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25 February 2008

Alec (who is the same age as Jesus) responds to his critic. Also, a special guest appearance by Judas aka Bob Dylan (you know, the guy from the panty commercial).

A commenter writes of my post on These New Puritans:

I have met people in their teens and early twenties who are much less arrogant than this writer(Alec Bemis). New Puritans are OK, definitly not cutting edge, and not like anything we havent heard before.Yes, I’m old, but I was into The Fall as well as the Stones thousands of years ago and I still recognize what bands from the past brought to the party.

Maybe Alec is burnt out on the oldtimers, which is understandable, but if he could think past his own experience it would be a nice.He remionds me of a spoiled kid I once knew that would break his toys when he got tired of them so no one else could enjoy them.

Posted on February 19, 2008 11:10 AM by andrew

Let me respond.

1. As a clarification, I am 33, the same age of Jesus. Clearly those kids in their teens and early twenties who you’re meeting have some work to do to get as arrogant as me. But don’t worry, sounds like they have plenty of time to catch up!

2. I never said that These New Puritans were “cutting edge.” They cite terrorist videos as an influence for Alec’s sake, and those have been around at least twenty or thirty years. I even point out in my post that their music reminds me of groups like the Fall very very much. I think you are taking a typical boomer-era view of praise, and assuming that I think the only art worth celebrating is “original.” Really, though, my criteria for artistic greatness has much more to do with “excellence of execution.” There is a huge difference.


3. I’m not “burnt out” on the old timers. To this day Sonic Youth are consistently one of my favorite bands to experience live and there’s a reason I was posting video of Mark E. Smith only a few days ago. I will see Bob Dylan live every opportunity I get until the man dies. But I am quite aware that the more comfortable a band gets, the more discomfiting sponsorship opportunities can be. I’d be the last person, for example, to criticize the Shins when their music was used to shill for McDonald’s early in the band’s career. They almost definitely needed the money. As a band becomes more of a self-sufficient entity, however, it needs become increasingly aware, and careful, of how its accumulated chain of cultural associations are wielded in public view.

In other words. Rolling Stones shilling for Rice Crispies in 1964 = A-OK!

The Rolling Stones shilling for Tommy Hilfiger on their No Security tour in 1999. Well, you’ve got to be joking me. Maybe if they called it their Social Security tour I would have been more sympathetic.

After the jump, Bob Dylan’s most embarrassing-slash-greatest commercial moment(s).
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14 February 2008

“Talking Heads are the Enemy” (aka Dirty Projectors as Black Flag, Jeffrey Lee Lewis as Crass)

080214_teenagekicks_markesmith.jpgIn a second we’ll hear from this man, Mark E. Smith. But first, a quote from Jason Gross in this year’s Pazz & Jop critics poll which got me thinking: Have artists lost the ability to act? Is reaction the only thing left? Or, to put it another way, has the post-modern condition taken hold to the degree that all artists have left is the ability to comment on what has come before?

Here’s the quote:
“Lately we’re getting bombarded by acts that cover the music scene themselves pretty well in their own tunes: Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, the Hold Steady, LCD Soundsystem. This may mean that rock criticism is in danger of actually being replaced by the thing it’s reporting on. At this rate, these acts will be bigger competition than the blogs out there.”

I think Jason’s point is that the Hold Steady and LCD often employ lyrical narratives about what it’s like to grow old in various pop music scenes. But I think his point could be equally applied to their music as sound — that Hold Steady equal a gloss on Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen; that LCD Soundsystem sound a bit too much like someone with a record collection that includes New Order, Steve Reich, and many a tasty electronic nugget I’m too busy to namecheck right now. Basically, my extrapolation of his point is that bands have become better articulators of the pop music canon than critics or other outside voices; and, more importantly, that they have more ability than critics to revive interest in older music with a flagging reputation. (And if LCD and Hold Steady are too obscure for you, look at how Kanye resuscitated the career of Daft Punk.)

Two artists who Jason didn’t mention, however, highlight this idea even more pointedly: Jeffrey Lee Lewis and Dirty Projectors. They have created two of my most listened to albums of the past 6 months or so — Dirty Projectors with Rise Above a re-interpretation, from memory, of Black Flag’s Damaged and JLL with 12 Crass Songs, a re-imagining — in studied detail — of the music of UK crusty punk band, Crass.

Where JLL’s hyper-articulated vocals make Crass’s intense rhetoric audible…
Jeffrey Lee Lewis “End Result” (excerpt)

Dirty Projectors make Black Flag’s hardcore punk-as-jazz sound almost unrecognizable…
Dirty Projectors – “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” (excerpt)
…while somehow managing to maintain the group’s emotional core.

After the jump, more dense, overthought prose — and a slurring yet articulate Mark E. Smith!
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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