Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Misery Business

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love reading Tom Breihan because he writes about music worth reading about. That is, music you'd never want to listen to. In a way, I could give a fuck about the trillionth critic's life-changing experience of hearing "All My Friends" for the first time. And it was my song of the year. What I'm interested in is party crunk, hyphy, Billboard rock, red state know, stuff that's both more culturally relevant and more foreign than Kala. If you think Os Mutantes are exotic, just wait til you try and penetrate the complete works of Finger Eleven, a band whose free promo cassettes I recall receiving in junior high and were both commercial and critical nobodies until an unholy mesh of Franz Ferdinand and Alter Bridge called "Paralyzer" slightly-diverged-from-the-Nickelback-cookie-cutter all the way up the charts from nowhere. Wading through this stuff has become a dirty job and I love the people doing it.

Now six columns in, Al Shipley's Corporate Rock Still Sells column might be the single most important music report online, bridging the gap of mostly unlistenable rock radio (and yes, Shipley hilariously expounds on the meaningless differences between the "active" and "modern" classifications) and Idolator readers, who as a given, understand the references when darts are launched at Pitchfork. Foo Fighters and Trent Reznor might seem like old hat for those who want to read about Panda Bear's latest trip to a vinyl basement, but Shipley has a talent for pointing out elephants in the room. Why did Nine Inch Nails' barely-heard-from second single "Capital G" score higher on the airplay quota counter than the oft-sighted "Survivalism"? And how did the Foo Fighters manage to quietly infiltrate the biggest Grammy categories, a feat they never managed at their visibility peak? Sure you could give the Stadium Arcadium excuse, that safe vets were need to fill out the ballots. But in a Springsteen year? Can't even haul out a Crash/Brokeback conservative bias theory, because Dave Grohl's last album was a campaign travelogue to John Kerry, and because the Dixie Chicks fucked shit up last year. The brilliance of Shipley's attention to Billboard is that he's earning a knack for pointing out the unpredictable within the supposedly predictable.

An impressing and depressing companion to the column is Idolator's other corporate rock study, Anonimous Interview Series, which interviews "seasoned industry bigwigs" with names withheld, and exposes the awful truth to up-and-coming bands that some college radio douche could forget to make your record #1 via a nasty hangover, even after the handshakes and payola (pizza) have commenced. I don't know, maybe this stuff just scares the shit out of me because I'm a musician who'd like to try full-time commitment down the road, but I also prefer reading indie/blog-sharpened personalities discussing Entertainment Weekly issues than actual issues of Entertainment Weekly or indie-rock blogs.


Blogger Ian said...

Al Shipley! I know he did stuff for Stylus, and I'm very glad to see that new column. Nice stuff there.

2:46 PM, January 02, 2008  

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