The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 August 2004

But it's a classic!

You know the feeling. People have talked it up for the longest time, maybe you've heard a track on the radio that you liked, and so you plunk down your coin of the realm for the album, peel off the shrinkwrap, and lie back, waiting to be transformed. And forty or fifty minutes later, you look up, stare disbelievingly at either the ceiling or the stereo, and mumble: "That kinda... sucked."

Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics [Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books], compiled and edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo, is dedicated to the proposition that you may be right. The cover blurb barely scratches the surface:

It is a spirited assault on rock's sacred cows and a defiant slap in the face to the narrow and hegemonic view of rock history presented by the Baby Boom generation of critics.

Okay, docked a point for using "hegemonic," but "spirited" doesn't come close to describing the sheer glee with which these thirty-four writers eviscerate some of your (and my) favorite albums. Your friend and mine, Dawn Eden, even takes on an unreleased "masterpiece," the Beach Boys' Smile project, whose reputation seems to rest solely upon the notion that if one wigged-out genius (Brian Wilson) is good, two wigged-out geniuses (add Van Dyke Parks) must be superlative.

Why is punk poet Patti Smith lionized? Melanie Haupt explains:

I think that no one really finds her music palatable, but one's hipster cred goes through the roof when partygoers do the CD-scan in their host's home and see something as inaccessible as Smith in the collection. It's kind of like going through Navy SEAL training — it's hard as shit, not everyone makes it through, and those who do are considered badasses by the rest of us.

Not that, say, Jim Morrison has any badass credentials: "The Ashton Kutcher of his time."

If you've ever wondered what's so damn great about Sgt. Pepper's or Exile on Main St. or even Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Kill Your Idols tells you in no uncertain terms: not much. If this book stops you from buying even one of these CDs from because you need $13 more to qualify for free shipping, it's done its job.

Posted at 9:11 AM to Tongue and Groove

I enjoyed the book but I STILL like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot...

Posted by: Kevin Walsh at 11:18 AM on 14 August 2004

I am a major Pet Sounds fiend, and it's thoroughly skewered in the book. Doesn't bother me. Much.

Posted by: CGHill at 11:40 AM on 14 August 2004

I read the excerpts from the book on the link. The authors struck me as pretentious, mostly in the verbiage, as if the Thesaurus were used while on acid. Did these songs/albums remind them of something that happened that they hated during that particular time? Can you say "fisk"?

What did they do? Apply Country Music themes to their hatred of these tracks? His girlfriend dumped him, his boyfriend dumped him, his dog died, his wife came -back-. All because something similar happened while these songs were playing?

If a movie critic can't stand something, this a good indication that it's a pretty good movie and any movie a critic adores can be considered as unadulterated garbage. It appears that the same thing applies to music critics.

It's a blatant attempt to "sound knowledgeable" with no real knowledge in evidence.

Posted by: unimpressed at 1:12 PM on 14 August 2004

Ok, I'm 55, and, excluding the three or four that I've never even heard (e.g. the Public Enemy one), there is not a single album on here that I don't consider to be somewhere between somewhat and vastly over-rated. Make of that what you will.

It's got a few good songs, but Tommy was always nonsense, and I said so at the time it came out. Give me Happy Jack any day.

The best I've ever been able to say for Blood on the Tracks is that it's not bad for a post-'68 Dylan album. Hardly a masterpiece.

I didn't bother to hear the Sex Pistols until around 1990. The youngster who let me borrow Never Mind... said, "You're going to wonder what the fuss was all about." I did.

And so on.

I don't ordinarily read rock criticism (I heard about this on the Dawn Patrol) but I may make an exception here.

Posted by: Maclin Horton at 2:05 PM on 14 August 2004

I've never considered myself a follower and even have a strong contrarian streak, but.. as musician I can attest that there is no way to overstate the brilliance of YHF or OK Computer in my eyes. Patti Smith, I don't get... but some people do.. more power to them.

I make music.. er, I try to make music. My basis for adoration is if I listen to a record and I think "Man, that just so kicks my ass in so many ways!".

-Its has to be inventive, its easy to look back 20-50+ yrs and think "Yeah, what's so great about that?" But at the time, it was conjured out of thin air, somtimes using techniques and ideas untested before.

-Art is about context, that's why what I like and what you like varies. Its an interaction. So while its fair to look back and say "well, let's look at this objectively" its not how music is heard.

Posted by: bruce at 5:18 PM on 14 August 2004