Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy Pt. III - The Kinks

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The Kinks — the kings of Orthodoxical Rock.

Exhibit 1: Face to Face‘s “Session Man.” Only an orthodoxically-oriented artist would denigrate the able session player.

Exhibit 2: Something Else by the Kinks‘ “Love Me ‘Til the Sun Shines.” No acts of good will are necessary — only “love.” Faith alone makes the ritual observance of proper behavior unnecessary.

Exhibit 3: The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society‘s “Do You Remember Walter?” An attack on the anti-social rebel’s abandonment of his core beliefs and eventual re-entry into proper society.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
February 17, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

8 Responses

  1. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Wait a second … wasn’t this era of rock all about white guys pretending to be black guys? What flavour of orthodoxy is that?

    I’m not a Kinks fan so I don’t know the songs you quote. The lyrics to the second one read like a pastiche of blues. Love me till the sun shines can be read two ways, right?

  2. Chris_B Says:

    sparkling: “white guys pretending to be black guys”? You mean just stealing the sound/form or you mean like blackface minstrel show? Are you gonna start quoting Chuck D next?

  3. Momus Says:

    Hmm, this orthodoxy of which you speak sounds a lot like ROCKISM.

    http://journal.aiga.org/content.cfm?ContentAlias=%5Fgetfullarticle&aid=876278

    Unfortunately for lovers of hard binaries, however, this stuff gets very complex very quickly. If rockism is the veneration of the authentic, what happens when we venerate the authentic so much that we copy it?

  4. marxy Says:

    Hmm, this orthodoxy of which you speak sounds a lot like ROCKISM.

    Well, isn’t Rockism actually a kind of orthopraxical alignment in that it demands close adherence to traditional practice? Rockism says, it’s not “good” (sanctified) unless it has these traditional elements. The Rockists may perceive themselves to be creators channeling God or something, but the Rockist critics allocate reward to those sticking closest to the defined artistic parameters.

    Seeing that the Kinks were part of the generation that was inventing the Rocist tradition as an antithetical practice to “mainstream society,” I find it hard to really say they were Rockists themselves.

    Momus, I find your antipathy to Rockism as essentially a kneejerk orthodoxical reaction to the growing orthopraxy of Western music.

    wasn’t this era of rock all about white guys pretending to be black guys?

    Well, these three songs are the era of white guys pretending to be J.S. Bach. In 1966-1968, white people rediscovered harpsichords and French horns.

  5. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    I’ve always loved those late 60’s harpsicords.

    Any chance of a temporary link to some mp3s of the Exhibits?

  6. Momus Says:

    Momus, I find your antipathy to Rockism as essentially a kneejerk orthodoxical reaction to the growing orthopraxy of Western music.

    I agree with you that the West is becoming increasingly orthopraxic. Britain is becoming more like Japan. This is because orthropraxy (including things like the erosion of personal faith, and the rise of what Malcolm McLaren calls “karaoke culture”) is the essence of post-modern culture, and when it comes to post-modernism (which, I don’t need to remind you, radically collapses notions like ‘surface/depth’ and ‘high/low’ and ‘original/copy’ and ‘real/fake’) Japan has stolen a march on the West and is, in a sense, leading it. I disagree with you that my criticism of rockism is “kneejerk” and “orthodoxical”, though. I don’t attack rockism because it’s not authentic, but because the binaries it uses have, in the postmodern period, collapsed. Authenticity is the name of a hairspray, isn’t it?

  7. marxy Says:

    Japan has stolen a march on the West and is, in a sense, leading it.

    To combine our two arguments, an orthopraxical religious tradition made the slide into Postmodernism easier because there were no orthodoxical ideas to abandon. As an American, I believe there is a difference between high/low and surface/depth and original/copy because I value individual creation. The Japanese don’t, for reasons I’ve already laid out. In other words, there was never any “depth” – especially in non-traditional arts – to collapse.

    One more point: very few people in Japan have anything to loose in the Postmodern condition. In the West, those in high culture creating works with depth are not given pecuniary rewards, so must find other avenues to assert their societal value. Japan lacks an intellectual class or an authentic high culture tied into “high art.” The only rewards in an orthopraxic society like Japan are those awarded by society itself, and so the elite students from schools like Todai go directly into the system to become the system’s elite. There’s better matching between educational capital and financial capital, so there are fewer people to complain about the collapse of high/original/deep/real culture.

    And with very few “authentic” consumer subcultures, the Japanese want to destroy the distinction between high/low and real/fake so that they can indeed become recognized members of these cultures. If there are strict rules from what constitutes “real hip hop,” the Japanese can’t even get their foot in the door. “Authenticism” may in fact be a way for groups to flex their inherited cultural capital and maintain barriers to entry.

  8. Chris_B Says:

    Momus questioned: “If rockism is the veneration of the authentic, what happens when we venerate the authentic so much that we copy it?”

    Obviously in that case, one goes directly to orthopraxy, does not pass Go, does not collect $200.

    Momus asserted: “Japan has stolen a march on the West and is, in a sense, leading it”

    Your tenious logic is built on a straw man assumption. You have made the same mistake as the Japan bashers of the US in the 80s did. You confuse your perception of the condition, (form) for the function of the condition. As a card carrying Appologist For The Land Of The Rising Sun you should be ashamed of yourself.

    If the original condition is orthopraxic, one can not say that Japan, through orthopraxy, has become post-modern or “leads” the West which assumes that Western cultures are emulating the orthopraxy of Japan. The mistake of the bashers was to believe that the orthopraxy of process refinement was an orthodoxical condition. The realization that it was not allowed US manufacturers to get on with the orthodoxical condition of innovation rather than copying/refining. Don’t assume that what always was, is in any way new just because its new to you.

    marxy observed: “very few people in Japan have anything to loose in the Postmodern condition”

    I think you are falling into the same trap as Momus: the Western, perhaps Occidentalist, desire to apply inapropriate cultural labels to a foreign culture. I believe that labeling Japan as “postmodern” (however you care to capitalize or hyphenate it) is inappropriate since the assumption is based on a set of pre-conditions which dont apply to begin with. You said it yourself that the Western concepts of “intellectual class”, “authentic high culture” and “high art” dont apply. Without those basic conditions, how can you then assume a folowup contition which you believe (and I dont) applies in the West?