26
Jun 02

David Wild and David Plotz

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David Wild and David Plotz give the ’80’s a poke with a long stick to reassure themselves that, yep, they’re still dead. Inanity ensues.

If they want to be comtemptuous of their subject, fine. It’s their perogative. The problem is the form their contempt completely disables their critical faculties. Criticism connects the dots, compares x with y, spins narratives from discrete facts — which I guess is to say that a critic that does his job realizes that, strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as a fad, and that every historical fact has its reasons and its consequences. But none of that for the two Davids. They’d rather remind their readers, again and again and again, of the distance between the writers and their subject, and their subject’s almost total disconnect from history. Even when they admit to moments of the sublime, they’re tucked away into the safe irony of the “guilty pleasure.”

So we get the cute but utterly pointless personal sub-anecdotes of that by-gone time. Hey, David Wild scored in the ’80’s! Yeah, like I give a fuck. And David Plotz offers even more needless reminiscences, embarrassing but “ingratiatingly” so, ha-ha-ha, boy, weren’t we all innocent cornballs then but we’re not now! Right? Right?

Since they figure since they can’t connect with the eighties, nobody else can either: ergo, David Plotz states matter-of-factly that the eighties revival has not occurred. That’s a claim that…well, fuck. Did either of them live through the same decade I did? The 90’s, I mean, not the ’80’s: 1984 at Crowbar started all the way back in 1991 or maybe 1990 even, the very grandaddy of 80’s revivalism, albeit less a “cocaine-fueled Members Only-themed ’80s” party than a chance for gay folk to relive their prom night the right way. Then you got minor little counter-exceptions like Daft Punk and the only Adam Sandler movie not worth obliterating; now we’ve got Cleopatra Records and The Cure vs. Missy Elliot bootlegs and the nu-electro movement.

This myopia for past and present events isn’t especially surprising. Like its older brother, the 70’s-themed Have a Nice Day series, it’s a vision of musical past that self-consciously passes over The Great Men (and Women) of Pop History and certain critically-acceptable subcultures. These are the organizning concepts with which most rock writers rely on to understand rock history. These writers assume anything that retained some degree of autonomy from these cultural prime movers must merely have quirks and dead-ends. So of course, this means the power ballad is now dead (not as long as Celine Dion or Marc Anthony has a job) or that “man-machine-hair-gel” was a “chimera” (last time I checked, non-acoustic sound and hair-care products were in just about every nook and cranny of the Top 40 and elsewhere).

I’m not asking either writer to love ’80’s music, or 00’s music for that matter, ’cause it also take a beating. In fact, I’d prefer it if they were more splenetic; it’d mean that something other than their smugness was at stake, plus it’d save us from all the smarmy Corey Hart refs. But it’d probably also mean they’d have to be a little more serious. Well, I hesitate to say “serious” because that implies a kind of academic approach that, while fun, is not something I expect to see in a general-interest webzine. OK, how about achieving a cool (but not humorless) rationality next time? Is that too much to ask for?

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