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Whatever happened to the heroes?
November 17, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Dear Everett True, NME and Q don’t love music any less than you do… a revealing blog entry on the music press. From Collapse Board, who also do an awesome song of the day.
posted by Artw (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
For any who are unaware, the venerable Mr. True has been having a field day lately over at Something Awful as a kind of guest columnist: Animal Collective. Sleigh Bells. NPR listeners. Jeff Buckley.
posted by chaff at 10:24 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, that column is horrific. Sure, columnists occasionally become disgruntled and rail against something that's popular, so does everyone else. I don't want to read 1000 words that can be boiled down to "You know that popular indie band you like? They suck. Not only do they suck, but you suck for listening to them and not knowing better. Trust me, I'm a columnist". Seriously, who thought that this was a good idea for a repeating column?
posted by cyphill at 10:47 AM on November 17, 2010


I sometimes harbor the suspicion that people who spend so much time talking about music the way that I'm seeing here don't love music at all so much as the chance to pose with it.
posted by weston at 10:50 AM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ugh, Everett True. Still not letting go of that stupid shtick. He's about as fun as gout.
posted by Skot at 10:56 AM on November 17, 2010


Two NME (New Music Express) anecdotes from the early 1990s.

1. Jello Biafra (ex Dead Kennedy, founder of Alternative Tentacles label) relating to me how for $50,000 (American), a record label could buy its artist the front page story, including a guaranteed sympathetic feature inside.

2. a London friend relating to me a night he spent hanging out at the back of a venue getting shit-faced with a journalist friend (entirely out of the sight of the stage where some shit-hot "it" band was playing a set). Later that week, he read a view of said show, written by the same journalist. The review was a savage pan.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have never had better access to a bigger gamut of music, and I have never given less of a fuck about music criticism.

Collapse Board Song of The Day! Cool!
posted by everichon at 11:04 AM on November 17, 2010


Using Everett True as a trojan horse to bring in a Gaga Q cover. Crafty, Artw, crafty.
posted by cavalier at 11:12 AM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


No more heroes anymore.
posted by malocchio at 11:13 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rock criticism has a long history of music loving curmudgeons playfully taking shots at whatever is in vogue at the moment. But what makes the good music journalists worth reading is that even when they're putting down one artist/song/album, their passion for another artist/song/album or music in general is obvious. Plus they have a learned and practiced skill of having fun with something they don't particularly like. But it's no fun reading someone that is presenting themselves as not giving a shit about anything other than their us reading half-assed thoughts and thinking it somehow adds value to the music discussion.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:18 AM on November 17, 2010


He's about as fun as gout.

Actually, this is fun:

It's a mark of good taste to be seen listening to Animal Collective, isn't it? They're Supertramp (minus the tunes) for the '00s.
posted by philip-random at 11:27 AM on November 17, 2010


No more heroes anymore
posted by philip-random at 11:32 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I came of age in the late '80s/early '90s, when the underground was blessed with a wealth of fantastic magazines: Option, B-Side, Reflex, Puncture, Matter, even early Alternative Press - and, of course, scores of 'zines which filled out the margins. Back in the days when you were damn lucky if you had an independent record store in town, these rags were like desert water in a world populated by Sam Goodys. Even if the writing could be wildly variable, it still shone a light into pitch-black corners of the musical universe that literally kept oddball kids like me alive. It propagated a love of music that none of us "in the know" could resist - we all tried our hands at crummy little Kinko's 'zines and small-press ventures, because the sense of discovery pressed so hard that we couldn't contain it within ourselves.

At a certain point, that breathlessness hardened over and became insularity, elitism, and indier-than-thou snobbery. (It may have been there all along, but I wasn't picking up on it at the age of 12 or 13.) In my mid-twenties, I went through my own long period of intense jadedness and protectiveness of my oh-so-obscure music collection. But once even that became the norm - once the horrible sense of entitlement became the primary currency of both music criticism and fandom - my shield broke down. The negativity became exhausting. I had to either give up the game-playing or give up music altogether.

The Internet, which I saw for so long as part of The Problem, has actually become a huge solution. I don't need a journalistic access point for music any longer - I can just listen to the damn stuff for myself, with no preconceptions or conceptual framework attached, and it either speaks to my soul or it doesn't. I'm grateful for music journalism and the role it played in fostering a deep love of the mystery of music, but I have to say, my musical life is so much more fulfilling without the need for screeds, treatises, or indie-boy Magna Cartas nailed to my door. It's time-consuming as hell to do all the research that those magazines did for the formative me, but that's an acceptable trade for reclaiming my unconditional love of music.
posted by mykescipark at 11:48 AM on November 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


... and in lieu of any deeper discussion, a Tim Buckley thing from the Monkees TV Show that I just stumbled upon whilst chasing various YouTube links.

... or failing that, perhaps another quote from that Animal Collective slag that chaff so thoughtfully linked to.

Animal Collective has ruined music for a generation with their semi-ironic stances, lack of bass, and disengagement with their audience. A band should be vital, an antidote to something, which AC aren't. Whatever the merits of Animal Collective back whenever they last produced anything of worth, now everyone (everyone that counts, i.e. THE FUCKING OMNIPRESENT INDIE ALPHA MALE) believes they need to grow a beard, act all pompous and po-faced, lift from spiritual and gospel traditions without understanding for one second what makes those traditions so vital, and behave as dully as a glass of particularly dispirited dishwater.

Man, I love other people's LOATHING sometimes.
posted by philip-random at 11:50 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you a tale.

Several years ago I was part of an online community that was heavily involved in music remixing/covers/inventive arrangements. It was a vibrant community with a lot of interesting music and I had become quite active in the forums there. Whenever a new song was released a forum topic would be added in which folks could discuss the merits of the piece. I became quite prolific there and was eventually contacted by the site staff to "audition" for a spot on the judges' panel.

See, even though this was a community site, all songs that were officially offered for download had to pass muster with a very stringent judges panel. It was notoriously difficult to get your stuff on the site, which was the point. They were curating the experience.

So my name came up as a possible new judge. Apparently they liked my comments about music on the forums, thought I might be a good fit. As part of my "audition" they sent me some songs to judge. I had to listen to the songs, give my thumbs up or thumbs down and then explain my reasons.

They sent me five songs to judge. I only passed one, and gave lengthy explanations for each song. A few weeks passed and I heard nothing back from the interviewer. Finally I emailed him and asked him if they liked my reviews. He told me "actually, we aren't going to ask you to join the panel at this time. Your reviews were really, really harsh. I mean, do you even like the music on this site?"

He was right. I no longer truly cared for that type of music, and I don't really listen to it anymore. I don't post in their music forums anymore, and I keep my opinions to myself. It was a humbling moment for me, and I've moved on. I still enjoy a lot of other music, and when I find something I don't enjoy, I simply avoid it.

The thing that strikes me about a lot of critics like Mr. True is the unmitigated arrogance shining through every line they write. Maybe it's all an act, but it smacks of this idea that music, or any art for that matter, has to first be validated in some way by an asshole with a pen.

You might say that that's why we read critics. They give us an idea of what's good and what isn't. But that doesn't make any sense, because critics aren't like us. They're in a completley different world, a world that we don't understand. I find criticism that focuses on a personal connection or reaction much more valuable than criticism that erects a pedestal for The Aesthetic Virtue According to Me.

Which leads me to the following: is there a Roger Ebert equivalent in the music criticism world?
posted by jnrussell at 11:51 AM on November 17, 2010


oops, shoulda previewed. all apologies, mykescipark, didn't mean to dismiss your comments as shallow.
posted by philip-random at 11:51 AM on November 17, 2010


Everett True is consistently disappointing to me. Hating awful music is fun, it's productive, and it's beneficial for society. If someone could sit down and explain precisely why Animal Collective or LCD Soundsystem or The National are really so awful (and they are truly awful) it'd be an enormously useful thing. But even though this is Everett True's entire concept... it's just flat. He's not really that good with the language, but more important there's absolutely nothing conceptually interesting about what he's doing. I know Lester Bangs has at this point become a hackneyed stereotype of a rock critic, given that everyone and their dog has imitated him ad nauseum and a whole generation of idjits has blandly bought into his taste as the musical peak par excellence, but when you read "James Taylor Marked For Death" it's actually fun to read. It has soul, it has depth, and it has a good deal to say about society and what's right and wrong about it. That's what music criticism should do. And that's exactly what Everett True fails to do. His singular appeal is that he hates the bands that the few of us with taste in our generation also hate. And I can't read somebody solely based on the fact that they hate the same bands as me.
posted by koeselitz at 11:52 AM on November 17, 2010


Which leads me to the following: is there a Roger Ebert equivalent in the music criticism world?

What? A renowned critic who might well be some kind of CIA operative?

(referencing something that filmmaker Alex Cox said recently while being interviewed by Nardwuar the Human Serviette)
posted by philip-random at 12:02 PM on November 17, 2010


jnrussell: “Which leads me to the following: is there a Roger Ebert equivalent in the music criticism world?”

Robert Christgau.
posted by koeselitz at 12:04 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those who can, do. Those who can't, write.
posted by Twang at 12:05 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If someone could sit down and explain precisely why Animal Collective or LCD Soundsystem or The National are really so awful (and they are truly awful) it'd be an enormously useful thing.

How is the following not useful?

now everyone [...] believes they need to grow a beard, act all pompous and po-faced, lift from spiritual and gospel traditions without understanding for one second what makes those traditions so vital

And I don't even hate Animal Collective; just find them over-rated and creepily over-hyped.
posted by philip-random at 12:07 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of the time in these, he's not even critiquing the bands. He's just shooting at caricatures of them. He's not being a brave contrarian by doing it either. The stuff he's mocking is the absolute safest of the safe for a critic to be mocking in 2010.
posted by kersplunk at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's not so bad, philip-random. And that review isn't terrible. It's just... well, he's so ambivalent. He seems to not want to come out and say this band fucking sucks! – which I would appreciate, honestly. I'd like passion and rage. He just comes off as sneering. I mean, that paragraph was the one strident, whole, fiery criticism of Animal Collective in that review – and even there he equivocates ridiculously with "whatever the merits of Animal Collective back whenever they last produced anything of worth..." When was that, hmm? So you're going to tell me they used to be worthwhile? Please don't.
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 PM on November 17, 2010


the few of us with taste in our generation
posted by koeselitz


Wow. How many of you taste gatekeepers are there? Four? Seven?
posted by kingbenny at 12:18 PM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nine. Come on, get with it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:18 PM on November 17, 2010


Hey phillip-random, allow me to blow your mind! See that busted up car Tim is sitting on, with the smashed windshield? Wonder how it got that way?

Frank Zappa did it. With a sledgehammer.
Maybe not mind-blowing but still pretty neat.
posted by chaff at 12:18 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have never had better access to a bigger gamut of music, and I have never given less of a fuck about music criticism.

posted by everichon at 7:04 PM on November 17


I take absolutely no pleasure whatsoever in stating that you could remove the word "criticism" from the end of that sentence and it would still be true for me.

I can't remember the last time I heard a new band/artist make me react in a more positive way than "Oh... that's not bad. It reminds me of..." It saddens me, but I suppose it's just a sign that I finally did get old and jaded.
posted by Decani at 12:19 PM on November 17, 2010


I've never heard anybody give reasons for why The National are so awful that did anything more than prove they were a pompous arrogant asshat.
posted by kingbenny at 12:24 PM on November 17, 2010


An assertion that Animal Collective don't understand the genres they are pillaging/pastiching/appropriating/sampling/pisstaking/homaging doesn't erode the nice feelings I get when I listen to some of their songs.

If you like the Beach Boys or Motown, you can listen to them! So much music! Music music music arrghflfllllllllll

* cavorts in firehydrant of music *
posted by everichon at 12:54 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think The National make some great music, and I enjoy listening to High Violet. Still, their overly melancholy lyrics are kind of ridiculous. I laughed the first time I heard Sorrow because the lyric "I don't want to get over you" is sung in such a similar manner to the song with the same name by the Magnetic Fields. And that song was supposed to be a fun joke, a pastiche of teen goth angst music.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:31 PM on November 17, 2010


kingbenny: “I've never heard anybody give reasons for why The National are so awful that did anything more than prove they were a pompous arrogant asshat.”

The National are the embodiment of our generation's desire for 'adult' 'authenticity.' As such, they're really just very sad; it's pathetic, in fact, a sort of grasping after anything with the sound and shape of something real, something scratchy, something 'weathered,' like those jeans you can buy that come already torn. It sounds so real to us, so with that crackle, that fuzz... we are the empty generation, the generation that stayed home from its war and let the poor people fight it, the generation that inherited punk instead of creating it, and then sat there dumbly wondering what to do. Authenticity is so cool to us. This is why so many of us are enamored of Neko Case (aside from the cool way she spells her first name) – and it's why we're so in love with other false 'authentic' people like Tom Waits.

I mean, in a way, The National are very brave. That playing-your-instruments-well thing, that's such a fuck-you to the electro-punk crowd that, right? And the fact that they consistently make such pretty songs, such gorgeous songs – that's really the whole purpose of their existence, right? – to make songs that make you say: 'gosh, that's gorgeous'? That's plenty brave, I guess.

But: it means nothing. It's just a lot of hype, lots of disconnected images, bland metaphors that aren't connected to anything else, phrases just evocative enough to seem striking on first listen, and even longer if you manage to just sink into the emo haze and go with it. The National are about feelings, about emotions as touchstones to life, and they won't let any of the harshness of reality intrude on that soft tapestry of lint that they weave with music. There are striking phrases here and there, to be sure, but when Matt Berninger (who consistently sounds like he's on his third beer) sings about her father "on the coffee table cock in hand," and then tells her to "fuck me and make me a drink," it doesn't even jolt you. He manages to succeed in making a phrase that ought to wake you up sound like a lullaby. It's a thousand times more jarring to read that phrase on a page than it is to hear it in the song; mostly because he doesn't mean it, it's just a tossed-off phrase, and the next line he's telling us he's lost direction. So it's just sad. Another hipster being casually offensive as an expression of his ennui.

And that's the most offensive they get. Usually it's aimless stuff, relentlessly pretty images and hooks, with the oh-so-perfectly-gravelly voice over it all. We like this stuff because it makes us feel something legitimate, because being rebellious is just so tough after a while, because being original takes so very much energy that it's nicer, it's easier to sink into the dissipation of these relentlessly pretty pieces of torn construction paper. There are still singers around who might call us out, who might threaten our sense of legitimacy, might leave us a little disoriented; but there's no danger of that here. The National will always be blandly reassuring, letting us feel those feelings without ever giving us cause to fear that he might be about to jar our sense of dull contentment with life as it is. And it helps that they're from Brooklyn; we love a band from Brooklyn. Especially if they help us feel good.

Which is what our generation loves, in the end: all the pleasure of meaning, none of the danger of truth. If anybody needed further proof that rock music in general is somewhat dead, The National provide it; at the end of all this, after all the loud, brash young kids who made loud, honest stuff, after punk rock and all that other stuff, are we just going to settle down and be nice adults? Is that really our fate? The National are like the Kenny G of rock: they make it seem like, at the end of a long, vital tradition of fiery passion, all we have left is the glum, soft, gray wheedling of a drunken thirty-something secure in his argyle sweater. But hey: at least it's pretty.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


That was really well-done, koeselitz. I stand corrected.
posted by kingbenny at 1:38 PM on November 17, 2010


Ugh, Everett True. Still not letting go of that stupid shtick. He's about as fun as gout.

Does he mention hanging out with Courtney Love at all? He used to do that. A lot.

And (tho' I like the National - possibly because I don't listen to the lyrics much...) Koeselitz's criticism is far superior to True's "they sound like U2! And Echo and the Bunnymen! And Bauhaus! [really?]". Plus who's he writing for that he has to tell them who Bauhaus were, anyway? Or run that shtick about confusing Jeff with Tim Buckley?
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:01 PM on November 17, 2010


none of the danger of truth

You're being coy, here. Why don't you tell us where this dangerous verity lurks, in case we're feeling frisky?
posted by everichon at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not familiar with The National, but I'm not sure what you're talking about with respect to Tom Waits. The guy seems to play the role of a few fictional characters in his music, so what? So he's not Woody Guthrie or Leadbelly. It doesn't make him 'inauthentic', it makes him someone who tells interesting stories and creates interesting sketches set to interesting music. I wouldn't knock Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs or Bone Machine on the basis of "false authenticity" any more than I would David Bowie, CCR, Bob Dylan, or The Band. I'm also drawing a blank as to which war the first-wave punks didn't stay home from.
posted by Hoopo at 2:33 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Never read the Melody Maker - like Select, it made me feel far too square and provincial, which I was - but I loved Q and the NME in my teens. It was a gateway to the things I'd never heard on the radio - old music, new music, the two albums I bought on the strength of the reviews alone without hearing a note that went on to be two of my favourite records of my teen years. (Hefner's Breaking God's Heart and Ben Folds Five's debut - BFF were completely unknown here for years and years.) But then it was 2001, and I'd been listening to John Peel, and I still hung on to Swells' reviews of Sleater Kinney and still played the tapes with the 1998 singles of the week (still do - Ariel M's Wedding Song No.3 is still marvellous) but they started featuring bands I didn't care for like At The Drive-In and The Strokes, and it all seemed saturated with hyping the humourless. And then they started having things sponsored by Shockwaves and asking people what their ringtones were each week, and I decided to spend my weekly £1.80 on houmous and Go-Betweens records.

Now I don't really read music criticism, and I stopped wanting to join in on it when I realised that, particularly as a female, any success I could have would be dependent on the whims of wankers and the caprices of cunts, but if there is a Roger Ebert of music writing, it's Marcello Carlin, surely?
posted by mippy at 2:44 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wrote a long, passionate, heartfelt comment covering the various schools and moods of music criticism and explaining in detail why I've never liked Everett True, but then wiped it as one of the (sorta comments) on the original article trumped everything I had to say:

"well it was alright when i was 12/13…i don’t think music mags are for anyone over the age of 21 to be honest."
posted by Hartster at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2010


That was a really well done pastiche of portentous rock criticism, koeselitz.
posted by kenko at 3:35 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Frankly, I'm skeptical of "authenticity" applied to pop music of the last century, or to music in general for that matter. Even the hucksters who set up shop in Chicago and Bristol ended up trolling for artists who saw what they did as show business. So I find it rather absurd to fault Waits for imitating consummate showmen like Howlin' Wolf. It's show business turtles all the way down.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:53 PM on November 17, 2010


Everett True is every bit the utter stain you would imagine him to be.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:53 PM on November 17, 2010


WORST. COLLECTIVE. EVER.
posted by Hoopo at 4:30 PM on November 17, 2010


Koeselitz, I'd argue that Xgau is NOT the Ebert of music. He writes far too many reviews in the first person, and he has the kinds of issues with women that could provoke nausea. (For all of Ebert's problems, he at least hasn't written a profile like that one, Meyer associations aside.)
posted by pxe2000 at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2010


I wasn't recommending Robert Christgau, necessarily. (Though I didn't know about that at all.) I was only saying that his attempt at eclecticism is similar to Ebert's breadth.

I'm still reading this PJ Harvey piece. I'll get back to you when I get to the offensive bit. Hrm...
posted by koeselitz at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2010


But: it means nothing. It's just a lot of hype, lots of disconnected images, bland metaphors that aren't connected to anything else, phrases just evocative enough to seem striking on first listen, and even longer if you manage to just sink into the emo haze and go with it.

So The National are just like Echo & the Bunnymen? Great, I'll have to give them a listen!
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:14 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


As long as they don't sound like anything post Ocean Rain. Gets a bit scary past that point.
posted by philip-random at 6:55 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus. Is Everett True still alive? He's just old, that's all.
posted by unSane at 8:35 PM on November 17, 2010


I miss Swells.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:44 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everett True is to music as Metafilter is to the web. Superior, snarky, over-analytical and occasionally enthusiastic despite himself.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:41 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


And he thinks your favourite band sucks.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:14 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everett fucking True?

The worse thing about growing old is not that your heroes die, it's that the villains don't.
posted by fullerine at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2010


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