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Goodbye Magazines, Goodbye Critics

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Friday, Apr 25, 2008

Since this has been the year where many indie music magazines have gone to their grave (Harp, Devil in the Woods, Resonance, No Depression), and with them, much long form criticism.You would think that the corporately decentralized blogosphere might increase the importance of the critic’s perspective by virtue of freeing writers from the passive aggressive extortion of working in a medium where the financial success of your venture is directly tied to the people you’re supposed to be critiquing. Unlike other forms of Academy-ensconced criticism (literary, cultural), music criticism reeked of its financial backend so much so that it was fairly easy to dismiss Rolling Stone’s praise of the latest Hootie and the Blowfish album. But nothing even close to a resurrection of the critical high form has emerged on the internet in any but a precious few sites who still consider cultural analysis a worthy pursuit (PopMatters, Pitchfork, Idolator, and incredible MP3 sites like 20jazzfunkgreats.


Most of the MP3 sites I read are quite simply diary dumps of links with dreary anecdotes that even their friends must find tedious. This absorption of music criticism into a peripheral adjunct of Facebook narcissism is particularly troubling if the medium has any hope of producing greatness. The usual entry goes as follows: I went to a party the other night, my boyfriend broke up with me, here’s ten unauthorized songs to download. That’s a defamation of the tangent and about as critically astute as the iPod shuffle. Perhaps the incestuous bond between criticism and commerce was so thorough that their downward fate was duly entwined. It could also be that a review that aspires to be no more than a description makes little sense in a technological environment where individuals can instantly access the actual sound over second hand adjectives and analogies.  I can’t help but wonder if this is simply connected to the death of larger cultural figures of achievement (with the exception of Spencer and Heidi from The Hills).


Lester Bangs, Jim Derogatis, David Fricke, they all seem like part of a dying breed of critic that believed in music criticism as an intensive study of history, politics and exhaustive rock genealogies. I can easily see myself throwing the Sasha Frere-Jones gauntlet down, blaming the blogosphere for a coarsening retardation of culture or for not being black enough, but I’m really just curious about why people seem less interested in theorizing, critiquing and following ideas beyond a faint flicker and a halfwit’s retort. I’m in no way suggesting that I am spending my greatness inheritance; more likely, I’m mourning the fact that it is inexplicably out of my grasp.

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