faces of risk: Wire, formed in 1976, helped define "edge"
long before the quotation marks were added.
without quotation marks
media recently gave a full onslaught to a band coming to town called
Interpol. The sound of post-punk, following on the heels of the
punk revival, is The Latest Big Thing, and Interpol has that sound.
The Portland media was also full of a not-so-new band coming to
town: Wire. Talented, influential and ahead of their time, Wire
created a varied sound which is no doubt emulated by some
of the new bands of today. Actually, whether they emulate the band
or not, Wire's reach is unavoidable ...
... Ah, but could we really stand to go to Wire's show? That was
the gist in more than one of the local rags of this town. Could
we stand to see these old men play music?
This year's model or recycling project?
How is it that bands that are derivative and clearly not blazing
new trails which sound "old" (but, of course, are
young) are fine. But bands that created the sound, are still coming
out with good new music (as witnessed by Wire's Read & Burn
01) and, furthermore, took risks to create it, are not?
How is a copy more important than the original?
I hightailed it down to the record store and listened to most of
the cuts on Interpol's CD. It is an excellent piece of work, but
it's also like a long-lost Joy Division record. And when it's not
sounding like Joy Div, it is very much like New Order.
Not that any of that is so terrible, but I get the feeling that
for most people, unless one could resurrect the dead and have the
originals in their perfectly photographable 1980 form, a performance
by the copy would be preferable to the originals. And those who
would prefer to see the originals keep that kind of information
joy: Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division's 1979 release,
had limited appeal in its day.
To begin with, it's a bit difficult for the guard of 1980 to adjust
to a world where "everyone" knows and loves Joy Division.
Their lifespan was short. Most of their (underground) fame came
after Ian Curtis was already dead. Maybe 50 people in Portland were
into the band at that time and that's stretching it, for
I surely did not sell 50 of their records when I worked at Singles
Going Steady, the independent music store owned by Tim Kerr and
If we ordered 10 of something, that was a big deal.
It is one thing to say "My generation is a brave new world"
when you are offering something much different than your predecessors
like the Beatles. Or the Pistols. Or even Joy Division, for
God's sake. But if you are offering just another version of Joy
Division, let's get a grip here.
Perhaps it is just the concept of risk itself that is not comprehended.
In a society where hip defines all, how can one imagine a time when
nothing was? Hip, today, implies total acceptance and the norm.
So why respect or even regard those who created it?
"Edge," so easily marketed and assumed now that everyone
has got it, was once completely created by risk and repulsion.
exposed: ex-Miss America Harman.
But you know that the tables are surely turned when the headlines
of the Oregonian (Sept. 21) had Katie Harman hoping that the next
Miss America would be hip. This reveals how far the whole notion
has changed. Hip was created by drug use, freewheeling sex, interracial
everything and all that can be taken as birthright now but
was initially an act of risk. Not exactly choices for Miss America.
A lot of young rockers and hipsters (their term, not mine) don't
like Elvis at all. He seems like an artifact to them and, whatever
his voice or moves may be, hey, they've seen all that already. It's
boring. But when you look at the society of the 1950s, taking a
good look at the youth culture (or any kind of culture!) alone,
he was worse than Johnny Rotten could ever be. Newer than new, bigger
than big. A total threat.
But no, this week it's the Hives they're so much better!
The term "hipster" implies in-ness as opposed to the
out-ness that created it. The local papers also refer to the new
film, "24 Hour Party People," as about "... hipster
Tony Wilson and hipster hangouts like the Hacienda ..."
out to Elvis: When risk was risk.
Sorry, no dice. There was nothing inclusive, massive or "in"
about it: A secret club; had to be obsessive and weird and special
to get it. But I get the feeling that such clarification falls on
deaf ears, or it just doesn't fucking matter anyway. The difference
between something original and something not who cares?
But I say yes, risk matters. Especially in times when much is gray,
when polarizing events are few and far between. Risk itself is packaged
and part of the marketing landscape, something to do and be. In
a crowd where everyone is a convert and wearing a black leather
jacket, "risk" true originality just falls
all too neatly into quotation marks.