Sunday, October 21, 2007

"The Opposite of Punk"

[something i wrote a while ago. soon to come: a similar article about death metal and black metal that will be the ultimate statement of my aesthetics]

You know, I don't want to talk about Rush too much, b/c I don't want to come across as some sort of geek glued to the internet, but I think by now it is a truism that Rush are the "opposite of punk." Mention Rush to any one, really, but any punk in particular, and they will immediately say "that band sucks," etc. Now, I probably wouldn't be into Rush if I wasn't already into Judas Priest, which was a taste a long time in acquiring itself.

But anyways, I always say that Sonic Youth are the "opposite of punk." Rush aren't out to impress anyone or come across as rock stars. They have washing machines on stage. They are the ugliest people in the world. The drummer writes the lyrics, which tend to be pretentious, unwieldy, and kind of prosey, but which are at least never filler or an afterthought. They are a real unit, and if there are some individual show-off parts, at least they share them equally. People probably think that because Rush have 20-minute songs, that they descend into endless noodling. Never, really. Rush 's songs are sort of like The Who "A Quick One While He's Away"-- series of riffs and parts with hooks, and not just pointless jams. They cover Yardbirds songs (badly), which could not be less cool for them to do. They have an ANIMATED RAPPING SKELETON sing one part of a song on a giant video screen in their set ("roll the bones"). Now, Rush ARE NOT PUNK, but I don't think they are its opposite either.

Sonic Youth, on the other hand, *are* the opposite of punk: rock stars trying to pass off a jam band with endless wankage as something new and experimental, name-dropping every new trend like vampires hoping to suck the cool out of every fad. Unless age is prohibiting them, they have always tried to be these ironic sex symbols, and there is something 100x more offensive about Sonic Youth being on a major label than Rush (who are certainly really really really into capitalism---as huge fans of Ayn Rand, natch). The other day I heard some 90s sonic youth song in a record store, and I wasn't sure what it was, but I thought it was a new Strokes song (The Strokes, by the way, who are nothing but what they claim to be). It wasn't until Thurston's voice sunk in that I guessed what it probably was.

Ultimately, though, I think this is a personality thing. Rush are never going to win anyone's respect on the logic of The Emperor's New Clothes. They are universally lambasted, and not even all that much misunderstood. They sound (mostly) like what you think they do. On the other hand, this is EXACTLY what sonic youth (and yeah, a lot of other bands/people/art/literature) is trying to do--catch that doubt in your mind when you wonder if maybe YOU are missing it, and trust that maybe Thurston Moore knows better than you on this one. I don't know if anyone still listens to Noise (since Jessica Hopper "exposed" that genre as being "anti-fat") but basically this should apply to that music's brief reign as well.

Maybe it's too much to ask that Rush "deserve your respect," but I think having probably the best rock bassist AND the best rock drummer in the same band, and having had *any* success, given their inexplicable aesthetic and obvious deterrents, is worthy at least of notice, and not likely to recur in the '06. So yeah, thurston hearts the who.

***final word on this:
In an interview I did with Hellnation, the guitarist wisely pointed
out that "No one ever got laid by buying a Hellnation record." I'd
like to think this is true for Rush, at least since 1982. Rush are
just a few ugly guys banging out their brand of music for their fans,
who tend to be middle aged computer nerds and men with ponytails.
Sonic Youth want to be the soundtrack to your next drunk/coked-up fuck
at a loft party thrown by some magazine, and I dunno...I bet they
wouldn't even try to deny it. Too bad it wouldn't even be a good
soundtrack, either. Might I suggest The Cure "17 Seconds" instead?
ps: or The Band
pps: but not slayer

1 comment:

Slobodan Burgher said...

I don't know, maybe its a cultural thing, what you don't say about Sonic Youth is lost to an European reader?

That's to say, I always kind of liked them as I found them to be kind of "not" fakes.

Now for the people that openly make a point of being S.Y fans...