Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If I have my nose turned in the air...

...it's only because I'd rather not look you in the eye.

As the Staten Island Advance has seen fit to remind me, I'm have sometimes described myself as a snob when it comes to the rock stuff. Of course, I've been called a snob many times before I started calling myself one. The first instance was probably during my teen years when a classmate vehemently called me a snob for saying that Unrest was better than Pennywise. (I'm not sure if history has proven me right on that one.) It's happened recently as well. The editor of A New Nuance chided me as a snob for not particularly looking forward to the second Arcade Fire record and saying that I found Clap Your Hands Say Yeah as "dull as dishwater." (In case you don't remember, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was a band briefly popular in 2005.)

Using the historically tested method in identity politics of turning a negative into a positive, I decided to adopt the word for myself thus negating its derogatory power. (i.e. "Snob" is my N-word.)

What's fascinating to me is how well it's worked. Almost too well. When people call me a snob, it's a pejorative. When I call my self one, I'm self-aggrandizing even if I mean it in a tongue in cheek, self-effacing way.

When I tell a friend I don't enjoy a particular artist he or she likes, I'll follow it up with "But I'm snob, so, you know..." I don't mean this to imply that I have better taste than anyone else and can't be bothered with your inferior myopic nonsense. I mean that I have a huge personality defect that makes me very particular and judgmental about music generally made with guitars so heed not and listen to what you like.

A similar point was made in this week's Popless column over at the Onion AV Club. Noel Murray writes:
It's odd how defensive people get when they mention certain bands or movies, like, "I know people will jump on me for this, but I really like Groundhog Day," or "I hate to admit it, but The Bee Gees have some good songs." There's an assumption being made, that the world at large has agreed that some things are meant to be taken seriously, while others are "guilty pleasures" (or just plain "suck").
(For the record, Groundhog Day is a great film and the Bee Gees have some outstanding songs, particularly on their first few albums. However, the band Murray mainly uses to illustrate his point in the introductory essay is Steely Dan, who are awful. But that's neither here nor there.)

I've often wondered the same thing. Why do people get so apologetic for liking Justin Timberlake or Amy Winehouse or even the Killers? They sell millions and millions of records! Tons of people like them! I'm the one who likes the wacky fringe shit! I should be apologizing for contemplating if if the Disco Zombies song "Drums Over London" is racist or simply sung in character. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, that's exactly my point.)

For all these reasons I've decided that I need stop referring to myself as a "rock snob." (Also because the other "self-described music snob" in the AWE piece likes these guys thus proving the term totally ineffectual at conveying my personal taste.)

I may have to go on a little hiatus from this blog until I come up with a better term to describe what kind of music I cover here. (And not because I'm going to be really busy with work and other things for the next week or so). The best I can come up with so far is "dumb smart guy rock." Can you do any better? Please share.

Speaking of "dumb smart guy rock" I was lucky enough to catch Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps at Brooklyn's favorite illegal performance space/sauna on Sunday night. So good were they, I briefly forgot about the awful, stomach-turning events of that afternoon. Their respective 2008 releases, The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In and US EZ, are highly recommended.

Also highly recommended for those in the New York City area is the Tyvek/Thomas Function show at Cakeshop this Friday, October 3rd. This marks the first time that two of the bands from this blog's "Make This Band Your Myspace Friend" feature have played together in New York. (Especially noteworthy since I've only done the feature 4 times.) Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it as I'll be attending a wedding but don't let that stop you from going. In fact, you might have a better time without my presence. I can be a bit of a snob from what I hear.


Miss. Francis said...

OR your nose up in the air might be the result of your spidey sense picking up on the applesauce-pumpkin-spice loaves I just put in the oven. Also, why is it that being honest about what one likes and dislikes makes a person a
"snob" or a "bitch" or an "elitist"? Why can't it just make you "honest" instead of a disingenuous kiss ass?
Also, Amy Winehouse is great. I can't wait for the Celebrity Cage match starring her and Naiomy Campbell. It's anyone's game and only a matter of time before Fox puts some benjamins behind the idea.

Anonymous said...

the thing is, some people just hate to hate, and to one up you on every opinion that you have, which makes for an egg shell walk of a conversation, unless you want to get into some really long winded bullshit talk when you could be doing much better things- like watching the Met's meltdown, or the economy meltdown "Warnings of an Economic 9-11"-SI Advance

PB said...

Ms Francis: I was with you until I saw how you spelled "Naomi."

But seriously, I was going to write a bit on how taste is individual and subjective. I don't like what I like because it's "obscure." I like what I like and it often happens to be obscure and what's mainstream generally doesn't interest me. Why? I have no idea. Just different values in what I like in my entertainment.

It's always nice to meet someone who has an appreciation for the some of the same things you do, especially if it's something appreciated by few others. Anytime I meet a fan of The Fall or Prisonshake, for example, I feel I've found a kindred spirit. It's part of the fun of all this record collection/music appreciation nonsense that consumes an unhealthy portion of my life. But the notion of "consensus" when it comes to artistic matters is dubious at best.

Then again, I'm pretty certain that the critics are right that "Disaster Movie" was awful.

Snagglepuss: As you can plainly see, long-winded bullshit talk is what I'm all about. There are certainly more important subjects but I'll leave that to... um... whoever wants to do it.

Anonymous said...

Ugh if that trip to see the Jets spank the Cardinals hadn't eventually put the exhaustion and weed into me and taken the adventure out I would've caught that show at dba too. Thee Oh Sees' brand of beautiful swamp garage has been tickling my fancy, and I had this show marked on my calendar for sometime. That makes two shows in two weeks (Psych Horseshit last week) that i've pussed out on. Williamsburg is too far and I am too lazy. Fuck.

As for snobbery, it's funny because I think the internet has definitely taken some of mystique out of this priesthood. All you need now is a smidgen of interest and a high speed connection to listen to more interesting music than there's time for. Back in the day dilettantes like me wouldn't be bothered by having to get interesting leads from imported zines for the next time you went to an old record store. Right now because some band* uses underground 80s releases to promote their blog I can dig into NEMB or PANT 7"s without actually having to pick up a shovel, so to speak.

All of this is to say that perhaps when someone calls you a snob what they're really jealous of is your work ethic, back when it meant something. At least that's what I mean when I say it ;)

*Thanks Blank Dogs.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you're seeking out a term other than "snob" with which to describe yourself.

As you well know, I've been dissatisfied with this description for a long time.

(Indeed, I see it as "self-aggrandizing," as you so eloquently stated, rather than self-deprecating.)

It really is the worst critic who criticizes without submitting suggestions for improvement. It looks like I am the worst kind of critic, in this regard, for I have no better suggestions.

I'll get back to you!

P.S. The word, "snobbism" has two "b"s. I think you owe Ms. Francis an apology, for being so...


PB said...

Dola: It's too bad you didn't make it to the show. I wound up going by myself. It would have been nice to see a familiar face. Some guy was begging me for rolling papers of which I had none. I finally gave him an ATM receipt which he deemed acceptable. Then he disappeared without offering me any! What a douche nozzle!

Anyway, I would agree that the internet has been great exposure for all varieties of underground bands new and old and that's a good thing. The major label business model is clearly crumbling and the loosening of their stranglehold has opened avenues for legitimately exciting music. If the dilettantes are listening to better music, that means better bands are getting more support. I can't complain. The notion that only "experts" can enjoy good music is totally elitist and perhaps the epitome of snobbery. And don't sell yourself short, Dola. I'm sure you didn't hear about the Blank Dogs from Pitchfork.

On the other hand, what seems to be most popular is Juno-styled wuss rock that's about as edgy as James Taylor. (See Lester Bangs' essay circa 1971). Plus there seems to be an especially annoying new brand of fan: the loud, opinionated, know-nothing, know-it-all. The kind of guy who thinks the ability to read Van Dyke Parks' Wikipedia page or Google "Rocket From the Tombs" makes him a scholar. Who's more concerned about having the right opinion than having one of his own. I have no patience for you!

Maura: I don't know about "snobbism" but I'm pretty certain there are two "b's" in "clobber." Think about that the next time you want to offer some non-constructive criticism.

Anonymous said...

"non-constructive criticism" -- that made me giggle.