Sunday, February 08, 2009
For your reading pleasure
Our favourite psychogeographer (although Stewart Home runs him close), Iain Sinclair, talks to the Guardian's Rachel Cooke about his new book on Hackney, the Olympic development and urban decay. And as a Beard bonus beat, here's Sinclair in action, taking the BBC for a walk around Abbey Park cemetery in Stoke Newington.
For my Masters dissertation, I'm interested in exploring psychogeography in the context of writing - or filmmaking, music, art etc - about Glasgow. Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch to claim Alasdair Gray, Edwin Morgan et al as psychogeographers, but their work does contain elements of that, admittedly rather loose, concept: walking, critiques of urban development, hidden places, magic... I've also dug up some interesting travel writing on Glasgow, including an Alfred Watkins inspired mapping of the area's ley lines by Harry Bell. His book, Glasgow's Secret Geometry, is sadly out of print, but the full text is online here. And although I can't check the catalogues online, I imagine Glasgow's wonderful Mitchell Library has a copy.
Interesting article by Jessica Hopper on what the success of No Age could mean for LA's all-ages punk venue The Smell. The Smell has become a model for DIY scenes, creating a genuine sense of community. The worry is that its success could change all that, as hipsters and suits move in, robbing it of its integrity. Here's hoping The Smell continues to spread its righteous, pungent vibes across the world. This reminds me, I should really get my No Age interview on here. Uni comes first, but I'll get there eventually.
Simon Reynolds, blogging for the Grauniad, applies his recent theorising on middlebrow rock and pop to Animal Collective. Predictably, the idiot trolls who plague Comment Is Free are quick to call Reynolds pretentious, blah blah etc etc. Just as dispiriting is the commentator who wonders where all the good British music is. If only he'd clicked on the awesome Zomby clip Reynolds posts on the blog... Anyway, the idea of music that sits between the mainstream and the underground, the experimental and accessible is nothing new, but it's interesting to see Reynolds reclaim the term middlebrow from dullards like Coldplay and Elbow, in much the same way academia has sought to use the term positively to describe, for example, certain strains of women's writing from the mid-20th century. One commentator suggests that middle brow is the best kind of music and no one needs a Metal Machine Music. I'm sure Reynolds would disagree. Surely the two can't exist without each other? Experimental music exists in its own right, not just as a lab creating raw materials to be filtered and processed for mass consumption. The main problem with middlebrow is its unavoidable class consciousness. While that can be useful in understanding the modes of production and comsumption, it does tend to oversimplify things. Maybe this is me showing my age, but I don't really care about whether music is popular or not. Of course, in the real world, these things can make a difference in terms of cultural currency. Ultimately, Christgau's term, semi-popular music is the best we've got.