by carl wilson

Mess & Slop 2007

To start on a happy note: Pitchfork talks to Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes. The new Frog Eyes album Tears of the Valedictorian is not due till May, which is much too far away!

And now. On other blogs: Someone at Village Voice Media apparently wrote a horrifically embarrassing screed slandering everyone who's ever criticized them, supposedly meaning it to lead this week's Pazz & Jop poll. But the Voice editors rejected it. Then it was leaked, and people acted as though the Voice were printing it, which it isn't. You can't judge a publication by what it doesn't publish. That's 99% bullshit. You can, of course, judge them by their hiring and firing practices, which is what those of us who advocated a 2006 P&J; boycott were doing.

Unfortunately, you also can judge them by the defensive screed they did publish: (1) "meta-critics who denounce our alleged hostility and vapidity and cynicism by tripling it." (Please check dictionary for meaning of "cynicism." Compare to "idealism." We'll wait.) (2) "I look forward to those defined by their opposition to us defining themselves by something else." Well, Dick Cheney nurtures the same fond hope, but it's not really his call, unless he wants to change his policies. Reaction and opposition are a valid starting point. Then it's a question of where you go. The idea that anyone is "defining" themselves by P&J; - pro or con - is absurdly narcissistic in any case.

I'm sad the Voice editors felt the need to strike back, and thereby to confuse the issue. The protest was never against them, but against their bosses, the corporation they work for. The reasons - the unwarranted dismissal of not one but two senior figures in our field - were sound. It was a matter of professional solidarity. There was no reason for the editors to take it personally. Very much to their credit, they included a page of protest comments. Not very much to their credit, they included another whole essay devoted to vilifying their peers (not to mention backhandedly sniping at the quality of Xgau-era P&J;) - and criticism's supposed "virulent, unrepentant triumphalism," an impression that applies to a fistful of mp3 bloggers under 25, while the rest of us question whether this field has a future at all. And actually, what I'm most struck by is less who participated and who didn't, let alone who won and who didn't, and much more the fact that February now seems like a ridiculously late time to be publishing a best-of poll. Here are the results. Are you going to read them? I doubt it.

A glum day for the profession. (Oh, and for Canadian music, of course.) Enough. I hope there's nowhere left to go but up.

To get things started, there's a new MIA video. Let the back-back-back-back-backlash begin!

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 06 at 5:19 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (12)



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Posted by colorado trademark lawye on March 8, 2007 12:05 AM



backlash on MIA??
'sakes, whatever for??
boring sucky beats or naive political posturing?

Posted by nilan on February 8, 2007 9:20 AM



for the record, i liked that timbuk3 album 20 years ago. i seem to recall liking it the last time i heard it as well. time and place.
the first part of that essay is full of 20/20 hindsight cheap shots.

Posted by barclay on February 8, 2007 8:31 AM



Carl is right -- the headline is all wrong. It says, "At least we didn't vote for Timbuk 3." Ott didn't vote at all. Good for him.

The headline disses Christgau's era, stupidly, and Ott stupidly takes unsupported potshots at past votes. It's fine to disagree with them, but only someone speaking from his own arrogance would make ex cathedra pronouncements as he does.

And the arrogance is embarrassing, mind-bogglingly so. The idea that Christgau or any of his teammates -- Eddy, Weisbard, Levy, Simmons, others -- would have a let a letter slide that misspelled Gary Giddins's last name is painfully laughable. It's a repudiation of the Voice tradition.

The Voice is dead. I hope the Village New Times improves.

Posted by john on February 7, 2007 7:30 PM



I kinda thought Rob's essay was good, although maybe I was just judging it in comparison to the leaked one. I think it's fair to say that a poll called "Jackin' Pop" is defining itself in opposition to Pazz & Jop--Matos even talks about deliberately including things P&J; has left out--and I think it was well within the scope of the professional rivalry that Idolator is encouraging to take a few shots when Idolator's poll took a few as well. Ending it with the conclusion that the whole thing is ridiculous is probably the way to go, especially compared to the rejected essay.

Anyway, just as the Voice folks maybe shouldn't take some of the criticism directed at, um, the Voice personally, maybe you shouldn't take some of Rob's essay personally--there are definitely people out there who fit his descriptions, and I think most of what he said is valid in the broad sense. He was addressing some of the riciculous criticism that's been thrown, which has been pretty cynical; yours hasn't been, so consider yourself exempted.

Posted by Eppy on February 7, 2007 5:46 PM



Actually I re-read the essay this afternoon on Barclay's endorsement, and it's better than I first thought - still not great, but fairly cogent as an argument against continuing to have P&J; at all. Though I don't agree, it's a valid stance - just a weird one to be published as a P&J; essay. The headline and deck should have been different - it could have been made a lot clearer what Ott was up to. The thing is more of an attack on Pitchfork (which isn't as bad as he claims, anymore) and the bigger new MP3 blogs (which are as bad as he thinks) than anything else.

However, writers as a group aren't more conformist than they used to be - readers (and other writers) just see more of them. Ten years ago, how many people read more than a few music publications outside their home towns? Now, everyone can read dozens a day. This does create new challenges, but it doesn't remotely mean that "there is no independent voice." I could link you to a couple dozen of them right now. If Ott's not reading them, it's because he has exactly the status anxiety he's complaining about.

And finally - the fact that people often talk about the same 50 records is not the worst thing in the world. While it's great when people have their own agendas, and promote other records, rich conversation starts from the possibility that people are able to exchange opinions and thoughts about music they've all heard.

The overall tone of the thing is still snotty though.

Posted by zoilus on February 7, 2007 4:30 PM



I agree that Ott's piece was clearly lashing at out at the Village Voice as much as anything else, and wasn't so much a snipe at Xgau as it was towards the entire purpose and ramifications of assembling these meta-lists. His assessment of the lists acting as a confirmation of the demographic of readers is apt, and what makes that so unsettling is how the lists are all so similar-- there is no independent voice.

A publication like The Wire takes a fair share of abuse from its readership for often catering too much to the interests of the mainstream, but even their year end list sticks out like a sore thumb when viewed in relation to these compilations; how many albums on their top 50 were even listed in Jackin' Pop's thirteen-hundred albums?

Posted by chris on February 7, 2007 11:48 AM



i actually thought the ott essay was bang-on, in its dissection of the difference between criticism and enthusiasm, and the triumph of triumphalism, if you will. the fact that the P&J; is identical to just about every other list i read (and there have been far too many) only confirms his point. it's almost like he's arguing for his own paper's obsolescence.

his opening is unnecessarily snarky about past P&J;, and undoubtedly bends over backwards trying to suggest that christgau is happy to take all this lying down, and therefore the rest of us should as well. but from then on he gives this profession the whipping it profoundly deserves.

on a whole other issue: based on a very rough count (and confusion over gender neutral names), i figure only 57/494 of these critics are women. 11.53%.
idolator isn't much better: 61/497, or 12.27%.
no wonder these read like circle jerks.

Posted by mmmbarclay on February 7, 2007 10:28 AM



you're all just WAY to self involved...

... let it go.

Posted by pao on February 7, 2007 1:43 AM



what a train wreck! Harvilla & Ott, wracked with survivor's guilt (or is it patricidal guilt?), can only stagger & lash defensively. a protest comments page that mis-spells Gary Giddins's last name!

I must turn away!

Posted by john on February 7, 2007 12:59 AM



maybe this will make you less sad, Carl - Frog Eyes at Sneaky Dee's on May 24.

Posted by frank on February 6, 2007 6:42 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson