May 06 2005

Band That Doesn’t Rehearse Graciously Declines To Make Records

The Bays (photo copped from Guardian Unlimited)

If only more bands had the tact and taste of the Bays.

In these troubled times of sexy cheerleading and scandals at “American Idol,” one doesn’t ordinarily perform the mental exertions necessary to separate the idea of music from the idea of music recordings. But waft away with me now, just for a second, on the gentle breeze of cognition, and compare the character and purpose of one to the other. Unless you are simple, you will agree that one is art, the other is commodity, and that what we have here is antithesis.

Now, don’t argue with me. You can look the other way on this art vs. commerce thing all you want, but conflating intellection with shopping is yukky.

Music still comes in live performance form, but increasingly these appearances seem an almost perfunctory duty, a promotion of the real product: the studio recording made last year at great expense. Even in the scrappiest, authentickest little club you will find, in a smelly corner, under the glare of a cheap shop light, the Merch Table. This is where the bass player’s girlfriend languishes during the band’s set with a beat-up sticker-covered suitcase from a second-hand store. The suitcase is full of “product”–the expensive CD, of course, and T-shirts (L and XL only, unless there’s a chick in the band ) that must be sold to pay for the expensive CD. In the weekly paper a month or two earlier, a white male writer in his early thirties will have opined that the CD, “even at its most raucous, is more restrained” than the live band.

And there it is: art vs. commerce.

As a result we have the odious Music Industry. Dope pedlars and schmucks, telling us music = CDs, CDs = lifestyle. Their customers like CDs, find their effects palliative. As spiritual lidocaine, CDs have their place, but compared to the magnificent thing they purport to mimic, my god they’re boring. Because what are they but clones of a single faked performance, executed over the course of weeks or months, expressly to make money? They’re like cheap lucite souvenir paperweights, cheesy baubles with the stink of mercenary all over’em. Of what value are they?

Wouldn’t it be simpler, and prettier, to chuck the cheesy bauble, and just have the art? If music recordings didn’t exist, not only would car commercials be silent at last, but music would be cool again. Admit it; you are dying to see what these Bays are all about. Maybe they’re great, and the show would be a hoot. And maybe they suck, so thank god they haven’t inflicted themselves on posterity. Either way, it’s a win-win.


Skip to comment form

  1. Steve Pick


    There is just as much commerce in music that is live, and just as much if not more art in music that is recorded. Remarkably, most art in history has been tied up with commerce as if they were running a three-legged race. Sometimes the art side is taller, and sometimes the commerce, but you can’t generalize that either one gets to escape from the other. Unless, of course, you want art to exist without any way of affecting anybody outside of the artists inner circle.

    Besides, CDs can be played at lower volumes, can be played more than once, can be played when nobody is smoking, can be played in your car, can be played when you’re typing a comment on a blog. Live music, which certainly has its charms and thrills, is not ever gonna do any of that.

    Meanwhile, I wish I had recordings of people who made music before 1920 (if they were black) or 1890 (if they were white).

  2. The Col

    I never thought you would find something to like in a jam band.

  3. Twisty

    Ha, Steve, I thought this one might coax you out of your hidey-hole!

    I doubt I would have the all same objections to recorded music if it was free. As you know, I prefer to ignore hard facts and daydream outside the parameters of established paradigms. Yes, capitalism is a fact. But my belief that it corrupts truth remains unshaken.

  4. Man with three older feminist sisters

    Beautiful. Thank you for letting the dog wag the tail.

Comments have been disabled.