A couple of folks have already responded, including Zone Styx*, who took Brian Eno to task for his Exlax-smooth glide from art-damaged visionary to Svengali of pastel banality. As boldly progressive as the first decade of his career was, Eno has spent the past twenty-odd years terraforming a plateau upon which the most median hacks have homesteaded. I'm tempted, though, to give Eno a pass because, in that first decade, he did pioneer almost everything interesting about modern pop. The tragedy is that he didn't pull a Barrett/Beefheart to cement his legend.**
Meanwhile, I'm putting my money on Carl for Hater of the Year.
The target of my wrath is not a sacred cow and is often maligned in a strictly anti-fashionable knee-jerk (which, naturally, is its own expression of consensus-culture). But as the record shows, I've had a long history of hatin' on these motherfuckers. So let it be writ in flames ten feet tall...
I Hate Animal Collective
Right off the bat, they're hateable on an obvious, superficial level. Their cringeworthy album & song titles - from the verbosely ersatz to bland single-word monikers - are almost as bad as their first-year community college art-elective album covers. Their hooks are as sharp as a pig's ass. Their stoned, smug permasmirks make me wanna punch 'em in the goddamned face.
Their music is... inoffensive. It's a meandering, granola-dude iteration of the Beach Boys' forgettably sunny pop for (and by) sampler-saavy postmodernists. Or, as one friend said, "it's a bunch of cut-rate competent musicians fucking around with delay pedals." Either way, it's hardly the kind of music that invites intense reactions.
Which is precisely why it's so dangerous. Animal Collective are not only a symptom, but an enabler of a contemporary American youth culture that is vapidly hedonist, politically uninterested, and libidinally solipsistic. AC's oeuvre at once reflects and amplifies these revolting traits: their music is kindergarten-teacher chipper, their voices like an animated musical, their subject matter twee and nonsensical. (I'm repeating myself there.) I don't begrudge any band born of the Bush era the urge to retreat from reality (at least a little), but AC have made careers out of a near-psychotic infantile escapism. Following in the footsteps of their forebear Brian Wilson, they're not just offering tuneful respite - they've dropped acid and buried their heads in the sandbox.
But whereas Wilson's contemporaries captured the dynamic & tumultuous zeitgeist in anthemic melodies, a dismaying number of AC's fellow travelers are echoing their chirpy, saccharine nonsense and childish self-indulgence. This could be a result of indie neutering itself of its anger, in an astigmatic move to distance itself from the truly dangerous anger of jingoists & imperialists following 9/11. It could also be that scores of bandwagon-jumpers attempted (and are still attempting) to follow the template for "success" in a Web 2.0 world that AC helped construct.
But either way, we're stuck with this ramshackle sonic sugar-rush by politically glaucomal, narcissistic man-children. If a band is going to drag a whole generation this far up their own ass, they could at least write a memorable tune to whistle as we plough through the shit.
(*) - Zone Styx mentions considering hip-hop as his hate-object du jour. Just the other day, I was having a conversation about how hip-hop could be to blame for the dismally regressive state of music as a whole - but that, clearly, is a big fish better fried at another time. For now, suffice it to say: hip-hop and hauntology share a specific kind of culpability...
(**) - I often think that the best move of Kevin Shields' career has been, despite the incessant pleas from his fanbase, not to release the eternally in-progress follow-up to Loveless.