Friday, December 11, 2009

A thesis for this blog?

I was listening today to the Eno-Fripp collaboration "No Pussyfooting," and thinking, "wow this really sounds like Kraftwerk." And it seems to me that for nearly 100% of the music-discussing world, liking this album and liking Kraftwerk would go hand in hand.

You can imagine the conversation in the record store.

"I've enjoyed other Eno albums, but I don't really like King Crimson. Is this good?"
"Yeah. Do you like Kraftwerk?"
"Of course."
"You'll like this. It sounds like Kraftwerk."

Which... it does. But I guess I want to say, there is NOTHING to like about (or "in") this similarity.

I've made this argument elsewhere, but no art should ever be evaluated on its *premise*. The Mona Lisa-- on paper, it's not so great. Blade Runner *should* be a great movie, instead it is boring and anti-profound.

The great hardcore band Black Flag realized this early on, changing their sound drastically and frequently in order to keep one step ahead of their own influence in the American punk scene. Only a crazy person would say, "You'll like My War. It sounds like Nervous Breakdown." They don't "sound alike." On the other hand, these two great achievements in American music are much more similar than Eno-Fripp & Kraftwerk, which are only apparently similar.

It should be possible to like 99 records in a genre without it being a foregone conclusion that one will like the identical-sounding 100th record. I am using mostly musical examples, because, to take literature for an example, only unserious readers (like "consumers" of any mystery novel) are so faithful to a given genre. But even children did not go for just every single Harry Potter rip-off which was flung at the market after the success of J.K. Rowling's novels.

I happen to like both Eno-Fripp & Kraftwerk. But this is (or should be) completely contingent, unrelated-- or else it is not real taste. Taken to its logical conclusion, genres would disappear completely as an indicator of taste. This should happen. Liking Led Zeppelin should be as much a predictor of liking Deep Purple as it is a predictor of liking Debussy.