The novel, out the year of Reagan’s reelection, is a powerful reminder that not only did the punks dislike the hippies, the hippies often disliked New Wave, with its mechanistic aesthetic of self-discipline and order. Robbins realized that both New Wave and the right were threats to his hippie ways — and so, in this novel about supernatural perfumes, New Wave is the name of one with authoritarian powers (and, interestingly, he plausibly aligns the hippies with backward-looking agrarian ways and New Wave, despite its right-wing tendencies, with futurism, in much the same way hippies tend to self-sort toward fantasy novels of the sword-centered variety and New Wave fans toward sci-fi):
“We are predicting that for many people the fascination with nostalgia — with a past reputed to be more simple, more honest, more natural than the present — will soon subside…For the avant-garde, and for those who will flock to join it, LeFever is developing New Wave, a truly modern scent — sharp, hard-edged, assertive, unisexual, urbane, unromantic, nonmysterious, cool, light, elegant, and wholly synthetic…Were I to add but a trace note of leather to New Wave, Claude, I would say that I had drawn on my canvas the olfactory silhouette of the Nazi.”
Indeed, that list of adjectives including “hard-edged” reminds me of the best lines from the typically sado-masochistic-sounding Eurythmics song “Love Is a Stranger”: “It’s gilt-edged, glamorous, and sleek by design/ You know it’s jealous by nature, false and unkind/ It’s hard and restrained and it’s totally cool/ It touches and it teases as you stumble in the debris.” Leave it to the guilt-wracked French to make one of the most fascistic-looking New Wave videos, though, “C’est Comme Ca” by Les Rita Mistouko — which in turns reminds me of the more recent UK video for “Cish Cash” by Basement Jaxx, with Siouxsie Sioux fittingly doing guest vocals, the sort of thing the military should use instead of Kid Rock if they ever want to recruit lots of hipsters, though it’s not clear they should want to.
It’s not so hard to believe, as I’ve mentioned before, that a friend of mine went in her black trenchcoat years ago to what she thought was a New Wave retro night at a club only to discover it was in fact Nazi Fetish Night. On the bright side, the fact that people see Naziism as so evil that it can be treated as a fetish akin to Satanism is a good measure of how completely marginalized that political movement really is. Let us hope not too many people feel similarly about conservatives or libertarians — though I have met a Republican woman with a “Ronald Reagan” tramp stamp who finds that it excites liberal men.
And speaking of Satanism and politics: a commenter on this blog using the alias Randall Flagg (a Satanic character from several of Stephen King’s novels) claims that Satanist and Giuliani fan Alan Cabal, one of my fellow New York Press veterans, died three days ago in a car accident in Nebraska. If anyone who isn’t named after a demon and has a link to a substantive news report or death announcement knows more, many of us would like to hear, much as I would prefer to learn it’s some sort of twisted Satanic prank.