When art imitates life and life imitates commerce imitating art imitating life, bad things happen. The underground, subculture, counterculture – call it what you will – is constantly being devoured by the mainstream and regurgitated back as products for the ADD-stricken and media-numb masses and too-young-to-know-different to consume in a never ending fruitless pursuit of identity and spiritual fulfillment in a culture divorced of purpose and meaning. This process effectively subjugates and disarms any free-thought borne of the underground; when that which is a threat to the current order of things is ultimately absorbed by the current order of things it is no longer a threat (John Lennon, The Sex Pistols, The Clash – I recently heard a muzak version of a Bob Marley tune at a conference center hotel). Sometimes when an idea bubbles up intact from the underground it can have a profound transformative effect on the culture. However when commerce seizes upon that idea and turns it into a product, that idea is instantly transformed into an idea of itself and thereby rendered impotent; I also recently saw a photo of a young girl wearing a pink peace-symbol-adorned sweatshirt firing a semi-automatic weapon. Such is the engine of capitalism. How much of this is a sinister mechanism of control and how much of this is simply capitalism at work, I do not know. It used to be that by the time the mainstream had digested an idea or a movement and began selling it back to the population, the counterculture had already moved on to greener pastures. And while this is still mostly the case, the corporate marketing machine has gotten much more savvy while its scope of influence has increased tenfold thanks to the digital age and ever-increasing corporate control. Meanwhile, the rate of “absorption and regurgitation” has increased exponentially. This has inevitably led to all sorts of social anomalies, artifacts and collateral damage. The lines get very blurry, very fast. After all, this process is not so cut and dry. Now we have kids making art that imitates commerce and while this in itself could potentially be a wonderfully devious and profoundly subversive undertaking if the art were self aware and revealed some deeper understanding and or commentary, it usually instead is vacuous, repugnant, insidious and an insult to the legacy of free-thinking. What is so insidious about bands like Kyoto Drive is that they adorn a counterculture affect as if it were simply a fashion statement while making art that to my ears sounds like high budget corporate top 40 radio swill (with more guitars) purporting to be a counter argument. Don’t get me wrong, I love myself some pop music when I’m in the mood, but artists like Rihanna, Drake, Lady Gaga own and completely inhabit their mainstream pop aesthetic. In all likelihood, Kyoto Drive means well and I’m sure that they enjoy making the music they make and I’m sure many other people do too (I’m sure Kyoto Drive will do well for themselves and I wish them the best), and it is very likely that I’m just getting old and am missing something here, but Jesus f’n Christ I did not enjoy listening to this album.
You frustrated suburban kids who might be into this stuff, do yourself a favor, listen to some Unwound, Drive Like Jehu, Hoover, Crownhate Ruin, Sleepytime Trio, Jesus Lizard for godsake! And don’t worry, things change; you won’t always be stuck in high school living in nowhere-ville with crappy parents.