Monday, July 28, 2003


"HOW does someone like me find out about stuff like this?' My roommate Ezra asked as we listened to the shimmering pop of the Pernice Brothers emanating from my stereo speakers.

"I mean, how does someone who doesn't read music magazines regularly," he continued, "find out about amazing bands like this?"

And as I stood in my room, in my apartment uniform (boxers and a T-shirt), I actually had no answer for him. Because in truth, Ezra's question is a great one.


For as long as I can remember, music journalism has always been snobby and intimidating. It's written by music obsessives for people who are striving to become music obsessives. Basically, it's by geeks for geeks. The words that you find in most magazine articles and record reviews are like bouncers standing outside a popular club: you won't get in unless you look like you're dressed (i.e., informed) properly (or if you happen to have a hot blonde hanging on your arm). These tirade-like segments usually and all too frequently display the writer's vast knowledge and intricate pop-culture arsenal. It's not a forum for educating but rather an opportunity to show off who has a larger storage facility for useless information. I should know all this because I am one of them.

And in reality, there are more Ezras in this world than there are non-Ezras. Which is not to say that my roommate is not unique but rather, his frustration is shared by millions upon millions of dabblers. I'm certain that most people don't even read album reviews because, well, if you're not into music, then why would you care to read a 500 word essay on the Rapture (the who, you ask? Exactly.).

It's almost laughable to see the reference points in certain pieces--almost a mockumentary but without the winking. These people are for real. Their words, sadly, are not. In a meeting the other day, someone mentioned Kalefah Senah, a new New York Times music writer who has proclaimed that he wants to be the next Lester Bangs. All I have to say to that is; why?

Aside from Seymour Phillip Hoffman's portrayal in "Almost Famous," Lester Bangs means nothing to most people but to the snobby indie crowd, which deifies him as the legend of rock writing of all time. Bangs, who is no longer alive, is likened to the Jesus Christ of the written word. He has died of a drug overdose for our rock and roll sins. I have read Bangs and yeah, he's pretty interesting and his free-flow unrestrained delivery made him unusual back in the day but his writing was also cynical, angry, rude and tedious. Reading a Lester Bangs essay is an activity, like a mental game of Twister, not a leisurely way to pass the time. It's like living inside a headache, complete with a hangover.

Initially, I began writing about music because I was interested in turning people on to new things, not telling information to the informed, psalms to the...err...psalmed. It's a dang shame - the music industry as it exists now possesses random hidden treasures amongst a world of infinite cubic zirconium. Yes, sometimes, upon closer inspection we eventually realize we were lied to and that we believed too quickly. As a result, readers become more cynical and tend to believe critics less (see; how many people read an article about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Millions? How many of those people actually bought the album? Hundreds?).
All too often we (I'm humbly including myself here) tend to jump on a media-frenzy bandwagon hailing each "unique" band as the one to save rock n' roll. Only months later to find out that we were duped and that we fell for a boat-load of shtick and converse sneakers.

Other times, though, there are many--the diamonds--who fall through the cracks because of the regurgitating nature of this business (remember Len?). The casual listener never gets a chance to hear the valuable output because they're too caught up in a world floating between commercial and commercial posing as "alternative" (do you recall that term, "alternative," ever being relevant? Neither do I). I don't blame the innocent or the uninformed. Heck, there are even times when I am actually curious enough to put on a White Stripes album...but then thankfully that moment quickly passes.

The aforementioned band that peaked Ezra's curiosity is just one of the accessible, most pleasurable bands that people should hear but chances are, never will. Joe Pernice, lead singer of the Pernice Brothers is a pop mastermind effectively creating moving displays of harmony-charged poignancy. Believe it or not, he has also been doing so for almost ten years. For the uninitiated, their new album, Yours, Mine & Ours is a great place to start and a satisfying sans-hype release. The first song, "The Weakest Shade of Blue" is contender for song of the year, providing us with the summer sunshine we've been otherwise denied.

I saw the band this past Saturday night and it was straight-up spectacular. A mixture of bombastic power-pop and gentle acoustic fare. As I smiled in euphoria, nodding my head in agreement/rhythm, I felt comfortable in a crowd of non-scenesters. In a venue half-full but noticebly full of fans, my accompaniment turned to me and said, how is it possible that this place is not sold out?

For the second time that night, I had no answer. Another great question.


Post a Comment

<< Home