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Ramsayings

A Blog About Nothing in Particular

In Praise of Dinosaur Jr.

Have I really not written anything about Dinosaur Jr. since this post? Seems so, apart from a passing reference in 2011 to J Mascis’ excellent Several Shades of Why back in 2011. It’s crazy, because when I really think about it, Dinosaur Jr. may be that band that somehow survives every critical hangup I ought to have about them.

I mean, I found things wrong with my favorites that makes it hard to understand how I ever loved them so much in the first place. R.E.M., neatly summed up in a 2-part podcast over at Shallow Rewards, is one example. Pavement, Spoon and Sonic Youth? Love them barely ever listen to them these days. Even bands I fell in love with as an adult, like Fiery Furnaces, Liars and TV on the Radio feel dated.

Somehow, I don’t feel the same way about Dinosaur Jr. Maybe it’s the unmistakable crunchy riffing or the timelessness of J Mascis’ voice, but there’s something deeply satisfying about them. I find myself returning to these records and Mascis’ recent solo work more often than I realize.

As summer fades and fall draws near, I know I’ll be spending more time with their latest record, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, like a favorite sweater.

Stereogum’s Tom Breihan on the Pitchfork Music Festival:

I find something quizzical and honorable in this: A whole festival built around music that is not, in any way, designed for partying. In a way, isn’t that the logical endpoint of a decade-plus of internet music consumption? We’ve all spent all this time finding music on our computers and piping that music directly into our ears, rarely if ever having real-life conversations about some of the artists who mean the most to us. Why shouldn’t we be dedicating entire festivals to that same antisocial experience?

Need a #latepass here, but I’m not altogether sure what this is about. I attended the show Saturday with a friend, courtesy of Pitchfork, and found myself chatting with present and former Pitchfork critics, as well as the Super Furry Animals in the VIP.

There was also a massive crowd in Union Park singing “Barbara Ann” as I left. It sounded about the same as when I first experienced the Beach Boys 30 years ago at the Great Allentown Fair.

Overlooked Culture

Maybe I’m following the wrong people on social media, but has the word “overlooked” lost all meaning as it pertains to culture? It seems to me that when we’re still printing spoiler alerts for ten-year-old TV shows that “overlooked” has lost all explanatory power. Now when I see that word in a review, I roll my eyes. Chances are the reviews are just as overlooked as the culture they describe, if not moreso.

Sure, within your niche the new records from Vampire Weekend or the National may be on everyone’s lips, but it’s a safe bet that the word of mouth outpaces actual consumption of that particular cultural artifact. You may perceive that those records have gone mainstream, but the reality is your neighbor has never heard either band.

There’s definitely a bright side to this; with this shift, it appears to me at least that snobbery loses in the bargain. The on demand nature of culture now enables anyone curious enough to bookmark those things mentally and narrows the gap between the expert and the novice. Moreover, we’ve done away with the cultural monoliths that once dominated the pop cultural landscape that allow us to gather around real and imagined water coolers for discussion and debate.

But how do critics describe this shift as the pace of cultural creation plows under what came before? Blink and you could miss the next cultural epicycle. Has culture been marginalized or personalized? Can anything be described as ephemeral, or were we just always talking to ourselves, the myth of monoculture just another imagined community peopled exclusively by elites?

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