July 19, 2004


The Times must have been slipped a few backhanders by Sony, because it devoted no less than three articles over the course of two days to its forthcoming Guilty Pleasures compilation (a spin-off from a spot on Sean Rowey's BBC Radio London show). Of the three articles, it's no surprise that Bob Stanley's is the most interesting.

Even more interesting is the extent to which all three articles demonstrate, once again, how far the print media lags behind blogs.

The two Saturday articles were illustrated by a photograph of David Essex, recently rehabilitated by Marcello (a past master at spotting a gem amidst MOR carboot discards). Then there's Macca, the subject of one of the last Woebot posts. Peter Hammil? Reassessed during the Prog transvaluation last year. Then there's Baal's favourites, Boston and Foreigner.

Stanley rightly attacks Nick Hornby - who is in danger of becoming a straw man in these discussions, albeit one I'm happened to see immolated as frequently as possible - and the oppressively tasteful canon he hawks. He also, equally unimpeachably, lambasts Bob Marley's plodding worthiness. Stanley quotes the headline of a piece on Robert Mugabe (who preferred Cliff Richard to Marley for his inauguration party): 'Would you trust a man who doesn't like Bob Marley?' Well, I'm not sure I'd trust a man who did like him. But then - again, can't fault him here - Stanley goes on to talk up the 'mind-expanding futurism' of King Tubby.

What was slightly puzzling about this, and the other articles, was the vagueness of the implied adversary. Who or what was the nay-saying Master discourse that designated these pleasures as guilty? Sometimes it was Hornby (actually, while we're on this, it's not Hornby, but that boarding school mockney buffoon Phil Jupitus who occupies the lowest circle of hell in my current demonology. I know that Evergreen Jim shares my unreserved detestation for PJ. Have you seen that BBC Six Music commercial he's doing at the moment? Bit of New Order, smattering of ska... Worse than Jools Holland, worse even that Jo Whiley, Jupitus sums up everything suffocatingly smug, safely consensual and eternally studenty about the British pop establishment, the BBC, about the culture in general). Sometimes it was 'Cool' (associated with 'house white labels'). But there's no relationship between Hornby-Jools-Jupitusism and Cool. Indeed, while the former lobby would worship at the shrine of Bob, the latter would cleave to Tubby. I mean, what's puzzling about Stanley focusing on Marley is that La Bob is surely so utterly, incontestably middle-brow as to be naff.

I guess what Cool and Tastefulness have in common is that they both ask you to override your actual feelings about pop in favour of screened and mediated prescribed responses. The lure of the Guilty Pleasures aesthetic is that it says: trust your affects. Enjoyment resumes its rights.

Poor old James Lavelle, though. He's so out of touch that he thinks that Rumours is a guilty pleasure.

Posted by mark at July 19, 2004 10:17 PM | TrackBack

Times backhanders, it's all like we were telling you, China coverage, Harper Collins, Murdoch Evil Empire, etc., etc., it all makes sense, see, see?!

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 08:27 AM

i ain't a fan really (though in hipster circles it seems an obligatory get-out clause is to big up the early stuff they did with Scratch) but slagging off Marley/Wailers is so, so wrong and snobbish.
didn't uncarved or someone do a wicked post on this once?

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 08:30 AM

yeah, marley's music is fairly sublime. counter-intuitive is good but lauding david essex while lambasting marley, and for being pedestrian at that, is probably taking the whole thing a little too far.

Posted by: luke.. at July 20, 2004 09:18 AM

Scott: i ain't a fan really ... but slagging off Marley/Wailers is so, so wrong and snobbish.

I don't really understand what you're saying here -- you don't like Marley but you think it's wrong to slag him off? Isn't getting rid of this pietistic respect one of the unequivocally good things about Guilty Pleasures et al?

I haven't heard much Marley to be fair, but what I have heard has bored me rigid. I'd certainly rather listen to David Essex.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 09:32 AM

Yet another trendy white boy slagging Marley. It's shoemakers. Usually it's cos Marley is not somehow /black/ enough -- not an accusation I would level at K-Punk here -- but clearly he is somehow failing to fulfil a trendy white boy agenda of, as you express it in relation to Tubby, "Futurism and Cool". The critique shows a total incomprehension of Marley's work. Surely you've heard of his serious attempts to transform his songbook into country and western in a bid to popularise them? "Cool" was never Marley's vice or intention.

Every black reggae fan I've ever known has loved Bob Marley, even the ones who criticise him for not keeping up with dancehall. In contrast, a number of white reggae fans of my acquaintance have routinely expressed horror or disdain for him, presumably in a bid not to be whispering Bob Harris. You do the math. (Some even say "Marley isn't reggae", a statement of such awesome condesencion it borders on racism -- again not an accusation I level at K-Punk here, but it is worth mentioning since it comes up frequently.)

Such critics should get over their hipster's antipathy for the popular, go back to the LPs (never mind all the "mixed for rock" codswallop) and frame whatever criticisms they have in a context of undying, transcendent love for this amazing music.

Posted by: paul "Essex boy" meme at July 20, 2004 09:43 AM

BTW, David Essex got rehabilitated by the Dave Howard Singers in, what, 1986? Earlier?

Posted by: paul "Essex boy" meme at July 20, 2004 09:53 AM

sorry Mark, once again careless phrasing gets me in trouble.
i suppose Paul says it all really (but not at you, of course), but i guess what i meant to say is we must all be familiar with - invariably white in my experience - kids slagging off Marley because every frat-boy, housewife, etc., has a copy of 'Legend' or whatever comp. on the sideboard.
of course i wasn't getting at you per se and i know you would presumably abhor such shallow criticism as much as the next person, but it is a very pervasive thing (i've found, in my limited experience), when discussing Marley.
even just with Mojo readers who own 'Heart of the Congoes', and the odd 'Scratch' or Tubby comp and nothing more, then returning to their Beatles, even these people (i've found, i stress, in my limited experience), are guilty of this attitude, and it's not nice.

'Mr Brown' is a wicked tune, and whatever the Bob/I-Threes album with 'Them Belly Full' on it is quality.

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 10:32 AM

obviously any right-thinking person would agree with you and Jim about Jupitus.

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 10:37 AM

Scott that was "Natty Dread" and it is indeed very good.

P"EB"M spot on re: Bob Marley I think. There are several mediocre Marley records, for sure, but anyone namechecking David Essex as preferable to BM is presumably prepared to put up with a little unevenness.

How lucky that the concensus *you've* found, Mark, is not at all suffocatingly smug but happy to congratulate itself about being ahead of the print media, eh?

Posted by: at July 20, 2004 10:46 AM

Ooops sorry that was me!

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 10:47 AM

actually i'm a gonna retract my Jupitus comment.

i probably do agree (let's say it'd be 1xtra and not Six that would be my first listening choice if i had digital...) but don't wanna be mean.

i'm such a fence-sitting ponce.;-)

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 10:50 AM

Jupitus is a fool and a knave.

But I think that he - and Jools Holland though perhaps not Hornby - will have heard of and heard King Tubby.

I used to be one of those kneejerk Marley sneerers - it is idiotic and I publically recant. I don't think it's a racial thing, though, I felt exactly the same about The Doors.

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 10:53 AM

oh no, no racial angle is involved, but i was just stating my bckground to that debate (i guess i didn't need to, but i did).

i would have thought Nick Hornby is into Tubby?
he probably got into Scientist through playing Grand Theft Auto.

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 11:07 AM

Actually my comment sounded harsher than I had intended, but it does sometimes seem that you identify bad behaviour only when it's supporting the music you dislike.

The taste concensus within which you fall seems to me to operate in exactly the same way as any other. I can't see what grounds you have to criticise "cool and tastefulness" as a way of being since you (and other inhabitants of this corner of the interweb) seem to behave in very similar ways to those you're attacking. Except maybe you (lot) are more exclusive.

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 11:11 AM

I don't know anything about reggae.

I just love King Tubby and have been bored by every Marley record I've heard. I've obviously heard the wrong ones: reccomend some to me please. I want sublimity not earthiness tho...

To me the comparison is with Bob Dylan. I just don't geddit...

Paul: part of what you are saying is what I was questioning about Stanley. It wasn't me who described Tubby as 'futuristic and mind-expanding', though one could hardly disagree, that was Stanley. I should have thought these were 'cool' criteria. But Stanley seems to be accusing those who like Bob - or rather, to be fair, unthinkingly espouse admiration for him - of being the Coolists. As I was saying, Marley isn't cool at all. But, as this thread is proving, it is obligatory to like him.

Tim: How lucky that the concensus *you've* found, Mark, is not at all suffocatingly smug but happy to congratulate itself about being ahead of the print media, eh?

Three things:

1. Partly suffocating smugness is about the power to enforce a consensus, to lower expectations and to foist a canon on people. Jupitus/ Jools/ Hornby dominate music coverage in large areas of the media; it would be ludicrous to compare blogs with that. They simply don't have enough power to be smug in the way that I meant.

2. Besides, it isn't the bloggers who are being smug: tho, maybe I'm being smug on their behalf.

3. There isn't yet a consensus built upon around these re-evaluated artists. Marcello, Baal and Matt were sticking their necks out when they dared to defend Essex, Boston and McCartney. That's precisely what Jupitus, who won't like anything unless it's safely rubber-stamped by the alt/student politbureau, will never do.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 11:27 AM

I don't think Bob Stanley was freeing anyone's mind by preferring Tubby to Marley. Maybe in '78...

Posted by: Henry Miller at July 20, 2004 11:33 AM

But if the blogosphere is so tiny and uninfluential (and I'd agree - it is!) then championing unfashionable artists (btw do you really think Hornby, Jupitus etc. don't like Paul McCartney??) can't really be sticking a neck out? Who is there to be chopping at said neck?

One of the things I like about the blog networks is how little questions of cool come into it - the low readership means people are fairly unselfconscious about what they discuss or praise. The whole debate doesn't really seem relevant to blogs, I'm saying.

Marley clarification: I don't like him - or rather, I don't know if I like him or not. Not really listened properly. I do know that I used to dislike him based on his ubiquity - and that was dumb of me.

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 11:36 AM

As I was saying, Marley isn't cool at all. But, as this thread is proving, it is obligatory to like him.

that doesn't seem fair.
Tom above hits the nail on the head.

Posted by: scott at July 20, 2004 11:52 AM

Defending Paul McCartney is only sticking your neck out in an alt / student rubberstamped world, surely?

I bridle at this talk of enforcement. Who's forced to listen to Jools Holland or read Nick Hornby? There are far too many ways of hearing music now to accuse anyone of coercion.

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 11:52 AM

Henry: I agree that Stanley wasn't freeing anyone's mind by preferring Tubby to Marley; that's why I thought it was odd, it seemed to be precisely the kind of default cool/ trendy/ whatever move that he was ostensibly attacking.

Tom: I wouldn't say blogs are uninfluential actually. I just don't think they're capable of enforcing mass mind control/ laziness like Jupitus et al. (Yeh, obv, that lot like McCartney, but it's probably what they like him for that's as significant in this case as that they like him. The case Matt and Stanley were making was based on his innovativeness, not his melodies).

No-one to chop off ppl's heads? Well, there are enough would-be executioners of Marcello roaming these parts to give the lie to that I should have thought. I mean, with comments boxes and the speed of response in other ppl's blogs, you're much more at risk from attack on the blogosphere than in the snail-paced, insulated print medium.

I think it's legitimate to hate things just because they're ubiquitious, even if you're 'wrong'. It's like Kierkegaard said of Christianity, the one thing that's guaranteed to put a child off Christianity for life is being indoctrinated into it. I'm only just now emerging from the deadening, numbing impact of obligatory 'respect' (ugghhh) for Shakespeare.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 11:59 AM

It's not obligatory to like Marley, but I think it is worth considering why (some) people who like other reggae do not like him.

Incidentally, it isn't necessarily racist to say that late period Marley "is not reggae" - certainly Lloyd Bradley makes this point in "bass culture" and he is, fwiw, black afaik.

The issue is that Marley's lyrical output and the production of the music underneath it, didn't fit too well with what was being made in Kingston at the time. Now reggae has "gone international" this is less of an issue. You can get excellent bashment tracks from Germany, for example, with german lyrics. But more importantly, there is reggae influence all over the place, whether that be from 60s/70s/80s/90s or now.

If people are die-hard 70s roots fans they may not like the stuff on "Legend", etc but I'm suspicious of people who dismiss all of Marley's output per se - I can't help feeling they don't like him because lots of other (less cool) people do, or perhaps because they perceive those people as perceiving Marley as the "be all and end all" of reggae.

Posted by: john eden at July 20, 2004 12:02 PM

I bridle at this talk of enforcement. Who's forced to listen to Jools Holland or read Nick Hornby? There are far too many ways of hearing music now to accuse anyone of coercion.

No-one's forced to, no. But then no-one's forced to buy the Sun either, but it would be silly to say that it didn't enforce certain agendas. We're lazy, we often do the default thing. The Joopitus lobby feed that regrettable trait and thereby reinforce it.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:04 PM

Don't get me wrong Mark, liking things for their ubiquity seems to me equally foolish.

I have never seen Marcello attacked for liking things - or even mocked. I've seen him attacked a lot for disliking things, and even more for his somewhat vigorous debating tactics.

In fact one of the things I like about the b-sphere is that people's positive reactions to things are very rarely derided. The arguments tend to start when people get negative. Both tolerance and arguments are very healthy, I think.

The "Macca was innovative" line is the one put out by the guy's own people (it surfaced first in that authorised biography of a few years ago). That doesn't make it wrong but it's hardly unorthodox. I think the Jupitus crowd probably all still prefer Lennon though, cos he was more emo.

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 12:07 PM

I think the problem is sacred cows, really. The whole notion of respectfulness and those who are beyond criticism --- that's what Jools and Jupitus' cringing, forelock-tugging agenda pushes. (And as Penman - God rest 'is soul - said, that circle of the critically unimpeachable is expanding all the time).

It produces a stale, fetid, dead air in which few anomalous, novel things can breathe and breed.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:08 PM

I agree with you about respecting sacred cows, but reacting to cows by eating nothing but steak isn't too sensible either.

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 12:10 PM

That doesn't make it "mass mind control".

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 12:12 PM

In fact one of the things I like about the b-sphere is that people's positive reactions to things are very rarely derided.

Fair play, Tom. Oddly, I'd never thought about this before, but you're definitely right (and about the reasons Marcello gets attacked).

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:13 PM

That doesn't make it "mass mind control".

Oh, I think it does. It's the most effective and efficient kind: induce ppl to take the easiest, least troublesome route, go with the most familiar. You've got the mammalian strata on your side.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:15 PM

well, it's mainly that people associate marley w/ their student days (as one american friend said to me, "hearing drunken fratboys falling out of a keg party, yelling redemption song at 4am across the campus does not help you love bob marley") and want to be much hipper than that.

Posted by: stelfox at July 20, 2004 12:16 PM

But you've freed your mind, right?

I don't feel comfortable standing up for the Jupitus / Jools axis (if such an axis really exists) but I can't bear the implication that most music fans, most peoplem are dumb slaves to centralised control, poor dupes who don't know what they *truly* like.

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 12:19 PM

But you've freed your mind, right?

To some extent. But note that I used 'we' above: 'we' are lazy, etc. I have my own default settings, tho not so much in relation to music, I think.

I don't really have a problem with the idea that people are controlled and imprisoned by their own worst instincts . It's the basis of the thinking of the theorists I find most admirable and inspiring: Spinoza, Freud, Nietzsche, Lacan, D and G. 'Why does desire desire its own repression?'

The alternative is way too depressing. it would mean that the world was just what people wanted.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:29 PM

So you're arguing that people listen to Phil Jupitus and kid themselves into believing that they find (some of) the music he plays exciting in whatever way. And more, that they do so precisely because they know (at an unconscious level) that they don't want to take the chance they there is something they will *really* like?

And you are arguing this because if it were not true then the alternative, that Bob Marley (say) is actually not necessarily worse than David Essex (or David Sylvian, or whoever), and that is unconscionable?

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 12:43 PM

I mean, I understand about the repression of desires and I think it's an interesting point, but really your last sentence should have the word "charts" instead of "world" because we're talking about musical economies of desire.

I wonder what Dr. Lacan would have to say about you using him to prop up an argument that Phil Jupitus exerts mind control...?

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 12:49 PM

Why has your desire to listen to Bob Marley repressed itself?

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 12:51 PM

It's not unconscionable. My nervous system just runs David Essex; it doesn't 'run' Marley.

I should have thought that ppl don't kid themselves that they find Jupitus' music exciting any more than ppl kid themselves that carpet slippers are exciting. They're not looking for excitement from music.

Obv ppl prefer the familiar to the familiar, the whole history of the species attests to that.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:53 PM

I mean, I understand about the repression of desires and I think it's an interesting point, but really your last sentence should have the word "charts" instead of "world" because we're talking about musical economies of desire.
Only superficially. Obv music is a part of the world and people's habituated responses to music are echoed in their responses to the world.
I wonder what Dr. Lacan would have to say about you using him to prop up an argument that Phil Jupitus exerts mind control...?
I wonder what Dr Lacan would say about your using him as 'the subject supposed to know'? :-) More seriously, though, it's not mind control in the Orwellian sense, it's a kind of influential complicity with ppl's tendency towards defaults.
Why has your desire to listen to Bob Marley repressed itself?
I don't know. If someone tells me what I should listen to to alter my default Marley setting, maybe it'll change...

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 12:59 PM

IIRC, Bradley criticised Marley for not maintaining his presence in the dancehall contiuum, and that it's a reductio ad absurdam to say he baldly said Marley wasn't reggae -- but I don't have the book to hand, so I could be wrong :-).

BTW I like Phil Jupitus. Wings were good -- Jet, Waterfalls, Let Em In -- but I don't recall too many good Macca solo tracks.

Christ Mark, you're not seriously saying your heart doesn't soar to the live version of No Woman No Cry? Surely familiarity has not bred contempt? Or Exodus? Three Little Birds? Rebel Music? 3 o'clock Roadblock? Redemption Song, for fuck's sake, REDEMPTION SONG?

As Tippa and the Colonel put it on Coughing Up Fire, "we listen Bob Marley we no like Boney M"...

Posted by: paul "Determinedly Middlebrow" meme at July 20, 2004 02:08 PM

Boney M were great - surely familiarity has not bred etc.

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 02:18 PM

What I don't understand about your argument is how I'm supposed to work out which enjoyment is a 'default enjoyment' and which isn't.

You seem to place a greater value on non-default enjoyment than default enjoyment so it's obviously important. And you seem to know that people who listen to music which is not approved by k-punk are falling into that bad sort of enjoyment, and I don't know how.

And you thinking the music Jupitus plays in unexciting *doesn't* mean that people listen to PJ because what they're after is unexciting! It means they're excited by different stuff. I'm sure some listen to Jupitus (or wheover) because it's familiar and comfortable and I'm sure the same is true of virtually every music in the world.

"People's habituated responses to music are echoed in their responses to the world..."

I'm not sure that's true. Many of the people I know whose approach to "the world" (in terms of politics / personal aproach to life and the people around them) is least in line with others very often have quite conservative taste in music. And I see no evidence in this blogosphere, your island of freedom from mind control, of any especially unusual reactions to 'the world'.

Posted by: Tim at July 20, 2004 02:29 PM

Defaults aren't necessarily bad, they just need to be continually questioned. Obv which inputs are increasing your intensive engagement with the world and which aren't is a matter of pragmatics.

What troubles me about your argument is that I can't see how you really believe it. It seems to be a case of 'I don't like this, but....' If you really believed that mass tastes weren't inferior to yours, you would share those tastes. But you performatively contradict this every time you don't buy a Westlife record or read the Star.

And you thinking the music Jupitus plays in unexciting *doesn't* mean that people listen to PJ because what they're after is unexciting! It means they're excited by different stuff.

It might sometimes. But surely your claim that 'it means they're excited by different stuff' is no less sweeping than mine. Do most people seem to be in a state of great excitement to you, or do they - and yes, me too, a lot of the time - want to dull and blunt themselves with tranquilizers of various sorts?

I do think this kind of relativism, as Nietzsche warned, is absolutely deadly for culture. We've learned the lesson from Cult Studs - yes, popular culture isn't necessarily inferior to high culture, yes of course. But that doesn't mean everything is of equal value. Of course, the Cult Studs relativo-cops will now say: 'whose values'? But you can't escape valuation by retreating into some faux transcendent meta-space of assumed objectivity and gliberal inoffensiveness. As Nietzsche says, to be alive is to evaluate; to exist is to see the world from a particular perspective. To pretend otherwise is to be sucked into the depressing mire of postmodern slave morality, in which everything is levelled to the lowest pitch of intensity. (The fact that this relativist zombiefication fits perfectly with capitalism is no accident of course.)

Besides, I don't see how you square this vindication of mass taste with your previous defence of modern art. Mass taste is certainly way more contemptuous of PoMo tat than I am.

Thing is, as Spinoza says, most people aren't free. We're enchained by our own habits, images, memories. Perhaps because I've had extensive experience of mental illness, I realise that I'm not a free sovereign subject. I spend a lot of time doing things that I know aren't in my interests, that don't intensify my engagements with the world, that produce bad encounters. I freely admit that much of what I do is under the control of what Castaneda calls the 'Foreign Installation'.

To take an extreme but revelatory example: how do you deal with a phenomenon like Nazi Germany, Tim? One response is to say that ppl freely chose to go along with it. Another is to say that they were forced/ terrorised. But surely the most compassionate, positive and accurate account is along the lines of a 'mind virus'. People became subject to something that caused them to destroy themselves and others.

The 'air-conditioned totalitarianism' (Lyotard) of consumer capitalism is different, of course. But most of its phenomena can no more be accounted for in terms of individual will or people acting in their own interests. This is the bizarre assumption of Rational Agent Theory in economics, another apologia for capitalism.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 04:11 PM

Paul: Exodus? Three Little Birds? Rebel Music? 3 o'clock Roadblock? Redemption Song, for fuck's sake, REDEMPTION SONG?
Not sure I've heard all these but 'Exodus' .... 'Redemption Song' --- these are exactly the things I don't like about Marley. Just sounds like Christian eschatology with dreadlocks to me.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 04:14 PM

Speaking as a philosophical 'layman', relativism seems much misunderstood. All it boils down to for me is the assumption that other people make decisions in broadly the same way you do - but their motivation or needs or aesthetic knowledge may differ, and these differences are themselves interesting things (rather than a lumpen 'other' to be fought against). That doesn't even slightly mean that you should subsume your own tastes in an attempt to respect 'the norm': it does mean recognising that 'the norm' is a quantitative construct reflecting no one individual's experiences or attitudes. "Mass taste" is a market research fiction, a handy summary for unit-shifters to work with: to react against it as if it were embodied in other people is to helpfully position yourself demographically - no kind of real resistance at all.

(In the paper at the weekend there was a family who had been chosen as 'the most typical in Britain' - they lived in a normal house, they did normal things, they were adequately content, they had normal tastes. And what typical activity were these paragons of normality engaged in when the reporter called round? Delivering trampolines.)

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 04:22 PM

All fair points, Tom, but for me, as always with relativism, there's an implicit liberal assumption behind it: that people are rational subjects and 'exercise choice' etc. This is the ultimate marketing fiction! It gives no credence to, some would say it deliberately veils, the very power of marketers and other agencies which very successfully manage and regulate what people consume.

Also, people themselves are dissatisfied with their lives, well aware that they're not maximizing their potential, frustrated in all kinds of ways. As we all know, music can be a force for articulating those aspirations and anxieties; it can also be a force for burying them under emollient tranquilizers.

Not everything that people buy or do is an expression of their deepest desires!

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 04:53 PM

I don't think anyone's denying that music functions as an emollient tranquiliser - it's very good at that. Is that a bad use of it? Not inherently, I'd say.

I also don't think that saying that some of our decisions are limited or born out of frustration and defeat (I completely agree) negates anything I was saying: that grounding aesthetic arguments in opposition to a "mass" is pointless when aesthetic arguments happen between individuals.

(The touching faith enemies of marketing have in its secret powers is shared by almost nobody I know within the profession, incidentally. The Rational Subject position - summarised as "most people know pretty much what they want" - doesn't remotely explain all human behaviour but I find it explains more of it than competing models, most of which involve the granting of enormous powers to gods or marketers. Or markets for that matter - the good thing about assuming people are rational is that you have more grounds for interrogating what's stopping them getting or doing the things they want. There isn't an awful lot of gap, it seems to me, between "the masses are stupid and deserve Franz Ferdinand" and "the masses are stupid and deserve poverty")

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 05:11 PM

Obviously if you take the RS position - as the right does - and twist it into "most people are getting what they want" or more insidiously "are able to get", it stops being a working model and becomes more sinister.

(I really am a stereotypical wooly liberal!)

Posted by: Tom at July 20, 2004 05:16 PM

But how do you avoid it being used like that? There's a reason that RS is the dominant ideology, if I may speak quaintly for a moment.

No-one's saying the masses are stupid, and certainly no-one's saying that they deserve poverty. But the masses are stupefied, yeh...

Yr right obv that putting the emphasis on marketers is misleading; capitalism isn't a despotism. But to say no other set of subjects is pulling consumers' strings is not to say that they/ we are free agents.

Burroughs is one of the finest cartographers of the capitalist machine because he understoods the role of addictions at the most abstract level. Kapital replicates itself by inducing various different types of habituated response. In one sense, of course, the junkie is 'free' not to take the next hit.

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 05:29 PM

It is racist you all hate Marley cos he is half Welsh

Posted by: KIndra Cherise at July 21, 2004 12:01 AM

Maybe you should check out Marley's collaborations with Lee Perry as a starting point.

Posted by: jd at July 21, 2004 12:12 AM

Yeah, there's a good box set that just came out of Perry-produced Wailers (referred to in the Rough Guide as possibly the most luminous of Marley's ouevre). I'd love to hear it ;-).

But that's for hipster lightweights! I want to see mass cool-dude adoption of Marley's most populist work! Drop your copies of the Wire and Nothing and one, two, three all together now: "One Loooooove! One Heaaaarrrrrttt! Let's get togeeeether and feeeeeeel alriiiiiiiiight!"

Your mum's dancing, why aren't you?!!!

Posted by: paul "Relentlessly Middlebrow" meme at July 21, 2004 09:55 AM

yeah that stuff he did with perry is boring as fuck. it doesn't have cows mooing on the rhythm track or anything you know! i like that one about he doesn't want to wait in vain for your love, that's my favourite.

Posted by: luke.. at July 21, 2004 10:30 AM


Posted by: a cow at July 21, 2004 10:34 AM

Rage against the machine, Mark, rage against the machine.

Posted by: scott at July 21, 2004 01:38 PM

I like that one actually Luke --- but I like Marley most when he was helium-sampled by Eric B and Rakim...

Posted by: mark at July 21, 2004 05:21 PM

its not the strident political songs that i love but the lazy iced tea swirl of "stir it up". peter tosh and bunny doing a lovely shimmery curtis mayfield in back. but we'd be talking about the wailers and not marley the icon in that case: a different proposition really. listen to mr. brown, duppy conqueror; or the surging synths of "who the cap fit", on natural mystic. the seductive, slightly lagging, reverbed drums are what gets me. elemental.

Posted by: jd at July 22, 2004 05:28 AM

You make it sound great Jon!

Posted by: mark at July 22, 2004 11:32 AM

I have been busy for a couple of days so I haven't had time to reply to your long post, sorry.

Nowhere have I said that "mass taste is good". Nowhere have I said that all art or all culture is of equal value to me. You say "if you really believed that mass tastes weren't inferior to yours, you would share those tastes". This seems a bizarre assertion to me. I understand different tastes as products of different personalities on different cultural surroundings, I don't see them as a competition.

You seem to be recognising that any given piece of art has no intrinsic value, but deciding to your personal assessment of its value to be intrinsic for the sake of 'life' (maybe 'libido'). This seems a fair approach to me, if that's what you want to do, but you might as well admit that you're doing it.

I just can't see the point, really, in pretending to myself that there is something inherently more valuable in the work of Gregory Isaacs (which I love) than in the work of David Sylvian (about which I couldn't give a damn). I mean, it seems self-evident to me that Gregory's is better than Sylvian's in every way but I'm not fool enough to pretend to myself that if you disagree then it's because you're deluded or you've been cheated. It's not 'escaping valuation', it's understanding that valuation is not absolute.

I understand the frustration that there are those who control the agenda of what is heard most, but what drives me crazy is your writing off those people who have found something to be excited by in the stuff you're attacking, as zombies. You seem to be operating on the assumption that those people like what they like all for the same (bad) reasons, which is simply and obviously not true. Wouldn't it be rather more interesting to think about how people find their own vital meaning (and gaps) in mass culture (something that really happens in real actual peoples' lives) rather than airily waving them away as mindwashed?

(If you take the view, as I do, that there it's best to attach no moral weight to questions of taste, unless it's unavoidable for some reason, it makes your reference to fascism sound a bit daft.)

I wish you'd apply the blanket cultural critiques which you seem so fond of, this talk of zombies and stupefaction, and explain how this same system has produced the stuff you love, or (better still) has produced your love alongside 'their' zombification.

Posted by: at July 23, 2004 11:37 AM

Or maybe most people's opinion should not even be taken into account? You are not going to ask average Joe whether the interest rate should be raised or lowered. Why should you ask him what the best album of 2004 is? Since these people are incapable of grasping good music they just buy the marketing hype to appear "with it".

Posted by: DigitalDjigit at July 24, 2004 06:35 AM

Hi , please my name is PAPA-LATTY a musician from Nigeria and I play AFRO-REGGAE ,a new musical concept , a blend of FELA style afro beat with BOB MARLEY,S root rock reggae , I think you should at least listen to what I called a new musical concept of the new age. Please do visit my web-site at : www.papalatty.com , :http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/papalatty,and also at : http://www.cdbaby.com/papalatty2. I will like you to extend some of your services to me , I am looking for distributors , marketers ,I am willing to send to you some for market sample, may be like 10 copies or more on sale and return , i.e ( AFRO-REGGAE 11, title H. G . V. ). The two albums has a US BAR-CODE
Will you prefer to make your own copies ,you can talk to me
The music was released on a private label , JAH-LOVE RECORDS ,
Thanks for your co-operations

Posted by: papa-latty at October 4, 2004 02:12 AM