Hate 1984

Comments: I Hate 1984

The meta-meta-criticism that follows needs a couple of disclaimers:

1. I'm happy to see someone critique the City Pages. Arts criticism in the Twin Cities, by virtue of its paucity, often assumes a false authority because no one has the energy or column inches to rebut it.

2. I wasn't overly-fond of the I Hate '84 series when it first began to appear on Scholtes' blog Complicated Fun some months ago. The concept was good, but the execution was too sprawling. I guess that's what blogs are for. And naturally some of the pieces were better than others. I''m glad to see the print version was edited.

Having said that, Jason, I feel I must point out that I don't think you've ever listened to Let it Be, Zen Arcade, or Double Nickels on the Dime--in 1984 or any year since.

Why does that matter? Because if you haven't, I think you're left out of the intended audience of this series. That is, indie rock audiophiles and Gen-Xers who had there first nocturnal emission in Orwell's dystopic annum .

All this name dropping and anti-poseur posturing amounts to "smoothly saleable markers" whose significance is admittedly "beyond [your] grasp." So what? If criticism weren't a slightly esoteric pursuit every pinhead with an opinion would be writing it (a reality I'm afriad we find ourselves ever-closer to in this "information" age).

Frankly, all I can see your argument amounting to is that you feel left out. So you don't listen to the Minutemen. That's fine. Skip to the book reviews. And while you're at it, I'll point out that you're playing the same game by calling "these writers" semi-litereates who probably still find books "confusing and hard."

By objecting so vehemently to the cred-mongering of pop music critics, you're only validating their cool. If a rock music preference can inspire this kind of invective then the listener/writer must be really rock 'n roll. Anyway, my point is that your argument (one which I'll let Fiveo'clockbot readers know we've had many times) really doesn't hold weight unless you heard Paul Westerberg scream out through bedroom speakers "I'm so unsatisfied!" at some point in your formative years. If you didn't, then you're right, you'll never understand the writer's perspective. As for me, I'll take the 'Mats over Milton any day.

Posted by Brian at August 2, 2024 02:40 AM

Brian, you're response is beautifully written, but you miss my point completely. While I have no problem with criticism that speaks to only a small select group that's "in the know", my point is that these pieces aren't criticism--anything that could have been of substance has been pushed to the edges. My complaint isn't with feeling left out...my beef is that I'm told these albums are great, but not why they are so. You seem to be saying, "but you had to be there..." as though the power of these albums is somehow beyond criticism. That's hokey.

Posted by jason at August 2, 2024 07:38 AM

Feeling left out is mostly what it's about. I was there, you weren't--it's the indie rock equivalent of "I heard Pavarotti sing that high note in Trieste in 92, too bad you didn't."

One thing that fuels this is that most critics, most critics of anything, don't really have much to say about what they're discussing; they don't have an aesthetic (or any) framework, they don't actually know music on either a technical or a performing level. So about all that's left is to write a diary about their reactions. This may or may not be interesting, but it's not criticism of the music.

Most contemporary criticism of fiction is written by other fiction writers, and it's limp enough. But most contemporary criticism of music is written by free-lance amateurs whose main qualification appears to be that they heard Pavarotti--oops, sorry, The Bats--do "Streets of Baltimore" live in 2003.

I am qualified to make these observations because I heard Otis Redding sing "Dock of the Bay" live at the Jacksonville Coliseum in '67. You can never never never never top that.

Posted by glen at August 2, 2024 09:13 AM

Redding beats Westerberg any day. Glen, I concede defeat. All hail the new king of cool!

And Jason, I guess I'm a little hokey. I don't consider anything beyond criticism. I just keep a few 45s in a drawer and pul them out every once in a while to remind me who I was and who I am. Very Proustian, no?

Posted by Brian at August 2, 2024 12:49 PM