smelly stink pun

February 10, 2009

This week’s L.A. Weekly decided that No Age is today’s epitome of punk:

It is then that you get that they are so much more than a band, they are deliverance — they are everything everyone says they are — everything we’ve wished and waited for in punk.

Deliverance? Punk? It’s true that No Age and The Smell are doing something amazing, but punk? What happened to “post-alt-rock-noise-crust-grunge”? Do any of these words even mean anything?

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You don’t have to make a history book out of it, but The Smell definitely started something in this festering city with more musicians than real music. Through a no-alcohol policy, constant local band lineups, and its piss-soaked location, the little venue that could built a dedicated underground following. But just because it’s underground, doesn’t mean it’s punk. And just because cover stories heralding the triumphant return of dingy hangouts for under-supervised teens-cum-Grammy nominees say it’s punk doesn’t mean it is either.

The eastside created a culture as an escape from the mind-numbing, static banality of the mainstream, but—in a fit of irony that only one member of No Age seems to be aware of—is succumbing to the same feedback loop as No Age finally breaks from a year of touring to realize that all the high school kids that saw them on MTV are now massing to form awkward sold-out crowds at the Smell!! The fact that No Age left a burgeoning grit scene and came home to a room full of newbies who were “glancing peripherally for cues on whether to dance and how,” shows the amount of hold the culture industry has and how fast it can ruin disconformity. No one is spared–not even urine-smelling alley venues. Not even No Age.

Does this signal the end of the organic aspect of Smell bands? Are we all bearing witness to another loss of subculture?

When an underground music scene like the one surrounding the Smell becomes massified, it eliminates the essence and detracts from its authentic nature. Because our gritty downtown scene is so hinged on its context, once you send a Smell band on tour, they cease to be Smell bands and all performances not done at the Smell are just attempts to reproduce one. Doing this draws even greater distance between the audience and the band so that a sold-out show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom has no correlation to the actual scene that the band embodies.

No Age is as punk to New York teens being fed Los Angeles underground as the Sex Pistols are to American kids buying Never Mind the Bullocks on iTunes. Which is to say, not a lot).

The dirty underbelly of L.A. music has come a long way since the Masque days of Hollywood punk, but it risks being eliminated at the hands of its inceptors. They created a new culture as a vehicle of protest against Sunset Strip cock rock and although these punk rock ethics had a nice run under the radar in downtown Los Angeles, the influx of publicity to the scene is threatening its fragile existence. Bummer, dudes.

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In another observance that I won’t ramble on about, but did anyone else notice that L.A. Weekly redesigned to match the LARecord font and line-heavy, big-art layout? Way to take inspiration from the low and put it on high as if it was there in the first place, fuckos.

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