The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mod'
Apparently it's time for another Mod revival now, only this one hearkening back to the 1990s and the heady days of Britpop, with Oasis being a touchstone:
If you were looking for a reason, Oasis, forever riding on the fishtails of Paul Weller in the 90s, didn't help; the "Modfather" had ceased moving forward after the Style Council's ill-fated but entirely logical detour into house music. The Gallaghers were pictured on scooters, publicising their Earls Court gig, and mods now seem to equate Britpop (mainstream, nostalgic) with modernism (elitist, forward-facing). Mod bands who dress the part but favour Britpop over black music and its myriad mutations – and admittedly your writer has only anecdotal evidence, though it's the sort of thing mods argue over, a lot – are like a Jpeg of a photocopy of Liam's bumcheeks.Of course, strictly speaking, Paul Weller has little more claim to the holy grail of Mod authenticity than Noel Gallagher; despite being styled as “the Modfather”, he was a product of the 1979 Mod revival, the first backward-looking permutation of Mod which grew in the fertile soil following Punk's bonfire of 1970s vanities. Which, if one defines Mod as an explicitly reactionary phenomenon—a sort of mid-20th-century retrofuturism for those disaffected with the banality of the present day, and the present day always looks more banal than the tasteful photographs which survive from the past—would make Weller more authentically Mod than the paperback-reading Soho jazz intellectuals of 1960.
Then again, there is no way that something stylistically true to the tropes of the cutting edge circa the 1960s could not be reactionary. All the symbols of modernity tied to Mod—Italian tailoring and coffee, Black American music, the end of national service and rationing—are so ubiquitous that they have not been cutting-edge for a long time. Even more damning is the fate of Mod's technology of young freedom, the moped. Back then it was cheap, modern and cool; nowadays, a vintage Vespa or Lambretta would be a cantankerous inefficient relic, less an enabler of freedom and more a cross to bear for one's commitment to the Mod identity. And even worse, in the age of climate change, electric cars and cycling, wilfully riding around on something powered by a dirty 2-stroke engine would seem trollishly reactionary, like propaganda of the deed for global-warming denial and anti-green hippy-punching, a transportational equivalent of voting UKIP or complaining about foreign food. Or, indeed, about music that doesn't sound like back-to-basics rock, as those latter-day Mod icons the Gallaghers have been wont to do.
And so, just by standing still, yesterday's shining future becomes the ugly, reactionary past.
Tonight, some 10 years after the Blur vs. Oasis battle, BBC Four held a Britpop night, running several programmes on the whole thing.
First up was a half-hour documentary by John Harris about the history of the phenomenon. It reprised much of the territory in his excellent book The Last Party, only squeezed into half an hour and with fragments of music and video, and interviews with various people from the time reminiscing over what it was like. It started with the wilderness of Nirvana and shoegazer (which Harris described as being similar to grunge), and ended with the comment that Britpop was responsible for ushering in the age of bland balladeers like Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol, and of course those quintessential rockist classicists, Oasis.
This was followed by a programme with Damon Albarn presenting a selection of live videos; it's reassuring that he has ditched the mockney accent and look-at-me-I'm-working-class affectation, though perhaps a tad disappointing that the title designers did the lazy thing and equated britpop with Mod. Then they played Live Forever, the Britpop doco from some years back, and then a 1995 BBC fly-on-the-wall piece with Pulp, which was rather interesting. It involved backstage footage from a gig in Sheffield, Jarvis talking about appreciating kitsch knowingly yet unironically, and some footage of Pulp's support band, an outfit named Minty who seemed to have been England's answer to Machine Gun Fellatio or something.
Cosmic Breed Mod Gear, a Hobart-based outfit who make some pretty nifty clothes. I just got two items made up by them and am quite satisfied with them. (Thanks to Laverne for the link)
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
Score! I recently managed to find a copy of Colin MacInnes' Absolute Beginners, for a pittance, in a certain bookshop in Northcote. (It was a mid-80s edition, with cover artwork that looks like a promo still from the supposedly dire film and day-glo lettering in DTP clip-art fonts, making it look more like a cheap romance novel than the cult classic it is acclaimed as.) I had been keeping an eye out for it since reading excerpts or references to it in various other books. So far, I'm enjoying it; it seems to capture the zeitgeist of London in the late 1950s, and the rise of what would become Modernism (and indeed the roots of much of youth culture since), quite vividly.
Once I'm finished with that, I'll probably go onto the PDB file of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.
The Mod scene is big in Japan, with many young Japanese donning Union Jack-emblazoned army parkas and tightly tailored suits and cruising around on chromed Lambretta scooters, like extras from Quadrophenia. (via rotten.com)
Hoizumi counts at least three Mod revivals: The Neo-Mod movement inspired by ``Quadrophenia'' (and which eventually led to the Skins); an early 1980s resurgence built around the British group Style Council (the Japanese Mod scene remains a huge milkcow for Paul Weller); and a unique-to-Japan revival in the mid-1990s created by teenage photoceleb Hiromix, whose snapshots of herself and her friends in undies became an international artworld sensation.
But in some ways, whilst the scene is a knockoff of 1960s British youth culture (and also of subsequent "revivals" of Mod)
. Until recently, Japan's Mods have overwhelmingly come from the ranks of hairstylists, overworked, underpaid and image-conscious, who leave the suburbs and countryside with big city dreams of grooming stars and cutting it as ``charisma stylists.'' ... But the stylists have moved on with the Hiromix boom, and the Mods of 2002 are a cadre of college art students, graphic designers and apparel professionals. Many have had their parents buy their first bikes for them, and quite a few own several bikes. They seem more sure of themselves and aren't as interested in making a class statement as an aesthetic one.
Sounds a bit like Melbourne's Mod scene, which is mostly rich private-school kids using their classicist style of youth rebellion to differentiate themselves from the plebeian rabble north of the Yarra. I.e., like the Young Liberals only noisier and more stylish.
Tanya, who hates indie kids as much as music, has a typically righteous dig at Mods. Or rather Mod-wannabe indie kids, that particularly pretentious and exquisitely irritaining strain of the indiekid meme plague. (Kids, give it up. Your parents may have been Mods when they were teenagers, but, assuming you're not a fiftysomething amnesiac, you surely are not. Then again, neither was Damon Albarn, however hard he tried.)
Yesterday I had occasion to be in PolyEster Books, and picked up a volume titled The Sharper Word: A Mod Anthology. This is a series of essays about the origins, evolution and decline of the original Mod subculture in the early 1960s. I've read most of it, and it has gotten me thinking about the memetics of subcultures, and the principles by which they evolve, recombine and mutate. (Mod is a very good example of memetics at work, having evolved out of a variety of different memes and favourable social conditions, and subsequently mutated into more virulent strains, the most recent of which being 90s britpop; it may also be argued that a lot of component memes of Mod ultimately found their ways into things such as the rave culture (possibly via Northern Soul).) Hmmm; I think there may be a PhD thesis in here somewhere...