This Is Only a Test

by Belle Waring on January 9, 2014

BREAKING MUST CREDIT BELLE BREAKING

What if I linked to my favorite song by everybody’s favorite Australian punk band, and merely pointed out that Ross “I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won’t” Douthat is only 8 1/2 days away from misusing found alien technology, not to better the world, because he’s a selfish monster, but to better his own life by becoming infinity percent cooler?

Ross-Douthat1

And look, he put out some great music, in his defense, right?

saints2

But that’s not at all what Culture tech is for and I can tell you, without spoilering the 21st Century at all, that both I myself and way MOAR KNIFE MISSLES get involved, so, it all evens out.

Are you going to go on and on about The Saints like a bunch of little bitches, or what? Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Oh, wait, now I’ve like entangled myself in my own quantum wossnames, haven’t I? COMMENT IN THE NEW THREAD. If you’re going to go on and on about something do it in an interesting fashion. Don’t feed boring trolls poorly-prepared victuals. Make the trolls earn their meagre fare. Then, eventually, you may reward them with fun-size Milky Way or something. God.

UPDATE: I failed. Because I could have written the post in a comprehensible way. But I did not. OR WAS I FAILED?!
1. Look, people have been going on about whether the Jim Crow South was maybe, possibly, kinda racist for like 425 comments down there in John’s thread. IT WAS. Also, DON’T FEED LOW CALIBER-TROLLS. “But Belle, Mao Cheng Ji started it!” STFU bitch.
2. People were not enough with the loving Breakwater’s “Say You Love Me Girl,” from below. Let’s grant they just don’t like that kind of thing, which was why they didn’t like it. OK GRANTED. Why didn’t they love Shuggie Otis more? Was it…racism? Oh, no, actually. Probably it was just liking this one other kind of music that they do like. Which is fine an all but…
3. As inestimable non-trollish commenter Michael Sullivan pointed out, if this had been a male poster reminiscing about some post-punk stuff he might well have gotten 100 comments in an hour. So, was it—sexism? No, actually, people just don’t appreciate good music sometimes. So then I was listening to The Saints. And then I noticed, damn, Ross “I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won’t” Douthat looks just like that one dude in The Saints! So I suggested an humorous vignette in which Meatloaf (not “Mr. Meatloaf”; the New York Times regrets the error; like many Indonesians, Meatloaf only uses one name) was transported back in time using the technology of Iain M. Banks’ Culture. But would that have been satisfactory? No, so I had to specify that I subsequently hunted him down and killed him with knife missiles which, if you haven’t read the books, are EXACTLY WHAT THEY SAY ON THE TIN. Then people expressed variously, bafflement (here, sorry) and the objection that The Saints, being a seminal punk band, can hardly be post-punk can they, missy? (EXPECT KNIFE MISSILES.)
I don’t know why you people make everything so difficult.

{ 56 comments }

1

Barry Freed 01.09.14 at 2:56 pm

Are you going to go on and on about The Saints like a bunch of little bitches, or what?

Hell yes!

Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Hell no! Except for the lack of time. But I love love love The Saints. Thanks.

2

Barry Freed 01.09.14 at 2:58 pm

Quick, someone post some Radio Birdman. Ozzie punk day at Crooked Timber FTW!

3

Phil 01.09.14 at 3:05 pm

I don’t understand any of this post. In any case, the Saints were awesome, but then Ed Kuepper left and the awesomeness went with him, if you ask me.

4

MPAVictoria 01.09.14 at 3:12 pm

“I don’t understand any of this post. “

Neither do I but I am almost certain that the problem is with me and not the post.

5

Elf M. Sternberg 01.09.14 at 4:00 pm

I dunno, Belle… would we really have a Banksian Culture moment if Douthat was still around, making shittier and shittier music during the inevitable cognitive decline?

6

oldster 01.09.14 at 5:26 pm

To understand what’s going on in this thread, you have to have read this from the previous funk thread:

Michael Sullivan 01.09.14 at 2:23 am
Really disappointed in the CT commentariat here. If one of the dudes posted some deep cuts from the grating, whiny^W^W dark, angry post-punk ouvre, there’d be 100 nostalgic comments within the hour.

In other words, Belle is giving the commentariat a chance *not* to be a disappointment; that’s why “this is a test.”

Which I find touching, in a way; as though she still held out some hope, as though she still had illusions that could be disappointed.

7

Barry Freed 01.09.14 at 5:43 pm

Yeah, I saw that so maybe I failed but the Saints aren’t post-punk.

8

DaveL 01.09.14 at 7:10 pm

Knife missiles expose the inherent contradictions in the post-singularity abundance-communism power structure, ya know? Still, a good track there; you can dance to it and everything. I will Spotify/Sonos some more of that Culture Tech later, maybe even see if the Kids Today like it. (They like Warren Zevon even though he ended up making a chair out of bones.)

9

Michael Sullivan 01.09.14 at 7:25 pm

I’m torn between being honored that I’ve inspired Belle to open a whole new thread, and somewhat bitter that she didn’t just call me a troll (accurate enough in this instance) but a *boring* troll.

The shame, the shame.

10

oldster 01.09.14 at 7:35 pm

Michael, I’m not sure whether her troll comment was directed at you or not.

The only way to tell is to wait and see if she gives you a fun-sized Milky Way bar.

11

MPAVictoria 01.09.14 at 7:46 pm

This thread makes me feel so tragically unhip.
/Shame on all of you!

12

Niall McAuley 01.09.14 at 8:59 pm

Banksian culture: A graffiti image of the ROU Candygram for Mongo.

13

Niall McAuley 01.09.14 at 9:01 pm

Milky Way bar?

To be properly Cultural, you’d need a fun size actual Milky Way.

14

Tony Lynch 01.09.14 at 11:17 pm

Saints and Birdman, yes. But try the Wrecked Jets – seems deeply appropriate – “Can I Go Home?”.

15

shah8 01.10.14 at 2:02 am

Ross Douthat would have a rather existential moral and intellectual crisis were he to actually meet such a knife missile, or for that matter, a Mind.

16

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 2:24 am

Michael Sullivan! You are 1000% not a troll of any kind, heaven forfend a boring troll! The trolls are the people trolling people down in “Duck…Duck…Goose” into getting into 1) purported actual arguments about whether 2) black people in the American South just might have been a bit worse off under Jim Crow vs. afters, all things considered and 3.) isn’t this a good thing to talk about for 400 comments.

17

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 2:28 am

shah8: he’s not going to meet it, just stumble onto it while it’s temporarily damaged, and get sent back and, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, become a member of The Saints. Then I come after him with the knife missiles. You all had me pegged as a knife missile type right? Right.

18

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 2:50 am

12: Orson Welles clapping slowly yet vigorously in evening clothes gif.

19

NickS 01.10.14 at 3:08 am

The juxtuposition of punk and science fiction in the original post made me think of the Japanese movie Fish Story, which is quite good, and the title song is great. Unfortunately the only version of the song on youtube doesn’t have subtitles, so this reference is less helpful than it could be.

20

NickS 01.10.14 at 3:12 am

Also, I hadn’t heard The Saints prior to this post, and the track is excellent. Thank you.

21

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 3:23 am

N.B.: This comment at first appeared to have been written by John as I used his computer while printing tickets for the Singapore Flyer. The degree to which John’s dad would not know Alex Chilton cannot possibly be uber-emphasized.

Oh, well, The Saints are hella awesome, but sort of so much so that I wouldn’t mention them. That doesn’t really make sense–but you’d sort of figure that if you’re the sort of person who likes Big Star and they let you have the keys to the internet you already know about Big Star? But at some point I didn’t. And then I found out my dad knew Alex Chilton pretty well but they had had a falling out and he thought he was “an asshole.” Like, I reverently put on my Big Star record at home and my dad from recognizing the voice was like… “is that Alex Chilton?” And I was like…uh… yeah. My dad: “man, that guy’s an asshole.” “But–dad–if he weren’t an asshole you could call him and talk to him?!” “Sure, he’s in Memphis. Fuck him.” Belle breaks down, weeping softly.

22

Michael Harris 01.10.14 at 3:40 am

Niall’s (@12) mash-up of Banks/Banksy/Mel Brooks is the best thing I have read today.

John’s Chilton near-miss is the saddest.

23

Michael Sullivan 01.10.14 at 3:58 am

Oh I *was* trolling.

I mean, I also mean it. Reading people talk about punk they way others might about actual music leaves me nonplussed. It’s similar to how I feel reading .

I have this cloudy memory of a scene from some movie or tv series in the 80s where a main character is depressed and losing his shit over something that’s happening in his life. He’s in a bar talking with a friend while some ubiquitous at the time REM song is playing on the jukebox. At some point in the conversation, he completely flips out, ignores whatever his interlocutor has just said and starts bashing on the jukebox, while uttering a speech that begins in sneering judgemental scorn and morphs towards primal scream, “how can anyone stand to listen to this whiny garbage over and over and OVER,” as he is bounced out of the establishment.

This scene is of course, the climactic evidence of how stressed out and unhinged he is in the moment, but what I mostly remember thinking at the time was “INORITE, WHO WANTS TO LISTEN TO THAT SELF-INDULGENT CRAP?”

And hey, turns out I was wrong. Deep punk cuts didn’t bring any more commenters out than groove. They must all be buried in that deeply interesting fight with the glibertarian trolls you mention. I’d been away for a while, and I was afraid to even look in there. Apparently, 25+ years of internettage have honed my blog-reading instincts well.

24

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 4:03 am

Ahaha!! That was me. John’s dad is the least knowing Alex Chilton-iest. I was printing something on his computer.

25

godoggo 01.10.14 at 4:20 am

OK, just found this post, and I wanted to say that the only Australian band that matters is No Fixed Address. Granted, I’ve never heard them, but I just wanted to say it.

26

godoggo 01.10.14 at 4:32 am

what with me being a hipster and all.

27

js. 01.10.14 at 5:05 am

“INORITE, WHO WANTS TO LISTEN TO THAT SELF-INDULGENT CRAP?”

In the spirit of someone’s got to start a fight down here: This is just crazy.

Look, I get not liking punk/post-punk (maybe—I start doubting people if they don’t get the Clash, they stop being my friends, etc.), but I really don’t see why they’re any more self-indulgent than any genre of music since, I don’t know, the blues? I mean, Emerson, Lake and Palmer happened! (Yeah, easy pickings, but still it happened.) Disco got pretty self-indulgent too.

I guess you’re thinking REM = self-indulgent because they can get pretty mopey, but punk’s not really like that, is it? All Mod Cons self-indulgent? That is bizarre to me. And I am no giant fan of early Ramones, e.g., but it seems absurd to call that self-indulgent. I could multiply examples, but I’ll stop.

(Also, too, the Saints are great. Note to self: get to know them better. And while we’re on an antipodean theme, just how awesome are The Clean?)

28

Happy Heyoka 01.10.14 at 5:09 am

Australia in the era of the Saints : we were a long way from everywhere; the big cities were a long way from each other… the punk “scene” kind of reverberated around the cities in waves.

If you squint a bit, make your definition of “punk” a bit flexible, you can pick a bunch of great Australian punk bands from early 70′s to the present.
Radio BirdmanDefinitely awesome, a bit before my time, caught them on the rebound in the late 80′s.
Celibate RiflesGreat fun live, did the “hokey pokey” one night at the Prince Of Wales while a guitar string change was going on : “If you don’t tell them we did this, we won’t tell Sydney that The Birthday Party have broken up”

I like the Culture reference – when you have all of history at your finger tips and the technical ability to do anything, replicate anything, revisit… what do you do for art?

It’s kind of how I feel about music these days – we have almost instant access to music from any era, video where it exist, interviews and memories from times gone by. You can pick and choose your influence but it’s hard to be naive, not to be aware of it and just pick up the “vibe”. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, maybe it is.
Hey, maybe I’m the one who’s naive :)

29

godoggo 01.10.14 at 5:11 am

Ooh, I have a teenage punk rock in-crowd hipster story. When I was in high school my friend set me up to give the girlfriend of a prominent local punk rock vocalist who, that’s the kind of detail I like to hold back for my own neurotic reasons, but anyway we get to her house and I let her out and go, “OK, bye!” and she goes, “I see what you’re saying.” Wait, what? That’s actually not the only occasion when I said “bye” to a hot chick and she responded “I see what you’re saying.” Now that I think of it it probably wouldn’t hurt to work on my byes but I’ve got other problems.

30

godoggo 01.10.14 at 5:15 am

sorry, proofreading again. I was set up to give her a ride home from her prominent punk rock boyfriend’s gig.

31

anon/portly 01.10.14 at 6:27 am

everybody’s favorite Australian punk band

I realize Australia is far away and different, but did they really think that gently loping guitar pop was punk?

32

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 8:02 am

If “I’m Stranded” in 1977 isn’t punk rock, then neither is The Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach” of the same year, and if none of that is punk, I don’t know what the fuck is going on anymore. Helpfully unhelpful commenter x: “Oooh, Belle, maybe what you meant to say is that The Stooges’ 1973 “Search and Destroy” is the real punk rock, I bet you didn’t think of that, did you, Miss ‘I Care About Music’ Thing?! Hahahaha!” ICECOLD SICKBURN! “You astonish me with your counter-intuitive notions. Let’s hold hands and sing “black man got a lot of problems, but he don’t mind throwing a brick” together and agree that “White Riot” in the 1977 UK version is mos def punk rock, mmmsshall we?
tl;dr The Saints are a seminal punk rock band. One simple, sad song per LP is standard. Please feel free to tear up while listening to “Don’t Come Close,” “Death or Glory,” or “Just Pretend,” as desired.

33

robotslave 01.10.14 at 8:05 am

Alternately, perhaps some of us simply find it deeply embarrassing to see a British intellectual sort of person unconsciously enacting that truly execrable Nick Hornby thesis that (from memory, thus paraphrased) “The British have become the curators of American soul music.” As if there weren’t quite a few black Americans doing a rather good job of that already, thank you kindly.

This is not to single out the UKians, there are plenty of pale intellectual USians who veer down that problematic path as well, of course.

34

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 8:15 am

To which claim or hypothesis is this an alternate?

35

robotslave 01.10.14 at 8:34 am

The claim that the post didn’t get heaps of comments because it wasn’t about music made by white people.

Obviously, I thought?

36

Tim Chambers 01.10.14 at 8:43 am

I am trying to figure out what you think is good about the so-called music. Can you explain what you like about it. I sounds like rehashed Byrds instrumentals accompanying some terrible poetry recited by a three note vocalist.

37

Saul 01.10.14 at 8:51 am

But, but,but,but Belle (may I call you “Belle”)…

The main tragedy of The Saints, why they are so often forgotten is that so soon after a tall, gaunt young man, daubed in paint screaming “Porca Dios” appeared and screamed so loud all who went before were near forgotten.

38

robotslave 01.10.14 at 8:52 am

Tim Chambers @36:

Best one-sentence summary of “indie rock” ever written, kudos.

Bear in mind, though, that some of us are at least on occasion able to appreciate the Byrds’ signature guitar jangle, some carefully terrible poetry, and an accomplished three-note vocalist.

39

Saul 01.10.14 at 8:53 am

And, almost by accident, he was a genius…

40

Belle Waring 01.10.14 at 2:04 pm

Tim Chambers: it’s AUTHENTIC INNIT!

41

Jim Buck 01.10.14 at 2:30 pm

This is not to single out the UKians, there are plenty of pale intellectual USians who veer that problematic path as well, of course.

One, very pale and very intellectual, UKian, was Dave Godin. Not around anymore, Dave was shouted for, by Diana Ross, when The Supremes made it through customs at Heathrow– back in 1964. Deep soul treasurer, supreme–no matter what his colour, country, or IQ. As an animal rights bomber said at Dave’s funeral: ‘What I didn’t like about Dave was that he was against violence; but he had a cock like a donkey’s.’
As the spiritualist said: ‘ Dave didn’t believe in life-after–death. I bet you feel stupid, now, don’t you, Dave?’
As the homeopath said: ‘ If Dave had listened, he may have had another 20 years of life. The 40 Capstan full-strength, a day, didn’t help.’
As Bessie Banks said in her telegram: Thank-you, Dave x’

42

anon/portly 01.10.14 at 6:36 pm

If “I’m Stranded” in 1977 isn’t punk rock

Fine, that one is actually punky. Back to trolling:

[currently 39]: And, almost by accident, he was a genius…

I like the delicate wording here, where “almost by accident” is used to mean “can you believe someone this good was from Australia?”

[currently 27] Also, too, the Saints are great. Note to self: get to know them better. And while we’re on an antipodean theme, just how awesome are The Clean?

This is taking sucking up a little too far. (As if a real fan of The Clean would want to devote 5 seconds of their listening life to The Saints).

43

John Emerson 01.10.14 at 7:58 pm

MUST SEE: Meatloaf Busey video. Unforgettable.

44

Phil 01.10.14 at 8:11 pm

As a matter of history, the Saints independently invented punk circa 1974/5. And as Belle said, if “(I’m) Stranded” isn’t punk I don’t know what is.

45

js. 01.10.14 at 10:29 pm

As if a real fan of The Clean would want to devote 5 seconds of their listening life to The Saints

Oh, come on. “I’m Stranded” is a great song, and bona fide punk, obviously. The Clean, though — so good. I spent a whole winter listening to “Point that thing…” ever day, I think. Really doesn’t get old.

46

Bill Murray 01.11.14 at 2:18 am

The whole Saints v. post-punk goes back to comment 6 when oldster said

“Really disappointed in the CT commentariat here. If one of the dudes posted some deep cuts from the grating, whiny^W^W dark, angry post-punk ouvre, there’d be 100 nostalgic comments within the hour.

In other words, Belle is giving the commentariat a chance *not* to be a disappointment; that’s why “this is a test.””

Which certainly implies that music in the post (ie The Saints) was post-punk, not punk. While they aren’t Australian, the Detroit band Death was another little heard early punk band (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcRhnSEwVlo)

47

Belle Waring 01.11.14 at 2:36 am

Yeah, Death was amazing. How might history have been changed if everyone had been like, “fuck, Death is insane? Let’s ride this lo-fi train to freedom.” Also: Nick Cave is a genius.

Fine Bill Murray, I should have chosen a post punk band, but then I wouldn’t have been able to make fun of Ross “I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won’t” Douthat. I WAS WRONG. But are the higher pleasures of making fun of RIWDAFLBIWD as naught to you?

Hi Emerson-sensei! Excellent video. The NYT needs to issue a further correction though. “What had read “Mr. Loaf” should have read “Meatloaf because like many Indonesians Meatloaf uses only one name.” So, all clear.

48

Landru 01.11.14 at 2:38 am

I don’t understand anything about this post. But, I can state with certainty that the prospect of Ross Douthat gaining control of knife missiles is very, very worrisome.

49

David Hobby 01.11.14 at 5:11 am

No, I’m pretty sure that the knife missile follows Ross Douthat around, constantly foiling his plans to meddle with the world political situation by trying to work with dictators. Or was that someone else?

Although the Culture did not actually have time travel.

50

Landru 01.11.14 at 5:22 am

I think you’ve confirmed my first sentence. Or, may have.

Anyway, regarding time travel, don’t get me started on relativity….

51

One of Many 01.12.14 at 11:27 pm

The truest things to come out of the late 70s Australian punk and post-punk, and maybe some of the best songs ever written, were from the Go-Betweens. (Lethem, and Christgau)

Part Company
Draining the Pool for You

(‘The lyric takes place in either Sydney or L.A – a big mansion, an idiot movie star, luxury parties and … I’m the hired help cleaning this guy’s pool.’)

They were quite uneven, though, and their only gestures towards chart success gave the false impression of that their point was pleasant acoustic pop. Best album for my money: Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express.

(Yes, Nick Cave is really something in his own stagy way, and has an almost Dylan level of facility, but his persona is mostly genre, which makes me care less about his stuff.

Also great with the genre pieces, but with more heart – The Triffids:
Field of Glass
Life of Crime)

52

Straightwood 01.13.14 at 12:54 am

Bravo, Belle! You have soared above CT’s bourgeois faculty lounge concept of blogging and created a free-range riff style worthy of (a female) Thomas Pynchon. You could probably glue slabs of this material together into a novel. How can we learn to be more like you?

53

Belle Waring 01.13.14 at 11:17 am

Landru: now you are exaggerating for comic effect, as I have actually explained things in the tedious fashion guaranteed to evacuate jokes of all humor. I explicitly stated that I was going to hunt down and kill Ross “I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won’t” Douthat with knife missiles. KNIFE MISSLES I WILL KILL HIM WOTH THEM THNK YOU, ok? Exaggerating for comic effect should never be done on the internet.
David Hobby: yes, fine, strictly speaking the Culture does not have time travel that we know of. I will issue a correction at a later date.
Straightwood! It’s always a pleasure. Still keeping the wood straight?

54

One of Many 01.13.14 at 12:21 pm

Days now in moderation purgatory I been
I tell you, half those things I said I didn’t mean

55

Straightwood 01.13.14 at 2:34 pm

Belle,

The wood is straight, but the spirit is weak. Still, I find refreshment in your post-to-the-nth-modern, self-referentially-deprecating posts. In short, because you alone are aware of all Internet traditions, all our base are belong to you. May it ever be thus.

56

Landru 01.15.14 at 3:34 am

“A sneer from him, Meriadoc, is a compliment”

Ah, Belle, you give me too much credit. I stand by all previous sentences; re. the OP title, I have failed. But that, too, is information (technically).

Meanwhile, I agree with Straightwood re. your original style, in this and many posts; I think a book would be the next natural step. (But, then, what do I know.)

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