Covering music in Drumpfjahr II.
Whatever else you were doing the last three weeks of November, chances are you weren’t sleeping enough. Chances are you felt trapped in the same nightmare that had been waking most of us up all year. To fend that nightmare off, I’d phonebanked and canvassed for Hillary, although not enough, and published my first Village Voice piece in a decade urging readers to pitch in—or at least see through the sit-this-one-out dodge and the third-party scam. After the nightmare came true, I spent long breakfasts splitting hairs with my obsessed wife, called and emailed many old friends, and tried to figure out how to cover music while devoting my working hours to Twitter and Talking Points Memo. The only thing that cheered me up was my daughter’s new kittens.
My gig with Noisey requires me to find three or more albums worth praising each Friday, but I file earlier—which meant I’d written my November 11 post before the election proper, a dilemma I finessed by saving up five artists of seventy-five or older, all explicitly on the left, including the unbowed eighty-eight-year-old communist Barbara Dane. I’d stockpiled Tanya Tagaq and Pussy Riot for a post-election fallback. After that came the Tribe Called Quest comeback keyed to the rallying cry “it’s time to go left and not right,” and after that Southern progressive Mose Allison, dead exactly a week after electoral Kristallnacht, and his anti-imperialist “Western Man,” plus old music master Hoagy Carmichael, who I informed my readers was a liberal Republican back when there still was such a thing. And then I ran out of propaganda and had to ease up.
If rock criticism is to be a political calling, which has always been my angle, that’s obviously not because it’s a fountainhead of protest songs. In fact, many rock critics look askance at explicitly political lyrics, which I think is pretty stupid, without denying that some political lyrics are also pretty stupid. Thing is, to quote the recantation of the devout contrarian Simon Reynolds in the politics-themed eleventh and final issue of The Pitchfork Review: “Why was I so down on the idea of preaching to the converted? When history is against them, the converted need to have their morale maintained, their spirits kept stalwart.” Read More