December 14, 2009
Strictly speaking it’s Meltzer who’s the hilo hero, who inverted the language of academe in pursuit of the rock thrill, but here’s what puts Lester in the pantheon: he redefined monotony. The vicious monotony of a Stooges chord, the earth-in-her-bonds monotony of a Black Sabbath riff, the mechanical monotony of John Cale repeating a single note on the piano — dang! dang! dang! dang! — I believe it took Lester to alert us to the proper value of these sounds, to create a receptivity to the drone that drones beneath us all. Also: his work is a constant rebuke to the middlebrow suspicion of “writing about music.” A sufficiently gifted prose artist to be able to dismantle his own style where necessary, Lester happened in addition to be synaesthetic. As Hazlitt to painting, so he to rock’n’roll, producing effects on the page that literally — and I mean literally — involve and entwine themselves with the music. His line about the Stooges’ “Down On The Street” “clicking like stiletto boot-heels” is now part of my experience of hearing the song. Poetically, electrically, he’s in it: Iggy Pop, Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton… and Lester Bangs. Dancing about architecture? Up yours.
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