Friday, July 08, 2005

Lit Star Rock Writing, Bloggers Smacked Down

Jason Cherkis executes a somewhat deft smackdown of all the bad rock writing out there these days. (I dont know how long this link will be active.)

Some choice quotage:

On "Douchetarded" Rick Moody's fatuous Sleater-Kinney bio:

Moody’s lines slap at you like annoying, wet children blubbering for attention. You can swat kids away. But you can’t get rid of Moody’s rockist clichés so easily; they’re so rampant as to suggest a fetish. Two sentences in, he tries to prove the significance of Corin Tucker’s wail by giving us…Patti Smith.

As Moody tells it, “At first, it appeared that the weaponry, the system, the strategy, consisted of a lead singer who had an uncanny urgency to her voice, more so than anyone since Patti Smith, enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”

Please, not Patti. And please, not the hair-on-the-neck thing. Moody goes on to describe not a band but a classic-rock mash-up. The bio amounts to an EMP exhibit of Rolling Stone–isms. Document-era Peter Buck, take a bow. Nod your crusty heads, Mr. Garcia and Mr. Page.

McSweeney's and Bloggers are blown down within mere paragraphs:

Take that column inspired by Songbook—a soggy thing that would’ve been better left unread on the IKEA coffee table. Of the 41 entries produced over the past three years, 14 invoke listening to a song in a car, 12 are dipped in heavy nostalgia, nine reference college or grad school, eight mention crying upon hearing a song’s beauty, and one begins, “In a linguistics class, I learned…” One links listening to Belle & Sebastian with feeling empathy for African-American slaves—“[n]ot to stretch an analogy.” One is a “dedication to Billy Corgan on his 37th Birthday.”

Aside from the narcissistic prose, these authors share with Eggers a lack of desire to engage with any culture outside their own alt-pop, college-rock, new-folk, Time-Life-classics orbit. In a recent Dusted feature, Moody praised the Roots’ Phrenology thus: “I know this isn’t their most recent album, The Tipping Point, but that album has too much drum machine on it. I dislike drum machines. In fact, I am resistant to most hip-hop, because I like melody.”

Melody—specifically, hemp-clothed melody—is in abundance in the new music issue of The Believer, McSweeney’s less quirky, famously snark-free sibling. The issue came with a CD that featured bands that not only sound similar but also dress out of the same closet, listen to the same music, and smoke the same shit. Inside, Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein interviews Karen O and Moody confesses a love for outsider Christian folkies the Danielson Famile—and, of course, his own record collection: Beefheart, Tony Conrad, and “the most experimental David Grubbs.”

Moody, though, is a much better writer than the average blogger or Webzine contributor, a clutch of whom have dubbed the author “douchetarded.” The future of rock criticism may indeed be online, but the writing is still made by a thousand Baby Bangses. Especially at sites like Pitchfork, which presents its inimitable pastiche of gushing, snarky, and ill-wrought five days a week.

Singled out for praise, besides Pitchfork, is The New Yorker of all places:

We’re left with this sad fact: The only high-profile rock criticism consistently worth reading can be found in a magazine whose mascot is a fop looking at a butterfly through a monocle. The New Yorker published a Lethem memoir about listening to Brian Eno that offered more insight into its subject than any of his so-called criticism. And the magazine respects in-house rock critic Sasha Frere-Jones enough to give him room to write long. He’s allowed to follow his ear, covering everything from semi-obscure grime to MF Doom to Keren Ann, all of which he’s required to make accessible to an audience that’s probably more likely to buy The Mussorgsky Reader than any book about Wilco.

Even better, he doesn’t blow a big word-count on recollections of high-school dances or dedications to Billy Corgan on his birthday. He’s become one of the most thoughtful rock commentators around—and he’s never even written a novel.


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