Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Re: James Blake and What Makes an Enemy

Dear internet,

Back before the turn of the millenium, underground music found enemies in above-ground culture and waged war against the ongoing celeberation of these figures. There was a sense that the discussion, mediated by a limited number of forums (MTV, Radio, Major Music Pubs), was being dominated at the expense of valid alternatives. At times, the ubiquity of these people (for a partial list, see all the people listed in Negativland's "Michael Jackson") was so vast that it seemed like you couldn't turn around without being forced to hear their name or listen to their crappy music. The cultural assumptions were that you belonged to one of the preordained cliques of commercial claptrap and you could only choose between these culturually approved icons in order to participate in polite society. Furthermore, the burgeoning yuppie culture, which embraced standardization and the pursuit of money (and, tacitly, misogyny, class division, homophobia, racism, et al.), welcomed these enemies as their own- winners. The battle for the conversation was a battle for historical recollection and sacralization. The underground was not necessarilly against commodification, it just wanted to be able to allow itself to be commodified without compromises. The underground wanted a capitalism with meaning as opposed to a capitalism for capitalism's sake, which seemed to be the new mint for the artists that came of age in the wake of neoliberalism.

Therefore, James Blake is not an enemy. His overexposure is the result of an overabundance of media, not a corporate annointment to sainthood. Internet, your backlash stands on weak legs and your vitriol is idiotic. If any of you had ever bough a fucking album in the past ten years, Blake would not be whoring himself to every half-cooked URL. Just because you and your stodgy friends simulatenously bitch about the same artist on message boards does not mean you are inundated with said musician. Guess what? The underground won. It's no longer being drowned out by Lady Gaga. There are hundred of forums that can talk about the new James Blake album for a month and a half before moving on to something else that we'll all hate before it even comes out. Guess what else? People are still listening to Lady Gaga anyway. I'm sure these two things are perfectly coincidental.

This is by no means a call for less valid negative criticism of a flash-in-the-pan when he/she/it deserves it. Just please stop complaining about how you're "sooo sick" of hearing about someone who doesn't even make the charts of an industry that can't top a 40,000 album selling number one. I'm sorry James Blake stole exactly half of your 10 second attention span, but Tumbling your disgust at this fact is not going to accomplish anything save create a culture too afraid to ever welcome anything new for fear they may be laughed at the next day.

I hope this comes out better than I think it does when I re-read it in the morning.

With all this said, here is my review of James Blake

and here's a few other recent reviews:

Sistol (Luomo, Vladislav Delay, Moritz Von Oswald Trio) with a new album and a reissue

Cosmo Vitelli's band Bot'Ox