Friday, March 13, 2009

Into the Anachronistic


*MP3: Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks"
*MP3: Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
*MP3: Van Morrison - "Sweet Thing"

In the recent promo run for his Astral Weeks concerts, Van Morrison sliced into the American pop rock equation in an issue of The New Yorker by audaciously suggesting that music existed before 1960, taking issue with the term “pre-Beatles,” calling it a “meaningless” product of American ignorance, and claiming the superior music knowledge of a nebulous Anglo-Gaelic “we.” Morrison is, of course, being Morrison, but there's a funny game to be played here.

He no doubt refers partially to the folk birthright of his Gaelic ancestors, a reference which he is fully right in making (Fleet Foxes might owe more to the Renaissance than they do the Blue Ridge Mountains). He also talks reverently of his adoration for rock and roll's originators, all of whom were American and were well-known to Americans in their time. He takes Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley for his countrymen, while unceremoniously dumping the “peripheral” Beatles on a delusional America.

The switch is humorously pompous, and again, Morrison is using his mystic persona to spout bullshit, but there is some confused truth to his words. The strands of influence in modern music have been tied in knots, but some clear strands remain, and ADD hipsterism would do well to pick up the ancient threads of the current folk revival. Besides, we still have Grizzly Bear to make all the Beatles-chained melodies we could possibly want, and Rolling Stone and Pitchfork Media to mistakenly attribute every one.

And Van? He can't be bothered with new bands. “Why do I need to keep finding new bands when I have the originals?” How dare he.

(Erik Martz)

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