Jon Spencer is a HODAD!
Certain friends of mine with otherwise acceptable taste get excited about Jon Spencer and his so-called Blues Explosion. I don’t. In fact, his music really annoys me.
And Jon is not the only musician that bugs me in this special way.
Spencer has this problem in relation to blues and roots music.
Henry Rollins has this problem in relation to punk music. He was the death of Black Flag.
Brian Setzer has this problem in relation to rockabilly music.
This defect is particularly galling in the case of the artists discussed here because, nonetheless, each one has attained great popularity, respect and renown playing a style of music that I revere. Their public images imply a mastery of their style and feed a vicious cycle that legitimizes them to consumers, even to the point of their becoming icons. Yet they only have a superficial understanding of their style of music, without comprehending the core, the dirt, the truth behind it. They exploit a style of music without truly “digging” it. For me, their work has a pretentious, annoyingly false aspect. It has proved impossible for them to become as good, or as cool, as those they imitate. They come off as humorless and stiff; they sample, but it’s copy-paste.
A shining counterexample is Lux Interior. He had a perfect grasp of rockabilly music and American culture, right down to its dirty core, and was able to cover, write and play songs in his own style that remain true to the spirit of their roots and ring true.
How can I justify my iconoclasm? A gut feeling, backed up by a lifetime of listening to music. It’s like pies, I can tell if somebody really knows how to make one, or if they are just following Martha Stewart’s recipe.
So what’s the word? ["Thunderbird!"]
“Dilettante” is not bad, but emphasizes a lack of seriousness. This is not precisely the problem. These fellows have made a career out of knowing their style; they simply have not succeeded in penetrating it properly.
“Poseur” is not bad, but emphasizes that the pose is struck to impress others. That is indeed the case with these three, but is not the focus of this diatribe.
“Phony” or “sham” is not bad, but does not specify why their music is not true to its origins.
Filed under: american, arts, culture, music, philosophy/philosophizing, pop culture, text in English | 4 Comments