An occasional guide to what’s bourgeois and what’s not, from the man who knows what’s bourgeois and what’s not.
Part 1: Music.
OK – generally speaking, music is not bourgeois. It’s one of the primal forms of human self-expression. However, some forms are more bourgeois than others. What follows is a far-from-definitive examination of some of the more popular genres. Feel free to request a judgement on any genre not mentioned below. Email the Guild at the usual address, and I shall instil some education.
Rhythm and Blues. Not bourgeois. Obviously. However, there is an important distinction to be made in terms of cut-off points. R’n’B is emphatically NOT ‘Contemporary R’n’B’, which is bourgeois in the worst way. Wikipedia makes the distinction. So should you.
Punk Rock. Definitely not bourgeois. The DIY Ethic, the (initial, at least) rejection of the traditional routes through the ‘music biz’ etc. Beware, however, the pretenders. Not The Pretenders – they are marvellous, and can be filed under this particular heading. The Police, though, for example. NONE more booshwah. Might be a guilty pleasure, just don’t admit it to me. Otherwise, there might have to be re-education.
Ska/Reggae. Definitively NOT bourgeois. End Of. Three words: Misty In Roots. Apart from some well dodgy dancehall stuff courtesy of Beenie Man, Elephant Man and the like, who play up to the horrific homophobia still rampant in Jamaica, it’s the voice of the struggle/having a really, really good time. Which are not mutually exclusive. It has to be emphasised that most dancehall is just good-time music, designed to make you shake your butt. And there’s nothing in Marx or Engels that says you can’t shake your butt. Domestic offshoots, including Grime and Dubstep, also embody the struggle from the modern perspective.
Jazz: Generally speaking, non-bourgeois. Obviously. Apart from that which you hear murdered in hotel lobbies. This is very bourgeois.
Country (and Western): For the most part, utterly proletarian, therefore, once again, non-bourgeois. The fantastic country rock of Gram Parsons, for example, is a soundtrack to blue-collar America. There is, however, a lot of stuff out there that isn’t bourgeois, but is hateful. It’s pretty easy to spot, though. Care needed.
Heavy Metal/Hard Rock. The ultimate in non-bourgeois musical genres. Visceral Heft incarnate. Mainly concerned with devils and shit. Or being in a heavy metal/hard rock band. And shagging. Although they may not agree, Steel Panther’s Anthem ‘Party All Day’, with its refrain “Wo-oh-ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah – fuck all night and party all day…” is, in fact, an expression of utopian socialism at its purest. Innit. Also, metal/rock tends to eschew the commercial mainstream and its reliance on the concept of ‘fashion’, albeit while using the mechanics of the ‘industry’ in the case of the more successful bands. None of the above applies to Metallica, obviously. Although I admire them in an objective musical sense, they are reactionary to the nth degree.
Progressive Rock: Difficult. Some used their art to protest what they saw happening around them (see: King Crimson, ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’), whereas others (Yes, for example), um, didn’t, and just wanked themselves into a frenzy. Some did one, then the other (King Crimson again). But there are surprising exceptions. I will posit here that Pink Floyd come down on the side of the good guys. Although it’s hard to square their protests at the way the music industry works (see ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Wall’ for perfect examples) with their consummate exploitation of it. One for careful choices, Comrades.
Classical: Non-bourgeois. Except Wagner (just TOO tainted) and opera. Apart from Cosi Fan Tutti, which pioneered the theme of women making sexual choices. ‘Nuff said.
Folk: Again, definitively not bourgeois. The voice of the peasant, the worker, the revolutionary throughout the centuries. Required listening. Apart from wanky modern ‘alt-folk’, that is*. Here’s your starter for 10:
- Martin Carthy
- The Watersons
- Nic Jones
- Woody Guthrie
- Billy Bragg (oh, yes, he is)
- June Tabor
- Louis Killen
- Ewan MacColl
- Shirley Collins
- The Copper Family
Hip-Hop/Rap: Again, difficult. Not even going there, frankly. This is the home of my own guilty pleasures. And I’m not sharing those with you.
Suggestions for the next subject welcome… Emails to the usual address, or comment below.
*there are exceptions – Mountain Man are a good example.