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.
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.
"What you have in your hands in a new/old record. The lost sessions of the recording of ‘Darkness’ that could have/should have been released after ‘Born to Run’ and before the collection of songs that became…
OK, I have like a half hour before Cat gets home from her ER clinical, and I can’t subject Twitter to this. I finally saw Marina Shifrin’s video resignation from Next Media Animation:
1. I say “finally”. It’s been up since September 28.
2. 15.4 million views. That’s nearly three times as many as NMA’s top video: “Real life Barbie: 21-year-old Ukrainian Valeria Lukyanova undergoes surgery”, which I’m not going to link because yeah.
3. The “official” NMA response has 4 million views. More on them in a sec.
4. My secondary takeaway is: Shifrin’s gonna take over the world. I don’t know if I mean that pejoratively. One of the comedy bits on her YouTube channel, after all, is one of those Silverman-type lateral-thinking-but-still-offensive bits. (It’s titled — no shit — “Not Racist”, so if you want to stay away I’m nodding assent.) I quit a job once and ended up in a Bud Ice stupor for three months. She quit a job and got to shoot the breeze with Latifah.
5. My primary takeaway: that was affecting. There’s a whole fucking demilitarized zone between her dancing and that of the remaining NMA crew. Look at her commitment: the way she gives herself to her modified skanking (enjoy that video; it’s delightful), how she doesn’t look at the camera, how she’s all balls and elbows and glide. I keep rewatching it. Even though it was intended for virality, she captured something wondrous: pure, joyful dance, untrained and unrestrained.
6. Contrast that with NMA’s gentle kissoff of a parody. Lots of self-consciousness, tons of looking at the camera, a section full of basic group moves. One guy (the boss, looks like) does the Running Man: last resort of the vibe saboteur. Y&R Israel’s come-work-for-or-pay-attention-to-us video has the same problem. They’re an attractive bunch, no doubt, but one guy’s doing the Modified Robot. If you want to advertise that we’ll let You be You, you gotta have someone on staff who can let loose, even if it’ll be flogged for views. Shifrin managed it.
7. Karaoke gets the ink, but for me, lipsynching’s where it’s at. I was an inveterate lipsyncher from high school through a solo living stint. I wrote as much as either of us can probably handle on my karaoke experiences in this TSJ blurb; I know it’s a complex skill, one that requires judicious song selection combined with decent pipes (or the indulgence provided by being a bar regular). Delivery, theoretically, comes first, but projection covers venial sins. Still, there’s something about inhabiting a song without pressure, whether via solo singing, synching, or dancing.
8. Karaoke requires an audience. If you’re doing it for yourself, you’re either too good or you’re the asshole who thought tanking Creed’s “Higher” was an indictment of the North Parmer Tavern. (We saw through you like a screen door, you jag.) I missed a NY karaoke session toward the end of Stylus’ run. It sounded rad. But even with a crew of sweet-natured generalists, I’m sure I would’ve felt the pressure to get it right. Song choice, commitment: to kill at karaoke requires that you throw yourself out in a calculated configuration.
9. “Dance like no one is watching” is a goofy aphorism. It’s also dead on.
10. To express yourself without hurting anyone; to inhabit a song; to work shit out without worrying if someone’s getting bored or if friends and strangers are buying into you as a person; to be an aesthetic experience for your pleasure, yours alone: this is the promise of the radio and home media.
11. Shifrin’s video was mediated, obviously, but she still did what two offices full of young techies couldn’t: she did her thing without irony, without self-consciousness.
12. So do our most ingratiating entertainers. But they never get so elemental.
13. Also, she got Kanye in the Billboard Top 20 this year. Kanye couldn’t get Kanye in the Billboard Top 20 this year.
If a twist, once understood, poisons the experience of a film — the prized “holy shit” moments — then surely one viewing would be enough.
well, two: one to be surprised and then a second to see how it worked.
but also star trek: into darkness isn’t that kind of film. i mean, of course the idea of a spoiler alert originated with star trek, but that’s just because all fandom terminology originated with star trek (except “shipping,” which originated with the x-files because there was no will-they-won’t-they on star trek). but cauliflower bramblepatch as khan is not a good example of a “spoiler” as platonic ideal virgin viewers think of it. i like this piece a lot but i also am not convinced that your (good) points are as interconnected as you suggest.
That’s completely valid. Breaking Bad is what got me on this track, but when I found the Wrath of Khan nugget I ran with it. There’s a definite difference between fan-service spoilers (like a Nick Fury stinger) and an original-property film that hinges on a (hopefully) unforeseen reversal. (This Times article touches on the woes faced by the director of The Double Hour, who needed to cut a trailer that created interest without giving the game away.)
In a July 2010 article for The Awl, Nate Freeman dates the internet origin of “SPOILER ALERT” to a June 8, 1982 Usenet post about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Internet use being what it was 31 years ago, that was an extraordinarily cautious gesture on behalf of a readership that (I’m speculating wildly) might have been inclined to see a Star Trek film in its opening weekend. As far as the pre-Web notion of spoilers, the internet credits Douglas Kenney, co-writer of Animal House and Caddyshack. He contributed an article titled “Spoilers” to the April 1971 issue of National Lampoon. I can’t find the article online, but it purportedly gives away plot points for a number of major films.
Shifting back to Star Trek: earlier this year, Vulture rounded up notable reviews of the second Star trek reboot and how they handled [SPOILER ALERT, I GUESS, IF YOU MISSED IT IN THE THEATER AND ON THE REDBOX AND ON NETFLIX AND ARE APPARENTLY WAITING FOR THE J.J. ABRAMS SPACE GUYS FIGHTING COMPENDIUM] the reveal that Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison was actually Khan. Some called him John Harrison throughtout. Some alluded to a crazy twist. Others noted Harrison had some other identity, but played it coy. Because she too likes to live dangerously, the Village Voice's Amy Nicholson spilled it in the second sentence.
Her reward was a fair sampling of the rage spectrum, from “God, I miss Roger Ebert” to “hopefully they will deny Nicholson access to any future screenings and make her career as miserable as humanely for pulling such a total bitch move” to ”Typical cunt rag, Village Voice move”. A commenter dubbed yoshimatzah (who — I’ll be petty for a second — ended up triple-posting the same paragraph) sounded a particularly defeated note:
But you have robbed me of the pleasure of being surprised, that aha moment when you realize “oh holy shit it IS Khan!” Because now when I see it I will know it is coming.
Profanity aside, Roger Ebert would have approved. You won’t find too many critics offering a full-throated defense of spoilers, but Ebert was an avowed advocate of secrecy. “The characters in movies do not always do what we would do,” he wrote in a 2006 examination of the political climate surrounding movies about disabled persons. “Sometimes they make choices that offend us. That is their right. It is our right to disagree with them. It is not our right, however, to destroy for others the experience of being as surprised by those choices as we were.”
Ebert’s “we” is not restricted to film fans. It includes critics. The problem begins here.
When are you guys coming up for a visit? It's been too long, and we never get a chance to just shoot the shit over a beer or two.
Soon would be great. My car’s been out of commission for a while now; Cat’s does something weird on inclines. Slowly trying to rectify that whole deal with a job search. Her paramedic training is kicking into high gear, but I do hope we can actually take a trip soon that doesn’t involve someone’s wedding. Would love to see you on your home turf, with or without doom metal ambience.
Kristine McKenna: Why is the notion of originality so valued in the creative arena?
Brian Eno: It’s a red herring, the originality thing. People are original all the time, and some people choose to regard it as important, while others dismiss it as an aberration. One of the things that’s interesting about nearly all ethnic music is that it doesn’t pivot on the idea of newness. In reggae, for instance, you hear the same riffs year after year in a shifting context. The idea there is to use a thing for as long as it still means something. The idea in the high culture of the west is to drop something as soon as you can no longer claim it as only yours. As soon as other people are onto it you have to drop it and go elsewhere, and that’s such a stupidly childish attitude.
From an Kristine McKenna interview with Brian Eno in 1980, which you can find in a collection of her interviews called The Book of Changes. (via perpetua)
i’m not really sold on eno’s framing of the conversation, entirely, but i’m really in love with the way this is phrased. “use a thing for as long as it still means something”.
there’s so much shading of meaning that packs into the image that evokes, and all of it inspires. it’s a line whose ambiguity only gives it strength, in a way, because it never says how long is too long. all it says is—as long as it still means something.
the decision rests in the mutual relationship between artist and audience; both have control. that, to me, is an ideal.
An early and relatively comprehensive review of Electric Lady essentially praised the album and the artist for gumption but criticized what might be called the album’s sonic “extraness” and the supposed disconnect between the album’s sounds and its concepts. Jody Rosen argues that, “in…
Wish I could do anything like pick out fifths. That’s obv. not why I’m passing this on, but still.