Bring The Ruckus: Country & Western Versus Krautrock, Our Writers Rage

Quietus writers David Stubbs and Andrew Mueller square up to resolve one of the the great unanswered questions of our time

This Sunday at the Mucky Pup pub in Islington, Quietus writers Andrew Mueller and David Stubbs will face off over the wheels of steel, their battle being between the breezy twang of country, and the motorik grind of Krautrock. Taking their profession seriously, they could not resist presaging their vinyl battle with a written debate as to whether, in mortal sonic combat, krautrock or country and western would emerge victorious…

Let battle commence!

David Stubbs wrote

at 12:52

So, Mueller, the gauntlet has been thrown down. The avant-garde versus the apres-garde. The sleek, shimmering, functional sounds of the 21st century, Deutschland-inspired technocracy against the redneck burblings of Cletus Monobrow and his friends blowing into jugs and playing instruments with their toes. Next Sunday’s smackdown at the Mucky Pup will settle the matter of which end of music’s evolutionary scale is preferable. It will be a battle of the shoed against the shoeless, the two-eyed against the one-eyed, between those for whom to bring along a wife and a sister to a dinner party requires the host setting out two places, as opposed to those for whom it means just the one. Be there, folks – Mr Mueller’s fans, however, are requested to bring their own straw.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 15:36

“Deutschland-inspired”… yes, there’s a description that always uncorks joyous anticipation.

David Stubbs
wrote at 19:49

Right now, Mueller, I am listening to Live 74 by the unjustly and inexplicably forgotten krautrock group Harmonia. Comprising several tracks of guitar improvisation and shimmering layers of synth, it was played with the musicians’ backs to the audience, 50 in number, few of whom applauded because they were too stoned. Electronic music does not feature highly in country & western. This is because the vast majority of the C&W community had the electricity supplies to their trailers cut off many years ago. It is also because the intellectual strain of connecting a plug into a wall socket is too great for the six-toed, one-nippled, no- brained inbreeds who consider cuntry & western to be God’s greatest gift to music.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 08:13

What worries me, Sir, is your belief that your affection for this ghastly din is little more than a harmless indulgence. I surely do not need to remind you that encouraging small groups of shiftless, dissatisfied Germans to gather in licensed premises can have unfortunate consequences a little further down the track – and this was what your “Harmonia” apparently did in 1974, less than three decades after the civilised world had been obliged to bomb their country flat for such impertinences.

But this, I think, is the nub of this dispute – if, indeed, such a manifestly unbalanced struggle between wrong and right could be characterised as such. On one side, mechanical totalitarianism, the remorseless beat of a boot stamping on a human face, forever – the affront all the worse for the fact that the boot, in this case, is nigh certainly a pointy-toed winklepicker with a stupid silver buckle worn by some dour, bald twerp called Franz. On the other side, the popular form that allows the human heart and voice freer and further rein than any other, shrouded in pedal steel and violins that ring as true as the Liberty Bell itself would have, before it got that crack in it – country music, the soundtrack of freedom. If John Stuart Mill was alive today, he’d be listening to Todd Snider.

David Stubbs
wrote at 14:42

I suspect the only reason the Liberty Bell is cracked is because a country & western enthusiast looked at it. The “music of freedom”? Sure, unless you’re a nigra, a nancy boy, a Hebrew boy or one of those smart faggoty reader boys from north of Kentucky.

You know, it occurs to me that despite your arrant Germanophobia, there is more than a touch of the Teutonic about your surname. Could it be that there is, thanks to your ancestry, a touch of Teutonic steel coursing through your soul? Could it be that upon hearing Faust properly for the first time, something metal inside your loins will stir and that you will stand involuntarily rigid, erect, engorged even, as your Germanic origins reassert themselves in your blood? I think possibly so.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 15:26

One acknowledges, of course, the stringent commitment to racial equality and social progress traditionally upheld by all manifestations of Teutonic modernism. That notwithstanding, I suspect the chances of me feeling stirred to anything but indifference by the baleful plod of Faust are approximately equal to the chances of you playing anything with a tune you could whistle. My German forebears, clearly a forward-thinking bunch, decamped from the fatherland more than a century ago, comforted by the knowledge that being born in a stable does not make one a horse.

Further to that, one feels it seemly to take a long, cautious look at your ancestry. Wing Commander – or should I say Oberstleutnant? – “Stubbs”, frankly, rather has the whiff of that segment of English aristocracy who, circa 1940, weren’t altogether convinced they were on the right side. I’ll take Yee-Haw over Haw-Haw any day of the week.

There follows a break in the engagement between our snarling protagonists, prompting Mr Mueller to sniff the sweet smell of victory.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 15:11

I think it fair to assume from Von Stubbs’ silence these past 24 hours that this fight has already been won, that my former adversary has ceded the field to superior opposition, that Von Stubbs is now gibbering in a metaphorical bunker beneath the ruin of his folly, loading metaphorical bullets into a metaphorical pistol.

David Stubbs
wrote at 22:21

Hmm. The reason for my silence, Herr Mueller, is that I have spent the day traversing the landscape by contemporary modes of communication – the vehicle, the autobahn or motorway, the trans-London Express: modes of behaviour that befit the century and the appropriate soundtrack to that century. Not sitting around the cracker barrel, picking at my toenails, brooding on what a terrible affront it was to traditional, good ol’ boy values when Louis Armstrong recorded his impertinently radical ‘Tiger Rag’ back in 1930.

Defeated? Ha! We who appreciate the cool, Teutonic method of aesthetic warfare do not count the word “defeat” in our vocabulary. In this, at least, we have something in common with our country & western adversaries, who do not count multisyllabic words of any sort in their vocabulary, which mostly consists of barnyard noises such as the “yee haw” already cited by Mr Mueller.

For you, Australian, the smackdown is already over.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 09:34

Your insistence on defending your ghastly electronic goosestep music with military metaphor is indeed perverse, given that the last comparable clash between the forces of continental industrial utopianism and the freedom-loving legions of country & western listeners ended with General Alfred Jodl handing his sword to Eisenhower and awaiting dispatch to Nuremberg. But you carry on shuffling the counters representing your non-existent divisions around your map and barking futile orders as your subordinates change into priest costumes and light out for the next steamer to Montevideo. I have my feet up in the back of my Jeep, a grass-scented breeze in my hair – it’s that soft, fur-like substance that sprouts from the head of the properly evolved male of the human species – a Johnny Cash tune on the radio, and the anticipation of supping whiskey in the rubble of your Reichstag.

You’re gonna squeal like a pig, boy.

David Stubbs
wrote at 08:02

Well, Herr Mueller, one cannot always vouch for the moral calibre of those who abandon the fatherland for the new world. One strains to think of an example close to hand of someone whose forbears made the same, ignominious traipse from the uplands of musical culture, with disastrous aesthetic consequences. Someone who, had he remained a German and true might today be fronting a neo-krautrock combo, purveying immaculate, shimmering synthscapes and looped, rhythmical motifs, playing to 50-strong audiences of Düsseldorf’s leading young cultural elite, rather than in some barnyard in Brixton to an audience who do their thinking with their pitchforks.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 11:31

Your continual harping on my long-distant Germanic heritage is veering perilously close to the line that divides wistfulness from actual jealousy. Here, I fear, is the true basis for your affection for the industrial, authoritarian trudges of à;GRUMH [actually Belgian – Ed] and their ilk: a frankly treacherous wish that you had been born German yourself. This identification with the unsavoury Neitzchean tendencies of Allemagne is scarcely unusual among your sort, of course: one can well imagine Edward VIII and Unity Mitford sharing your grubby predilection for such anti-human musical expression. Indeed, had it not been for the fortuitous intervention of noted Hank Williams fan Winston Churchill circa 1940, Sunday’s smackdown might instead have been a contest between krautrock and more krautrock. It was doubtless a fear of such a dystopia that inspired my ancestors to relocate to 19th-century south Australia – never a penal colony, incidentally – where a man may twang his banjo at will, and in peace.

David Stubbs
wrote at 12:07

A manful attempt to spell Nietzsche’s name correctly, sir, I shall give you that – for a country & western fan, not bad, not bad at all. Now, it seems to me that this aesthetic argument comes down to a simple rule of thumb, which is as follows. Have a thumb. Indeed, have two thumbs. This happy evolutionary condition was not one enjoyed by country & western fans’ ancestors until about two, three generations ago – hence this obsession with twanging. They haven’t yet got over the novelty of these recently acquired extra digits. “Hey, y’all, we got these iddy biddy extra fellers sticking out our damn hands. Boy, pass me that there banjo.”

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 13:26

Aha! And you have fallen into my trap as surely and blithely as did Hausser’s 7th Army and Eberbach’s 5th Panzers find themselves encircled by Patton at Falaise – and I, unlike Patton, doubtless a country fan himself, shall not be deterred by the dithering of milquetoast Englishmen from pressing my advantage. I misspelled “Nietzsche” deliberately, certain that you would unveil your true colours by not only knowing the correct form of the cur’s name, but being utterly unable to resist leaping to his defence.

David Stubbs
wrote at 09:32

What makes all of this the more galling is the role fans of country & western music have played in bringing the world to its present pass. First of all, it was idiotic trailer-park Toby Keith admirers who precipitated the subprime crisis by applying for loans they couldn’t possibly expect to pay off even if they sold their malformed children to travelling freakshows (“two bits a gander!”). And now, with the Democrats seeking election to clear up the mess left by the redneck right, all that jeopardises them is the prospect of C&W fans (who litter in regrettably high numbers) running down from the hills to the voting booths to vote for John “Droopy” McCain and his mentalist creationist VP, who, whatever day God created her, was His worst blunder.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 14:25

Not for the first time, Von Stubbs, one is forced to shake one’s ten-gallon in bafflement at your reasoning. Again, you seek to demonstrate the superiority of that ghastly, clattering sturm und drang for which you affect affection by fond reference to the culture which spawned it, as opposed to the milieu which spawned Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, George Jones and others whose tracks I shall be dropping, to the certain relief of all in attendance, this coming Sunday night. And I for one think it rather more likely that the tune to which Jörg Haider was singing along when he was not unregrettably distracted, was composed by Holger Czukay than Harlan Howard.

David Stubbs
wrote at 21:50

Following World War II, you will recall, Mueller, that the Americans as a matter of expediency fast-tracked top German nuclear scientists to join and spearhead their own programme, in order that they could maintain their status via fissionary means as world’s top dog. What a tragic shame that they did not also import top German electronic musicians – the likes of Stockhausen and Herbert Eimert – who might have hastened the advancement of American music, especially in the flyover states.

Think about it (I know C&W fans mistrust mental processes of any kind but please, strain till you are red in the face and give it a try). Today, in the likes of Tennessee and Mississippi, citizens might be functioning serenely to the strains of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn or Harmonia’s Musik Von Harmonia rather than blowing into jugs and playing banjo with their toes for entertainment at social events such as gittin’ wed to their sisters, or in some of the more remote, hilly regions, to themselves.

Andrew Mueller
wrote at 09:20

You have failed to consider, Stubbs, the very real possibility that America acted so swiftly to apprehend Germany’s leading scientific minds precisely because of the fear that if Wernher Von Braun and his colleagues from the V- rocket development programme were not found useful work doing something as relatively harmless as building nuclear weapons, then they might very well have attempted to make music. And I think all reasonable people would agree that a few decades’ worth of apocalyptic Cold War terror is a small price to pay for a reduction in the number of unlistenable avant-techno groups with berets on their heads, goatees on their chins and irrelevant punctuation in their names.

David Stubbs
wrote at 23:15


‘I Ain’t Partial To Nigras’ – Cletus Monobrow & The Manure Kickers
‘I’m A Country Boy – Just Like George Bush!’ – Jed & The Frontal Lobes
‘I Hope You’re As Good A Wife As You Were A Sister’ – The One-Eyed Dumbclucks
‘There Ain’t No “U-S-A” in “E-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N”’ – The Flying Corndogs
‘I’m A Trailer Park Girl – Just Like Sarah Palin!’ – Dolly Backward
‘What These Thumbs For?’ – Hank & The Jugband Hootenaners
‘I Can See Barack Obama’s Terrorist Training Camps In Russia From My Trailer In Nashville’ – Jedidiah Moron
‘I Had Sex With The Lead Singer Of à;GRUMH And Enjoyed It More Than I Do Book-Reading’ – Toby Keith


Something stupid.

…And there we leave our bitter enemies to apply vinegar-sodden sponges to their wounds before they up weapons once more at the Mucky Pup, Islington.

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