20090407

(new) noise

full disclosure: this is a cross-post from the western front blog...

I'd half-forgotten one of my all-time favorite youtube vids, but I happened to think of it the other night; this live performance of "New Noise" by Refused just floors me every time I watch it:





While watching, I noticed the link over on the side to a cover of the song by some band called Crazy Town; I didn't know who Crazy Town was, but I had a vague notion of them as being a band that would play OzzFest (which, by my admittedly stereotyping logic, gave them a 90% chance of being as-bad-as/worse-than Nickelback). Skeptical, I checked it out:



While watching, I found myself experiencing some strange amalgamation of anger/horror/disgust/sorrow. I think it was mostly sorrow; I felt bad for every kid that had ever heard this pathetic caricature of a monumentally important song (maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I submit that Refused's "The Shape of Punk to Come" presaged later punk/hardcore music in many of the same ways as Ornette Coleman's "The Shape of Jazz to Come" would influence the avant-garde/free-jazz movement). Reading some of the user comments restored my faith, though; it seemed just about every comment was negative.

I think what disturbed me most about the Crazy Town cover was the manner in which the raw energy of the original had been co-opted and distorted into some sort of steroid-fueled locker room aggression. The rhetorical question "Can I scream" was no longer a statement of rebellion--a rejection of "ugly actions" and "bad paintings"--but one of blind rage. I suppose it's this delicate dichotomy that bothers me about contemporary hard-rock/metal. It would be short-sighted to deny that the energy and aggression of punk music never flows from the fount of rage; however, I think that punk/hardcore is more adept at bridling and directing this anger--it is able to give it a name and a direction (in this instance, the targets of institution and complacency). Popular metal, on the other hand, seems perfectly content to conjure this primal energy and allow it to flow where it may. To perform this magical act in the presence of a crowd full of young men and not give it a positive outlet is sheer recklessness.

Of course, the definition of "positive outlet" is a highly contentious proposition. But that's another post altogether...

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