by Simon Reynolds
Consolidated are the new militants of American rock. Their debut album, The Myth Of Rock, agitated against rock’s regressive impotence, its spurious rebellion and disengagement from the world, over an incendiary samplescape that combined industrial beats with a Hank Shocklee-style ‘wall of noise’. Their new album, Friendly Fascism, brings them even closer to their dream of being a "white, Marxist Public Enemy". I asked Adam Sherbourne, Philip Steir and Mark Pistel of Consolidated whey they’ve chosen to be agit-pop militants in an age where white rock never been more apolitical?
"In a sense, we’re a huge anachronism, and a comedy troupe. Being that serious is an enormous folly when you’re involved in such a degraded and diminished arena as rock ‘n’ roll. Just being in a band today requires a sense of humour and a sense of tragedy. We’re stuck in a medium that is trammeled by huge restrictions and limitations. We’ve tried political activism before, but for better or worse, our collective statement is through music. Among other things, our collective statement is that rock’s gestures at transgression or transcendence inevitably end up commodified."
But the same applies to agit-pop, which is arguably even more defunct and contradiction-riddled than all the other sub-genres of rock.
"Well, we’re the last people diving off the dock and missing the last boat. People say it’s been proved that pop and politics don’t mix, that political effectiveness just gets lost in the entertainment context. But politics gets lost and destroyed within ‘politics’ too. What people call politics has nothing to do with political change, it’s all about insider trading, chicanery, wheeler-dealing."
The field they’ve chosen to operate in ("dancecore" or "industrial disco") does not seem the most appropriate arena for a consciousness-raising initiative. Its two extremes seem to be crypto-fascist discipline (Front 242) and outlaw delinquency (Rev Co).
"With Friendly Fascism, we’ve distanced ourselves from that context. We’re fully aware, after a year of touring on that scene, of the crypto-fascist nature of that music. It’s just white aerobic supremacism preying on the twisted fears of male youth. We’ve redefined ourselves as ‘bureaucratic entertainment specialists’. We’ve already made the transition of being lesbian nuns playing coffee shop protest songs on wooden guitars!"
On The Myth Of Rock, you diss everything that you despise with the put-down, "Man, that shit is WEAK".
"Our idea of strength has no connection with constructivism or the heroic imagery of totalitarian art. In our value system, what’s weak is penis-oriented ego tantrums, the arrested development syndrome that is rock rebellion. Our idea of strength is modeled on matriarchal values — pride, resilience, determination, compassion."
You say capitalism has failed, which is true in the sense that it’s failed to deliver on its promises. Yet it’s a long-running failure!
"Of course, capitalism remains a huge success. What we really wanted to do with that song was make a counter-blow against all the propaganda that the Eastern Block revolutions are a proof of capitalism’s righteousness and inevitability. We wanted to make the point that the Eastern Block peoples were rejecting state tyranny, not voting for capitalism. Capitalism is definitely the biggest revolution ever, but we don’t see why people should have to tolerate that revolution, put up with homelessness, racial conflict, dehumanised labour, eco-cide and blood for oil."
Does ‘beauty’ fit into the Consolidated world view, or do you see music’s value as purely instrumental (a vehicle for agit-pop)?
"On the contrary, we aim to show that rock is not instrumental in promoting social change. Our argument is that we need to change the social conditions in which music is produced and consumed, before music can change anything. Our project is to abandon the failing tradition of agit-pop and invent our own failing tradition. Our message is simply that people should spend less time listening to music and more time changing the world."