As the Psych Fest favourites descend on Liverpool for another round of distaste, Getintothis’ Zach Jones debates the value of shock rock as an art form and if it carries and real staying power.
The concept of beauty, is such a deeply held philosophical ideal you cannot even attempt to understand its relevance in history if you measured it by today’s definition of the word. Yes, it is true that we have become very lazy when contemplating aesthetics and have given up attempting to assert what beauty really is. Instead simply adhering to the lazy philosophy of ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, a concept that neither defines beauty nor explains its importance.
Artists, musicians, poets and all creatives have always been able to capture human emotion, through their medium whether it was Rembrandt capturing the pain on the old torn faces he painted or Shakespeare capturing the heartbreak of Romeo and Juliet.
At the turn of the century, we lost this idea of beauty. We gave up creating because it was beautiful, and instead turned art into a political or ethical statement. Art became about its shock factor. It was with Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, a urinal that had been crudely signed that a fork was stuck in the road, and we had to decide whether we would follow ugliness or beauty. In an interview Duchamp proclaimed ‘I have abandoned art like so many have abandoned religion’. This was, to the distaste of many mohawk adorning crusties, the birth place of punk rock.
Punk was not born in a recording studio, but in fact ‘shock’ art had existed long, long before MC5, Iggy Pop and the garage rock explosion. Long before The Ramones could have even been conceived, and long before Malcolm McLaren and The Sex Pistols would ever release an album.
But what is the purpose of shock within art?
Artists like Gwar, GG Allin and W.A.S.P. will never be, and arguably should never be, classed alongside the great composers. They are not artists of beauty, they are artists of ugliness. But it is through their ugliness we find liberation.
A recurring criticism of much western philosophy, especially that of Ancient Greece, is that it was the product of white middle class men. When you are privileged it is easy to debate ethics without ever feeling their consequence, as is all too common with our politics of today. So in this debate of classical beauty vs the ugliness of punk, of pig masks and spandex come Evil Blizzard.
Shock is liberating. It reclaims art for a class of people who do not live with beauty, but live with ugliness. In 21st Century post-modern Britain, we are not surrounded by beautiful temples and architecture but by dilapidated estates and an endless stream of Home Bargains. School education is not about learning, but about standardised testing. Profession are often not about quality, but about profit generation. Sexually we are bombarded with pleasure, and not with love and musically surrounded by money making hits, not art.
This is not the idealistic world many ethical thinkers like to believe. It is an ugly world that Evil Blizzard have shined a light onto.
You have to truly ask yourself, how can a band, who bring OAP strippers as support acts, who wear pig masks and spandex, who sing songs about evil and sacrifice have such a dedicated fan base?
It is because Marcel Duchamp was right. Art did die, and when the fork was stuck in the road our society chose utility over beauty. And from that, music needs to be brandable, art needs to be profitable, and poetry can fuck off because what use is word play unless it’s over a 90bpm beat.
Evil Blizzard are the perfect embodiment of artistic ideal in the 21st century. A twisted joke that got out of hand.
Originally said to be a deliberate attempt to make a band so bad that it was going to be the worst band on Earth. Now whether this is a compliment or a sign that they failed in their attempt, but Evil Blizzard have turned into so much more.
Standing after watching two brilliant supports rattle through sets to a dozen people, the room instantly swells up as Evil Blizzard start to arrive. Two members of the audience reach into bags and have their own home made pig masks, and as they walk on stage the crowd start booing.
‘You’re fucking shite’ we hear from behind us, echoed with ‘fuck off and give us a proper band’ from the other side of the room. This is how Evil Blizzard like to be greeted on stage.
As a drummer, who resembles a clown that perhaps has been tortured in outer space, spits into the crowds faces, the low deep hum of single Sacrifice starts to ring out. There is a build as the crowd grab the barriers, push, shove and spit. And finally, when it all crashes down in a monolithic wall of lo-fi fuzz, the crowd push the barrier right over.
A lone sercurity guard / promoter / manager or perhaps even a good Samaritan, re-gains the barrier and starts to film the band on his phone. As are two thirds of the crowds. In any over gig this would be considered rude, but when four middle aged men, dressed in boiler-suits, spandex, flares and masks that make Kiss look like children’s cartoon characters, not filming it would be ridiculous.
Song after song rings out, predominately from new album Everybody Come to Church and they get heavier, darker and faster. Until finally Are you Evil, causes the crowd to turn into a mob, to a riot, and back into a mob again. It’s chaos.
This chaos is a sick joke and no more than that. There is no philosophical value to it or any attempt to create art.
This is the next stage in the evolution of shock rock, where the nihilistic value of the joke itself becomes a greater statement than anything that could ever have been intentionally created.
In many respects their dedicated mass of fans, a rabble who understand the nature of the Blizzards‘ intention, are subsequently more enlightened than the mass of critics so easy to brand the intimidating force as vulgar.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody.