YOUR WEEKEND: “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay”, Danny and the Juniors sang in the 1960s, failing to anticipate Berghain, as well as, say, Omar Souleyman, but one does have to admit that, though rock ‘n’ roll may be gone some 45 years, rock music is a tenacious little virus that manages to continue to replicate itself in all sorts of variations a good quarter-century or so after losing its relevancy. Or rather, it’s kept alive by musicians who keep attempting to reinvent (and reinvest) its meaning.
Take MATT ELLIOTT (May 21, Circus at Bar 25) , mastermind behind the Third Eye Foundation in the 1990s, one of the primary acts that refined Shoegazing’s psychedelic leanings into abstract, experimental drone rock. Being from Bristol, it didn’t take long for drum ‘n’ bass to make it into the mix and for genre ambivalence to take root. The confusion must have been a downer for Elliott as his work became increasingly more melancholy, folk-ish and interior, as collected on a series of albums entitled with the likes of Drinking Songs, Howling Songs, Failing Songs etc. However Elliott is a perverse enough individualist that you can’t really predict what he’s going to do with any certainty. For example, he’s reviving Third Eye Foundation after years of dismissing it.
In fact it’s that sort of hippie, libertarian individualism, a variation on “Fuck you Dad, take out the trash yourself”, that’s kept rock alive, for better or worse. It doesn’t take a Camille Paglia to tell you that the electric guitar is a phallic replacement (which, for some reason, she cites approvingly). And as your neighbors have decided when you listen to the radio after 9pm, loudness is closely aligned with selfish endeavor. This could explain why so many hippies and punks have turned right-wing: it certainly couldn’t be the accumulation of wealth, otherwise the legendary Eighties guitar rock label SST Records would be signing the White Stripes and investing in the Croatian coastline. Formed by a beat poet and a metal-fusion guitarist, SACCHARINE TRUST (May 22, King Kong Klub) became the prototypical band for a label that included Hüsker Du, the Minutemen and Sonic Youth, and they’re now playing a club tinier than the ones they started out at. Under such conditions, rock’s self-regard is a necessary palliative.
But sometimes revivalism works while BUILT TO SPILL (May 21, Astra) never faded away, despite their obvious aesthetic derivations from Neil Young, DINOSAUR JR. (May 21, Astra) , another group of Young acolytes, has found a way to reunite and even record, both profitably, despite the band members’ obvious distaste for one another. Together, they bring to Astra a juggernaut of early Eighties slacker disregard, and in the most profitable manner possible. As long as the money rolls in, rock, it just keeps on rolling, as well, if also rolling over. After all, rock and roll may be here to stay but, as the song continues, the singer has no idea why.