17
Oct 02

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Scroll down a bit to “Great moments in rock critic bluffing Part 2” and you’ll see M.Matos’ fine dissection of one Robert B. Ray’s theories of “critical overcomprehension” – which summarises as: critics take fads too seriously cos they’re scared of being caught out. MM takes his arguments to bits specifically, but thinking about this I came to a couple of conclusions about pop criticism in general.

First off I think that pop critics should work on the principle that nothing is a fad, given that there’s almost no style of music which hasn’t found itself re-evaluated or re-appropriated since (individual records are a different matter). In a pop culture which has forgotten how to forget, how useful is the idea of a “fad” anyway? (Of course you could operate equally well assuming that EVERYTHING is a fad.)

Secondly – well, it’s unarguable that some critics do worry about history judging them as chumps and hedge their bets accordingly. But this line of thinking is madness – posterity may or may not have an interest in pop music but it is very unlikely to have an interest in writing about pop music (unless posterity is as big a geek as I am). It does not matter what ‘line’ you take on current pop, everyone will have forgotten what you said in a year anyway. The crits Ray invokes who said rock would never last only survive to look silly, and only look silly because they invoked posterity to back their claims up – if they’d just said “rock is shit” they’d be completely forgotten.

And this surefire obsolesence is a liberating thing for the pop critic cos it frees them up to write about what’s happening now and whether it’s good or not and not care if they’re getting it wrong. Maybe rock critics bang on about posterity out of a kind of hopeful envy of the way the music ‘lasts’ – but it seems to me they might just as well sidle up to Las Ketchup instead and offer empathies. “Doomed to be forgotten? I know exactly how you feel.”

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