Hernon: June, 2001
Fufkin.com Manifesto: Think for Yourself, Defy Categories
and be a Cultural Amoeba, or "Are You Going to be Part
of the Problem or Part of the Solution?!" circa 2001
know what you are?" asked my by now rankled friend Lucas.
"Youíre a fucking elitist, an obscurest, and an old goddamn
curmudgeon. Thatís what you are. Who the hell died and made
you Cary-fucking-Grant? Huh?"
I glanced at him and pressed my thumb down on the remote's "up" arrow.
The deranged and discordant yakety-yak of the Electric Eels Agitated
plowed through the decibels right on up into gonna-blow-them-shit-speakers-to-bits
distortion. I leapt onto the couch and screamed in concert with the Eels;
"Iím so agitated. Sooo agitated!" I then pounced leopard-like from the
couch back, severely twisting my booze numbed ankle, and danced around
the living room like a wounded buck grazed by some ten-year old hillbilly
being shown the pleasures of huntiní an shootiní daddyís guns. Ignoring
any pain and circling Lucas, I prowled, raving on adrenaline in this laconic
"Jesus man, youíre worse off than even I thought," Lucas said. "Call me
when you arenít so fucking negative anymore."
"Negative?" I moaned from the floor, clutching my already swelling ankle.
"Negative? What the hell does that mean?"
it." Lucas grabbed his keys and turned for the door.
The Eels were still at jet volume so I did a dead manís crawl to the remote,
clutching my ankle with one hand and finally fumbling the remote with
the other. "Wait! What did you mean by Ďnegativeí you bastard?"
Unable to find the volume button, I pressed 'off' and the silence seemed
to knock Lucas off his stride. "What did you mean asshole?" I must have
been screaming because my throat burned. My ears rang. "You canít just
fucking walk out after saying that. Not without me at least throwing a
Lucas laughed. "Look at yourself. Just look at yourself. Christ man, youíre
a wreck - unrecognizable. Shit, I donít even remember who you once were."
"What," I said laughing, "on earth does that dime store psychoanalysis
mean, good doctor? Or should I just front enough cash to just have "clichť"
tattooed right on your fucking forehead?"
Lucas gently eased the door closed behind him. The silence hit me like
a heavyweight sucker punch. I stared through the door for a moment and
then got up and limped over to the mirror on the door to the basement.
"Just look at yourselfÖ youíre a wreck." I looked and smugly muttered,
"pretty good looking guy for thirty-four." Nodding agreeably with myself
I figured Iíd look even better with another beer in my hand.
It took a few days for the whole scene to play itself out. Winding its
way through my pomposity, conceit, and smug denial, the whole ordeal and
all of its implications started making sense after some serious (quite
a feat for me) thought.
I was listening to ex-Thelonious Monster frontman Bob Forrest muddle through
what was sounding like a strikingly similar set of life circumstances
on You Come and Go Like a Pop Song - a set of now year old tunes
Forrest has stamped out under the moniker The Bicycle Thief.
In Thelonious Monster, Forrest was always a beacon for me; a light illuminating
some much needed introspection that seemed to have been completely stripped
from the late post-punk alternative movement at that point. Now here he
was at roughly my same age (he 35, me a year junior) singing the sort
of white middle class pathetic suburban mall culture blues that have haunted
me in recent years, and making complete sense doing so. Not sensible in
the way of each and every word he sang, but in the way he seized that
place in life where and when you are willing to Ė or honestly, you just
need to - bury a good chunk of the "I-know-I-know" naÔvetť of your post-adolescent
early adulthood and get on with whatís important in life.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, itís called getting fucking old, I've known that all
along. Itís just that itís a fucking tough thing to adjust to sometimes,
and it's a bit freakish to hear someone singing what could amount to your
own life's story. Hell, up to this point Iíd figured I was getting over
in the aging department.
At least I wasnít one of these old crotchety rockwrites facing up to the
tombstone blues and singing like a dying sow about the death of rockíníroll,
part IX. I mean, fuck, I was feeling positively prepubescent while trying
to slog my way through grampa Jim Millerís recent rockroll tome Flowers
in the Dustbin - a truly first-rate piece of shit and a hideous rockroll
death certificate of a book. Hey Pops, just get out of the game and keep
your trap shut why don't ya? Just because you stopped listening donít
mean it's dead Ė it just means youíre a little closer to death yourself,
you old windbag.
So it was in those terms that I took my pal Lucasí snide "negative" comment
to heart and found it offensive. Negative my ass. Hell, if anything Iíve
gotten too goddamn soft in my old age. I certainly listen to music with
a less cynical ear, and Iíve become tolerant of others musical, um, taste.
I rarely cringe visibly (Iíve learned to "internalize") when attending
barbecues at a friend's house who happens to be the planets most devoted
Supertramp fan. I tend to just ignore the more vacant mainstream, and
I never commandeer other peoples stereo systems in an attempt to "educate
the tasteless" anymore. Iím so soft you could push your arm halfway through
me these days.
But I still understood what Lucas was getting at. He was dead wrong, but
what he saw as negativity and conceit was in honesty my own dazzling display
of resourceful, pathetic, semi-adult confusion. Caught in between who
I was once and who I am now. Lucas, the poor soul, just happened to be
ensnared in my frightful cocoon when the hideous anguish of "metamorphosis"
was at its boiling point.
"I still love Rock Ďní Roll / I play it everyday / humminí along singiní
the song / Itís the only way / I know how to say / whatís on my mind"
sings a somewhere near sixty-year old Ian Hunter on the opening yarn from
his new platter Rant.
Iíll be damned if I donít get that same groove on every morning I wake
up. Iíve still got a hard-on for rockroll noise, and I always will. It
is still the only way I know how to not only say what is on my mind, but
also how to figure out what the hell should even inhabit my fried dome.
Rock ní roll is still my lifeís beacon; that green light out there on
the end of the pier. The only real change between me and music is that
Iíve finally figured out that thereís no reason to expect or hope for
a revolution anymore. That ideal has been bought, neutered, cleaned-up,
and re-packaged for wider public consumption. The revolution isÖtrendy.
Maybe we were fooled all along. Maybe the "revolution" was a ruse to suck
in outsiders who hadnít bought in to the more typical corporate rockíníroll
culture. Or, more likely, the revolutions, all revolutions, are merely
a twinkling, a short intense spark that signals the start of something.
Whether it be bop jazz in the late 40ís, avant noise jazz in the late
50ís through early 70ís, British invasion era rock, protest folk throughout
the twentieth century, punk, grunge, garage, acid house, trip hop, hip
hop, electronica, etc. etc. etc. Ė the revolutionary charge only exists
in authenticity during that single white hot second that it sets its fuse.
It is a pure but naÔve "mistake" that can't be revisited, lost to the
ethers. As it is, it takes only that split second for the brilliance of
such a spark to attract the larger culture like sharks to a chumming.
Co-opted, the 'mistake' that seemed a revolution becomes the "property"
of tastemakers and trendsetters and is stripped of any edges it may have
as to become inoffensive and more palatable. They win; we lose. Or rather,
weíve been had.
Liethauser, formerly of the firebrand farsifa rocknchaos group Jonathon
Fire*eater, knows the score. His new band (which is his old band rearranged
a bit) The Walkmen have just released a frighteningly good four-song ep
that features an equally as good a take on the cultural morass and confusion
that getting older reveals.
"Weíve Been Had" opens with carousel piano stripped right from Springsteenís
"Incident on 57th Street". As the drums and bass come rolling gently in
Leithauser surveys his rockroll life with an unerring eye. "Iím a modern
guy / I donít care much for the go-go / or the retro image I see so /
often / telling me to keep /trying / maybe youíll get here / someday /keep
up the work kid / okay / I close the book on them right there /I see myself
change as the days change over / I hear the songs and the words donít
change / I write them out of the book right there / Weíve been had / you
say itís over / sometimes Iím just happy Iím older / Weíve been had /
I know itís over / somehow it got easy to laugh out loud".
an earnest, brilliant analysis that bears serious consideration. Itís
not a bad thing to age and become more discriminating. In fact, the process
- the coming of a particular age in which you can move freely from punk
to polka, from bebop to hip hop, from red hot pop to white noise - is
perhaps the ultimate sort of revolution.
Freeing oneself from the constraints of form or genre, no longer forming
identity from a closed set of cultural ideals, and responding to the many
tiny sparks of creation that occur in both the obvious and the obscure
is, in and of itself, the decisive revolt. The massive, controlled cultural
climate is extraordinarily fond of labels and categories and the perfect
commercial beast is the one that is easily controlled, tagged for tracking,
and very predictable.
They know (or they are at least pretty damn sure) who the audience is
for the latest U2 mega-disc. They know how to market it, where to market
it, and when to market it.
also know who the cultists are - the Brian Wilson fiends, the dismayed
post-punk Westerberg-ians, the proto-glam metal heads, the goth-ers, the
alt.country twangs, and the ravers. The industry understands subcultures
better now than ever, and they know how to seep in and control them enough
that they now represent no real alternative, thus, no real threat.
industry is easily able to subvert - marginalize, then divide and conquer
- any real movements toward the people controlling their culture, and
they are able to shape any independent movement into a commercially viable
Itís no wonder that during the TimeWarner/AOL merger a big wig stood on
the steps of Timeís headquarters and proudly proclaimed that the companyís
goal would be to "provide cradle to grave culture and entertainment."
Itís also no wonder that I headed straight for the commode to wretch in
a murderous tizzy.
So what is the alternative? Well, weíre living it my friend. The alternative
is to breeze through the contrived cradle-to-grave cultural mess like
itís a wild apple orchard. Plucking the ones that look good to you, tossing
aside those that taste foul when bitten into, and just taking things in.
Trying the many flavors offered.
alternative is to ignore the hype when a blaring fanfare accompanies the
release of a new U2 record like so many hosannaís and find out for yourself
whatís really there. The alternative is to feel free to tell everyone
that Radiohead is an overblown and boring band, and that Kid A
was a mess of a record, whether you "got it" or not.
The alternative is for you to tell me that you think the Mekons are witless
and dull and for me to tell you that I donít hear anything worthwhile
in the your entire "new power pop" movement. The alternative is for you,
me, us to feel free to venture through a diversity of records, books,
films and new media - for us.
only real alternative is to become a cultural amoeba.
Seeking and absorbing. To harvest a smidgen of life from everything and
anything that gives you a good 'ol kick in the ass, and leaving behind
the shit they're selling. The revolution starts with separating yourself
from a phylum that the powers that be are sure you fall into.
Like the brother David Bowie wrote about, and Ian Hunter sang of, being
back home with his Beatles and his Stones, if you never get enough of
the revolution stuff youíre bound to hit too many snags. And it is one
king-hell of a drag. This is not a revolution of the collective; itís
one of the individual Ė the only kind that ever really works. Common causes
are moot, but the power brought to bear by hundreds, thousands, or (yeah
right) millions who make an abrupt turn toward thinking for themselves,
forming their own opinions, and actively engaging in the ensuing debates
with an open mind toward the diversity of the arguments is insurmountable.
Iím thirty-four years old now and I have had my fill of a certain sort
of cultural gullibility. I think Iíve finally broken through the foolish
sense of being part of a "movement" and have quietly bought into the more
reasonable expectations of dialogue. One that opens up to a community
who prefer the intriguing edification of the underground (which by no
means implies a erudite hipness anymore Ė the underground is basically
everything else that isnít served up merely as product), and not the spoon-fed
mainline bore that has now reached glorious financial heights in stupefying
Weíre not talking hippy-dippy communal shit here; weíre facing up to the
fact that in a fractured world nobody gives a shit whether you or I get
what we need. It's become a buy what theyíre selling, thatís the only
fucking deal on the lot culture. So itís sink or swim time for those who
prefer a little something more than what the current greedheads are offering.
whole fucking rant amounts to nothing more than a plea to the others out
there just trying to survive the vacant, hideous, and genuinely abhorrent
cultural abyss that exists not only in rockroll, but in all aspects of
life to show some fucking signs of life! Thereís no need to march lock
step on anything, but rather the need is to stand firm for something worthwhile
- yourself. Start with youÖyour own identity. Thatíll shake the bastards
up more than anything.
beyond the din of oh-so-familiar voices claiming the death of rock and
roll (over and over and over), outside of this disdainful monopoly game
thatís become far too sickening to play, you gotta go and make your own
rockroll kicks people, because you arenít who they think you are Ė that
is, unless youíve given in, and if thatís the case, well then, youíve
already given up.
"Hope you donít mind if I just sit here awhile / well Iíve been off the
beaten track for a long long time / donít know if I was mislead or just
got lost / but I know nothings never ever gonna be ok again no how / because
everythingís just closing in / and I donít know that I have one single
friend" sings Bob Forrest, his voice dripping the soulful anguish of his
"Boy at a Bus Stop".
apocalyptic, its harrowing, but the boy is you, me, and anyone else who
has been dragged into the new American millennium that promises nothing
and delivers on all of its promises. I couldnít recommend a song (or album
for that matter) more strongly in these Days of Fear. Bob Forrest crawled
up inside of the cultural ass of the "American Century", and although
his is a distinctly Southern Californian experience, its one we've all
dealt with for far too long, and quite frankly, it stinks to high heaven.
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