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David, where are my cigarettes?
November 30, 2012 8:15 AM   Subscribe

'It's probably easy today to dismiss Negativland's activities as trifle, banal or plain stupid. They probably wouldn't be too uncomfortable with that, as they rarely claimed to go beyond the softest platitudes of the entertainment biz. No Other Possibility (1989, 58 mins, .avi d/l link), their first video work, showcases the band at a career threshold, before their U2ploitation move and just after their Christianity hoax. It typically explores the debris of American pop culture, dealing with automobile fetishism, televised preaching, halloween traditions, Marlboro masculinity, soft drinks and MTV.'

'[No Other Possibility] features such iconic culture-jam figures as Reverend Dick, The Weatherman, Dick Vaughn or Crosley Bendix, it expands on the visionary concept of Universal Media Netweb and seamlessly jams live footage, TV excerpts, street interviews and home-recorded theatrical performances in a zapping collage that could well have inspired EBN's ZooTV show. From the brilliant Christianity is Stupid murders hoax to the magical significance of numbers, from lime soda to green slime and lung cancer, No Other Possibility stands as an entertaining essay on pop culture, tele-kinetics and media-noise. And there's also a small boy who, like most people, would prefer bands to have girls playing drums.' via Eye of Sound/UBUWEB

(alternate youtube link, if youtube enters your veins in an easier fashion)
posted by item (31 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
CAAAAAAR BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB

sorry. thanks for the links item.
posted by Think_Long at 8:20 AM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, has the Squant plugin been updated for Adobe CS6 and Mountain Lion yet?
posted by infinitewindow at 8:25 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's probably easy today to dismiss Negativland's activities as trifle, banal or plain stupid. They probably wouldn't be too uncomfortable with that, as they rarely claimed to go beyond the softest platitudes of the entertainment biz.

For a while I thought that I was missing something because I didn't "get" Negativland. Now I realize that I wasn't missing anything, it's just that what I saw was all that was there. Well, that was helpful to realize!
posted by deanc at 8:28 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: yellow, black and rectangular, yes.

no mention of No Business? Piece 'o pie?
posted by davejay at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Negativland by Neu!.

Hallogallo from the same record.
posted by notyou at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Helter Stupid may be my favorite culture jamming project of all time.

Don Joyce of Negativland is perhaps even more laudable for Over the Edge, which is his 30-years-and-counting radio project experimenting with found sound, social commentary, silliness and direct audience participation.
posted by delfin at 8:49 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


All these years later and copyright infringement is still your best entertainment value.

seat be sate/ play black sabbath at 78
posted by SansPoint at 8:56 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're on top of the refrigerator.
posted by Gev at 8:56 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


davejay: NO! Black coffee!
posted by SansPoint at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


*sprays down every surface in the thread with 409 cleaner*

GIVE UP. GIVE UP.
posted by loquacious at 9:03 AM on November 30, 2012


I'm sort of ambiguous about Negativland.

In particular, their book "The Letter U and the Numeral 2" has two pages written by the man running their record label - as part of a court settlement. He writes quite convincingly that Negativland deliberately lied to him about having cleared what we'd today call their samples and then did nothing constructive when his small label was sued, which resulted in huge expenses and the eventual demise of the record company.

I didn't like that.

I laughed hugely when I first heard Helter Stupid. But if you sit and think about it later, Negativland falsely claimed responsibility for influencing a quite-literal ax murderer, a boy who killed his family with an ax, and called it "culture jamming". I now no longer think this is funny at all.

If I had to pick one "culture jammer" to stick with, today it'd be Crass.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's probably easy today to dismiss Negativland's activities as trifle, banal or plain stupid

It's not even funny.

Eleven. Eleven time zones
posted by dubold at 9:09 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was always amused that Negativland got sued by Island Records for U2, and then U2 hired fellow art-school culture-jammers Emergency Broadcast Network to do the video portions of their globe-spanning tour a couple of years later.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:22 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Eleven.....
posted by pdxjmorris at 9:23 AM on November 30, 2012


It's hard to understand Negativland now, in the age where hip hop and digital equipment made sampling and mashups common place. Back in the early 80s what they were doing with remixing was largely unprecedented, only occasionally heard in the academic world of musique concrète and a few other experimenters like The Tape-beatles. Amazing stuff, particularly Big 10-8 Place and Escape from Noise.

I think their output got less interesting after 1989 as they started becoming well known and indulged more in culture jamming, less in making music. I don't think the U-2 notoriety helped them. I find the Over the Edge barely-edited stuff almost unlistenable. Kudos to them for sticking with their jam and doing it, but the more tightly edited music for LP release works better for me.

So I'm psyched to see this 1989 video, they were really in great form then. I watched them play live in, oh, 1990 or so and was blown away to see them playing all this music by queueing samples on an 8 track in real time.

(Also I'll just put this here: DJ Shadow.)
posted by Nelson at 9:27 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


the more tightly edited music for LP release works better for me.

I'd argue that their 'regular' LPs are very tightly-edited, and since the Over the Edge releases are just compendiums of their live radio show they should be viewed as such. That said, OTE Volume 6: The Willsaphone Stupid Show is an especially strong listen for fans of über-weirdo experimental collage stuff and is definitely worth checking out.
posted by item at 9:41 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


CAAAAAAR BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB

I used to have that bumper sticker on my car -- a piece of shit Mazda rustbucket which I eventually "sold" for a bottle of okay single malt. And then maybe six months later, the Oklahoma bombing happened, which put things in perspective. Sometimes funny just isn't funny anymore.

But this is, funny that is.

I got fired by my boss -- Pepsi!
I nailed Jesus to the cross - Pepsi!


Altogether feel-good.
posted by philip-random at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2012


You know, usually I could (or couldn't) give a ratt's ass about Metafilter favorites, but everyone who favorites this thread is going in the all-important Officially O.K. with Item book, available wherever fine paperbacks are sold.
posted by item at 9:47 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I laughed hugely when I first heard Helter Stupid. But if you sit and think about it later, Negativland falsely claimed responsibility for influencing a quite-literal ax murderer, a boy who killed his family with an ax, and called it "culture jamming". I now no longer think this is funny at all.

It's not a comedy album -- at least beyond how a cry of anguish is the core of much of comedy.

The point of the Helter Stupid piece is not "haha, we fooled people." It is that a wide variety of news media, both local and national, bit onto the "DEVIL MUSIC makes KIDS KILL PEOPLE" hook eagerly without confirming stories, corroborating sources or questioning the ridiculousness of the concept.

If you're uncomfortable with the implications, hey, so were Negativland. Side 2 (The Perfect Cut) skewers advertising nearly as effectively as Side 1 did the news machine, and as far as I know no one died in the making of that piece.
posted by delfin at 9:48 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


As my Grade 12 English teacher made clear to me -- satire is not necessarily funny. In fact, the test of effective satire is that it is not funny for some as it cuts way too close to the bone. No danger of bone-cutting, not satire.

Negativland is satire ... among other things.

It's also quite stunningly realized sonic collage, music concrete, audio art -- whatever you want to call it. Yeah, not all of it achieves the same level of "essential", but you could say the same of the Beatles (or perhaps U2).

One thing that can't be said enough is how very essential they were toward making the 80s sufferable -- for me anyway. And it started right at the beginning. 1981 maybe -- my younger brother returned from his most recent trip to the cool underground record store across town with this strange album. The cover was handmade (and falling apart) cut + pasted together from various sources. The sounds themselves ranged from relaxing to intense to flagrantly annoying (acoustic guitar and vacuum cleaner), but overall they painted a sonic picture that I found remarkably comforting, as in, "Holy shit, there's these guys down in California who hear things the same way I do." It didn't even occur to me to laugh. That would have to wait until The Big 10-8 Place.
posted by philip-random at 10:05 AM on November 30, 2012


The point of the Helter Stupid piece is not "haha, we fooled people."

And yet it does make almost everyone laugh when they hear it...

It is that a wide variety of news media, both local and national, bit onto the "DEVIL MUSIC makes KIDS KILL PEOPLE" hook eagerly without confirming stories, corroborating sources or questioning the ridiculousness of the concept.

Negativland was nowhere near the first, or the last, group of people to hoax the media. The offensive part is that they piggy-backed off a real, gruesome murder, where a 16-year-old boy took an ax and murdered his parents, his 14-year-old sister and his 9-year-old brother.

Then they grew tired of their hoax and wrote:

As to our uncertain association with the Brom case, we think it’s foolish and will not comment on it no further. For a while during interviews we made comments to the press and found that we were so misquoted and events were so misstated to fit the editor’s need to grab attention and the editor’s need to abbreviate that we will make no more statements whatsoever. Sensationalism reigns.

I would say that this statement is quite misleading - since Negativland did in fact deliberately misrepresent themselves as “Federal Authority Dick Jordan.” Moreover, I'd say that it's hard to reconcile that statement with Negativland releasing the Helter Stupid album the next year - who's "sensationalist" now?

And they weren't even really making a very good point. By their very nature, in cases like this the news gathering organizations have to report first and ask questions later - simply because news is happening right now, and the number of hoaxes comparatively small.

And does it really make the slightest difference to the world if a piece of music is temporarily blamed for some garish murder? Are stories about a terrible murder case really important to anyone not related to the victims? Absolutely not.

Where the news media needs to be taken to task is not for reporting all the facts and the claims about crime cases as they come in - they need to be lambasted for uncritically reprinting the press releases of politicians as fact, for being unwilling to go up against corporate interests, for neglecting doing the in-depth reporting after the fact.

When future historians point to the failure of the media in the twenty-first century, they'll point to poor reporting on climate change, government corruption, corporate corruption... I assure you, they won't point to bad crime reporting as any issue at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, for one, smirked every time I saw or heard Hal Eisner on the teevee news after he moved to Los Angeles.
posted by Slothrup at 11:29 AM on November 30, 2012


only occasionally heard in the academic world of musique concrète and a few other experimenters like The Tape-beatles

Oh, man, From The Tide Or The Wind (from Music With Sound) was my favorite, random "nobody even noticed that this is here?!" 45 to play on WZRD when I was in college.
posted by davejay at 11:38 AM on November 30, 2012


CAAAAAAR BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB

My college roommate was a gearhead and audiofile - I introduced him to "Escape from Noise", and he fell in love with "Car Bomb". For the rest of the year, he'd play it occasionally (sometimes more than occasionally, after a few drinks) at skull-splitting volume through the Frankenstein of a stereo system that he'd moved it with.

With the windows open, and the speakers pointed the right way, you could hear it clearly two blocks away.

We were eventually written up by the RA, and then formally reprimanded. Only a massive amount of self-control (and not drinking in the room) prevented us from being kicked out, I suspect. I'll always have a soft spot for Negativland.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:55 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Big 10-8 Place is high art.
posted by davebush at 12:52 PM on November 30, 2012


Iiiiii saaaaaiiid Iiiiii’d liiike...a piece of MEEEEEAT!

Also, O.J. and His Personal Trainer Kill Ron and Nicole.
posted by ostranenie at 2:07 PM on November 30, 2012


the all-important Officially O.K. with Item book

At Loompanics ... right?
posted by Twang at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was fascinating to me, especially since my main exposure to Negativland is their "Dead Dog Records" piece which is part of Fair Use: The Story Of The Letter U And The Numeral 2. A completely different side of Negativland.
posted by hippybear at 12:55 PM on December 1, 2012


Communism is gooooooooooooooood...
posted by AJaffe at 8:25 PM on December 1, 2012


Soooooooooo gentle people... anyone planning to go to their Show at the Uptown in Oakland on Dec 29?
posted by changoperezoso at 8:37 AM on December 4, 2012


Holy neighbor's lawnmowers!!! How in Mother's name did I not know that the Weatherman has a regularly updated blog?
posted by item at 5:53 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


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