Monday, October 09, 2006

Zeroing in

Now, a week has gone past since Pitchforkmedia reached a new nadir with their "review" of the latest Jet record. While you could probably guess that the "critic" didn't hold the record in very high esteem, it says, since there was no writing, nothing about why he thinks it's analogue to a chimpanzee drinking his own pee. That is not criticism. It's akin to the kind of unelaborated nonsense you spew forth at a bar at 3 in the morning after wayyy to many mojitos. What makes the thing even more strange is that it was posted on the same day as their review of Hold Steady's latest, which is one of the better pieces of writing on their part I've read in a while.

Now, the Jet record isn't very good. It's retro for the sake of retro, and perhaps also for the sake of "authenticity", which is bull, really. To continue the comparison above, the Hold Steady's retro leanings have various effects; it signals place, since the music is very much American; it signals the kind of stories we're about to hear, about seekers, which from Kerouac to ,yes, Springsteen, is an American specialty; it also has a timelessness about it. Plus, the Hold Steady play a heck of a lot better and with more chops than Jet. They could have mentioned something like that, then they would have had something aproaching a review.

In fact, the Jet "review" reminded me of the NME's review of Stereolab's Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night a few years back. At least the critic had taken time to elaborate, somewhat, but the reason why I came to think of it is this: Although it doesn't show on the web page, if I remember correctly, it was graded 0 out of 10. Zero!

I'm gonna drop a bomb now. There are no zero records. Yes, you read correctly. I know I can be a grumpy fella sometimes, but in spite of all the terrible music that has been made out there, zero records I can only find in my imagination (or nightmare, if you will). That grade would only be issued if the music was V&V; Void and vile. Void - of musicality or some form of skill, or of any value and emotion I hold dear; Vile - in the sense that it would uncritically celebrate things I vehemently oppose, such as racism, malevolence, chauvinism, etc. There are many void-records. There are many vile-records. There are very, very few void and vile records. Outside of so-called "white power" music, it's hard to find wholly V&V-records. Guns 'n' Roses came close with this, but even that has moments that aren't half bad. I'm no fan of 2 Live Crew's male chauvinism, either. I don't find their alleged humor very funny. If they'd acknowledged the fact they were "hoes" themselves, I'd be willing to meet them half way. But I do like some of their romping beats, albeit not very much. John Tesh's music can be both void and vile in some ways, but not wholly. Edit: come to think of it, most of the patriotic music recorded post 9/11, mostly by Nashville, scores high in both categories. But I still don't think they were zero records.

In conclusion, there are (hopefully) no zero records. Yet. Plenty of 1's, surely, but no records only worthy of an ape's piss. And if you thought so, I'd appreciate if you explained why.

2 comments:

bradluen said...

But what good is a rating system if you don't use the whole scale? A basement grade doesn't mean there's absolutely no merit; instead, it's a statement that whatever merit exists is dwarfed by offensiveness of some kind. Only thing is: you'd better be able to bring the moral outrage, or else you'll look like you're throwing a hissy fit. That's why Pitchfork's 0.0 for NYC Ghosts & Flowers is unforgivable - it's just the writer trying to put himself over - whereas their 0.0 for Liz Phair is merely Philistine.

That Hold Steady review is good though.

Chris Monsen said...

I guess that's why I have problems with the zero grade: that those who have used it did not wholly justify it, hence my claiming there are no zero records. But I do agree with you, the zero grade is there and can be used, but you have to be able to, like you said, bring the moral outrage.

Thanx for the comment.

C

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