Thursday Hangovers

*Who knew there was a French Extreme Metal band inspired by Moliere?

9 thoughts on “Thursday Hangovers”

  1. Stephin Merrit doesn’t like rap music. I don’t like rap music either. Does that make me a racist? I think not.
    However, if Mr. Merritt said, “I don’t like that jungle bunny music,” there would be a point to the article. As it is, the charge is hopelessly convulted.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Craig. It’s ridiculous. I keep wondering if their arguments are being oversimplified, because it just seems CRAZY for respected music critics to be spouting this stuff.

  3. Actually, when I encounter any conversation in which someone says, “I am not a racist,” I get the feeling that oversimplification is in the air. We all respond to culture in ways that involve race, gender, generation, and class.
    Quite frankly, I’ve heard so many white baby boomers (for example) talk about rap in a way that sounds racist as all get out, and not one of them had to use any term so crude as “jungle bunnies.” Nor did any of them admit that race had anything to do with their response.
    I bet your average music critic hears that sort of thing more than I do, and gets more attuned and less patient with the usual rap-hating tropes.
    Of course, if you call someone “a racist” in print, rather than merely pointing out the racial nexus in which their musical tastes are formed and expressed, you probably should be quoting some pretty dire words. (And not calling them a “cracker,” either.)

  4. I agree with you too, Scott. It’s such a loaded gun to point at someone; it should be loaded with real bullets.
    It seems unfair to rap to force it to stand in as the defining representation of one race or another, as the contention of these two critics seems to do. Does Stephin Merritt hate jazz and blues too? Does he hate all music made by nonwhite people? Then his musical preferences might be enough to base an _argument_ on. So far, I seen nada.
    If a rapper says he hates showtunes, I wouldn’t assume that means he’s a homophobe. (Because that would be ridiculous.)
    Re: your point about boomers. I think that’s your standard generational divide; might there be some race mixed up in there — yes. But they probably don’t like Britney either.
    Like I said, my take on Merritt is that he’s a likable misanthrope. He hates most people. Hard for me to buy that race is a factor.

  5. It may be worth reframing this question as really an argument about blogging thoughtfully vs. thoughtlessly. I’ve looked in on Sasha Frere-Jones’s blog now & then, & it seems to me that whatever you think about his music journalism, he doesn’t seem to have understood the public nature of a blog. His writing there feels very private/note-to-self-like, but I thought the Slate point about him being after all quite high-profile is absolutely valid–it’s as though he feels like what he says on his blog is similar to, oh, I don’t know, speaking a bit indiscreetly at a dinner party, whereas really it’s going in print, in this case on something ill-considered without having checked the facts, etc.
    It annoys me when people are self-righteous about their taste and then try to impose it on others. The waywardness of taste is a wonderful thing, we can be encouraged to sample perhaps more widely than we might naturally tend to do but we cannot be dictated to. Hume said it first: “Truth is disputable, taste is not.”

  6. Merritt did say he didn’t much like jazz or quite a lot of African-American music, which he characterized as “all about the syncopation”. I still don’t think this makes him racist; I think it makes him a white guy who does not appear to have reflected on how his class and race have shaped musical tastes he probably considers personal and/or “natural” rather than in part socially determined.
    Or: What Scott said.

  7. Well, see, those statements are something I’d find worth using as an opening to a larger discussion. The whole racist charge just seems so inflammatory that it’s pointless, because it negates what could be a very legitimate discussion about how taste is somewhat socially determined.
    And to Jenny: I’ve had the exact same thought about his site.

  8. “all about the syncopation”?
    What a dork. Or to quote Richard Pryor, “Honky, honky.”*
    *Which is still different from being a racist.

  9. I’m sorry, we’re talking about a man who named his dog after Irving Berlin. Yes! He’s a dork! But a brilliant one.
    Admittedly I’m biased, since I’ve been a raving Merritt fan for like a decade now, but I find it nearly impossible to take seriously the idea that his musical preferences indicate anything about whether he is or is not a racist. I currently lack the brain capacity to really frame this argument as articulately as I like, but here it is in a moderately flippant way: if my Aunt Judy says she doesn’t like rap, it might be safe to call that racist, because my Aunt Judy has never in her life listened to rap music, so all she has to react to there it’s associated with blacks. If Stephin Merritt says he doesn’t like rap, it seems to me that the easiest explanation is that it doesn’t appeal to him musically, because he’s someone who -has- listened to rap and knows a lot more about it than just its cultural overtones.

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