April 15, 2012
This is King Charles. This is really good music. And I think that's all that really needs to be said about it. Listen to it.
As I get further and further into this music criticism thing, I realize how contrived a lot of it is. Take for instance Robert Christgau the so-called "Dean of Rock Critics." Here's a guy who was the pioneer of music criticism, invented capsule reviews etc etc and laid the foundation for people like me to try and take a crack at what I really love to do. But what I have to ask is, is that type of criticism the best? Or at the very least could there be other avenues to explore?
For instance, take King Charles up above there. I could talk until I was blue in the face about his influences, what genre of music it is, how his musical background affects the sound, how the obvious kitsch could be an ironic take on the scene but I think that's missing the point. Sure it's easy to categorize music and continue dividing it smaller and smaller until nothing is original anymore but mere repetitions on the same idea or imitations of the originator. But the point is that the music is good. That at this point in musical history it takes some cajones for a musician to come along with an image that ridiculous, and a persona that extravagant and be completely serious in making music that's silly and also good. It feels like every new band that is up and coming is a rip off of the one that came before. Rock music gets boiled down to garage rock, slightly different arrangements and in nearly every one the singer's voice is hidden behind fuzzed out distortion. That's what's cool, that's in right now. No real emotion, just a whole lot of clever wordplay and the cliche rockstar persona, it's boring. So on the other end of the spectrum you get this:
From all outward appearances this kind of thing has been done to death. Oh here's one guy with an acoustic guitar singing over it. But there's something intangible about Ben Howard. Pitchfork will never like it because it's not necessarily new or innovative but it's beautiful and it's heartfelt. And that's kinda where the conversation should end.
I mean there are people who treat music like a science, or math. Take this kind of rhythm, add filters, layer this instrument here, vocals over the top and there you go, music. And that works for some people. The music can be interesting and they can digest it and put it together like a puzzle and that's pleasurable to them. But that's completely different than the way I think it ought to be. I guess it comes from my background with it or whatever, but I honestly think it's not good unless it makes you feel something. Unless you see the band and you can completely lose yourself in waves of ecstasy and emotion (not just the drugs). Or unless the music can get you through rough times, or be your anthem of triumph or work as a soundtrack for any part of your life, it's just not good.
I really think there is this schism in music and I think it comes from the divide between Jazz and Blues. I think that's the problem in its quintessence. On one hand you have the complicated rhythms and time signatures, notes that clash and come together in sometimes pleasing sometimes cringe inducing ways and some people love that. I honestly can appreciate it for what it is, dissect it, look for influence and all that but on the other hand you have music like this:
And 99 times out of 100 I'm going to listen to music like that instead. Because it uses simple chords, simple melodies to get across something that's something so much larger than a guy playing a piano. It's music like this that gets people to come together. It makes them forget all the day to day (pardon the french) shit that they have to put up with. All the well-intentioned how are you's and nice weather we're having's and just that surface level garbage. It's not a rat race when you listen to music that means something, that stands for something. You're able to appreciate the fact that you're alive, that the world is beautiful and the characters you share it with are more than just faces you recognize.
I guess that's what has always drawn me to the punk scene. You can't really fake that. Some people try and it doesn't float, ever. It's just heart on sleeve admissions and throat shredding yelling aimed at the corrupt bourgeoisie that are making the world such a hellhole. And more than that its a type of music designed to make people see that they are all on the same side. Regardless of creed, religion, ethnicity or sex, we are all after the same things in life and I don't think jazz, or music based like that can communicate that sentiment.
I just hope that as I get deeper and deeper into this industry, I don't ever lose sight of the feeling. I don't become numb and jaded. I hope that I will always be able to relish unbridled passion and expression because I think that's what we are going to need more of in the years to come.