29 Jul 2005

The decline and fall of western civilisation part III - The idol years

For the LORD, your God, is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
When you have children and grandchildren, and have grown old in the land, should you then degrade yourselves by fashioning an idol in any form and by this evil done in his sight provoke the LORD, your God,
I call heaven and earth this day to witness against you, that you shall all quickly perish from the land which you will occupy when you cross the Jordan. You shall not live in it for any length of time but shall be promptly wiped out

Deuteronomy 4:24-26

I didn't mean to see it. The advertising for this one was everywhere - all the papers, every night on TV. And I knew it would make me apoplectic, so why not avoid all the trouble and not even watch.

So Liz and I were watching Donnie Darko (excellent movie by the way). Do you ever do this - you're watching a DVD, then you're going to retire. So what you should do is turn off the television. But no. You think, well let's just flip back to TV for just a couple of seconds first. This is almost always a bad idea.

Now I know that when Michael Hutchence died that was a blow for INXS. And I can understand the guys in the band wanting to continue, wanting to find another singer. Didn't they recruit John Stevens for a while? I've got no problem with a band trying to continue after one of the members has shuffled of his mortal.


There is no excuse for the outrage, the obscenity, the sheer banality.

I know. Rock and Roll is dead. Has been for some time. There are still some good artists out there, creating good things, being original. But we have to agree that, the creative force that was there has, substantially, departed.

This guy gets up on stage and sings Smells Like Teen Spirit. He's studied Cobain, so he's got all the mannerisms. Voice gets raspy at just the right time, all of it. It didn't matter. He could have sung Britney Spears to just the same effect. So Kurt Cobain, whose entire musical output can pretty be summed up as an articulate cry of pain, who was a real artist, is now just source material for karaoke.

But what's this now? In a truly inspired link, the next performer is attempting a Courtney Love song. How they must have laughed in the editing room. And it's the same thing. She's not singing the song. She's impersonating Courtney Love singing the song.

I know I shouldn't complain. People like me won't shut up about Springsteen, Dylan, the Beatles. Maybe we're the problem. The way we tell it, if you want to be a rock star, you have to stand before these gods with your guitar and at least try to shout them down. But why bother? Why not just ape the actions of one of them, get on TV? There's that line from Spinal Tap: "As long as I've got the sex and drugs, I can do without the rock and roll, really."

There's a rock and roll heaven. That's where Cobain and Lennon sit around playing acoustic covers of Warren Zevon songs. But, if the theology is to be balanced, there must also be a rock and roll hell. And INXS, who now have children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and all the wannabes worshipping the chance to be on any show whose name ends in Idol, or Star, or begins with America's next, and we who watch yet do not turn off our televisions, or even better throw them out the hotel window, are in it.

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