Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dancing About Architecture

On the Chalkhills list, someone posted the following:
Here's an idea: Let's talk about music. Can we observe
one and only one rule?: There is no "right" or "wrong"
to questions of musical taste.
Below is my response. which I posted last night.

All right, I'll bite. This is a question that has interested me for years.

I respectfully disagree.

I think there is such a thing as good music and bad music, and that these values exist outside my subjectivity. I believe that the more you know about the technical aspects of music, the more likely you are to possess the language to express criticism -- that is, describe exactly why a piece of music is good or bad. Quite a few -- indeed, probably all -- "my-band-rocks-your-band-sucks" arguments arise from pure inarticulacy and nothing more.

Many (but of course not all) qualities by which we judge music have a certain measure of objectivity. These include, but are not limited to, originality, compositional excellence, and skill in execution. (Go ahead; try it: Think of a piece of music you love, and one you hate. I bet the one you love succeeds on some combination of these criteria, and the one you hate fails.)

To apply an extreme example, if you regard with unironic admiration the self-deluded goobers that they trot out for laffs in the early stages of American Idol, you are exhibiting an inability to discriminate good music from bad. (As the father of a 14-year-old girl who loves some of the awfulest, most cynically exploitative Disney teenybopper garbage, and who utterly refuses to listen to anything else with any sympathy, I know from what I'm talking about. My own flesh and blood, for all love!)

Now, you will answer me back, Must I like all music that is original, skillfully composed, and played well? Must I dislike all music that is unoriginal, cliched, or incompetently performed?

Of course not! Chopin, to grab an example out of the air, does nothing for me. And I love the Shaggs. I freely grant that there is a highly emotional (that is, subjective) component to one's admiration or disregard for a particular music: William Hung rocked! But not because he was a good singer by any empirical measurement. We judge music by many criteria that have nothing to do with music -- such as the artist's attractiveness, political stance, sense of humor, and so forth. I'd urge everyone to try to strip away those nonmusical criteria before getting into arguments about taste. Most of the arguments will stop exactly at that point at which you decide what you're *really* arguing about.

Here's the crux of the biscuit: Because I've made a lifelong study of it (a casual one, to be sure), I know enough about music to recognize the qualities in Chopin's music that make others regard his works highly. We can't argue about Chopin's lack of emotional appeal to me personally, but we can judge such quantifiable things as compositional excellence, his place in musical history, and the skill it takes to perform his music well -- if we have in common the language to express it. Otherwise, it's "Chopin sucks/No he doesn't."

It would be very wrong of me to say "If you like Chopin, you've got bad taste." That's a pointless subjective judgment. But it would be equally wrong to, say, give a good review of an incompetent performance of a Nocturne because the pianist has a nice ass.

("Anna Maria de la Callipygia's performance of Etude op.10 in C Major at Alice Tully Hall was only slightly marred by the performer's audible breaking of wind, the omission of three entire pages of music (accompanied by a 45-second pause to "find [her] place again") and her incessant singing along at the top of her voice in what appeared to be adenoidal Medieval French. But great googly-moogly, the caboose on that honey! Hommina-hommina-hommina A-WOOOOO!")

I loathe the often-cited maxim "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." It is absolute fucking balderdash -- and a cowardly surrender. With the proper vocabulary, a great deal of careful thought, and a refusal to resort to distracting metaphor, music can be described and criticized accurately and well.

25 comments:

elmo balderdash said...

Your comments about Chopin remind me of what I've been saying a lot lately, which is that I have become less and less likely to say a musician/artist is bad, and more likely to say merely that I don't like them.

There are plenty of musicians whose talent is undeniable, yet I simply dislike them. So I think it is absolutely possible to say a piece of music or a musician is good or bad independent of your own musical taste. (My case in point is Prince. Can't stand him. But he clearly is talented and influential.)

Anonymous said...

Ned, the cultural relativists will have your butt. Sophisticated culture is hard work? Talent matters, and so does putting in the time? What?

In honor of the late Kurt Vonnegut, let's reread "Harrison Bergeron," a portrait of a future where everyone is equal -- strong people walk around with heavy weights, clever people have sonic blasts every 30 seconds to break their concentration, etc.

Very Politically Incorrect these days, when "average" is a positive quality in our president.

Anonymous said...

HAD HEROINS SORROW:

"Many (but of course not all) qualities by which we judge music have a certain measure of objectivity. These include, but are not limited to, originality, compositional excellence, and skill in execution."

I would propose that any analysis of the originality of a given piece of music is nothing more than conventional linguistic subjectivity. To have acquired the language necessary to skillfully analyze and compose criticism is to assimilate to the extant linguistic convention. All languages have judgmental bias to their historical origins.

Whereas great debate often ensues when discussing music(or any other aesthetic), such debate is at its basis, nothing more than statements of subjective approval or disapproval. All of the rest is merely an attempt at self-explanation.

blue girl said...

Technically-speaking, subjectively-speaking and without a hint of criticism whatsoever, I say...I love you, Jeddie Ningo in that bloggy kind of way.

Neddie said...

HAD HEROINS SORROW

What a fascinating anagram.

You have the advantage of me, sir or madame...

I would propose that any analysis of the originality of a given piece of music is nothing more than conventional linguistic subjectivity.

What's subjective about "these notes have never been put together in this particular way before"?

Let me give you an example of what I mean. I lament that I don't have the book here -- it's at the office -- but in The Real Frank Zappa Book, Frank discusses harmonic movement in rock-and-roll. He (quite amusingly) calls the chord progression I-II-V "evil white-people music." It's been done gadzillions of times, in 19th-century hymns and Tin Pan Alley songs and even in rather tasteful jazz.

Frank then goes on to speak admiringly of Brian Wilson turning the convention on its head and using a V-II movement (and dammit, this is where I regret the absence of the book, because I can't remember the song he's talking about).

That's sort of what I meant when I stipulated that musical criticism should eschew metaphor.

The sentence "I like Brian Wilson's use of II-V" has two components: the subjective ("I like") and the very concrete ("II-V"). Unless you want to argue (and I grant that you quite probably could) that the technical words we use to denote musical concepts (in this case, "supertonic" and "dominant," which is what the II and V are shorthand for) are themselves culturally biased, I'd say that the judgment implied in that statement is based on the soundest humanly possible evidence.

It's at least better than "Brian Wilson totally rocks." (Which, of course, he does, but never mind...)

JD said...

I run into this with my children all the time. When I like a novel or film, I like to take it apart and figure out what makes me like it. The kids consider that the equivalent of contemplating my own navel.

Chuck Champion said...

Neddie writes, " ... music can be described and criticized accurately and well." And the proof is in the pudding. Your blog is replete with examples of clear critical writing about what makes music good. For those of us who don't have the critical tools to do so, the examples are sometimes a little, well, detailed. But I stick it out the best I can and try to understand what you're really saying. And it is frequently much more useful than simply writing, "XYZ [or XTC, perhaps] is bitchin' ..." Thanks, Neddie.

Neddie said...

[Amused laughter] Anonymous 1, meet Anonymous 2! You two have it out in the lobby...

GlueBirl, Chuck: Thank you very much, from the heart of my bottom. Your kind words are a balm to my weary soul.

Chuck, in particular: Grab a guitar and try a few chords. Play along with what I say. It's not really all that complicated, but the jargon is really and truly worth learning. Lovers of painting don't have much problem with "chiaroscuro," "composition" and "brush strokes"; "dominant" and "tonic" are no more difficult concepts to master.

Simon said...

Great post Neddie. I'm composing a (probably uninteresting) reponse for Chalkhills, but as an aside I'd like to say that I believe the majority of people are simply uneducated, opinionated fucktards.

Bands either Suck or Rock. You can't possibly have put thought and reason into disliking someone - you're just a 'hater'.

I'd like to point your attention to this truly woeful article on the state of the 'Album', that I honestly thought was some kind of Onion-style parody at first.

Some highlights:

“What downloading allows you to do is create your own collection of songs,” says Katz. “I wouldn’t call them `albums.’ I’d call them a mix. We can create our own collection of songs that have meaning to us. And that’s an interesting development.”

Janelle Gleeson, 15, Junior Fucktard.

Pssst Janelle, back in those primitive days when we only had vinyl and cassette tapes, I'd put all my favourite singles onto one tape, hence the term 'Mixtape'. I didn't need a computer or mp3s to do it, and i was under no delusion that it was anything more than my favourite songs dubbed onto cassette.

Christian Kiefer, 35, still swears by albums. As a singer-songwriter with a literary bent, releasing singles simply won’t do for this Sacramento-area artist. He’s working on a three-album project with songs inspired by the 43 presidents of the United States, and his next album is a musical narrative about economics, complete with a bibliography in the academic world’s MLA writing format.

That would be Christian Kiefer, 35, Pretentious Fucktard. Wonders why albums are becoming irrelevant by single-handedly delivery both deliberately obscure music, as well as offering woefully derivative imitation, (do you think he's heard of Sufjan Stevens by any chance?)

“In my case, it’s never the hit that gets you,” says Kiefer. “The Stooges’ Fun House, you’ve got to listen to that all the way through to `11’ to really understand the Detroit mayhem raining down on your head.”

Christian Kiefer again.
'Cooler-than-thou' Hipster Fucktard. Spends more time name-dropping bands than actually listening to them.

“I still buy CDs because if you just buy the hit songs off iTunes, you miss out on all the great songs that aren’t released as singles,” says Natalie Offenbecher, 17, a junior at Folsom High School. “Most of the time, I buy a CD after hearing a single on the radio and then I end up liking another song even more.”

Natalie Offenbecher, 17, No-Shit-Sherlock Painfully-Obvious Fucktard. You know Natalie, maybe there's, like, another cd you might, y'know, buy that has another, like, roooly kewl song on it.

“Right now, the album isn’t about 10 songs: it’s about the artist,” says Smith, who’s worked on recording sessions with guitarist Joe Satriani and the hip-hop group D12. “It’s about what they’re doing with their videos, what they’re doing on tour, what they’re doing with their social causes. I’ve always believed the next Sgt. Pepper will be a multimedia event. People are figuring out there are other ways to promote their artistry.”

Producer 'No First Name' Smith, Brutally Honest Fucktard who knows that the music his clients are recording is obviously their least interesting aspect and the general public needs all the distractions they can throw at them to hide this fact.

Like I said, the public are uneducated, opinionated fucktards. There's no hope or place for criticism anymore.

Kevin Wolf said...

Neddie, we've both previously posted on the whole good/bad music argument. You, of course, do so and make some sort of sense. Even when your stuff goes over my head, I still learn much from and I admire your writing. (I say this as guy who was listening to Chopin just the other day.)

Thanks for explaining II-V. I'd suggest, for benefit of those like me with no knowledge of this stuff, that quick asides every once in a while would go a long way toward illuminating these muscial basics. (Though I have a small musical catechism somewhere that I really must locate.)

I do try, when posting on music, to go beyond "like it" or "hate it" and you provide excellent examples of how to do so.

Will Divide said...

Hmmm. . .

"If it sounds good, it is good." -- Duke Ellington

Music, once it became abstracted from every hour of the day, or action of a people (in many "primitive" societies everyone sang a variety of songs all day long, and then sang themselves to sleep.), that is, once musical performance became a separate event prepared by specialists (J.S. Bach, meet Charlie Patton) we then, inevetably, get questions regarding good and bad.

The Muzak version of You've Got to Hide Your Love Away is nowhere, man, near as good as the Beatles' own, but some would prefer it precisely for that reason (the social reassurance, say, inherent in a homoginized orchestration.)

We have then two modes of Good, one for anyone with the care and understanding to learn about, even feel, aspects of music, and one which acts directly upon the needs of the listening, thirsty soul, the weaknesses and flaws of which will often find at least temporary refreshment in some pretty meager material (somewhere Lawrence Welk smiles benignly.)

Most people can apprehend both modes of Good, to varying degrees, that is, for example, dig Brian Wilson while Dave Matthews explains the Universe to them, or for that matter swallow the Grateful Dead in its slack and sloppy entirety. (While a Zappa/Dave Matthews fan may be a catagorical impossibility, there is probably one somewhere.)

Luckily, this is a dynamic equation. People with their ears open will change. Last month I gave a friend a disk with a lot of strange early country and blues songs on it. When his teenage kids heard him playing it they said "What's this stuff??" When he came home from work a few days later, he said, they were listening to it while doing their homework.

david said...

it's all about having open ears. i'll listen to just about any genre, why would i want to limit myself? some of what i listen to is inarguably technically, musically brilliant and some is complete and utter dreck but for whatever reason it moves me.
i've been listening to the mp3 player on the daily bus ride with my 4 year old lately. i put the player on random shuffle and if he doesn't like something i'll skip to the next track. last week some Husker Du came on and i pulled off half my headphones to ask him if he wanted me to skip to something less noisy. his response? "TURN IT UP!!" i was so proud.

cleek said...

i often go out of my way to avoid thinking about how songs i like are constructed because i enjoy the illusion that a piece is greater than the sum of its parts: it's all about the gestalt, man. i don't want to break it down because i'm worried it'll take the magic away.

cooking is like that. once you learn how easy it is to make really good ribs, getting ribs at a BBQ place instead of making your own is just a matter of convenience. you know you can make ribs as good as those any time you want (given 12 hours of prep).

I know enough about music to recognize the qualities in Chopin's music that make others regard his works highly

right. same here, Chopin is one of those artists I know i'm supposed to like, but don't. and that's kindof the opposite of the above: i know i'm supposed to like Chopin for reasons X,Y and Z, but i can't get into his stuff because the gestalt isn't doing it for me.

and that's probably related to why i have a hard time getting into bands that people recommend to me - knowing i'm supposed to think they're good makes me look for reasons to like them instead of giving them an open-minded shot at impressing me.

gack. i need help. :)

OutOfContext said...

You can dance about architecture. The dance can never be architecture, but it can illuminate and inform. Writing or talking about music can never be more than illumination or guidance, if you will. There is a place for that and well done (I am new to your site, but I have learned a lot from other bloggers like Patrick Crosley) critical writing can deepen and expand one's appreciation, open one to new experience in music and that's why I like to read it. The "good or bad" is fine technically, but not real relevant to my musical taste. It's not going to change the fact that I like Satie, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Nick Drake or Johnny Mercer. It may get me to take a second or third listen to something which does not affect me strongly the first time I hear it.
And speaking as a cultural relativist, I have no interest in your butt.

Devil's Rancher said...

Wasn't it Mark Twain who noted that "John Phillip Sousa's music was better than it sounds?"

Here's the crux of the biscuit:

I'd just like to take this moment to thank Frank Zappa for this phrase, which now seems to be a permanently ensconced in the lexicon. Wherever he is.

Will Divide said...

As we apostrophize Zappa, note that Twain made that crack about Wagner. I'm not sure he was right, either.

Neddie said...

As we apostrophize Zappa

Smatterings of admiring salon applause, Will!

J. D. Mack said...

Neddie,

The original statement being discussed in your blog is "There is no 'right' or 'wrong' to questions of musical taste." Later, in your blog, you write, "I freely grant that there is a highly emotional (that is, subjective) component to one's admiration or disregard for a particular music." It seems to me that you actually agree with the poster from Chalkhills. The question of whether or not the words "good" and "bad" can be applied to music is a different question altogether from the one being suggested. That said, I have to ask you - are The Shaggs "good?" If the answer is "no," then you admit that it's OK to like "bad" music, and again, you are in agreement with the poster from Chalkhills. If the answer is "yes," then the criteria by which you judge music to be "good" or "bad" becomes uniquely your own, and is not,as you wrote, "outside [your] subjectivity.

Neddie said...

are The Shaggs "good?" If the answer is "no," then you admit that it's OK to like "bad" music

Let's separate music and presentation -- that is, what you hear from what you see. That's really the point I'm after.

Of course, The Shaggs were awful musicians, but I like them precisely, because they were awful musicians and plowed ahead with it anyway. I don't like their music, which sounds like Fibber McGee's closet opening. (What, too antique?) But I like them for who they were rather than what they played.

Hence, my point about a piano player with a nice ass.

You're right that I was tacitly agreeing with Ryan, but I was objecting to the criteria that people apply when determining whether some music does or doesn't agree with their taste.

Neddie said...

Sorry, forgot to add:

I don't want to sound like an old crank (I much prefer to sound like a young crank -- about 26, I think, but with more money) but I think popular music really started to degrade in quality with the advent of MTV. Thats when what you see became much more important than what you hear.

Simon said...

Sorry for the length of this rant.

MTV seems to be a popular target for this kind of thinking, but to me I always thought appearance was always a huge part of music. People were concerned with images and gimmicks in place of musical ability far before the birth of MTV, and televised images of rock stars were a *HUGE* part of Australian / English culture in the 70’s with shows like ‘Countdown’ and ‘Top Of The Pops’.

The reason for the huge commercial successes of ‘Abba’ (as early as dreck such as ‘I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do’) and ‘Blondie’ (‘In The Flesh’) in Australia, long before their worldwide popularity, was purely down to their visual appeal: fap-worthy blondes. The huge teen scream popularity of Bolan and Bowie in England was due to their TOTP appearances.

Down in Australia we had bands like ‘Skyhooks’, check the video for the worst band image you’ll ever see.

Or Split Enz, who were hugely popular here but had toned down their images and costumes by the time of their later American success.

I think it was possible to maintain visual interest and quality music. I really point the finger of blame for the decline of music at the English Punk Revolution, which opened the door to the idea that ‘anyone can do it – talent not necessary’.

Whilst American music retained standards of professionalism through the 80’s, (even awful crud like Mr. Mister, Richard Marx and Huey Lewis was well-recorded, professionally-played crud), in England, the DIY ethic took hold to disastrous results, especially once affordable synthesizers reached the hand of the masses.

Nothing to do? Form a band with your friends! Can’t play instruments? Doesn’t matter? Can’t sing? Who cares? I’ve mentioned Haysi Fantaysee before as being particularly horrible, (someone actually cared enough to have their videos removed from Youtube for access violations???), but there was much more of that kind of crap out there. Once upon a time a talentless girl would just become a checkout chick, now she’d become a pop star in England.

Evidence:

The Quick – Hip Shake Jerk

My sister and I watched that on Countdown in a combination of horror and awe in 1981. We'd never seen a synth duo before and laughed that they obvious didn't have enough friends to form a 'real band'.

Belle Stars – The Clapping Song

No talent, no charisma, no songwriting ability.

Toto Coelo – Milk From The Coconut

No hook, no melody, no talent - they're not even photogenic. Belive it or not, their debut album was padded out with a 5 minute reprise of this horror called 'Milk From The Coconut Pt2'.

We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It – Rules And Regulations

Bragged to the music press that they couldn't play their instruments and couldn't sing, yet still expected people to pay full price for their record.

Bananarama – It Ain’t What You Do

The girls are ghosts in their own song. It took the three of them singing in unison to put across such a weedy, uninvolved vocal?

This punk affect finally broke through commercially in the US via the mutated form of ‘grunge’ in the early nineties. Same DIY ethic, same sneering at musicianship, same contempt at the idea of ‘entertaining’ an audience, same idea as star as mundane peer rather than object of unattainable aspiration. This leads us directly to the current ‘anyone can be famous’mindest of ‘American Idol’ and the ‘nobody tries too hard lest is seems like pandering’ contempt of current american indie. (If I hear one more half moaned vocal backed by a clumsily played ukulele I’ll rip my eyes out).

Basically, if we don’t have realistic standards of who can and who can’t make music, and reward untalented artists, then all music suffers. Musicians and singers need to be the people we wish we were, creating the kind of music Anyone Can’t Do.

apostrophe said...

"One of the most exciting things that ever happened in the world of 'white person music' was when the Beach Boys used the progression V-II on 'Little Deuce Coupe'. An important step by going backward forward."

Frank Zappa, Page 187, "The Real Frank Zappa Book".

Neddie, it's my pleasure.

cleek said...

This punk affect finally broke through commercially in the US via the mutated form of ‘grunge’ in the early nineties. Same DIY ethic, same sneering at musicianship, same contempt at the idea of ‘entertaining’ an audience, same idea as star as mundane peer rather than object of unattainable aspiration.

grunge was a middle finger to overproduced, overwrought, overplayed (musically), worn-thin hair metal.

there were, in grunge as in all genres, musicians with varying degrees of songwriting ability, degrees of musicianship, different ideas about performance, etc.. Nirvana wrote some songs that i'd be happy putting next to anything by the Great Rock Idols Of Yesteryear; Soundgarden was full of musicians who are technically as good as anyone needs to be; and, as far as entertaining an audience: a large part of the 'entertainment' was watching people who weren't spandex-clad, dolled-up like Hollywood hookers and doing synchronized RockStar stage moves - it was more accessible, more down-to-earth and low-rent. it was a style as defined as any.

Basically, if we don’t have realistic standards of who can and who can’t make music, and reward untalented artists, then all music suffers.

No.

enforcing "standards of who can and who can’t make music" is a surefire way to ensure that everything sounds like the stuff the enforcers grew up with. luckily, kids never play along with ideas like that, and music keeps moving forward.

Simon said...

enforcing "standards of who can and who can’t make music" is a surefire way to ensure that everything sounds like the stuff the enforcers grew up with. luckily, kids never play along with ideas like that, and music keeps moving forward.

No.

This is the importance of being an informed listener, to be able to look past the hype that critics throw in your face, and to not just parrot their 'talking points'.

With the power in the hands of those pesky kids, all we seem to end up is watered-down, far inferior copies of bands from the past. This is why current music frustrates me so much, because I've simply heard what the bands are attempting before, and I've heard it done far better.

Why listen to Blur when you can listen to the Kinks? Why listen to the Killers when you can listen to Springsteen? Even U2 seemed to realise they were competing with themselves and took an artistic step backwards towards aping their own 80's sound.

grunge was a middle finger to overproduced, overwrought, overplayed (musically), worn-thin hair metal.

You've bought hook, line and sinker the myth that Grunge was some kind of mystic rebellion against 'hair metal', when those boring old bands like 'Kiss' and 'Def Leppard' are still around and still popular. Hell, it's 2007 and people are actually still excited about 'Guns And Roses' putting out a new album and their offshoot 'Velvet Revolver' are commercially successful.

It was a bullshit, commercial revolution that simply meant Kmart sold 'grunge wear', there was a 'grunge' section in your local record store and radio quickly made a grunge formats. It was categorised and commodified with record speed.

The irony of grunge is that this 'groundbreaking music' wasn't original to an older listener, it was simply a messier-mixed retread of the pre-punk 70's dinosaur bands like Led Zepplin that Punk similarly claimed it killed off, which leads to the odd situation where your 'hair metal' claim sounds like a bad cover version of their claims.

With any movement, i'm not signalling out the leaders, which i'll refer to in a moment, but all the dreck that is dragged along with it and held up as groundbreaking by associating. I'm speaking of your Dinosaur Jrs, your Lemonheads, your Juliana Hatfields, your Butthole Surfers. Bands who simply have poor songwriting and performance skills and would never have stood a chance normally.

The audience was still looking for well-played, well-written music with a tune they could sing along too. There's a reason why so many grunge artists failed to make any lasting impact on the music scene, they simply had no talent at songwriting, and the audience recognised that.

The bands that were successful during this period? They exactly prove my point. Soundgarden could play their instruments professionally. Their biggest hit, 'Black Hole Sun', was a nod at the Beatles, had professional playing, and had a strong melody.

Smashing Pumpkins - strong melodies, (at least, initially), professional playing.

Pearl Jam - strong melodies, professional playing.

See the pattern here? The commercially successful bands of grunge still met the same standards of musicianship for who and who can't make music i was talking about.

Nirvana wrote some songs that i'd be happy putting next to anything by the Great Rock Idols Of Yesteryear.

Nirvana bored me, since though people claimed they were incredibly melodic, (once again pointing out that listeners are attracted to strong melodies), i found their songs simple to the point of irritation.

Let's look at 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', supposedly the most important song of my generation:

Load up on guns, bring your friends

Simple motif.

It's fun to lose and to pretend

Same motif, transposed down.

Repeat.

Hello, hello, hello, hello

Simple two note ping ponging, slight descent on final 'hello'.

Repeat three more times.

With the lights out

3 of these notes are the same, slight step down on 'out'.

it's less dangerous

Same again, transposed.

Repeat 6 more times.

As you can see, there's only really 6 bars of 'melody' in 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', and only 2 bars of it is complex enough that i'd actually consider it a real melody.

By comparison, my sister wrote her first song at 10 years old, which had 16 bars of melody, which involved intervals of 4ths, 5ths and 6ths, not the simple whole tone and 2nd steps of 'Teen Spirit'.

Don't get me started on the 'lyrics'.

It's not a song of revolution, it's simply a popular hit. You could play it at a dance and the same number of people would dance to it, even if you preceeded it with 'U Can't Touch This' by MC Hammer and followed it with 'The Birdie Dance'.

cleek said...

This is the importance of being an informed listener

elitism is boring.

to be able to look past the hype that critics throw in your face, and to not just parrot their 'talking points'.

oh deary. and then you go on and on and on to tell me exactly what's to like and what not to like about music. and how this band sucks, and what these bands did right. you're every bit the critic as those you're deriding.

and then you presume to know how it is i approach music. oy.

It was a bullshit, commercial revolution that simply meant Kmart sold 'grunge wear'

yes, four years after it started, it went mainstream. those of us who enjoyed before it was commoditized share your disgust at what it turned into. in college, my band covered Teen Spirit. when we first started playing it, nobody knew it. then one day, months later, everyone knew it and they couldn't get enough of it. and then it showed up on the cover of Time, and then it was mainstream. and then it was over. and it was inevitable, since everything interesting becomes product, in time. hair metal was interesting once, so was new wave, punk, metal, 70's guitar rock, prog rock, folk music, as well.

things come, things go, they come back with new hairstyles. 80's pop is making a comeback these days with bands like the Shins, the Decembrists, Interpol, etc.. things show up, burn out, get discarded, get recycled. grunge will come back, someday. it'll be a little mutated, but all us fogies will be able to say "goddamn kids. that's just STP with a Japanese chick singer!"

it was simply a messier-mixed retread of the pre-punk 70's dinosaur bands like Led Zepplin that Punk similarly claimed it killed off

grunge was more than that. it was a blend of that pre-hair metal and punk, and the post-punk bands like the Pixies and Sonic Youth, Mission Of Burma, the Vaselines, classic metal - plus their own spin on it. you skipped about 10 years of underground music there. Nirvana called "Smells Like..." a Pixies rip-off. and it is. but it's bigger, louder, more direct than anything the Pixies ever did. it was the Pixies + Black Sabbath.

There's a reason why so many grunge artists failed to make any lasting impact on the music scene, they simply had no talent at songwriting, and the audience recognised that.

clearly, you haven't listened to an "alternative" music station in the past 10 years. there are direct lines from Nirvana to Creed, Nirvana to Blur, Nirvana to Nickleback. personally, i hate those bands because all i hear in them is Nirvana, but they have been hugely popular. and Nirvana brought them and all those bands you mention (Soundgarden, Pumpkins, etc) out of obscurity by making it OK to listen to something besides Poison. that one song - not even their best, IMO - broke down commercial radio's aversion to what was known as "alternative" music at the time - Nirvana, NIN, Soundgarden, STP, Alice In Chains, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, The fucking Flaming Lips (a longshot if ever there was one) showed up on 90210 thanks to Nirvana - and now they're a 'platinum' grade band doing incredible stuff. if that's not revolutionary, nothing is.

i found their songs simple to the point of irritation.

hundreds of millions of people disagree with you. feel free to tell them what to like. tell them why they're wrong to like what they do like. tell them what's valid and what isn't. draw your line on the sand. tell them why your standards should be their standards.