The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'commercialisation'
Writing in the Torygraph, Alex Proud (of Proud Galleries) bemoans the “Shoreditchification” of London, the process by which the phenomenon of hipster culture (by now, heavily leveraged with marketing) seizes rundown areas of the city and forcibly makes them over, raising rents, replacing local shops with gimmicky bars catering to affluent 26-35-year-olds, and ultimately leaving them open for the bankers and Foxtons to take over; sort of like the Shock Doctrine, only with ironic facial hair and upcycled furniture:
You find a previously unnoticed urban neighbourhood, ideally one that’s a bit down on its luck. Pioneer hipsters move in and coolhunters ensure it starts trending on Twitter. A year later, the mainstream media notices and, for the next 12 months, the neighbourhood is byword for urban cool. Soon property prices soar pushing the original residents out, the bankers (always a trailing indicator) begin to move in and a Foxtons opens. Finally, the New York Times runs a piece in which it “discovers” the area and the cycle is complete. The last hipsters move on and find a new neighbourhood to play with.Shoreditch, Proud asserts, is long past the terminal phases of this phenomenon, being a “cold-climate Aiya Napa”, frequented by stag-party tourists from Essex. Dalston, the hipster haunt of recent years, is past it as well (despite there still being completely unhip and unironic Turkish restaurants alongside the basement DJ bars and Giorgio Moroder-themed pizza joints; never mind, though, by the time Kanye West and Kim Kardashian open their matching fashion shops in Dalston and the Essex stag parties start negotiating the Overground in to take in its lad-mag-certified cool, it will doubtlessly be as dead as a doornail), with Peckham being about to be jettisoned for somewhere further out; possibly even, Proud reckons, Croydon.
Which more or less makes sense, until Proud posits a counterexample of “sustainable cool”: Camden.
So, what is the solution? The solution is to treat places like proper neighbourhoods rather than Apple products with a two-year upgrade cycle. Here I hold up Camden as an example. OK, I know I have a vested interest, but Camden was cool in 1994 (and even 1984) and it’s still cool in 2014. It has, dare I say it, sustainable coolness. True, at no point in time will be it be as achingly “now” as a speakeasy in a repurposed public loo in Camberwell selling dirty cocktails in jam jars, but that’s the point. Sustainable cool knows which bandwagons to ignore.Which is quite ironic, given that Camden seems to be as much a spent force, as far as any sort of living counterculture goes, as swinging Carnaby Street or the King's Road of Malcolm McLaren's day. Camden, of course, had been ground zero of Britpop, that third coming of Mod, that time as a hidebound and flag-draped back-to-basics conservative backlash. (In his book The Psychic Soviet, rock performer and cultural critic Ian Svenonius drew parallels between Britpop and the Southern Rock movement of the 1970s, in that both took a genre which had been free-wheeling and countercultural and remade it in the image of a flag-waving, reactionary traditionalism. More recently, Britpop has again been in the news, as Tory-affiliated cheesemonger Alex James has announced that he is registering the term as a trademark for a line of sugarwater.) And while Britpop might not have had the oversized folkbeards, mason-jar cocktails or overuse of the word “artisanal” that have made Hipster™ an easy target for jokes over the past decade or so*, Camden circa the mid-90s was pretty much the definition of “achingly “now””.
Britpop may not have started in Camden, but it gained critical mass there, in places like the Good Mixer; the resulting chain reaction sucked all the oxygen out, leaving behind pure marketing cranked up to 11. Camden these days is about raking through the rich seams of Britain's (and, to a lesser extent, the globalised Anglosphere's) history of post-rock'n'roll subcultural cool and producing tables of manufactured tat. Go to Camden Market, contend with the thronging masses of what William Gibson termed the Childrens' Crusade, and you will see what is essentially a meat market of dead subcultures, where well-preserved cuts of Punk, Goth, Emo and Belieber are served up to wide-eyed teenagers from smaller places all over the world, alongside the ubiquitous pirated T-shirts extolling the virtues of poor impulse control in series of three badly-drawn pictographs, identical to the ones in any Hot Topic in America or any tourist market in Thailand.
* One could, however, make the case that the two-stroke Italian motorscooters that became fashionable with the Mod-revival-revival phase of Britpop are, in today's time, a far more ridiculous affectation than the fixed-gear bikes beloved of the stereotypical “Shoreditch hipster”.
First came Joy Division
Oven Gloves trainers and now Microsoft are releasing a Joy Division-branded edition of their Zune MP3 player. It will apparently come engraved with the Unknown Pleasures cover artwork, and possibly some tracks or albums locked to the unit in a DRM-encumbered Windows Media format. If you don't use Windows, you may still find it useful as a paperweight.
Alexis Petridis reveals that the Unknown Pleasures trainers are not the only recent piece of Joy Division merchandise, as yesteryear's existential angst becomes today's nostalgia and marketing tie-in:
Yo! Sushi currently offers its takeaway customers the Love Will Tear Us Apart salmon and tuna box set, a selection of sashimi, nigri, maki and salad with tangy sunomono dressing, the latter presumably ideal for ridding yourself of "the taste in your mouth as desperation takes hold", as the song's lyric had it. The box set forms part of a menu on which every item is named after a classic song, including the Relight My Fire prawn yakisoba and the Sexual Healing salmon sashimi.The obvious question to ask is: where will it end?
This year sees the release of Control, photographer Anton Corbijn's long-awaited Ian Curtis biopic. Rumours that it will be accompanied by a tie-in with McDonald's - involving a new jingle based on the lyrics of Decades ("portrayal of the trauma and degeneration, the sorrows we suffered and never were free ... I'm lovin' it"), and the Ian Curtis Happy Meal - remain unconfirmed at time of going to press.I'm half-expecting to see Unknown Pleasures-themed babywear in shop windows on Stoke Newington Church Street any day now. Or, failing that, oven gloves.
Something I didn't know until now: Von Dutch, the name seen on a million T-shirts and trucker hats worn by famous idiots, their miniature dogs and the people who want to be like them, was actually a hot-rod customiser and artist.
There's a mom at my daughter's school that I don't like. She's arrogant, ill-mannered, ostentatious, and obnoxious. One morning when I was on the school campus, I saw the mom wearing a Von Dutch hat and a Von Dutch T-shirt. I asked her who Von Dutch was. "He's a fashion designer," she sneered. I told her that wasn't correct. I told her that he was a car customizer and an artist, and was no longer living. "That's someone else, idiot," she said. (The "idiot" was silent, but her mind spoke it.)
"Everything you love, everything meaningful with depth and history, all passionate authentic experiences will be appropriated, mishandled, watered down, cheapened, repackaged, marketed and sold to the people you hate."That's what happens if you become famous. Your name and trademark, being intellectual property, never die, and if there's any money to be made from them, will be reanimated into a ghoulish afterlife selling objectionable crap to unspeakable people. Then all but a few enthusiasts forget who you were, and the world thinks that your now-ubiquitous name always stood for whatever overpriced cheap tat it now adorns.
And here is more on Von Dutch, his life, personality (apparently he was a cranky paranoid racist alcoholic, and not a particularly nice person), and how his name became transformed into the idiotwear brand it is now.
Time Magazine has an interview with Neil Gaiman (who has a movie, made with Dave McKean, coming out) and Joss Whedon (who did some rinky-dink TV show about valley ghouls in California or something):
JW: I find that when you read a script, or rewrite something, or look at something that's been gone over, you can tell, like rings on a tree, by how bad it is, how long it's been in development.
NG: Yes. It really is this thing of executives loving the smell of their own urine and urinating on things. And then more execs come in, and they urinate. And then the next round. By the end, they have this thing which just smells like pee, and nobody likes it.
It looks like the Wicker Man remake is going to be rubbish:
...In the original, Woodward's character was a virgin, making him ideal for sacrifice. That element has been ditched from the remake, because it was thought that while audiences would accept the idea of an American community that practised human sacrifice, the idea of a grown-up virgin was just too farfetched.Other than doing away with the lead's virginity (because nobody would respect a 40-year-old virgin as anything other than a comical schmuck, and certainly not a worthy hero for a thriller) and ripping the story out of its meticulously-researched setting amidst British folklore and Scottish religious weirdness and moving it to America because America Does It Better, the director has made Lord Summerisle a woman (to keep up with the times, presumably) and brought in killer bees. (I wonder if the director had to fight to make it killer bees rather than dinosaurs or something cool and exciting like that.)
Anyway, it looks like the Wicker Man remake will take its rightful place next to the Sylvester Stallone Get Carter (with its all-American message of redemption) and the Californian-set Italian Job. It'll probably eclipse the original more than in the previous cases, though, because of the poor quality of the surviving prints of the original.
French underground artist Invader, who's responsible for putting up those space-invader tiles in cities around the world (there's one in Covent Garden in London, and I believe I saw some in Melbourne as well), has now released an exclusive line of sneakers. €103 gets you a pair which leave a footprint with a space-invader graphic. The sneakers are a limited edition of 1,500 pairs. No word on whether or not they are made by children in sweatshops.
Maybe next we'll see Heavy Product Blundstone boots with a motif of a man struggling with a bucket on the sole.
Public Enemy's Chuck D and Hank Shocklee on how copyright law changed hip-hop; or the impact that the increasingly greedy demands of owners of samples had on the evolution of hip-hop:
The first thing that was starting to happen by the late 1980s was that the people were doing buyouts. You could have a buyout--meaning you could purchase the rights to sample a sound--for around $1,500. Then it started creeping up to $3,000, $3,500, $5,000, $7,500. Then they threw in this thing called rollover rates. If your rollover rate is every 100,000 units, then for every 100,000 units you sell, you have to pay an additional $7,500. A record that sells two million copies would kick that cost up twenty times. Now you're looking at one song costing you more than half of what you would make on your album.
We were forced to start using different organic instruments, but you can't really get the right kind of compression that way. A guitar sampled off a record is going to hit differently than a guitar sampled in the studio. The guitar that's sampled off a record is going to have all the compression that they put on the recording, the equalization. It's going to hit the tape harder. It's going to slap at you. Something that's organic is almost going to have a powder effect. It hits more like a pillow than a piece of wood. So those things change your mood, the feeling you can get off of a record. If you notice that by the early 1990s, the sound has gotten a lot softer.
Stay Free!: So is that one reason why a lot of popular hip-hop songs today just use one hook, one primary sample, instead of a collage of different sounds?
Chuck D: Exactly. There's only one person to answer to. Dr. Dre changed things when he did The Chronic and took something like Leon Haywood's "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" and revamped it in his own way but basically kept the rhythm and instrumental hook intact. It's easier to sample a groove than it is to create a whole new collage. That entire collage element is out the window.
John Harris (who wrote The Last Party) on how popular music has been subsumed by corporate globalisation:
For musicians whose sensitivity to such chicanery places them a few notches up the evolutionary chain from Busted and Avril Lavigne, the implied contradictions can be pretty hard to swallow. Put bluntly, Anglo-American popular music is among globalisation's most useful props. Never mind the nitpicking fixations with interview rhetoric and stylistic nuance that concern its hardcore enthusiasts - away from its home turf, mainstream music, whether it's metal, rap, teen-pop or indie-rock, cannot help but stand for a depressingly conservative set of values: conspicuous consumption, the primacy of the English language, the implicit acknowledgement that America is probably best.
As the record industry's corporate structure has hardened into an immovable oligarchy - EMI, Time-Warner, BMG, Sony and Universal - so the range of musical options on offer has been dramatically scythed down. In 2004, there are but a handful of international musical superstars: Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Norah Jones, Coldplay. To characterise the process behind their global success as top-down is something of an understatement. MTV may have initially been marketed with the superficially empowering slogan, "I want my MTV"; more recently, with billions gladly hooked up, it has used the flatly sinister, "One planet, one music". Those four words beg one question: who decides?
Such, to use a phrase beloved of the Bush White House, is the cultural aspect of the New American Century. How long, I wonder, before Halliburton and Exxon start sponsoring festivals?
A thought-provoking rant about the commodification of St. Patrick's Day, and the tendency of everybody from British royals to Hollywood celebrities to ordinary people wanting an excuse to get blotto to assert their newly-contrived Irishness. An Irishness which has been reduced into a "concept", a "feeling", or a sanitised, Disneyfied lifestyle package for mass consumption.
Anyone can become Irish today. You can show our Irishness by going to the right pub, having the right attitude, by ticking a box on a census form - but not by getting drunk, fighting, shouting 'Fuck the Queen', or any of the other activities you might traditionally have associated with being Irish, which are especially frowned upon by fake Irish pubs like O'Neill's (no relation).
Is plastic-shamrock cod-Irishness, as some speculated, the one acceptable way in which white people can claim a funky, rootsy tribal identity; one with enough? (via Plastic)
Commercialising science: newly discovered dinosaur species named after Australian airline. (abc.net.au)