"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
It might be
enough just to say that Greil Marcus is responsible for
Gina Arnold as
a rock critic. But his verbal gymnastics - or at least step aerobics -
have spawned so many imitators that he must take
for the last 20 years
of rock criticism. Mere public censure is
probably not enough punishment
for such a crime - a transgression
of this magnitude deserves
retribution in kind, like a lifetime
subscription to Punk Planet.
It's Marcus whose inscrutable, Berkeley, California-bred theorizing created a genre of music writing that is hyperbolically personal and cutely political - and somehow still meaningless. Back in 1981, before everybody got into the act, there was something laudable in the sheer audaciousness of quoting Barthes in a Go-Gos review: "The pleasure of the Go-Gos' music is also the pleasure of people getting it right. It is as well the pleasure of responding to what Roland Barthes called 'the materiality of the body.'" Indeed, Marcus' greatest gift and most dangerous legacy is his ability to string together the phrases "history of punk rock," "pop music," "international capitalism," "revanchist politics," and "the Rolling Stone's Let It Bleed" as though the dynamism of the whole could make up for the feebleness of the parts.
And in doing so, he convinced a generation of writers that grafting theory onto an obscure single was equal to writing about music. In its mildest form, this kind of thinking produces mere unintelligibility ("to quote Marx and the Mekons quoting Marshall Berman quoting Marx ..."). At times, however, it can produce whole books, like his 1989 Harvard Press pseudo-tome, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of Rock and Roll, which managed to stretch its associative vine-swinging over 200, tabloid-sized pages. Marcus convinced this generation further that personal revelations ("I kinda like Bruce Springsteen!"), even embarrassing ones ("Fleetwood Mac isn't so bad!"), are actually critical watersheds - or can be portrayed as such, if you couch them in metaphors about politics.
There's a direct link, in other words, from Greil Marcus to every two-bit alt.weekly blurberator in the country. Professor, we salute you!
courtesy of the Sucksters