Reactions to my

  • soul questions
  • : josh blog goes off on a sort-of-tangent to what I was talking about and looks at some of the underlying issues involving ‘tendencies’ in criticism with typical intelligence. I think he’s right in that I don’t like “rockist tendencies” – I view it as a school of thinking more than as a prejudice, though. Anyway, two points I’d make in response to Josh:

    i) What Josh doesn’t mention is what I think matters: which ‘tendency’ in music criticism and thinking is currently dominant, the ‘default position’ in criticism, if you like. One big reason I’m opposed to ‘rockism’ and ‘soulism’ is that they seem to be models for describing how pop music was 20 or 30 years ago, and they have increasingly little use as ways to think about how music is now. But on the other hand they still seem to be the fallback positions even for indie-rock zines such as Pitchfork. As the dissonance increases between the ways pop is developing and this dated model of what the music is, all that’s going to happen is the continued decline of rock criticism into fawning on the one hand and points-scoring nostalgia on the other.

    ii) I think the most a rock writer can do is represent and explore their own prejudices and tastes intelligently – anyone who comes into popcrit trying to be ‘objective’ should make a rapid exit. That said I agree with Josh that listening to things in different ways – role-playing yourself as a listener, if you like – is important and useful. But in response to his comment that this is why he finds it difficult to write negatively about things – surely that’s just another form of listening, taking a record and trying to dislike it, finding its weak spots. The musical equivalent of covering and countering an opponent’s arguments in a debate, perhaps…

    Fred meanwhile answers the questions one by one, and I have to say I’d pretty much agree with his position. I should say that I’m under no illusions as to the total irrelevance of rock criticism in society, though: when I wrote “societal weight” I didn’t mean ‘influence’, I meant whether or not the way critics were writing was unconsciously indicative of wider trends in society.