Beer and Pavement

Opinions are like…

Posted in Manifesto by SM on February 16, 2011

…blogs. Everyone has one. Right?

The thing I love about music is that two people of basically the same intellect and even similar tastes can have completely different opinions about a band or album. I suppose that goes for any kind of art or media, but people don’t talk about paintings or sitcoms the way they talk about music. It can get heated, almost to the point of exchanged blows, but we can somehow forget everything once a song comes on we agree upon.

The other day, someone posted somewhere that Radiohead was set to release an album. Since I haven’t enjoyed much of anything Radiohead’s produced in the last decade, my reaction was “meh.” So, I posted the provocative question: Is Radiohead still relevant? Some said no; others said yes. But a few others got sort of pissed about it. The funny thing is that I see eye-to-eye with a lot of people on either side of this Radiohead split.

You’d think that the polarization of Radiohead would mean that we don’t agree on any kind of music and hate each other’s guts. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. There’s something that can be said about a thing like music that can simultaneously divide and bring together. I think it’s why I like to talk music more than almost anything else.

Honestly, I don’t really care if people feel the same way about Radiohead as I do. They apparently are relevant as many people still go apeshit with every new release. Just because they’re not relevant to me doesn’t mean they’re not relevant at all.

To further my point, in case you hadn’t heard, Arcade Fire won the Grammy for album of the year. This is being seen in several ways. First, there are the opinions I’ll ignore. Those are the ones who dismiss The Suburbs because they have no idea what it is and the others who actually think Eminem was robbed. The other two camps see things a bit differently. Some are proclaiming this to be indie rock’s big breakthrough, while others see it as proof of The Suburbs inherent faults.

For those who celebrate this achievement, they realize that Arcade Fire is doing things no other indie has ever done. They are competing with the big boys of rock music from not-exactly-rock-mecca of Montreal and the tiny indie label Merge. Granted, Merge has been around for a while, but it’s not a huge label that has loads of money. They have a unique deal with artists that allows the artists more say and more pay. No major would operate the way Merge does. Of course, no major label puts out as much good music as Merge does. Funny thing is, Merge’s decidedly artist-centric approach has helped them outlast many majors. The Suburbs are the culmination of that work and all of indie rock should relish in the achievement.

My brother said something about how he never thought he’d see anything like that in his lifetime. The Grammys are shill for the industry or at least its corporate overlords. So, it’s unthinkable that a band on an indie could ever win one a Grammy, and not just any Grammy, Arcade Fire won album of the year. That’s the Grammy.

However, some would point to the fact that the Grammys themselves haven’t been relevant for…well…ever. Grammys have generally missed the mark every time. Even this Arcade Fire album is not the band’s best. Had the Grammys really been cutting edge, they would have given best album to Arcade Fire for Funeral. The Grammy foundation or committee or whatever they are really don’t understand much of the music they honor. So, is it really a big deal that Arcade Fire won?

Well, of course it is a big deal. It’s just not a big deal to everyone.

I remember when Beck beat out Springsteen and Sting for best male performance for his now-classic Odelay. Although Beck wasn’t on an indie (at least not for this release), it was an amazing upset to unseat two of the biggest names in music. It was a moment when alternative music (indie rock with loads of cash) was the equivalent of the typical corporate junk that dominated the Grammys year after year, category after category. Maybe you liked One Foot in the Grave better, but Odelay winning that award was a big deal for non-mainstream music.

The point is that Radiohead and Arcade Fire are worthy bands. They’re both relevant. It’s cool that I write about Pavement or Archers of Loaf so much. We think about and care for the music and that’s what matters. Granted, I’m biased toward a certain kind of music, but I’ll listen if you want to talk about why you love Lady GaGa or Phish or whatever. I can appreciate your fondness for a band or musician. I just might not agree and there’s room for that in this space.

Sorry, I’m rambling away from the message.

What I know that we can all agree upon is that music is one of those things in life we can all agree to disagree. And that’s great. Maybe you never grew out of Radiohead. Don’t worry. I never grew out of Pavement. I loved The Suburbs. You haven’t like anything they’ve done since Funeral. All of that is cool. There are as many ways to look at music as there are people or at least blogs.

(Speaking of obsessing over a band no one really likes, my series on the Archers of Loaf oeuvre will continue Friday.)

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