Posted by: coloradokiwi | November 6, 2007

The muzak of music loving

Now, I’ll just come right out and say it: when it comes to conversations about music, I’m a total poseur. This is partly due to unfortunate geographic circumstances: the tiny burg in which I grew up didn’t carry MTV on cable, and since we lived on the side of a hill that faced away from the nearest radio transmitter, I couldn’t get anything other than one shitty country/talk station. Thank Christ for VH1, or I would be completely unable to feign nostalgia for pretty much anything in the Eighties. My only exposure was to whatever Nick Rocks cared to play, and at the time even something like 10,000 Maniacs seemed weird, boring and pretentious to me. Yeah, I really was that lame (well, at least I dug Def Leppard, which still fucking rock).

This unfortunate stunting was more or less carried over into what were, to be fair, my more ecclectic tastes given my environment: my love of classical music. While friends of mine were extolling the virtues of, say, Poison, I was busy trawling for tapes of Mozart and Tchaikovsky, maybe some Bach. Not that these weren’t great composers — but let’s also be honest, they’re basically the classical music equivalent of over-played pop (the Tchai-man in particular). Later in high school I was considered slightly eccentric because I developed a huge Beatles fetish. But it was never really something that brought me adoration so much as requests to make tapes for people, whose Beatles paucity they rightly wished to rectify.

**Aside: if you don’t like the Beatles, I’m sorry, but you are not to be trusted. I mean, that’s like not liking Christmas lights: sure they’re ubiquitous and some of the motifs are tiresome, but how can you not still find them charming, and in some instances even dazzling? What kind of sick fuck are you?**

Now all that said, I think I’ve done what I could to sort of catch up over the years, though really the best indicator that I’m not as much of a music ‘tard as I used to be is merely that I know I don’t really know much, and the stuff I like is not exactly so mainstream as to be uncool, but mainstream enough that I’m not really a good source for what is cool: Radiohead doesn’t warrant those sorts of kudos (well, again, with the possible exception of my classical music tastes — if you can’t score some points with Bartok, there’s no hope for you). Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that I think I’m in kind of this middle ground, where I have a reasonable sense of music history, and I like some stuff off the beaten path, but mostly I have stuff or like stuff that’s well within the bounds of what most people think is mainstream. I’m hip enough to appreciate the impact of, say, punk, and I love the politics of those early punk years, but I don’t actually, you know, like it. So I feel like I can sorta talk the talk of a music lover. Unfortunately, however, I’m discovering more and more I fucking hate to talk about music, and here’s why: most of the people I know occupy the most horrifying extremes of musical discussion.

It breaks down like this. First, there are people who I consider to be music ‘tards in an even more banal and lame way than I was. It’s not merely that they only know whatever it is that is pushed on them through the major music outlets (which, as many people lament, is actually no longer MTV), it’s that they are SO INTO IT, and look at you like you have some sort of mallady if you mention even the only slightly off the mainstream of huge, mainstream acts, like, say, The Killers.

**Aside: hey, The Killers are great. However, if you’re rocking a haircut like their bass player in the video, then you deserve a punch to the crotch. I mean, c’mon, it’s like a bad parody of what a “rocker” looks like after their shoot for the cover of Spin. Douche.**

But you know, I’m not sure the music ‘tards are any better than music snobs ala High Fidelity. You know the ones: folks who engage in contrapuntal fetish talk concerning either the under-rated and canonized from yesteryear, or the “fresh” stuff that only they and a handful of other hipsters are privy to. And the worst part of it is how they sound like fucking Patrick Bateman extolling on the virtues of Huey Lewis and the News, only it’s bands, composers, jazz musicians, etc. you have never fucking heard of — and that’s the way they want it.

**Aside: have you noticed the trend among people to be competitive with how awesome and ecclectic their iPod selections are? I say to counter this it’s always worthwhile to download some showtunes and the theme music from television shows. If it isn’t crowd pleasing, it can at least function as a “Fuck you and your pretentious iPod library, cum dumpster.”***

That last component is key, because it typifies what I think has been wrong with music and music criticism in the past. Sure, it’s not surprising that the big music companies cram the easy to consume crap down our throats, and the weak-minded among us swallow it up without really bothering to appreciate it as music so much as “cool” filler while they’re doing other stuff, like drinking Red Bulls and scoring oral sex. Meanwhile, all the people who know better, who have a real sense of all the glorious variety that really is out there, don’t really care to share it with the rest of the plebes. Don’t get me wrong, they love to talk music. But they only want to do so with people who have already arrived there on their own — music fetishists like they are. Of course in so many ways, even if they dropped the contempt and the uppity ‘tude long enough to be good guides to the rest of us, let’s be honest, there are still so many ways in which most of them are extremely limited: okay, fine, I can see the virtues of the Velvet Underground, but Christ, you don’t have to be so precious about them — the lead singer can’t carry a fucking tune, and you know it.

In the meantime, here are a few things I’m rooting for:

1. Pandora and its clones to get bigger and better. I mean, what brilliance: you plug in a few things you claim you like, and you can just follow the daisy chain of related bands and music. Whether this turns you into a High Fidelity-style geek or not, you can find stuff that appeals to you, sans marketing, even to the extent that if you dig deep enough you will discover sonic bliss in heretofore unlooked-for places. Also, it has enough hip cachet that you don’t necessarily have to be embarrassed if you like, say, polka: “Check out this awesome shit I found on Pandora, dude!” Yes, you too can be a bullshit music fetishist.

**Aside: if you’re into “world music” for how “exotic” it is, not just because you actually love to listen to the sound of the music, then you are an unwitting imperialist.**

2. Postmodern music, or at least a postmodern approach to what “good” music is. By “postmodern” here I don’t mean it has to be anti-corporate or sonically weird (though both are quite welcome). I mean that it can be enjoyed by all sorts of different folks on many different levels. The best example of this I know if is The Darkness, who can be enjoyed both ironically and un-ironically at the same time. (Sadly, not even so ironic it’s not, so un-ironic it is cock rock can survive the perils of egos and heroine addiction.) Anyway, the point is: music can be just pure joy, or pure silliness, or pure depression, or thoughtful, dopey, bashful, doc…anyway, you get the point.

Music and music criticism have too much baggage today. We should be able to shed this and move on, so that all of us develop some of the traits of the fetishists, without actually making proncouncements from on high as to what sucks and what doesn’t.

Well, I suppose we can still make exceptions.


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