by carl wilson

The Klosterman Syndrome

I thought the above phrase would make a good movie title, but what I'm on about is: Chuck Klosterman, belle of the pop-cultcha-writing ball in the past year or two, is such a gifted punchline maker and not such a good essayist. Case in point, his current Spin column: "The Ten Most Accurately Rated Artists in Rock History." As a jape about the ubiquity and tiresomeness of the "over/under-rated" trope in rock talk, it's super, smashing, fucking brill. As a whole article to read, well, it's a little snoozey, using the concept as an excuse to talk dully about dull subjects such as Blue Oyster Cult or My Bloody Valentine. (Not that MBV made dull music but as a subject of music discussion it is Yawn City.) Plus there's stuff like the Beatles coming in at No. 4, saying everybody thinks they're the best and they are, which I can tell you is far from a universal consensus.

I'll spoil the surprise for you - #1 most accurately rated band of all time? Van Halen: "This band should have been the biggest arena act of the early 1980s, and they were. They had the greatest guitar player of the 1980s, and everyone (except possibly Yngwie Malmsteen) seems to agree. They switched singers and became semi-crappy, and nobody aggressively disputes that fact."

Amusing. But Klosterman's constant claim, as in the title of this piece ("Give Me Centrism or Give Me Death") to be some kind of brave battler for the middlebrow against forces of pretension and ... oh there's nothing he's fighting on the other side, is there? So Klosterman's "middle" is actually an extreme, and its name is anti-intellectualism, and in that way he's the perfect pop critic for our era, the most Red State rock writer ever. Fargo Rock City is a brilliant book, but I'm afraid I'm seeing the best minds of our generation become one-man mid-afternoon chat-show versions of themselves.

Speaking of criticism on high suck alert: I like Joshua Clover's poetry and respect him a lot, but what the hell is he on about over at S/FJ? Why does he keep giving himself feminine pseudonyms (first Jane Dark and now Felizitas)? Does he really think we don't know that genres have social content and sonic form and that these interrelate in complex ways, that the sonic is social and the social sonic? Does he think that those hip-hop fans who are pissed off about misogyny in hip-hop are not aware that it's as much a kind of genre convention as it is any kind of thought-out statement of intent to rape/beat/pimp/hate women? And does he think that if we all were made aware of the structural nature of misogyny in hip-hop, that this would make the misogyny okay and prevent it from having any adverse effects on how boys see girls (and how girls see girls)? Weren't, say, the signifiers of racism also a formal, sonic convention in minstrelsy - which dominated 19th-century pop culture the way hip-hop does now - and therefore was the racism of minstrelsy okay? None of this stuff seems to me to solve the female listener's problem listening to Snoop, should she have that problem; it is just "lie back and think of Pharrell."

The "proposition" suggesting that a sign of vitality in any genre is that its "ownership" is still mobile and in dispute was worthy; the rest is inflated bloviation in the first degree. I'm not actually upset about that, but I think it's kind of odd, the way he trumpeted he really had a contribution to make to the discussion and then... just.... didn't. Perhaps he'll still turn around and pull it out: He says he's got one more post to come.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, December 19 at 07:11 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)



You killed it on Klosterman. When it comes to SPIN, I'm more of a Dave Eggers guy... Last week I finally saw Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Reading your comment reminded me of screaming in canyon and then hearing your echo come back, albeit far more eloquent.

Posted by tha rock n roll nigga on December 22, 2004 08:59 PM



Carl, you have a great way of writing the things I'm thinking. Thank you.


Klosterman is a tool.

Posted by r on December 20, 2004 09:03 AM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson