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!
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
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