Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
You know what other trope sucks? Too many parentheticals.
This may be the equivalent of reviewing a Black Crowes album for a certain men's magazine without actually hearing it, as I've never attended the EMP Pop Conference. But since my bread-and-butter seems to be criticism of criticism, I figured what the hell? My perusal through the blogosphere of the wrap-ups of this year's conference has annoyed me, as the common trope this year seems to be about the Great Divide between journalists (yay!) and academics (boo!). Having straddled this divide for quite some time (although, at this point "Academic" has most definitely won out), I find this disconcerting and I want to tease out what the problem is. Isn't it time we all got along?
The main argument seems to be that the academic papers are awash in meaningless jargon, while the journalists' papers are written and argued better. As one rundown notes, "I never want to hear about "praxis," "teleological," and "heteronormative valences" in my presence again." Well, you know what? I never want to hear about "rockist" tendencies, "shambolic guitars" or "angular grooves." These are the "teleological" and "praxis" of the rock-crit trade. Clear writing exists in academia and in music criticism, and maybe the two can learn from each other. I know that in my own experience I've had editors called my record reviews "academic" while some of my academic work has been suggested to be more "magazine-like." These may be (not-so) veiled insults, but I take them to mean that my criticism exists in a frustrating, liminal space. This liminality (uh-oh, academic jargon!) creates a tension that forces a reader to consider the arguments without the formal limitations. If I argue that baseball is a civil religion, should it matter whether that argument is in Sports Illustrated or in a religious studies journal? Shouldn't both arguments be compelling and well researched to be published? I know this is a utopian ideal--a ton of crappy writing and rhetoric gets published in all kinds of places, but if the problem is that the ideas are buried under meaningless words, the criticism goes both ways.
The "academics can't write/present" argument might be one of frustration. Are "we" (nerds!) encroaching on "their" (rock-crit) turf? As more critics make their way to academia, as Carl Wilson notes, does that increase the tension? Is this the actual "conflict and change" that should have been explored at this year's meeting? Again, these are questions I ask from the outside looking in. My perspective is that of an interested outsider. (Full disclosure: I have submitted proposals to the conference a number of times, but have not had a paper accepted.)
This divide is one that has made the EMP a frustrating conference. It seems to want it both ways, as a place where music criticism is given an air of legitimacy, but without any of the rigors of many academic conferences. This year there were many more first-time presenters, which is one step in the right direction. I would really love to see what would happen if for just one year, the conference organizers implemented a blind review process for abstracts. If there is such a concern about "hearing new voices," then why not place everyone on equal footing? Let the ideas be judged, not the connections. Strip out the jargon from both worlds and see what ideas really shine. (As long as it's not guitar sounds. Seriously, sounds cannot shimmer. As a friend once wrote over IM, "THERE ARE NO RAYS OF LIGHT SHOOTING OUT OF GUITARS.")
Saturday, January 26, 2008
world's shortest retirement
"No Hate In '08" is my motto for this year, but seriously, I just don't get music writing these days. People are getting all het up about ridiculous stuff. (Oooh, a guy wrote the Women In Music essay for Pazz & Jop! Quelle horreur!) My frustration plays out in this IM convo (not our real screennames):
heathalouise: i've given up on doing music writing ever again.
heathalouise: OH WAIT I TAKE THAT BACK
mts: HAHA OMG
...And scene. If NKOTB can come out of retirement, perhaps so can I.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
My life has been a deluge of dissertating, unpacking (still!), editing student papers and the occasional night out.
This Saturday was supposed to be a day of grading (of which I did some), but I got sucked into last.fm, an addiction that Martin has been trying to push on me for about two years. So, now I'm crazily rocking the iTunes, trying to generate enough songs to create my own radio station. Of course, several "buried gems" keep resurfacing--those songs you randomly download because they're just there (Marilyn Manson single, I'm looking at you...)--and my "true" taste is not quite coming through. If you looked at my charts right now, you'd think that I spent all my life listening to the Monkees and Modest Mouse. The truth is, I do listen to the Monkees way more than someone my age should, but I just happen to have a lot of Modest Mouse on my iTunes.
Naturally, this is making me want to add some CDs to my library, but since the majority of our albums are still in storage, I'm stuck with my minuscule, meager collection. No Luna for me except for Bewitched. (Oh wait, maybe that's not a bad thing.)
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I actually bothered to pay attention to the world of music in the last couple of weeks. Last Friday, I saw an amazing acoustic performance by one John Vanderslice. I finally purchased his record Emerald City and it is FANTASTIC. It's so good that I was compelled to e-mail the man himself and gush about it like a pathetic dork. He deserves every bit of success that comes his way. Buy this album now, and go see him on tour. You know I'll be at the Bowery Ballroom on Sept. 26 grinning like an idiot.
I also impulse purchased the New Pornographers' latest, Challengers at the iTunes store. I never even bought Twin Cinema, but I really am enjoying this. It definitely made the day at work go by a lot faster, and that's one of the biggest compliments a record can get from me right now.
Monday, August 06, 2007
some velvet morning when I'm straight
It's a bummer to wake up on a Monday and find out that someone the caliber of Lee Hazlewood has died. It's even more depressing that there seems to be no mention of it in the American press yet. I actually learned from MySpace. (Yes, I'm "Lee Hazlewood's" friend on MySpace.)
Sunday, July 15, 2007
could have been the liquor or the music that was alright
Because I am the eternal, Olympic flame of the 1990s (TM MTS), the first rock show that I've attended since moving back to NYC was none other than Buffalo Tom at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday night. It was a fun show, although I was exhausted and woozy from an impromptu happy hour earlier in the evening. They played a bunch of the "hits," but unfortunately I didn't stick around for the encore, so I have no idea if they played "Porchlight."
My favorite thing though (surprise, surprise) was noticing that Bill Janovitz was wearing a Red Sox wristband. He also razzed the audience about the misfortunes of the Yankees, which made the Masshole in me gleam with pride. There were a ton of Sox shirts and hats on those in attendance. I may just write this night off as "research" into the musical tastes of Red Sox Nation.
But yeah, the show took me back to 1993, when Big Red Letter Day was only removed from the CD player to make room for Let Me Come Over or various records by the Lemonheads and the Replacements.
(The Lemonheads are playing here on Thursday. I am sorely tempted, but there is no way in hell my husband will be willing to sit through that with me.)
Sunday, May 13, 2007
i was underwhelmed, and that's a word
Maria and I went to see Sloan last night. It was her second time witnessing the Canadian rawk and my 14th(?). All I know is that Sloan is the band I've seen the most in my rock n' roll life. (Anyone who's read this blog with any regularity can probably guess who is #2 on that list. Hell, most of you have seen that band with me at one point or another.) Last night was heavy on the new material and One Chord to Another. The audience was a weird split between 20something women and late-30s frat dudes. Openers Small Sins were pretty good, functional Canadian indie rock. I'm just bummed that Sloan didn't play any ancient stuff, like "Deeper Than Beauty" or "Penpals."
Yet again I am keeper of the flame for '90s alt-rock.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
i read it in delillo like they'd written it to me
I finally broke down and bought your book, Nelson. You'll make your way to bestseller #281,119 yet! It's winging its way to me via the joys of Amazon Prime, along with Then We Came to the End, which fascinates me because of the discussion of it being a retread of DeLillo's Americana, which is one of my favorite novels.
And yes, I really don't have time to read anything that isn't baseball- or Boston-related right now. (Just ask the copy of Underworld that's been sitting on my shelf for months.) My theory is that by reading anything in book form, I'll get my ass in gear.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
when the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around
Q: How excited am I about a possible Police reunion?
A: Way more than I probably should be.
The Police were my favorite band in high school until they got supplanted by Jane's Addiction and the group that they originally ripped off, the Clash. I still have a soft spot for them, however. Hell, I even like some of Sting's shitty solo records (the white-boy-jazz ones especially). Of course, ticket prices for this will probably be astronomical. I know there's no way I can drag my husband along. I can only think of one other person who would be willing to go to this with me: my high school concert buddy.
S. and I went to all the dinosaur rock shows together in high school. We saw Tom Petty, Sting, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, etc. You'd think we were 40something housewives or something. But we were 17, and we had a blast. (Except for when the guy in our section at the Mellencamp show barfed all over the woman in front of him. She kept screaming, "I HAVE RIGHTS!" We moved to another section to escape the stench. And no, smartass, the "stench" was not JCM's performance. Dude rocked it.) She even came up to NYC freshman year of college to go to the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary show. She still jets around the country to see Springsteen. I think I'm going to have to e-mail her and make a plan. After all, we're pretty much in the dinosaur rock demographic at this point.
(And yes, this show will probably be mediocre. But I'll still go.)