Thanks to Dave Purcell’s flattery of my own (sociological, not blogological) writing about music, I followed his breadcrumbs to the Steven Hyden’s piece “on” the Black Keys over at Grantland. And I’m glad I did. I’d just finished watching “Searching for Sugarman,” a really excellent documentary that traces the journey of two South African journalists who try to find out how Rodriguez, a singer “more famous than Elvis,” had died. Rodriguez isn’t famous in the United States despite living his whole life in Detroit and recording both his albums (and part of a third) here. The film’s an excellently made documentary, a fascinating detective story, and Rodriguez makes the perfect shadowy hero.
The movie primed me to read about rock nostalgia. Hyden’s piece isn’t about the Black Keys (although you learn about their discography and get important listening notes) but instead charts the journey of a Minnesotan journalist who ties to find out how rock, the genre that “gave us Elvis,” has died. The result is a meditation on class politics and the “tastes that classify the classifer” (or whatever Bourdieu wrote). It describes a music ecology that spawned an “indie” scene with a working-class avatar but effete sensibilities, while the blue collar “fly over state” issues formerly within the rock corral were instead snatched up by Eric Church and other country artists.
While the core of the argument is a moral one, and so all the “evidence” I need to evaluate it is the ancedata of the author’s POV, and having a debate over cherry-picked musicological examples is DUDESPORT and thus distracting and boring to me, I’m still left with the nagging feeling that rock’s not worth worrying about anymore.
For all the ridicule that women get for hanging on to relationships long after their expiration date, the dudes of rock are hardly ever counseled out of their decades-long obsession with a lover who stands them up for date-after-date.* (BTW: “dudes of rock” come in many different body shapes and sizes, including those with vaginas.) Is it humane for the rest of us to let this continue? It seems wrong for them to suffer the bi-annual hair-pulling, teeth-nashing articles that blame them, their richer or poorer brothers, their lover’s parents or cousins, the economy, the wars, the Koreans, the television, advertisers, and above all others, the INTERNETS for the death of rock.
I think things in the past can be beautiful, important, and inspirational, but I think they make bad lovers.
* I want to be clear–the movie and the article were inspiration for me but I don’t feel like either is a “dudes of rock” statement, at least, not in the raw/automatic/unself-aware sense.