movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Mon Feb 22 2010, 11:12pm | 10 comments
Another geek subculture I am either not cool enough or too cool to embrace:
What I want to know is this: Who certifies that all those electric instruments and amps and such are steam powered? Cuz what would Jules Verne think if they weren’t?
Seriously, though: Abney Park’s Web site is gorgeous…
That’s not a measure of your coolness, it’s a measure of your taste in music. There’s ‘liking the same things enough other people like that you can be termed a subculture’ and then there’s ‘hoping group affiliation excuses your mediocrity or social ineptitude.’ That band is not good, and your relative position on the geek scale couldn’t make them any better.
/not a steampunk, though I do think gears and old stuff looks cool
Steampunk as an aesthetic — awesome.
Steampunk as a literary genre — can also be awesome.
Steampunk as a way of life — meh, not my thing but to each their own.
Steampunk as in that band — wow, they suck.
Abney Park’s music is decent on their studio albums. This video has some serious sound quality problems, making it distinctly unkind to them. I recall rather liking many of their tracks when I first encountered their work a few years back.
(I have a few musician friends, and it’s notoriously much more difficult to find sound techs with the talent to make you sound good in a live venue. Studio recordings are much easier to clean up and make presentable.)
For a more representative sample of Abney Park’s abilities, I’ve found a rather silly fan video. In it you may also detect another curious aspect of steampunk subculture: it’s often tricky to tell whether they are taking themselves far too seriously, deliberately making themselves look silly, or both at the same time. To wit:
I happen to love Abney Park’s music (check out their new CD if you can…it’s excellent). The awesome visual style is s bonus (Yay Steampunk!)
I happen to like Abney Park a whole lot too. There are almost never decent videos of their music available because they’re recordings from live events. The link Victor posted is one of the few good ones. There are also free tracks on their website.
Steampunk is simply fun. Everyone looks good in Victorian clothes. And you know, people are nicer to one another than they might normally be. There are events held fairly regularly in and around New York. Walks in the park, nights out at the club, trips to museums.
OK. What makes that “steampunk”? The costumes remind me of the same mish-mash of georgian/victorian/scots/etc. (with some Referencing American Indian ™ feathers in one guy’s hair) that Adam Ant did, the music reminds me of lo-rent Big Country or Jethro Tull, and the filming is crap with that sepia wash to give it some importance.
I’ve seen loads of steampunk dress here in NYC and have gone occasionally to a club where most everyone is dressed in it, but the music was always goth.
So, anyone care to define?
Much of steampunk subculture intrigues me, but I am definitely an outside observer, not a member of it. As such, I think it best to leave questions of definition to the fairly well organized and capable hands of the Wikipedia article on Steampunk.
LaSargenta, you mean what makes the music itself steampunk? I have no idea, beyond the fact that they sing about airships and mad scientists. And that their stage gear is steampunk.
I don’t think there is a definition for steampunk music beyond the players being part of the subculture or the subculture accepting what they do as good. Some of AP’s songs sample music from the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century, so you get a sense of being outside a particular time.
Abney Park was originally categorized as a goth band until they hit on a different aesthetic.
“Goth” was a uselessly vague label too, when it first started out. Oddly enough, though, when LaSargenta used it to describe the music at the “steampunk” events, I didn’t even think about how uninformative I found the term “goth” when I first encountered it, however many years ago that was.
Still, I’m glad to have seen this conversation, even if it hasn’t helped refine the categorical labels very much, because it indirectly introduced me to the fantastickal workings of the mind of Doctor Steel.
If there’s an octopus in the song, then it’s steampunk. No one knows why, but that is the rule.
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