Mortigi Tempo

Mortigi Tempo

Indie Chin Strokers

Music lists are usually atrocious. The latest from Pitchfork, however, isn’t so bad. Pitchfork have reassessed their top 100 albums of the 90s. Lots to disagree with here, but it’s a lot better than most lists. Their top 10 is:

10. Guided by Voices: Bee Thousand [1994]

9. Bonnie "Prince" Billy: I See a Darkness [1999]

8. Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain [1994]

7. DJ Shadow: ...Endtroducing [1996]

6. Nirvana: Nevermind [1991]

5. Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted [1992]

4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea [1998]

3. The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin [1999]

2. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless [1991]

1. Radiohead: OK Computer [1997]

I’d say this list will be seen as another round of indie chin stroking. It will also confirm Pitchfork’s, mostly unjustified, Pavement worship. Have they not heard any Australian music? There's no Australian music on the list, not even Hi Fi Way. Still, not bad, but their most over-rated albums list is much better.

posted by Tim Stevens | 11/28/2003 10:00:00 PM |

No Austerica Here

Gareth Parker has an interesting post on the cultural aspects of the Australia-US FTA. Gareth argues that Australia’s cultural identity is not at risk from this deal. I agree completely. I have a few disagreements, however, with his assertion that this is because of a surge in young people’s national pride/patriotism. I’d argue, instead, Australia’s identity is not at risk because it’s likely that American culture - with or with out protection - will be indigenized.

In my almost constant state of procrastination, attempting successfully to avoid beginning essays, I was flicking through a great book the other day by Tony Bennett called Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Culture. In this book, Bennett shows that young Australians overwhelmingly prefer American ‘cultural’ (music, TV, movies, etc.) products (and older Australians prefer Australian products). His research is from 1999, so I don’t think there would have been any major change since then. While it may be the case that young Australians prefer American cultural products, this doesn’t necessarily mean we are being Americanised.

It would be a pretty impoverished and unreflective picture to paint of Australians if you were to suggest that simply on account of their exposure to (or consumption of) American cultural products Australians were becoming Americanised. Instead, in the context of cultures, I like the term indigenization, used by Arjun Appadurai. This process sees Australian cultural consumers fusing their identities with ‘global’ (American) products and constructing hybrid forms of identity and culture.

I can think of two examples - country music and surfing. Early Australian country singers had to take up American-sounding stage names to survive. Slim Dusty, for one. But, eventually, a distinctive Australian country music emerged. Surfing is an even better example. The modern short board came to us from California. But since its arrival, not only has a distinctive surfing culture emerged, but in some ways it has been re-exported back to America. I guess there are tons of other examples - like the ongoing garage music scene.

While these cultural products (country music, surfing, etc.) are both transnational and transcultural, they also generate local manifestations that are not identical to each other. So while I agree with Gareth that distinctive Australian cultural products will remain and the FTA will do nothing to change this, I don’t believe this is a result of some national pride surge, rather it’s more likely to be a result of the process I’ve just mentioned.

This still doesn’t explain the point made in Bennett’s book that young Australians prefer American cultural products. Perhaps it’s something much simpler, like a life cycle: a preference for American products while younger, eventually preferring Australian products later in life. I dunno, really. Whatever it is, it’s nothing to stress about, I don’t reckon.

PS - This is prolly just a very temporary return to my blog. I'll get sick of it again soon.

posted by Tim Stevens | 11/27/2003 01:30:00 AM |
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