Thursday, December 28, 2006


In an interview in The Observer, the art critic Robert Hughes defines and justifies his elitism thus: "I prefer the good to the bad, the articulate to the mumbling, the aesthetically developed to the merely primitive, and full to partial consciousness."

Which sounds pretty convincing, until you realise that he's probably never enjoyed that sinus-clearing rush you get from dancing badly to some gloriously stupid punk record. There is a place for creative stupidity in the aesthetic universe. But how do we define it? Are some stupidities (the Ramones?) better than others (Crazy Frog?) and, if so, why?

And while we're on the subject of pop music that Australian art critics in their late 60s probably wouldn't like: shortly before Christmas, at a party thrown by my dear friends Bui and Simon, I met a very smart and articulate young man who'd just that day graduated from USC. We got talking about music (duh) and he confirmed something that I'd suspected for some time.

"I've never heard any Joy Division," he said, "but I hear all these bands that apparently sound like them, so I think I know what they sound like."

If anybody, despite my incessant, tedious harangues, still hasn't got the hang of Baudrillard's notion of the simulacrum, that's a pretty cogent example of it.

Coming Soon: The Chasms of the Earth


Anonymous said...

Must stop being first to comment. My favourite simulacrum is Tunng's cover of Bloc Party's 'The Pioneers'. I've never heard BP's version, so as far as I'm concerned, the Tunng cover *is* the original.

Anonymous said...

Are there smart stupidities and dumb stupidities? Always thought The Ramones where smart pretending to be dumb, but some of their interviews made me wonder.
Fancy never having heard any Joy Division.
I have a thing about some simulacra actually being better than the "original" ... Iggy's original hero was Jim Morrison, but was far, far more powerful a performer. I always thought James Chance's skewed take on funk more interesting than the template he was using ... Mat Monroe a better performer than Sinatra ... no, hold on, what am I saying?

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can hope that the student gives up a couple of hours to see 24 Hour Party People.

Speaking of stupidities, how is it that the Bangkok Post conspicuously did not mention one country that had their internet affected by the Taiwan earthquake?

Tim F said...

C'mon, the guy was in his early 20s. To him, Ian Curtis is like James Dean or Otis Redding. And at least he knows that the stuff he listens to has antecedents. I remember being slightly startled to find that 'It's My Party' was an old song.

And as for the Internet thing, Peter, yes... does rather call into question Thailand's identity as an IT 'hub' if an earthquake hundreds of miles away kicks its feet away.

Spinsterella said...

Well, once you've heard The Organ and Editors you don't really need to listen to the original, do you?

Although, taking my sarky hat off for a moment, cover versions and even blatant rip-offs have their place in introducing the kids to the original stuff.

I thought that Sympathy for the Devil was a Jane's Addiction tune for quite some time.

I imagine that this young chap may well find himself listening to some Joy Division eventually.

There's nowt wrong with a bit of dumb rock'n'roll, whether it's a bit of Kylie or the Ramones. However, I wouldn't say the same for literature, as I'm sure we'll find out over at Chasms of the Earth in a week or two.

Billy said...

Stupid is always good. However to be able to do something stupidly well, you have to be good at it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with spins, cheesy music I can take sometimes but cheesy books just make you feel like you've eaten a tub of lard and clogged up all your synapses. (sorry mixed my anatomical metaphors there)

Tim F said...

Interesting... do we require higher standards from literature than we do from music? What would surprise you more: someone whose favourite author was Proust, and whose favourite musician was Dannii Minogue; or someone whose favourite author was Dan Brown, and whose favourite musician was Stockhausen?

And Spin... don't take your sarky hat off. You look pretty cute in it.

epikles said...

we simply must have our preferences, mustn't we? Where would one be if one did not always know what one preferred in every situation? oh, the horror!