clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, June 30, 2003
The promised (see below) response. Also, Rob points us to a thread in which some non-believers recant. Sort of.


Hey Matt-

Thanks for replying. I gotta say, though, I'm looking for a little bit of critical consistency here.

For instance, you say I shouldn't consider the lines I quote from "Rock Me" good because they're only good in relation to Phair's biography, but the whole context of the original review was how Exile in Guyville used to be great and how Liz did this and Liz did that. Now you say you don't care about an artist's motives. (Although you do use the opportunity to tell me about her motives some more.) Fine, but maybe that should've been reflected in the original piece. Me, I think that context is the rock-crit game, and that's great, but let's get on with it, shall we? If the only reason it's being covered by PF is because she's Liz Phair, then that just plain ol' matters, and I stand firm in my contention that were it almost anyone else and were you folks to deign to review them, they would have deserved, oh, at least a tenth of a point there rather than the 0.0 it got hammered with, and that, like with the Sonic Youth review, the rating (and the review in general) was done to make a certain reactive point. At any rate, the only pieces of Liz's biography you'd need to make my interpretation is that she's in her 30s. And even if you don't use that it's still, IMHO, a great song. Speaking of which:

You said in the original piece that you wanted to see some self-doubt or reflection. I showed that there was some. You reply by saying that you don't care if she's angsty, but I think you miss my point: since there is self-doubt there, I think you want a bit of that angst; you want her to feel really bad about making this piece of crap, and if that was in there, if there was some of the indie impulse to self-sabotage your best efforts at acceptance, then it would be better. Because there is self-doubt there, if you want it to be: you just don't want it to be, since you think that the only uses the lines I quote from the bridge because they rhyme. To which I gotta say: huh? Did she only say "It's harder to be friends than lovers and you shoudn't try to mix the two / but if you do it and you're still unhappy then you know that the problem is you" in "Divorce Song" because "you" and "two" rhyme? I'm open to a different interpretation of the line, Matt, but using the fact that it rhymes as evidence that it doesn't mean ANYTHING is unlikely to win me over.

And speaking of critical consistency: where the hell did that "yuppie" thing come from? First off, I don't know what's wrong with track lighting or $300 dinners in and of themselves, unless you're going to use the "that money should go to poor people" argument, in which case I'll happily inquire why you're writing record reviews and not working in a soup kitchen full-time; indeed, the only thing wrong with them is that I don't have them, and I would like to have them. Some people, when faced with this situation, think that the people with track lighting and $300 dinners should at least have the decency not to enjoy them, at which point I gotta say: well, then what's the point? I'm glad Liz likes her album. It would be weird if she made it and DIDN'T like it, don't you think? As for the SUV's, I'm definitely confused as to how a radio-friendly album is analogous to a machine that spews pollution and smashes smaller cars, but maybe that's because I like $300 dinners. (Mmmm.)

And incidentally, although this may not have come through clearly in the original message, I was making the point that Liz WASN'T being retro, but was instead applying a kind of retro-chic treatment to the current sound, recycling it in real time and thus participating in popular culture. But.

You did get two things right, though: I do really like Xtina and Britney (although not Creed, as they are too dour and rockist for me) because, like I say about the Liz album, there are some really, really fucking good songs there, just like how I like early Beatles stuff even though they sing stuff with dumb lyrics like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (by the by, if you're looking for a good parallel for the "ironic line surrounded by meaningless sincerity" thing you don't see in "Rock Me," try the first verse of "I Saw Her Standing There"). If the song is good, fuck it: I don't give a shit about the rest, and I especially love the way that the producers of those songs have, as I say, fucking gone for it and just thrown everything at it. Love it love it love it. Unabashedly.

The other thing would be about Pitchfork's not covering an album like this if it wasn't Liz Phair. Yeah, that's true. And maybe that's a problem. Yes, yes, I know you're not the editor, but we did both CC Catherine on this one, so maybe it'll get in the mailbag and spark some kind of useful dialogue. (And what the hell, I'll cc Ryan too.) And who knows--maybe you'll get assigned something mainstream in the future, and it'll change your thinking a bit. At any rate, Pitchfork seems to have assumed its editorial mission, from what I've gathered from newswire and mailbag stuff, is to both cover "underground" music, and to expose people to good music they wouldn't have heard otherwise. Both admirable goals. But you guys have also covered a decent number of mainstream products of late, and when you do so, it only seems to be to trash them. So if the first part of the mission has been compromised a bit, it would seem to make sense to sublimate it to the second, very positive, goal, and expose indie-rock kids who normally scorn the mainstream to mass-market stuff that's good but that they might otherwise overlook. This was the point, for instance, I think a lot of the letter-writers were trying to make about your Metallica review--that if you're going to address something indie kids left for dead long ago, then why not do so to say something good about it and expose them to good music? (And before you say, "Well you should bring that up with the other writers"--oh believe me, I have.)

Ultimately, I guess, we'll have to agree to disagree, because obviously you can't bring yourself to like radio-friendly pop / rock, and I can't help but like it. I would suggest, though, that if you can't bring yourself to like this kind of music (the hated Britney, Xtina, etc.) and you love music as much as someone who writes for PF obviously does, then maybe you should give it more of a chance--as should Pitchfork.