Don’t believe a word I say
By Gabe Meline
Today, you read the words of a guy who’s just turned 30. I suppose that means you can stop trusting me if you’d like. In line with the famous advice from the ’60s, I wouldn’t blame you, really, and not because of the arbitrary number of years I’ve been on the planet. I wouldn’t even be upset if you stopped trusting me for giving up so many signposts of youthful abandon like drinking, smoking, bachelorhood and sleazing around.
The real reason you should stop trusting me–and come to think of it, the reason that you should stop trusting all music writers–is that the notion of “good” music is a matter of highly personal opinion, and though I’m all for turning people on to what I think is cool, I’m even more for people forming their own likes and dislikes.
I was talking to a friend the other day on the golf course (see? You can stop trusting me, really, it’s OK) about Death Cab for Cutie, and I, as objectively as possible, mentioned that the band’s albums were sonically well-recorded and that they had a lot of talent. My friend balked.
“It’s not even about talent anymore,” he said, “because everyone is talented. It’s just about if you make shitty music or not.” Which essentially means that it’s a matter of opinion, and I realized that buried in all of my objectivity, I did actually have an informed personal opinion about Death Cab for Cutie: I think they hella suck the bag.
But why should you trust me? After all, I also think the Rolling Stones are stupid and that Billie Holiday has an annoying voice. You know what gets me off? Early Chumbawamba and Eric B. & Rakim, for starters. But that’s just me.
But that’s just me. How many music columns could you attach that phrase to the end of? All of them, that’s how many, and that’s what you always have to keep in mind, and that’s why you should stop trusting me. I’m always going to have a hidden personal agenda in my columns, I’ll always be pushing my opinions, and eventually everyone will be listening to Deerhoof and Four Tet, and I’ll get to take the credit and say I told you so.
But let’s flip this around for a while and suggest that the precise reason you shouldn’t trust me is that I’m sometimes not opinionated, that I’m too objective–that, like most people over 30, I’m more interested in going with the flow than in expressing my real thoughts. Who’s going to trust me then, especially since music, like life, is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how one reacts to it?
I was being interviewed recently and was asked if I had any advice about music. It was a glaringly open-ended question, but I immediately knew my answer: Keep your ears open to all types of music, and you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Now more than ever, it’s easy to check out all kinds of different music, and it amazes me that so many people–both over and under 30–stay within such rigid, self-imposed confines of genre or era. When people are jolted out of those confines, like when a whole generation of Phil Ochs lefties thrill at seeing Bright Eyes sing “When the President Talks to God” on The Tonight Show, it can be a revelation. Newer bands can often be adding to the conversation, but just speaking a slightly different language.
So here’s to turning 30 and staying open-minded. With that said, there are some new local bands that, in my personal opinion, are worth seeing. Allez-Cuisine, Furlong, Numbers Like Dinosaurs, No More Stereo, Are Black and Ciesto are all playing around lately. They’re also pretty young, but like one of R. Kelly’s ex-girlfriends once said, age ain’t nothin’ but a number.
Deerhoof’s ‘The Runners Four’ and Four Tet’s ‘Everything Ecstatic’ are both hella rad and in stores now. I’m having a 30th birthday party at my house on Saturday night, Oct. 22. If you know where I live, you should cruise by.
From the October 19-25, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.