Why Every Album You Love Should Be Ripped Apart By a 19-Year-Old

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Tear it down
Recently, over at NPR, a 19-year-old intern was tasked with reviewing Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, an album he had ostensibly never heard or had little knowledge of. He reviewed it, didn't really like it, and was subsequently annihilated in the comments section.

It made me uncomfortable, this reaction from people who were obviously older and "knew" the album and expected him to uphold their beliefs. While I was searching other blog threads on the post, I found this comment by Guardian writer Alex Macpherson:

Hi, music world, it's a REALLY BAD LOOK when you defend your sacred cows in this reactionary, kneejerk manner. Every "classic album" should be eviscerated by a 19-year-old intern to whom it means nothing. Fuck the canon.

A thousand times yes. He defended that stance with this thoughtful piece. Another good point:

The canon is a conservative concept that has squatted, toad-like, on music criticism for as long as I can remember - not just in the form of "100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die" space-filler lists, but in the reinforcement of received wisdom.

I'm thinking about this because I am now of the age where I should probably be appalled that those born in 1992 or 1993 don't "get" the albums I hold dear. But I don't feel that way, even about an album still as politically viable as It Takes a Nation. This cycle of sacred cow-tipping has played itself out over and over again across the last century, and it's essential to growth. Yes, cultural dissent is important, perhaps now more than ever, as "pop" music becomes more and more homogenized, but territorially pissing on your idols is indeed a bad look.

When I tell someone I think the Rolling Stones are overrated (and I have, more than a few times, but not necessarily as bait), the clenched jaws and wide eyes that come with it both distress and amuse me. To be fair, I'm sure I've done the same when someone dismisses an artist I love, but the dialogue that comes with it is more important than someone's blind loyalty and fumbling "I don't know, they're just great" explanations.

I'm sure I've done it with Sonic Youth, who I consider one of my favorite bands, and could also be considered overrated. Dirty celebrated its 20th anniversary last week. It was one of the first cassettes I ever bought with my own money. I don't want to be hyperbolic and say that album changed my life, but the opening squall of "100%," which I heard first from the video on MTV, definitely fucked me for life. I didn't know music could sound that way, should sound that way. It's book-ended by squall too, an anti-song in terms of form, but at 13, I didn't yet know what Thurston Moore meant when he said, "Well I've been around the world a million times, and all you men are slime." It's an album I loved, but over time, the returns have diminished.

Now, when I see an 11-year-old kid wearing a Sonic Youth shirt -- and it's happened more and more frequently -- I have to wonder if they actually like them, or if perhaps their parents' tastes have been forced on them somehow. The latter is another part of this problem. Here, you hold the canon. But, in turn, perhaps that kid turns his parents on to something he or she likes.

I remember hanging out at Girls Rock Camp in Austin last summer, and asking one young camper, who was roughly 13 or 14, about the Evanescence shirt she was wearing.

"Do you like other metal bands? Black Sabbath? Metallica?"

She rolled her yes. "They're alright." I shook my head and smiled.

Sonic Youth have a song called "Kill Yr Idols," released back in 1983. "Let that shit die," Thurston advises as he stabs the air with atonal notes. The 19-year-olds to whom your sacred texts mean nothing are the ones who are going to be shaping the conversation in the next 20 years, so maybe we should be heeding their opinions instead of ripping them apart?

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24 comments
dicksully
dicksully

You're mostly correct, but future generations should lend some credit to historical context.  I don't like to think of a 19-year-old intern ripping apart certain writers and performers while they enjoy the labors of the same.  Chances are, that kid loves some group that wouldn't exist without a history that includes Public Enemy.  And I actually do believe in a canon, I just suspect that it's smaller than we think.

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

Interesting article.  I am always amazed by the groups that are finding labels these days.  It has been quite some time since I've actually observed a "signature" sound, particularly with talent.  Are the Rolling Stones overrated?  I suppose, a bit.  They are best digested in a live performance.  But, after three live shows, I've grown tired of seeing them. 

 

Sonic Youth?  What an oxymoron.  Yes, they once had talent, but it is quite difficult to find a chord to match the whining that they do when they are singing.  Oh well, to each his own. 

 

But, we can all bow our head to the king of pretentiousness, Mr. Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins who once claimed that everything has been done in rock & roll?  Really?  How ridiculous.  Why does he continue making music? 

Lauren Smart
Lauren Smart

It's so easy to diminish young people to the lowest common denominator, but as someone who was a full time college student (18 hours) and worked 30 hours a week at 17 years old it's offensive to me when I'm brushed off as "Older than my years." Some people stay stupid until they die. And A LOT of those immature 50-year-olds leave idiotic comments on the Observer. Young voices matter, stop pretending that they don't.

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

So NPR can troll a bunch of 40 year olds to get a lot of views and comments...

 

BFD

Roman Belmarez
Roman Belmarez

Exactly ^ If it's an intelligent open minded kid sure, if it's a typical ADHD needs to update Facebook with his/her thoughts every hour on the hour I could give two fucks if they "get it". They'll never "get it".

justAnotherOnionhead
justAnotherOnionhead

...or, it doesn't matter how old it is, what demographic is currently rocking it, if she thinks they're over-rated, or if she thinks "they're alright"! What I'd like to see is an army of 19 year olds who like it just cuz it gets their fucking rocks off, maybe in ways they can't even articulate to the humans!

 

I don't care if my parents liked it, my daughter likes it, or my friends or age group like it. If I like it, it's passed the smell test - and the neighbors, children, spouses, friends, and enemies can just brace themselves.....one more time!

 

(OMG - That reminds me: "One More Time" is like, my favorite song off of Sandinista by The Clash....what???? OMFG - you've never heard it????? It's like, totally classic!)

Aaron Dietrich
Aaron Dietrich

19 years know what music is anymore? figured they had their iphone shoved so far up their ass it short circuited their hearing....

westernhms
westernhms

Interesting that you love Sonic Youth and feel the Stones are overrated... there are a million parallels there. Both have a ton of albums, many of which are totally unlistenable, many of which are hit and miss, and relatively few of which are classic. Both bands popularized in rock unusual guitar tunings/setups that they learned from elsewhere. Both released their best albums at crucial turning points for the music biz, 1 record after replacing a founding member (Brian Jones/Bob Bert). Both of those albums were double LP's (Exile and Daydream Nation). Both bands have had surprisingly stable 3-person cores over their 30-year-plus histories but have supplemented their lineups with ringers from contemporaries of theirs who broke up (Mark Ibold + Jim O'Rourke/Ronnie Wood). I could go on.

 

My point is that it's OK to not like the classics -- hell, I'll start a fight with you about how tedious and frilly Sgt. Pepper's is right here and right now -- but it's not OK to dismiss something with utterly no sense of context. The currently popular "sharing my personal feelings" style of rock criticism is weak, weak sauce.

audra.schroeder1
audra.schroeder1 moderator

I don't really think the "sharing my personal feelings" style is something new to rock criticism, nor do I think it's "weak sauce," to use the parlance of our times. But the current online landscape certainly allows anyone to be a critic, so maybe it seems that way?

kirkpatrick
kirkpatrick

A nice counter-argument. Sure, I agree that the hostile comments are a bad look. I much prefer the playful satire at Low Times or even ?uestlove's compassionate music appreciation pep talk. NPR hung this kid out on a line by posting something that was written so hastily (as they did with Emily White). They knew exactly what the backlash was going to be from something that essentially read, "I listened to this on Spotify, and it doesn't sound as good as my Drake mp3s." But I think that says more about the state of music journalism in the clicks-driven market than it does about the sanctity of the canon.

audra.schroeder1
audra.schroeder1 moderator

 @kirkpatrick True. NPR knew exactly what they were doing. The way we absorb music these days, especially when there's always another new artist to listen to, assess and discard, should be recognized in relation to this piece. In fact, it could be a whole other piece.

1morereason2carry
1morereason2carry

I feel the same way about all of the Observer's shitty sacred cows:

 

Jeff Liles

Edie Brickell

Carter Albrecht

The Toadies

 

And every other well worn past the expiration date teat this paper has been sucking off for 20+ years that no one else gives a crap about.

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

 @1morereason2carry See - Thinking the DO is kind to Jeff just shows you are clueless

1morereason2carry
1morereason2carry

 @bigjondaniel Oh really? Because I can't find a single instance of them being unkind in the past year and plenty of them gushing about him or using him as the go to talking head like the Al Sharpton of Dallas idiots regardless of how irrelevant to the subject he is or isn't!

 

But feel free to prove me wrong!

 

 

 

Were You at Tripping Daisy's First Show? Jeff Liles Has Been Archiving Your Dallas Concert Memories.

 

Jeff Liles on Tig Notaro's Performance Tonight and the Future of Comedy at The Kessler

 

Kessler Theater Artistic Director Jeffrey Liles Accuses Granada Theater of Stealing Shows

 

The key ingredient was in hiring one of the founding fathers of Deep Ellum, Jeff Liles, to manage the place.

 

The Story of N.W.A.'s "Boyz-n-the-Hood" and The First Time It Ever Earned Radio Airplay

 

Kessler Theater To Highlight Crate-Digging With Film Screening and DJ Sets Tomorrow

 

"It was very, very hot inside that building," says Jeffrey Liles, current artistic director of the Kessler Theater, who back in 1991 served in a similar position at Trees. "And there were as many people outside the building as inside."

 

Poor Vida Closes In On a Documentary About Dallas' Hip-Hop History

 

Tim DeLaughter's First Ever Solo Show, A Ride With Bob Returns & Dennis Gonzalez Announces New Record

 

So happens good, good friend of the show Jeff Liles, who was on his way back to Oak Cliff after the Frankie Campagna memorial show at Club Dada at around 1:30 a.m, came across the fiery wreckage and documented some of the blaze. "It was nuts," he says. "You could see flames shooting 100 feet into the air. It was insane. And the creek was on fire." Shot from the Edgefield Avenue bridge over 30, just west of Sylvan.

 

Well, today it most likely will, promises the Oak Cliff theater's artistic director, Jeff Liles.

 

Jeff Liles at the Kessler put this multi-instrumentalist on my radar, and while I have yet to catch him live, his 2012 album,

 

For this you have to thank, in part, our old pal Jeff Liles of the Kessler, one of the event's myriad partners for the shindig.

 

I was thinking about all that while watching the short film -- part history-of, part promo, part roll call -- you see above, narrated by one Jeff Liles, but of course.

 

Another guy I talked to last week was Jeff Liles, who is the producer/manager now at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff. Liles goes way back in the Dallas entertainment scene. He's kind of a walking oral history.

He watched the bowling alley thing unfold from afar and was aghast at what he saw.

 

There's video -- it never gets old. Thenthere's Jeff Liles's recap, which ran in the paper version of Unfair Park in '05, shortly before a bankruptcy judge closed the club's doors.

 

 

 

 

1morereason2carry
1morereason2carry

 @PaulS More than 1 a month is occasional?

 

Paul Slavens is another one of the self important artist cult members who exist only to gush about how wonderful the other members are..

 

 

PaulS
PaulS

@1morereason2carryOh my God! Someone who has been active in the Dallas music scene for nearly 30 years has gotten some occasional press coverage in the local weekly?!?!  Typical! Typical! Typical! This is media bias at it’s worst! I suppose next the daily local will be covering local news, local weather and ‘gasp’…LOCAL SPORTS! STOP WRITING ABOUT THE COWBOYS ALREADY!   ...sheesh, if you don't like it start your own paper...

1morereason2carry
1morereason2carry

 @bigjondaniel Minimal? Unless you are talking about your hair coverage then you're delusional. But good work in proving me wrong by calling me waccissss

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

 @1morereason2carry Meh -The coverage is minimal, though more since Pete left.  You, on the other hand, are a racist gun nut asshole, and hopefully you will move on to trolling other forums soon

darrylrs
darrylrs

 @1morereason2carry OK on Brickell and The Toadies, but Liles and Carter? Those are hardly sacred cows. Now, the old 97s on the other hand.

1morereason2carry
1morereason2carry

 @darrylrs Considering how difficult it is for the Observer to write anything about music without name dropping him or his club that has been closed longer than it was open.. or him playing a song on his radio show that no one listened to.. etc etc etc...

 

No one cares about a middle aged white hippie with filthy dreadlocks 

1morereason2carry
1morereason2carry

 @darrylrs Oh and I forgot anything involving Shaquaqua Badu or whatever her name is and Tim Delaughter(I'd rather go to Karaoke at The Goat than here any of his glorified children's songs)

TheGaver
TheGaver

10 years ago my cousin and I were driving around listening to Boogie Down Productions with our 8 year old cousin.  She said it sounded like a clown made the album in a closet. 

 

I'm now having a hard time watching th Burton Batman after Nolan did his work....but does nolan happen w/o burton?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

 @Gavin27 I am forever indebted to your 8 yr old cousin and will reliably use the "Clown in a closet" album production meme to disparage my counterpart in any musical debate and discredit any music that I personally don't care for.

 

Thank you.

darrylrs
darrylrs like.author.displayName 1 Like

Well, as Pete Townshend so eloquently said, "Hope I die before I get old." and as a father of a 15 year old who likes The Who along with Avenged Sevenfold, I can tell you that good music is good music. My son has turned me on to a lot of good music, some of it just as good as some of my sacred cows. good music from all eras can co-exist peacefully. no one has to rip anyone's fav albums.

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