November 26, 2008

Gareth Liddiard on music writing

Posted in Music tagged , , , at 10:52 pm by Andrew McMillen

Music criticism, to quote Chuck D: “You talk about it but you can’t do it.” But now that there is all this blogging shit going on critics have become like mild mannered primary school teachers trying to control their bitchy little charges. Which is funny cause nine out of ten critics are at uni. Blogging has cut the balls off music criticism. But even when critics are being cool it’s still weird. Rock’n’roll is pretty retarded and writing about it is really scraping the literary barrel. Why would you bother? Do something useful for fuck’s sake.

Ampersand Magazine asked the singer from Australia’s best band to defend or attack any one of the following topics: eugenics, psychoanalysis, nudism, superstition, pop art or music criticism. He responded bluntly to all of the above. Props to Mess + Noise for the tip.

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7 Comments

  1. Meg said,

    I read something a while back by.. someone of the Melzter/Bangs/Christgau alumni, I think, and he was saying, you know, music criticism is as important as the music it addresses, and right now it is pretty fucking irrelevant.

  2. Stephen said,

    I claim shennanigans and a little bit of hypocrisy. A musician imploring other people to “do something useful”? Strikes me as writing and music are pretty much on a par — neither is off preventing world hunger nor finding a cure for cancer.

    The other thing I take issue with is music writing getting dumped in the literature barrel. Equally stupid. Music writing is, by and large, completely and utterly disposable. Nothing will change that and pretending otherwise is an act of delusion. But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t fulfill a function or a use. Being entertaining, or informative or newsworthy or funny are all valid.

    FFS, news writing isn’t literary, but would anyone dispute its usefulness?

  3. Meg said,

    When you think about music journalism/criticism/whatever for too long it begins to seem completely meaningless. A comment on a comment which often reduces the original comment to its first principle so as to highlight its path of derivation through the ages, eras and mistakes of prior comments which have been commented on in no doubt the same way and to the same end.

    Music critics who take themselves seriously say they exist to sift through the crap, or to act as taste watchguard or to introduce that lonely midwestern soul to the album that will change his life but really – honestly – WHAT the fuck is music journalism’s value? The internet undermines the single greatest advantage that music journalists once had, which was freer access than most to a broad range of music, which begat a degree of specialist knowledge. Now? Most music journalism simply helps to moves product units off the shelf, or to sit in a media pack that is thrown at radios in the desperate hope of airplay which will help to move products off the shelf.

    Which is not an attempt on my behalf to shit on music journalists. I am fascinated by the practice. I just think it is an interesting thing to look at. Really, what is the point?

    Do we even have a Richard Meltzer these days? What is going on in the land of music writing?

  4. Stephen said,

    >Now? Most music journalism simply helps to moves product units off the shelf, or to sit in a media pack that is thrown at radios in the desperate hope of airplay which will help to move products off the shelf.

    Or it exists simply for its own sake. And, hell, there’s a lot of other writing around that’s like that. And, well, a lot of music is like that as well.

    Really, there is no point, it’s all just shit we do while we’re waiting to keel over tbph.

  5. Meg said,

    Oooh criticism as a self-gratifying genre. Best explanation there is.

    You have my full accordance, Stephen!

  6. As Lester Bangs had noted, (through Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s depiction in Almost Famous), “These people are not your friends”. Boo @ Gaz – he seemed like a much nicer fellow when he played in Dan Kelly’s band a bunch of years ago. I’ve long befriended my inner critic and muso and I reckon all fellow rockers/writers should do it as well.

  7. Nick said,

    I kind of agree with music criticism being a bit pointless.

    But I’ll also always remember reading Pitchfork’s review of Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ in an internet cafe in San Francisco and rushing straight to Rasputin’s to buy it.

    As someone who can’t write a song I always feel a sense of guilt being critical about someone else’s creation, especially if it is authentic.


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