Here we explore idle dreams for the music industry.
Days are filled with dreams, and here I will dream out loud, expressing my most closely held wishes for music. To make things well-organized, at least superficially, I break my sincere desires into categories: 1) albums I would love to see recorded; 2) trends I would like to see; and 3) habits critics might refrain from exercising.
# Box sets: the Feelies, Royal Trux, Pansy Division, Public Enemy, Magnetic Fields, Superchunk.
# An album of original material wherein Stephin Merritt is called upon to sing other artists’ songs with a radically enthusiastic, emotionally charged style.
# A Madonna tribute album which asks diverse artists entirely unrelated to her oeuvre to cover her material. Possible contributors: Jesus Lizard, Hole, Shellac, Tom Waits, Free Kitten (admittedly, Sonic Youth is responsible for the finest Madonna cover, the ill Into The Groove(y) track), The Boredoms, and Superchunk.
# A Looper-Lee Scratch Perry collaborative album.
# The next MC Solaar album produced by Steve Albini or Jim O’Rourke.
# A series of issues where two bands alternate covering each other’s material, i.e. Yo La Tengo covers Daftpunk and vice versa; Halobenders cover Lyle Lovett and vice versa.
# More distributors carrying smaller record labels so it is easier to buy them; or increased ordering capabilities from the record label websites.
# Better, more comprehensive, more accessible music listings on the internet and in print. If I want to pay to see bands, venues should make it their business to make it easy as hell for me to find out about their upcoming shows.
# Continued resurgence of vinyl availability in record stores. It’s tough to find but God bless the little shops and the big vinyl events scattered about.
# Continued reissues of older material that is hard to find, and increased domestic availability of foreign imprints. American acts sell here partly because they have access to all the marketing, distribution, and advertising their management can muster, not because they are necessarily better than what is being recorded internationally.
# Continued imaginative use of: the film soundtrack. There has progress in this area over the last several years, but there is still a conspicuous lack of imagination and/or suitability in lots of popular film soundtracks. It’s too much to ask for but anyway I want another Ennio Morricone and while I’m at it the likes of Ry Cooder’s work on the Paris, Texas soundtrack.
# It would be nice if critics tried hard to understand that recycling and ripping off are not the same as innovation. It cannot be cogently argued that Radiohead is a radical departure for music, nor can it be reasonably defended that nobody before Britney Spears thought an innocent schoolgirl routine would sell.
# Music that is “difficult” does not exist. Music that is difficult for a particular person exists. Similarly, inaccessible suffers the same lexical confusion. That a critic cannot adequately understand what the Royal Trux or Tortoise or The Ex is getting at is not really a criticism; rather, it is a problem for the critic to resolve without us hearing about it.
# We are reading criticism for a specific reason: to find albums we can expect to like. We are not reading criticism to see how many pretty cliche’s can be jammed into a few paragraphs. Nor are we reading criticism for quaint personal anecdotes or to see whether the critic has mastered the ever-expanding universe of music subgenres and scenes.
# Lastly, a stiff standard for critics to adhere to: tell us whether the music is good or bad, not whether you like it or not. There is a difference, and it is crucial. I can say: I don’t like jazz piano, but Bill Evans is an extraordinarily gifted jazz pianist and his records are incredible. The critic makes or breaks his/her career in explaining why something is good or bad, not by exemplifying superior taste.