by carl wilson

Notes on Schmaltz, One

Alessi.GIF
The Alessi Brothers, guiding lights of the UK Guilty Pleasures club nights.

Being the first of an ongoing series of posts of thoughts, references and questions for my book-in-progress, Let's Talk About Love (or 2006, A Celine Dionyssee): Let's talk about the success of MOR Club Night Guilty Pleasures in the UK, as discussed in this Guardian story. I'm wary of the air-quote mind that I suspect still governs this supposed celebration of "naffness." It treats schmaltz nihilistically, as "anti-everything," as the story suggests. Now, I do think that pop nihilism has value (unlike John, for one: I appreciate the spirit of his post, but I think he's taking the term "destroy" way too literally - it's a much more oedipal/dialectical thing). But "the good destruction" also belongs to a certain (romantic-modernist) tradition, the one of which rock is a subset. Superimposing it on music that has quite a different array of intensities/effects seems reductive, arrogant, narrowminded. (Read: rockism. Or meta-rockism.) It seems to me that there's another way to enjoy good schmaltz, without either playing the fool or playing it for a fool. But that's not to say that I can articulate - or fully experience - it in that way, so far.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, February 13 at 3:43 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

COMMENTS

Oops, silly links. I put it as my URL this time, or it's here:
http://flagpole.com/articles.php?fp=BillyJoel

Posted by Eppy on February 14, 2006 2:44 PM

 

 

I wrote a Valentine's Day piece about Billy Joel that got into the idea of "bad bathos" v. "good bathos" that might be applicable to what you're discussing. It's here. I think I might give the impression that I'm favoring the kind of "stripped-down is better" ethos that leads to the new Neil Diamond album, which i don't necessarily agree with, but even stripped-down Billy Joel is shmaltz-tastic.

I assume you know where the word "shmaltz" comes from. I always liked that derivation.

Posted by Eppy on February 14, 2006 1:02 PM

 

 

Carl,

Yet again popular culture catches up with me. If I had to choose any radio station in Toronto, I without thinking about it would tune to the oldies stations. Judging by the stuff on the "guilty pleasures" comps the play list is pretty much identical to 1050 chum. Which is pretty much as uncool as you can get in Toronto.
Now the way i like to think about it beyond getting into high culture/low culture cat fights is that Schmaltz is not "better" than indie pop or R&B; its just different, another Genre. The problem with the genre is that generally its not done very well so it gets a bad reputation. But to look at Scmlatz as a "statement" or assign pomo signifiers to it is silly. There is no difference between st. etienne and neil diamond and ELO. If you want the roots of Celine you really have to Barbara Streisand (whos last album is caled btw "guilty pleasures") who is many ways a higher quality product. Any analysis of Celine has to first put her in the context of a genre.
The Guardian article is the typical sort of elitist Nathan Barley smarmy shit that passes for journalism at the Guardian (a fucking shit newspaper carl, despite what all the sensitive people in toronto think, a tool of the faux liberal upper middle glass neo yuppie fuckheads who make me miss their dim witted provincial cousins: the queen street west yuppie). Basically its about thinking you are smarter than the people who actually take that music seriously. Zamfir rock's my dad's world and that makes Zamfir his own special kind of genius. Fuck Guilt.

G.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on February 13, 2006 9:06 PM

 

 

Romanticism -- yes, that's it. Dialectics & Oedipus too. But more -- creation-through-destruction is the mode of capitalism par excellence. Faust. "All that is solid melts into air." (Marx's metaphor for the capitalist influence on traditional cultural and social relations.) New-new-newism, which K-Punk's post is way into. My post (thanks for the link) is into a heavy romanticist thing too, but not particularly capitalist (though I didn't fashion my position around such considerations).

Best wishes with the shmaltz. Thanks for not hating on it. I'd be happy to give non-ironic non-nihilistic shmaltz-listening lessons free of charge any time; I'm curious to see if the knack can be learned.

Posted by john on February 13, 2006 4:56 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson