Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A lot of hot air.

A lot of hot air.

I’ve noticed something interesting about my critical writing lately and it is this: I seem to spend more time devoting negative ink to other music critics than I do to blasting bands. This would probably explain the teensy uproar yesterday when I sent out what I thought was a funny tweet about DeRo’s replacement at the Sun-Times.* It was misread as being critical of the new pop critic as a writer when it wasn’t meant as such. (An aside must be offered: I only knew one of what I was sure quite a few names being bandied about the S-T office for sure, but I was honestly holding out for the paper to make a gutsy move and bring in someone super talented and sharp, continuing the honest voice of their predecessor, like Jessica Hopper. Not that she would have probably even taken the job, but I think it would have been interesting to see where she took the music coverage.)

ANYWAY, after all that I realized that in the past few months I have become less and less tolerant of other music writers, and that has probably been seeping into my own online conversations, ultimately fueling the perception that if I even mention another writer it is probably because I find their output to be faulty in some way. Now it is true that while I like just about every music writer I’ve gotten to know over the years there are very few whom I actually enjoy reading. Big whoop-de-do. They, if they are smart cookies and not out there for fame and glory (which would immediately mark them as delusional), shouldn’t give a flying fuck what I think of their writing. But the truth is, some people do care what I think. Why?

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think the main reason, the biggest reason, is that I reach a wide audience. Most music writers write exclusively for music sites and therefore are kind of already preaching to the converted. Most of my professional writing has been in papers or for sites that reach a wide general audience. This means I actually get to turn people on to music they may have never encountered otherwise. I’ve had people I’ve never met before come up to me at a show and thank me for recommending it because they had an awesome time and just bought all the merch they could. I write honestly and directly and sometimes even artfully and I think people appreciate that. I think.

Or, maybe, I’ve just been doing this for so long that people have been fooled into thinking I have some idea about what I’m doing. Either way works for me.

*DeRo’s editor is replacing him, and my tweet tried to make a funny corollary between that and Dick Cheney’s heading of the VP search team for George Bush that resulted in Dick Cheney choosing Dick Cheney to be Bush’s VP. C'mon, admit it, that IS a LITTLE funny, no?

For the record, the Carl Wilson book pictured in this post? It's an excellent example of music writing that surfs high- and low-brow, being intelligent enough to flatter the reader following along without resorting to high-falutin' lexical tricks in order to prove its intelligence. In other words, a pretty damn fine piece of music writing. I just wanted to make that clear since I didn't want anyone to think that the accompanying image was meant as a slight considering the surrounding text.


Our Man In Chicago said...

I'm glad you explained the nature of your comment. I didn't get the comparison so it just ended up coming off as pompous, which I was sure was not your intent.

In any case, the S-T isn't in a position to pay for a writer of DeRo's caliber right now. Hopper would have been an interesting choice though.

Tankboy said...

Yeah, sometimes I forget that people who don't know me personally would think I'm some snarky ego-creep at times (well, I probably am, actually), but this wasn't meant to be one of those instances.

As for the S-T payroll I agree they can't afford a "name" writer, and I'm sure this new cat will do fine. I read through a bunch of his clips and he's certainly a fine writer. The one thing he's lacking is a definitive viewpoint and critical voice -- probably because he's a really good editor and has learned to sort of submerge that in his writing -- which is something DeRo (and Hopper) has in spades.

I'm sure he'll do fine though.