August 15, 2006

Editorial: I Stayed Up All Night Listening to Records

I was pondering writing a review today, but I felt it was more appropriate to turn my critical microscope on myself. Today is an unimportant day for the world, except for me, as today I turn thirty-three. It's a precarious age, this, especially in terms of those who choose to write about music.

In terms of my peers, I am, I must admit, "older." Most of those who are my age are either well-established with nice, quiet writing jobs at major publications, or they no longer write, because they either do not have the time to indulge themselves, they have too many obligations which demand their attention, or they simply no longer care about music as they did in their "younger" era. It's neither good nor bad, if you ask me; at times, I find myself envious of all three, while there are other occasions when I have to reassure myself that I will never go that route.

At 33, I find my own beliefs are quite…slippery. At that age, being "purist" is tantamount to admitting to being immature. I no longer see independence as the hallmark of innovation. I also no longer have a problem willfully entering into the seas of commerce. In fact, I usually fully support such actions, especially if it helps the artist nurture his or her talent.

Please note that I used the word "usually," which implies that there are some exceptions that I do not really tolerate. There's a difference between a band making a decision to share their music with the world in a commercial market and a band simply using their name as an endorsement tool, and it's that difference between artistic growth and careerism that I cannot tolerate. Sadly, it's hard not to look on the music world circa NOW as being nothing more than a long, continuous commercial, a commercial for everything except art. Why not let your art speak for itself and then let the cards fall where they may? As I get older, my toleration of music that is meaningless pap lessens, and I think less and less of bands that compromise their talent for the sake of a dollar.

Gee, that sounds awfully purist to me, doesn't it? I guess it is. But I'm into art, baby. I dig listening to music. Not soundtrack to commercials for some people's desires to 'live large.' Success is great—the talented have a way of getting the credit they deserve, but success is something that should be built on talent, not just a high-dollar marketing plan. As naïve as it may be, I still like to think that there are young bands out there who aren't simply money-hungry, and that there are some artists who would say "NO WAY" to exploitation of their name and their talent. But as I get older, I start to see that, well…money changes everything.

I'm not so idealistic, though, as to think that what I do isn't somehow related to the making of money. I'm well aware that writing about music and talking to artists is directly related to the business aspect of the music world. And I'm also not too naïve as to think that some people really care about what I say. I mean, if a label doesn't think that I'm "worthy," there's no way in hell I'm going to be allowed to talk to their artists. Such attitudes are quite ironic, as the 'protection' of the artist ultimately only hurts the artist. (Sorry, Paul Burch, I really wanted to talk to you about your record. Guess I'm not cool enough.) But I'm not going to bother you all with a dissection of the failings of some snooty press agent-types, because, hey, music exists without them, right? And let's not even get into the irony of management types who push a "we hate the media" agenda upon their artists, without failing to understand that YOU NEED THE MEDIA. Again, that's another story for another time.

Instead of bitching about these things—because, ultimately, they are unimportant to the existence of music—I decided last night that I'd spend the night listening to music. I wound up staying up all night listening to records, and that, my friends, was a wonderful experience. It was a chance for me to have an intimate experience with this thing I love the most, this love that I crave, this ART that I enjoy.

So what exactly is a 33-year old music writer listening to? Funny you should ask, because I'm going to tell you! Here's a list of records I listened to last night, in whole or in part:

Graham Lindsey Hell Under the Skullbones: I used to listen to his punk band Old Skull when I was in high school. But now he's making fascinating country music. He sounds like Bob Dylan. I mean, just like Bob Dylan, circa 1963. That's a good thing.

The Cocteau Twins Tiny Dynamine/Echoes in a Shallow Bay: Talking about these two records yesterday made me want to listen to them. If a band can put two EP's together and wind up with an album that's as strong as their regular albums, then you know you're dealing with brilliance.

Harper Lee He Holds A Flame EP: Because love is a dirty proposition for the literate. Modern day Sturm und Drang at its finest.

Christina Carter Electrice: I have a theory about her and her music that I cannot share right now. Her music is beautiful, grand, gentle experimental folk-based epics. Just don't call it folk.

Weird Weeds Weird Feelings: These weird kids are all right! They make their canines proud. G osee 'em on tour.

Alan Sparhawk Solo Guitar: Because I was too tired to listen to Yellow Swans. Beautiful. Minimal. Solo. Guitar.

Tim O'Reagan: Tim O' Reagan: Solo debut from The Jayhawks' drummer. Not a bum note to be found in this quite, unassuming release.

Montys Loco Man Overboard: This Swedish duo's music is, in a word, breathtaking. This is an amazing record that has been neglected by the fickle "music world." But it's the music world's loss. Breathy, sexy, and a little bit weird…

The Carpenters Greatest Hits: I've been in love with Karen ever since I was a little fellow. Still brings tears to my eyes, she does. She left us and I don't know where she is now and I have her records to listen to every day and I guess that makes it a little bit better.

The Bobby McGees Ivor Cutler Is Dead: Because I can't find my Vaselines CD and I needed to be reminded how good a simple song can be.

Pet Shop Boys Behavior: This is a post-midnight, post-graduate pop album, and its brilliance has yet to subside with age. Sixteen years I have loved this record.

A Girl Called Eddy A Girl Called Eddy: I'm going to bed alone, so I might as well go to bed alone with a beautiful woman singing beautiful songs about going to bed alone.

So what does this list say about me? I like a sad song, perhaps? I can't really be the judge of that. Is it reflective of what a 33-year old music-loving guy should be listen to? I can't really tell you. All I know is I had a wonderful time listening to these records, and it helped me to remember why I write in the first place: because I love music. I hate everything about how music is made and exploited, but I love music.


PaMeLlO said...

Hey! Happy birthay! Actually, I think "you are not alone": I'm 28 and I write for a very small monthly magazine and I'm definitely not well-established...
Good job about the blog: very interesting...
Give a look at mine if you like - but it's in Italian... :)

Sean Padilla said...

I'm mad that I've known you for years and didn't know that your birthday was August 15th. :-(

Chris Yonker said...

EXACTLY! Some people purify their system with water, others with that stuff that's supposed to get pot out of your system REALLY FAST but those purifications ain't a damn thing next to a good night of bee bops and shoo doops.