Thursday, March 03, 2011

But it doesn’t move me

Musician John Roderick, in Seattle Weekly, is bored with bored music hacks and their boring boredom:
But the median level of music writing has declined, much of it hovering consistently at the level of bratty piss-taking. The number of reviews I’ve read in the last year that contain the word “meh” just boggles my mind, as though we’re expected to consider the writers’ own boredom more fascinating than the music they’re charged with critiquing.
Roderick unwittingly disparages the music that he’s ostensibly defending; very often it really is less interesting than the response, and it takes an almighty effort to write anything more helpful than “Here is another record by Coldplay and it sounds like a Coldplay record and Coldplay fans will like it” or variations thereon. “Go on,” says the real critic, “impress me.” And all too often there is no reply. Only when music (or any other product) is magnificent, or ghastly, or teetering somewhere between the two, is it worthwhile making any comment. A critic is not obliged not to be bored, any more than an artist is obliged not to be boring.

Moreover, what’s wrong with boredom as an attitude, as a stance, as a provocative statement of intent? Ennui, disaffection, meh-ness has been a key component of youth culture and popular music for decades: the Situationists saw it as an inevitable response to the banality of modern life, and it reached its zenith in the glory days of punk. I think it was Schopenhauer – although it may have been Rat Scabies – who said “Life swings like a pendulum backwards and forwards between pain and boredom.” And a reviewer musing on his or her own pain is, perversely, even more tedious than one who goes on about boredom.

PS: On vaguely parallel lines, listen to this interesting Radio 4 documentary about on French punk, available till next Thursday.


Spinsterella said...

I think the problem with boredom as an attitude is that it's a little bit ... teenage.

Fine if you actually are a teenager I suppose.

Tim F said...

Isn’t rock music meant to be teenage though?

Spinsterella said...

Nah. Music made by young people is largely shit.