1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About by Joshua Clover

By Joshua Clover

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From that point, however, the two events diverge extraordinarily, and in some regard might be seen to have opposite dynamics—a point that will be touched upon later. For the moment, what bears notice is the extraordinary success of the Western narrative of liberal democracy at capturing the meaning of Tiananmen Square for itself as a pungent but, in the last summary, secondary instance of the Fall of the Wall. In the realm of actual events, this is perhaps the most violent of all elisions, conducted with breathtaking casualness; consider the inclusion of images from Beijing in the “Wind of Change” video, at once index to and agent of the ongoing collapse of meanings to a single point.

Grunge, that is to say, is imagined to be at once genesis and resurrection: an 16 introduction ambivalent situation, answered by a taste for ambivalence that charges the music itself, as both sonic form and emotional content. These are dangerous waters to enter: the number of serious, book-length studies of punk rock is ever-growing, and a single chapter can’t hope to summarize the material or the endlessly freighted debate around the historical and political import of punk. Our study is inevitably more narrow, concerning itself mainly with the matter of ambivalence—with continuities and ruptures between punk and grunge, and the kinds of social relations figured by these musics.

This is the possibility taken up in Part Two. At least part of that sensation, a deflated paralysis in the face of history itself, is found in “Right Here, Right Now,” to which Part Two returns in order to begin its orchestration into a single account of the emergences and apotheoses of the preceding chapters. Certainly the changes tracked in the first four chapters have their own cul 18 introduction tural coordinates, each worthy of its own detailed accounting. Nonetheless, they can also be attuned toward a decisively coherent understanding, a pop worldview, which echoes, and even reproduces, the basic logic of the moment.

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