Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pop Aphorisms: 7

1. An old adage advises not to judge a book by its cover; it is therefore the height of folly to judge an album’s greatness by the album cover. As always, the exception proves the rule.

2. The emergence of Rolling Stone magazine in the late 60s is historic only in the sense that its publication openly acknowledged the dependency rock and pop had on the institution of criticism that validated—attributed importance to—the music.

3. The reason why most rock critics are so uncomfortable with the “one-hit wonder” is that it contradicts one of the sustaining myths of rock criticism: the concept of a career, that is, of a musician’s so-called “artistic development.”

4. It is a profound distortion of history to say that Punk rock was music written and played by amateurs.

5. The best lyricists in popular music intuitively understood Sartre’s dictum that one’s brilliance is not a result of having said certain things, “but for having chosen to say them in a certain way”—too bad most critics haven’t understood it.

6. One would very much like to say the difference between a fan and a critic is that the former has an uncritical identification with a particular band’s music.

7. Fanzine: same thing as a slick magazine on the newsstand, except it is printed on the photocopy machine, the writing is even more unpolished, and the vocabulary isn’t as impressive.

8. Ambrose Bierce observed about “destiny” that it allowed a tyrant to defend his crimes, while it gave a fool an excuse for failure: within the institution of entertainment, the concept is referred to as either “producer interference” or, occasionally, “lack of publicity.”

9. The surest guarantee a band has of having made a classic record is that it fails commercially when first released: initial failure is a guarantee of greatness.

10. Desert Island Discs: a game music critics invented when up against the deadline for an expected article. As an indulgence, it is possible only when having way too many albums to listen to within a single lifetime.

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