Curgoth (curgoth) wrote,

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Industrial Music Is Problematic

I've had a post brewing in the back of my head for a while on Industrial music,and its problematic aspects, but kept putting off writing it.

Then Jairus did this. Which gives me a topical push to discuss this before the Internets move on.

I like Industrial music. I like the aggression, the speed, the way it fits with the way I like to dance, the way I move. I like the darkness in it and the edginess to it. I like the way it discusses taboo(ish) subjects like depression, oppression, kink and violence. I also like that it's got a solid stream of nerd running through it.


There's a line, a fuzzy line, but still a line. A point at which it stops being edgy and dark and becomes flat out offensive and beyond "problematic", moving into "a problem". Of the two bands Jairus discusses, I have two Combichrist albums, and one Nachtmahr album. My review of Combichrist's Everybody Hates You does mention the discomfort I felt about some of the lyrics, while with Nachtmahr, I just don't have enough German to really know what they're singing about (see review).

It seems that Combichrist has gone further; somehow, I feel "I am a bitch/ How do you want me?" is just barely okay (because I can imagine consenting adults happily playing out that scene), while "You feminist cunts know you want it/ Give head if you got it" is way, way over the line. I hadn't been paying attention to the last couple releases from Combichrist, because what I'd heard on podcasts hadn't thrilled me.

After liking a few of their tracks, I picked up Mordacious's recent large album Dead Inside, and was fairly disappointed that nearly every song was about violent sex. And while I don't necessarily disapprove of violent sex, if it's all about punishing dirty whores and giving it to bitches - that shit's misogynist, yo. I sometimes wonder if the music I listen to isn't just the German equivalent to the rap music I turn my nose up at, with the popping of caps in asses, the acquisition of bling and bitches and hoes (is that the correct plural form? Why is this a thing I need to know in my life?). Is Industrial really just that plus some Depeche Mode covers? One of the few German words I can readily identify is the word for "slut", thanks to Industrial music.

Similarly, I loved Suicide Commando's "Bind, Torture, Kill" when I heard it in clubs; it's great for the aggressive way I like to dance. Sure, it's clearly a song about violence, but darkness and yes, violence is part of what I like about Industrial. When I did some reading while trying to find out who the artist was and how I could get the track, I found out about BTK, a real world serial killer who murdered at least ten people. Is that something I want to celebrate? Not really. Apparently my line is "imaginary, non-specific aggression and violence: cool" and "actual real world violence/violence against targeted social groups: not cool".

I'm going to toss in a quick reference to Hansel Und Gretyl here, but leave it at that since I've got another half-written essay on "Pop Culture Nazis" in another file.

I can happily continue to ignore Combichrist's new work, because I happen to not really like it. Nachtmahr is harder. The band is really just Thomas Rainer, who is involved in something like half the bands in the genre; IIRC, he worked on the latest Covenant album (which I loved), he's also the lead for L'Ame Immortale, and I seem to recall something about him joining up with one of the classic Industrial outfits, though I can't find a reference to refresh my memory on that one.

I'm not the only one who worries about this stuff; apparently Jairus got applause form the crowd at Kinetik, and the biggest (only?) Canadian distributor of Industrial music, Storming the Base came out with a "Misogyny Is Not A Music Genre" button. Though STB does still carry music and merch for bands like Combichrist, Nachtmahr, Mordacious, etc.

What is a poor confused fan to do? Give up on the genre entirely? Since that would more or less mean "give up on music", I hate that option. Research each band to make sure the sexism and violence are at levels I find tolerable? Better, but given how much collaboration and crossover among artists, the level of effort required to vet everything comes back to "give up on music" again. Especially once I consider clubs and podcasts, if I listen to Industrial, there's going to be problematic stuff.

On one hand, sometimes I just feel like throwing up my hands and going on a permanent culture fast; everything is problematic! Industrial music, rock music, Joss Whedon's Avengers, the kink scene, every movie, book, tv show or song I have ever like: almost certainly at least a little problematic. We live in a problematic culture and the only way to not endorse it is to opt out. Entirely. Any art created will be created by a person with kyriarchical baggage that will pollute their work. "Fine, I just won't like... things!"

Which of course, leads to the opposite extreme. At other times I feel like I have hit Peak Outrage. I just can't maintain the level of upset with all the wrong things in the world all the time. Maybe it's time to give up, stop worrying and love the Patriarchy? Go join the masses of derailing fanboys telling people to shut up because "it's just a joke!" or "that's censorship, yo!" Which I guess lets me like things, but I don't think I would really like myself much at that point.

There is also "How To Be A Fan OF Problematic Things". Which is a start, I suppose. What I am left with is pretty much the same as my approach to porn. Acknowledge that yeah, a lot of it is problematic, and icky, even though I like it. Try to avoid backing the ickier stuff, and try to endorse and back the stuff that manages to be good with less ickiness. Listen before reacting if I get called out on something I like. This is not a real, long term solution, for either porn or music (or anything else in our culture), but it's the best I can come up with.
Tags: feminism, musik

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