Zoilus by Carl Wilson

McGarrigle, Radiohead & Me
in the Dead Trees

June 8th, 2010

Essays from me in a couple of print outlets imminently hitting the stands/stoops:

Maisonneuve quarterly from Montreal is doing a special reverse-desert-island-disc, “critics and their discontents” exercise called “The Music We Hate,” and while that’s not the tagline I’d use (more like, “music whose appeal escapes us”), it includes me writing about, gasp, Radiohead. Along with a passel of cronies: Michael Barclay on Animal Collective, Chandler Levack on Broken Social Scene, Sarah Liss on Neon Indian, Sean Michaels on Sufjan Stevens and Dave Morris on Sonic Youth. (Also Ryan McNutt on Joanna Newsom, but Ryan and I don’t know each other.) Congratulations are in order to Dave, I think, who has picked the hardest target here. I think I come in 2nd. Not that it’s a contest. Wait! It’s a contest! Suggest your least-liked, hardest-to-criticize band! You will win, um, Zoilus points, redeemable everywhere zoiluses are sold.

In quite another register, I also have a piece in the new issue of Canada’s greatest magazine, Brick, an elegy for Kate McGarrigle (which originally appeared in briefer form here on Zoilus). I’m thrilled by that, despite the sad occasion, and pleased Sean Michaels, again, also graces its pages - in the company of Zadie Smith, Javier Marías, Julio Cortázar, Robert Hass, Michael Helm, Pico Iyer, Jim Harrison and many others. Whoa.

These journals aren’t online. So there.

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  2. sean says:

    Hard to communicate how happy i was to see you (and kate) were the BRICK cover, Carl. Looking forward to reading all of the above.

  3. Andrew Rose says:

    Not online? My earlier question about said availability was mostly just to note that it was making the twitter-rounds even though it didn’t offer instant gratification. A testament to how interesting a project this is, I guess.

    Definitely some interesting if diverse targets. Consider Sonic Youth at thirty years and twenty odd albums, vs. Neon Indian at one and one. The people who have the toughest task in terms of convincing me of their hatred (blind-spot?) are Mr. Barclay, Mr. McNutt, and yourself, Carl. But I’m excited to read them all.

    Although I’d love to see the same writers tackle the inverse task, selling the earnest appeal of artists that are easy to hate. Your submission in THAT contest has been filed, Carl. Though you’re more than welcome to re-submit a new entry. If I ever find the time or mandate to re-enter the world of criticism, I plan to finally pen my treatise, “In Defense of Phish.”

  4. malstain says:

    I’m glad to see someone finally going after Radiohead. I mean, they’re fine, but I’ve never understood the sheer amount of smoke that gets blown up their ass.

    As for myself, there are certain critically acclaimed Canadian acts who I can’t stand, but I’ll decline to reveal them because of a) the small village-like nature of the community, and b) the fact that when I have expressed this opinion to others, it had an effect similar to standing up in church and saying you don’t believe in God.

  5. Matt Collins says:

    I’d like to see more exploration into what actively disliking something means- it always goes the wrong way; a defense of the thing by the disliker as if to bury the hatchet or the disliker “proving” their dislike, as though conviction could carry it.
    But what about examining the hate itself? Wasn’t punk famous for it? Wasn’t it a critical part of BritPop as a phenomenon? Arguably, late/high modernism is all about it, too.
    Hate feels overlooked.

  6. Matt Collins says:

    I mean, hate itself feels overlooked in the discourse of hate.

  7. john says:

    For some reason I recently looked up what I wrote about your book, Carl, and in my post I said I prefer Celine to Sonic Youth. I still do. Though I’ve never seen Sonic Youth live — I’d probably prefer them live.

    Any band that one dislikes is by-definition easy to criticize, no?

  8. marco says:

    Though I look forward to a compelling read, all the above sort of seem like easy targets. Personally, I’d like to see someone take Neil Young down a few pegs. On the flip side, I’d also like to see an impassioned defence of Mike Love.


  9. john says:

    I love Mike Love and think Neil is way overrated!

    Neil: Incredibly inconsistent & often sloppy lyricist. Monochromatic singer (once he decided on his “style,” ca. 1971? Before that more varied approaches in his singing). Folky stuff tends toward sappiness. Political stuff sometimes veers over toward oversimplified self-righteousness. Tons of shrugg-able songs — many more of that quality than great ones.

    Mike: Classic doo-wop-style lead singer, with the casually confident insouciance the style requires. Vindicated (not critically, but popularly) by co-writing the Beach Boys’ last hit (Number One!) without Brian Wilson, years after Brian’s last hit. (”Kokomo,” which I disliked at the time but have grown to love.) Excellent ensemble singer, as the whole group was. Very, very underrated lyricist in the Beach Boys’ early period, as was Brian — together, more consistently good than Dylan, Lennon & McCartney, Jagger — comparable to the Brill Building and Motown writers as lyricists. (Not as brilliant and audacious as Dylan or L&M at their best, but much better than given credit for.)

  10. robin buckley says:

    the whole maisonneuve thing really rubbed me the wrong way. disappointing.

  11. Mickey Dugan says:

    I don’t like Radiohead either.

    My solution: I don’t buy their records or listen to them.

    If other people like them and feel an emotional connection to their music, it’s no skin off my nose. Good on them for having something in their lives that makes them feel something positive.

    What I wouldn’t do, however, is waste recycled paper drafting a cynical self-absorbed article about my hatred. Life is too fu@king short. Live and let live, and get over yourself already.

    Then again… you’re a friggin’ a rock critic, which pretty much makes you a bottomfeeder where cynicism and snark comes naturally.

  12. Paula says:

    Dugan, that seems unfair (particularly since I assume you haven’t absorbed the actual articles in their physical form).

    That said, I won’t be wasting my $$ or time on this, either. I happen to like Radiohead (going on half my life now), Stevens, and Newsom. ILM was distasteful to me in the seemingly regular haterade fests these musicians (and others like them) inspired every time they so much as burped. I really wouldn’t want that negativity in magazine form.

    As for Animal Collective, isn’t anything after the Hipster Runoff article just superfluous?

  13. zoilus says:

    I can sympathize with disliking the exercise - which was the magazine’s initiative rather than mine. I tried to write the piece in a way that anticipated and accounted for that concern. I’d appreciate it, Dugan, if you’d read the piece before presuming that it’s cynical.

  14. zoilus says:

    (That is, go ahead and don’t read it, but then don’t come over and insult me about it.)

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