Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pop Aphorisms: XII

1. Record Collecting—A pseudo-scientific activity motivated by the same obsessive narrowness of focus that characterizes the autistic mind.

2. If Coldplay would realize how terrible it was, and were able to ironize that terribleness, it could be U2.

3. As a guitarist, Eric Clapton is to B. B. King what Gene Kelly is to Fred Astaire—what virtuosity is to grace.

4. Mallarmé’s advice to poets, “Yield the initiative to words,” finds its analogy in the lesson of Elvis, who understood rock music differed from classic pop by yielding the initiative to sound.

5. So many “important” albums have been named in the history of rock that the word “important” is no longer meaningful: the word is simply a ruse used to cloak individualized taste.

6. The problem of referring to a certain album as an example of a certain school of music (e.g., “punk,” “alternative”) is critically irresponsible, because it suggests that a particular school of music is more coherent than it actually is.

7. There is a crucial difference between a movie star and a rock star: the latter is seldom, if ever, able to stage a “comeback.” The “oldies” circuit is rock’s equivalent of country music’s Branson, Missouri—just a waiting room to hillbilly heaven.

8. To become art, rock music had to elevate the guitar to its primary expressive instrument, just as jazz since bebop elevated the saxophone. Unfortunately, it fell prey to the same pitfall: virtuosity too easily became pretension.

9. Country Pop—the last refuge of a failed rock ‘n’ roller.

10. In the era of Madonna, the need for publicity is obvious; in more honest days, though, they called it “payola.”

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