Thursday, August 07, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Boors

A great debt is owed to perennial shot-caller J-Hop for helping disseminate this bit of brilliant digital detritus:

Like his brother-in-knuckle-scraping-arms Liam Gallagher, Diamond Dave operates as a William of Ocham for the jet(trash)-set: he's a perpetual-motion machine of flapping gums so incapable of complex thought that he's able only to express the elemental truth; everything else, being more complicated, could only cause him confusion. (Perhaps that's why DLR's hair looks so fried: he blew a synapse discussing mechanical royalties with Mo Ostin?)

No, I'm not taking the piss. I defy you to find a single false statement issued from his shit-eating grin. Let's pick it apart, shall we?
Van Halen music, heavy metal music, any kind of rock music, is what I like to call "high-velocity folk music."
Consider (as we've done before) that, essentially, folk music is anecdotal narrative or reductive personal expression wrapped around simple, uncluttered chord structures that resonates upon some universal truth. Well, isn't that precisely what Van Halen in their prime produced? Who hasn't jumped, run with the devil, been hot for teacher, or, uh, fallen under the control of Manuel Noriega?

Taken as a general statement, it's true that heavy metal fulfilled the same role that campfire acoustic singalongs did a hundred years prior. Certainly, upon closer examination of niche subgenres, not many people would say the songs of Cannibal Corpse, Gorgoroth, or Dragonforce speak directly to/of them. But across the broader sweep of metal - from "Paranoid" to "Aces of Spades", from "Welcome To the Jungle" to "Midlife Crisis" - it's easy enough to find some empathetic resonance therein.
I look at heavy metal music - Van Halen's brand, rather, of heavy metal music - as a combination of religion and hockey.
Again, dead on. Consider the intricate weave of metaphysical devotion and gaudy materialist ceremony, the relation to a higher spirit through annointed spokesmen (yes, spokesmen), the large celebratory gatherings of the faithful to behave in manners unbecoming of their quotidian reality - and then consider the presence of large, sweaty, swearing men with an emphasis on indelicate, antagonistic contact. Ian Svenonius has written far more exhaustively on the parallels between rock and religion, but it bears remembering that sports occupy the same place in a great many people's lives.
We had to get into a band because we are this way... I have successfully turned "monkey hour" into a career.
A band as a synergistic culmination of personalities; to play music as a means of personal psychic reconstitution; making art as an end unto itself as opposed to a single facet of some larger marketing campaign for one's career as a public persona... how bloody tragic is it that these now seem like quaint idealisms, delusional romantic fantasies? That it should be expressed so succinctly by David Lee Roth of all people is, as they say, a head-fuck.

Meanwhile, his "monkey hour" anecdote is a perfect example of precisely why I regard the psychiatric industry as fascistic and dehumanising.
Style is not to be confused with Class. A Mercedes Benz is Class, because it represents money. However, chili dogs have absolutely no Class, but a great deal of Style. Punk rock, new wave, whatever you have, reggae, rastafari haircuts, what-have-you, are all different kinds of Styles. None of them, however, have any Class - I got class.
Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Roth's 15-second summation of the ontology of capital! Assuming it's true that chili dogs got mad style, Style would be the more desirable of the two characteristics: Style implies a kind of substantive polysensual engagement, an experience that diversifies (or even gives body to) reality's symbolic framework. Class, on the other hand, is symbolic of a single substantive quality: economic power. For those who would question Roth's claim to Class in view of his squalid apartment, recall his analogy between music religion; consider the decidedly unglamorous daily lifestyle of the average priest, contrasted with the elaborate pomp & circumstance of his rituals before his flock. There exists the same degree of difference between Roth's life on and off the road.

There's no question, DLR does have Class, in spite of the frat-house squalor of his apartment: he was (and is again) the face & voice of a band that has sold over 80 million albums to date - a distinction shared by only about a hundred other musical artists in history. Among the many bands that can't match Van Halen's account balance is, ironically, the act that best signifies the detached superficiality and bland "good taste" of Class in the 1980s: Roxy Music. Consider that, as Roth was giving this interview, Roxy Music were recording Avalon, the summa of vapid yuppie sumptuousness. I wonder if it frustrated Bryan Ferry that, after his studious & painstaking adoption of all the hollow affectations of wealth & privilege, that he was lumped into the same club as this dandelion-haired yahoo. Ferry may have sported all the appropriate symbols, but Roth had the substance.

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