Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Forbes Music Blog

I've been very under the radar the last few days, in recovery mode. Yes, I had a (fairly mild) heart attack a couple of weeks ago and it will take a while to get my energy back. But I just ran into one thing that was so 'stimulating' that I have to write about it. Forbes has a new music blog. Forbes, magazine of millionaires, billionaires and lists of millionaires and billionaires. These folks should be, if anyone is, the patrons of the serious music of our time. Let's have a look at that blog to see what it reveals. Hello to Michele Catalano who has a thin resumé as a writer. She's not just out of high school as she has a son--she just writes as if she were. Here's the blog. Here is an extended quote; please hold on to something in case you lose your balance:
I write about music because I write about life. The two things are intrinsically meshed with each other and I hope it will be evident in each piece I write that my relationship with music is a very personal one. I welcome you into this part of my world, into the space where I hope I can share my sacred relationship with music and all the musical things I believe with you.
What do I believe?
I believe Queens of the Stone Age are the best rock band around. I believe in 80s west coast punk. I believe 80s east coast hardcore is better than 80s east coast straight edge, but not by much. I believe Incubus was a better band before Make Yourself, that John Darnielle is the greatest storyteller in music and that people just don’t understand My Chemical Romance. I believe in remembering my roots and dragging out my Who, Doors and Zeppelin albums every once in a while. I believe in old, scratchy vinyl and the passion of a cassette mix tape. I believe music critics should be more honest which is why I will tell you how much I love boy bands and pop music. I believe that everyone has a skeleton in their musical closet that looks like Korn and they should let that closet door hang open once in while. I believe “Mmmbop” is the single greatest pop song ever made.
This kind of stuff is ok, sure. It's what used to appear in the teen-pop mags like RAVE or TOP-BOYS or Creem or Teen-Beat or Crawdaddy and hundreds of others. It was all about the cool of naming the new names who were cool because they were new. The quote above, by the way, goes on for much longer than you would think in exactly the same vein. For the life of me all I can visualize is Michele, writhing around on her bed, listening to her iPod on shuffle, giggling and touching herself. That's the kind of activity that produces this kind of prose.

Now Forbes is a magazine presumably read by business people, the affluent or would-be affluent, movers and possibly shakers. My question is, what could these people possibly derive from reading one sentence of this half-baked recitation of names with whom they associate no known musical sound?

I've been a musician for over forty years and except for the Who, Doors and Zeppelin, have heard of not one single one of these names. Wait, I think I heard the name Korn once. Now presumably all these names are deliciously meaningful to the right demographic which has got to be fourteen year old girls, of whom ol' Michele Catalano is trying her best to be a facsimile. But why, in the name of all that's holy, would any reader of Forbes have the slightest interest in any of this? Why!?!

Does an editor need to be fired somewhere? Or, shudder, is it the case that this is the music suitable to the attention of the wealthy and powerful? If that's the case then that would go some way towards explaining why the world's economy is going down the crapper. If the people who read Forbes are spending their time reading that "Mmmbop" is the single greatest pop song ever made, then we are in most desperate need of a new aristocracy. STAT!

The leaders of the economic system of the world are listening to: "Mmmbop"?

Back in the days when the aristocracy ran things with an iron hand, at least people like Frederick the Great  listened to stuff like this:


Craig said...

If you keep posting things like this, I might have a heart attack.

Do take care of yourself.

Bryan Townsend said...

Craig, I promise I am taking things very easy these days. But I'm not sure what you meant with your other comment? Did you find the post, uh, interesting?

Logan said...

Funny. I was just listening to some John Darnielle (who happens to be a very fine songwriter, actually) and wondering what Bryan Townsend would think of it. No, really. And then I get home and find that you've actually mentioned him in a post (sort of)...only to blithely assume that he must write for "fourteen-year-old girls" because you've never heard of him and because Michele Catalano mentions him favorably. Drat.

This is a wonderful blog, and I'm annoyed that my first comment here regards one of the very few things that I don't like about it. But my roots are in popular music (you and Craig Burrell are the sole forces that really opened up "classical" music to me) and I do get irked when you start talking in your most authoritative tones about things you really don't know much about. John Darnielle is just an example. The point is, sometimes I wish you would be a little more careful to look into and understand those areas in music that you aren't as familiar with (jazz, for example, or really anything written after circa 1970) before you start writing about them and, as tends to be the case, hastening to the conclusion that it's not really worth the time.

Ugh. I'm very tired and I don't really know why I started writing this. I guess I love you and John Darnielle both too much to not try and reconcile the two of you, at least in some obscure way in my own mind. This isn't anything to unload on you at a time like this. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope that your blog (but, more importantly, your health) regains its full vigor soon.

Bryan Townsend said...

Logan, thanks so much for taking the time to take me down a peg! Yours is the kind of comment that I treasure the most because it digs into an issue that is probably worth digging into. Of course I can't know all the hundreds of artists and bands mentioned in a column such as Michele Catalano's and when I dismiss them all en masse, as it were, it is as much for comic effect as anything else. What I mostly found comic was the idea of all those grey-haired CEOs being told to groove on Hanson, of all people.

It's really Michele Catalano that I am dismissing, even thought it sure sounds like it is the artists. And, of course, I'm sure that, given the opportunity, I would dismiss such of them as deserve it. I did pick out the Hanson song, after all.

But Logan, you make an actual argument for the quality of John Darnielle and so I immediately read the Wikipedia article. He seems extraordinarily well-rounded for a song-writer. And then I listened to several songs. Oddly enough he reminds me of a young Australian song-writer named Packwood that I've been trying to organize an interview with because he does some lovely original things. From what I have heard so far of John Darnielle, so does he. The one thing I'm not crazy about so far is that in a lot of songs he has a very heavy, thick-sounding mix that doesn't seem ideal for the song. Just a quibble.

Craig said...

Bryan, what I meant by my first comment was that the Forbes blog seems calculated to give me a heart attack. My not-all-that-old ticker still trips over itself when confronted with evidence that our culture has fallen on such hard times.

Logan said...

I'm glad you appreciated the comment. Now that you explain it like that, of course, I understand perfectly. It's clear that all you're really talking about is Mrs. Catalano (and Hanson). As you could probably guess, I wouldn't have cared a bit if John Darnielle hadn't chanced to worm his way into things, however peripherally. Glad to hear you ended up enjoying the songs, though. Out of curiosity, do you remember any titles?

I hope you do get to interview Packwood sometime. As far as I can tell, by the way, that name refers to the band and not just the main singer/songwriter, which I suspect might be a fact worth knowing if you're trying to interview him/them. All I could find on Youtube was five live videos, but they did pique my interest. I think I'll have to delve further into them. Best wishes.

That really is a funny image, incidentally. I suppose there are fewer and fewer people now who would find anything incongruous about CEOs listening to "Mmmbop"...

Bryan Townsend said...

Craig, gotcha!

Logan, thanks. One of the problems with Michele Catalano's way of writing about music is that she just throws it all into the big blender so my inclination is to mock her methods. Re John Darnielle, the song that I particularly liked was "In Memory of Satan" just him and piano.

Oh yes, Packwood is the person and the band and we have been in email contact, but it just hasn't come together yet.

Logan, thanks again for writing.

Logan said...

OK, I promise this is my last comment on this particular post. Hope you don't mind me pestering you with a few recommendations. If you like the simplicity of "In Memory of Satan," I think you'd enjoy "Elijah" (if you don't mind a lo-fi recording), "White Cedar", "Harlem Roulette", "International Small Arms Traffic Blues", "Pale Green Things", or "Liza Forever Minnelli", to start with. Just in case you're interested. If you're only going to listen to one, make it one of the first 3 that I listed, but I personally prefer any of these over "In Memory of Satan".

Bryan Townsend said...

I can never guess which post will spark the most comment, but this has been a fun series. Comments always welcome Logan and I will indeed have a listen to the songs you mention.