“Psychedelic British Blues Rock and Comparing British to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Hal’ Robot”

* “Hal” is a character from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a talking computer that develops

pugnacious and vengeful traits during the developments of the plot. Keenly observant, Hal is of underestimated cognitive capacity. Light and panoramic where detractors claim it to be alienating, 2001 is a highly enjoyable viewing.


I recently had a dream about what would have happened if I’d had a place to live here in the Midwest, my home region of the country, after college. It involved learning from my drummer friend the functional nuances of Keith Moon as compared to other epochal drummers like John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell, and then maybe getting a drum set and playing, myself.
As it turned out, I moved out west following certain family members, and while this did afford me the opportunity to see a surplus of rock and rap shows, the crowds were stiff as boards, and I missed the histrionics of crazy Chicago and Detroiters, like holding up owls on the end of wooden sticks and yelling heinous atrocities. You need a little of the devil in you to let loose.
And lemme tell you somethin’, folks, the British have the devil oozing out of their cuticles, as anyone who’s ever read Rod Liddle, or listened to Lily Allen’s classic (or at least close-to-classic, seriously), Alright, Still, will attest. [1] They’re the type of people who know that their neighbor is having more fun than them, and get jealous, maybe just picking up a guitar and learning to shred. But this is the case even if their neighbor is 7,000 miles across a bunch of seawater, as in the instance of American blues.
And truly, between Led Zeppelin, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the British have done blues-rock about as well as anyone (see esp. how Jack White even adopts a British accent in live shows such as the one corresponding with the bootleg Boston Tea Party). The British mimicry of American music has become a subject of mimicry in and of itself.
Well, they are our progenitors. They tell us when we’re good and bad; NME is easily the best critical outlet to which the world is today privy.
The results, anyway, are anything but “pure”; they’re cool, they’re… Caucasian. The British are the direct opposite of a noble savage. Subterfuge and guile run rampant with them, the need to be better than their neighbor. Even these guitar virtuosos, they don’t write lyrics, and their band mates only copy the old blues boys (“Killing Floor,” “Sitting on Top of the World,” all this stuff about “brown-skinned woman,” I mean it’s almost comically kitschy the lack of relevant British culture they have to draw from). They’ve learned a formula that is a bit complex, if not necessarily molecular genetics — the 12-bar scheme, the aching croon, the rapacious disregard for convention in favor of displaying unbridled emotion. The ones that really affectively mastered it, which would be Cream and Zeppelin (yes, even more so than Jimi Hendrix himself, to say nothing of his British bandmates), have emerged to the forefront as magnanimously listenable, but is it really CLASSIC art? That is to say, could life go on without it? [2]
British blues rock is INDULGENT; that’s the operative word. PJ Harvey is a fan of blues as well, covering “Wang Dang Doodle” on Peel Sessions to results that are if nothing else slightly interesting. Her lyrical inclinations are novelistic, ascribing to a “Dress” qualities not only symbolic but polymorphous, as eclipsing the identity of the person wearing it, while owning no specific aesthetic traits.
So in the wake of the novels of Huxley, Lawrence and Woolf, it seems there was a dearth of “loosey goosey” in Britain, which made them lunge for blues-rock with such zeal. They needed something visceral, something moving and understandable, worse than any other country, it seems, for simple lack of kinetic identity. [3]
[1] Where Amy Winehouse was torpid, sappy and retro, Lily Allen was a true feminist, applying sense of humor, razor sharp wit and independence through musical sublimation to calamities of the heart. Alright, Still, though, is her only good album so far, some standout tracks of which are “Smile,” “Shame for You” and bonus track “Nan You’re a Window Shopper.”
[2] I just got the Walkmen song “Angela” in my head as I wrote this: “Life goes on all aroooound you…” this is arguably more classic than Zeppelin or Cream. It’s simpler, yet more apt to get ingrained in the psyche, and not just soundtrack some coke snorting fest or frat boy party.
[3] Per Camille Paglia’s discourse in Sexual Personae, some societies, like Ancient Greece, are founded more on motion than on stationary entities like appearance, financial wealth and thought. This means that things like walking gait, and habits of movement go on to encapsulate the general conception of “truth,” or “properness.”

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