– Mark E. Smith

Chuck Klosterman (op. cit.) made his career as a rock critic by telling rock critics’ readers that rock critics are snobs.

Merely as an example, he wrote in the New York Times:

Dee Dee Ramone and Robbin Crosby were both shaggy-haired musicians who wrote aggressive music for teenagers…. They died within 24 hours of each other last spring…. In a macro sense, they were symmetrical, self-destructive clones; for anyone who isn’t obsessed with rock ’n’ roll, they were basically the same guy.

Yet anyone who is obsessed with rock ’n’ roll would define these two humans as diametrically different. To rock aficionados, Dee Dee and the Ramones were ‘‘important’’ and Crosby and Ratt were not. We are all supposed to concede this…. [T]he Ramones were never particularly popular…. [Ratt’s] first album, Out of the Cellar, sold more than a million copies in four months[, w]hich is why the deaths of Dee Dee Ramone and Robbin Crosby created such a mathematical paradox: the demise of Ramone completely overshadowed the demise of Crosby, even though Crosby co-wrote a song (“Round and Round”) that has probably been played… more often than every track in the Ramones’ entire catalog. And what’s weirder is that no one seems to think this imbalance is remotely strange.

What the parallel deaths of Ramone and Crosby prove is that it really doesn’t matter what you do artistically, nor does it matter how many people like what you create; what matters is who likes what you do artistically and what liking that art is supposed to say about who you are. Ratt was profoundly uncool (read: populist) and the Ramones were profoundly significant (read: interesting to rock critics)…. [I]t is laughable to admit (without irony) that Ratt’s “I Want a Woman” was your favorite song in 1989; that would mean you were stupid, and that your teenage experience meant nothing, and that you probably had a tragic haircut…. I don’t know if Ramone’s death was a metaphor for anything; he’s just a good guy who died on his couch from shooting junk. But as long as you have the right friends, your funeral will always matter a whole lot more.

For such heresies, Klosterman was vilified on the little-known insider gossip site the Velvet Rope (and now you know about it):

Chuck Klosterman is an idiot with a gimmick – he’s a revisionist know-nothing who pretends to be a journalist and a critic but is, in fact, a small-minded hypocrite who opposes the very notion of journalism and criticism…. Klosterman simply revels in his ignorance…. And whoever besides Klosterman thought it might be cool to piss on the dead punk as some sort of courageous attack on parochial rock-elite wisdom should hack his own fucking head off, because the Times’ invariably reverent and probing tribute-to-dead-people issue is hardly the place for such vindictive folly. […] If anyone wants to have a debate over the relative merits of Ratt and the Ramones (and, for the record, there’s no contest in my book, but then I was never an alcoholic nerd in hick town imagining that Hollywood boys regurgitating tired riffs in makeup and pouffy hair would redeem my pimply sex-starved existence, which is essentially the ethos expressed in Fargo Rock City…), fine, but obituaries are no place for such trivia.

So let’s recap:

  1. Rock-critic orthodoxy holds that the Ramones are important and Ratt are not
  2. Ratt were more popular than the Ramones
  3. Ramones and Ratt stars died nearly contemporaneously
  4. Dead Ramones star is lionzied; dead Ratt star is ignored
  5. Member of existing rock-crit intelligentsia iconoclastically points out all the foregoing facts
  6. Other factions of rock-crit intelligentsia engage in ad hominem attacks

Through the entire process, we can note the theme that there’s always somebody ready to hate a popular band – and somebody ready to hate you for liking them, as happened to Klosterman.

Now, then. Klosterman, in his shockingly-uneven and barely-publishable Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs®, writes (pp. 3–4):

[Some chick he fancied] once had the opportunity to spend a weekend with me in New York at the Waldorf-Astoria, but she elected to fly to Portland instead to see the first U.S. appearance by Coldplay…. It does not matter that Coldplay is absolutely the shittiest fucking band I’ve ever heard in my entire fucking life, or that they sound like a mediocre photocopy of Travis (who sould like a mediocre photocopy of Radiohead)…. He’s just pouring fabricated emotions over four gloomy guitar chords…. [S]he flies to fucking Portland to hear two hours of amateurish U.K. hyperslop… and I hope Coldplay gets fucking dropped by fucking EMI and ends up like the Stone fucking Roses, who were actually a better fucking band, all things considered.

Footnote, p. 81n: “Kid Rock hates Radiohead for the same reason I hate Coldplay.”

Ratt is to the intelligentsia as Coldplay is to its heretic. Klosterman commits the same sin as his confreres, albeit with a different target. There’s always a popular band it’s OK for intellectual rock critics to hate (for a long time, it was Hootie and the Blowfish). Being intellectual rock critics, they always feel justified in their prejudices. It’s “iconoclasm” when Klosterman calls bullshit on the rock canon, from which he turns around and excludes a band he happens not to like.

Meanwhile, Coldplay, a rock band for sissies and girls, are fabulously successful and adept at their project, which I view as a fair criterion of assessment. With deceptively-complex arrangements and deceptively-simple lyrics; a rare handsome Englishman as a singer, who, moreover, radiates an inexplicable goodness; and popularity among a fan base that neither the intelligentsia nor the iconoclast thinks even matters, Coldplay is a rampaging success that’s out in the open and stealthy all at once.

I read an article in which Chris Martin wanted the same thing U2 did: To become the best band in the world. Right under rock critics’ noses (and by satisfying people they hate), what if it could actually happen?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.05.31 14:14. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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