The essence of the hipster: irony

We know that hipsters served as the implement of tearing down metal because once you infiltrate a genre with consciously inauthentic people, it becomes easy to separate aesthetic from its cause, and therefore you make the genre into wallpaper that you can apply to any template, especially the rock/pop variety.

History will eventually record rock music as a simplification of European folk, with the added Semitic use of bent notes in pentatonic scales as probably a holdover derived from ancient Egyptian music, but nonetheless serving a simple function: keep only color notes in a formless composition directed solely by rhythm.

That provides an optimized product. Easy to produce, nearly interchangeable, and impossible to do really well, it sets up a mediocre standard which is convenient for industry and consumers alike. They have constant novelty, which is what the majority of them crave.

Hipsters work within the social economy, where popularity is power and translates to status and thus opportunity and therefore wealth, by breaking down that which has unique character and transforming it into more of the same, so that hipsters can reign by finding “new” material to hype.

That way, those hipsters became seen as a source of the culture-surrogate that is pop culture, and through that means, they become “important” and gain power. These two traits — inauthenticity disguised as authenticity, and power-seeking through social means — define the hipster.

As Ad Busters wrote some time ago about The Hipster Question, the hipster is an aggregate of the past, not a unique direction, no matter how much he pretends otherwise:

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

What defines the hipster? He has no goal except himself. Building on the leather jacket wearing anti-heroes from 1920s literature, the hipster seeks coolness through apathy and defensive, arrogant selfishness disguised as cultural eliteness.

The hipster claims to be authentic, therefore must destroy the authentic that might compete with him. For this reason, his identity is entirely defined in opposition, meaning that he reacts to mainstream culture but has no ideas of his own.

Freedom, apathy, coolness, individualism, and the anti-hero operate the same way. They create nothing, only resist and reject what is. Perpetual rebels, they define themselves by being rebels to everything and anything, since to be a perpetual rebel as an identity, you cannot care much about what you rebel against.

Like most rebels, they operate through irony, which in a social context means asserting that what is obviously true and real is not true or important, and asserting instead the absurd as the real as a means of perpetuating the rebellion.

Consider the role that irony serves in the hipster revolution:

As a function of fear and pre-emptive shame, ironic living bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation and defeat. If life has become merely a clutter of kitsch objects, an endless series of sarcastic jokes and pop references, a competition to see who can care the least (or, at minimum, a performance of such a competition), it seems we’ve made a collective misstep. Could this be the cause of our emptiness and existential malaise? Or a symptom? – “How to Live Without Irony,” by Christy Wampole, The New York Times, November 17, 2012

Ironic living means fatalism. You have given up on anything having any meaning. Consequently, you believe only in temporary distractions that lead to your great social influence, a world of human importance used as a substitute for reality itself and the more thorny existential questions it presents.

Not surprisingly, ironists become hipsters, or at least some of them do; every hipster is an ironist. They specialize in pretending to care about things, but using them as a means to the materialistic glorification of the self through social importance. This makes hipsters destroyers of meaning, history, and quality.

Like egalitarianism itself, hipsterism emerges from individualism. The true individualist wants to think only his own thoughts, pursue only his own pleasures, and not have anyone intrude and interrupt with knowing better or higher standards.

Individualists find themselves equally at home in anarchy, consumerism, and communism. To them, jobs are a given, and something to take delight in slacking off during. Obligations of life are a game, something to scam on. All they want is to reduce the sum total of what they must recognize outside of themselves, and to have a human system to manipulate instead of a complex, nuanced, and time-aware nature to which they must adapt.

Not surprisingly, metal hipsters deny time. They have no problem with the passage of years, or talking about aging and death, but they deny greatness, because to do so is to give time shape between moments of clarity and periods of descent and wallowing in the usual human neurosis, directionless, and reactive emotion.

When viewed this way, it becomes clear that what defines the hipster is not his unique and essential character, but his spongelike lack of direction. He simply wants to scam, and uses music or anything else as a means to advancing his own leechcraft.

Over time, hipsters act much like the wind or rain. Their goal is to break things down, to make them uniform, and to disguise that fact. They convert genres into generic rock/pop and then cover it with “different” instrumentation, vocals, or topics, but the real goal has always been to make it covertly just the same.

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Metalcore enters its final form: coronavirus

Metalheads suffer greatly for the pain of having a genre that has suffered a coup. At some point, rock assimilated metal, and became modern metalcore: MTV song structure, hardcore style riffs, emo vocals, maybe an occasional metal riff, but basically just pop metal like pop punk was to crustcore and hardcore.

Through this example we see one of the difficulties of living in this world, which is that everything operates in cycles consisting of internal “epicycles” or smaller cyclic motions that seem to go against the dominant direction, but end up supporting it through a Hegelian dialectic.

With metal, the cycle ran from the prog-influenced vision of Black Sabbath through black metal, where it had reached its endpoint. The genre had fully expressed its style, and now the task remained to write truly great music within a style that could be easily emulated like a textbook would instruct.

Inside of that cycle, the epicycles were the influence of hardcore, progressive, and movie soundtracks — the three primal ingredients of metal — against the backdrop of heavy rock. Speed metal went more progressive, death metal went more hardcore, and black metal returned to proto-classical but ambient sounds, much like music designed for the background of a movie.

Other cycles panned out as well. Was it “message music” like the Left preferred, or thematic pattern comparison as the Right does? Would it be explicitly political, or flamboyantly artistic? Real-world or metaphorical? Guitar-dominated or vocals-dominated? Beauty in ugliness, or beauty of ugliness?

All of these fought it out and, by 1994 or so, the genre had its vocabulary and architectural lexicon written and able to be riffed upon, at which point it became an artistic genre writing art about itself, which is the dead-end of a cycle: trundling repetition between extremes, awaiting a new angle.

It turns out that the next stage for metal would be either to write more great songs using its existing language, or to increase the complexity, sort of like Ancient tried to do on their EP. Most of its great artists jetted straight into ambient, abandoning the field to imitators.

With imitators, of course, came an opening. The label guys saw that one a mile away: imitation means that the genre becomes an aesthetic, and you can graft that on to anything. They tried emo, then indie-shoegaze hybrids, and finally settled on late hardcore and then integrated the other three as epicycles.

At this point, metal has reached utter genericism. It has the death vocals and some of the riffing, the rock structure and attitude, the heavy metal bombast and extravagance, and the somewhat formless but uniform delivery of hardcore punk. It is now fully a product.

We can compare this evolution to that of a famous virus (archive) that you may have heard of, six years before it reached the peak of its genre:

U.S. warns health officials to be alert for deadly new virus
Reuters – Thu, 7 Mar, 2013

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday warned state and local health officials about potential infections from a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has now sickened 14 people and killed 8.

Most of the infections have occurred in the Middle East, but a new analysis of three confirmed infections in Britain suggests the virus can pass from person to person rather than from animal to humans, the CDC said in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report on Thursday.

The virus is a coronavirus, part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The new virus is not the same as SARS, but like the SARS virus, it is similar to those found in bats.

COVID-19 will most likely evolve as coronaviruses tend to do. It will start out, unique and full of fire. Then over time, the efficiency of being less lethal and of longer duration will force changes in its evolution. Eventually, it will become a common cold with a protein spike that makes it more infectious.

Expect COVID-19, like metal, to have a few glorious years of peak supremacy. Virulent, wild and free, it developed from primitive origins among the bat guano, metaphorically like Black Sabbath, to its final state of ultra-streamlined intensity, like Darkthrone, before getting absorbed by the larger genre of common coronaviruses.

Something external beats these viruses into these patterns. This is adaptation: their design reflects what is most efficient, resilient, and niche-situated in their environment. Eventually, the remnants of COVID-19 will have lost their scary reputation, but everyone will have them once a year, sort of like how Big Tech wants us all to pay them $5 a month per service for the rest of our lives.

Like metalcore, COVID-19 will become a muted version of its former self, but a more accessible one, and therefore will distribute further. Metalcore reflects not intention, but the lack of it, and shows us a fully evolved “metal product” which is as efficient, inexpensive, and profitable as a Big Mac or MacBook.

Speaking of metalcore, you may enjoy this entry from the bend over, here it comes again department:

Beijing tests for COVID-19 using anal swabs, where virus may survive longer: experts

Beijing reported a 9-year-old boy tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and his school conducted a variety of tests including serum antibody tests, nasal, throat, and even anal swabs for all its staff and students, prompting many to wonder if anal swabs could be more accurate in detecting the virus than other measures.

Li Tongzeng, a deputy director in charge of infectious disease at Beijing You’an Hospital, said that studies have shown that the coronavirus survives longer in the anus or excrement than those taken from upper body tracts, and for some silent carriers the virus may be present in their throats for 3 to 5 days, allowing some tests to provide false negative results.

We could test similarly for metalcore, of course.

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