Lester Bangs, the rock critic who burned with his own legend

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The first anthology of texts by Lester Bangs“legendary rock critic” according to the subtitle of that Psychotic reactions and carburetor shit, It was translated into Spanish late, if not out of time. But as better late than never, the 2018 edition of the Libros del Kultrum publishing house – separated by almost four decades from the first in the United States, under the care of Greil Marcus in 1987, five years after the journalist’s death – came to light. cover, in an almost kamikaze way, a telltale gap in the literature on popular music in our market.

And Lester Bangs was important, although the passage of time has contributed to adding a perhaps exaggerated mythical aura to his profile. The essence of Bangs was a mix between attitude and style: representative of the new journalism of the 70s in the area of ​​rock – his reviews, articles and main interviews of him appeared, above all, in newspapers such as Rolling Stone, Creem y The Village Voice, something like the trinity of the musical counterculture at that time -, his writing was a mix between beatnik literature – he hated the Beat Generation, but loved jazz -, a belligerent point of view that generally manifested itself in the first person of the gonzoand a simultaneous manifestation of disgust, boredom and emotion at the music that moved him, which could be something by the Stooges, Lou Reed, Miles Davis or reggae.

His was a way of writing from another time, but one that still has followers: conditioned by the consumption of amphetamines, his prose is rushed, precise and fast, which led Bangs to fill pages in a chain with long subordinate clauses. proustiana which, from time to time, were seasoned with onomatopoeias, exclamations, foul language and a hooliganism bordering on nihilism and misogyny. For years, in many international magazines and fanzines he was written as Lester Bangs, many punk journalists wanted to achieve his mythical stature, and the flame went out as rock, the fireproof material that ignited his automatic writing, began to lose relevance. in the culture of the turn of the century.

But something remains of all that, and the proof is that translating Bangs may not have been such a risky undertaking, since Libros del Kultrum once again dares with the other important book pending publication, a billet of more than 500 pages titled Veins in front, feasts of blood and bad taste. This was the second anthology, released long after Greil Marcus’s, in 2003 and in the care of John Morthland, who had been a writing partner at Rolling Stone in the early ’70s. The contents of Veins in front It is not a collection of discards to make cash, but a central complement to have a broad vision of the work of Bangs, who wrote, as he casually mentions in one of the texts, more than 4,000 album reviews in a little less than the long decade that his career lasted, since he died in New York of a barbiturate overdose in 1982, surrounded by whiskey, vinyl records and dirty magazines. The LP had been playing on his record player. Dare de The Human League, which I surely would have hated. He was 32 years old, although the existing photos already showed him, in his twenties, as an aged preview of the porn actor Ron Jeremy, dressed in an Empire shirt with lamps, a pre-hipster mustache and a satyr’s gaze.

Lester Bangs was an irregular writer: he sometimes practiced the most tedious solipsism – that is, literary onanism: the subject is him, and it is usually not very interesting – and his points of view are capricious. But when it was plugged in, it was unbeatable. In his famous criticism of Kick out the jams, motherfuckers, of MC5, praised and destroyed the group in the transition between two paragraphs, and had no compassion for his beloved Lou Reed, whom he had interviewed amicably in 1973, but whom he did not forgive for his album the following year, the noisy – and trilero – Metal Machine Musica “migraine […] so horrifying that it will make Berlin It sounds like an Elton John album.

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