I Might Have Horrible Taste in Music

By Ben Johnson

Listening to music is not my job. I sometimes treat it like my job because sometimes listening to music makes me think things, and then I write those things, and then if those things are good enough I get some money... but listening to music is not really necessary to the task of writing things. I’m capable of writing a thousand-word dick joke. I don’t need music.

And that’s fine. I don’t want to need music more than any other normal human being does. If I ever feel the urge to write about music, I’d prefer to have a normal human being’s perspective about it. Normal human beings don’t do things like investigate the feminist implications of Rihanna just because. Normal human beings just hear “Titanium” and either go “oh good” or “change it,” and that decision happens in less than three seconds, and that’s more than enough time to spend thinking about the subject.

I am routinely, voluntarily exposed to some very odd human beings, though. People who own or work in record stores, or record labels, or music blogs. These are people for whom the whole of music is a perpetual chaotic battlefield of incremental advantages and semidisastrous retreats. They are posting map room updates on my Twitter feed. Mikal Cronin to Merge, send him over the top with the first brigade while Ty Segall runs a flanking maneuver with Charlie Moonheart’s Fuzz Cavalry. Sometimes I almost feel like I can sense what’s actually happening out there, but I’m not fool enough to get close to the front lines, and I also know the limitations of academic study of strategy and tactics.

Lately I’ve gotten the feeling that my role in all this is as the money (as a consumer) or, worse, as press man (as a guy who sometimes writes on blogs). Either way, I’m the guy at the other end of the impassioned speechifying about which cause is just and proper. My job is to be the sucker and fall for the grand and emotional gesticulations which always end in pleas for my money or my help or for me to join or do something or at least stop being such a hater. I’m dead weight, the tool whereby these things are won, and of no more use than that. I’m an empty checkbox next to a name on a Facebook event invitation. Can we count on your support in the $50 range, Mr. Johnson? For war orphans.

As far as this nebulous war analogy goes, I used to identify one way, but now I’m looking across the battle lines at how valiantly Chief Keef is fighting, a blur of inarticulate rage dispatching anybody within arm’s reach. He is magnificent. And I’m seeing the old guard with their obsolete tactics stoically marching to be cut to ribbons in the maw of the new reality, and it brings a wistful tear to my eye. And I’m slowly understanding that there is only bloodshed and pointless slaughter and neither winners nor losers, and I‘m seeing music as one unified struggle of the entire human race in which the only real bad guys are the profiteers hidden behind their ledgers, and the only good is the unending hope for better new beginnings. You know, that whole war analogy.

Anyhow, I’m on a horrific run of gullibility recently. I’ve been buying records at a feverish pace for all the wrong reasons. Because somebody told me to. Because I know it’s worth more money than that. Because I’m here now, and I don’t have this one yet, and Rick is a good guy. I’ve been an absolute sucker, floating mindlessly to the surface to be stripped of my meat like a dynamited fish. Worse than usual, even.

I’m listening to my plunder now, and it’s a task. It’s joblike. I’m getting nothing out of it other than time not spent doing something worse. I can’t tell if the music I am listening to isn’t good, or if I’m not good, or if I’m just not in the mood, or if there is no mood for this. I am worried I have horrible taste in music because people told me to get something, and I put it on and hear just a soundful nothing coming out of the speakers, and the people that recommended this always seem like they know what they’re doing because they’re so impassioned and I’m not. Golly. Club me in the head and de-scale me, you hucksters. You youthful ideologues.

But: probably there’s just a lot of shitty rush jobs coming through the pipes on the cusp of SXSW, which I’d know intuitively if I were a veteran of the front lines, and I shouldn’t take any of this seriously. It’s just potshots. That Martin Rev reissue on Superior Viaduct is pretty great, though. So hey, at least that. “Oh good.” Put that one back on, and put the rest in the “OK to sell” section, and trouble yourself no longer on what happened here this day.

Comments