Friday, September 29, 2023

Steve Sutherland - Josef K - Young and Stupid / Endless Soul - July 18 1987 - Melody Maker


When I first read this review, of a group I'd almost forgotten the existence of by 1987, I was really struck by the phrase "instruments of discourse." as used by Steve Sutherland to describe Josef K and other groups of that postpunk-into-New-Pop moment. 

Not so much as a revelation, but simply as recognition.

For that was the way I habitually processed music almost from the start of reading the music press.  

As much as they made music, groups existed to be conversation-starters. They would initiate a conversation, or they might try to disrupt the existing conversation, make it swerve off course -  go somewhere different, somewhere new.  In the hyper-conscious climate of postpunk>>>New Pop, music-making could be a form of active criticism.  Which Steve conveys here with his sharp line about how Josef K "recorded reviews, not records. They could / should have all been journos..." 

The unspoken corollary of that, though, is the disorienting thought that criticism, at its utmost, could be a kind of unsounded music-making*. A real contribution to the evolution.  

The thing that puzzles me now about this review is why Steve situated all this in the past - six long years ago, a lost golden age of discourse fever. 

Why the elegiac long-face, Mr. Melody Maker Features Editor Sir?  For surely the pages of your own magazine at that very moment teemed with "instruments of discourse." What was A.R. Kane if not an intervention, a gauntlet thrown down - a purposeful polarizer of a proposition. As were, in different ways, with different degrees of intentionality, Throwing Muses, The Young Gods, and others...   Groups then in the process of formation would in time reveal themselves as mirroring the rhetoric and write-ups that framed the late Eighties surge, as much they were reflections of the surging sounds themselves.

"Spotty, unshaven visionaries"** -  Steve was surrounded by them. Because he'd hired them

C.f. Christopher Small's idea of musicking --  a term he invented to convey and encompass the ways in which a music culture is sustained not just by the craft and creativity of musicians but many other kinds of contributions and activities: fans and listeners, critics and reporters, A&R and publicists, photographers and record designers, managers and booking agents, radio deejays, promoters..... We are all musickers.  

** Morley, clearly. 

Late Addition: Forgot that I reviewed some Josef K reissues a few years later and picked up on Steve's line. From October 20 1990