Beer and Pavement

On “Boring”

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by Zac on November 17, 2011

How are beer and music boring, or rather, “boring?” There’s been a discussion online over what makes something both artistically significant and boring. Now, months too late, I’m joining the fray.

Instead of rehashing the entire saga, I’ll point to the two pieces that inspired this post. First, there was Dan Kois’ “Eating Your Cultural Vegetables” where the author had the gull to suggest that the critical darlings of film are actually rather slow, boring even. Other film critics did not agree. Then, his good buddy, Steven Hyden, over at AV Club said basically the same thing about music. I suspect the AV Club piece will garner less vitriol than the film piece. Still, both critiques are spot-on. The most critically-acclaimed film and music can be a bit tedious.

Hyden differentiates the boringness of film and music. In music criticism, he writes, “…we have no problem classifying art as boring.” Eventually, he differentiates the boring from the “boring.” Hyden writes:

Any kind of music can be boring depending on the listener. No song is inherently not-boring—not even CCR’s “Ramble Tamble”—because boring is obviously based on subjective perception. This makes boring music hard to pin down. In a sense, all music is boring. The same, however, can’t be said about “boring” music. “Boring” is its own genre. It is a code word that instantly conjures artists with clearly definable attributes. “Boring” music is slow to mid-tempo, mellow, melodic, pretty in a melancholy way, catchy, poppy, and rooted in traditional forms. It is popular (or popular-ish). It is tasteful, well-played, and meticulously produced. (Or it might sound like it was recorded in somebody’s bedroom under the influence of weed and Sega Genesis.) It is “easy to like”—or more specifically, “easy for white people to like” (“white people” being a sub-group of white people singled out by other white people). It is critically acclaimed (perhaps the most critically acclaimed music there is), and yet music critics relish taking “boring” musical artists down a peg more than any other kind of artist.

He continues by naming BICTBAP favorites Fleet Foxes, The National, ST. Vincent, among others whom he considers to be “boring.” I can’t really argue with that assessment. I’m white people. I like that music.

Then, I consider whether or not I still like that music. Sure, it’s fine, but I haven’t listened to the last National album since well over a year ago and that’s because I rode in a car playing it on the way to seeing them in St. Louis. Hyden argues that “boring” is not necessarily bad. I’d argue that it’s not necessarily good either. “Boring” has the same effect as boring. The only difference is that we can’t figure out how to dislike some art when it’s “boring” until one day, it just occurs to us. With boring art or music, we know right away.

So, I considered what the effects of “boring” music on my musical tastes are. Well, I think not too long ago, I proclaimed (more like hinted) that the Fleet Foxes album, Helplessness Blues was the album of the year. I did the same for Bon Iver. While I still think these are very good records (I am still a white guy), they have long since been passed by more-immediate-but-just-as-deftly-performed albums by Wild Flag and Stephen Malkmus. Those last two records contain so much more urgency and soul (more on this tomorrow).

“Boring” music may impress me at first, but it doesn’t stay with me for long. I get, well, bored after a while and need something to properly get me to move my feet. Records by Cults, Tune-Yards, and Eleanor Friedberger are not boring. I get up and dance with my three-year-old when these records play. Bon Iver? not so much.

And since this is a music and beer blog, I considered the “boring”-ness of craft beer, because it’s out there. I’ll refrain from naming breweries as I want to support all craft breweries and recognize that they have a certain clientele that enjoy “boring” beer. I will also brace myself for the inevitable backlash from beer critics who, like their counterparts in film and music criticism, will be outraged* at the thought that traditional styles such as British pale ales, ESB’s, American wheat ales, or amber ales could possibly be “boring.” Well, they kinda are. I recognize that a well-made beer in any style can be enjoyable, but “boring” beer just doesn’t do it for me.

To be clear, a “boring” beer isn’t necessarily bad. The run of the mill pale ale at your local brewery is probably a fine brew, but sometimes we want more than fine. Typically, but not always, “boring” beers are your basic styles with little variation in traditional ingredients. They are true to customary recipes and are often executed well. However, they’re just “boring.” I don’t often reach for “boring.” I’ve had it and now I want something else.

Beers that push the limits are beers that won’t qualify as “boring.” Now, that doesn’t mean all these beers have to be imperial or extreme to be considered not “boring.” Non-“boring” beers challenge the palate and wow the drinker with each sip. These beers will make you excited to be a craft beer convert. These beers inspire blog posts and cause one to try their hand at homebrewing. No “boring” beer for me, thankyouverymuch.

What’s interesting to me, is that in both the case of “boring” music and “boring” beer, they both appeal to middle-aged, white guy (says the middle-aged white guy). We like our Boulevard Wheat and our Wilco. We watch baseball and may even be caught with a baseball cap on now and again. We too are “boring.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, sometimes (more often for some than others), we need to break free of “boring.” Let’s have a La Folie, listen to some Japandroids, and squeeze into a pair of jeans that fit you for christ’s sake.

As you may have noticed “boring” begins to take on a value for me, making it seem more like the other boring. I cannot lie. “Boring” music and beer… well… bores me. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of it. I just find “boring” to be boring at some point. There may be moments when “boring” is fine, but I prefer to look for anything but “boring.”

What are your thoughts on “boring?” Am I right on or way off base? Are there good examples out there of “boring?” Is this blog becoming “boring?” As usual, leave your thoughts and/or self-righteous indignation in the comments below.

*Outraged might be a bit too strong. Mildly annoyed? LOL? This blog’s title is too long.

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  1. jeffmenter said, on November 17, 2011 at 8:04 am

    WTF are you talking about.

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 8:45 am

      This is the problem with churning out a post a day. Inevitably, a post will be an incoherent, rambling mess.

      Boring beer and music is mostly subjective. All beer and music can be boring, meaning that somewhere, someone thinks it’s boring. Here, boring is used in the traditional sense to describe an opinion or feeling.

      “Boring” is a category, style, or genre. It’s well crafted, features mostly positive attributes, and is generally fine. However, it doesn’t stretch beyond established parameters. It’s fairly easy to like, but critics love to knock it down for playing it safe.

      Does that help?

      • jeffmenter said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

        I think what was happening was that using the word boring and then putting that word in quotes (“boring”) to make them different words was really “pissing” me off.

        Maybe it’s because you posted a link to a hipster runoff article as a Facebook comment the other day. I then had to try to figure out what hipster runoff was and ran into an interview with the creator, Carles, and he used quotes “incessantly” and “needlessly” and he did it in a way that really angered me for some reason.

        Anyway, aside from that I guess I don’t get the point of the article. People listen to music and drink beer for a variety of different reasons and from a variety of different knowledge and experience levels.

        For example, I find Neutral Milk Hotel to be very boring. Yet “In An Aeroplane Over the Sea” is widely hailed by both critics and friends of mine. Conversely, most of my friends would find almost anything Pat Metheny does to be “extremely” boring while I find Mr. Metheny’s music to be some of the most exciting, vibrant, and intellectually/spiritually fulfilling music I know of.

        Movie-wise, I find everything Darren Aronofsky does is heavy-handed and boring. But I could watch 2001: A Space Odyssey any time and be completely enthralled from start to finish.

        Whoever decided to wrap the word “boring” in quotes needs a smack in the face with a thesaurus.

      • Zac said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

        Fair enough. If you look at the conversation that transpired yesterday here in the comments, this topic has gone a long way from where the post began.

        Steven Hyden deserves the thesaurus slap.

      • jeffmenter said, on November 18, 2011 at 11:53 am

        Yeah, I tried to follow the conversation. I didn’t really know what everyone was talking about.

  2. Mike said, on November 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I read through the AV Club and the “cultural vegetables” articles probably right around the time you were typing this. So I’ve thought about them. I’ll pass on critiquing the boring quotient of craft beer, as I’m a non-drinker, and so any beer discussion is going fall on the boring side for me, just because it’s irrelevant to my situation.

    But I thought a lot about the music and movies critique. I think it’s safe to say we can reject the boring music arguement discussed in the article, because while the author says that “boring” is subjective, but then goes on to list acts who’ve been around for at least half a decade, and whose audience probably tends to skew a little older. He didn’t mention any younger “boring” acts (i.e., James Blake, whose album I like but I do use in lieu of a white noise machine at night sometimes; or anything by Deerhunter/Atlas Sound, which again I like but would fit into the tasetful, mildly experimental, largely accessible category nicely.) Based on what I know about the AV Club, the dude who wrote the AV Club article is probably a middle-aged white guy, for an audience of white guys ranging in age from late 20’s-early 40’s, music geeks mostly, people who tore through their student loan money in record stores while they were in college, who had a bit of cultural cache back in the day because they knew how to tell what music was meaningful and relevant and what music just sucked, or they used to be that way until they had to get full-time jobs to pay off their student loans, and maybe now they have other things besides music to worry about, so maybe they did miss the new one from Washed Out or they fail to see the magic in M83, and what better way to get them thinking about their own insecurities about their own dwindling music-addled life than to say that their favorite albums of the past couple of years are a little dull, that their tastes are irrelevant?

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 9:25 am

      That last sentence is a doozy. I think you’re tapping into something that I’ve addressed on this blog before. There’s an age factor (along with socio-economic and race) that’s being ignored. Basically, if it appeals to older dudes (basically, anyone who’s not a “kid”), it’s probably boring and/or “boring.” The irrelevance is always a struggle in music and film. The stuff the true geeks like really doesn’t match what the masses are into. A big reason for that is the idea that art house films and certain indie rock is plain boring to them.

      Also, the more cerebral, intellectual a work seems to be, the more dull it may be viewed. This is similar to all the anti-intellectualism soiling our country’s political climate.

      Obviously, this is a bigger topic to explore than a blog post written in an hour can adequately address. Thoughtful as always, Mike.

  3. G-LO said, on November 17, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Gonna have to give this some thought. I shall return…

  4. Mike said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Basically, if it appeals to older dudes (basically, anyone who’s not a “kid”), it’s probably boring and/or “boring.”

    Well said.

    I read both the movie articles, too, and I found myself nodding in agreement with the guy who got a little bored with Meek’s Cutoff. I’m glad I saw it, because it managed to make the open prairie feel pretty claustrophobic. But the viewing experience itself wasn’t what you’d call “enjoyable” by any stretch, and I don’t think I’ll put it in my Netflix queue for a repeat engagement anytime soon.

    I tend to fall more on the “boring” side of things on music (although the “adult contemporary” article made it sound like Fucked Up was an edgy, daring band, so maybe there’s hope for me yet), and if it means I lose a little bit of indie cred for looking bemused at an M83 show, so be it.

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:07 am

      Yeah, I think the “boring” tag fits better with film than music. Fucked Up is edgy because “fucked” is in their name.

  5. Bill Farr said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I read the AVClub article the day before reading this, and I don’t think _he_ did a good job in making himself clear. He defined “boring” as opposed to boring, then said he liked some artists classified as “boring” and not others, and recognized that he got engaged intellectually and/or emotionally and/or viscerally by some “boring” music and not others, and, and, and… and tip-toed around the possibility that his opinion as a music critic might not be more valid than that of a listener. He’s been wrestling with that a lot recently: that the music appreciated by the Pitchfork folks might not be more valid than that of other sub-genres.

    So what good is it to have “boring” as a code word? Lots of folks _love_ Feist, say, and are moved by her stuff. Or Tori Amos. Lots of folks hear Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver and have spiritual experiences. Others find them non-quotes boring. In the end, it’s about connection by a listener and a song or artist, and the critic can either ignore he/she is criticising what other folks might love, or wrestle with it and review accordingly. I think Hyden is trying to do the latter, but he’s not there yet.

    I think it reminds me of something about your indie beer/craft rock post, which i loved, but have a gentle remonstrance to make: the problem with focusing on small brewer/corporate brewer and indie label/major label is, we’re then not focusing on the artist nor the music/beer. We wouldn’t argue that Coldplay and U2 don’t care about their music as much as Malkmus does. Even the cheesiest 80s rockers you can come up with worked hard to make their records what they were — and the songs resonated and still resonate with folks. In the end, the connection with the art matters. Goose Island will still try to make great beer. The indie wonder signed to EMI will still try to make great music.

    Re: boring beers — there are those who repeatedly get the epiphanies you describe from the auld ways! There are those who have put good faith efforts in appreciating brett-dosed brews, or sour brews, or… and can’t get a taste for them, and still have their socks knocked off by a pilsener or pale ale or porter. Folks aren’t going to follow the same path or reach the same conclusions.

    If folks would say “I think this is X” or “I find this to be X” rather than “This is X,” folks would fight less. It’s often better to express opinions as opinions, not statements.

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

      Good point, all. Probably the most important thing you said…er… I think the most important thing you said were your last two sentences. I struggle with this all the time. The problem is that I sound less credible saying “I think” all the time. For me, it’s implied, but sometimes folks jump all over me for presenting opinion as fact. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      You’re absolutely correct on losing touch with the brewer and/or artist when we focus on indie/corporate/craft/whatever. Still, my dislike for anything corporate influences my choices as well as my enjoyment of many things. When I criticize anything corporate, I’m not actually criticizing the brewers and artists. Rather, I’m going after the marketing machines and the bean counters cutting cost over quality at every turn.

      Bill, you bring up interesting points. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

      • Bill Farr said, on November 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        Oh, I wasn’t criticizing you with my last paragraph — I don’t think you do it much if at all. You use the first person singular, so obviously it comes across as your opinion, not a statement of fact. But folks on beersite forums or music sites, generally? Third-person. “X sucks.” “Y is dumbed-down.” And so on.

      • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm

        I realize that, but I think it’s hard not to do. That’s what I was getting at. I didn’t think you were criticizing. I really appreciated your comment adding to the conversation.

  6. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

    quite the in depth thoughts here. I do agree with your thoughts. I’m told to like Fleet Foxes, Kurt Vile, Justin Townes Earle, Real Estate, Surfer Blood….etc, (and I try to out of obligation) but, I just can’t. I find this stuff great for background music. I would put it on at a little dinner party where I don’t need to really listen to it, but if I put it on while driving I’ll fall asleep. Now, having listened to the new Bon Iver while traveling by train around Italy, and after a long day of walking around various cities, I have a different connection to it. I put it on and it takes me back. So I still love that one, although I could see why someone would call it boring. Also, The XX is a band that I, for the longest time, could barely listen to. However, I put it on while planning lessons for school, and suddenly it really didn’t seem all that boring anymore.

    Beerwise, I definitely agree as well. I don’t mind drinking boring beer, but it’s more something I drink when I’m out drinking. I wouldn’t buy it for a tasting. I like something complex when I sit down for one single beer. I’ve tried to consume interesting beers while out for a night of bar hopping, and I end up having to head home early. So I think boring beers have their place, but I still agree they are boring.

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Yes, “boring” music makes for great background music. This is the stuff I can get away with playing at dinner time. I love my wife and she generally likes critically-acclaimed bands, but she is a bit of litmus test for whether or not music is “boing.” I’ll put on something at dinner. If she says nothing or even that she likes it, I know that it’s perfect for dinner music (i.e. “boring” music). However, if I put on something I actually want to listen to, she’ll ask me to change it. She doesn’t prefer bad music, but she may be a fan of “boring” music.

      Also interesting take on “boring” beer. If I’m drinking to be social, “boring” beer certainly fits that need. I guess this is where session beers also come in handy. Or are session beers really just “boring?” However, if I’m drinking for the purpose of drinking good beer, “boring” just won’t do.

      • Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on November 17, 2011 at 11:04 am

        Yeah my wife tends to be a good gauge of boring as well. However, her tastes tend to include anything found on the top 40 charts; therefore, I tend to take what she has to say with a grain of salt.

  7. carrie the destroyer said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I read the AV Club article earlier this week, as I am also intrigued by the surge of white people-friendly “boring” music; I went back and read the Cultural Vegetables article too. But I think Hyden erroneously translated the NYTimes piece to his own thoughts on boring art. Where the comparison between the two falls down for me is that “boring” film and “boring” music are polar opposites, as far as I’m concerned. If you think about what makes a “boring” film (i.e. eating one’s cultural vegetables) – something highly artistic, cerebral, intellectual (though, frankly, I’m a little offended he called out Solaris, which is a movie that resonates with me [example: I based the album artwork for my recent LP on Solaris]).

    I would never consider Arcade Fire, The National, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, etc. to be cultural vegetables; they lack the limited accessibility of Tarkovsky, Rohmer, Bergman, Jarmusch or Wenders; all of whom tend toward patience testing cinema. Yes, boring music is boring, but in a MUCH different way than boring cinema is boring. Boring music is fairly easy to listen to, and employs the same tired tropes that music has employed for years, albeit with a little twist (Arcade fire added a squawking French-Canadian and orchestral arrangements to power pop, The National just showed up with some lyrics scrawled on a guitar pairing supergrass licks with a crooning springsteen meets ian curtis voalist, Fleet Foxes added pseudo sensitivity to 60s era folk, Bon Iver–well I don’t know what he’s done other than be sad about a girl dumping him, and St. Vincent added a stupidly attractive deer-in-headlights face to orchestral-oriented pop).

    I would suggest that the boring music discussed in the AV club article is closer akin to a trite indie movie like Winter Solstice or an easy to watch but fairly unexciting movie that fares well like The Hours or the fanfare of cultural understanding 101, Crash. Anything by an artistic insider like Cuaron, Soderbergh, Wes Anderson or Inarritu also teeters the line–granted, I’ve greatly enjoyed the output of these directors, but their films are typically quite easy to watch and tend not to shake my artistic bones too much these days.

    If I were to grant a musical equivalent to the kinds of movies that can sometimes be challenging to get through for the ordinary viewer, the kind that–granted, can be hard for me to get through [I can't tell you how many times I will pass out watching a Kurosawa film]–often hits my consciousness like a quiet gong after speculation, I would pair it with experimental or 20th century abstract classical music or the current waves of drone musicians that I’ve lately been diving into. Granted, I have more of an ear for this stuff than most since I spent my high school career learning Rachmaninoff, Khatchaturian, Debussy and playing avant garde prepared piano pieces. But there are moments of sheer brilliance in Raymond Scott electronic compositions, that most music consumers would find quite off-putting; and krautrock plays on repetition and structure granting space for sonic exploration. Similarly, one might pair the uncomfortable and bone-chilling subject matter of a Harmony Korine, lars von Trier or–to a lesser extent–Todd Solondz film with the brutal punk assaults of Swans and similar, more challenging listens. Both forms test boundaries and limits of what we can endure as consumers of art mixing banality with brutality.

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

      I had a similar thought about half-way through writing this post, but I decided to move ahead. There are deadlines to keep. I too noticed the disconnect between the avant garde filmmaking in the NYT piece and the white people/dad music in the A/V post. However, I know more about the music described than I do about the music you’re describing. So, I rolled with it.

      I’m glad you commented as you obviously have the knowledge to contribute something fresh to this discussion.

      So, maybe I’m looking for another descriptor. The “boring” just doesn’t fit with the cultural vegetables. Or maybe that’s just it. There are cultural vegetables we should consume but struggle to enjoy. Then there’s “boring” and all its acceptability banality. Beer probably fits the “boring” descriptor better than it does the cultural vegetables. In fact, I don’t think beer is capable of cultural vegetable-ism or something.

      • carrie the destroyer said, on November 17, 2011 at 11:20 am

        yeah, beer can’t really be a cultural vegetable unless you’re part of the craft beer culture, and if you can’t eat your veggies there, than you probably shouldn’t be involved, right? Whereas with music and film many consumers force exposure (as the comments on this post have indicated) to try to prove their up to cultural snuff; but it’s an uphill battle; and sometimes they get there but other times they don’t. Chances are if you can’t consume non-boring beers, you don’t have much of a place in the culture.

        There can definitely be boring beers, though. And your assessment of boring, dad-rockish, bands fits in well with the discussion of boring beers, because many people can find comfort and delight in a boring beer, like, say Boulevard Wheat, which I truly enjoy.

        I think it’s kind of cool how you’re all about plumbing the depths of beers while keeping a fairly bland palate (by my standards, anyway) for music consumption while I invest much more in digging into the depths of non-mainstream music (as I refuse to use the idioms underground or indie for what they imply) but have a very boring beer palate–but I also don’t blog about beer as much as you do…or hardly ever.

      • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 11:32 am

        Bland?!?

        No, you’re right. In fact, I used to be really good at diving into music, but girlfriends, working with kids, my own kid, and eventually beer got in the way. I guess I just found my sweet spot, somewhere in between Wilco and Joan of Arc with Pavement sitting somewhere in the middle.

        The thing I can’t figure out sometimes is why some of the music you profess to love isn’t really any different from what I write about here. Yet, my musical choices are somehow more bland. Maybe there’s an overlap or something.

        Whatever. When are you going to challenge Mike in his assessment of Deerhunter/Atlas Sound? Also, I HATE Julian Donkey Boy.

  8. carrie the destroyer said, on November 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I haven’t really covered a lot of the screwier, more experimental stuff I like from time to time because a lot of it is older, and I only review new music. I’m not going to review the cassette copy of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn I found at the thrift store a few months ago like I’m not going to write a multi-part post on The Cologne Radio workshop or whether Ursula Bogner is actually Jan Jelinek. There’s no room for it in my current format of reviewing new albums that I can listen to for free on Grooveshark (or free stuff I get from my pals) while I’m at work. Maybe I should change my format.
    But we do cover a lot of common ground, even if there’s a big divergence on boring stuff, which you tend to favor for the kind of comfort it offers while I revile it for how tired/overwrought it is. Our criteria is much different even though we both work to fundamentally offer a perspective in reviews.

    I think Mike’s assessment of Deerhunter/Atlas Sound is fairly spot-on. They’ve become safer with each album. there’s still a slight taste of experimentation there, but if you compare what my boy, Cox, was doing from 2005-2008 it’s night and day. I like them because they’re pretty easy to listen to most of the time, but there’s still enough to keep me interested–however, recent releases leave me a little lukewarm.

    Sometimes music really just boils down to “does it strike you?” and you can’t quite write your way out of that catch because when you hear what you perceive to be REALLY GREAT MUSIC something happens in your brain that cannot be explained. And it can strike you in varying degrees. For example, while Wild Flag was a good, fun album that had some striking parts, it didn’t thoroughly excite me the way that listening to Grouper’s new albums did.

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Fair enough.

      Your description of Cox’s music is how I’d describe a lot of my relationships with various bands. Yo La Tengo is one that comes to mind. I saw them play one of the most electrifying sets I’ve ever seen before I ever listened to a record. That set stuck with me as it resonated in the kind of music they recorded 15-20 years ago. Ever since, they’ve grown awfully safe, but I can still hear that little bit of experimentation that was so alive back in the day. (Coincidently, I’m listening to Painful right now.)

      Also, the idea of whether or not music strikes you is a valid one. Sometimes, you just know. Sometimes, you listen and listen and you feel like this should be good. You either proclaim it as such or you reserve judgement for later. Either way, it really didn’t strike you.

      I would also add that sometimes my opinions on this blog are of the moment and don’t really reflect what I like. That Fleet Foxes record is like that. You did a fantastic job of bashing it. I felt a lot of the same things, but I wanted to save face and stick with my first assessment. Honestly, that album bores me. I did enjoy it, however, while looking out the window of a plane, missing my kid and wife. So, it has its moments, but I’m not sure it ever struck me.

      Good stuff.

      • carrie the destroyer said, on November 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

        I’m pretty much the same way on YLT, too. I think it helped that my first album of theirs was Painful and I moved through their oeuvre accordingly (from there I went to I can hear the Heart beating as one and And them Nothing turned itself inside out Ride the Tiger and I mostly found Summer Sun and on pretty dull; and went back to elec-tro-pura pretty seriously for awhile in college). I think their Live Show is as good as ever–at least when I saw them they just went balls-to-the-wall insane–even if their recent albums are really boring. I can’t say I’ve listened to anything they did from Summer Sun and on more than once or twice.

  9. Mike said, on November 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I’ll admit that I’m joking about Deerhunter/Atlas Sound being boring, just like I’m joking about M83 being “edgy.” The whole debate is goofy; it’s based hand-wringing over whether today’s 20-somethings think that middle-aged white guys are hip. Of course middle-aged white guys are unhip: I’m a few years too young to be called middle-aged, but close enough, and what 20-something in their right mind is going to look at me—moderately overweight; can’t drink til dawn or ‘shoom it up every night on account of having to be up early for the service-sector desk job; geeks out over pedestrian hobbies like baseball and books; sometimes is too worn out after a day of sitting around at the job to do anything but watch crappy Jesus programming on the History Channel; kind of digs the new album from Wilco, my favorite band from when I was an undergrad—and think, “Christ, I want to be like him”? In fact, I’d worry about any 20-something who does want to be like me; if early 20’s me could have fast-forwarded to see where I am right now, I’m sure I would have offed myself. But I worry more about my 35 year old friends who try too hard to get in good with the undergrads. The message I’d like to send to middle-aged guys everywhere: Don’t even bother. You can wring your hands all you want about whether the kids think your record collection is boring or not, but you’re not going to get in the pants of any 22-year-old by pretending that M83 is edgy (or even good).

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      Personally, I don’t try to impress college kids. For some reason, they think I’m the bees knees (except when they make fun of me behind my back). It’s all because I saw Pavement play a small club in 1995 or that I knew who Neutral Milk Hotel was before Jeff Mangum was before he played OWS or ATP. And the beer thing only adds to the mystique. You know, the grass is always greener or something like that.

      I don’t mean to sound conceited, but kids think I’m cool because I did the same things they’re doing now, only I’m writing about it on a blog. If they knew me and how many shows I don’t go to and how little I really know about today’s music, then they wouldn’t think I was so cool. In fact, they would be right.

      • carrie the destroyer said, on November 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

        When you speak of 20-somethings opinions, I think what you’re really getting at is your former selves. I’d hypothesize that there is some little part of you that wants to prove it to your past self that you’re not a sellout, rather than connect with college kids (which I am, proudly, no longer–not that I was ever much of a “college kid” even when i was in college, but that’s neither here nor there). But eventually you find other ways to get yourself through–stability, family, love can come to fill the holes that music used to.
        For me, being a 20-something is kind of alienating but interesting. My teenage self would probably admire the shit out who I’ve become, but in the same breath I don’t feel connected to the larger sphere of music fans my age. Most of my regular internet interactions, especially music discussions occur with people with quite a few years on me, in some cases twice my age.
        There’s also the factor of having witnessed the hype cycle so much, you become jaded and skeptical of any band that gets an excess of attention. They’ll be every pitchfork headline for about 3 months until the next buzzband comes along. It’s silly to admit, but a lot of times that does color my judgement, and I hate to feel like I’m being played like a fiddle based on the whims of some tastemakers.
        but I’m not going to give anyone a pickle tickle based on buzzbands. nu-uh.

      • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm

        A pickle tickle?

        Carrie, you’re the exception. I think your writing here and on your own blog proves that.

        You’re probably right about the wanting to impress our younger selves. I think that’s a sign of satisfaction when you can imagine that you’ve turned into the person you hoped you would be. I think I can honestly say that I have. I’m a dad, a husband (although marriage itself was never important to me), an educational technologist, and still up with most music. You’re also right about filling those holes. I think that’s why I don’t get nearly as excited about every rock show I see. In fact, I get downright bored sometimes when I go to a show anymore. Too many shows. Too jaded.

        I think I was a lot like you at your age in terms of my attitudes toward hype. I had just survived the grunge era. I can only imagine how much P4k would have jizzed all over themselves in ’91. Thank god the cycle was slower then. Now, it’s impossible to keep up. I don’t know how many times I see posts in the 500’s on my Google Reader under “Music” and I just click “mark as read.”

      • Mike said, on November 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm

        I don’t think I’d have anything to prove to my former college self. I don’t like college-aged kids, is all. But this doesn’t have anything to do with me wanting to impress college-me, I don’t think. This “old people music is boring” thing has been done before: it’s how rock music works: Elvis made everything before him irrelevant; the Beatles made Elvis look old-fashioned; the Sex Pistols made Pink Floyd look like a bloated product of another time; Kurt Cobain made Axl Rose look dated; etc., etc.

        As new music comes out, the older generation is going to feel left out. This particular debate is funny to me, though, because I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing about how The National and their ilk are boring, but not many people (you excluded, carrie the destroyer) are talking about what they’re being replaced by.

        Which makes me think that it’s not young people who are starting this discussion; it seems to be coming from older guys, whose impeccable musical taste is literally all they have going for them, that and their uncanny ability to discover new music. And this AV Club article comes along and suddenly these aged arbiters of hip realized that the albums and artists they’ve loved the most are a little pedestrian, and that maybe they’re just not that into some of the newer stuff that’s coming out now, and they take a long look in the mirror and realize they become what they’ve hated the most. But there hasn’t been a major movement to come along to replace these boring old acts yet. Instead of some new genre coming along and brushing aside the old guard, we’re criticizing the old guard into irrelevance.

  10. Thomas Cizauskas said, on November 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Boring is a mindset, a giving up, and we all have been there from time to time. What is not boring, and where I might differ from you, is the crystalline moment, when one grasps past or is pulled from the quotidien. Which is why a freshly baked loaf of bread out of the oven, or a glance into your lover’s eyes ( a really deep glance), or a beer that just expresses its pure exuberant character is anything but boring even if, respectively, it’s not a recently rediscovered heirloom grain, or it is the same partner you’ve been with for (how long?), or it’s a beer that has no extreme character other than the joy of passionate brewing shouting from the glass. None of those are not boring.

    I plead guilty to middle-aged, and even beyond that. But joy and pleasure never are boring. Complacency is.

    Keep up the great writing (and good luck with 13 more NaBloPoMo days to go).

    • Zac said, on November 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      Thomas, thanks for the great contribution and for the encouragement.

      I almost went this route as well. I have a saying I used to repeat to students incessantly. It was “If you’re bored, you’re boring.” I think this speaks to what you’re getting at. All those things I described as “boring”/boring have their moments. That’s becoming clearer as this conversation continues. (I really have the best commenters.) You encapsulated that perfectly with your examples. I love that I can write a blog post and my thinking can shift by the time my readers are done commenting. Thanks again!

  11. [...] soulful element that corporate acts just can’t duplicate in the music. The outcome might be “boring,” but there’s a clear, albeit subjective difference. The artists still maintain creative [...]

  12. [...] “boring”, there is nothing wrong with this album and that should count for something. After falling [...]


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