Christopher Owens 🔖 reviews a work on the music scene in Detroit.

Detroit is a metaphor for America, for America's challenges and America's opportunities. It is a hothouse for new innovation, for ingenuity and risk taking. That doesn't happen in a lot of American cities. We need to be in Detroit because of that.

So said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in 2013 (the year the city went bankrupt). Long known for its history of radicalism and industry, the bankruptcy was a humiliating low for this once great city.

And in steps Detroit native Joe Molloy to fly the flag for the Motor City.

Examining the recent social history of Detroit and how the music of the city reflects this (industry = Motown, revolution = MC5/The Temptations, hedonism = The Stooges/Funkadelic, decay = Negative Approach/Laughing Hyenas, rebuilding = J Dilla/Danny Brown) and written in an infectious tone where most music from the city is a “mind blowing innovation” author Joe Molloy constructs a fascinating tale of the rise, fall and rise again of the ultimate blue collar, working class American city.

Bravely, he also grapples with Mark Fisher’s unfinished Acid Communism and tries to link it through Detroit (via Manchester) as seen below:

It is perhaps Detroit that best encapsulates the rise and fall of the hopes of modernity. In Detroit we see the social and psychic costs of having been at the core of the Fordist post-war project, as well as the ruinous edge of neoliberal globalization. Simultaneously, it is here we see the ways in which wider continuities of resilience, community and aesthetics have stayed true to a certain form of countercultural desire, sowing among the ruins the seeds of emergent post-capitalist futures.

Although it’s a brave attempt as Fisher had not completed Acid Communism before his suicide in 2017, Molloy’s enthusiasm often overrides any critical take on hauntology. Maybe another run through Microsoft Word would have drawn out these elements.

There are a few areas I would have to voice my disagreement with him on:

🔖 When discussing the notorious Disco Demolition Night (a deeply ugly event where an estimated 50,000 baseball fans turned up to a stadium in Chicago to destroy a mountain of disco records), Molloy reiterates the commonly held view that the event was driven by racism and homophobia, owing to the genre’s origins in gay and black circles. While there were undoubtedly racists and homophobes in the crowd, this narrative ignores the fact that disco had been co-opted by the mainstream for a few years by that point (with such an example being the success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) which had not only led to homogenised product but also an elitism (e.g. Studio 54) that antagonised rock fans.

🔖 Bizarrely, for the talk about the societal decay of Detroit due to de-industrialisation and the murder rate, there is no mention of James O’Barr’s iconic comic The Crow which, considering the influence of Joy Division on O’Barr, is a missed opportunity.

🔖 Although Molloy discusses the greatest film of all time (Robocop), he doesn’t discuss the sequels which are set in a bankrupt Detroit (Robocop 2) and see the local community pull their resources together in order to fight for their homes (Robocop 3), both of which are themes that are examined throughout.

Regardless, these areas certainly do not detract from the overall text.

As a tribute to the history, culture and resilience of the Motor City, it is second to none. As an attempt to chop up the past in order to find the future, it gives me optimism that the future has a silver lining.

Joe Molloy, 2023, Acid Detroit: A Psychedelic Story of Motor City Music. Repeater Books. ISBN-13: 978-1914420511

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

Acid Detroit 🕮 A Psychedelic Story of Motor City Music

Christopher Owens 🔖 reviews a work on the music scene in Detroit.

Detroit is a metaphor for America, for America's challenges and America's opportunities. It is a hothouse for new innovation, for ingenuity and risk taking. That doesn't happen in a lot of American cities. We need to be in Detroit because of that.

So said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in 2013 (the year the city went bankrupt). Long known for its history of radicalism and industry, the bankruptcy was a humiliating low for this once great city.

And in steps Detroit native Joe Molloy to fly the flag for the Motor City.

Examining the recent social history of Detroit and how the music of the city reflects this (industry = Motown, revolution = MC5/The Temptations, hedonism = The Stooges/Funkadelic, decay = Negative Approach/Laughing Hyenas, rebuilding = J Dilla/Danny Brown) and written in an infectious tone where most music from the city is a “mind blowing innovation” author Joe Molloy constructs a fascinating tale of the rise, fall and rise again of the ultimate blue collar, working class American city.

Bravely, he also grapples with Mark Fisher’s unfinished Acid Communism and tries to link it through Detroit (via Manchester) as seen below:

It is perhaps Detroit that best encapsulates the rise and fall of the hopes of modernity. In Detroit we see the social and psychic costs of having been at the core of the Fordist post-war project, as well as the ruinous edge of neoliberal globalization. Simultaneously, it is here we see the ways in which wider continuities of resilience, community and aesthetics have stayed true to a certain form of countercultural desire, sowing among the ruins the seeds of emergent post-capitalist futures.

Although it’s a brave attempt as Fisher had not completed Acid Communism before his suicide in 2017, Molloy’s enthusiasm often overrides any critical take on hauntology. Maybe another run through Microsoft Word would have drawn out these elements.

There are a few areas I would have to voice my disagreement with him on:

🔖 When discussing the notorious Disco Demolition Night (a deeply ugly event where an estimated 50,000 baseball fans turned up to a stadium in Chicago to destroy a mountain of disco records), Molloy reiterates the commonly held view that the event was driven by racism and homophobia, owing to the genre’s origins in gay and black circles. While there were undoubtedly racists and homophobes in the crowd, this narrative ignores the fact that disco had been co-opted by the mainstream for a few years by that point (with such an example being the success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) which had not only led to homogenised product but also an elitism (e.g. Studio 54) that antagonised rock fans.

🔖 Bizarrely, for the talk about the societal decay of Detroit due to de-industrialisation and the murder rate, there is no mention of James O’Barr’s iconic comic The Crow which, considering the influence of Joy Division on O’Barr, is a missed opportunity.

🔖 Although Molloy discusses the greatest film of all time (Robocop), he doesn’t discuss the sequels which are set in a bankrupt Detroit (Robocop 2) and see the local community pull their resources together in order to fight for their homes (Robocop 3), both of which are themes that are examined throughout.

Regardless, these areas certainly do not detract from the overall text.

As a tribute to the history, culture and resilience of the Motor City, it is second to none. As an attempt to chop up the past in order to find the future, it gives me optimism that the future has a silver lining.

Joe Molloy, 2023, Acid Detroit: A Psychedelic Story of Motor City Music. Repeater Books. ISBN-13: 978-1914420511

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

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