PRS Silver Sky Hate

Why all the hate?

Like some other top builders today, PRS himself started to make guitars when Gibson and Fender were in decline. The beginning of the Norlin and CBS eras coincide almost exactly (mid-60s) and a lot of the premier (boutique) brands we love today were reactions to the decline in the quality of American guitars.

Apparently, two philosophical dimensions were the driving force behind PRS:

1. acceptable innovation
2. sublation

On the one hand, PRS had to deliver a guitar that would be "acceptable" (Smith's word) to both Gibson and Fender players while also providing improvements, a few innovations, and an overall higher quality guitar.

However, on the other hand, the Custom 24 was not just a combination of the Les Paul Junior and the Strat but an "upward cancellation" or "upward negation" of the two guitars: in philosophical jargon, the Custom 24 was a "sublation" of two previously existing things. What that means is that the product of the negation (here, the CU24) is not merely an aggregate or combination of two other things, but actually greater than and different than what it was based on. Anything that is "sublated" is also a candidate for being a sublime thing (either positively, i.e., loved, or negatively, i.e., hated). A lot of people LOVE their PRS guitars. They are not merely instruments of musical utility but virtually cult objects of adoration.

So, PRS comes out with a Strat with a bad headstock. No big deal, right? Wrong. In simple terms, like in the domain of religion, the Silver Sky represents a de-sublimation (the holy has been profaned) and we see it for what it is: a cash grab pure and simple.

Other makers like Suhr can come out with a "Les Paul ripoff" and everybody is eager for it. Why? Because the Suhr Aura, for example, is seen as an acceptable innovation, an improvement over existing Les Pauls being produced by a company that has been reduced to a joke. I want a LP but Suhr will make one that is perfect. The Aura is a LP that Gibson cannot make (i.e., perfect). In other words, they do not stand beside the LP as equivalent rivals but surpass the LP such that the relation is one of superiority and inferiority. Perfection (from the Latin perfectus) means that it is a completion and has all the desirable qualities one could hope for. Why buy a 'real' LP when you could have a much better guitar from Collings, Suhr, etc.? Sure, it doesn't have the "Gibson" logo on the headstock (that will break off eventually) but at this point in time who stands in awe to the name "Gibson"? It stands for failure now.

Anderson makes Strat "copies" but has a cult following. Anderson guitars are not knock-offs but perfections of what Fender can produce. Not even a Fender Custom Shop guitar can compare favorably to an Anderson. They are not equivalent rivals. The Anderson is superior and the Fender is inferior to the thing inspired.

The Anderson and the Suhr are seen as evolutionary perfections over the original models -- yet the originals still exist as somewhat morally devalued objects in relation to the instruments that superseded them (at least for those that can afford them).

This 'perfection' of the existing thing is not the PRS way. The pinnacle of the PRS copy game was the SC58 which was the monster guitar that no LP could compare to and it did not last long. Other companies can play the perfection game.

Anderson: I can do this better. Here is a perfected Strat that goes beyond the original.

Suhr: I can do this better. Here is a perfected super Strat or LP that goes beyond the originals.

PRS Custom 24 circa 1985: I have sublated both the Strat and the LP Junior and given you a new totem to worship. This is a totally different logic.

Now, shift: PRS Silver Sky circa 2018: We copied a Strat, put on a bad headstock, hobbled it with a vintage radius, and stuffed it in a gig bag. Give me your money.

In other words, the PRS SS represents a de-sublimation -- not once but twice: we gave you a new guitar worthy of worship, the CU24, but now we have not only fallen down to the level of making a perfected Strat we're just giving you Silly Strat.

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