Thursday, 6 November 2014

Hawking confirms Harrington and Keenan

Around a decade and a half ago I was forever changed by the discovery of Joe S. Harrington’s Top 100 Albums, which showed just how derivative and dated the seemingly enjoyable music played in the cloistered suburbs where I grew up actually was and is.

Whilst both then and now I have considerable criticism of Harrington’s philosophies, I still understand his music perspectives. Once one has a serious listen to the music of the 1960s and 1970s before I was born, one sees it has the same rhythms as even the least-disrespected music from my childhood.

It was the growth of grunge, which I utterly detested and detest as tuneless noise, which led to criticism on a wide scale of commercial music from the 1980s – my staple listening until the 2000s. I was rather faintly aware of this 1990s perspective before reading Harrington and David Keenan, whose 2003 The Best Albums Ever...Honest reinforced my new knowledge slowly but surely over the following few years.

What was new about Harrington and Keenan was how they exposed the commercial music of the 1990s as they did that of the 1980s. They showed there was nothing new in acclaimed bands like Oasis, Blur, Nirvana, Pavement or even Radiohead – and I can say I never dissent from such a perspective.
Yesterday I saw for the first time a new “worst albums” list from Flavorwire, a webzine I have not known before. It was written by Tom Hawking, actually form Australia and the webzine’s editor until recently changing to deputy editor. The full list is:
  1. Who Needs Guitars Anyway?; Alice Deejay
  2. Anthology; Alien Ant Farm
  3. About That Life; Attila (not Billy Joel’s high school band)
  4. The E.N.D; The Black Eyed Peas
  5. Enema of the State; blink-182
  6. I’m Not a Fan, But the Kids Like It!; brokenCYDE
  7. Merry Christmas; Mariah Carey
  8. Cut the ****; The Clash
  9. No Jacket Required; Phil Collins
  10. Scream; Chris Cornell
  11. To the Faithful Departed; The Cranberries
  12. Human Clay; Creed
  13. Sinner; Drowning Pool
  14. Saved; Bob Dylan
  15. The Eagles, generally
  16. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic; Foxygen
  17. Terrapin Station; The Grateful Dead
  18. American Idiot; Green Day
  19. Yes, Please; Happy Mondays
  20. Primitive Cool; Mick Jagger
  21. Magna Carta (Holy Grail); Jay Z
  22. Shine On; Jet
  23. River of Dreams; Billy Joel
  24. Cracked Rear View; Hootie and the Blowfish
  25. Standing in the Spotlight; Dee Dee King
  26. Lick It Up; KISS
  27. Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts; Kula Shaker
  28. ARTPOP; Lady Gaga
  29. You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush; Len
  30. The Libertines; The Libertines
  31. Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog-Flavored Water; Limp Bizkit
  32. Hybrid Theory; Linkin Park
  33. Secret Samadhi; Live
  34. St. Anger; Metallica
  35. How I Learned to Stop Giving a **** and Love Mindless Self Indulgence; Mindless Self Indulgence
  36. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie; Alanis Morissette
  37. Mr. Blobby – The Album; Mr. Blobby
  38. Nastradamus; Nas
  39. All the Right Reasons; Nickelback
  40. Born Again; The Notorious B.I.G.
  41. Be Here Now; Oasis
  42. Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper; Julian Plenti
  43. Come Clean; Puddle of Mudd
  44. Their Satanic Majesties Request; Rolling Stones
  45. x; Ed Sheeran
  46. Come On Over; Shania Twain
  47. Thirty Seconds to Mars; Thirty Seconds to Mars
  48. Woodstock 1999; various artists
  49. Raditude; Weezer
  50. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Scott Weiland
It’s notable how little there is from before the “punk revolution” – only the Eagles, an oddball Grateful Dead record and one album about which David Keenan would be in huge disagreement, whilst the presence of Dylan’s Christian album Saved shows the “post-AC/DC” tenor of the whole list. Even the 1980s is poorly represented with only Phil Collins, the Clash and solo Jagger, whilst the later Bush Senior period when metal and rap were changing the Enriched World (and I knew as little as if I were in a cloistered monastery) has only Billy Joel.

That leaves forty-three recordings from the last twenty years of the worst fifty – an indication that the culture of the Enriched World has lost the creativity it had between the 1960s and the early 1990s, even as its people aspire for more and more individualism. What this does suggest is that art and commerce are in general as far apart as ever, and that “art ” is very remote from “commerce” as people struggle with increased international economic competition and political systems that may encourage mediocrity or worse via their egalitarianism, besides perhaps leaving the more “feeling” types to concentrate on upbeat, conventional music. Harrington and Keenen admit such a decline but never relate it to cultural norms, which is something that perhaps could be done.

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