So what that I started with jar of Trader Joe’s pesto and gluten free fusselli or fussili or fusillli…. that pasta that ooops, Seinfeld or someone accidentally fell on with his butt. yeah, right? anyway, after a slash of Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, some recently discovered but tough as leather sundried tomatoes, a diced up slice of fresh vine ripened tomater, then some minced up slices of fresh jalapeno all on top of some rinsed cannelloni beans… yummy. fibrous and hearty. but something’s missing. hazelnut oil! shhhh, my secret. of course pesto always had nuts in it… why not amp that up with some hazelnut oil? oooo, that’s what makes all of those pedestrian ingredients turn sparklingly… . . delish. mmmmmmmm
I don’t know why, six months after the fact, I’m thinking about an internship for which I interviewed but didn’t get. I’d much rather munch on this fiery plate of pad bin gagao… The truth is that I’m glad I took the class I would’ve dropped had I scored the position. Also, I’m glad I didn’t wind up writing for an editor who didn’t choose me because I’m not as big a fan as the other candidate. Yup, a fan. Never mind writing skills. Never mind a broad musical knowledge. Never mind a discerning ear. I lost out because I wasn’t as big a fan, and that right there could be why music journalism is become the arena for rah-rah milquetoast that it is.
If this is the prevailing attitude among editors, then is it any wonder that music mags that I once devoured have become regurgitation of hype sheets? Only on a one sheet does the artist’s shit never stink, but fewer mags are publishing content that wades into the sewery muck that characterizes classic music criticism. I can only imagine Lester Bangs issuing forth on today’s writers, “Cocksuckers!! The lot of them!”
As legendarily uncharming as Bangs could be, his prose endures. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung remains a classic collection of robo and amphetamine fueled reasoning and rants about the best and the worst of rock n’ roll. It wasn’t pretty, but damn, was it ever fun!
Even more ugly were the surgically snarly blurbs in David T. Lindsay’s Music Menu column that ran in Atlanta’s Creative Loafing during the 80s and 90s. From where I am on the other side of the world firm sweet Georgia, I can’t dish up examples, but far more often than not, if he hated the band, I hated it, too. His taste was so totally discerning, even if he expressed it it such a manner as to incur a weekly barrage of death threats on his answering machine. The thing is that I knew what he liked and what he didn’t like, and this was all I needed to decide on who to go see each weekend. He had a point of view, a commodity too damn rare in modern music writing.
Nearly twenty years after David T left that gig, I find myself losing out on another because I’m not a fan. What a cancerous quality to require of a writer. Fans love blindly. Fans cannot except that their idols can make a bad record. Fans shiver in excitement over the most mediocre efforts because they are star struck. That, my friends, is anathema to substantive critical thought. If this is the criteria that editors use to evaluate new writers, the music press has just stabbed the likes of Lester Bangs right through the heart.
Fans are kiss ass. Fans are pushovers. And fans are killing music journalism.
So…. anyone out there looking for cranky prose? I’m yer gal!
On MLK’s birthday here in Australia, I’m interviewing the people of Parkes about Elvis, and I’m fascinated by how many folks cite some Elvis relationship with MLK as evidence of how much Elvis did “for the races.” This narrative is a bit contrary to what I know. Must research… Thinking that I need to comb through Taylor Branch and Peter Guralnick, and especially Michael Bertrand. Meanwhile, does anyone have any insights?