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February 13, 2008

Good Question

Over at Dial M, main man Phil Ford asks what "post-rock" is, exactly:

Is it a genre, with specific musical conventions and characteristics that can be invoked or withheld for expressive effect? Is it a scene, a regional filiation of bands and individuals? Maybe, and maybe. But I like to use it as a term for music conceived within a particular historical moment -- a moment where the rock narrative is revealed to be the rockist narrative, i.e., as just another ideology, and as such something with a history and therefore doomed to eventual senescence and death.

...It's not as if you can't make rock music after that awful moment where the jazz-flute abyss opens before you, but you can't carry on as before. Henceforth, you're not rocking, you're "rocking." You take your first tottering steps towards modernism, doubt, and self-reflexivity -- all notably un-rocking things.

Okay, sure, but that raises a question of periodization. The expression is associated with certain 1990s bands, for example, most of which I would pay no small price never to hear from again, unless struck with life-threatening insomnia. But Phil's description seems like it could apply to earlier developments.

Not to turn this into a replay of that old game show When Did Modernism End/Postmodernism Begin? but I have to ask....

Posted by smclemee at February 13, 2008 6:18 PM


Post-rock began with the first Bark Psychotic album and the last two Talk Talk albums. It really solidified as a specific "sound" with the first Tortoise album.

Posted by: bryan at February 13, 2008 8:02 PM

Was that the game show where Habermas and Charles Nelson Reilly got into a big fistfight because winners got a washer/dryer and runners-up got the complete works of Frederic Jameson?

Posted by: Delicious Pundit at February 13, 2008 11:43 PM

You would think that would be on YouTube, but no.

Posted by: Scott McLemee at February 14, 2008 8:34 AM

poor brewsky lover has something to look forward to (stoner time!) when he discovers the jazz beyond jazz -- Rahsaan Roland Kirk rocks harder on flute than Tortoise, I promise, and guitarist Jeff Parker seems to find a way to bridge the divide with Tortoise and AACM buddies, both.
Furthermore: pomo is but an apostrophe to modernism, which if we're really, really lucky ain't dead yet.

Posted by: faithful nemesis at February 14, 2008 12:32 PM