Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sweeter and Sweeter

Simon Reynolds' conversation on the Sweet continues at Blissblog, so I'll maintain my parallel conversation. Fans of the Sweet referred him to great/overlooked albums, to which he writes:

And yet something in me resists going down this path, chasing down the albums*... I fear it would (c)auteurise the pure enjoyment out of it for me.... I'm not sure I want to go into that zone that Popular can get into where it's all a bit studium-encrusted... you start clocking who was the studio engineer on track X and so forth.. I'm almost happier just sticking with the Greatest Hits CD. (I actually have Desolation Boulevard, on vinyl--had it for years, but only listened to it once). The idea of scurrying around scooting up every last speck of pleasure...

He goes on to say:

I feel a strong impulse to keep them in a securely cordoned-off reservation of (relatively) unreflective rapture, a theory-free zone

I wonder if it's also the reluctance to try to make the case for the greatness of albums you don't really believe in, but that contain singles that you do. If there's anything critics love, it's reclaiming the unjustly overlooked album. When I wrote about Barry Cowsill's death for Oxford American, Marc Smirnoff asked me if I could make the case for the Cowsills' II x II as an overlooked masterpiece. I couldn't, or at least not with my heart in it. There was a time when I tried to make that claim for The Beach Boys Love You, but I now recognize the argument as posturing, and I could only really make the case if I ignored at least half of the album. Look at the list of submissions for 33 1/3 books and you can see it clotted with potential books on unrecognized masterpieces.

Otherwise, Reynolds' argument makes me slightly uncomfortable because it seems to confirm the charges that many make against critics - that we take the fun out of music by intellectualizing something that was never meant to be thought of in that way. If we cordon off certain personal favorite bands from critical scrutiny, what does that say about our own thoughts on critical scrutiny?

1 comment:

Alex V. Cook said...

we take the fun out of music by intellectualizing something that was never meant to be thought of in that way

I get this kind of thing from time to time and have never quite understood it. Whose fun are we siphoning off? I thought by intellectualizing the un-intellectualized, we were adding to the fun, albeit sometimes the fun is solely our own.

Conversely, I thought trashing the fun we as critics have with this stuff is part of the fun for those that don't care for critics.