Okay, so I’m not really a Nietzsche scholar or anything, but this thing isn’t about Nietzsche really, it’s about why us damn kids are so crazy about all this “noise-pop” stuff. You might say, “well, that’s not really punk”, but it came out of punk and it’s all very up to debate. Was the Velvet Underground punk? Well, they definitely laid the groundwork for punk. The Ramones supposedly invented it, and what did they do other than write snappy girl group/Spector-esque pop songs and play them hard and fast. In 1985, The Jesus And Mary Chain released Psychocandy, on which they wrote snappy girl group/Spector-esque pop songs but played them really slow and softly but with a shit load of feedback. That’s kind of like out-punking punk. And that is soooo punk. So now that that’s established, here’s the deal…
Nietzsche had this idea that the human constitution was made up of a Dionysian element and an Apollonian element
. The Dionysian element is what makes us want to fuck and drink and party and shit. It’s like our id, and I’m also going to throw in (perhaps injustly so) our “death drive”
, which Freud believes was this drive that humans have which makes us inclined to destruction and aggression. The Apollonian element is what makes us want order, unity, cohesion, form and such. It’s like our superego and our eros drive (opposite of the death drive, makes us like all the Apollonian things, eg. order, cohesion). So every human being has these two elements within them, although some constitutions lean more to one element than the other. If they do this to the extreme though, it’s not good, as someone overtaken by their Dionysian element is just going to go nuts and end up killing themself, though they might have a lot of fun in the process, while someone who’s overly Apollonian is just going to go nuts because they’d be like OCD and they’d never have any fun.
Pretty much all art falls within these terms as well, though we refer to them differenty, eg. hard rock vs. soft rock, classical period vs. romantic period, metal vs. twee, etc. So what’s the deal with noise-pop? Well, noise-pop (and one could extend this to classic punk-rock, shoegazer and maybe even grunge) is interesting because it manages to be both things at once. It’s very Apollonian in that it’s tightly and simply constructed with sharp melodies and hooks. True, metal and emo are tightly constructed, but they’re still Dionysian because of the aggression of the music, while much of noise-pop isn’t played aggressively, but calmly, composedly. However, by smothering everything in feedback, it’s at the same time hard, aggressive and Dionysian.
See, feedback can be seen as sonically embodying the Dionysian, in that the gain created by it is kind of like sound gone wild. (I checked out the science behind this and it didn’t really help my point, so…yeah…) It makes tones sound dangerous and aggressive and it envelopes them with this kind of white noise.
I remember this idea came to me once while I was in an, uh, altered state of mind. I remember wanting to just bury my mind in noise; to reach a kind of nirvana (mental state of peace and nothingness) by blocking out all thought with just pure noise. When I came out of it, this idea of reaching nirvana through noise still seemed quite a sensible idea. This kind of ties into the idea of the “death drive” because that white noise was kind of an obliteration of the senses. It was a void of chaos, and I think something about it was attractive to my “death drive”.
The Jesus and Mary Chain were really the first ones to go all out with this idea of noise-pop. Sure the Velvet Underground had noisy songs and poppy songs and sometimes the two intermingled (especially on my favorite VU album, White Light/White Heat), but The JAMC perfected this idea. And what’s cool about what they and subsequent noisepoppers like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine did is that they didn’t find some kind of point of moderation between the Apollonian/Dionysian, but rather, they were both at the same time and to the extreme. If you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, then download My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, Dinosaur Jr.’s Beyond and Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and then you’ll figure it out. It’s just such a shame Nietzsche was never around to hear them…
(btw, if you think what I’ve written is wrong, juvenile, and misinterprets the philosophies of those referenced, please comment with your argument, as I’d be very interested in learning if I’ve got something wrong here.)
Tags: nietzsche, punk, the jesus and mary chain