinland (as he called North America) well before Columbus if he'd had to pay 110 per cent tax on his boat back in the year 1000?


That last is the kind of example people like me like to say "proves too much," but it's amusing nonetheless.


Monday, September 23, 2002

CORRECTION:

A keen and tasteful observer wrote to inform me that I mistranscribed the classic Howlin' Wolf refrain in my post of September 3rd. It should have read:

That's eev-uh-uhl

in a better reflection of the Wolf's remarkable ability to stretch syllables. I regret the error.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Special Irony Blog

1. Ironic or Not? -
The title of the Dilinger Escape Plan's new album: "Irony is a Dead Scene." Do they really mean this? Or is this what we have come to appreciate as "ironic?" So hard to tell these days.

2. Seemingly ironic lyrics to be found in an indie rock song cannot be construed as ironic anymore:
"Force-field, super-shield A ... / Junior high love affair is okay."
- Ben Kweller, "Wasted and Ready

3. Likewise, lyrics to be found in an indie rock song that appear to be earnest and sentimental must be construed as ironic:
"Honestly, what ever happened to all my teen dreams (all my teenage feelings)/ And their meanings?"
- American Football, "Honestly"

4. Special! An inquiry into hip hop irony: is NERD hip hop answer's to early 90s Pavement? Look:
"We're the meek of the earth, but we're not humble about it."
- NERD, in an interview (Thanks to J Mangin for this one)

And by the way, I am very grateful to Ben Dueholm for reminding me of how much the fucking bombshit the Spectator is. It's true: my girlfriend spent two hours reading Spectator cover-to-cover in a Starbucks the first time she encountered the rag (on loan from Mr Salam no doubt). But there is this, I must add. No doubt also some readers may notice the occassional rhetorical American-slang (or "American English" as Idlewild would say) slip from certain Spectator staff writers. I got the lowdown from a friend of mine who used to do some writing for the magazine. Seems that the elder, very stuffy higher ups at the Spectator love to dish out (ironically I might add) the hip hop- influenced verisimilitude now and then in their prose (to wit: "Blair's transparent diss to former Thatcher supporters ... ), while the younger, up-and-comer staffers, still making their way up the various editorial ladders, tend to sound like Addison and Steele in their attempts to amass writerly cred and respectability. Is this ironic in of itself?

A further query: what does Mr Dueholm think of British Prospect?