More Whining About…

Works of art, ideas about art (which are kinds of art), “come in families, lineages, tribes, whole populations, just like people. They have relations with one another as well as with the people who create and circulate them as individual objects. They marry, so to speak, and beget offspring, which bear the stamp of their antecedents” (Alfred Gell). A fine metaphor, though apparently Gell did not mean it metaphorical, but rather that works of art were living beings; I’m not sure I buy that, I’ll have to read more of his work, but the metaphor above helps explain what depresses me about so much modern, internet-influenced art: all artistic objects emerge from other works, all works of art are “mash-ups” to some degree, but when the aesthetic focus is on the mechanics of the collage, then of course the content needs to be familiar and immediate: a mash-up of LaMonte Young and Mahjoub Sharif would be fascinating, but not as a mash-up, because it would not stimulate the average listener with juxtapositions of the familiar. The cliche is that we live in an ocean of information, and so slapping together a few aesthetic bits in a way that draws attention to the fact that they are a few aesthetic bits slapped together is supposed to reflect the state of living in said ocean. We don’t live in such an ocean, however; we live in something more like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of mass-produced iterations of cultural junk, and so the same junk gets slapped together in more or less the same way, and we get to pretend that we’ve seen something new, something stimulating, like Iron Man 2 or Lady GaGa. One reason pastiche is so popular is that it’s is simple to produce, there is a formula, and since those in charge of distributing art have a vested interest in consolidating power and because the formula is not very interesting (especially for producers!), the distribution itself becomes a kind of elite art form (just ask Will.i.Am). Many US poets have been lost in the same mess for decades, except that instead of talking about generating multiple income-streams and Real-Time Personalization, they talk about “poetics” and schools of poetry… and boy is it getting long in the tooth, as witnessed by such desperate attempts to maintain institutional genealogies as The New Thing.

270) Tom Waits: Orphans

3 CDs worth of odds and ends, some fabulous (versions of “What Keeps Mankind Alive” and Daniel Johnston’s “King Kong,” and 2 Ramones covers!), some just interesting (the song about Ants), some not really fabulous or interesting, but groovy nonetheless…I’ve met a lot of people who hate Tom Waits, which baffles me, but then I’ve met lots of people who really like Pizza Hut, so there you go.

271) Little Feat: Shake Me Up

I’ve heard lots of Little Feat over the years, and the only song I remember is “Mojo Haiku,” because I like the title. I know the Lowell George stuff is funky and well-written, and that this CD is not from that era; it is: bland, MOR flailing with the occasional capitivating guitar break.

272) Fishbone: In Your Face

That the Red Hot Chili Peppers became B-list glitterati and Fishbone did not is just plain wrong. But then Fishbone are black, and political, and like to make songs about their testicles…