Agony Shorthand

Monday, December 01, 2003
WHAT’S WITH THE HIPPY DIP TRIP??…..Have hippies all of sudden become the focal point of underground taste and style? You’d be forgiven for thinking so after perusing November’s issue of ARTHUR magazine. This is a laughable development in late 2003, and yet considering how hard this paper tries to conjur up the ghosts of the Vietnam-era broadsheet, it’s not at all surprising. (Yes, I know I’ve ranted with tongue partially in cheek about Arthur before, and I promise this is the last one). There’s this weird axis forming now between professional activists devoted to perpetuation of the status quo, the insular, in-jokey private-press noise/improv scene and old-school 1960s-style Vermont hippies. They seemed to have found their nexus in the pages of this free magazine, and also in noodly noise ensembles like NO NECK BLUES BAND and what one Brian Turner presciently dubbed the “beard rock” scene. I think it stems from the bunker mentality common to those who stridently believe that they and they alone have the answer, be it political, musical or social – everyone else be damned.

ARTHUR columnist and rock guitarist Thurston Moore, of all people, seems to carry the banner of this nexus the highest. He’s gone from being a rock hero of mine to a shrill harpy and babbling know-it-all about his pet causes and bands. There’s something about the self-righteousness of Moore, his “Protest” Records and overheated political rhetoric that really tans my hide. Maybe it’s the unspoken assumption that if you have any affinity with underground music whatsoever, you simply must agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments about “fucked yuppie culture” and that Bush = Hitler. Even if I do agree, he’s about the last person in the world I want to be taking my cues from. Newfangled hippies like Moore have potentially even ensnared the formerly apolitical Byron Coley in their net, who now writes in his co-penned (with Moore) “Bull Tongue” column paens to bong hits, hippie noise jams and unfunny George W. jokes. This once-promising column has fallen so fast so quickly I have to think that Coley is barely involved; his distinctive stamp is barely on the thing. Tony Rettman’s piece on a national tour of SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN & a couple of other bands also fits into this nexus. This collective are the poster children for what I’m talking about – lots of chat here about incense being burned, gypsy folk troubadours, magick, that sort of thing. I kind of liked them as a curiosity when I saw them, but honestly, folks. There was a dancing hesher, a woman sprawled out on the floor who intermittently bleated into a microphone, instruments randomly changing hands, and long “peace-pipe friendly” groovathons. It was OK, but “Rock and roll” my ass! Keep a close watch on your scene, folks – these people are slowly training their mystic eye on it, and they’re beginning to smell victory.