Would Have Been Stupid (part 2)

As a brief follow-up to the below-posted blistering critique of Best Coast’s apparent sympathies for the “punk-band-as-marketing-tool” business model/life plan/income generation rubric, and to the spirit of capitalism in general, I will now train my sights on more worthy prey: SONIC YOUTH.

A fair objection to said critique of Best Coast’s gross grasping might be that they don’t identify their band as a “punk” or “underground” band with any sort of political agenda or motivation. Granted, despite the fact that these were the backgrounds that birthed them and the foundation ‘pon which the BC empire were built. NO MATTER! A similar evasion cannot be successfully performed by Sonic Youth, whose history, as a matter of public record, is thoroughly intertwined with various underground music and art communities and currents.

A recent article by Eric Harvey posted on Pitchfork surveyed some recent comments that Steve Albini made about Sonic Youth and their association with the “mainstream music industry.” There is some back and forth about the drawbacks and benefits of major vs. “indie” record labels which I will not rehash; the result being the Sonic Youth are praised for their shrewd business acumen and careerist tendencies for getting a slice of that nice good money:

In a lot of ways, Sonic Youth are anti-Albinis: proud capitalists and Capital-A artists, seeking that ever-elusive label combination of effective distribution, honest accounting, creative control, and cool coworkers.


I think it’s much less important to wonder if Sonic Youth were ultimately “right” or “wrong” in seeking a major label deal, and more interesting to consider that the band– in spite of its art-world and punk cred– at its core privileged pragmatism over ideology.

Major vs. minor league is not what ruffles my feathers so much as the attitude of PEOPLE THESE DAYS. Inescapable are the tentacles of the post-industrial quasi-capitalist death machine, but does that mean we must be GRATEFUL for being granted the opportunity to become more thoroughly ensnared in its besuckered tangles? If Sonic Youth felt obligated to participate in the mainstream record industry, why do they have to be “proud” of it?

Our economic system as currently practiced is destroying the physical planet and reversing whatever modest cultural/social/political/advancements that one may argue have been made over the past few centuries. Unapologetic participation in and tacit support for its ruthless machinations sort of undercuts the credibility of whatever subversive or “alternative” ideas one may be trying to convey with one’s noise rock/punk band, AMIRITE?  I am left having to suppose that most Sonic Youth fans and Pitchfork readers are not looking for subversive cultural materials, but rather for the correct flavor of guitar-tinged din to accompany their cappucinos/commutes/mating rituals, etc.


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