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25 February 2008

Alec (who is the same age as Jesus) responds to his critic. Also, a special guest appearance by Judas aka Bob Dylan (you know, the guy from the panty commercial).

A commenter writes of my post on These New Puritans:

I have met people in their teens and early twenties who are much less arrogant than this writer(Alec Bemis). New Puritans are OK, definitly not cutting edge, and not like anything we havent heard before.Yes, I’m old, but I was into The Fall as well as the Stones thousands of years ago and I still recognize what bands from the past brought to the party.

Maybe Alec is burnt out on the oldtimers, which is understandable, but if he could think past his own experience it would be a nice.He remionds me of a spoiled kid I once knew that would break his toys when he got tired of them so no one else could enjoy them.

Posted on February 19, 2008 11:10 AM by andrew

Let me respond.

1. As a clarification, I am 33, the same age of Jesus. Clearly those kids in their teens and early twenties who you’re meeting have some work to do to get as arrogant as me. But don’t worry, sounds like they have plenty of time to catch up!

2. I never said that These New Puritans were “cutting edge.” They cite terrorist videos as an influence for Alec’s sake, and those have been around at least twenty or thirty years. I even point out in my post that their music reminds me of groups like the Fall very very much. I think you are taking a typical boomer-era view of praise, and assuming that I think the only art worth celebrating is “original.” Really, though, my criteria for artistic greatness has much more to do with “excellence of execution.” There is a huge difference.

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3. I’m not “burnt out” on the old timers. To this day Sonic Youth are consistently one of my favorite bands to experience live and there’s a reason I was posting video of Mark E. Smith only a few days ago. I will see Bob Dylan live every opportunity I get until the man dies. But I am quite aware that the more comfortable a band gets, the more discomfiting sponsorship opportunities can be. I’d be the last person, for example, to criticize the Shins when their music was used to shill for McDonald’s early in the band’s career. They almost definitely needed the money. As a band becomes more of a self-sufficient entity, however, it needs become increasingly aware, and careful, of how its accumulated chain of cultural associations are wielded in public view.

In other words. Rolling Stones shilling for Rice Crispies in 1964 = A-OK!

The Rolling Stones shilling for Tommy Hilfiger on their No Security tour in 1999. Well, you’ve got to be joking me. Maybe if they called it their Social Security tour I would have been more sympathetic.

After the jump, Bob Dylan’s most embarrassing-slash-greatest commercial moment(s).
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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22 February 2008

These New Puritans

So, last week I was going off all the time about old people like Mick Jagger, Mark E. Smith, and Sonic Youth. (I wonder if, when they started, they ever thought they’d exist long enough for that name to take on the extra layers of meaning that have accumulated with age?)

In any case, I apologize. Alec Bemis doesn’t care about old people. But he really wanted to explore the way sincerity and referentiality is being explored in music these days. And, sure, he’s probably undercutting that message a bit by referring to himself in the third person. So, again, he’ll apologize, and leave you, instead, with this newish track from These New Puritans — his greatest current object of musical obsession.

“Navigate, Navigate” was originally created as a soundtrack to Hedi Slimane’s Autumn ‘07 collection for Dior Homme — Slimane being clothing designer of choice for skinny rock dudes. It was released last week, and it works its post-punk groove obsessively for over 15-minutes. I think what makes it work is the sense of mystery to the track. It sounds less like the band was playing than they created, cutted, pasted, and built this thing out of scraps found on the rehearsal room floor. You don’t know what is coming from people, what is coming from machines, and if any of it could or will be reproduced anywhere beyond. It’s as ephemeral as a Prada shoe — expensive, disposable things being coin of the realm in our modern world, a society in which luxury itself has been turned into something of a commodity.

And then there is the vocal line — a stupid yelp, a stutter, an approach that has more than a little to do with Mark E. Smith’s manic ranting in the Fall. As with Smith’s lyrics, there’s very little you can be sure of. “Image! Image!” he yells. Or was that “Cinders! Cinders!” Then “you know, you know.” (No actually I don’t.) Or wait, did he just say “regal is strange,” or “regal is straight”?

Just goes to show, fashion and rock can mix without a hitch.

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More about how These New Puritians deal with our increasingly mediated culture after the jump.
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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