Thursday, September 29, 2005

More on J. Freedom Du Lac

Meet WahPo's newest staff writer, I mean music critic...

Here's an unintentionally funny hagio-piece from either The Washingtonian or Washington or whatever welcoming the Post's newest "music critic" J. Freedom Du Lac who covered Sufjan Stevens show this past week:

Post Catching Up to Times
in Battle of Classic Bylines

When it comes to the best bylines, the New York Times has always trumped the Washington Post.

How could the Post compete with Fox Butterfield? Or with Gina Kolata, a name so good it was adopted by a Brooklyn garage band? How do you beat John Noble Wilford? Or the latest high-profile Times writer, Jennifer 8. Lee?

But in hiring J. Freedom du Lac as its pop-music critic, the Post has scored points.

“I kick Jenn 8. Lee’s ass,” he says.

Actually you kick Richard Harrington's sad old ass but that ain't saying much.

The J is for Josh. “Freedom,” he says, “as in ‘just another word for nothing left to lose.’ ” Janis Joplin’s take on the Kris Kristofferson song was an anthem for his parents, who were San Francisco hippies. Says du Lac: “I was born on Haight Street.” As in Haight-Ashbury.
Oh. Gosh. Instant credibility. I take everything back. Janis Joplin (who's claim to fame is rutting, hoarse-voiced singing and dying sorta young) and Kris Kristofferson (who's claim to fame is rutting, hoarse-voiced singing and starring in Convoy).

And then there's Haight-Ashbury ref - how so very rock and roll. Unfortunately, Haight-Asbury was just a gathering place for phonies (not that J.'s parents are that) and most of the real music of the era came out of Berkely but that's no matter.

... Hippy Cred, maaaan, must be what seals the deal.

Du Lac has the gift of being quick and funny and disarming. His polished head, thick glasses, and semicolon of a beard are both organized and edgy. His age?

“I’m just outside the MTV demographic,” says du Lac, 34. “I have too much of an attention span.”

Real quick and funny. Actually, dude - you ARE the MTV demographic. You grew up at a time when it was not so bad. Most music fans under 34 with at leats 1/4 of a brain wouldn't be caught watching it today. Oh and extra points with the NPR hippies for denigrating those damn yoots of today (wave cane and pull pants up above belly button when you say this).

At Lowell High (famous alum: Pierre Salinger), du Lac wrote for the school paper. At Whittier College (famous alum: Richard Nixon), he studied business and covered sports for the school paper.

After graduating in 1993, he interned at the Sacramento Bee. Soon he was writing features full-time. Then the Bee’s music critic moved on.

“I guess they looked around the room, saw me, and thought, ‘You’re young and stupid and will work for free CDs.’ ” At age 23, Josh du Lac became a music critic.

“I don’t pretend to be a musicologist,” he says. He played some clarinet, drums, and sax and took music theory in college, but making music was not a passion. So how did he prepare for the new job?

“I read biographies and critics like Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs, and Greil Marcus and collections of criticism from Rolling Stone,” he says. “I took in as much music as possible.”

Is it possible to snicker and scream into a pillow at the same time? The long dead Lester Bangs is unable to defend himself but he was no critic except when his arm was twisted or he had to make rent money. But Marsh and Marcus who bookend his "reading list" are the worst possible role models a young man could have. Hi, I'm J. Freedom and I want to be a wash-ed up has-been old fart. I'm sure he "took in as much music as possible", too, what between his head polishing, pizza snarfing and shopping for just the right horned rim glasses.

Am I wrong to think that Freedom must have been promoted to this job over Mark Jenkins -- who merely pens a few WahPo show and record reviews each week for the last 20 years and is the City Paper Music Editor and who has actually listened to most of the bands in the "collections of criticism from Rolling Stone" and a few thousand more that RS never heard of or cares about and knows a ton about the local music scene? While I have my differences with Mr. Jenkins, at least he's paid his dues and even has a book or two under his belt. Mark, I feel for ya baby... (although I'd probably be griping about him had he taken this position and I admit I have no idea whether he wants it or not)

He wrote. And won awards, most recently for “O Diva, Where Art Thou?,” a sendup of Celine Dion for promoting shows and failing to appear.

Du Lac’s journalistic model is hip-hop blogger and journalist Jeff Chang, “an intellectually astounding guy.”

First paragraph. Um. Did they just say you wrote an award winning "sendup" of Celine Dion? Does anyone else your age care?

I won't even insult the underwhelming and "intellectually astounding" (not) Jeff Chang (Gen X's new Dave Marsh V 2.0) by continuing to link this goofballaspiring young writer with him. Oops, I just did.

Du Lac’s taste in music runs from old-school soul (Al Green, Sam Cooke) and classic country (Johnny Cash) to late-’90s hip-hop (Public Enemy, Ice Cube) and the latest indie rock (Bright Eyes).

Du Lac’s “guilty pleasure” is listening to Abba’s box set, especially the cuts in Spanish.

A Swedish band crooning en Español? That’s multicultural.
OK, cool, cool... (although after seeing Conor Oberst live, my rating has plummetted). I'm glad he has admitted to actually liking music. So J. Freedom - you got anything important or "intellectually astounding" to say now that you're at one of the top three papers in the country?

Update: I'll hold judgement and just chalk this up to a very bad Washingtonian (or was it Washington or was it Washington Monthly?) puff piece and take Glenn Coolfer's advice to ease up on Mr. Freedom...


At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Coolfer said...

Ease up on J. He's a friend of mine (which is not reason to ease up on him) and a good music writer (that's the reason). A good writer period.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Jim H said...

For you Coolfer, anything.


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