Fake Plastic's very own Fr. Jones shoots the breeze online with German hardcore digitalists Atari Teenage Riot about questionable music taste, outdated thinking models, cultural zeitgeists, and the necessary research needed in order to enjoy their latest album, Is This Hyperreal?.
It all started when my Fake Plastic colleague James Brimacombe posted a link to my review on their Facebook page...
ATR: your review fails to make sense is because it's based on the idea of a "cultural zeitgeist" - You apply old thinking about the way music develops in our time to this album... that era lasted about 50 years, and it is ...coming to an end. Your review was almost identical to review written when the first ATR album came out in 1995, the difference is that back in the day, there still were 'pop charts' and something like 'Zeitgeist'.
FR: I'm sorry you feel it fails to make sense. But I'm not sure how what you just said makes any sense either.
ATR: I don't feel it makes sense. I understand where you're coming from, so in a way it makes sense completely. But we live in a different era now. So your review is based on an old fashioned thinking model (which made sense in the 2nd half of the last century).
FR: The very fact we are capable of having this conversation via an online faceless, social forum indicates that we are neck-deep in the midst of a new cultural zeitgeist which I was referring to.
ATR: If ATR was the type of 'reunion' you are talking about, you'd have a point, but it isn't (which the album title also clearly suggests). We face mostly a completely new audience these days. There is no such think as zeitgeist anymore, as pop culture has become so fragmented in the world. Even Lady Gaga has trouble reaching all her own fans at the same time to create that “pop moment” (fact: 10.000.000 Twitter followers, album sales 1.000.000 on Amazon first week for 99 cents, then the week after sales drop- 35%- it’s not working anymore). For people who care about the politics we address (which according to Steven Levy who wrote “hackers” couldn’t be more up to date than on “Is This Hyperreal?”), this album defines ‘zeitgeist’ for them. For an ATR fan who is coming via Dim Mak Records, who is 20 years old now, ITH? Is the zeitgeist… in that own little universe. If the music world wouldn’t be as fragmented as it is right now (due to internet technology) your review would raise fair questions, but it simply doesn’t make any sense anymore to look at music album this way in our time.
ATR: the technology alone doesn't create a zeitgeist, it's its content and what people do with it. The internet is not facebook or traditional television...(not yet)... some media has decided 'dubstep' is a huge phenomenon of 'our time'. Well actually it isnt at all, it is a niche that UK media tries to sell on to the world, while the UK has not much more to offer. (‘lad rock’ has also ‘died’, because as everything else it fails to reach the masses… in times of dying massculture, the concept of ‘zeitgeist’ is outdated. In politics, in fashion, in film, books, music, everywhere…)
ATR: what we are basically saying....if you hate it, hate it...if you love it, love it...but don't do so for the wrong reasons :)
FR: But my opinion of your album is not as dogmatic as either hating it or loving it- like I said, I was largely indifferent to it because I found it irrelevant. And I never said anything about comparing dubstep to a zeitgeist. Perhaps the themes of Atari Teenage Riot have developed along with the current cultural zeitgeist (and if you think this isn’t a zeitgeist because of fragmented exposure, you may as well argue that you can’t load a gun with hollow points because they don’t act like traditional bullets)- but I clearly stated that it sure felt as if your method of expressing of these themes seems rooted in the past- therefore dated and ultimately irrelevant. Additionally , contrary to what you state, I was not listening to your music the same way as I would 15 years ago. In fact, I went out of my way to deter contextual influence by listening to this album on it’s own merits- a right I feel all music deserves. The fact that Is This Hyperreal sounds exactly like your stuff from the mid-90s is a fact I relunctantly came to after several different spins. Bear in mind- I wanted to like it.
ATR: ATR sounds always like ATR. that is the point. ;)
FR: There's a difference between ATR sounding always like ATR- and ATR always sounding the same. With this last album, I think you guys have confused the former with the latter. You don't need to pander to the 21st century masses to appear relevant. But you do need to update an obsolete model. You can hate my critique or love my critique- just don’t do so for the wrong reasons. :)
ATR: we don't love or hate your view, we respect it. But it's based on an outdated view on music in general. At the end of the day it's about your taste, and not 'cultural relevance' or anything bigger than simply your opinion on a piece of music.
FR: Are you sure you're not simply trying to rationalize a subpar album? What would be a good example of not liking it the right way?
ATR: You can't like something the right or the wrong way. It is always just personal taste. There is no right and wrong. You just don't like it. While thousands of others do. That doesn't make them right either. I just had a phone interview where a journalist described how exactly this album hits the nerve of our time because there were probably never more bands influenced by ATR before AND the lyrics are about the topics which were in the news a few weeks ago or in some cases are still in there… The accusation that ATR is always sounding ‘the same’ feels more like when old people describe young people’s music.
FR: But earlier- you asked me not to love it or hate it for the wrong reasons. This seems to imply that ATR believes you CAN like something the right or wrong way. Once again, your claims make no sense.
ATR: loving or hating for the 'wrong reasons' means in our language, that you should love or hate music because of the music itself and not because the illusion of a 'zeitgeist' dictates it. Dig?
ATR: you write "dated social expressions. The whole affair is completely interchangeable with any of their other material from the mid-to-late 90s." fact is that none of the issues we talk about on the new album could have been addressed in the 90ties. Not sure if you really listened to the lyrics or if you just assumed something that simply isn't there.
FR: I listened to the lyrics. And I understand that you are dealing with current issues. That doesn't change the fact that your outdated methods of expression far outweigh the relevancy of these topics. It worked in the 90s- in 2011, it seems rather silly. It’s not a matter of me “not getting it”- it’s a matter that there isn’t much to “get” this time. More than anything, Is This Hyperreal feels old-school without a trace of vintage-retro.. therefore, shallow.
FR: It would be like if I refused high-speed Internet access in favor of a dial-up connection- but insisted I was still cutting edge and just as plugged in as everything else. Sooner or later, we all have to update the model.
ATR: We didn't say you are not 'getting' it. Please read what we wrote in the comments above. What feels 'old school' to you is the sound of Atari Teenage Riot. We are in our own category. That is because we never defined a trend or phase in music. That’s why we say you are applying an old-fashioned thinking model when you are listening to music. Terms like Zeitgeist and Oldschool prove that. It never made sense to look at Atari Teenage Riot with that mindset. Then your whole pre 911, post 911, post post 911 argument… We come from a very European viewpoint on most on the album. For us there is no pre 911, post 911. Mainly because in Germany terrorism was present since we were little children… Red Army Fraction, IRA, etc.. you write “hacker culture of the mid-90s and its neon visions of cyberparanoia prophesied in films like Hackers and Virtuosity. Perhaps Riot’s fans will applaud the band for refusing to abandon their roots and ideals” -which becomes almost funny when basically daily news reach us about more cyber attacks… what you belittle as cyberparanoia is a real threat to our freedoms as citizens in Germany. And now is the era to define how far we let the governments control that side of our lives. Not sure where you get your information from, but it seems that it is you who isn’t up to date on those topics. (Which as a music blogger, you don’t have to really) That’s why it would probably be better if you stuck to the I-like-I-don’t-like formula and write about your personal taste. On a closer look at your blog, you are idolizing Radiohead… it’s not a big surprise that you don’t like our music. But it’s probably best to not be so dramatic and use terms like zeitgeist or old school. What do you even think those terms mean in 2011? Because you’re based in Utah? You write :" all the Clinton-era, post-Punk, fist-shaking became passé once those planes hit the towers." We can't even begin to describe what's screwed up with a sentence like that...
FR: So are you now saying that the enjoyment of your music is restricted to European audiences? If so, this doesn't sound like a solid business model for worldwide distribution. Obviously my review has gotten under your skin. But none of your soapbox and expository histrionics can alter my initial and subesequent impressions of the album. Do I enjoy Radiohead? Of course I do! But that doesn’t really mean anything. I was looking forward to your new album- and I still am a fan. I was excited to hear how a band as powerful as ATR would be affected by the past decade. But I was disappointed to find your response largely reactionary. Contextual significance, your music has not advanced and the rest of the world has.
ATR: we were saying that we don't think in patterns like most 'Americans' (pre 911, post 911). You posted a comment, we thought you wanted to discuss the review on this page. We enjoy the debates out here. (not because a negative opinion is getting ‘under our skin’ but because we think it’s fun and can often lead to constructive results). How you define ‘the rest of the world’ and imply it ‘moving on’ is interesting, when there are probably more bands sounding like records which were made 20 or 30 years ago than ever before. The ‘rest of the world’ isn’t America, or your local music scene…accept that there is a fragmented music scene and a whole lot more diversity than we both could ever imagine… ‘Is This Hyperreal’ is just not for you...
FR: I never claimed that "Is This Hyperreal" was for me to begin with. "Contextual significance aside, your music has not advanced and the rest of the world has." There's a lot wrong with this statement and I wish to clarify. "Your music" = the music of Atari Teenage Riot and “the rest of the world” was an overgeneralization. I take issues with artists who fear advancement of expression. I apologize if that remark was ill-advised. That said, I'm supposed to be interviewing you guys on the new album fairly soon! Still up for it? We can play nice I'm sure..
ATR: please make sure you do your research before the interview... at the moment we're not convinced you are capable of doing it, but that might change. To even suggest that Alec Empire fears 'advancement of artistic expression' (while his discography couldn't be more diverse and proves the exact opposite) doesn't really make you come across as a writer who is qualified enough for the task.
FR: Let me know when you guys decide to move to the deep end of the pool.
ATR: that will probably happen when radiohead moves there…