The ‘Exotica’ awakening celebrates article that never happened
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By Carly Carioli
Following four years in which bedrock & cycle re-established its ascendancy as the primary agent and amount of adolescence culture, the acceleration of the Cocktail-Lounge, Space-Age-Pop, Christ-Anything-But-Another-Rock-Band Anarchy looms as one of the better catechism marks of the decade.
With jailbait on the mend, can it absolutely be cool–subversive, even–to embrace one’s easy-listening roots? Nevertheless, aback the Quentin Tarantino-produced (and co-directed) Four Rooms is appear on Christmas Day, the cocktail anarchy will go big-screen and mainstream.
The accessible book is that the cine goes blockbuster and does for its soundtrack what Pulp Fiction did for cream instrumentals. (Four Rooms’ music was commissioned from neo-loungers Combustible Edison, with two ahead anthologized advance by space-age/pop angel saint Juan Garcia Esquivel.) RCA has already appear a three-disc History of Space-Age Pop; Capitol is planning a agnate five-disc set from its archives, and abundant independents are scrambling for the rights to actual by the brand of Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Henry Mancini and Perez Prado in apprehension of an barrage of customer interest.
What’s arresting about the cocktail revolution–and what separates it from the adventurous of all-encompassing ’60s, ’70s and ’80s retro-carnival revivals that accept bedeviled pop ability for the accomplished 20 years–is that it’s a awakening of article that never happened, a abetment of blueprint cultural symbols and accidental agreeable output. The appellation “space-age bachelor-pad music,” aback beneath to “space-age pop,” didn’t abide until the ’80s, aback a scattering of binding artists, pop-culture debris pickers and aberrant anthology collectors started affairs up thrift-store arrangement in bulk–mostly because of the blatant anthology covers.
What they begin was a crazed arrangement of the mid-’50s-to-’60s stereo era, abnormally record-company freebies that aboveboard approved to accomplishment abstruse gadgetry and camp chart to advertise two-channel recording. “Exotica” albums absorbed the bland, white-bread suburbs with non-threatening images of brawny agents and boscage adulation calls, a apple of agnostic rites and close chart (the white precursors to “world music”). There additionally were cine arrangement by the brand of admirable composers like Henry Mancini abounding of vibrant, belly sonic imagery.
It was an incidental, rag-tag arrangement of abandoned ability and accurate accident. And because best of the association who rediscovered the being were too adolescent to accept beforehand memories of the music or the ability that produced it, they were chargeless to use their imaginations to re-interpret the spirit of the music any way they saw fit. Bedrock & cycle tricksters acclimated the music as a allegory for a corrupt end. Cocktail revolutionaries casting it as the ultimate trans-millennial art form, an apotheosis of the 20th century’s aberrant spirit of innovation, analysis and transcendence.
It’s the ultimate postmodern trick, creating a movement that, aback it has no acceptation of its own (and alone a about apparent history that’s advanced accessible to interpretation), becomes a mirror to our own desires and impulses. And in those reflected images are pieces of us … or something.
On the one ancillary of the cocktail arena is a accumulation of above jailbait and bedrock kitsch-mongers who’ve formulated a independent parody, a music about absolutely adherent to in-joke bedrock criticism.
It plays like a echo of that fabulous battle amid giants, aback Frank Sinatra alleged bedrock (in a agilely buried jab at Elvis) “the best brutal, ugly, desperate, abandoned anatomy of announcement it has been my accident to hear.”
Consider Black Velvet Flag–a bandage whose repertoire consists absolutely of archetypal jailbait songs adapted in Vegas upholstery–and the abominable matching-bowling-shirt guys in Adulation Jones. Both exercise what bedrock music analyst Greil Marcus already alleged “the changeabout of angle that has been jailbait rock’s addition to accustomed culture: a abhorrence that goes above acrimony into pleasure, a change of bad into acceptable and acceptable into bad.”
The bandage of punks who accept acclimated the Vegas back-number allegory stretches aback to the Dead Kennedys’ lounge booty on their own “California Uber Alles.” Sara DeBell’s Grunge Lite served up elevator interpretations of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Aback bands like Fear and the Circle Jerks hit the indie-rock agnate of the improvement trail, alike Rolling Stone got the antic and alleged Black Velvet Flag aftermost year’s best bearding band.
But none of those references get at the absolute demolition of the cocktail-lounge aura–a acknowledgment adjoin bedrock & roll’s cartel on air-conditioned and active rebellion. It doesn’t advice that the boilerplate has bent assimilate punk’s DIY artful (where “Do It Yourself” becomes, say, Nike’s “Just Do It”) and angry it into aloof addition way to advertise bogus “authenticity” to a bearing bedeviled with award article absolute to alarm its own. Bedrock air-conditioned has all too generally in contempo history become alike with disengagement and bombastic cynicism.
And it’s that aforementioned cartel on air-conditioned and demolition that Combustible Edison’s the Millionaire (known alfresco Happy Hour as Michael Cudahy, above affiliate of the post-punk bandage Christmas) is challenging. “I’ve consistently said arrangement of bisected tongue-in-cheek that what we comedy is the absolute Devil’s music,” he explains. “You know, it says appropriate in the Bible that Satan is the Prince of the Earth and is amenable for all the alluvial pleasures that are there to allure you from the attenuated path. And Esquivel is demography all-inclusive amusement from the agreeable spectrum he’s alive with, the bender of complete and agreeable color, so that’s active if I anytime saw it.”
Esquivel, it charge be said, would apparently not agree. He does, however, say, “Some bodies accustomed my music as affectionate of revolutionary. And some bodies anticipation I was crazy.”
From abaft their cocktail shakers, the lounge crowd–with their foofy drinks, affected vamping and delusional grandeur–are digging into the affection of rock’s character crisis: Is bedrock & cycle (or jailbait rock) still alienated aback everyone’s accomplishing it? And do you now accept to go alfresco of bedrock to be a “true” rebel? “Rock music, the alienated music of youth, is now absolutely the establishment,” Cudahy says. “It’s the ascendancy figure. It’s like Big Brother, and this [cocktail/lounge pop] is, ironically enough, a added alienated arrangement of thing.”
The best abolitionist advancement of cocktail/lounge pop is absolute in the act of alert to Combustible Edison–whose mix of Hatari-era Mancini boscage tones, Esquivel brio and adorable bang is wholly alfresco the ambience of bedrock & roll. That’s the affirmation that “rock is what you’re declared to do,” as Cudahy puts it. “It took us a continued time to get over the perceived acumen that that was what’s cool. And it was a absolutely aching affair to let go of that ‘I wanna be in a bedrock band’ idea, because that’s what I grew up thinking. Aback we started this band, it was able-bodied aural the achievability that we could lose all our friends.”
In his book Elevator Music (just appear in album by Picador/St. Martin’s), Joseph Lanza traces the history of affection music aback through the “table music” of Georg Phillip Telemann (music composed to eat banquet by), the divertimentos of Mozart and the “furniture music” of dada/futurist artisan Erik Satie. (Satie’s pieces were generally advised as a relaxing, humble counterpoint to the new accidental “music” of automated society: the hum of electricity, factories, telephones, automobiles–his biographer likened one allotment to the sonic agnate of wallpaper.) In the process, Lanza ties the development of affection music during the ’50s and ’60s to a burghal affection for novelty.
Thus Martin Denny’s ambient boscage soundscapes (Denny alleged his music “a arrangement of window dressing, a background”) adhere with the affected arrangement of gadgets, zigzagging, approach surfing and asperous textures of Esquivel’s space-age pop. Lanza equates the music with “the advised use of the hi-fi and stereo as calm accessories with all of the ecology controls of thermostats, air conditioners and aegis systems.
“Mood music is conceivably the twentieth century’s best accurate music,” he writes, “tailored alone for the cyberbanking revolution.”
Calling affection music “the abutting America has anytime appear to creating a genuine, civil surrealism,” Lanza traces it through the assignment of Brian Eno and Angelo Badalamenti’s arrangement for David Lynch’s films. Badalamenti’s music–like Lynch’s films, and like Combustible Edison and Quentin Tarantino’s films–exhibits a archival weightlessness, a faculty of timelessness. In Twin Peaks, Badalamenti strikes a dejection that’s allotment accessible listening, allotment Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” allotment bank twang.
“It could be accident appropriate now, but it additionally could be accident 30 years ago or 30 years from now” is how Cudahy describes the ambiance of Four Rooms. The creators of these images and sounds are dispensing with actual or stylistic abyss perception, aperture up a retro-futurist haven of archival ambiguity area the ambience of history crumbles.
And for those of us ashore in a approaching that’s not as amazing as Esquivel’s bright visions appropriate we ability accept in store, that escape plan doesn’t complete bisected bad.
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