More Radiobashing

This time, though, I don’t agree with it.  This from Oasis’ Noel Gallagher (typically Gallaghan strong language, be warned)

    They’re [Radiohead] middle-class boys worrying about pushing an envelope somewhere, and all that carbon footprint and all that bollocks. Every time there’s a polar bear on his tiptoes on an ice cube in the middle of the Antarctic, you know whose fault that is? Rock stars’. That’s their fault. Any time there’s food running out somewhere– ‘Let’s do a gig. That’ll sort it out. Let’s do a big fucking gig. Let’s fly everybody in from all over the world and pontificate to poor people about how they should be saving the planet.’ Go fucking kiss my ass. It’s very easy to just say, ‘We’re going to become difficult now and challenge our audience.’ I like my audience. They paid for my swimming pool. I’m not fucking challenging anybody. [via Stereogum, of course]

Whooo!  Let me start by saying that I’d love to respond to this just as sarcastically as Gallagher “responded” to Radiohead’s, I dunno, life decisions?, but in the name of keeping it clean, I’ll just quote Barack Obama:

It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

The British Oasis recently flew in a jumbo jet to North America, where they motored across the continent in at least two gas-chugging buses (not to mention the buses of opening act Ryan Adams & the Cardinals), starting at the Pacific Ocean in Seattle and ending near the east coast in Toronto.  They played a whopping total of eight shows and traveled 13,328 miles (including the flights) to do so, and are far from the only rock band running the roads this summer.  The fact that he thinks that rock touring has no environmental impact is, well, ignorant. 

That’s not really the point of his quote, I know, and I do understand Gallagher’s problem with Radiohead, though it does seem a bit silly coming from him; the Gallaghers have always been biting at Thom Yorke’s frail ankles, both artistically and personally, and it’s not like the Gallaghers (particularly Liam) have ever kept their opinions to themselves.  But to act like Radiohead are being snobby by trying to offset the environmental effects of their touring is nothing more than a reverse snobbery, a we’re-more-rocka-roll-than-you fingerpoint.  

There’s this strange rock ‘n’ roll mythology that says that true rock ‘n’ rollers are rebellious, shirk responsibility, and generally frighten the decent folk.  I’m not sure what that comes from — I’m willing to point my hipbones at Elvis, I think — but it’s becoming something of an outdated notion, thanks in no small part to bands like Radiohead, who, following the path laid before them by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Band, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, etc etc etc, believe that rock music can be artistic.  (And, yes, all of these bands did at one point shock and frighten the status quo, but they never refused to take themselves seriously.  In fact, with a few exceptions (Dinosaur Jr, maybe?), most enduring rock music bows to this conviction.  In other words, it’s willing to acknowledge its own power, even when it’s rocking the bodies to the back of the hall.  (See: Bruce Springsteen leading New York City after 9/11.)  And if you were to pin one of the Gallaghers down and strip away the thick, thick layers of cynicism and sarcasm, I’m sure they’d tell you the same; if this music didn’t mean anything to them, they wouldn’t have started doing it in the first place, and they sure wouldn’t have continued.  

This tendency to claim that rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t matter, and so the actions of its makers don’t matter, and so its implications are of no great import, is bunk.  And sad.  And while I’ll grant you that there’s little more annoying than a rock star whose concept of his self-importance greatly outweighs his actual importance (so tempted to name names here), there’s nothing sadder than being told that that song that you hold so close to your soul doesn’t matter, either.  

Mick Jagger, the veritable bard of tossed-off rock lyrics, claimed that it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but that didn’t stop him from exploring this same idea in one of the most entertaining and thoughtful rock songs ever written.  “Sympathy for the Devil” is, first and foremost, a sticky-hot rock song, right down to the juxtaposed “woo-woo”s and the snarling guitar solo.  But besides that, it’s a critique of humanity’s refusal to take responsibility for its actions.  “I made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed His fate,” Jagger sings of Jesus Christ, and while Oasis sure as hell aren’t sharpening their nails, their who-gives-a-rotty-fuck attitude isn’t too far from it.  

And, no, I don’t like In Rainbows, but I’m still going to give Radiohead the benefit of the doubt more often than not; can’t say the same for the brothers Gallagher.


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