The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'fashion'
The latest thing in Williamsburg, the ground zero of the modern Hipster subculture and its gentrification, is facial hair transplants, for men who lack the ability to grow a luxuriant urban-woodsman beard otherwise:
"I get a lot of detail-oriented people — artists, architects," the doctor said, noting that beard-centric neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Bushwick and Park Slope have each delivered four to five clients to her practice in the past year.
In addition to beardless hipsters, doctors said their clients include men who have struggled since adolescence to grow a beard, those undergoing a gender transition from female to male, men with with facial scarring and Hasidic Jews who hope to achieve denser payot, or sidelocks. A greater awareness of facial hair transplants has also fueled the popularity of the procedure, doctors said.The procedure involves transplanting follicles from the scalp to the face and costs $3000 to fill in a section or $7000 for a full beard; though given that Hipster is not a subculture for the unmoneyed, that should be no object. Perhaps, as Hipster gentrifies further, the next phase will be facial hair in naturally improbable places, as an unfalsifiable peacock-tail-like demonstration of both financial means and subcultural commitment
While punk rock may be just another retro lifestyle brand in the West, in some parts of the world, it still means something; perhaps nowhere more so than Burma, a police state ruled with an iron fist by a military dictatorship. Punk arrived in Burma on cassettes smuggled in by sailors, and soon struck a chord with a young generation who had seen their future smashed under the fist of the state; as the junta cracked down on the “Saffron Revolution” which had been led by Buddhist monks, Burmese youth found a voice in its fiery rage, and soon adopted the semiotics of punk, born in remote 1970s London and New York, as banners of their anger at the state.
In Burma, punk is far more than just a superficial copy of its Western counterpart. Here, what is probably the most rebellious of all subcultures in the Southeast Asian country is going up against one of the world's most authoritarian regimes. Punk gives young Burmese a chance to symbolically spit in the face of the hated government, which took power in 2010 in the wake of what was widely considered a fraudulent election.
"The government keeps the people in poverty," says a 30-year-old who goes by the name of Scum, spitting on the ground. "It's a daily struggle just to get by." Protests are rarely possible, he says. Scum is one of the leaders of Rangoon's punk scene. He is sitting on a tattered sofa, the only piece of furniture in his narrow one-room apartment. Dirty dishes are piled up on the floor. In the corner, there's a box with English-language books. Scum studied literature, but now he makes a paltry income selling tickets for an illegal lottery. He refuses to have a legal job because he says it "would only be supporting the government."
Ko Nyan organizes most of these punk concerts. The 38-year-old makes a living selling punk T-shirts and CDs at a market stand in Rangoon. He is also one of Burma's original punks. In the mid 1990s, he read an article about the Sex Pistols, the legendary British punk band, in a music magazine he fished out of the British Embassy's garbage. Ko and his friends try to imitate the look of the musicians they saw, which comes as a shock to their countrymen. "When we walk through the market, everyone just stops and stares at us," he says. "They have no idea what punk is and just think we are crazy."What's interesting to me is how Burma's angry youth have taken a foreign cultural phenomenon (and one now confined to the cozy past in its country of origin; there's even a punk rock compilation from the National Trust for visiting Anglophiles to take home alongside their diecast model Routemaster bus and Kate and Wills teacups) and repurposed it into something new without changing its outward appearance. Looking at the attire of the punk scene members in the photo gallery accompanying the article, there are few if any references to Burma, its culture or politics; instead, one sees English-language slogans and band names of the sort one could find at a stall in Camden Market, as well as meticulously assembled collections of studded leather jackets and tartan bondage trousers. (One of the interviewees recounts working for a year in a textile factory to buy his leather jacket; upon reading this it is tempting to contemplate the exquisitely ironic possibility that similar factories were making Sex Pistols T-shirts for export to teen boutiques in the West.) Yet another young punk wears a vest printed simply with the Union Jack, a provocative symbol lobbed with weaponised irony in the malaise of 1970s Britain, though in Burma (a former British colony), I imagine its connotations would be quite different. And yet, the gravitas of Burma's situation takes these acts of almost cargo-cultish copyism and imbues them with a fresh radical meaning.
This article looks at the malaise in indie/hipster culture, and places the blame squarely at the feet of 1990s proto-hipster Beck:
The two most common characteristics of the “indie” persona these days, at least in North America, are an aversion to overt seriousness and the ability to find everything “awesome”. These characteristics often intermingle and feed off one another, creating the voracious indie devourer who is able to simultaneously enjoy every kind of music while at the same time not particularly caring about anything. They are the ultimate consumer, willing to embrace and discard bands at a moment’s notice while never questioning what led them to lose interest in one band and embrace another. Awkward inquiries about almost any subject can be dealt with in a detached and deliberately ironic manner — following trends is awesome, selling out is awesome, being shallow is awesome, sweatshops are awesome. When it comes to fashion, trashiness battles against both vintage store retro and American Apparel chic as the dominant form, and everyone thinks that everybody but themselves is a hipster. How this persona was birthed is a relatively straightforward tale, as suburban America fell in the love with the vulgar commercial product of its youth. An ironic approach was already somewhat popular but something, or in this case someone, happened in the ‘90s to turn what was a mere aspect of American culture into the dominant personality trait of American teenagers, twenty-somethings and, at this point, thirty-somethings. That someone was Beck.
Cinema in the 90s reflected this shift in taste, with the ultra-violence of Quentin Tarantino’s movies creating a detached, cartoonish reality that allowed the viewer to feel unconcerned as to the repercussions of the savagery on screen. The character’s brutal transgressions are played out for entertainment and amusement rather than illustrating any kind of painful struggle. Tarantino’s movies were also filled with pop culture references that allowed the viewer to feel like they were part of the director’s insular self-congratulatory world. If America in the 70s wrestled with moral dilemmas and a diminished sense of individuality and reach, then pop culture mavens in the 90s merely wanted to be in on the joke. To music fans who imagined themselves to be more alternative in their approach, Beck fulfilled this need. His music basked in the mindset of trash culture and knowing irony, of sneering at seriousness, of adopting hip-hop beats to play up the now utterly commonplace “look at me I’m a nerdy white guy rapping about ridiculous things” persona that has managed to all but reduce hip-hop to a comedy sideshow for those who need an occasional break from their Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend albums.The ironic stance, the article argues, was a false victory, delivering the counterculture straight into the arms of the consumerist mainstream. After all, you can buy more crap if you're doing so ironically:
Consumerism thrives on people getting excited about, and buying, things that they ultimately don’t care about. In this sense the ironic persona is the ultimate gift to consumerism. Mainstream music revels in easy sentiment and soul-crushing banality and can only truly be enjoyed by not paying attention to the lyrics. Beck’s meaningless babble trained a generation of young ears to seek out amusing sound-bites over articulate content and in doing so helped break down the last vestiges of ‘alternative’ music by making it as equally meaningless as, and therefore all but identical to, mainstream drivel.I'm wondering whether the rise to dominance of the stance of ironic detachment and the tendency of musicians and bands to define themselves publically by catalogues of their influences ("we're kraut-punk meets Afrobeat meets New Jack Swing") could not both be symptoms of a more abstract shift from directness and immediacy towards mediation and referentiality, an addition of levels of abstraction to the processes of culture, a tendency to see and do things from one step removed.
A piece in Vice Magazine on odd and unfortunate things from the world of fashion, from the obvious (the ever-escalating arms races between shock value and desensitisation, iPhones as dandruff magnets, the increasing ordeal of air travel during the Long Siege taking its toll on sartorial standards) to the more unusual (fake human flesh is apparently a fabric these days):
And then there are the military applications. What happens if the Taliban or the armed forces of Iran or Kim Jong-il’s Korean People’s Army gets hold of SkinBag’s URL? Any military force outfitted in human skins would make the Old Norse berserkers pale in comparison. Could any country on earth face down an army of Ed Geins?
A German website now offers the “Get Naked Bikini”..., a two-piece water-soluble swimsuit that allegedly falls apart after three minutes of swimming... Although this combination of polymers is found in most water-resistant swimsuits, the dubious product has still managed to enrage many sensible Europeans with its overtones of male revenge fantasy (the comparably priced men’s “Get Naked Pants” haven’t yet made the news).
The latest fashion in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking seems to be colour-grading films to a uniform palette of teal and orange:
The orange and teal look is an artefact of technological possibility and creative laziness. About a decade ago, filmmakers started digitising film and electronically manipulating it, which gave them the ability to adjust colours for the whole film as easily as tweaking an image in Photoshop. While some of the more visionary filmmakers have used this as a creative tool (the Coens made use of it in Oh Brother Where Art Thou to give the film a sepia look, and Peter Jackson made extensive use of colour grading in the Lord Of The Rings films), those churning out action films, who typically have no time for such hoity-toity concerns as artistic vision, needed a quick and easy formula for how to make their films look more awesome. And they got one in complementary colour theory; human skin tones (especially when oversaturated for extra awesomeness) look orange, and stand out most strongly against bluish-green hues. Thus, grading films to an orange-on-teal palette is a cinematic equivalent of compressing the dynamic range of recorded music for extra kick-ass loudness; both add extra zing, producing a product that's superficially exciting, at the cost of subtlety. Though who goes to see Transformers for subtlety, right?
As artificial as it looks, it'll look quaint once they figure out how to shoot entire films in HDR.
Sweden may be associated with supercool indie, twee-folk and fashion-electro these days, but the biggest subculture there are the raggare, essentially rockabilly/greaser types who cruise around in old American cars (bought en masse cheaply when America was hit by oil crises), dress in 1950s attire and fetishise a half-remembered, half-contrived 1950s rock'n'roll Americana.
While they started off as hellraisers, fighting amongst themselves and beating up members of other subcultures, a few decades have given them respectability; there are raggare awareness groups visiting schools, the government consulted them on import taxes for classic cars, and the Swedish post office even issued a raggare commemorative stamp a few years ago. It can't be said that the Swedes undervalue their pop-cultural heritage, even when it is second-hand.
For young Swedes, these giant American cars, which contrasted with the safe, boxy Volvos their parents drove, were the ultimate symbols of rebellion. And they were dirt-cheap. "They were stupid," Georg says about the Americans. "Some of the cars were limited edition. They built maybe 70 of them and they were selling them to us for a few thousand when they were collector pieces."
When the raggare have parties, they tend to have them in their garages: comfortable enough spaces, filled with pots of grease, car jacks and stacks of fenders. The more capable raggare jitterbug and twist; others shuffle from foot to foot, stopping occasionally to pull out the kink in a poodle skirt or run a comb through a greasy quiff
It's getting harder to identify the neo-Nazis; no longer content to shave their heads and wear white bootlaces (much to the relief of skinheads into the scene for the music), they now have their own street-casual sportswear brand, Thor Steinar, which looks like any other streetwear, only with a few more Nordic symbols and (allegedly) the odd hint at Nazi sympathies:
Many of the symbols are straightforward. On one Thor Steinar T-shirt, the word kontaktfreudig is splashed across red splotches that look like spatters of blood. The word could be translated as "outgoing," or more literally, "happy to make contact." The display on Rosa-Luxemburg Street includes clothing with common symbols like an eagle for German pride, or "18" and "88" for "Adolf Hitler" and "Heil Hitler" -- numbers freighted with meaning because of the position of the initials in the alphabet.The Thor Steinar brand (some of whose earlier designs have been banned for looking too runic and warlike) denies deliberately appealing to neo-Nazis, though some regard these denials with scepticism. Still, it's not clear how long they can cash in on the crypto-Nazi demographic, now that the company has been bought by a Dubai-based Arab investor. On the other hand, the Nazis of today aren't necessarily all that discerning:
"They are getting harder to spot," she said, taking a picture out of a folder showing far-right and far-left activists facing off at a march. Both groups wore Che Guevara T-shirts and checked scarves -- long a leftist symbol of solidarity with Palestinians. But the far right co-opted both symbols, she explained, just as neo-Nazis have taken to wearing all black, which used to be an anarchist fashion statement.
Guevara may be the strangest appropriation of all. Neo-Nazis wear his image but don't hesitate to beat up people who look different -- including Latin Americans.Perhaps next they'll adopt Robert Mugabe as a political icon; after all, he's thuggish enough, and is one of the few political leaders in recent times to have proudly equated himself to Hitler. The whole "white-supremacy" angle could prove to be a stumbling block though.
In the recent fashion issue of VICE Magazine, the inimitable Lord Whimsy has an article about bizarre and grotesque fashions from throughout history. While it's not written in the same ornate style as his Affected Provincial's Companion, it is, as one would expect, a veritable wunderkammer of the outré, containing not only the obvious examples (foot-binding, scalping, German duelling scars, the various status arms races among idle aristocrats), but a number of more obscure and peculiar practices:
Some fashions were the result of indifference. A good example of this is the Polish plait, which was a crusty, oily mass of filthy, matted hair. Often as hard as a helmet, it was a tangled mess held together by dried blood, dirt, dead lice, and pus. Generally, Polish plaits were the result of neglect, but they could also be brought on by particularly nasty lice infestations, in which spent eggs would act as a kind of mortar.
High-ranking Italian noblemen of the 14th century took up the fashion of wearing tunics short enough to reveal their testicles. Those who felt insecure about their heft would often wear a leather falsie known as a braquette. It’s doubtful that this was intended to fool anyone. It may have been done for the same reasons female pharaohs wore false beards: It was a symbol of power and potency. Like a crown, but hairier.Wasn't the Scottish sporran originally intended to achieve the same effect?
In many societies, it was (and in some places still is) fashionable to intentionally contort the body into strange shapes. Perhaps the most notable example was the surprisingly widespread practice of head binding, which involved wrapping an infant’s pliable head in a tight cloth or between two boards until it elongated and assumed a conical shape, which was deemed very attractive, as well as a sign of intelligence. The brain would simply adapt to the shape of the skull, so apparently no damage would occur, but it does make one wonder whether changing the shape of the brain case also changed the way that the brain functioned. Did it affect vision? Memory? The ability to think about wide objects?
Some fashions compensated for disfiguring medical conditions. Eighteenth-century Europe was a time of unprecedented artifice in fashion—people in the upper classes were essentially ambulatory theater sets, dripping with props. Makeup was caked on to smooth out their smallpox-ravaged faces. They would even try to smooth out their features from the inside as well: Most people lost their teeth at a shockingly young age, and as a result their cheeks would cave in. To counter this, they used small lumps of cork, called plumpers, which were stuffed into their cheeks. This affected the way they spoke, which soon became fashionable, even among those who still had teeth.Could this be how various accents typically considered to be "posh" or aristocratic came to be? One could imagine, for example, the sorts of rarefiedly aristocratic English accents one only typically hears on stage or in old films having come about as an imitation of wearing bits of cork in one's cheeks.
The problem is that many kinds of objects go through a period in their potential lifespans when they don't "pencil out"—they're not worth keeping or preserving because they're not worth any money.
My favorite example of the Trough of No Value comes from a former acquaintance whose back room had a high, narrow shelf running all the way around it, about a foot below the ceiling. Arrayed on the shelf were dozens of kids' lunchboxes from the 1950s and '60s. He told me that not only are such lunchboxes collectible now, but that they're actually fairly hard to find. Time was, of course, when most every schoolkid had a little metal lunchbox (poor kids "brown-bagged it"). But the kids grew up, the school lunch program got started, and who wanted to keep old lunchboxes around? They weren't useful any more. They weren't worth anything. And, since they were almost all used for their intended purpose, many were damaged or worn by use (I vaguely remember owning one that was rusty and had a dent). People naturally threw them away. The "trough of no value" for lunchboxes was long and harsh. That's why they're not so common today as you might guess—because not that many made it through the trough.
That's why "being famous" is a great way to preserve your work—because value is the #1 preservative for old objects. But want to know another? Craftsmanship. One of the great hazards of survival through time is the lack of a market and a lack of trade value, but another is simply shoddiness. (I have to chuckle whenever I read yet another description of American frontier log cabins as having been well crafted or sturdily or beautifully built. The much more likely truth is that 99% of frontier log cabins were horribly built—it's just that all of those fell down. The few that have survived intact were the ones that were well made. That doesn't mean all of them were.) It's not just that things that are poorly made deteriorate more readily, it's also that they signal their own worthlessness. Or, in the case of an archive of photos, they might actually hide their own worth. I have in mind making a book of my best 35mm black-and-white pictures, for instance, and I have it in my head which pictures would be included. But if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, nobody will ever be able to extract that book out of the great motley of my hither-and-yon mess of negatives.
The BBC has an article about a French dance craze named Tecktonik, which appears to break new boundaries in the commercialisation, monetisation and wholesale stripmining of subcultural fashions. Tecktonik appears to be a local evolution of the electro/new-rave/fluoro meme complex, born among predominantly white middle-class Parisian kids and hard-partying, style-conscious young professionals. Much like the French language (and unlike Anglo-Saxon equivalents), it has an official, codified repertoire of moves. Oh, and Tecktonik's creators (who include a Merrill Lynch investment banker) had the foresight to trademark their creation, and the arguable judgment to milk the licensing for all it's worth:
Switch on the television and you'll see kids dancing Tecktonik in adverts for mobile phones. Go to the supermarket and you'll find Tecktonik playstation games and Tecktonik school bags. And the Tecktonik company opened its first boutique and hair salon in Paris in November.Of course, not everyone's happy with their subculture becoming a mass-market commodity. After all, coolness is what economists call a positional good (i.e., its value depends on its scarcity; if everyone's into something, it loses its value as a signifier of coolness; which is OK if you're talking about something with other, more practical, measures of utility, but trendy dance styles don't generally fall into this category).
"When you're young, you dance to tell your parents 'I'm a free man! I've got my sexuality, my desires and they aren't yours!' You dance to express your freedom! But, here, it's not this kind of dance. Because it's a commercial dance. It's a safe dance. No sex, no drugs, no alcohol… It's anti-rock 'n' roll! It's a Sarkozy dance!"Curiously, the article closes with this paragraph:
Down at that Tecktonik Killer night, one of the star Tecktonik dancers, Lili Azian, tells me the movement has got so commercial she just never buys anything with the Tecktonik label. And now, in any case, she prefers a new dance - the Melbourne Shuffle.The Melbourne Shuffle? I'm guessing they're not talking about the Melbourne in Florida or Derbyshire here, but rather of the Stockholm of the southern hemisphere. Which brings to mind the question of what the Melbourne shuffle is, and whom they got the idea from. (Architecture In Helsinki? Midnight Juggernauts? Corey Worthington? Some random bunch of coolsie electro kids on YouTube?)
I have just been catching up with some blogs, and have found, in Momus' blog, an interesting taxonomy of recent pop-cultural history:
The anxious interval: The anxious interval is the recent past. It's long enough ago to feel not-contemporary, but not long enough ago to feel utterly removed. It's at an uncomfortable distance, which is why I call it "anxious". You could think of the anxious interval as the temporal equivalent of the uncanny valley, that place where robots are similar enough to us to give us an uncomfortable shudder. You could also say the anxious interval is a place, a style, a set of references we avoid, repress, sublimate, have selective amnesia about, stow away, throw out, deliberately forget.
An example: Devendra Banhart and the scene that was called Freak Folk or New Weird America. The Wire magazine cover feature on New Weird America dates from August 2003. By April 2005 the San Francisco Chronicle is telling us that Freak Folk Flies High. By June 2006 the New York Times is telling its readers that "a music scene called freak folk is bursting up from underground" but adding that "it looked like a trend of the moment a couple of years ago". By 2009, it's safe to say that a reference to Freak Folk would be more likely to puncture your credibility than bolster it. Freak Folk is in "the anxious interval".
The goldmine is the cultural era the present is currently reviving. I've put a picture of Buggles, because in general we're reviving the 80s at the moment. You know, the guy from Hot Chip wears Buggles-like glasses, and so on. The goldmine is a goldmine for people who run secondhand clothes stores and have lots of stock from the requisite era, or people who are selling synths from that era, or people who've got a bunch of cheap Chinese Ray Ban copy frames. The smartest people in the present are remembering the goldmine and sifting through its waters like a crowd of panhandlers.
The battlefront is the area right at the edge of the goldmine -- the place where the acceptable and lucrative revival era meets a time which is currently repressed, neglected, and a-slumber. What's so interesting about the battlefront is that the process of reassessment is so visible here, and the revaluation is so daringly and consciously done. An elite of taste-leaders and taste-formers unafraid of ridicule are hard at work here, foraging for bargains, bringing an unacceptable era into fresh acceptability. There's a kind of shuddering repulsion for long-neglected, long-repressed artifacts, and yet something compellingly taboo about them. Their hiddenness makes them fascinating -- it's as if their very sublimation has given these cultural objects some kind of big power over our unconscious. The best curators and fashionistas are to be found at the battlefront, battling for the fascinating-repellant things they find in that twilit zone between acceptability and unacceptability.
The latest manifestation of the gothic/macabre aesthetic trend: furniture containing stuffed animals:
US author Benjamin Nugent has written a book titled "American Nerd", about how the nerd/geek stereotype was adopted as a badge of hipster identity:
Being sixteen, I thought to myself: How do I rebel against this? How does my generation do something new? How do we construe this epoch as a rotting husk adrift on dark waters, so thatwe can make our own creative endeavors seem romantic? One answer is purism. When eclecticism is your parents’ thingyou revisit old genres and deliberately maintain their integrity (these genres may have once themselves been considered hybrids, but a really long time ago). Freak folk is the rock-criticism name for my generation’s exploration of folk music. New garage means my generation’s take on mid-1960s guitar rock. Nu wave means my generation’s take on early punk and new wave. In these albums, there is no hip-hop or jazz or Texas swing or house or any of the other flavors previous generations loved to mix. The sort-of-true clichés about what hipsters like—trucker caps, mustaches, Pabst Blue Ribbon, mullets—play with the idea of old school. They connote sophistication and cosmopolitanism by screaming, “We are not cosmopolitan! We are not culturally sophisticated!” This is an anti-Bobo trend, and one aspect of it is the flowering of nerdiness as an aesthetic.Nugent cites Norman Mailer's The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster, and posits the analogy between the Afro-American stereotype of the 1950s and the nerd stereotype of today. Part of this is as a sort of Rousseauvian noble savage, unsullied by sophistication, and thus all the more valuable for sophisticates to appropriate the identity of. Part has to do with the treadmill of commodification, where things that were once signifiers of being on the cultural forefront get marketed to the mainstream and become ubiquitous, and those genuinely at the forefront have to do something different to differentiate themselves from the suburban consumers wearing their old costumes, hence adopting outsider identities. The fact that the outsider identity is considered deeply uncool by the mainstream (consider all the hipsters with rustic-looking beards making primitive folk music on their iBooks, when the trendies are into angular, skinny-legged indie rock that sounds like The Clash or whatever and the mainstream are into thugged-out commercial hip-hop) also helps; and it also has a useful peacock-tail effect, demonstrating one's fitness through an act of stylistic bravado, and essentially saying "I'm so with-it that I can afford to do this", or perhaps "I know something you don't":
Dressing like a punk was not a solution. Everyone knew that aesthetic was helping to move twenty-dollar Warped Tour tickets. There was no reason to even consider hip-hop; nobody who lived in a city with cable television and billboards could doubt that was a movement working in collusion with business culture to sell suburban teenagers stuff, even if was admirably forthright of rappers to dress like gay Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton executives and sing about how purely commercial their motives were. Of course in all of these movements, hip-hop included, there were artists in garrets, making music for the music, but nobody wanted to run the risk of being mistaken for one of the kids who fell for the marketing.Of course, the idea of hipsters and trendies adopting the "nerd"/"geek" identity (which, apparently, consists of wearing prominent spectacles and cardigans) does sound somewhat absurd; a bit like that article from some years ago that said that the "intelligent" look was in in Los Angeles, and consequently the glamorous people were buying books and carrying them around, unread, as fashion accessories. Or will the behavioural trappings of nerdiness become de rigeur amongst the cool set? Will Dungeons & Dragons or vintage video games become essential subjects to mention to enhance one's coolness, much like krautrock or Donnie Darko? Will we eventually see replica Curta calculators for sale alongside Lomo cameras at hipster lifestyle accessory shops?
After a year of bands with animal names and hipsters with rustic-looking beards, the pastoral/folk thing is well and truly mainstream, now that Goldfrapp's next album, The Seventh Tree, is going in a pastoral direction. That's right, the EMI-signed chanteuse who is known for moving with the winds of change, first having abandoned the post-Morricone dinner-party trip-hop of Felt Mountain for the then fashionable electroclash and glam revivalism, seems to have jumped on the neo-folk bandwagon, albeit with a touch of 1970s Britishness:
Nevertheless, The Seventh Tree is not from an entirely different planet to Supernature. It's also inspired by music from the 1970s, but the softer end of psychedelic pop rather than glam-rock. The band craved a sound that was woozy and hypnotic, and after the album title came to Goldfrapp in a dream, everything else followed suit.
But, despite the American references, the record still sounds indelibly English. Gregory puts it down to their music not having its roots in blues, but I fancy it's more than that. It's the deadpan-meets-Carry On humour that crackles through the album. It's the way in which Edward Lear's nonsense poetry finds a new home in the song Little Bird, which features a crow with mouths for eyes. It's in the Moogs, Mellotrons and Optigans that bring to mind the terribly English electronica of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and when Syd Barrett haunts the album's more psychedelic corners.
There's also a sense of cracked innocence threading itself through these sounds. In the process of songwriting, Gregory and Goldfrapp remembered music from their childhoods - spooky soundtracks to children's programmes, strange sci-fi shows and public information clips. "It was that era that everyone thought the world was going to blow up," Goldfrapp says. "Either the bomb would get you or the rabies."Which sounds like it could potentially be interesting. Or it could be a mainstreamed take on the kind of retro folk weirdness that independent artists have been exploring over the past few years. Though, to be fair, Goldfrapp's niche is not to explore the fringes, but to aggregate what's on them for a more mass-market audience. Of course, as it's a mass-market product on a major label, there is every chance that all that lovely gentle psychedelic-folk subtlety mentioned in the article will be crushed out of the finished product by the standard commercially-mandated brutal overcompression.
(I wonder whether The Seventh Tree is a take-off of the name of freak-folk outfit Voice Of The Seven Woods, a favourite of weird-music curator Andy Votel.)
LogoLounge.com has just published its overview of trends in logo design in 2007. This year's trends include helices, ribbons and streams of descending/ascending bubbles, 3D trompe-l'oeil logos and uses of colour which wouldn't translate into black and white well (suggesting that designers are not caring as much for print as for the web), and a few recurring motifs:
Mix a little nose-in-the-air, overly stodgy, family coat of arms with a sharp tongue-in-the-cheek, Napoleon Dynamite liger, and you have something that approximates a Pseudo Crest. These are fun, and packed with detail that sticks it to the man at every opportunity. For the high school and college market, Jason Schulte's firm, Office, built a best-of-class brand for Target with the Independent Studies line.
At first glance, most of these look like they've been lifted from a heraldry 101 style book, until you scrutinize the composition elements. Only at this point are you likely to see wrenches, guitars, penguins, shoes, cell phones and anything else you'd never expect to find in Camelot. This is a youth anthem; and designers have identified this as a source language for fashion culture and the music industry. In fact, this is a modern trend you will see everywhere, despite its roots in heraldry and even other intricate patterning like Victorian wallpaper.
Let's just make the assumption if you water a logo and give it adequate sunlight, it will start to grow a rhythmic crop of vines, buds, blooms and other fantasies of a botanical nature. These may be further evolution of last year's Embellish trend, or they could just be another subset of a larger trend. This would be a direction that uses borrowed remnants of a patterned, Victorian era to attach a delicate human quality to the hard outer shell of an other wise sterile logo. Detail of this nature is inherently engaging and asks the consumer to participate visually in a non-confrontational fashion.The floral/botanical/organic logotypes (also evidenced by the work of the British graphic designer whose name I forget, who seems to have come up with the idea of sans-serif type growing into organic vine-like shapes) could be a sign of a broader cultural trend: a reaction against the slick and industrial and a move towards a rustic/pastoral aesthetic. This trend has also come up in indie music (in the Pitchfork sense, not the NME haircut rock sense), with a shift away from angular/stylised sharper-than-thou aesthetics of the Interpol/Franz Ferdinand era (now thoroughly commercialised; witness the calculated faux-edginess of The Killers, for example, or the wave of derivative "indie" bands in the UK) towards more organic sounds (the antifolk/freak-folk scene, bands like Animal Collective (and, indeed, most of the bands with animal names in their names), as well as a more folky, anti-sharp aesthetic (rustic-looking beards, home-made clothes that look like hand-me-downs, &c.)
Anyway, the page also has links to previous years' trends in logo design, going back to 2003, which make for interesting reading.
(via Boing Boing)
Oh dear; it appears that there's now a Britpop revival, with bands like Kula Shaker and Northern Uproar coming out of retirement to play the Carling circuit for a new generation of NME readers:
Today, Hodgson is wearing a black Harrington jacket, tight jeans, trainers and badges - a visual blast from the era when he rode a scooter and rubbed shoulders with Shed Seven at Brighton Beach, the Leeds club night that was synonymous with Britpop in the north the way Blow Up was in the south. Hodgson went there for three years. He and his bandmates claim they could tell which band a person was into by the shade of their clothes.
"Music was stale," he says. "It was all shoegazing, American grunge. The charts were full of dance shit. We thought we'd bring indie back, but with more rock guitars. Suddenly, there were a load of bands with the same idea, and it became a scene."(Also known as "when indie turned to shite". Then the careerists, realising that there was money to be made from white boys with guitars, haircuts and a stylist's careful touch, jumped on and the whole thing went (champagne, or perhaps cocaine) supernova, sucking the oxygen out of the British indie genre like a fuel-air explosive. And thus, a decade and a bit down the track, we get Carling-indie in its most moronic, populist form; no longer music for thoughtful bookish types but for lagered-up geezers on the make.)
"There was camaraderie between bands that toured together, like us and Oasis, but I always thought Damon Albarn was a wanker," says Priest. "He'd say things like, 'You're looking very psychedelic tonight, Mathew.' I'm from Birmingham. What's that about? He totally puts your back up. But I completely respect the cunt. He's a genius."For small values of "genius". He's like a Momus for Evening Standard readers.
In 2005, Olia Lialina wrote A Vernacular Web, a survey of the culture of amateur web design some years ago, cataloguing ubiquitous pheonomena like starry backgrounds, "Under Construction" signs, rainbow horizontal rules and animated "Mail Me" graphics. Now, she has returned to the subject with a look at how things have changed over the past few years in the world of non-professional web pages:
Home pages no longer exist. Instead, there are other genres: accounts, profiles, journals, personal spaces, channels, blogs and homes. I’d like to pay special attention to the latter ones.
If you look at the most viewed layouts on MySpace, you’ll notice that most of them have a big picture as a background, which repeats itself horizontally and vertically. This back-to-1996 design flaw is now forever linked to Web and amateur users, and nobody cares about eliminating it – neither services nor users themselves.
Firstly, glitter became a trademark of today’s amateur aesthetics, and I’m certain that in the future sparkly graphics will become a symbol of our times, like “Under Construction” signs for the 90’s. Glitter is everywhere (in the universe of user-generated pages), it has become a meta category. It has absorbed all other categories of ready-made graphics – people, animals, buttons, sex graphics.
Starry backgrounds represented the future, a touching relationship with the medium of tomorrow. Glitter decorates the web of today, routine and taken-for-granted.Lialina also mentions the ubiquity of cat-themed graphics on the web of today (LOLCats and "Kitten Of The Day"), though declines to go into it, or theorise about the idiosyncratic phraseology and typography used in LOL* graphics.
The Guardian's (and Smoke's) Jude Rogers looks at how the meaning of the word "indie" has changed, and attempts to reclaim it:
Indie used to be such a simple term in the Eighties - a byword for an attitude, a subculture and a territory of music that was quietly, stubbornly, alternative. In the UK it meant anti-commercialism wearing a cardigan and glasses; a protest against the mainstream sporting twee hairslides. But now it has come to mean something entirely different. A few weeks ago, Big Brother contestant Emily Parr proclaimed, hilariously: 'There's a new music taking over this country and it's called indie.' Mario Testino shoots 'indie fashion' for Vogue and multi-platinum-selling guitar groups such as the Kooks, Razorlight and Snow Patrol are 'indie bands'. Indie is now a byword for something very different: for commercial savvy and success disguised as contemporary cool. It is no longer independent of anything: indie has become the mainstream.Rogers' first stop is, appropriately enough, a gig by Art Brut, who combine the shambolicism of "old indie" with the style and marketable coolness of "new indie".
Outside, a group of teenagers in velvet jackets are handing out flyers. They positively ooze indie. 'We're independent, not indie,' says Cyan, 16, with a studied world-weariness. 'We would've been, but indie means the Libertines and the View these days. We're more DIY.' He's in a band called I Am the Arm with his friend Aimee, and they both like Art Brut because the band doesn't subscribe to any notions of 'cool'. 'Indie's not difficult or energetic at all any more. It's just music for the mainstream. It's music for poseurs.'
That said, her friend Ben, 21, says, 'Indie is something to make you look better next to the chavs.' And Emma, 23, and Jo, 26, two very well-spoken, pleasant girls with thick fringes, like the term because 'being indie made you cooler at school, because you were wearing the right kind of clothes'. They agree this isn't the kind of indie that ruled back in the Eighties, but a modern, fashionable strand. And how would they define indie now? 'Cool guitar bands,' they say, before running down the stairs to hear Art Brut arrive in a flourish of feedback.
I catch a bus to the Young and Lost Club in Shoreditch, east London. I come here to investigate a related complaint about contemporary indie: that it has gone posh as well as cool; that the music of the underdog has been taken over by the rich kids, including ubiquitous gossip-column staple Peaches Geldof. Pop critic Simon Price recently complained about indie gigs being full of 'horsey young fillies canoodling with flush-faced bucks, fresh out of public school', deeming the indie gig the new 'social club for dressed-down debutantes to see and be seen'.However, there is hope; while the word "indie" essentially means "music that was considered "white" 10 years ago", and encompasses everything from Judas Priest to Coldplay (the other variety of music is "hip-hop", which includes reggae, funk and R&B—though not Rhythm and Blues, as that's "indie"), the term "indie-pop", lacking the sort of cocky stadium-filling swagger that brings the sponsors and advertisers onside, is still cherished by legions of purists and not of interest to trendy poseurs; which means that, by the new definition, they're not very "indie":
A large part of tonight's crowd come from the indie messageboard Bowlie, an international web community that grew out of the Belle and Sebastian and Jeepster label websites. Regular member Emma, 24, laughs as she tells me what a bouncer said to her recently: 'He said, "You're the most uncool crowd I've ever seen. You're like a disco for the computer club."' The messageboard's founder, David Kitchen, agrees. 'Indie initially was never about coolness. It was about the people that Pulp summed up so well - a little bit ugly, a little bit kooky, a bit fucked-up. It's for people who want to do things for themselves, and share things together, without fear of recrimination.'
HDIF founder Ian Watson is especially delighted that this culture is booming. Thanks to the internet, and a renewed enthusiasm for stuff away from the flimflam of popular music, he thinks we're now living in a golden age for DIY music. He mentions a new indie-pop festival, Indie Tracks, to be held in a station in Derbyshire this month, and how he keeps hearing about people setting up their own clubs, bands and labels.And here, rock critic Kitty Empire writes about the history of "indie" and how it won the world and lost its soul.
Want some authentic Daft Punk robot helmets? That'll be US$65,000 and one year. Oh, and you'll need a license from the band. Also, be aware that they don't run on batteries, so if you want to wear yours with the lights running, you'll have to do so whilst tethered to a power cord.
If the UK free tabloids are to be believed, up to 2,000 people in Japan have been sold lambs and told that they were poodles (which are both extremely fashionable and rare in Japan):
Entire flocks of lambs were shipped over from the UK and Australia to Japan by an internet company and marketed as the latest 'must have' accessory. But the scam was only spotted after a leading Japanese actress said her 'poodle' didn't bark and refused to eat dog food.
The latest word in fashion on the Australian streets is "bogan chic", i.e., upmarket knockoffs of flannelette shirts, skinny blue jeans, ugg boots and other things traditionally worn by young working-class heavy-metal fans from the wrong side of town (or bogans, as they're known. Only they're now being worn by young professionals in Prahran and Darlinghurst.
"There are a lot of men who are willing to pay a lot of money to look like they've spent no money," says Leadbeater, whose collection features skinny jeans for $200, biker jackets for $260, and $80 printed T-shirts, including one emblazoned with an old Ford Falcon that reads: "Let's get the Falcon out of here."
While you could pick up a similar outfit for a fraction of the price from op shops or discount stores like Savers and Dimmeys, Pollitt says you wouldn't get the quality.This is the same sort of thing as happened with America with trucker hats. The underclasses are ahead of the cutting edge of fashion, precisely by their naïvete thereof. "Cool" is about differentiating oneself from the mainstream, and the hipsters on the cutting edge appropriate "anti-fashion" styles from the underclasses. Once these have been sufficiently popularised, the trendies further down the food chain (or should that be further up?) take notice and start wearing them, and designer labels start churning out premium-priced equivalents, for sale along Chapel Street.
Meanwhile, the bogans move on; not out of any conscious quest for cool but out of lack of concern for purity or image. (To them, after all, it's not a pose.) While the classic ugg-boots-and-Ackadacka bogan look may now belong to the coolsies of Prahran, today's bogans are just as likely to take their cues from gangsta hip-hop as from classic rock/metal.
The New York Times has discovered that, in clothing and accessories, the skull is the Happy Face of the 2000s:
"This is such a huge gripe of mine," said Voltaire, a musician in New York and the author of "What is Goth?", a kind of "Preppy Handbook" for the living dead. "Throughout hundreds of years of history, what the skull has communicated is, 'I am dangerous.' That's where the irony is. You can buy dangerous for $11.99 at Kmart."
For years Voltaire was the happy owner of several skull-motif sweaters hand-knit by an eccentric Englishwoman. He recounted that a woman stopped him the other day on an East Village street to admire the one he was wearing. "She said: 'I love your sweater. Is it Ralph Lauren?' Then I found out that Ralph Lauren has a whole store that sells skull stuff."From what I gathered, the trajectory of the mainstreaming of skulls was: they started with variously scary misfit cultures (outlaw bikers, hot-rodders, or even actual murdering pirates if you go far back enough), then they were gradually adopted by less scary cultures (like metalheads and goths, both of which tend to be more amusing than intimidating). Then the Vice-twats and electrocoolsies (or "fashion goths", as Momus calls them) picked them up ironically, and soon every coke-snorting trustafarian in Williamsburg and Hoxton was wearing stuff with skulls on it. Then, of course, the cool hunters picked up on it, and soon H&M was selling socks with skulls on them and commercial pop bands soon had the full complement of skulls and lightning bolts on their cover artwork.
(via Boing Boing)
Last night, Your Humble Narrator went to Bush Hall to see Pipas and The Clientele.
Pipas were lovely as usual; it was mostly a guitar-based set (with two guitars), though with a few canned backings on an iPod. They did old and new songs, including some from their Bitter Club EP. (For those who haven't seen them, they're a melodious indie-pop duo, are signed to US twee/indiepop label Matinee, have played in Scandinavia a fair bit and Lupe is going out with one of the Lucksmiths, which should give you an idea of where they're coming from.)
The Clientele played, appropriately, in a darkened room, with video projected over them (several iterations of an art film they did the music for, with lots of footage of sunlight in water, English countryside and such, as well as Chris Marker's La Jetée). They mostly did songs from their new album which has just been released; they sounded much like their previous two albums, if perhaps a bit more animated in places. And Alasdair's vocals sound every bit as floaty live as they do on record. At one stage, Lupe joined them on stage and read out a spoken-word piece about a photograph from 1982, as they played.
As one would expect, where was a good number of international-indiepop-underground coolsie types in the audience, with their bowl haircuts, black-framed glasses and button badges; in their late 20s and 30s, the audience for these sorts of gigs is half a generation older than today's post-post-ironic electro/new-new-wave/kill-the-whiteness-inside/disco-rock kids, and the milieu around this sort of scene seems, in some ways, to hearken back to an earlier age of indiepop, when one was more likely to encounter the adjective "summery" than "angular" in record reviews, understated pop songs with wet lyrics were an authentic reaction against the macho rockism of the "alternative" mainstream rather than part of the Coldplay/Keane AOR mainstream, the kids hadn't yet gotten into hip-hop, cocaine or trucker hats, and if you wanted to make music in your bedroom, you used guitars, Casio keyboards and a four-track, rather than a laptop. Or something.
That world seems to have since superseded by punk disco, ironic chav, the New Rockism, the NME garage rock revival, the Carling New Wave, spending hundreds on brand-name fashion, and relying on one's hipster knowingness as a free get-out-of-jail card, good for all crimes of unenlightenment from casual racism to meretricious consumerism. Or not quite; the mercenary mainstream was always there, and there is also always an underground; it's just easier to see yesterday's underground than today's. Partly because yesterday's underground gets recycled into, or referenced by, today's mainstream: the UK indie explosion of the 1980s gave us Britpop gave us Robbie Williams, XTC begat the Kaiser Chiefs, The Little Band scene gave us JJJ grunge gave us Killing Heidi, and such. Meanwhile, something new is always forming on the margins; and when the margins are strip-mined to death by corporate cool-hunters, something new forms off the map.
It looks like the new Doctor Who will be attired in a suit, a trenchcoat and sneakers, in what the BBC are calling a "geek chic" look; in other words, somewhere between John Constantine in the Hellblazer comics and Jarvis Cocker sans glasses.
For a while they had me worried that the BBC were trying to jump on the NME New Wave Glamorous Indie™ Art Rock™ Revival bandwagon and making the Doctor an emaciated androgyne in a tight-black-suit/black-shirt/anorexically-thin-red-tie combo.
It seems that the big thing in car design is making modern cars that look like vintage models and selling them at a premium to fashionable urbanites. Those new BMW Cooper Minis (you know, the subcompact yuppie lifestyle cars modelled on the cheap'n'cheerful British cars of the 1960s) are everywhere (at least, if everywhere includes West London); the new Volkswagen Beetles, with the integrated flower vases as an ironic appropriation of their hippie status, are so to a lesser extent. And then there are those Chryslers that look like something a 1930s Chicago gangster might ride in.
But why stop there? There are more makes of once-common cars which could be revived as iconic-ironic status symbols. Anything of which old examples, decrepit or lovingly restored, are driven by inner-city hipsters would be fair game for remaking. For example, an all-new FJ Holden, in designer-faded turquoise and avocado green, coming soon to Prahran and Darlinghurst; iPod socket optional. Perhaps there could even be rounded vintage utes, miniaturised to suit urban parking conditions, for style-conscious urbanites. Or, for that matter, more old British cars; perhaps Peugeot could revive the Humber and Hillman marques as designer lines? And boxy, angular 1970s American cars (or, in Australia, Kingswood station wagons) in baby-shit brown would go very well with today's retro-styled fashions and rock.
Via the ads on Pitchfork (where else?), this company (based in Brooklyn, NY) makes custom coolsie hipster apparel, printed with the name of your hometown, in various fonts, and various icons (soccer numbers, skulls, hearts, and such). The order form lets you select neighbourhoods from various cities across the world, or enter free text of your own choosing; interestingly enough, Melbourne is the only Australian city in their database.
Remember those ceramic geese seen on walls in middle-class living rooms in old British sitcoms and Aardman animations? Well, the fashionable, up-to-the-minute new equivalent of those is the bottom halves of ducks, cast in epoxy and stuck to the ceiling. Apparently they're popular in dentists' offices, for some reason. (also via bOING bOING)
The battle for domination between the Baby Boomers and Generation X is being fought in the realm of fashion:
Generation X, he said, had been hoodwinked by boomers into embracing their ageing culture. Popular culture is still stacked with fading sex symbols such as Pierce Brosnan and Mel Gibson. Black, a slimming colour, has been in vogue since the boomers began getting corpulent in the mid-1990s. Buzz cuts became de rigueur when balding 40-something men decided anything was better than a comb-over.
He said a fashion revolt had been spearheaded by the daughters of the boomers - generation Y - who began to flaunt their toned midriffs at the turn of the century. Future male generation Y trends might be body-hugging lycra in pale colours with patterns or hairstyles that can't be worn by balding men.
Apparently the black rectangular glasses worn by emo hipster types are also a baby-boomer baldness-camouflaging device, and too will disappear as we welcome our new buff, tanned Generation Y overlords, along with such 1960s trappings as zen and meditation.
I wonder, though, what this means for music. The rise of hip-hop/R&B into dominance of the charts could bear out this trend (the resurgence of 1970s-style rock goes against that; though perhaps those are the last death throes of Boomer-dominated pop culture?). In the indie sphere, classicist Beatles/Bacharach-inspired pop could give way to glitchy electropop made with laptops. The (late) boomers' punk-rock DIY aesthetic could give way to the UK Garage PlayStation DIY aesthetic. And with the backlash against wearing black, things don't look too good for goth, do they?
According to ads in the most recent Beat/InPress, there's a new John Butler Trio (for those not in the know, that's a sort of "funky roots/blues/folk" delivered by a studmuffin with dreadlocks and appealing primarily to a younger female audience; think an unusually well-scrubbed white "feral" version of Lenny Kravitz or something) album out; and, for a limited time only, it comes with.. a trucker cap. This is proof that trucker caps have lost whatever element of irony they once had and have become just a mindless piece of fashion.
An interesting essay on the subject of taboos and intellectual fashions, by Paul Graham:
The word "defeatist", for example, has no particular political connotations now. But in Germany in 1917 it was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge of those who favored a negotiated peace. At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that.
Moral fashions don't seem to be created the way ordinary fashions are. Ordinary fashions seem to arise by accident when everyone imitates the whim of some influential person. The fashion for broad-toed shoes in late fifteenth century Europe began because Charles VIII of France had six toes on one foot. The fashion for the name Gary began when the actor Frank Cooper adopted the name of a tough mill town in Indiana. Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.
Suppose in the future there is a movement to ban the color yellow. Proposals to paint anything yellow are denounced as "yellowist", as is anyone suspected of liking the color. People who like orange are tolerated but viewed with suspicion. Suppose you realize there is nothing wrong with yellow. If you go around saying this, you'll be denounced as a yellowist too, and you'll find yourself having a lot of arguments with anti-yellowists. If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.
(Via Slashdot, where it has devolved into the usual melange of Hitler references, Libertarian/Objectivist railings against the collectivist tyranny of taxation, flames directed respectively at Bush/neoconservatives and effete Europeans/elitist liberals, assertions that global warming is a lie perpetuated by a powerful environmentalist conspiracy, unsubstantiated claims about Israeli involvement in 9/11 and rants about why feminism and the homosexual agenda have ruined America; and not a word about Bill Gates being a Sith lord either. Looks like Slashdot has turned into talkback radio.)
The latest trend among those with more disposable income than common sense: sunglasses for dogs.
"The chrome and blue is aimed mainly at dogs who are driven around by their owners in an open-top Jaguar or something similar," he said.This trend joins the equally ridiculous trend of dressing dogs in clothes, once the domain of Victorian prudes, but now increasingly fashionable with the hip consumers of McWorld:
Chrome and blue may also be the choice for owners who dress their dogs in outfits such as the canine version of the David Beckham Real Madrid football shirt, which proved popular when it was launched soon after the England captain joined Spain's biggest club.
I wonder who the first hip-hop/R&B/ghetto-flavoured-pop star will be to be seen with a dog attired in blinged-out diamond-encrusted sunglasses; or how long until Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren or someone launches a line of dog apparel. Or, indeed, when we'll see the first panther or python or Vietnamese pot-bellied pig or other exotic celebrity pet in custom-designed sunglasses.
Memewatch: The ironic-trucker-cap meme seems to be fizzling out; MX (the free wire-story/press-release/celebrity-gossip paper in Melbourne) had a 1-page feature showing 12 caps from brands like FUBU, Freshjive, Stussy and Mambo. In the time that the meme took to arrive to Australia, it seems to have jumped right over the ironically-slumming hipster contingent (other than one or two Architecture In Helsinki fans, I haven't seen any hipster types wearing trucker caps here), lost its irony and gone to the Chapel St. designer-label crowd. And now that MX has covered it, its days are probably numbered. (Then again, didn't Justin "J-to-tha-T" Timberlake wear one on TV or something?)
They do things differently in Hong Kong: a fashion shop has decided to stir up some controversy with a line of Nazi-themed merchandise. Izzue, which may be their equivalent of Dangerfield or Hot Topic or Violence Jack Off or something like that, also decorated their stores with Nazi banners and symbols:
Red banners with white swastikas on top of iron crosses hung Saturday from the ceilings of some of the firm's 14 stores. The banners also carried a sign that resembled the symbol of the Third Reich: an eagle above a swastika. One branch broadcast Nazi propaganda films on a wall with a projector.
This isn't the first time Nazi symbolism has been used to get attention in Asia; some years ago, a Taipei restaurant covered their walls with images of Holocaust victims and a bar named the Third Reich, replete with Nazi propaganda posters and uniformed waitresses, opened in Seoul. Perhaps over there, the whole Nazi thing is seen by some as just kitschy retro exotica?
Via LHB, a pictorial guide to indie-rock hairstyles. The "bowlie" meme doesn't seem to be around (though the "Spock" may be a degenerate version of it), and even more curiously, none of the boys there has visible sideburns, let alone oversized ones. (Surely massive sideburns go naturally with the ironic Boy Scout T-shirt, no?)
The author's right about the girls though; one thing I've noticed is that the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne are full of girls (of ages ranging from teens to late 30s) with the same 3 or 4 short haircuts. Cute, maybe, but not exactly easy to distinguish between.
The BBC has a guide to current teenage subcultures. Interesting that in the UK, mooks are called "nu metallers", Ben Sherman shirts are considered a clubber thing (I suppose that's because the '90s Britpop Mod revival is ancient history), and Camden is considered a "Goth Mecca". (When I was in London last year, I saw all of about two goths in 3 weeks; I thought that particular meme-complex had died out through overexposure over there by now.)
They're listening to
- Independent 'Alternative' Music, from small independent labels in pressings of say 100 straight out of Reykjavik
- Garage Rock like The Strokes, The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Old indie classics - The Velvet Underground, The Smiths, Nirvana, The Pixies
Julie Burchill on fashions in naming:
Just think, in about 30 years there will be a generation of old biddies called Julie, Debbie, Sharon and Tracey... And old men called Wayne and Dwayne and Jason. Will their way of being old be different from the softly-spoken, stoic way today's Arthurs and Ethels do it? When we're gone, the mumbling, grumbling legions of arthritic Jades, Sades, Ryans and Finlays will take our place in the permanent dusk of the doctor's surgery, dirty-dancing feet finally immobilised by corns and bunions. That just shouldn't happen to a Kylie!
In America, Emma, Sophie and Kate are old ladies' names, while over here they immediately conjure up a hip Brit-babe, especially the latter - Kate Moss-Winslet-Beckinsale-Groombridge-Lawler. The US has its own knee-jerk hottie-handles - a 1980s pop-psychology bestseller was actually called The Jennifer Syndrome, and warned smug wives that females answering to this soft, sexy, elegant, old English name were the ones most likely to steal hubby from them. Twenty years later, little has changed...
Mary and John, once the British first-name equivalents of Smith and Jones, are rarely bestowed these days - you get the feeling that new parents now think of them as the next stage up from calling one's children One and Two...
An article from the Age about the resurgence of rock in the trendy clubbing precinct of Prahran. Venues best known for more types of house music than you probably knew existed are now putting on rock bands, because rock patrons drink more.
Of course, in the super-stylised $80-logo-T-shirt heartland of Prahrahran, the rock that's displacing some of the dance music is, as you might expect, the stylised back-to-basics rawk of The Strokes/Vines/Datsuns/whatever. There it's another label to wear; sort of like the "bogan rock nights" some club there had a while ago, where all the thirtysomething designers and advertising types put on their $120 designer-label flannelette shirts and went to get shitfaced to some Ackadacka with their fellow young professionals.
A BBC article on the much-hyped New Saviours of Rock; i.e., the Strokes/White Stripes/Vines (oh, and the Datsuns too, Jen).
Form your own "new rock" band You will need:
- To be thin
- To be male
- To be white
- To have dark hair
- To have a band name starting with "The..."
- To wear tight T-shirts or leather jackets
- To know a maximum of three guitar chords
Some sensible news from the fashion front: conspicuous consumption is out, and thrift is in. Spending less is now not so much a sign of shameful poverty or low social status as one of defiance against the corporate branded lifestyle.
The word 'luxury' has become so overused it has become completely meaningless. For the intelligent consumer it simply means overpriced and overhyped. The new trend towards thrifty shopping is as much about being ahead of the curve as it is about saving money. The cheaper holiday destination might be the one the rest of the planet hasn't quite discovered yet; that old 70s leather handbag you spotted at Oxfam might be the one that a researcher for a big fashion house might snap up if you don't.
Of course, then the brands will start making tatty-looking thrift-chic items, objects fresh from the Indonesian sweatshop that look like they've been pre-worn since the 1970s, and selling them for obscene prices, and the cycle will repeat itself.
The latest fashion among teenaged girls in Britain: self-mutilation as a fashion statement or assertion of identity.
Margot Waddell of the Tavistock Clinic, author of Inside Lives, a book about adolescence, says there are 'cutting schools' and 'anorexia schools', so strong is the tendency to mimic behaviour. And Sue Sherwin-White, a therapist who has studied the phenomenon, agrees: 'In some schools, it is fashionable, exciting and even rather competitive - and it has the added advantage of scaring teachers and parents.' What starts as an experiment can become a perverse gratification that is hard to give up.
Wonder whether there will be pro-self-mutilation websites in the way that there are pro-anorexia web sites (and Trent Reznor fan pages and such don't count).
'Adolescents,' says Wilson, 'do things that disturb us, by definition. There's something morbid about adolescents. Look at the imagery of the pop music they listen to. They are drawn to death. It's not surprising that the second most common cause of death in this age group is suicide.'
Last night I went to the band night at Pony. It was organised by the Eaze people, but was a change from the usual poets, video makers, interpretive fire-twirlers and miscellaneous beatnik types one associates with Eaze, instead being more of an indiekid crowd. You know the sort; black-framed glasses and striped sweaters and canvas sneakers and checkered shirts and dark blue work shirts and ironic T-shirts and kiddie paraphernalia and fur-lined parkas and anti-haircuts and girls with short hair and boys with oversized sideburns and such; mostly clustered three-deep around the bar talking with people they know from either bands or sharehouses they were in.
Anyway, the music: By Ferry Or Steamer played some nice instrumentals, as did Chinless Kings (in a rather minimalistic sort of way). Ruby's Arms were a bit too country-&-western for my liking (what is it with country music and inner city indie types; is it something ironic, like wearing vintage summer-camp T-shirts?) At Sea consisted of two blokes with an acoustic guitar and an acoustic bass guitar, the latter of whom ranted into a microphone whilst playing. Towards their last piece (a lengthy number), they began to sound like an acoustic Mogwai (not a bad thing, IMHO). Finally, Midstate Orange came on. Their sound is a combination of power-pop, wall-of-noise shoegazer endings, false endings, and 1960s retro-kitsch (in places they sounded like The Monkees or The Banana Splits or someone).
The future is already here: it's just not evenly distributed: Companies have been hiring the service of cool hunters , who are sort of like upmarket yuppie anthropologists, to tell them what the trendy urban hipsters are doing, thinking and identifying with; the theory being that the twitchily hip urban fads of today will be the next big hit of tomorrow's mainstream; a view Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point put forward.
When not receiving facials or having their toes dipped in Bollinger Grande Cuvée, trendsetting teens claim to be experimenting with digital filmmaking, vintage computers and "geometric prints from the '60s and '70s." Mainstream teens say they're having sex, "rolling up my jeans" and "going to college." Asked about the "newest thing your friends are doing," the mainstreamers, in a sudden burst of Eisenhower-era conformity retrograde even by their standards, cited "getting married," "working on cars" and "going to nudie bars." Trendier types mentioned "freestyling" and "drunk bowling."
The cool-hunting consultancies, of course, charge hefty fees for these vital tips. (An annual subscription to the L Report will set you back $30k.) Mind you, they're now discovering a corollary to the Tipping Point hypothesis; namely, that most cutting-edge trends are too rarefied to trickle down to suburban mainstream consumers to the point of being marketable; leading to missteps such as marketing guarana-laced soft drinks and male makeup kits to the Wal-Mart crowd, with predictably underwhelming results. (via rebecca's pocket)
A Scottish entrepreneur is attempting to combine yoof fashion with national pride, and promoting the kilt as 21st century clubwear. His products include kilts with pockets for mobile phones and water bottles.
A web page on that irritatingly ubiquitous feature of corporate logos of the past decade: the Millennum Orbital Crescent Swish. (via BoingBoing)