Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Timelessness is so last century

The best thing anybody said in the Dylan doc is Pennebaker's comment about how Dylan's great skill was in adapting -- a new way of saying something oversaid, I wish I'd written it down. The third best moment (second is Dylan's sheepish nonapology to Joan Baez) is Al Kooper's utter astonishment at having been part of history. His quote I got:

I was just caught in this whirlwind of being tacked onto this music that was going to be forever, and being involved in it. And knowing that it was going to be forever. I was just pretty much in awe during "Highway 61."

Contrast this with something a former indie rock musician, now playing every Sunday in a Seattle megachurch, said to me recently:

Playing in church, the hope is that the songs will be more timeless. If I play in an indie rock band, the songs will be around for maybe three months. Or maybe somebody will play that song ten years from now if we’re lucky.

What happened?

Not that this second guy and his band even approach Dylanesque, but it strikes me that the very goal of making lasting impact seems far less pressing these days, for artists. You could say that what's been lost is unecessary ego, pretentiousness, self-delusion. I'm just curious why the mood seems much more get-by than it was even in the mid-90s, and whether that has any impact upon how the music is presented, by the artists and their enablers and received by their fans. Sure, there's mucho blingaling, and desire for commercial domination, and even the strong assertion of identity and, occasionally, values. But the sense that art might move the ice floe of history seems delusional now. Even Bono is, at heart, a pragmatist.

I'm not interested in pompous world-saving gestures. I am, however, interested in what constitues artistic excitement. Who are, not the Dylans, but the Al Koopers of today?


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