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Many faces of risk: Wire, formed in 1976, helped define "edge" – long before the quotation marks were added.
Guest Writer

Edge without quotation marks
Risk matters
by Eva Lake

ocal media recently gave a full onslaught to a band coming to town called Interpol. The sound of post-punk, following on the heels of the punk revival, is The Latest Big Thing, and Interpol has that sound.

The Portland media was also full of a not-so-new band coming to town: Wire. Talented, influential and ahead of their time, Wire created a varied sound – which is no doubt emulated by some of the new bands of today. Actually, whether they emulate the band or not, Wire's reach is unavoidable ...

... Ah, but could we really stand to go to Wire's show? That was the gist in more than one of the local rags of this town. Could we stand to see these old men play music?

Interpol: This year's model or recycling project?

How is it that bands that are derivative and clearly not blazing new trails – which sound "old" (but, of course, are young) are fine. But bands that created the sound, are still coming out with good new music (as witnessed by Wire's Read & Burn 01) and, furthermore, took risks to create it, are not?

How is a copy more important than the original?

I hightailed it down to the record store and listened to most of the cuts on Interpol's CD. It is an excellent piece of work, but it's also like a long-lost Joy Division record. And when it's not sounding like Joy Div, it is very much like New Order.

Not that any of that is so terrible, but I get the feeling that for most people, unless one could resurrect the dead and have the originals in their perfectly photographable 1980 form, a performance by the copy would be preferable to the originals. And those who would prefer to see the originals keep that kind of information confidential.

Private joy: Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division's 1979 release, had limited appeal in its day.

To begin with, it's a bit difficult for the guard of 1980 to adjust to a world where "everyone" knows and loves Joy Division. Their lifespan was short. Most of their (underground) fame came after Ian Curtis was already dead. Maybe 50 people in Portland were into the band at that time – and that's stretching it, for I surely did not sell 50 of their records when I worked at Singles Going Steady, the independent music store owned by Tim Kerr and Thor Lindsay.

If we ordered 10 of something, that was a big deal.

It is one thing to say "My generation is a brave new world" when you are offering something much different than your predecessors – like the Beatles. Or the Pistols. Or even Joy Division, for God's sake. But if you are offering just another version of Joy Division, let's get a grip here.

Perhaps it is just the concept of risk itself that is not comprehended. In a society where hip defines all, how can one imagine a time when nothing was? Hip, today, implies total acceptance and the norm. So why respect or even regard those who created it?

"Edge," so easily marketed and assumed now that everyone has got it, was once completely created by risk and repulsion.

Hip exposed: ex-Miss America Harman.

But you know that the tables are surely turned when the headlines of the Oregonian (Sept. 21) had Katie Harman hoping that the next Miss America would be hip. This reveals how far the whole notion has changed. Hip was created by drug use, freewheeling sex, interracial everything and all that can be taken as birthright now – but was initially an act of risk. Not exactly choices for Miss America.

A lot of young rockers and hipsters (their term, not mine) don't like Elvis at all. He seems like an artifact to them and, whatever his voice or moves may be, hey, they've seen all that already. It's boring. But when you look at the society of the 1950s, taking a good look at the youth culture (or any kind of culture!) alone, he was worse than Johnny Rotten could ever be. Newer than new, bigger than big. A total threat.

But no, this week it's the Hives – they're so much better!

The term "hipster" implies in-ness as opposed to the out-ness that created it. The local papers also refer to the new film, "24 Hour Party People," as about "... hipster Tony Wilson and hipster hangouts like the Hacienda ..."

Reaching out to Elvis: When risk was risk.

Sorry, no dice. There was nothing inclusive, massive or "in" about it: A secret club; had to be obsessive and weird and special to get it. But I get the feeling that such clarification falls on deaf ears, or it just doesn't fucking matter anyway. The difference between something original and something not – who cares?

But I say yes, risk matters. Especially in times when much is gray, when polarizing events are few and far between. Risk itself is packaged and part of the marketing landscape, something to do and be. In a crowd where everyone is a convert and wearing a black leather jacket, "risk" – true originality – just falls all too neatly into quotation marks.

See more from Eva in our archives.

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