They and bands like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath were a grounding principal--rock and roll is beautiful because it's energetic, awkward, and stupid, but profoundly so. There are "concept albums" I admire and still like, if not listen to, but I won't name them here. I am pleased, though, that the idea of the Album being a literary object has been dropped in a deep grave and had dirt thrown over it's remains. What we can thank the late McClaren for is reminding us that rock and roll is a loser's game, the noise of the empty stomach made worse by broken promises where ever a good person woke up with full knowledge of the truth of their lives under the campaign banners and cheers for a loving God. Since I'm making a cursory mention of Chuck Berry in connection with the Sex Pistols, it's worth mentioning here that Greil Marcus, the grayest and gravest presence on the pop/rock/culture-vulturing punditry hierarchy, has a nice stretch of descriptive prose in his mystical history of rock and roll and rebellion Lipstick Traces about the Sex Pistols rehearsing Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." It seems they never get it right for all the angry and frustrated attempts the Pistols have at the song, but Marcus does a bit of his magic and describes the energy in the room as he imagined it, making the increasing verve, the theoretical channeling of frustration and spite into inspiration and useful energy seem believable. This is a Marcus specialty, creating more mythology from details culled from far fetched sources. That's why I continue to read the man.
Friday, April 23, 2021
Over all, the whole phenomena of ELP was a fever that took too long to run its course, but for all their mechanical onanism, they did at times amuse me or impress me to an extent. Tarkus, their 1971 studio album, was such an extreme example of unplayable , undanceable, unlistenable, jig-sawing time signatures that I wound up respecting it as something wherein we have a band that accomplished exactly what they set out to do, produce a loud, grinding, smoke and spark belching bit of unlovable Avant Gard music. I would assert that if a college music department had their resident experimental music ensemble take up this album as a proposed project in search of some grant money, it would come pouring it.
That is say that it's very unloveability fits right in with much more contemporary noise makers at the edges of listenability. Also, these fellows had the the chutzpah to take Copeland's sacrosanct "Hoe Down" and turn it into a keyboard dominated speed metal blitz. I loved that.