What the h... is wrong with music today?

Worm

Taste the diffidence
So I ask, what is more impressive. Being the Beatles and captivating a huge audience and changing peoples life in music at a time where there was still much to be explored, or be a band, for example Radiohead. Who have captivated a massive audience for themselves (although obviously not on the scale as The Beatles) and changed the lives of some, at a time where pretty much (In my opinion) 90% of music has been tried, tested and done to death.
I personally think the latter.

Thanks for jumping in, your thoughts are appreciated.

I had sort of framed the matter as you did, here, only I didn't consider the idea that Radiohead are to be commended for having won a small audience out of a populace of disparate listeners. It's an interesting point.

It's all subjective anyway. We can all scream and argue until were blue in the face but you can't and won't change someones mind. If you enjoy music being created today you enjoy it, no amount of people arguing can make you change your mind.

I think everyone agrees with this. I know I do. Having a spirited discussion doesn't mean we're proving anything, and I don't imagine for a moment anyone is convinced of what I'm saying. Conversations don't have to be useful to be useful. :rolleyes:

As I've said from the start, we're attempting to talk objectively about a subject that probably doesn't allow for it. The idea behind doing that, at least on my side, is that perhaps more objectivity is possible than we think. Saying Joy Division sucks is just taste. But if an argument can be made that other factors contribute to Joy Division sucking, it's at least worth shooting the breeze about.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
What I got out of it is that she thought music was dead or dying. Unless I've missed it, has the blatant irony of that been commented on here?

You missed it. See above. I had this irony in mind when I asked, "If we imagine Smith flatly declaring rock was dead, and yet she helped revitalize rock, what can we assume?"

People are always fighting over what rock and roll means. I mean, Morrissey said "pop music is dead" in 1987 but he didn't stop releasing records. There are many different kinds of music and each kind has its partisans and detractors. One group of fans and artists usually thinks others are soulless and ugly. I guarantee you the soul/funk artists you mentioned probably thought The Doors or The Ramones were an abomination. The mistrust and dislike go in all directions, to and from all quarters.

I know I'm repeating myself but the question remains: is this time just like any other time in music history? I would argue it's not-- drastic changes have occurred in how we make music, listen to it, and make sense of the past.

Music hardly needed Patti Smith to save it anymore than literature needed Hemingway to rescue it. Great artists with vision but still nothing but drops in the bucket.

Look, I quoted Patti Smith because I just read her memoir. Let's not get hung up on Smith. Had I read "England's Dreaming" or "Rip It Up" I could have quoted about 30 other artists who were saying the same thing right around the same time. Morrissey was saying it, too. In fact I don't think I've ever read an interview (or a soundbite for that matter) from anyone who said they were happy with the state of music in the mid-70s.

Using the word "rescue" isn't the right way to frame the question. Saying someone is a "great artist with vision"-- well, that can't be minimized, can it? Michael Stipe, Tim Booth, and Morrissey are three leaders of three great Eighties bands who would disagree that Smith was just a nice addition to the Seventies but not an essential figure. I don't know if Morrissey is unthinkable without Patti Smith-- or Bowie or The Dolls or Marc Bolan-- but she certainly influenced him positively. Do you really think Morrissey regards her as a drop in the bucket?
 

bk3000

Badhead
You missed it. See above. I had this irony in mind when I asked, "If we imagine Smith flatly declaring rock was dead, and yet she helped revitalize rock, what can we assume?"

People are always fighting over what rock and roll means. I mean, Morrissey said "pop music is dead" in 1987 but he didn't stop releasing records.

And The Stone Roses thought they were needed as saviors. Blur thought England needed them. Nirvana who Blur were rallying against thought they were breaking through the bullshit of the day. Prince thought he was a real musician saving music. It never ends. I'm sure The Libertines thought things had gone foul and they were there to rescue listeners.

I don't know if Morrissey is unthinkable without Patti Smith-- or Bowie or The Dolls or Marc Bolan-- but she certainly influenced him positively. Do you really think Morrissey regards her as a drop in the bucket?

Of course I don't think Morrissey thinks of her as a drop in the bucket and I've not suggested he does. But I also find a lot of the music Morrissey was supposedly influenced by to be of little personal interest (like most of his own music in the past 20 years). And, not to make this about Patti Smith, but amidst my criticism of her, I've noted there's little question she had an impact on any number of artists. If only she'd written more songs with the passion of Gloria. Oh, wait...

This is a fun discussion but I'm not sure where it can really go. One side thinks there's a perpetual ebb and flow to music the other thinks if you think there's a perpetual ebb and flow you're too dim to see the political and social context.

Personally I have a hard time thinking rock is dead or dying because I can think of the same general number of bands I find interesting in the past 10 years as I did in the generation before that. If I was a teenager I'd be as excited about the music around me as I was back in the early 90s.

Ultimately, I think Dave above has nailed it. The kids are alright and in 10 years they're going to bemoan the new music that's nothing like it was in 2010.

I'd apologize for making the same general points over and over but I don't think I'm alone in that department.
 
D

Dave

Guest
The Ian Curtis in context argument was interesting but I didn't know that he was dead when I first heard Joy Division, and I felt that the entire work was very effective outside of any historical or biographical context.

I have studied and discussed the question of whether the intentions of the artist have to be known or understood in order for the work to succeed, and I do think it's a very interesting question, but I don't believe a work of art really needs context to succeed outside of the experience of the individual viewer/listener. I believe in Ideals and think that there is an underlying reality that we all experience in our own ways, and I think that great art, (or maybe anything that you can call art) will be effective.

It is after that when we try to get to a more personal understanding by attempting to understand the thought process behind the work. Most work is presented all in one piece immediately and it is the overall effect that makes the deep connections below the level of intellect.

I've never read a book about Morrissey and I don't intend to, and I think that as good as the movie Control is supposed to be, I would find it less of a clarification and more of a distraction. I could be wrong about that. Point is, Ian Curtis' lyrics don't mean the same thing to everyone, and they probably didn't even maintain a consistent meaning to him. When you are writing you turn over stones and things come crawling out that you may not be able to identify without some study. Maybe that's a point for the other side. I don't know. But I'll take a slightly less than articulate immediacy over a thorough analysis any day. That's maybe my personal preference but I think it's closer to what art should be about.
 

PregnantForTheLastTime

Hideous trait.
But I'll take a slightly less than articulate immediacy over a thorough analysis any day. That's maybe my personal preference but I think it's closer to what art should be about.

I used to feel exactly that way. I was worried that analyzing art would "spoil it" for me. I've learned how to look deeper in a way that preserves the wonder of my emotional reaction to the piece. I can't tell you how to develop that ability for yourself, but don't be afraid to try. I enjoy things even more when I go beyond my own reaction to the work, which is not at all what I thought would happen.
 
D

Dave

Guest
I used to feel exactly that way. I was worried that analyzing art would "spoil it" for me. I've learned how to look deeper in a way that preserves the wonder of my emotional reaction to the piece. I can't tell you how to develop that ability for yourself, but don't be afraid to try. I enjoy things even more when I go beyond my own reaction to the work, which is not at all what I thought would happen.

I don't think you understood what I was trying to say. I hardly consider you an intellectual and certainly not someone that I would look to for coaching on how to more richly experience a work of art, but I do realize you took time out from ignoring me to respond, so thanks for the effort.

Now, sticking to the topic, far from saying that an intellectual analysis would "spoil" my appreciation of a work of art, what I said was that art that matters (to me) has an immediacy that does not require, but may be enriched by an analysis. I do feel that the topic wandered into areas that have nothing to do with "what is wrong with music today".
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
One side thinks there's a perpetual ebb and flow to music the other thinks if you think there's a perpetual ebb and flow you're too dim to see the political and social context.

You say "the kids are alright" and a few days ago I watched with embarrassment as The Who were trotted out like ancient circus freaks to play the Super Bowl at half-time. Enough said.
 
You don't have to know the life story of an artist to love their music (but a great story always helps). The experience of music used to be rooted in a concrete time and place. The first time I heard The Smiths was in a dorm room - a friend got his hands on an early copy of the record, and we listened to the whole album all the way through, together - it felt like something was happening.

I love that you mentioned this because I know exactly what you mean. No matter what you or anyone else thinks about Radiohead, I remember when I first bought OK Computer on CD, and I took it home to my apartment, put it on and sat there alone in the sitting room and listened to the whole thing from start to finish, and I had that exact same feeling. It was a wow moment for me without a doubt, so much so that I think I just sat there for a few hours in silence just unsure of what to do next. At the time that album came out, I hadn't ever really listened to Pablo Honey or The Bends at all, which I think made the experience a bit more breathtaking, but it is one of the most amazing feelings in the world when art can move you in such a way. I bring up this particular experience because that's the last time I can remember something like this happening with any recent artists, with a few exceptions like the first time I saw Antony play live, or being a really young kid going to see Sonic Youth and nearly getting crushed to death in a whirlpool of 6000 people during "Teenage Riot," and blowing my 15 year old mind away. It's great no matter how brief or fleeting these moments are when you actually really f***ing get it. I am pretty sure that these experiences will happen to me again at some point, but I think it's always a bit easier to lament and reminisce than to hold my breath and hope. I think music is so deeply personal, more so than any other art form IMO, so this debate that many people are having here will just continue to rage on forever.
 

Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
I have studied and discussed the question of whether the intentions of the artist have to be known or understood in order for the work to succeed, and I do think it's a very interesting question, but I don't believe a work of art really needs context to succeed outside of the experience of the individual viewer/listener. I believe in Ideals and think that there is an underlying reality that we all experience in our own ways, and I think that great art, (or maybe anything that you can call art) will be effective.

It is after that when we try to get to a more personal understanding by attempting to understand the thought process behind the work. Most work is presented all in one piece immediately and it is the overall effect that makes the deep connections below the level of intellect.

This is very true, and I think it is a point for the importance of context when considering the impact of a work of art or music; it really all depends on what you as a viewer/listener want to get out of the experience.

Great Art needs no explanation, and the immediate, visceral experience of the viewer/listener SHOULD be all that matters. However, it's the subsequent intellectual path that the art leads you down that makes it important to me.

Take something obvious, like Picasso's painting Guernica. I saw that canvas when it came to New York in the early 80s. It had a huge visceral impact on me, although I had no knowledge whatsoever of the Spanish Civil War. I've never cared for Picasso, but that canvas was such a powerful, stark, haunting image that it stayed with me long after I left the museum - I still think about it to this day.

I loved the painting, but once I understood the context (the bombing of the Basques, the saavy way that the artist combined politics and the notion of protest/resistance with the idea of modernism and aesthetics), the work became that much more powerful. I did a little more digging, and came up with that fantastic (possibly apocryphal) story of how the authorities came to question Picasso on why he would paint such a terrible thing, to which he answered (something like): "I didn't create it, you did." All of a sudden Guernica is not just a powerful image, it's a world unto itself.

The same goes for most other works of art I can think of - I fall in love with it, then I get to know it, then it becomes important to me.

How this relates to music is just this: most songs are sensual - they exist in the moment - you dance, or daydream, and have a great time, and it's on to the next song. However, a knowledge of culture and history (on the part of the artist and the viewer/listener) can give so much additional depth to the experience. Great art resonates on many levels - it's the complexity of the experience that makes it meaningful, as opposed to just a good time.

Joy Division isn't overly intellectual music, but they were in the right place at the right time to have a huge impact on the way music sounds, and conveys emotion. They were a great band for that reason.

Morrissey is my favorite example of an artist that resonates on a very complex level, and leads the listener on a million different paths to other complex ideas. You don't have to know much to enjoy him, but the more you know, the more he resonates.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
Take something obvious, like Picasso's painting Guernica. I saw that canvas when it came to New York in the early 80s. It had a huge visceral impact on me, although I had no knowledge whatsoever of the Spanish Civil War. I've never cared for Picasso, but that canvas was such a powerful, stark, haunting image that it stayed with me long after I left the museum - I still think about it to this day.

You've gotta read Just Kids. You and Patti sound like soul sisters. :)

In the book she mentions that Guernica touched her very deeply and, like you, she particularly appreciated its social/political content.

Joy Division isn't overly intellectual music, but they were in the right place at the right time to have a huge impact on the way music sounds, and conveys emotion. They were a great band for that reason.

Three of Joy Division's members certainly weren't intellectuals; Curtis may or may not have been as sharp as people say. The real musical force behind Joy Division-- at least when speaking of their historical importance-- was Martin Hannett, and he could legitimately be called a genius/visionary/innovator. I think Anthony H. Wilson and Peter Saville also played key roles that went well beyond tangentially accenting the band.
 
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Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
I love that you mentioned this because I know exactly what you mean. No matter what you or anyone else thinks about Radiohead, I remember when I first bought OK Computer on CD, and I took it home to my apartment, put it on and sat there alone in the sitting room and listened to the whole thing from start to finish, and I had that exact same feeling. It was a wow moment for me without a doubt, so much so that I think I just sat there for a few hours in silence just unsure of what to do next. At the time that album came out, I hadn't ever really listened to Pablo Honey or The Bends at all, which I think made the experience a bit more breathtaking, but it is one of the most amazing feelings in the world when art can move you in such a way. I bring up this particular experience because that's the last time I can remember something like this happening with any recent artists, with a few exceptions like the first time I saw Antony play live, or being a really young kid going to see Sonic Youth and nearly getting crushed to death in a whirlpool of 6000 people during "Teenage Riot," and blowing my 15 year old mind away. It's great no matter how brief or fleeting these moments are when you actually really f***ing get it. I am pretty sure that these experiences will happen to me again at some point, but I think it's always a bit easier to lament and reminisce than to hold my breath and hope. I think music is so deeply personal, more so than any other art form IMO, so this debate that many people are having here will just continue to rage on forever.

The last time I had an experience like this was listening to The Crying Light. I was so profoundly moved I didn't know how to react. The second time I listened to it, I was in tears.

I've never seen him live - I really, really should.
 

Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
You've gotta read Just Kids. You and Patti sound like soul sisters. :)

In the book she mentions that Guernica touched her very deeply and, like you, she particularly appreciated its social/political content.

That Picasso, man, he was such a PUNK! :D
 
The last time I had an experience like this was listening to The Crying Light. I was so profoundly moved I didn't know how to react. The second time I listened to it, I was in tears.

I've never seen him live - I really, really should.

It really is essential. His presence on stage is remarkable because his voice is so powerful and piercing, yet he is so vulnerable and shy as a person. His banter with the audience in between songs can sometimes go on for 10 minutes before he actually remembers that he is playing a concert. But yeah, the last time I saw him play, I was brought to tears more than several times during the evening, one of which was during one of the most powerful versions of "Aeon" I have ever heard, during which he was visibly shaken up while singing it-he says it's probably his most "personal" song... But yes, "Hope There's Someone" is definitely the song that turns me into a blubbering little girl when I see him play it live.
 

fuckfrankie

New Member
But I'll take a slightly less than articulate immediacy over a thorough analysis any day. That's maybe my personal preference but I think it's closer to what art should be about.

that's more or less my exact sentiment. Ian Curtis wasn't a genius. he was a lyrical Nostradamus; vague and mysterious but easy to read something into. there are exceptions, but for the most part i think that's a pretty apt comparison.

that doesn't change how i feel about the music one bit. the emotional punch is still there, without context and without relating his words to my personal life. if i think too much about it it actually lessens the impact. if you analyze the lyrics to Love Will Tear Us Apart, knowing that it was written about his wife being mad at him for cheating on her...i dunno. sorta changes it from a bleakly romantic song to a song written by a selfish dickhead

I used to feel exactly that way. I was worried that analyzing art would "spoil it" for me. I've learned how to look deeper in a way that preserves the wonder of my emotional reaction to the piece. I can't tell you how to develop that ability for yourself, but don't be afraid to try. I enjoy things even more when I go beyond my own reaction to the work, which is not at all what I thought would happen.

this is my main problem with this thread. the condescending tone of "oh, you'll get it someday." i don't think anyone here is arguing that you should stop at surface level...but if the surface level is uninteresting, is it worth exploring? my personal experience says it's usually not.

You say "the kids are alright" and a few days ago I watched with embarrassment as The Who were trotted out like ancient circus freaks to play the Super Bowl at half-time. Enough said.

what does that have to do with anything?
 
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