I AM LEGION“: or Making the Contradiction the Hook

Aging leftists often wring their hands and shake their heads: “What happened to rock? In my day it was the soundtrack to the revolt against war…” And then they up and blame the corporate leisure industry or postmodernism or whatever other handy get-out phantom impresses them, and pass back inside their little niche-marketed mediazone, where noble uncomplicated elves-of-light battle depraved uncomplicated orcs-of-darkness. Meanwhile the First Punk President continues – brilliantly – to keep his constituency comfortable with their own conflictedness (as in eg: the white southern semi-poor assuming/hoping the party they fanatically support actually seriously fights for things they want, when it mostly doesn’t any more; libertarians mistaking Bush for a libertarian; conservatives mistaking him for a conservative; xtians mistaking him for an xtian… and so on).

So, last minute White Knight ahoy?! Eminem’s “Mosh” – pre-released kinda now on the interweb – is a bit of a dirge, and I’m not sure his constituency is what it was around the time of “Stan”, but it still does what he does best = compress the contradictions into a bolt of self-hating angry coherence (black rap presents as community, many voices in disrespectful intra-discourse; Em as always does all the voices himself: the community acts out its battles inside his own head). And instead of “coherence” I lazily wrote “energy” first, which is a. lame promo-speak, and b. untrue: the energy stays in suspension inside, to be sought for at multi-replay and relisten, which may be a problem for what I assume MM wants this record to do, this late stage. There’s all kinds of reasons the “Youth Vote” went back to sleep after the 60s – one being the fact that they fought for and GOT musics (and film and TV and… ) which variously provided outlet for all kinds of lesser frustration – but MM is right and aging leftists are wrong, if they think the anger-energy isn’t just as present now, latently, as it wz in 1969, overtly. But yeah, now either it’s locked deep inside, and needs to be unlocked: or the different broken bits of the ring have been secreted in different market sectors and niches (and it wz consumers demanded and got this soothing separation, it was hardly an imposition). The bits need to brought cracklingly together: there’s a potent ‘together’ in “Mosh” – invoking the confederate “rebel yell” in a rap?! – but I’m not sure I caught the crackle.

But of course it’s the reception that animates pop: the performer throws the lump of phosphorus into the air — does it land in the bucket of water (our hopes and dreams and needs and rage) or skitter uselessly under the fridge…