Problems & Perspectives #2
By Beppe Colli
May 14, 2014
Beppe Colli at Clouds and Clocks responds at length to the post-Pazz and Jop free-for-all that transpired here a couple months ago. (I don’t want to quote from Beppe’s piece because I truthfully haven’t waded through it all yet, but I wanted to put it out there for your perusal.)
One thought on “Gaseous Logic vs. Christgau’s Consensus”
Clever title but where the gaseous logic ends and the consensus begins remains elusive. From the wish of “May The Consensus have Consequences” in 2012 to the fulfillment of “The Consensus Has Consequences” in 2013. Again, all I wanted to do was pick away at X-gau’s year-end essay, something I’ve enjoyed doing for over 30 years! And perhaps I’m a little selfish ab it b/c as I read other’s comments ab the essay I’ve found myself wanting to defend X-gau. I still—like Beppe Colli, I gather– don’t see any pressing problem w/ his use of the term consensus per se. We know more or less what X-gau means b/c, to begin w/ anyway, he spells it out: it’s agreement, overlap, in the critic polls. The consensus betw the big-3 music polls in 2012 is more consensus in 2013. But that the consequence of the consensus is more consensus is a bit of a cheat, no? Or especially so when beyond a brief aside ab how more consensus cuts off the long tail of fragmentation or puts more money in deserving artist’s pockets he leaves the question of the value of the consensus or its specific consequences mostly to our imaginations. And, then, making matters worse, in several specific places he actually argues against consensus. Not just in the sense that he emphasizes his own position as an “outlier” but he spends one long paragraph, for instance, celebrating the appearance of a number of DIY records in the polls this past year only to conclude cheerily that more “DIY definitely diminishes consensus.” What?! Perhaps it’s a matter of degree, not too much, not too little consensus, b/c that sounds ab right, but some clarification would really help. Colli takes for granted the value of a critical consensus, this is made most clear in the second part of his post ab some NPR convo betw Ann Powers and Carl Wilson, and he is appalled by the suggestion of some “post-taste” pop future w/out loyalties to any aesthetic criteria. I think I’m on X-gau and Colli’s side—again, not knowing all the required texts– but it’d be a more interesting and more productive discussion if X-gau made clearer the connection betw the claim in his title/thesis and the supporting evidence in his essay. Instead, we get more understandable skepticism and, yeah, gaseous logic ab his unfortunate reference to the term monoculture. We know X-gau doesn’t want to go back to the Beatles era. He thinks it’s a good thing, “healthy,” that people (critics) listen to and like a bunch of the same records– or share some experience— b/c he tells us so, and which might be construed as an admonition as simple as a critic’s responsibility to pay attention to the charts and what other critics are listening to. But what I wish X-gau would tell us next is why this is or would be a better state of affairs and what we lose w/out it, b/c I’m really not sure, and especially doubtful in years when the consensus winners seem particularly fatuous.