“[Ellen] Willis’s partisans aver that she got out [of rock criticism] while the getting was good, while [Paul] Nelson’s mourn the loss of his genius. I believe the opposite. Nelson was right to get out. Rock’s hero quest has been a dead end since circa 1980 — there’s Springsteen, that’s one, and then there’s, well, Bono, who it’s impossible to imagine Nelson taking seriously for a host of reasons good and bad. But I think Willis would have been better off staying. She was a powerful thinker, and though she never wrote enough she almost always wrote well when she did. But as someone who spent 15 years extricating himself from her politics and is so glad he did, I say continued attention to her beat would have changed those politics for the better, sensitizing her to mass pleasures, countercultural anxieties, class antagonisms, and racial contradictions she lost touch with. Mere attention wouldn’t have done it, though — she would have had to enjoy it. And it’s my guess that for writers as gifted as Willis and Nelson never to have found language to describe music means that in the end they didn’t enjoy music for all it’s worth. When Ellen and I were feeling our way through the music of the ’60s, we scoffed at such notions. But we were wrong.”—Robert Christgau, in his article “Pioneer Days,” just published online at the Barnes & Noble Reader. This leaves me completely breathless. He’s not my favorite writer for nothing.
“It’s no coincidence that Gen X’s greatest artistic legacy is probably grunge, which is all about glorifying marginalization and alienation. Millennials, though, have been forced to live lives on the periphery, when they had always expected that they would be at the center. As [Noreen] Malone points out [in her article “The Kids Are Actually Sorta Alright”], the Fleet Foxes, led by 25-year-old Robin Pecknold, sing about thinking that they were ‘special snowflakes’ but finding that they are in fact ‘cogs in some great machinery.’ In contrast, the most famous musician from Generation Catalano is probably 34-year-old Kanye West, who actually is something of a special snowflake—and at the same time that he has released some of the best music of the last few years (and gotten very rich off of it), he’s also been engaged a very public battle with himself. Like West, Generation Catalano is never fully comfortable with its place in the world; we wander away from the periphery and back again.”—Doree Shafrir, from her article “Generation Catalano” over at Slate. Recommended by Aaron Foster, a friend and cheese importer who is having his (deserved) five minutes of fame over at NPR as I type this. Malone’s article was published in New York Magazine.
“If the Red Hot Chili Peppers acoustically covered the 12 worst Primus songs for Starbucks, it would still be (slightly) better than this. ‘Loutallica’ makes SuperHeavy seem like Big Star.”—Chuck Klosterman, in his review of the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration Lulu at Grantland. For non-nerds: SuperHeavy is Mick Jagger’s recent (competing?) supergroup with Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, Damien Marley, and A. R. Rahman. Big Star released Radio City in 1974; you should own it.
“To speak of the numbers that underlie both musical plays and films is to speak of … the complex interplay of lyric and music, word sound and musical sound, verbal idea and musical idea that marks the best American film and theater songs … Americans hear and, consequently, understand these verbal-musical bundles automatically; the words and music of the best American film and theater songs fit so snugly that their conjunction seems ‘natural.’ Only by pulling words and music apart does one hear careful art coyly masquerading as simple nature.”—Gerald Mast, in Can’t Help Singin’, pp. 3-4. “The interplay of lyric and music,” “word sound and musical sound,” “verbal-musical bundles,” and “their conjunction seems ‘natural.’” Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Words matter. Words are musical. Go forth. Tell others. I heart American song. It is the site onto which I demonstrate my patriotism ;)
Today I revealed the results of the Expert Witness community’s first-ever jazz album poll over at Robert Christgau’s MSN.com music blog. For this poll I asked voters to choose their ten favorite jazz albums recorded in the 1960s. Voters could define “favorite” and “jazz” however they wished, and were asked to allocate points to each of their ten albums as per the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll's points system. A full list of the EW Jazz Poll's rules is available here. I wrote some pre-game commentary here, and some post-game commentary and individual ballots are available in the comments section of Christgau’s MSN blog. Below are the results, compiled from 29 ballots. Please note that Robert Christgau did not vote in this poll.
1. Miles Davis, In a Silent Way 238 (19)
2. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme 233 (17)
3. Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady 136 (9)
4. Miles Davis, The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 92 (7)
5. Albert Ayler, Spiritual Unity 80 (7)
6. Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch 79 (8)
7. Duke Ellington, Meets Coleman Hawkins 61 (6)
8. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard 60 (5)