Still working on this year’s Pitchfork Top 100 songs list, we won’t be done until UC gets back from riding the giant tortoises anyway. What I was struck by while engaging the list was the fact that the increasing frequency and amplitude of waves of recycling and its ever more cynical and surfacey deployment clearly dominates the music scene. Now, I don’t expect this insight to be special, but spending much less time than I guess our readers here would imagine I do interacting with the music press and scene, I was momentarily shocked by the depth of the problem. In comparing this year’s list to just my memories of the last two years, I find we must be beginning the death spiral. In a way, it is the usual style/substance debate, but in this case, the “styles” are born from ever more impeccable and increased recycling. I certainly don’t have a problem with bands being derivative. The extent isn’t so much the issue as how much of a straight-jacket the style is, or how well the content fits the style and whether there is any content there at all. We are now entering the 100 Years of Solitude phase of musical existence (new is the new old).
I enjoy many styles and many retro-retoolings of those styles, but it is always important that the songs be present. not just the sounds. I wanted to share an interesting discussion at MBV. Also, how can we give Marc Hogan any props if his blog is invite only? We only half-truthfully/half-ironically picked on him before, but now he’s not even in the top 100 worst/most wanky P-fork writers. In fact, we’ve been catching him saying smart and interesting things. We called the police to report a musical wanker and they said the musical wanker was inside the house! And it was us, so we pay our respect to MH.
The key comment is here:
Marc: I’m in agreement with Scott 100% about the influences/reference points thing– whose style you borrow to express your content (and how many people actually listened to those bands in the first place) seems to be more important in the blogosphere than what that content is. And you can argue that in some cases the style is inseparable from the content, like the “medium is the message,” but in those cases, I feel like the style had better be distinctive (I’m sorry, no one sounds exactly like Deerhunter; for a band I like on a much less intense/personal level, no one sounded exactly like the Strokes, either, despite their tasteful reference points).
Organic versus synthesized. These themes come up throughout my take on the P-fork Top 100 list. On top of our usual grades of “meh” “ass” or “good” you’ll definitely see the theme developing in real time as I get more and more annoyed at the more and more plastic offerings I force myself to listen to.
More stuff on some related issues- The Dean (Robert Christgau), whom I think I have an eternal fatwa against because he crapped on the Shins first CD, or maybe liked someone terrible, but I love how he’s been linked to the entirety of Wikipedia. Hey it’s tough, this is why I like no one, no one likes me and we live in a world fraught with arms races based on music criticism based grudges, and also, Yelp exists. RC links this piece with two anonymous wanks talking about the life of the online critic. What I am always astounded by is critics that think they love music more than some random shmo because they choose to dedicate more of their lives to it. I wonder if they notice that in our electronic age, there exists an unbelievable amount of content and that regular ol’ dudes kind of have to fight to spend time with a few new albums rather than 15-20 a week. They don’t review for other people because those people don’t even exist to them, they review for themselves, hence the scientifically accurate term of wanker. To wit:
StumpyPete1975: my top ten of the year rarely includes anything I see anywhere else!
Windupbird: me too
StumpyPete1975: and I’m amazed that EVERYBODY seems to agree and says things like “it was a bad year for music”
StumpyPete1975: what a ludicrous statement
StumpyPete1975: so many records released
StumpyPete1975: I’m sure it wasn’t all crappy!
Windupbird: I think some people’s job is to capture the consensus. I pity those people. The consensus is usually awful.