Monday, June 4, 2012

Looking again at this "interview" with Tortoise I did in 1996 -- exhumed by The Quietus in collaboration with Rock's Backpages -- I was struck by how the concerns of both Rip It Up and Start Again and Retromania are already present in it. Well I'm nothing if not consistent....

"American rock seems to have come to terms with the fact that it's now an essentially conservative force.... Reverence and referentiality are all-pervasive; parricide and canon-busting nowhere to be found."

"The current moment in white American rock feels uncannily like Britain in 1979. Kurt Cobain's suicide seemed like a death-knell for rock itself... just as Johnny Rotten's auto-destruct of the Pistols and Sid Vicious' OD signaled "rock is dead" back in '78. ...  Lydon formed the experimental, studio-based unit, Public Image Limited, who quickly became figureheads of an anti-rockist vanguard....  the result was Metal Box, music that retained the emotional force of rock but expanded/exploded the form. Post-rock, in other words. Perhaps Tortoise are the American PiL.... [and] Millions Now Living Will Never Die is the US underground's long overdue Metal Box"

Or perhaps not.

Ah, the lost promise of Tortoise. Who would have thought (not me then, clearly) that "Djed" and "Gamera" b/w "Cliff Dweller Society" would be as good as it got.

And then a further doubt: how good was that, then?

It's music I've not gone back to, subsequently. Like certain other touchstone-totem-talisman type bands whose music became a blank sheet for projections and prophecies (Loop, Butthole Surfers...) I have shied away from a revisiting. (Whereas there's other T-T-T-type music  I've never stopped listening to--hardcore, jungle, 2step--or never stopped for very long--MBV, AR Kane).

Still, I wasn't alone in over-esteem / over-estimation, that's for sure. There was a micro-climate of opinion. (An NYC gig; my companion, a post-rock fellow-traveler, spies John McEntire in the audience; before he hastens over to hob-nob, the companion informs me that the Tortoise leader/Sea and Cake member/in-demand producer is "one of the fifty most important people in America". Even at the time this struck me as OTT).

Still, when all's said and done, a better 1990s taste-stance to have had than exalting Archers of Loaf, shall we say. 

(Or Carter, for that matter).

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