The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Friday, October 07, 2005

Annoying anti-intellectualism

In pop/rock criticism, actually (you were expecting another Mier post, weren't you?). As a Jethro Tull fan (can't deny it, can I? Accursed Top Ten posts!), I've always been annoyed by the ubiquitous rock critic trope that anything with an intellectual reach beyond an eighth grader is "pretentious" and generally unacceptable. I like quite a lot of punk these days, but I don't think that it's the only valid form of rock.

This comes up thanks to Sasha Frere-Jones's piece in the New Yorker on Fiona Apple's Incredible Machine. It's a good, interesting piece that makes me even more interested than I was in the album. But halfway through is this tidbit:
With the exception of a few lyrics, like “A voice once stentorian is now again meek and muffled,” Apple is no longer interested in pseudo-literary language. She’s secure enough to entrust her feelings to the more incisive charms of the vernacular: “The sign said stop, but we went on whole-hearted. / It ended bad, but I love where we started” (“Parting Gift”).
So who died and appointed Sasha Frere-Jones judge of true- and pseudo-literary-ism? I mean seriously, on what planet are the likes of Frere-Jones (a writer I like, I hasten to add) and Lester Fucking Bangs passing judgement on the intellectual attainment of others? Yet for 35 years, these nitwits have been telling the world that anyone who uses more than 3 chords and 2 syllables in a rock song is a detestable poseur. The article in question is even more egregious, as two - two! - sentences after the above excerpt, Frere-Jones writes, "Her themes haven’t really changed—the pronoun “he” is rarely followed by anything sanguine—but Apple is no longer simply at the mercy of her emotions."

"Sanguine"? How pseudo-literary can you get?


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