Friday, October 28, 2005

Respect Is Due

Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead - Mr. Bungle

An Open Letter to Status Ain't Hood:

This kind of conversation always starts with a confession of sin. First, please excuse my tardy reply to the post in question; I was caught in traffic in Hanoi at the time. Second, I'll admit to having taken a cheap shot or two at you in the past, and yes, your blog does not so much inform as remind me of all the bullshit in the American underground that I'm glad to have escaped. I do not mean to reduce your writing to aversion therapy. That's just how it serves me.

And I'll confess that I think southern hip-hop is some of the dumbest, irredeemably retarded music on the planet. (Don't think it's a genre thing, it's a Lowest Common Denominator thing: I think hardcore punk is analogously atavistic.) I also will say that, in late August, a friend and I guessed that you would be the Pitchfork writer who would review Cage's Hell's Winter, and that you would give it exactly an 8.3 out of a confused combination of indie-hop snobbery, collegiate overanalysis, and half-hearted wagon-hitching.

But I give credit when it`s due, my friend, and you will forever hold a place in my heart as Really Tall Guy who used to frequent the record store where I worked in Charles Village. And so, given that you seem to be the ONLY other music geek on the planet who openly criticizes Animal Collective, I salute you!

My heart swelled with joy as I read your dissection of their amoebic mass of echoing, mealy-mouthed, flaccid folk-rock. Finally, a kindred spirit unbowed by an excessive amount of reverb and delay! Someone else who says, "So what?", to facile chord changes and druggy Mother Goose imagery! Right on, fuck that! I understand that the hippie-cum-hipster schtick is a pastoral take on K Records' reactionary anti-machismo. But honestly, escapism has never sat well with me because it's willfully ignorant and solipsistic. I've always preferred bands who wanted to be my life than my fantasy.

At one point, you note that the Animal Collective guys didn't participate in Baltimore's ever-churning underground. "It was more about the back porch," claims Dave Portner. Okay, full disclosure: I went to high school with three of these four guys. It was a wealthy private school in a white suburb, hermetically protected from the more muddled culture of Baltimore City by a hundred acre wood. I was one of the school's charity cases and graduated with an unrepentent loathing for the rich. If Misters Portner, Weitz, Dibb, and Lennox relish the rural life, it's because they want to return to the womb of student life in a tree-sheltered prep school; it's because they can't confront the incoming crowds and chaos of daily life among other people. (They admit as much in their recent City Paper interview.) In high school, time spent away from the city was not out of preference for something as quaint and quietly reflective as "the back porch". It was because most of these spoiled brats were honestly afraid to enter a city inhabited by blacks and the working class.

Lest I be slapped with a libel suit, I am not asserting that the men of Le Collective Animale are scared of black people. But they did grow up in an environment that was stiflingly insular and naval-gazing. (One of "progressive" education's worse points is that it fosters the false notion that We Are All Special.) And so, dear Tom, there is a damn good reason you feel estranged from this music: it was born estranged from you and everyone else.


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