Q: What is the goal of music?
A: The goal of music is to entertain. The goal of music is to present an identifiable situation, to describe a new situation, to educate, to aggrandize the artist, to fill the dancefloor, to clear a room. The goal of music is to transmit, with as few barriers are possible, one’s deepest-held sensations to like-minded listeners. The goal of music is to identify a great longing and bring joy to millions by a corporate rendering. The goal of music is to protest, to show off, to wound, to make money.
Q: What is the goal of the music critic?
A: The goal of the music critic is to entertain. The music critic should touch on context, structure, buzz, history. The music critic should, above all, write about him- or herself, not through the usual nonsense of past breakups or where you were the first time you heard the Crucifucks, but through an interrogation of your values, and to what degree the music at hand expresses or contradicts them, and to what degree that delights you.
Q: What are the venial sins of criticism?
A: A lust for rage, a hunger to please, the belief in oneself as a lone voice in the wilderness.
Q: What is the mortal sin of criticism?
A: Being boring.
Q: What is boring?
A: Constantly recapping How We Got Here. Looking for the gamechangers. Gushing. Grumbling.
Q: Why would someone listen to everything?
A: For the same reason one makes all kinds of friends. Everything, from arena fodder to academic noise, has the potential to reveal some part of the human condition.
Q: What the fuck are you talking about?
A: As fun as it would be for me for about 20 minutes, the world is not chubby white American college graduates in hoodies. A good - or just worthwhile - song can be animated by lust, jealousy, anger, righteousness, devotion, craft, irony, cruelty. These are not things made accessible to, or by, a few. That a song may be made under the aegis of a terrible company, or enjoyed by a terrible person, is immaterial. In very real ways, it makes things more interesting. The world of corporate music production and promotion is, and has always been, under-investigated. But so have the emotional and utilitarian lives of songs.
Q: What is the role of hope in criticism?
A: Hope expresses itself through curiosity.
Q: What is curiosity?
A: Curiosity is the investigation of new outlooks and cultures. It is the discipline to forsake praising, shrugging at, or condemning the current conversational subject, to listen without the expectation of immediate mastery or fluency. It is the courage to dwell on confusing works, to suss out how they might speak to your values and experience, and those of people utterly unlike you. It is pressing play without expecting something to suck.
Q: What is to be gained by curiosity?
A: It certainly makes your writing more entertaining. It gives you entry into another world - at first partial; nearly fully with luck and time. You get to hear new tunes. It frees you from boredom at, and anger towards, a perceived lack of choices. It frees you from the hype cycle.
Q: What is the hype cycle?
A: It is a combination of savvy PR, label resources, eager-to-please editors, genuinely interesting works, and the - if not natural, then common - instinct to partake in a conversation.
Q: What is wrong with this cycle?
A: It leads to writers taking their cues from other writers, whether repeating the party line or reactively negating it. It shuts out smaller and more unfamiliar players. It causes writers to rail against their peers with either having no alternatives to offer, or the same old alternatives. It leads to boring best-ofs and the festival circuit and dutiful coverage and proclamations that a particular year was particularly great or poor for music.
Q: Why can a year not be poor?
A: Because thousands of fucking songs and records are released all over the goddamn world. You will never understand or hear all of it, but it’s there, and judging a year’s output on the major-label or major-indie records you remember is foolishness.
Q: How should a critic treat other critics?
A: Circumscribing behavior is a sucker’s game.
Q: But baseline though.
A: Concern yourself with the ideas first. Guess at motivations, but hesitate to declare them. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. You’re going to die, and you will die compromised. You will die, and you will hopefully have lived with a decent understanding of humanity’s full range of emotional and creative expression. And remember that the dart-flinging game is good for a laugh or two, but ultimately, you’re responsible for yourself. Fixating on other people is for biographers and lovers.
Q: What is the best album of all time?
A: Fucking easy. Brutal Juice, Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult. Give me a hard one next time.
Great job, y’all. You broke him.
You know what it all just is, man? That’s right—music.
Man, it’s just all music, you know?
All music is just plain music, that’s all.
Music—that’s what it all just is, man.
Just music, man, is what it all is, just.
All of it just is music, man just.
Just, man, all of it is music—and that’s it.
Man, all just it’s music.
Music, it’s just all, man.
Music is all man, just.
Man is all just music.
Man just music all is.
All music is just man.
Ah man—music is just all.
might as well apologize for the last post. i’m messing around with pieces on the history of trivia and the cultural history of Austin, but i thought you could use a bloated memoir of failurez. y’all have a good evening!
When I was eighteen, I plowed part of a Chick-fil-A paycheck into two pairs of All-Stars. I put one pair on a closet shelf, the other pair I wrote on. Names and dates. Musicians’ names, specifically, and their years of birth and death. If you’d asked me why I bought Chucks – and I’m positive no one did – I would’ve said something about paying tribute to bygone basketball players. Really, I bought them because that’s what so many first-wave hardcore acts wore. My brother started bands; I copped canvas shoes on sale. (And, obviously, they were ass for hoops. It’s a wonder my ankles weren’t permaswollen.)
The first name was Joey Ramone. He was followed by John Lee Hooker, George Harrison, Chuck Schuldiner, Waylon Jennings, Layne Staley, Dee Dee Ramone, John Entwistle, Jam Master Jay, Joe Strummer, and Maurice Gibb. To a guy reliant on used-CDs and the Rolling Stone Album Guide, it felt like a well-rounded assemblage. (It didn’t occur to me that Aaliyah should be “honored”.) The shoes lasted into college; they were gone before Elliott Smith was.