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Rock Rocks

December 06, 1987

Rock's resident middle-brow theoretician seems to be at it again ("Couch Potato Rock," by Robert Hilburn, Nov. 29).

Hilburn has the temerity to suggest that Prince, Springsteen, Sting, U2 et al., are somehow rescuing rock from mediocrity. This is like arguing that Leroy Neiman is the savior of painting.

The truly "activist" audience wants no part of Hilburn's yearning for the bad old days when rock concerts were pseudo-religious communal gatherings or his crusading call for a rock music of "political significance" that merely reduces political discourse to mindless sloganeering.

Since punk, the very best rock has had, and always will have, a very small audience (Pere Ubu, Joy Division, Jonathan Richman Yo and Sonic Youth--to name but a few disparate examples).

When once great bands have tried to expand their audience--PiL, X, and R.E.M.--they have failed to deliver artistically and have forfeited all loyalties from most of their original supporters. We simply move on to other new bands.

Those of us who believe that the best rock is also significant art find Hilburn's outmoded criteria stifling and offensive.

MAX ESTENGER

San Diego

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