2001, Music

Zettel (2001) by Deep Dark United

I have listened to music since before I can remember. My mom recently reminded me of a Big Bird record I had as a toddler which taught me about the different instruments in the orchestra.

I have been listening to music seriously – as a snob – for at least half my life. So by this point I have standards. I can’t sing, I can’t play guitar, and I could never do what any of these musicians do, but I do know what good music sounds like and I think the thousands of albums and works I have heard in my life entitle me to have standards and opinions.

What do I want out of music?

I want compelling lyrics, good songs, great compositions, interesting or novel arrangements, energy, excellent musicianship, mood, path-breaking or innovative ideas, and / or apt production and mixing. That’s not to say I need all these things at once.

And I am a strong believer in context: someone shouldn’t be criticized for making music that isn’t punk enough before 1977, for example. That just makes no sense whatsoever. We shouldn’t criticize someone for writing silly little love songs before Dylan released an album, for another example. So if I hear something that is utterly path-breaking at a time when there weren’t many paths, but lacks the songs, maybe I will give it a little more credit than it might deserve had it been released when there were millions of paths, if you know what I mean. The older the music is, the more likely I am to waive some of my standards of quality, if it is noticeably great in some of the other standards.

But this appears to be a bit of a problem for me when I confront buzz bands. I seem to have different standards than bloggers and Exclaim! writers and other merchants of buzz. I want newer music – music that was created in the last decade – to give me something more than just a revival or something equally boring.

So I come upon something like this. I know why it exists. I am less sure why people love it:

  • The lyrics are sometimes embarrassingly terrible. “Smart Retard” shows me that really, all I needed was someone to juxtapose retard and smart for me to completely rethink my understandings of these words. My life has been changed.
  • They barely write songs. They have plenty of fragments , though they try to hide the melodies as best they can. They have perhaps two or three actual songs scattered throughout the whole thing, but they make sure to spread them out so that you get bored and frustrated before you can find the next one.
  • The arrangements are amateurish – which is quite vogue right now – and it creates a tossed off mood or quality – again something that is very vogue right now. This can work if there is something else to latch on to.
  • The musicianship is adequate, when you are allowed to hear it. But it’s hardly anything more than that.
  • And we’ve certainly heard lots of bands that are trying to pull off this whole casual genre-mashing, song-fragment, post-rock-but-really-pop-rock, lo-fi-but-actually-recorded-professionally thing.

These guys have a contract because they are friends with the right people. Why other people are validating that is beyond me.


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