being ironic is kinda funny, but not subversive

April 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

So, is it still true: “If you’re not a rebel in your twenties you got no soul…and if you’re not a sellout by your thirties you got no brains.”  Was it ever true? Are there any subversives left out there?  Or is it just an ocean of smirking hipsters?

I think I get it.  The baby boomers thought EVERYONE could be a rebel, that pop culture could be subversive.  Of course it was sold out, because it was all pop and no culture after a very short while.   They really did change the world though — the problem is that the change came from the afterparty counter-revolution…so  the changes were completely godawful.  There was an insatiable hunger for law and order, mass marketing conformity, the need to chop down anything alive to get one more inch ahead.   It’s as if all the promises you made to the toilet when you threw up drunk came to pass.  Just Say No next time, right?

Xers got stuck with the boomer hangover but also caught a couple breaks.   The rise of the conservative counter revolution,  the plague of HIV, and the art of turning everything counterculture into mainstream was enough to make us suspicious and angry in a vague, even surly way.  But for a brief moment in 89 or 90 it was all crashing down.  The Cold War and Apartheid and maybe even Mao and hair bands…LA was on fire— Maybe everything could change.  But it didn’t.  All the students at Tiananmen Square are dead, College radio became Alternative rock , Russia is some sort of organized criminal enterprise and our kids will probably eat the last fish.   So,  we didn’t accomplish much of anything, but we documented our lack of progress on film in fine detail.  Which is cool. We invented entire genres of music, piercing and tattooing,  traveling and dropping out and slacking.

Then we figured out a medium to keep in touch with everything everywhere and maybe that’s why it all got so…self referential.    Does the internet dissolve our personal identities the same way pop culture corrodes counter culture?

So, back to the original question.  Kids these days — where is your subversive soul?  Do you have any heart… or are you just born to pay taxes and live in the burbs?  Handlebar mustaches are funny, and paying 9 bucks for a PBR really is ironic, but there isn’t anything revolutionary or original about it.  Don’t mistake pop culture for anything it isn’t.  Like you,  we always knew that hair bands, preppies and wifebeaters are so uncool it’s funny.  Just like Gaga and Emo, right?  So please, I beg you,  do something to offend and challenge us old dipshits or your kids won’t even enjoy mocking you very much.

Don’t take my word for it, here is one of your own, reviewing a decent hipster folk song by Fleet Foxes:

Having embodied his generation’s longing for a political identity, he had no right to turn away into solipsism and empty artistry. I speak of course of Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, who in the first two couplets of the band’s single “Helplessness Blues“, released two weeks ago, seemed to capture a distraction-addled post-ideological generation’s desperate longing to lose its smirk and engage, only to drift into confused wistfulness over the course of the song’s third stanza, and finally to execute a mid-song mood shift to an entirely different timbre, kick in an electric guitar, and start mumbling about going off and living on a farm. The fizz-out that took the Baby Boomers from 1963 to 1970 to accomplish takes Mr Pecknold about two and a half minutes.

We are every bit as solopsistic (this self absorbed little essay is a case in point) and frustrated as you guys are, we just didn’t seem so entirely pleased with ourselves for it.


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