Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pop Aphorisms: 8

1. Concerts once were performed for the purpose of being recorded, but now concerts occur for the purpose of promoting a record.

2. There’s a very good reason why lists comprised of “the best rock (or pop) records (singles, etc.) ever made” are frequently published while “the worst rock (or pop) records ever made” never are: the latter requires one to put forth artistically defensible reasons for the choices made.

3. No music critic should be allowed to use the word “brilliant” in a review or article for the next 15 years, thereby allowing words such as “good,” “ordinary,” and perhaps even “banal” to regain their rightful place in the critical vocabulary.

4. No band or artist in the history of popular music has ever been able to overcome one daunting, fundamental ambiguity: is it art, or is it commerce? Of course, neither have the movies.

5. The fact that studios, and studio technology, are utterly essential to rock music is openly acknowledged by the elevation of the recording engineer to the status of a band member—as true for Elvis in the ‘50s as it is now.

6. The reason albums contain credits attributing a specific instrument to a specific individual is simply an acknowledgment of the specialization and division of labor that has been a feature of the industrial revolution since its inception.

7. Psychedelic rock—the aural equivalent of a hallucinogenic trip—is not simply the result of distorted amplification, but also of the first rock generation growing up spending Saturdays at the movie theater, with its astonishing array of cinematic genres, styles, periods, and budgetary quality.

8. A rock song that “says something” is the aural equivalent of a 1950s “problem picture,” explaining why both the songs and the movies are now largely forgotten.

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