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Glyph

Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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  1. Avatar krogerfoot
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    I love the cover of their video collection, though I don’t own it and have never seen it. It’s a very apt image for what they do. Don’t know if I can embed an image, but here goes.

    Report

  2. Avatar krogerfoot
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    Well, here’s a link to it.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to krogerfoot
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      That is cool.

      I think I mentioned that the first GbV album I ever got was Under the Bushes. When I was trying to wrap my head around what I was hearing, I was doing that thing where I would be putting songs in terms of precedents I was familiar with.

      Anyway, “Cut Out Witch” made me think of SY. Something about the way the riff is just…off. I’m not a musician, so I guess it’s in a minor key or something? But I could hear it as a (tinny) Thurston/Lee riff. Kim would have intoned the verses in a bored voice.

      “Do you suppose…she could save…my life”Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer
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    Unsurprisingly I like Sonic Youth for the reasons you mention you hate them. What’s wrong with crossing capital-A Art with Rock?

    Here is all Hartley paying homage to Jean-Luc Goddard using Kool Thing:

    Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
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      And the original dance scene from Goddard’s Band of Outsiders:

      Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to NewDealer
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        On this tangent, I was a big Hal Hartley fan in my own youth. I admired him in part because he wasn’t afraid of going big and risking failure. I was big into what I saw as his quirks, like the “inexplicable” dance sequences that popped up in his movies. Somehow it disappoints me immensely to learn they’re homages to Godard. It’s like when someone explains a joke to you and it turns out it’s not as funny as your own interpretation.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
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        @krogerfoot

        Amateur was the first indie movie I saw. I was 14 and it kind of changed my life as to what cinema could be.

        Hartley has been compared to a kind of lo-fi American Goddard. He isn’t a complete Goddard, Hartley is seemingly unable to abandon narrative completely but there are hints and pieces of Goddard in his films always.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer
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      Heh, I would have thought that the fact that I was posting about them might mean I don’t truly hate them. But I will admit to sometimes getting frustrated with them, and it’s not because of their dedication to “art” per se, more that they (IMO) didn’t always get the balance right. Like, I hear the rock stuff and I love it SO MUCH that I get annoyed when they spend the next song farting around with Kim doing some stream of consciousness thing. Dammit, guys, don’t forget you’re a rock band!

      I’m reading a VU biography right now (Up-Tight) and obviously they were intimately intertwined with the art scene of their day.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph
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        That’s part of what I like about Sonic Youth records, the stretches of artsy-fartsiness that try my patience. They whet the listener’s appetite for the cool stuff.

        No, really. A Sonic Youth record with all the bad capital-A Art clipped out might not be all that great of an album. The now-is-the-time-on-Schprockets-ven-ve-dance plinkety poetry readings alter the angle from which you hear the catchier stuff. On their own, the catchy songs might come off like (for example) Jesus and Mary Chain-type elemental slabs of streamlined pop encrusted with lots of art gestures. Within the context of a Sonic Youth record, the poppier songs sound more like they started off as unwieldy, clanking tanks, but were mercilessly beaten and pounded into a more aerodynamic shape.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        VU were very much connected to Warhol’s scene and the rest of 1960s New York Art.

        I think that the artiness of songs like Tom Violence are what make Sonic Youth great. Perhaps I am just not part of the Van Halen mind set of Rock n’Roll. I like the idea of rock being turned into something more abstract. To me Sonic Youth goes along great with artists like Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Sol LeWit, etc. Sonic Youth purposefully challenges our notion of what art should be like.

        I am also sort of fascinated with NY in the early 80s because it seems like one of the last great bohemias.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        Well, you’ll get no argument from me that SY hugely expanded the territory.

        And I will admit to being a bit of a SY album contrarian – I don’t even like Daydream Nation all that much, aside from a few songs. Too formless and meandering and long. Give me Sister or EVOL or even Goo or Ripped.

        @newdealer – I know you’ve complained before about, for lack of a better word, “anti-snobbiness” – that is, you commonly argue that the avant-garde should be valued for its own sake (apologies if I am mischaracterizing you here).

        Assuming I have characterized your position adequately, do you think there are ever grounds to criticize the avant-garde for pretension or for its reach exceeding its grasp?

        Or if they are out there trying something new/different, is that in and of itself good enough?

        Is it possible to be experimental, and also a failure (to me, this would be the self-evident risk implied in the word “experimental”?)

        If not SY, is there any band that makes you roll your eyes, at least sometimes, and say, “oh, come ON?”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        And in no way am I calling SY a failure. But I do occasionally feel like Beavis & Butthead in re: Pavement.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @glyph

        Good and fair question.

        I don’t think everyone is required to like modern, abstract, or avant-garde art but I strongly react (and in a very negative way) to people who dismiss it out of hand.

        Let’s start with painting. A lot of people dismiss Picasso’s cubism or the work of Jackson Pollack. The common complaint about Jackson Pollock and most modern/abstract art is “my kid could paint that”. This is not true. Picasso trained in classical art and it took him a long time to figure out what he was doing in cubism. If you look up close at a Pollock painting, you will see that it is really detail and incorporates nails and things to give it texture and depth. Dan Flavin worked really hard on his neon sculptures and Richard Serra works hard on his site-specific sculptures of corrugated steel.

        In my mind, Sonic Youth was taking the innovations of the NYC art and experimental lit scenes and incorporating it into rock n’roll. Visual art can have JMW Turner and Sol LeWit. Dance can have Ballet and Martha Graham. Writing can have Charles Dickens and William S. Burroghs. Why can’t rock music be the same? Why can’t it have Chuck Berry and Sonic Youth?

        In my mind, Sonic Youth is more rock n’roll than Van Halen because their transgressions were more serious and off-putting to the general public. Hot for Teacher is a fun song but there is nothing that shocking or controversial about it when compared to the scope of rock history. EVOL has more anti-establishment creed, just like people were shocked at early Chuck Berry. By the time Hot for Teacher came out, songs like that had been on commercial radio for a while.

        There are plenty of bands I dislike but very few make me think “Oh Come On.” My “oh come ons” are more about socio-economics like upper-middle class suburban kids trying to be gangsta or Young Republicans jamming away with Tupac and then blasting the welfare state the next day in class. Our Conor called these cognitive dissonance conservatives.

        Maybe Goth Rock like Christian Death or the Virgin Prunes or Rosetta Stone or Nosferatu or heavy metal produces produces the “oh come on” reaction in me the most as genres though but I also come from the a very secular background. I just find gothic rock pompous but some songs are catchy. Sonic Youth feels like the William S. Burroughs of rock to me.

        Make sense?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @glyph

        My main argument is against the Kim’s of the world who argue that against non-representational art and/or think that much of non pop culture is just artist whoring for the rich.

        This is a anti-intellectual point of view.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @glyph

        By heavy metal, I mean stuff that has Tolkien esque lyrics about elves and dwarves and battles as a sign of being serious. Though some Led Zepplin can get away with it.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        sonic youth is pretty middle of the road at this point, no?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @dhex

        Maybe but I imagine not. William S. Borroughs was respected in his later years but I don’t think he ever became middle of the road.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph
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        @dhex
        Er, yeah, I was about to say. I’m not sure ND and Glyph are having the same conversation at this point.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        SY certainly mellowed (seriously, Ripped is downright catchy) but the middle of the road also came to meet them – stick around long enough and influence enough bands (and get props from Neil Young and Nirvana) and that happens.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph
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        To elaborate, I think one would have to retreat pretty far from this site and pretty deeply into a mall somewhere to find someone to engage with a “my kid could make that ‘Art'” argument.

        With regard to Sonic Youth, you know, there were dozens and dozens of bands doing what they were doing at that time. It was hardly like they burst out of the scene with a radical melding of Art and Rock. In fact, they were kind of dreary and derivative at first, if I remember correctly. They eventually turned into something different and better, and their longevity is partly the result of having more glamor and savvy than a lot of their more uncompromising peers.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        speaking as a burroughs fanatic, i don’t think he’s going to particularly blow minds at this stage in the game beyond historically; and a lot of his sexual politics would (and have) been deeply criticized (often unfairly, i feel) from a queer lit pov.

        but i mean i don’t think you could seriously call sy particularly “difficult” at this point in the game, outside of their historical context. there’s nothing wrong with being good at what you did, but their fanbase is pretty solidly park slope and pushing 50 in a lot of cases. they’re very respectable.

        the strongest parallel that comes to mind is napalm death – incredibly influential but not particularly compelling as a “groundbreaking” act at this stage.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        @glyph

        “SY certainly mellowed (seriously, Ripped is downright catchy) but the middle of the road also came to meet them – stick around long enough and influence enough bands (and get props from Neil Young and Nirvana) and that happens.”

        yeah, definitely. for whatever reasons the public’s tolerance and acceptance of what constitutes “music” versus “noise” shifted pretty hard in the past 15 years in particular, and bands like sy were probably a big part of that.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @krogerfoot @dhex

        I was 1 years old when Sonic Youth debuted in 1981 so I know them as survivors.

        It is also difficult for me to establish what people mean by “middle of the road”. I still think SY are too off-putting to too many people to be considered middle of the road. Same with Burroughs. Dhex, I think your observations are spot on but I still think but that does not make him middle of the road. A middle of the road rock band would not be as loud. How do you call Sonic Youth middle of the road when they are still not being played on stations like Z100 or much commercial radio at all? It seems like Wilco is a better contender by being more for the public radio set but maybe still too edgy for Z100.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @krogerfoot

        I know plenty of very intelligent people whose tastes in art seem to have stopped around the pre-Raphaelites.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        middle of the road in the context of noisy american indie rock, of course. there’s no middle of the road anymore as far as a broad base that everyone on earth understands. which is as it should be! long live taste tribes.

        besides, we live in a world where skrillex get played on the radio and gets featured in big movie soundtracks. it’s a mighty wide road these days.Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer
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    Interestingly Kim Gordon is only 7 years younger than my mom. I find this odd for some reason.Report

  5. Avatar dhex
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    sonic youth is one of those “some of my best friends are sonic youth fans” things. i just kinda hold up my hands and slowly back away.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dhex
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      When you still lived in NY, I would imagine not liking Ramones or SY could cause you some problems. They’re like the home team.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        There are probably plenty of New Yorkers who dislike both the Ramones and Sonic Youth but would be all about Billy Joel and Mariah Carey as the home team.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        the ramones, yeah, because people love them to death and i dislike them pretty intensely. but outside of the odd evening at grassroots or mars bar it was never that bad because god invented headphones.

        with sy i’m generally not going to go ugh turn that off, but i will roll my eyes at the plodding spoken word stuff. i would not deny that they’re hugely influential in a number of areas, but if i’m going to roll no wave style, i’d rather hear early swans by a factor of a lot.

        random no wave factoid – i met bliss blood once at a friend’s barbecue.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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        I know people who don’t call him Billy Joel, they call him Long Island’s Own Billy Joel.

        And the Ramones are a t-shirt, right? And The Misfits are shoe laces.

        Sonic Youth had moments of awesomeness punctuated by moments of “who are they fucking kidding?”Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        “Long Island’s Own Billy Joel”

        this would make THE BEST stupid tattoo.

        but yeah long island is like that. it’s pretty awful.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        @chris

        There are Misfits have shoe laces? Okay….when did that become a thing. Do they sell them at Hot Topic?

        T-shirts for the Ramones and CBGB’s are an interesting case. Every band or almost every band has t-shirts but the t-shirts for the Ramones and CBGBs have achieved an iconic status in our cultural zeitgeist.

        Then again, corporations have learned to co-opt everything or almost everything as is the case with Misfit shoelaces it seems.

        I am not arguing that everything SY did is golden but I think some of their artier stuff like Tom Violence and Bubblegum is really good and worth defending.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        i’m pretty sure you can buy misfits tampons at this point. shoes have been a thing for at least a decade:

        http://misfits.cinderblock.com/

        and puhleeze this is not “the man” co-opting anything. it’s a band (which is basically “the slightly elderly man” at this point) making money on their thing. merch is a thing you do to if you like eating, cause records ain’t gonna cut it. or in this case, if you like paying off your refi in lodi.

        fun random misfits fact: glen danzig came to one of my football practices in hs. he was very short and insanely built. like a cube of meat.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        My only conclusion is that the concept of selling out died long ago and I don’t understand the taste tribe of a Misfits Christmas ornament.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph
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        the concept of selling out has always been stupid.

        anyway, the band started 36 years ago in new jersey. 36 years ago! new jersey!

        their youngest fans OG would be nearly 50. a lot of them have perfectly normal lives of, like, doing normal stuff like christmas, but they also like the misfits. which is a perfectly normal, if kinda bleh, thing to be into. i mean, it’s the misfits. maybe they give it to their grandkid, who has a terrible skrillex haircut and a bullets for my valentine t shirt, thinking “i used to be like that when i was his age”. which is true but jimmy carter was president and things have changed a bit.

        i mean right now there’s a bunch of 16 year olds shredding really hard in a basement or a garage*, and some of them may become mildly famous one day. and then nearly four decades from now they’ll have holographic mindjack christmas ornaments with their logo on the side, and other folks who were 16 in 2014 will think this is a neat gift for their grandkids, who are into stuff so heavy and weird that it makes autechre sound like yanni.

        *i rather like the idea of a noisem christmas ornament 20 years from now. they’re adorable.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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        My t-shirt and shoelaces comment wasn’t meant to imply that either band had “sold out,” only that more people now know them from their merchandise than from their music. Except maybe “Sedated.”Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq
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    So your saying that Sonic Youth is like prog rock for the down and out set?Report

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