by carl wilson

Moment of Silence: The Village Voice

News is rapidly breaking that the dismantling of the remaining identity and integrity of New York's venerable Village Voice - the founding paper of the alternative press, folks, however much bashed-about by changes of ownership over the years - is pretty much complete. Not only have they fired the likes of veteran investigative reporter James Ridgeway, but now music editor and writer Chuck Eddy (one of the more influential critics of the last decade, I'd argue), who helped lead the protest supporting Ridgeway. Reports also seem to indicate that "dean of rock critics" Robert Christgau has lost his editing position, though perhaps not his writing position. News on this remains fuzzy. Eddy is being shitcanned, they say, for being "too academic," which is amusingly incongruous for anyone who's read him, and somehow seems to be a way of saying he covered too much country and heavy metal too thoughtfully (?). (See ILM thread ad infinitum.)

While the Voice music section has become a lot more telegraphic and less indepth this decade, it still helped define the territory. And one has to wonder how much more of this is coming - what's going to happen to the film section? The Voice Literary Supplement? Etc. And that's aside from the landmark this sets in the process of the chain-syndicating of the once "alternative" press, which is rapidly becoming a cookie-cutter lifestyle publication niche that barely even pretends to being anything more than a shopping guide for downtown hip-white yuppies.

The only comfort being that as it reaches this nadir, a new wave of alternative publications surely will emerge to take its place. Wistfully I hope some of them actually take the physical form of ink on paper.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 19 at 5:30 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)

 

COMMENTS

I don't understand David's equation of much of Eddy's work with nihilsm. He's primarily a formalist, which isn't remotely the same thing, whatever the limitations of that approach might be.

Posted by Roy Kasten on April 27, 2006 12:10 PM

 

 

John and Carl: Yes, I'm no Eddy fan, ironically because I think in much of his writing that he is a nihilist, too; and he has a tendency to be a smart-ass, his particular version being heavy on the ass and light on the smart.

That noted, I don't want to see any of those guys lose their jobs. The direction that the New Times is taking the music sections of their recent purchases--not only the Voice, but the Nashville Scene and the Minneapolis' City Pages, etc.--is depressing as hell. I know that the charge of being a music writer or editor that is "too academic" has been used in more case than one to instigate a change of personnel, either by outright firing or by merely encouraging rapid attrition.

The New Times approach is to eliminate criticism, downplay even reviewing, and to replace both with personality driven (AKA celebrity driven) profiles that ain't much about the art. Now, there's nothing wrong with that;it's a legitimate approach; it can be done well. But it mostly won't be. And what happens to criticism and reviewing, which are also, you know, legitimate approaches. Well, thank God for Zoilus...

Posted by David on April 23, 2006 11:29 AM

 

 

Marx talked about the tendency of competitive business enterprises to end up in monopolies. Monopolies breed homogenization. Firing Chuck Eddy on grounds of "taste" -- that's a homogenizing move. From any sort of competitive standpoint, it makes no sense. Eddy is distinctive and people respect the section he Eddy-ted.

The quote that Carl pulled from another discussion, regarding the new boss's view -- "music and movies are merely entertainment and thus inherently trivial" -- that's depressing.

Posted by john on April 20, 2006 5:14 PM

 

 

I also think Eddy has a certain kind of eclecticism in his listening that involves making connections between critically acclaimed music and critically scorned music - showing what they have in common etc. His book Stairway to Hell, though very light on the surface, certainly provoked me to think about that, and I don't think I'm alone.

But I also think someone in the I Love Music board thread about the Voice situation put it well: "They're not above criticism, but xgau and eddy did their jobs really fucking well and with more imagination and inspiration than the majority of their peers. Anybody who's glad to see them go can't see the forest for the trees and is free to kiss my ass."

And someone also summed up the apparent attitude of the new owner, New Times:

"The ideological sense I get from New Times, and I'm talking about their management and some of their writers and not trying to generalize about their obviously diverse staff, is not so much of conservatism but of nihilism--nothing matters, expect maybe success; music and movies are merely entertainment and thus inherently trivial; fuck you and your family. "

Posted by zoilus on April 20, 2006 1:14 PM

 

 

David,

The tone of your comment indicated that you think Eddy has been a bad influence. I took the bait and included criticisms in my comment, which are piddling next to how crummy the firing is, both for the people directly involved and for what it probably augurs about music journalism.

Posted by john on April 20, 2006 10:47 AM

 

 

Carl's post indicated: Eddy was one of the reasons it became less respectable for rock critics to dismiss metal and country (and teen pop) out of hand than it had been before. He is a distinctive, influential stylist with the idea that music-crit should be lively; he can be funny.

That said, to the extent that he promoted a "knowing" tone in writing that did not provide much actual musical (or other) knowledge, I'm not crazy about his editing; but I respect people who worked with him who said he was good to work with.

The Voice music section has been sadly squeezed for quite a while now, to both human and aesthetic detriment; I doubt that Eddy's firing is a harbinger of a better day to come.

His firing casts a shadow on yesterday's thread about "the cultural power of critics".

Posted by john on April 20, 2006 10:19 AM

 

 

Carl: Maybe someday you could take a moment and discuss in what ways, and to what end, Eddy has been among the most influential of recent music critics.

Posted by David Cantwell on April 20, 2006 7:44 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson