Yeah, so they rock the same black rebel motorcycle schtick that was already second-hand by the time the Reid Bros. got ahold of it. But hey, it's an act we all enjoy and who these days couldn't use a little high-volume, tweeter-shredding treble to wipe their mental slate clean? As an unlikely bonus, the Vandelles actually have good tunes to back up their black-leather-'n'-Fenders mean-mugging. Double bonus: no stupid goddamn haircuts!
Hang on a minute: since when do I, Monsieur Nouveau Modernisme Deluxe, get off plugging retro rock 'n' roll acts? Since today's release of the Vandelles eponymous EP makes them my labelmates on SVC Records, and the more of you that buy the EP, the more SVC can lay out on my own upcoming LP. Ha! Seriously, though, anyone with the internet access to visit the SVC online store can absolutely afford the couple o' quid that the EP costs. If you just can't be bothered to support the dreams of creative twentysomethings, then for god's sake don't blow the cash on another pack of smokes or beer: send it to the Red Cross, you selfish bastards.
So whaddaya think? Did I miss my calling as an ad man? Could I sell sand to a camel or London Bridge to a Yank? Hell no. The fact is my job as a "commercial music composer" is the only one from which I been fired, and I slunk out of the (ahem) formal music press when I suspected I was just a poorly paid hack boosting redundant tripe. Which makes it all the more bemusing that I've started getting review requests from PR people pushing lo-fi folk Johnny-Come-Latelys or whatever. It's at least encouraging insofar that this means someone out there actually reads this damned blog and feels my voice is worth including in the conversation. But still, wow - I have a readership? Flabbergasting!
Similarly, I received an e-mail the other day that not only declared that the writer was a "big fan" (!) but I'd "inspired" him to start his own cult-crit blog, Spots Before the Eyes. Apparently, my quasi-qualified rants have helped his thinking regarding some of the perennial quandaries facing the post-millenial music fan, including (these are quoted directly from the e-mail):
Why don't I like today's Pitchfork music?
This query raises questions of its own: has the web's leading music journal crafted so well-sculpted a niche for itself that "Pitchfork music" is now a recognizable genre? Not quite. I can't think of a single band that encompasses everything the Forkers throw their critical heft behind. To its credit, Pitchfork still casts a reasonably wide stylistic net; on Friday, its reviews covered alt-country, orchestral pop, and black metal acts. That being said, there's a handful of aesthetic & performative tricks that Pitchfork falls for every time, recognizable enough that you could bet money on what rating an artist will receive and walk away with a heavier wallet. Was anyone surprised that the new Vampire Weekend album - a year after the backlash and boasting a newly-earned confidence - received an 8.6 and the "Best New Music" imprimatur? Or that Animal Collective shat out another hippy-dippy bleepfest and garnered a perfect 10? On the other hand, if Mike Patton's next project earns above a 6, or if the Dum Dum Girls' debut full-length earns anything below a 7.8, I'll eat my shoe.
Why aren't I familiar with any of the songs performed on American Idol?
The easy answer, of course, is that they're not worth knowing! But this touches on the diasporic effect digital culture has had. Christopher Weingarten hit the nail on the head, speaking at a Twitter conference last year:
If you read Spin or Rolling Stone in '96, you'd get an article on Nine Inch Nails, an article on the Chemical Brothers, an article on Snoop Dogg, and the internet doesn't work that way. ...It's harder to get exposed to things that aren't in your comfort zone. I have friends that are so deep into indie-rock they don't know what the fuck Katy Perry is, or Lady Gaga. ...I can always learn about stuff that's important to me, that's easy. I wanna learn about stuff that isn't important to me.Because the internet allows users to custom-tailor the information they receive, it's frighteningly easy to block out anything that isn't a known & comfortable fit - and this goes for political opinions and even facts, not just music. So unless you actively enjoy & ingest the kind of formulaic power-ballads that appeal to foghorn-throated starlets, there's no good reason for you to have idly heard the shit on American Idol.
Why is so much music criticism so shitty?
Well, whenever you deal with a form that encourages the belligerent expression of personal taste as though it were divine writ, you're going read an ungodly amount of self-indulgent pap. The job pulls more than its fair share of unqualified punters attracted by the glamour & apparent ease of the work. ("I just talk shit about a band and get paid for it, plus backstage passes? All right!") It's an occupational hazard, really.
But the internet has only aggravated the issue. With neither copy editors or column space to rein in the writing, music bloggers & online scribes can ramble for thousands of useless, swampy words. At the other end of the spectrum, that people think a 140-character monologue could possibly count as meaningful journalism is surely the death knell of the form.
But let's not forget that music is overwhelmingly a young person's game, by & for teenagers and twentysomethings. Most music journalists simply haven't had the time to mature as writers. A friend who's been devouring the 33 1/3 book series said that the best-written volume by a nautical mile was the one about Hendrix' Electric Lady Land, by a man old enough to have actually seen Hendrix in concert. This means he has literally a lifetime's more writing experience than your average NME hack. Lord knows the reviews I wrote for the Baltimore City Paper were rather shit - because I was some fatheaded 20-year-old in love with his own wordsmith wankery. Give me another ten years and perhaps I'll have something worth saying.
Whether anyone will be listening, of course, is another question altogether.