As much as I enjoyed the restrained snark of Jason Cherkis’ “Novelty Rock” (7/8), I think he missed the most salient point. Old-school, full-length rock criticism is on its way out because it does not serve the people. Generalist readers don’t like it—why the hell should they, when it’s usually dripping with insider references better suited to academia or some other self-congratulatory institution? Writers like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer were important because they invented a new genre, melded a new world of music with a new way of viewing words and publication, and lent legitimacy to rock while tearing down the stodgy edifices of traditional critical writing. They were fans of the music and fans of the culture surrounding it.
It ain’t the ’60s or ’70s anymore, however. Trad rock criticism has become hidebound, pretentious, and predictable. Why should you trust what some self-important windbag drools on about for 1,200 words when you can ask your AIM buddy (whose taste you already know and share) what to check out? And what exactly is wrong with weaving personal stories into discussions of music, other than the fact that Cherkis happens to dislike it?
Literary writers haven’t ruined rock criticism. Rock critics ruined rock criticism. Big-name writers are simply using the general
public’s lack of interest in pompous rock criticism as an excuse to tell stories, which is what they do for a living. If rock critics find their readership turning away, perhaps they should attempt to reach the reader rather than showing off their collection of obscure musical references and seven-syllable words. Or they could just stop their whining and contribute to Pitchfork.
2 Gyrlz Quarterly