|The Rewards of Infidelity
||[Mar. 15th, 2004|01:40 pm]
I don't feel like playing pseudo-intellectual essayist today, so at least right now I'm just going to write. |
The first strains of my new Cat Power album (You Are Free) sound like the early Joni Mitchell. My new Spoon album (Kill the Moonlight) had just petered out as I started writing. Combine two albums with a new pair of jeans and a sweater and it was a nice acquisitve weekend. I spent sixty dollars in one weekend, which for a skinflint like me is a pretty big deal.I'm thinking about topping it off by dropping $15 on a Sebadoh concert in April.
The Spoon album is like a kick in the nuts, it rocks. Spoon reminds me of the old Tick cartoon/comic book/live action television show. It sticks in the back of my head, never really standing out as something I enjoy. Unlike Elvis Costello or Neutral Milk Hotel or Paul Simon, Spoon is always a niggling memory in the back of mind. When I press play I always wonder why I don't listen more often. Same too, Leon Russell, Warren Zevon, The Replacements and Stevie Wonder.
This brings up a point that's been bothering me for a while. It's been crying out for expression. [Interjection: I love my new jeans.]
Sullying my Good Name
First, let me outline one of the dangers of journal writing: falsely universalizing from the particular. Off the top of my head, prominent gay, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan claims that Bush's recent anti-Gay marriage Amendment proposal turned off a lot of conservatives. In a hasty generalization straight outta the Book o' O'Reilly, Sullivan uses his personal reaction as evidence for how others who self identify as "conservative" will react. He may be right, but his experience alone provides pretty meagre evidence. Typical of a member of the punditocracy.
The problem is that, when we self-identify as anything; liberal white, gay, stupid, Smart, Deaniac, Kucitizen, Bushie, etc., we view the label as monolithic. Since we belong to a specific group, we feel that we are in a position to make assumptions about the beliefs of others who self-identify similarly.
[I'm hearing "Babydoll" for the first time. I really like it.]
Sometimes those assumptions are safe. Concerning this issue, Sully is on fairly safe ground in speaking for those who self identify as gay. Reactions among gays may be mixed about Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but the Amendment is pretty universally denounced. Sully is often on safe ground speaking for the Bush species of conservatives when he transcribes RNC spin points.
It's hard to generalize about those aspects of our existence that make us complex, since they sometimes conflict with our ideology.
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
Shit! That was a digression. Keep what I just wrote in mind, since it's easy to misstep when talking about one's observations.
Rather than start with the sentence, "I've noticed a recent trend in music," I'll start with the following observation about my own listening habits: I've noticed that the music that moves me is un-ironic, unlike my favorites when I was young. I guess the trend in my listening really started when I began listening to Astral Weeks and Leonard Cohen more often than I listened to Beck, the Ramones and Pavement. The move was unselfconscious, like all good shifts in one's taste. I just found that coherence was part of what is appealing about music.
I still like those more ironic bands (I love Steve Malkmus' solo work and Sea Change), but their music is often more abstract. The immediacy isn't in the marriage of music to words, it's in the music's referents.
Listen to Satan Gave Me a Taco. Now, listen to a Neutral Milk Hotel song. The first time I heard "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1", I thought to myself, "Shit, I just wasted money on this crap." I was embarassed because it was so earnest.
Jeff Mangum strains his voice to the limit spitting out lyrics with such earnest immediacy it's jarring. There's no Beck-like lyrical detachment. He's serious about every word he says. The music, overflowing with fuzz bass and singing saws, doesn't have any referent outside the do-it-yourself aesthetic. You can't mentally file it away under genre or influence because it refuses to be easily categorized.
The cold blade of ironic detachment is the easiest way to spare oneself the embarassment of actually liking something. It's a way of pretending to be an adult, but what are we giving up to pretend to playact? Forgive the imagery, but sometimes that leporous distillment is poured into one's ear and infects one's body completely. The poision opens up the ventricles of the heart and shoots lightning to the tips of the fingers. Tears well up and one wonders whether experiencing such beauty will ever be possible again. Let it be what you want, the Beatles, Journey, Joni Mitchell, Cat Power, Violent Femmes, whatever. Take a moment, though, and let yourself be moved.
I remember being embarassed listening to a Violent Femmes album in the car with my day when I was 13 or 14. Not because of the fucks and jerking off--although that wasn't pleasant, either--but because of the immediacy of the music. Because the admission that I like something without an irony is an admission of weakness. That I am powerless to choose, to step back and intellectualize. It's like public professions of love. There are forces in the world bigger than we are. Not aliens or cosmic design. But everyday things. Music, sex, love. Our intellect is sometimes rendered powerless by things we feel deeply. It's scary. It can be embarassing. But it opens us up to a world of beauty that otherwise stays closed.
I just warned about the danger of generalizing from one's experience. Still, it seems the world has become more ironic. Malcolm McClaren may have been a self-conscious promoter, but the Sex Pistols felt they were stating some meaningful political and social dissent. The Beatles used Sgt. Pepper and Yellow Submarine to strive for something great. Self-referential music (The Glass Onion, etc.) was part of their identification of where they stood in the world. I don't know. I guess I'm full of shit. I said I wasn't gonna write an essay, so I'm not gonna argue this point.
[Music--"Somebody's Baby" Yo La Tengo (Cover of a Jackson Browne song)]