Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How Sweet to Be An Idiot Part II

The institutional nervous breakdown of the New York Times continues apace, and this time it's not just Kelefa Sanneh making a fool of himself.

Case in point: today they let David Brooks write about rock

I will cut him slack about the subhead -- Little Stevie and the fragmentation of rock 'n roll -- which only appears in the print edition, and may, in fact, have been written by someone other than Bobo. (Still -- Little Stevie? How embarassing is that?)

I will also grant Brooks that his larger point -- "toward the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, the era of integration gave way to the era of fragmentation" in pop music -- has at least a grain of truth to it.

However, anybody who could write this sentence -- "It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles" -- to describe the present historical moment really needs to listen to an Amy Winehouse album, to name just one of a billion possible current examples of white musicians doing precisely that.

Seriously, I'm beginning to think everyone at the Times is on drugs or something.

18 comments:

Attaturk said...

We're all awaiting your analysis of his column Mr. Rock-N-Roll Fantasy Camp.

Cleveland Bob said...

Every year about this time the missus and I re-subscribe to the Sunday Times cause we love those late Fall/Winter mornings reading a big fat newspaper.

Not.This.Year. I'm so done with the NY Times.

I think I'll start doing my tai-chi again on Sundays. Note to self...

Kid Charlemagne said...

Bobo is just repeating what he heard at the Country Club last weekend.

He wouldn't know "African American" music if George Clinton shot him with his Bop Gun.

steve simels said...

Not that I think of it -- what the hell is Little Steven(!) doing talking to Brooks in the first place?

Van Zandt's practically a communist, fer crissakes....

Brooklyn Girl said...

There are so many idiotic comments in that article that I don't know where to begin.

The 1970s were a great moment for musical integration. Artists like the Rolling Stones and Springsteen drew on a range of musical influences and produced songs that might be country-influenced, soul-influenced, blues-influenced or a combination of all three.

The Stones were doing that in the 60s. There was also plenty of "fragmentation" in the 60s: acid rock, raga rock, country rock, folk rock, blues rock ...

It seems that whatever story I cover, people are anxious about fragmentation and longing for cohesion. This is the driving fear behind the inequality and immigration debates, behind worries of polarization and behind the entire Obama candidacy.

Huh?

Yet another example of coming up with a clever-sounding theory and then cherrypicking facts to support it.

Of course, he never mentions the expense involved in mounting a show like U2's or the Stones ... that these megabands have to lug around massive amounts of equipment and technology, that ticket prices are going through the roof ...

And if there is greater social fragmentation (and there is), then who does he think is responsible for it? Who benefits from pitting various segments of society against each other?

First they send A.O. Scott (a good writer, but not a rock critic) to interview Bruce. Now Bobo is writing about music and using it to substantiate his moronic social theories. I'm tempted to say that you need to write to them, but at this point, there's no hope for them.

The Times is dead to me.

Gummo said...

The Times has been dead to me for 5 years, at least.

So obviously I haven't read the column in question, but even your pull-quotes don't make any sense.

Gee, what a surprise there, huh?

Just another part of our pundit "If I don't know about it personally, it doesn't exist, because I'm way too important to do that grubby journalistic stuff like, you know, research" culture.

Gummo said...

Oh, and the 70s were the era of musical integration?

I guess he doesn't remember (or was too deep into his Eagles albums to remember) the punk-disco wars.

Oh yeah, fans on both sides of that divide were singing "Kumbayah", fer sure.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Just another part of our pundit "If I don't know about it personally, it doesn't exist, because I'm way too important to do that grubby journalistic stuff like, you know, research" culture.

I think that sums up just about all of them perfectly. I don't know how Krugman stays sane.

steves said...

Not to defend Bobo's rantings by any stretch, but it's clear that he thought to himself if Felafel can do it, anybody can!

peter spencer said...

A.O. Scott is a better choice to interview Bruce than our favorite Choate/Harvard man.

I think the punk/disco divide is where this process started. It began and continues through the actions of cynical, short-sighted music/radio executives who are selling the larger 80s marketing vision that people buy products to make statements about themselves. And you can make things cheaper and dumber if the customer is more preoccupied with that statement than with the actual thing they're buying. This fits in with the deliberate mindlessness of both punk and disco. And I expect cocaine fits in there somewhere, too....

"Little Stevie" sounds like a desk error. The copy editor didn't read the piece very closely but remmembers that Stevie Wonder had just given a show at MSG.

Cleveland Bob said...

In light of the "punk/disco wars", I think I may have a candidate for an upcoming Friday Listomania topic.

How about; Late 70's crossover albums that made it "okay" to listen to punk?

I've always said that when my Reagan-Youth sister got herself a copy of Blondie's Parallel Lines, that "punk" was well on its way to the grave.

Whadya think, Steve?...

Brooklyn Girl said...

A.O. Scott is a better choice to interview Bruce than our favorite Choate/Harvard man.

No question about it! At least he's not an idiot. It just speaks volumes about the sorry state of music criticism at the Times.

They need a good writer over there.

TMink said...

Well, there was also the Mod v. Rocker clash (heh heh) in Britan.

Still, it is interesting (and sad as many of you are friends I have yet to meet) for me (a libetarian with conservative leanings) to hear your distress at the NYT. Honestly, I can empathize with you loss and consternation as that was something I dealt with a while ago. I know we have different political views, but we all share an appreciation for reality. I mean, we know we are all talking about the same guitar break when we disagree about it.

In some ways, the ultimate postmodern achievement is idiotic subjectivity. And that has hit the Times big time. So it does not matter that what is written is idiocy and contrary to the facts as there are no facts and it is authentic idiocy.

It does not matter that the band sucks and has neither style nor substance, it just matters that the writter likes them.

The good rock writers, Palmer, Marsh, Steve, and others, can flat out strain the wheat from the chaff. When those guys point you somewhere, you can trust to follow.

I followed Steve here because I read his work at the magazine formally known as, he turned me on to some good stuff, and I knew I could TRUST him to point me toward quality.

So now I have 4 Apples in Stereo cds, and two Strokes cds, and blah blah blah. Mary and Kid, you do it too! I know that a nod from you means it is worth two looks.

But in the ultimate post-modern move, the times has hired and publishes someone who does not understand music and cannot recognize the god from the bad from the ugly.

And that sucks. I felt your pain.

Trey

steve simels said...

I've always said that when my Reagan-Youth sister got herself a copy of Blondie's Parallel Lines, that "punk" was well on its way to the grave.

Whadya think, Steve?...


CB, that's an interesting question. I'm not sure what exactly was the tipping point back then...There is a critical school of thought that holds the whole New Wave thing was nothing more than a cynical record company attempt to co-opt punk. I don't think that's true, particularly, but I understand why some might think it.

By the same token, I know you don't want to get NYMary started on how the Knack's success basically made Shoes impossible...

return of the plumber said...

I haven't read the pop music reviews from the Times with any interest for years (though I do like their sports coverage) so I don't have much to contribute to that part of the discussion But I'd like to comment on the black & white split in music and much of it being created by BIG MEDIA.

Do you remember when the media made such a big deal about MTV intergrating with Michael Jackson? Patting themselves on their backs. Imagine any television music show from the 60's not being intergrated.

Progressive Rock FM radio filtered many listeners off from AM top 40 radio and the pop charts went to hell. The punk/disco war was a reaction to first Top 40 and Progressive FM going downhill. Some folks were disgusted with corporate rock and needed an edge to their music, thus punk was born. Others just wanted to shake their asses on a dance floor, thus disco. These camps feared each other's music and so we got what I feel was really more musical racism them real racism.

And BIG MEDIA fed this because it created the demographics they wanted. Split, conquer and reap the profits. And if racism became a buy product "oh well".

MBowen said...

OK, I was a little late to the party; I first heard the Ramones (and the rest of the CBGBs bands, and the Britpunks) in the fall of 1977. I don't remember any punk/disco war - if anything, it was a rawk/punk and disco war - straights who liked Ted Nugent or Boston or Eric Clapton or James Taylor or Pink Floyd vs. us.

Uncle Smokes said...

However, anybody who could write this sentence -- "It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles" -- to describe the present historical moment really needs to listen to an Amy Winehouse album, to name just one of a billion possible current examples of white musicians doing precisely that.

Hell...ever since some white musician heard the blues pentatonic scale and thought, "Ye gods, that's good," African-American styles have been used.

It happened to me, of course. As a boy I heard Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," and went nuts. Later I learned the basic boogie woogie bass lines and how to noodle around with the blues scale, and I drove my piano teacher to distraction with my jaunty revisions to Bach.

One wonders if Mr. Brooks ever heard of Geroge Gershwin?

Uncle Smokes said...

[Or George Gershwin for that matter...Geroge was his little-known Polish cousin who once toured the Borscht Belt playing a jazzy "Hava Nagila" with a kazoo and spoons.] :)