Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Words, words, words.

One thing I've failed to mention up to now is my immense love of the (International) Noise Conspiracy. I spent late high school and all of college obsessed with the group, and up until the release of Armed Love couldn't get enough of anything they'd released. If you're a Refused fan, the idea of T(I)NC probably disgusts you, though if you're a fan of Text, the other Refused spin-off, you're probably so revolted by anything as danceable as T(I)NC that I question why you're reading something as trite as a blog in the first place. I happen to like both Refused and Text, but T(I)NC grabbed me first, so there lies my loyalty. Digression!

I'd learned of the band – and Refused, plus many other goodies – by watching Punk O Rama TV after Saturday Night Live one night in early 2001; the video for “Reproduction of Death” popped on after what was probably a skate shop ad or Chinkees video (this detail escapes me, sadly), and after watching more than a fair portion of poppy punk bands show me why Epitaph was the thing, I was suddenly refreshed by this intense quintet. In a time when everything on Southern California radio sounded like...well, crap out of SoCal...a group of raven-haired Swedes harking back to the '60s with James Brown-meets-Beck dance moves, mod suits, and an unapologetic tilt to the left was wildly new and fantastic. I did what any impressionable kid would do and slowly started snatching up their albums, which I absorbed and loved.

Exciting as their first few albums were, though, and amazing performers that they turned out to be, I started caring a little less when Rick Rubin polished them up and sucked the urgency out of their recordings. Three years ago, I believe, and yes, the band's set to release another Rubin-produced album sometime in the next year. But here's what's struck me in the long term: back when I was watching all those punk videos in the wee hours of night, the (International) Noise Conspiracy released a video for “Capitalism Stole My Virginity,” just before coming out with A New Morning, Changing Weather. It was definitely a bit cheesy, with some sort of party scene and camouflage outfits, but the video kicked off with a quote from Emma Goldman, “If I can't dance, I don't want your revolution.”

I know, even the quote seems cheesy, and yes, there are variations of it elsewhere. But it's only cheesy without a context. I gave no thought to the video or Emma Goldman, someone I certainly hadn't learned about in school (and wouldn't hear about in college, interestingly enough), and tossed these details aside until sitting around at the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco a few years later. I sat in the basement and plowed through half of a Goldman book, discovering that her reasoning was absolutely brilliant. She was a feminist anarchist who recognized the beauty of human individuality, explaining why a relationship between fully equal and intellectual man and feminist may lack passion, or why a fight for progress should be backed by sincere desire. She saw grey area, and I instantly loved her ability to rationally merge opposing sides. Suddenly the quote from that video a few years prior had a context, seemed less corny, and though I was at this point less excited by T(I)NC's music, I discovered a new reason to appreciate them, as they had turned me on to a new potential role model.

Which brings me to the real point of this post – and no, it's not an open letter on what the world owes Sweden. It's the connection between authors and musicians, and why music actually is important to pay attention to. I realized a few months ago that without music, I have no idea what kind of a person I'd be, because it's shaped me in so many unexpected areas. I'm not one to adopt every word a musician spits out at me and acknowledge that your ears have to filter everything that runs through them, but as a result of my T(I)NC discovery, I developed an interest in socialism and communism and began reading up on them to make up for what wasn't being taught in my high school courses. More recently, I'd found something online that mentioned Pete Doherty's alleged influences, a list that contained authors like Marquis de Sade, Graham Greene and Miguel DeUnamo – again, none of whom were taught in school. Of course, I was curious to know what had shaped ol' Pete and picked up books by all three, discovering first why Marquis de Sade wasn't appropriate for high school, but also realizing that, damn, Petey's got good taste in literature. Having only been a fan of contemporary American and British literature up until the fact, I changed my mind about dry, cynical writing and realized that there's a lot to be enjoyed when romantic wording and exclamation points are about. Thanks, Pete.

This isn't just about me, though; I imagine a great deal of people would find their viewpoints drastically changed and expanded if they sought out the recommended reading of their favorite artists. Music already forms subcultures through things like speech and manner of dress, but if music's influence on literary taste were a greater phenomenon, I can only guess that the average person would feel quite a bit smarter and learn of so many people and subjects that they'd missed out on in school. The author-musician relationship already runs in the other direction, to an extent, with literature about music like Nick Hornby's Songbook or The Perks of Being a Wallflower taking care to list the contents of an entire mixtape. For that matter, take any number of books that analyze and trivialize the subcultures created by music through sociological studies. But old-fashioned literature, promoted by musicians even unintentionally, is an occurrence that could cross-promote and benefit two industries while expanding the vocabulary of the average music fan. Plus, from the music fan's angle, if you grow out of your love of a band, you'd at least be able to take with you a lasting appreciation of the band for their method of exposing you to a new writer.

Lovage - Book of the Month (yes, and a wink-wink to you...)
(Purchase Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By)

International Noise Conspiracy - Reproduction of Death (video)
International Noise Conspiracy - Capitalism Stole My Virginity (video)


Travis said...

the first time i saw the international noise conspiracy, Dennis convinced me to buy one of the books they were selling on the road and told me to download their albums online. that was nice.

China said...

I love that story.