Po-Mo Rock: Or Why Our Critic Loves Urge But Doesn't Get GBV

ATN Toronto correspondent Johnny Walker (Black) reports: This show--which

took place at Toronto's Phoenix nightclub this

past Wednesday--was a case study in the highs and lows of postmodern

culture. The problematic concept here is "irony," of which both

Guided By Voices and Urge Overkill, as key representatives of

Postmodern America, explicitly deal in.

First, the downside. Too often in this era, anything crap that is

supposed to be sufficiently "ironic" in nature (i.e. a no-talent

fortysomething guy with a beer gut--GBV's Robert Pollard--singing in a

fake British accent backed by fake punk music) is given credibility.

[Editor's note: Walker has, apparently, been drinking a bit too much Johnny

Walker Black, and has lost his bearings regarding GBV, one of the best rock

bands of the '90s.] Call it the Ed Wood syndrome: so crap that it's good!

Watching

Dayton, Ohio's Guided By Voices is thus an essentially

self-conscious exercise: you know that they know they suck, and they

know that you know that they know they suck, and on and on ad

infinitum. This little in-joke--which so appeals to many rock

critics, who constantly rate this band very highly--is supposed to

absolve them of the fact that they can't play, can't sing, can't do

much of anything at all really, except irritate. Maybe I'm an

incorrigible modernist, but I can't get with the program here.

More specifically, if I want to watch some drunken buffoon swill

copious amounts of beer, stagger around and knock things over, I can

go down to my corner pub on a Friday night. As a matter of fact, I

can do it myself if nobody else will. I guess this is Robert

Pollard's idea of a "punk" D.I.Y. ethic, but hey man, where's the

talent? Actually, for all their supposed antagonism toward hippies,

punks subscribe(d) to the exact same Rousseauian (as in Jean-Jacques)

formula: we're all equal, anybody can do it, and so on. The

plain

fact of the matter, however, seems to be the opposite. Great art is

always a matter of someone doing something that you can't do,

whether it's John Lydon sneering "God Save The Queen" or Charles

Bukowski writing Women. It seems that Pollard wants to combine the

working class-artiste personae of these two, but lacking their

ability, he merely comes off as a lout who's snuck away from the wife

for an evening, and is so stirred by this momentary freedom that he

proceeds to make an ass out of himself in pubic.

To sum it up, then, Guided By Voices are shit. [Editor's note: No matter

how many times Mr. Walker expresses his opinion, no matter how loudly he

shouts it from the rooftops, it doesn't change reality, reality being that

GBV are an extremely talented band making vital music.] Not so shit

they're good, either. Just shit. (And a note to GBV "bassist" and

sometimes anti-Anglo rock scribe Jim "Kim Deal's my girlfriend" Greer:

if this is what you're positing as an alternative to all those "awful"

British bands like Suede, Oasis and Blur, you'd better call Guccione

Jr. up and get your old job back. And your attempt to look like Ron

Asheton only reminded me how good The Stooges were, and how miserably

far GBV fall short of the mark).

On to more pleasant matters. In contrast to GBV, Chicago's Urge