Lessons from a theme week

teacherSo my goal this week was to single out some artists I’ve heard about but never really heard. I went with two bona fide legends (Tom Waits and Patti Smith), two lesser-known but well-regarded 70s bands (Buzzoccks and Faces) and one contemporary artist who enjoys great critical acclaim (Bjork).

Overall, my takeaway is that I wasn’t missing much. I’m most intrigued by Tom Waits, though his voice remains a stumbling block, and I like the idea of Patti Smith even if her song didn’t completely sell me. Faces seems like a generic 70s rock band. Buzzcocks wrote a great song but their style isn’t up my alley. And Bjork is intriguing but too much of an art-school show-off to really grab me.

So I guess the question is… was I missing out on these artists because I somehow subliminally knew they weren’t my cup of tea? Or was it just the luck of the draw and maybe five other choices would have led to some amazing discovery? I’m guessing it’s a bit of both. My impressions of these artists were based on descriptions of them in popular culture, not their actual music, but perhaps those descriptions were accurate enough to convey some truth about the music too.

If that’s the case, kudos to all the music journalists I read. You’re performing a public service. I believe it was Roger Ebert who once wrote that a good film critic isn’t somebody who likes the same things you like, but somebody who writes openly and intelligently every film he sees. If I read a rave but still know the film or album isn’t for me, that’s probably a good critic.

I’m a bit relieved that I didn’t stumble upon any must-listens this week. Lord knows I have too much music I don’t get around to as it is. But I do love that thrill of discovery, and I think I’ll return to this theme in the future — maybe focusing on more contemporary artists — and hope for better results.

5 thoughts on “Lessons from a theme week

  1. Amy says:

    Me, I bought the entire Bjork collection based on today’s post.

  2. Clay says:

    I look forward to your review.

  3. Dana says:

    I was surprised you didn’t do Lou Reed, unless perhaps you have more familiarity with his work. He was the 2nd guest on Elvis Costello’s show. Interesting person, and I do like the way he writes, but don’t care much for his voice. What I found interesting was when he and Elvis did a duet of one of Reed’s songs. Every time Elvis sang his part, he was melodic and displayed huge vocal range, presumably interpreting the song (or his lines of it) since Reed clearly has no range whatsoever. I found myself just wanting to kick Reed off the stage entirely as I loved the lines done by Elvis so much more. Sometikmes a songwriter just can’t fulfill the scope of the song he or she creates. Reed is an example of that, Wait another. I suppose one could argue that Newman and Dylan are other examples, although I like the way they croak out their tunes:)

  4. Amy says:

    I was wondering who among the musical artists we love would likely garner the same reaction from some blogger in a parallel universe who was conducting a similar experiment. Elvis Costello? Joe Jackson? Rufus, certainly 😉 Aimee Mann? M.I.A.? Lyle Lovett (God forbid)? What makes a unique artist appeal to one listener and not to another?

    Gets back to my “musical litmus test” in a way. I’m sure there is some passionate Bjork fan out there who cannot fathom being close to someone who doesn’t respond to every Bjorkish screech that emanates from her golden throat. Why didn’t you find these artists? Perhaps because no one in your musical universe (those people whose taste you have come to respect and admire over time) suggested you give them a listen.

  5. Clay says:

    I do feel like I know enough of Lou Reed’s work to disqualify him from this week’s theme. I agree that he’s another one whose voice is an obstacle, although he sounded much better on the work he did with The Velvet Underground.

    To Amy’s point, I tend to find music through a lot of different sources, and no doubt Bjork has been praised by many of them. So I don’t think it was a lack of recommendations that kept me away from her. That’s why I’m guessing those recommendations were phrased in such a way that I knew I probably wouldn’t share the enthusiasm.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.