This Little Underground

In the discourse of music, the issue of authenticity comes up an awful lot, if not expressly then almost always by implication. And there's an age-old attitude toward it that's practically institutionalized in rock & roll circles in particular. Although motivated by what I will assume to be the purest of intellectual intentions, a whole lot of people in the underground scene here are absolutely cultish about their notions of authenticity – you know, keepin' it real, man. It's a topic that sits deep at the heart of art, and it's something I've thought a great deal about and read a great deal on. 

The problem with authenticity, the holy grail of rock music, is that it most often exists only in an academic sense. This, sisters and brothers, is a philosophical matter. As someone who has an actual degree in philosophy, let me tell you that not everyone is equipped to be tackling such things with self-righteousness and a cavalier attitude. Like monkeys performing surgery, it can be hopelessly pointless at best and dangerous at worst. Still, it happens inevitably – just look at the comment threads on this very column for evidence of that. Although open public dialogue is a good and healthy thing, it's not always informed. And those who seem to lob the most grenades in the name of authenticity tend to be unquestioning vessels of inherited, half-informed and warped ideas of it.

First of all, true authenticity is an exceedingly rare and inaccessible thing. In fact, it can be downright chimerical. Shit, the majority of what most of us hold as holy and pure was, in reality, distorted for effect in some way, if not by the actual artist then by other forces with an interest and hand in the process of myth-making. Some halfway-serious historical research will prove that point. (One outstanding starting point is the enlightening book Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Yuval Taylor and Hugh Barker – it'll no doubt change your ideas about some of your most sacred cows.)

There's nothing wrong with a little creative embellishment in music. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, it's something that's a core element of art. Art is meant to be a means to bend perspective and adopt alternate voices. Most of the gestures in art are affectations and vehicles for the sake of expression. However distorted or artificial the perspective, and possibly even premise, the only thing that ultimately matters is what you do with it, what truth you can coax from it. To not flex this possibility is simply a lack of ;creativity.

The issue of authenticity aside, music – especially rock & roll – doesn't even have to have all that much literal meaning or profundity. It can simply sound good and still be immortal. It is called music after all. This is what makes it an inclusive, cathartic and powerful art form. So fuck the politics. Fuck the posturing. Just do something cool, get some pleasure from it and try to give some, too. If we only put as much into actually doing it as we do discussing it, we'll be in good shape. And if we can remember that it's only rock & roll, then we'll be living the ideal. So cut the crap already and get to it.


The Beat


There's already a pretty well-established history of Central and North Florida musical talent playing here in our city, so it was refreshing to see South Florida represented so impressively this week with a couple of acts deserving some real notice (May 16, Stardust Video & Coffee). The lo-fi but sparkling indie rock of West Palm Beach act the Jameses was an evocative, thoughtful merge of electronic and rock elements. Their big, bursting sense of pop melody dressed in splendidly colorful and nicely frayed sonic treatments is gonna take this band places.

Besides being good, the reason Lake Worth band Cop City/Chill Pillars should jump to the head of their class is because they pack in far more dimension than the average garage-punk band. Their expansive breadth of both sound and mood results in fuzzed-out, occasionally surf-y psychedelic punk that creeps along with deep, brooding intent. It's powerful and distinctive stuff that has some serious potential. 

And lastly, good god, Orlando Magic. WTF?

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