30
Jan 02

“Great music, like all great art, should transcend its time.”

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“Great music, like all great art, should transcend its time.” Serious people, like philosophers and poets, say things like this because they believe great art enters human beings into communion with the categorical — Truth and Beauty and Morality and all those other good things. I suspect lame rock critics mouth mush like this out of a neurotic need to divide the damned and the saved within music with big black lines. Or maybe they just exaggerate their hatred of faddish things so as to not look stupid five years later, when everyone has long realized that the New New Thing was in fact merely the New DJ Spooky or the New Britpop. Or maybe they say it out of a complete lack of anything substantive to say about their objects of love.

Walking through downtown NYC with Come With Us on her Walkman (making her one of those people I’m always dodging in NYC because they’re never paying enough attention to their surroundings), Ms. Goldberg complains that the Chemical Brothers new album just doesn’t seem right in the midst of “listless streets lined with shops offering desperate going-out-of-business sales,” but I have reasons to doubt that the timeless art of a Hesiod or a Giotto would wake Ms. Goldberg out of her stupor. Reading throuogh the review, I’m honestly not sure she really wants something that’s timeless as timely and relevant. Some grand thing that seems appropriate for this post-9/11 age — a real rain that will come and wipe the boyband scum off the streets.

To expect contemporary music to suddenly fall into a cleansing revolution just because terrible things have happened is a bit silly and naive. You think that everyone in the world (or New York City, for that matter) is hankering after a soundtrack appropriate for touring Ground Zero and its environs? Back in ’90-’91, when we were living in a terrible recession and under the threat of a new World War, did music respond in kind? Rave and baggy, hip-hop and shoegaze — some did, some didn’t, some seemed to acknowledge it in an implicit way, some seemed almost hysterical in its avoidance of the subject. This is how music (as a whole) is: autonomous, slippery, and frequently irresponsible.

You get the sense from reading ‘After the gold dust’ that there are just so many things Ms. Goldberg would’ve rather done than review a techno album, and really, if she does indeed live downtown (as one is lead to believe from the review), I can’t blame her for feeling that way. But to fault a cultural artifact for not syncing up with your sense of despair is kinda odd — maybe the artifact’s not the problem.

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