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Apparently Conservatism Isn’t the New Punk Rock After All

with 2 comments

Man, where the fuck is Kelefa Sanneh when you actually need him?

Digitization has democratized the processes of musical composition and recording, beckoning the masses to participate in once rarefied and expensive art forms.

To be an artist was once to be elite by definition. Artistic mastery which the public revered (and, if you were lucky, payed for), was obtainable only through years of sacrifice, study, and struggle. This arduous and uncertain life had the glorious effect of weeding out all but the most dedicated and talented from the artistic professions.

No more. Today, the technology to create and compose music has become idiot proof and dirt cheap – the gates have been thrown open, and the hordes have rushed in. As a result, the quantity of music has risen to choke the fiber cables and wi-fi networks encircling the globe, just as the quality has suffered a corresponding and predictable degradation.

Everyone has heard some variation of the “Is punk dead?” argument, but I’m inclined to believe that, as long as there are people out there getting paid to write this kind of thing, punk rock still has an important job to do.  This post just makes me want to quote a bunch of Crass lyrics or something and call it a day.

 Guitar Hero and its ilk are truly insidious. They simulate the rewards of musical artistry without the gamer having to acquire or display any actual skill.

Which begs the question: Are there any teenagers these days, sitting on the edge of their bed with real guitars, for eight or ten hours straight, learning, jamming, playing along with records, as Eddie Van Halen once described his childhood? Not likely. Learning to master the guitar is hard. Why bother, when a virtual, screaming audience already awaits you in your living room? Unfortunately for the health and future of Rock & Roll, it is the few exceptionally talented musicians like Mr. Van Halen who elevate the form to high art and inspire others to the cause.

In MY day, Eddie Van Halen had to walk 12 miles, in the snow, UPHILL to sign his record contract.

Does Patterson not see the contradiction here?  First he argues that the process of making and recording music has gotten too cheap, so now everyone is doing it, and music sucks as a consequence.  Then he argues that, thanks to Guitar Hero, not enough people are taking up real guitars. 

Next he scolds us for not appreciating some shitty late-era U2 album:

Case in point – the new U2 album, “No Line On the Horizon,” was leaked online before its release on March 2. In response, the band decided to stream the entire album for free on their website before it was available for purchase.

Bad idea. According to the Times Online, “The band’s decision to allow fans to stream “No Line”…may have backfired,” Many U2 fans sampled tracks for free online, and, unimpressed, decided against purchasing, suppressing the album’s crucial initial sales.

These fans have thus cheated themselves out of a remarkable sonic experience, and the band helped them to do so. For “No Line” is not the kind of work whose rewards are immediately apparent – it is a dense, layered, and challenging album, whose pleasures are subtle but many for the patient and attentive listener.

Sadly, because “No Line” was available free online, people treated it like they treat all free things – essentially worthless (see: the Tragedy of the Commons).

OK, first of all, streaming something for a week is not the same as giving it away for free.  Second, this album met with a resounding popular and critical “Meh,” and Patterson has the nerve to sit there and call us all philistines for not appreciating its “dense” and “challenging” album?  

It’s all well and good that Patterson is a fanboy apologist wank who will like anything Bono, from his “rarefied” position, sees fit to bestow him.  He can listen to whatever albums he wants.  But to act like he’s the only one smart enough to get it?  I’ve got my issues with the poptimists, but I seriously hope Sasha Frere-Jones pistol whips this guy.

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Written by dieblucasdie

April 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm

2 Responses

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  1. “Does Patterson not see the contradiction here? First he argues that the process of making and recording music has gotten too cheap, so now everyone is doing it, and music sucks as a consequence. Then he argues that, thanks to Guitar Hero, not enough people are taking up real guitars.”

    Patterson’s point is not that because creating music is easy people are not working it at like they did in the good old days.

    Though, to be fair, he misses the fact that more entry level music does not preclude more top level music.

    He also misses the reality that we are in a golden age of music. And it is mostly because so many people can make and distribute their songs. There are so many bands out there and there are so many ways to find and hear them that there’s something for everybody. Hell, there are a ton of bands for everybody.

    The fact that there aren’t the mega-bands of the past (the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, U2, etc) isn’t a sign of the death of rock; it’s a sign that everybody has different tastes… and now they don’t have to all be filled by the same few bands.

    And I didn’t even bother trying to listen to the latest U2 album because they haven’t put out an album with more than a few tracks still worth listening to since 1991.

    Excuse the lateness of my reply; I must’ve missed this on my Google Reader.

    mountmccabe

    April 13, 2009 at 11:34 pm

  2. Well yeah, he says this,

    “To be an artist was once to be elite by definition. Artistic mastery which the public revered (and, if you were lucky, payed for), was obtainable only through years of sacrifice, study, and struggle. This arduous and uncertain life had the glorious effect of weeding out all but the most dedicated and talented from the artistic professions.”

    So he’s pretty clearly obsessed with authenticity/authorial intent tropes. In his universe, a U2 album almost *has* to be awesome, by definition, and album by some kid in his bedroom *has* to suck. I don’t know anyone who cares about music who isn’t biased in the opposite direction, if anything.

    dieblucasdie

    April 13, 2009 at 11:55 pm


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