ISSUE #12 - 1997

Aphex Twin -- Richard D. James,     Sire
    Any shithead can hate rock. Back in the dark days of yore, you had to be a mom or work at IBM or pray to a cranky god, but nowadays hating rock is fun and free and all it takes are Day-Glo duds and a goatee soiled with pot seeds and special-K spit. So what. You think you're ready for the rifle and food riot when you're glad Cobain's dead and make your girlfriend listen to ambient when you fuck her, but it takes more than a cock piercing to bury Fun House, and rest assured I'll have Confusion is Sex blasting in the tank as I roll over your scrawny little frame in the town square. The only historical miracle will be seeing you hum "Cornish Acid" with a tread mark across your face. I hate "rock", but I also hate "anti-rock" , "industrial", "grunge", "death metal", "punk", whatever, because anyone who hasn't mailed their brain to Rolling Stone in exchange for an Eddie Vedder refrigerator magnet, a Soundgarden mosh wig and twelve issues of lies knows that 99% of all genre crap is fodder for the atomizer and not worthy of the time and energy it would take to crack it to bits with a hammer. Kids who've never heard of the Minutemen are putting an ear to Pearl Jam and Nirvana and the Offspring and saying that they hate rock, hate grunge, hate punk, and would take the Chemical Bros. any day of the week, which for us old-timers is the equivalent to listening to Huey Lewis, Springsteen and Prince and deciding that rock is for fascists and Young Republicans and that New Order and Depeche Mode are way better. But no, everyone nowadays knows that the guitar has only three chords and all rock is built in the Time-Warner factory and there's nothing new under the sun and all that, with the exception, of course, of "electronica", which might rock but is never "rock" because it's too busy being revolutionary, which means noncorporate and wild and highly individualistic, oops, sorry, I mean consciousness-raising and nonlinear and nonwestern and heterogeneous and global and transcendental and vitamin-packed and nonsexist and nonracist and democratic and environmentally correct and paradigm-breaking and full of good feelings and radical politics. Advocates push electronica as an exemplary college boy who always uses the correct pronouns, loves endless oral sex, never says "girl", takes out the recycling, leaves the toilet seat down and always asks before holding hands, but we all know that it's the quiet ones who end up with a freezer full of kiddy parts and a trunk full of plaid jumpers. Some fun. RDJ is as revolutionary as a bong, a flat floor and six hours of dilated pupils, but because James prefers his droned-out zoink baked with buttons instead of strings, he gets the Chairman Mao seal of approval from liberals anxious to purge the pleasure from rock so that everyone else can feel as peevish and miserable and superior as they do. The fact that anyone thinks that the sound of "Weird Al" Yankovic armed with $20K of techno gear after a long night of eating Drano and Hydrox and sleeping with a drycleaning bag over his head is somehow the end of all guitar and drum music as we know it clearly demonstrates the idea that corporate advertising has stolen every coherent mind in sight and that the media's united front is today's Fourth Reich. Everyone from Entertainment Weekly to Rolling Stone to the Voice to The New York Times has lined up behind electronica, which should be reason enough to reach for your revolver. Hi-tek is definitely a revolution, but it's the capitalist revolution, and it's the only revolution these days consistently delivering on its promises, which are big profits and squashed ideals. The true foot soldiers in this cold war are the corporate flunkies shitting themselves over the prospect of ruling over an obedient and comrnercial-friendly electronic future that shines their shoes because A): electronica means fewer band members per group which means greater product and spin control for the company, in addition to creating a situation where artists can be consistently terrorized with the prospect being replaced at a moment's notice with nothing but a turnkey and an emergency blowup producer doll with push-button arms; B): electronic music guarantees faster production and replication 'cause producers and machines are easier to work with than studio musicians, and as a bonus the labels are able to contract out to efficient Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers who, as we speak, have women chained to chairs trying to knock out Chemical Brothers beats for nine cents an hour; C): electronica means the end of annoying live instruments,. thus insuring quality control for radio, which breaks a sweat over anything that doesn't sound like it came from a black box and D): electronica can be easily recycled and aesthetically tweaked for each market, and, even better, can be used to control and ruin just about any genre of music you can think of. Boiled down, electronica is a bureaucratic revolution that insures the rise of the paper-pushing middle managerlproducer who's always got one hand on the oven that pops out the tunes, one hand on the quarterly growth target and the third hand on the phone with the marketing VP of Wal-Mart who's now demanding remixes dedicated to Jesus. It may be dull on paper, Bucky, but rest assured that this revolution will be televised and then re-sold to cable before popping up in Blockbuster. Regardless, maybe James has an anti-rock agenda or maybe he's just an esthete who doesn't give a fuck, but either way he clearly wants the ticket and ride for this Titanic. RDJ is interesting enough, like French-kissing a clown dipped in popcorn butter and rolled in cotton candy with a bicycle bell where its genitals used to be, but really, there's better work out there and you'll want to try a different temp agency soon enough. Apparently the avant-garde opposite of "rock is a festive box of shiny glass beads, a clever-clever pile of mirth with no engine to make it go. Never you mind that truly revolutionary electronica would be lo-fi, rockist and fucked all at once. Chairman Mao would pull a frown over that, so James floors the beat button marked "tinkle" and lets the whole contraption writhe like a worm on a wet road. Yawn. Only "Girl/Boy Song" fakes the hype enough to shame the organ grinder of daffy boinks that surround it. RDJ is smart like a brain on a stick and about as interesting, but of course it triumphs when whipping straw men like Hole or Live or Bush. Just keep it a thousand feet away from a Dog Faced Hermans or Caspar Brotzmann or Fall or Branca record and everything will be groovy. If you live in a cave of golden dope fumes and feel the mystical techno-future calling you to church, then I'm sure you'll want to spin RDJ for a few prayers. Anyone else not on Sire's payroll or monthly mind-control plan will realize that RDJ is fake avant-pop about as dull as the music it's supposed to replace. Peace, brother.
   -Josh Marlowe


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