Tuesday, September 04, 2018

About Triptych

I’ve started reading Triptych, a book containing three separate works responding to the Manic Street Preachers’ album The Holy Bible, and already I wish I’d been a bit less sober when tackling my own sturdy tome about another key album of the 1990s, or maybe had another couple of voices in there, weaving in and out of my waffle.

And, so far (about half-way through the first study, by Rhian E Jones), it’s good; I particularly like her comment that the album “can feel like a disapproving judgement on the listener”; which musicians today could get away with casting themselves as stern-headmasters-cum-hellfire-preachers, piercing you with a kohl-rimmed stare while setting a reading list of Plath and Ballard and Mirbeau? But what’s this?
The 90s are a decade with little online record, and it can be difficult to reconstruct the texture of 90s fandom, particularly compared to the level of activity now possible among contemporary fans.
I had to read this sentence several times, because at first it felt like a millennial excuse, a “before-my-time-Alexander” from someone for whom, if it’s not Googlable, it’s not there; and if the 90s have a patchy online record, good luck with, say, the 1340s. And this feels especially inappropriate when considering a band so didactic as the Manics; “libraries gave us power” and all that. But clearly it’s not that, because Jones was there at the time and speaks of it, an analogue fan in the Manics’ south Wales heartland, devouring the NME, having to get her local branch of Woolworth’s to order the album. In fact, it’s pretty easy to reconstruct 90s fandom from the mound of paper and plastic and ratty feather boas; what’s hard is to get the texture of the stuff that’s going on now, beyond mere likes and algorithms and zeroes and ones. And although obviously people are having their hearts and heads and lives changed by, say, Beyoncé or Childish Gambino today, I wonder whether in 20 years time enough texture will remain of those experiences to be able to create something akin to Triptych?

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