First of all, I should explain the name “The Rocktimist.” There are two schools of pop criticism: Rockism and Poptimism. Rockists value originality and authenticity, poptimists value craftsmanship. Rockists like shows, poptimists like music videos. Rockists value music scenes, poptimists say scenes get incestuous and solipsistic. Rockists say music should express moral values, poptimists say that that’s stupid. Rockists like punk, poptimists like disco. Rockists say poptimists are corporate whores, poptimists say rockists are racist, sexist, and heteronormative. I say “why can’t we all just get along?”
Take a figure like Bruce Springsteen, probably the greatest rock and roll performer America has produced (yeah, fuck you too). The Boss is generally beloved of rockists and it’s easy to see why – he’s a rugged individual who’s spent the last thirty years trying to define American life and American values. But to do that, he’s constructed an entirely artificial personality and highly ritualistic style of performance, and he’s a musical craftsman if there ever was one, and hence, a poptimist to the core. So Bruce says we can all get along. I will blog in his spirit.
But what exactly do I mean by that?
Over the summer, I got in a semi-heated argument with an acquaintance about the ideal length of an album review. He said he was sick of seeing writers go on for 800 words about their personal correspondence with the latest Margaret and the Nuclear So and Sos record, and he just wanted to know if an album was worth getting or not. I said I like hearing what other people think about music, that I appreciate it when writers point out features I might not have appreciated, that in-depth reviews can direct me to avenues of music I wouldn’t have otherwise explored, that criticism should inform and deepen our experience of art. He asked me if I had ever seen a record review that did that.
And really, he had a good point. If you want to talk about the meaning of popular music (if you don’t want to talk about the meaning of popular music, stop reading now before you hate me), why bother shoehorning it into a format that most people regard as an elevated consumer report? And why bother with consumer reports when its so easy for consumers to sample music for themselves? And why only discuss albums when singles, shows, and youtube clips are increasingly vital media? God gave us blogs so that we might take a more holistic approach. So that’s what I’m gonna try and do. But not today. Because I have to write a paper.
One other note:
Last week I discovered my new favorite website: blip.fm . It’s basically twitter with songs attached, and if you have a bunch of friends on it, it’s a great way to ensure a steady stream of recommendations. The problem is that I don’t have many friends on it. So do me a favor: go to blip.fm , create a profile, find me, add me (look, there I am: http://blip.fm/robwohl) as a favorite, I’ll add you back, and we can help each other out. It’ll be great. I promise.