Post rock, ergo propter rock

Severian admits to never having heard of Vampire Weekend, which prompts an analysis from Gagdad Bob:

In hindsight, I think rock died in about 1975. Since then there have been some good albums and artists, but nothing truly novel, just iterations of settled forms and recycling of various genres. One might even say that the punk movement, which began in the mid-1970s, signified the full circle, i.e., returning to the primitive and unadorned roots of primeval rock. Some of the latter was great — e.g. London Calling — but it was nevertheless impossible to return to the spontaneous, artless and unself-conscious innocence of 1955, just as it will always be impossible for the jazz artist to return to the days of Louis Armstrong in 1926, when he was inventing the jazz vocabulary. One man’s open discovery becomes another’s closed dogma.

I was wanting to call Bob out on this one when it occurred to me that I couldn’t think of a post-’75 genre, save punk, that wasn’t at least somewhat derivative, and that pretty much all my recent favorite singles were in some ways throwbacks to earlier days. (You can’t tell me that if Ruth Brown were still around, she wouldn’t have a go at “Rolling in the Deep.”)

So rock just died, and Suzie went and left Elton for some other guy, so to speak. And while the Clash deserve their spot in the Pantheon, they managed to incorporate so many pre-punk influences that I’m tempted to declare the Great Divide to have occurred, not with London Calling, but with Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. No such discontinuity arises with Vampire Weekend, unless you’re a fan of the Oxford comma.


  1. Severian »

    3 October 2011 · 12:40 pm

    What’s weird is that I’d probably like Vampire Weekend if I heard them. I’ve never been a real music-head, but there was a time when I was excited to hear about new albums and one of my first questions to a new acquaintance was “what kind of music do you like?” Sometime in the last ten years, though, that question has completely dropped out of my repertoire, and I have very little idea of the musical tastes of all but my closest friends. Now my favorite kind of music is “whatever happens to be on the radio on the infrequent occasions I flip it on while driving.”

    I’m hoping that this is a part of the natural aging process. Otherwise, I’m becoming un-hip at a geometrical rate.

  2. CGHill »

    3 October 2011 · 1:44 pm

    I quit buying records about 1985 for similar reasons, though I resumed a couple of decades later, having determined that some acts, for reasons yet unknown, were actually putting out material I considered listenable.

    Then again, it’s very hard to explain why I buy some of the stuff I buy without falling back on the American Bandstand scale: “I give it a 90. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” Not that anyone is dancing to, say, Nada Surf.

  3. Severian »

    3 October 2011 · 2:41 pm

    I have the same problem! I drive Pandora nuts — it can’t figure out what I like any more than I can, and my thumbs up/ thumbs down seem to be totally random.

    This may be because I’m one of the few people who can say “I listen to pretty much everything” and more or less mean it. Though I’m exceedingly pretentious in other walks of life, I don’t much care about others’ opinions of my musical taste, so I can “thumbs up” both the Beastie Boys and Air Supply and not feel too much cognitive dissonance about it.

    [And, of course, part of it is my being old enough to realize that I’ll never be “cool” again. I don’t know if I ever was, but it’s a moot point now that I’m in the annual-cholesterol-screening years….]

  4. Francis W. Porretto »

    3 October 2011 · 3:15 pm

    “…I couldn’t think of a post-’75 genre, save punk, that wasn’t at least somewhat derivative…”

    Make the acquaintance of Glass Hammer, Spock’s Beard, and Tangent. They could surprise you.

  5. Gagdad Bob »

    4 October 2011 · 1:34 pm

    Let’s see, looking through record collection. I loved Murmur, Reckoning, and Fables of the Reconstruction, but those are straight-up Byrds-based jangle rock. I appreciated Stone Roses, Suede, and the La’s, but let’s face it, Brit Pop was perfected by the Kinks and Hollies. I also liked the Jesus and Mary Chain, but that’s just Velvet Underground meets the Beach Boys produced by Phil Spector….

  6. Gagdad Bob »

    4 October 2011 · 1:37 pm

    Oh, and a fax machine ain’t nothing but a telephone with a waffle iron attached.

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