Monday, February 20, 2012

fuck dem 90's

There's a possibility that somewhere between 3 and 4 people may have actually read through our "Hot Mix 2011" commentary.... And we are infinitely grateful that anyone cares what we have to say, and so we thank you...

And so this article emerged on Pitchfork earlier today... Here's dat link:

It's one of the first public statements we've noticed that criticizes the anti-rockism era, and possibly noting the start of a new movement, into a new direction of criticism where any specific mindset may be considered equally blinding or narrow-minded... We don't really think there's any way to view criticism that's any more narrowing than anything else.

The short definition of "Rockism" mentioned in this article seems decent enough, but it requires at least 10 pages in order to start to fully understand what it's all about... The example listed in this article regards the common argument that "Britney Spears doesn't even write her own songs," which rockists view as a negative, even though back in the 60's there was this label called Motown which did the exact same thing and created some of the most gorgeous-sounding pop music that might ever exist.

Another common rockist critique not mentioned here regards the question of how people will regard a given artist in 2 years, or in 5 years, or in 20 years, or in 50 years... People often look back on The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc etc, with a rose-colored perception, as of music never got any better, and that there is no possible way that with 30 years hindsight from 2012 that current artists will ever be nearly as highly regarded as the multi-million sellers of the 60's and 70's. The popist-version of this is to say, "who cares how this music will be regarded in the future... the only thing that matters is how I feel about new music right now, at this exact moment." Which is why dummies exist who actually placed Beyonce, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga into their best albums of 2011... Decent albums that are nowhere as good as the stuff they released previously. But simply because they're decent and didn't contain any significant duds, pop-fans go apeshit for them. For example, obvious bandwagon jumpers SPIN Magazine included all three artists in their best of 2011 albums list.

This brings us to our point... The article says that "rockism" lessens the impact of critique, because rockists are quick to use statements such as "rock is back!" or "this album rocks!" in order to describe why something contains merit, without including any actual critique.

This is probably the same reason why we simply can't stand people using "90's-sounding" shit as a critique regarding bands who simply want to record rock music in the style of Pixies or Nirvana or Dinosaur Jr or Yo La Tengo or etc etc etc...

The first time we noticed this was in 2007 with Silversun Pickups. We initially enjoyed them as just another one of those new kickass bands and didn't put much thought into any actual critique. But then a few months later when they started to gain more attention, a few kids are like "yeah these guys are pretty cool... sounds WAY 90's tho..." And our reaction was one of surprise, since the loud-guitar style of Queens of the Stone Age, Deftones, and A Perfect Circle (among dozens of others) throughout the early-2000's had never really disappeared. The label occurred with a few newer bands on and off since Silversun, most notably in 2009 with Japandroids, and then especially last year with Yuck.

Isn't this a similar rockist critique? And why has no one called out Pitchfork on this? (The only time we DIDN'T see P4k refer to Yuck as 90's was in their blurb on the single "Get Away" in December.) Just because they "sound 90's," how does this matter? Why does that make it good or bad? It's such an easy cop-out form of labeling. It doesn't really make a difference in either direction, and plus it's not even accurate: Dinosaur, Yo La Tengo, Nirvana and Pixies ALL debuted in the 80's. Do yo homework, bro.

In our estimation, the "90's sound" (in terms of rock music) should only relate to "dated" production sounds or songwriting aspects that are no longer used, or that haven't been used since the 90's themselves...

In our opinion, THIS is only a small portion of what constitutes "the 90's sound"....
  • Early 90's: The Madchester sound, specifically the 1990 LP Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches by The Happy Mondays or the Stereo MC's album from 1992. (Based on our estimation, nothing that anyone is releasing in 2012 sounds anything like this. It's a very DATED 90's sound, and if anyone tried to release a Madchester-sounding thing in 2012, labelling it as "90's sounding" would absolutely make sense.)
  • Combining rock with techno beats: This started with the Madchester thing, but was also later used in singles like U2's "Mysterious Ways" or on Moby's Everything Is Wrong LP.
  • Rap/rock hybrids: Referring to the Judgement Night soundtrack, Faith No More's "Epic," Rage Against the Machine's first LP and Public Enemy's collaboration with Anthrax. In this respect, it makes just as much sense to label any Lil Wayne single that features guitar as "90's sounding." Lil Wayne has just as much to do with the aforementioned artists as Yuck has to do with Dinosaur Jr, although Lil Wayne still doesn't know how to play more than 4 chords and he's been holding that guitar for over 5 years. (Less than 1 chord per year at this point. Not a good sign.) Was Eminem's "Lose Yourself" secretly a homage to the 90's and no one ever bothered to pick up on it?
  • The horrible super-digitally-enhanced production heard on albums such as Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill. Huge albums rarely sound as bad as Jagged Little Pill these days, but if they did, the would sound 90's. Not to mention, JLP contains at least 4 rock songs ("All I Really Want," "You Oughtta Know," "Hand In My Pocket," "You Learn") that contain the EXACT SAME drum pattern performed over multiple guitar tracks that are so digitally processed that they nearly end up sounding like pure fuzz. If any new bands released something that remotely resembled this and Pitchfork was like "yo, it sounds 90s," we would have no complaints.
  • A common 90's rock production technique was to include copious digital-reverb, often heard from bands such as Belly, Afghan Whigs, and on REM's Automatic For the People. So with this in mind, anyone using the horrible "reverb" trend set in place back in 2007 (used as a crutch by bands such as Fleet Foxes) deserve to be labelled as "90's" just as much as a band like Yuck or Japandroids.

  • There are tons of awesome loud-guitar bands right now... And there have been tons of bands playing this kind of music since the punk days in the late 70's... It really makes no sense to lump all of them together as "90's sounding" just because of Nirvana's effect on the modern rock radio format. We're tired of seeing "90's" overused by critics who are clearly just as narrow-minded as rockists. Can we please work on this?

    Whatever... Who cares, no ones gonna listen to us...

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