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Monday, November 10, 2003
QV points us to an anti-Fugazi rant. I guess Travis was right about it, mostly--there are a lot of fun-oriented DC bands, not least of them Unrest, and Fugazi's impact on the DC scene has been almost entirely positive, without making most people feel like they need to be similarly sincere and political. On the other hand, it is a reasonably accurate (if not entirely fair) critique of Fugazi-as-Fugazi, and you could argue that it has had a certain impact on the national indie/punk scene that's been almost as harmful as Little seems to think it is.

Which is to say that there are some interesting things in there worth highlighting:

David and Lou (and Iggy too) understood that the decline of the West could be fun. But not the guys in Fugazi. They would put us on a mirth-free, high-moral-fiber diet, and let us enjoy none of the wonderful bad things in life. Rock is one of the most childish, stupid, and, yes, fun things around—and it's for these very reasons that it's one of the most important forces on the face of the Earth.


Look, I'm going to tell you the truth here: Rock music is dumb. So dumb it's funny. What's more, it's supposed to be, even though MacKaye would like to think otherwise: "I made a mistake thinking that rock 'n' roll had something to do with being intelligent and not accepting society as it was being given to us," he once lamented.

Don't despair, rock fans, because dumb is good. Hell, dumb just could be your salvation.


Rock and morality don't mix. Never have, never will. Morality says, "Let's be better people." Rock says, "Let's all go to hell in a hand basket, preferably after having totally meaningless sex and snorting enough crank to keep Red China grinding its teeth for a week." Now, rock may not necessarily mean this literally. Good rock, unlike the kind served up here in D.C., is as likely as not just doing what the British quaintly call "taking the piss." Because rock is a prankster, and anybody who hasn't caught onto the fact that rock doesn't always mean what it says by the time he's old enough to vote deserves whatever he gets.

So rock is a) amoral and apolitical (so essentially unbothered even by MacKaye's own critiques), b) dumb (so it's good that it's not making moral arguments to begin with), c) massively important (so in some area other than politics/morality), and d) ironic/insincere. Lots of stuff here to piss off the kind of people who get pissed off by any mention of irony, but I think the formulation he's putting forth here is both interesting and wrong, which is one of my favorite combinations. What's important about something that can't address politics or morality? That it simply is this liberating force that's also somehow apolitical? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And is the irony thing supposed to mean that rock's apathy can also be read as interest and engagement?

Regardless, to me this all suggests that there's a need for pop music that's smart, fun, and political, one that can make points while also addressing Little's need for hedonism. Kind of a midpoint between Fugazi and Pussy Galore, in other words. If MacKaye thinks lyrics have to be X, and Little thinks lyrics can only talk about Y, I think lyrics can talk about A-Z. If you've got a good hook and a good melody and a good beat, go on about Sherpas if you want to, although it helps if you have a fist-pumping, repetitive chorus. That's one of the coolest things about pop music, to me--its total mutability and adaptability. Young Ian is still pretty much an asshole, but late Fugazi is pretty good, and there's points to be taken from both if you want to be really, truly good.