When I was in my 20s and began pursuing what I still laughingly refer to as a “writing career,” I felt like a man on a mission. I wanted to write only about the “good stuff” that I felt wasn’t getting sufficient attention. To be honest, I’m not sure how I arrived at this evangelical approach. As arts editor for my college paper some years before, I had taken a certain post-adolescent delight in putting the knife in as often as I could, and doing so with little regard for actual critical authority and/or common sense. In other words, I was young.
So when I first started writing music reviews for The Village Voice in the spring of 1984, I vowed that I’d write only about music I believed in passionately. I pretty much stuck to my guns, primarily covering cult artists (Robert Wyatt, Tom Verlaine
) as well as the occasional mainstream alt-heroes (the Pixies) until I was asked one day to review a Tears for Fears show at Radio City Music Hall. The end result: a story called “Schlock Therapy.”
Writing pans is part of a critic’s job, but what I always pursue as a cultural consumer is, of course, the stuff I can enthuse about. And while all of the artists mentioned above, (including Tears for Fears), made music that appeals to what we’ll call “adult” taste in ways that say Ke$ha does not, I have to confess to a certain concern, if not anxiety about separating the wheat from the chaff. In other words, I am getting old.
What I hope to do in this column — at the very least in the subtext of discussing movies, music and the critical and popular exchanges concerning these commodities — is address these anxious concerns that I and perhaps you find in seeking to stay up-to-date while avoiding having one’s intelligence, eyeballs and eardrums assaulted.
What I’m most interested in is talking about today’s music and movies
in the context of a lifetime’s worth of concert- and moviegoing. Not in a “these kids today, they don’t know” condescending manner, but rather in a way that says “I loved being a kid, and now I love being a grownup.”
Indeed, the latest Bruce Springsteen single is going to sound a lot different to a twentysomething reviewer for Pitchfork than it is to a fiftysomething guy who still recalls the thrill of hearing “Born To Run” for the first time. And for the record, this guy thinks the new single, “We Take Care Of Our Own
” is pretty impressive.
More on that next time.
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