Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More on the practice of 'Wyatting'...

From K-Punk's blog in the July archives - this is a heavy one, and involves some serious class analysis!


I think we can gain another insight the big Other from ‘Wyatting’. I remain deeply ambivalent about the phenomenon, but I’m more sympathetic to the motives of some of those involved after reading Carl Neville’s account of participating in it. Carl’s attack on ‘that horribly sentimentalized middle class viewpoint that its horrendous to sneer at "normal" people and disrupt their "normal" perfectly harmless Friday nights out etc,’ gets to the heart of what is wrong with Popism and its academic twin, Cult Studs. There’s an awful poignancy to Carl’s description of he and his fellow Wyatters’

love/hate relationship with the class that we were always estranged from but for which none the less we continue to nurture a kind of angry hope..we are appallingly conflicted ourselves.. there is for us a particular heightened poignancy in, for example, putting on card-carrying-Commie Robert Wyatt's exquisite version of "Red Flag" in a pub full of pissed-up Proles and watching them pull faces and shout to have it turned off... a particularly bitter amusement, compounded of many emotions...

The question Carl poses at the end - ‘how do you Wyatt a bar full of Resonance FM listeners.... a bar full of super eclectic, super ironic Fashionistas (I'm guessing M-People's " Elegant Slumming", is pretty much the key.)’ – makes it clear that what constitutes Noise is structural position rather than any inherent features of the sound itself. Wyatting can be seen as one response to the impasse that Simon described in his piece on Noise in Blissed Out: without a big Other who can be annoyed and scandalized, Noise loses it cache.

The fact that the site for Wyatting is pubs is also revelatory, especially in a week in which Top of the Pops is finally limping to its inglorious end. Part of the thrill we got from performances by the likes of Japan and the Associates on Top of the Pops came from the fact that they we knew they were being broadcast into so-called ‘normal’ living rooms. The ‘normal’ context of the show itself - the hopelessly out-of-touch pre-Yoof Radio 1 presenters and the mediocrity of the surrounding bands - added to the intensity. But those bizarre incongruities were features of Old Media broadcasting, elminated by the proliferation of niche marketed narrowcast digital channels. The only site you will be able to reach anything like a general audience now is, indeed, pubs, so it is here that digitial hyper-choice can come into tension with ‘normality’. It is difficult, though, to see that tension generating anything but pointless rancour and/ or bemused incomprehension. British people will defend, sometimes literally to the death, their absolute right to reality-confirming convalescent oblivion. The game was up when breweries managed to successfully market pubs as anything other than places in which the defeated and the dejected - old men and (pre-Cool) Coronation Street characters - shuffled off into the sidings of life. The Rover's Return: Britain's popcultural answer to Waiting for Godot: a confirmation that 'no-one moves', that any attempt to escape ends up in the same drab familiarity. Pubs, like universities, are unredeemable; nothing can ever happen in them. That is what they are for: to suck everything into a black hole of vegetative inertia…


I guess there's an underlying theme of nostalgia here for the days of Top of the Pops at 7pm, and when there was no internet radio or cable to offer dazzling choice. In other words, it was a kind of 'special' moment when your favourite indie band appeared on TOTP/The Tube/The Old Grey Whistle Test, or when John Peel played Half Man Half Biscuit, etc because it was like a rare gateway into a more exciting universe of left-field music before the program just put on some bland tosh again (which would have been dreadful power-pop in the mid 80's - Deacon Blue, Wet Wet Wet, Level 42, that sort of thing). Whereas now, you can just go on YouTube and get footage of the band you want straight away, or buy a DVD of the band's performances. Music has become decentralised.

No comments: