Friday, January 05, 2007

The Future Already Happened


Kasabian: 'Shoot The Runner'

I was just lazily channel-surfing one night when I spotted this video by a UK band called Kasabian, supposedly one of those fashionable post-Britpop acts now championed by England's indierock Bible NME.

This song sounded to me like a sort of combination of early 70s glamrock's stomping boogie beat with the pyrotechnics guitar psychedelia of late 60s; with even some organ sounds in the middle eight reminiscing of Pink Floyd's 'One of These Days'. The Kasabian video itself could be called quite Beatle-esque, with its rotoscope animation and UV light/day-glo colours reminiscing of the 1968 cartoon film Yellow Submarine, and the singer even wearing a sort of 19th century military jacket donned by The Beatles members (and Jimi Hendrix, too) during their Sergeant Pepper era. Add to this some Jackson Pollock abstract expressionism paint splashes also favoured by The Stone Roses.

My ongoing gripe has been for a long time that rock these days seems to be merely some retroist nostalgia pastiche trip whereas once that genre of music could even be called genuinely futuristic. Not futuristic in the science fiction sense of having such imagery as robots (the number one cliché in electro), faster-than-light spaceships and so on, but being futuristic music in the sense that it looked joyously into the future and tried to create something totally new by the very way it was conceived, arranged and produced. 'Strawberry Fields Forever' by The Beatles in 1967 or Giorgio Moroder's production for Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' about ten years later were in this sense futuristic music for their own eras. Whereas a band or a musical act in 2007 trying to emulate the sounds of George Martin's productions for The Beatles or Moroder's proto-Italodisco would be helplessly retroist. So, even if I could enjoy a track by a current band like Kasabian as a clever and well-executed retroist pastiche of my favourite yesteryear bands, my enjoyment can't be totally and thoroughly honest and unreserved. Well, I'm totally aware that my personal quest for that genuine futurism in today's music is just completely naïve and not a little bit Quixotic.

Could such genres currently in vogue as grime or dubstep offer me that elusive sense of being honestly "future music", then? There was a time when even the most blatant chart pop bands could at least pretend they had some sort of social agenda in their music, but these days it's very hard to find anything like that in the psychopathic drive-by shooting fantasies of hip-hop and the empty bling-bling hedonism of R&B: for example, Lethal Bizzle's grime classic 'Forward Riddim' includes such lyrical strokes of genius as: "Killa killa real deal/Niggas know the real deal/Don't care how you feel/I will be cockin' back my steel straight/Bullets bullets run run/Fire fire bun/If you don't like killa killa/Nigga you can suck your mum". But well, you can't really blame the mirror for only reflecting its environment, can you? (Probably with grime and dubstep I would be more interested in sounds and production, anyway, than whatever lyrical content they might claim to have.) Once people actually thought they can change the world with music. From a traditional leftist-Marxist point of view there seems not to be much room for any social commentary in the early 21st century music, which is rather emphasizing the instant emotional gratification than creating any uneasy questions in a listener.