Monday, December 04, 2006

Electric Dreams

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but CSS are one of my favourite bands. You may well have heard of them, but for the uninitiated, they are Cansei de Ser Sexy, Brazilian Portugese for 'Tired of being sexy'. They play throwaway indie-electro-pop. The band consists of 4 girls and one guy (the bassist, for Christ's sake), and every single member exudes the aura of the cold fashionista. Look on Youtube and their webpage and you can find a whole plethora of videos by them from their tours, astonishing in their fake naivety and flippancy. They are currently on Sub Pop, the same label that briefly housed Nirvana and Mudhoney, and now has The Shins, and one of my favourite bands, Wolf Eyes. They came to the world's blinkered attention through their MySpace page, in a similar manner to Lily (vomit) Allen.
In an article in October's Plan B, the band talk about MySpace, the drummer Caro (the only member without am accoutn) asking "What is it for?" The hack typing the article, a certain "kicking_k", fills us in on what MySpace is about: "It's... for escaping where you are. It's for reaching out to all your friends at once, keeping hold of them wherever your life careers, however atomised and isolated we become in ever-accelerating streets and cities." But this is what intrigued me: "It's for advertising who you want to be... an interactive, multi-media tombstone updated daily."
He's right, you know. I've recently gotten MySpace, and it's a bizarre tool: impersonal yet intimate, an opportunity for infinite networking, mostly confined to my friends and acquaintances, a front and tool for popularity, a kind of artifice that becomes in itself almost a kind of art. The first thing I did when I got my profile was go down to the woods behind my school and take my profile picture; I wrote out a list of my favourite bands for the Music section, going through my entire voluminous record collection to make sure I got every one. Some of the bands on my page, I must confess, I've only heard one or two tracks from.
But that is not the point. The internet, as it is, provides a golden opportunity for subcultures to have the world as their playground: in a democratic system, where everyone is on equal footing, they have as much opportunity as anyone else. Those whose intelligence outweighs their practical abilities - otherwise known as nerds, geeks, or dorkuses - find a perfect field in the internet, where anonymity is guaranteed. By the same token, it allows people to see, and grasp with both hands, the capitalist dream. CSS are perfectly suited to this brave new world: their image, that of the fun-loving consumers, the boys and girls playing in the wasteland of late capitalism, their post-modernist image - colourful and 'now', but classical; weak and effeminate but strong and indifferent; enjoyers of good old-fashioned fun, proficient in the latest tech - matching the time.
But this is not limited to MySpace. The Internet community - the enormous network of blogs, forums, file-sharing sites, 'community' sites like Bebo, etc., etc. - becomes a shadowy, cracked mirror to the real world. The 'winners' of society - the popular, the 'upper crust' - carry pages similarly possessed of the aesthetic and values of the 'ruling class' (an example, one in the many); the pages of the 'lower class', the despised and spat on, the shit on the heel of society, possess poor 'production values' and generally poor everything (an example, heh heh heh). For example, you'll note how the web pages of punk bands and anarchist sites are generally nothing more than text and a few basic graphics.
And whilst I've never had any doubt of the validity of underground culture - the output of those ground under the heel of modern life - the specter of the 'ruling class' survives. MySpace is an electric dream, an opportunity for 'self-improvement', social climbing and expansion, if you like. But dreams have only ever been available for the rich, the 'blessed'. And whilst I'll listen to Scratch Acid, Nirvana, Black Flag, Gogol Bordello, any day, the process of living in the underground is, frankly, shit. But neither do I want to buy in to the lies of the upper class, of Gramsci's 'hegemony'. That's just not me. The spectre of the 'bloc' in Gramsci's terms, the despised and oppressed, is like a black hole, sucking me back every time I take a step 'forward'. And MySpace really means nothing because of it.


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