I applaud Paul K. Lawton. I don’t know the man and really have no drive to be or fear of not being in his good books. This is not a letter meant to defend or condemn his opinions. I’m just a fan. His observations make me laugh. Thought provoking with the emphasis on PROVOKING. Some may dismiss his thoughts as pure jack-assery but that would be missing the point. This clearly is someone who cares very passionately about music, as I do.
His assessments can be harsh and he’s definitely poked at more than a few sore spots. I do agree that some of the MOR artists he’s shredded are easy targets. Kind of like Vice savaging a middle-aged suburban mom in their Do’s and Don’ts. Then again, is he really doing anything that any musician hasn’t done under their breath?
As a musician of virtually no note, I definitely understand his position. As an artist with very definite opinions, I can relate. As someone who’s been turned down for every grant known to man, I can feel his frustrations. And as someone who has at one point or another been incredibly vocal about all of it, I can understand the backlash.
Back in MY day (and I can legitimately say this because I’ve been around as long as a vampire), blogs were called mailers and I maintained one for [MP.G] called In Geneyus Forum. Your basic run-in-the-mill “here’s what we’re up to” email. Pretty standard shit. In it I also used to publish opinion pieces about the state of Canadian music or what I called “The Canadian Star System.”
In hindsight, the targets seemed rather easy (Lowest Of The Low/Moxy Fruvous/Barenaked Ladies/Crash Test Dummies) but at the time they were a major thorn in my ear. Heralded as the vanguards for the resurgence of Canadian music, it pained me that people I admired were being ignored. I spoke loudly against the glorification of what I called “Goof Rock.” People seemed OK with the rants.
Then one day I went after the not particularly goofy, Sloan. Things started to heat up. It seemed a lot of people just lost their sense of humour when it came to them. I can’t say I never had a thing for Sloan. The Peppermint EP, Smeared, and Twice Removed still get airtime around my place. I just really felt as if they had lost their way with One Chord To Another and what would turn out to be a slide from which they could never fully recover (though I’m sure the record sales prove otherwise.)
I got in to a series of entertaining flame wars. Nothing threatening. Or so I thought until one particularly deranged sloan fan found out where I worked and decided to pay me a visit. Lucky for me security in the building was tight. The whole situation passed by without incident.
It was the early days of the internet. I was happy to have a soapbox to stand on. I had no idea of the potential reach of my mailers. I was taken off-guard by the fact that people were paying attention enough to get that mad about it. I mean we were really only talking about music. I was only giving my opinion.
While Lawton makes a point of saying time and again that these are simply the reflections of his tastes not every one’s, I’m not sure I was ever really clear about that. Turns out I wasn’t very good at the whole “People are people thing.” Music snob was too kind a term for me.
Are there things I would take back if I could? Sure. I learned a few things along the way. Like if you call someone a “half-assed version of Sarah Mclachlan,” they will carry a grudge for 20 years. So sure, I’d take that back. Not the criticism, mind you, but the fact that I was arrogant enough to think my opinion was sacrosanct.
I’ve been writing about music for 20 years now and what Lawton’s blog has shown me is that not much has changed. There are 10 bands or so that occupy most people’s minds for one reason or another, while others are destined to be forgotten. Unfortunate, but the way it goes. I try to do my bit to help.
I’m lucky enough to write for a magazine that let’s me promote the things I truly love. One of the great things about writing for a print mag is that I have no pressure to find content every day. With only so much space to work with I very rarely use it for bands I don’t like. I’d rather try to rally the troupes behind Odonis Odonis than turn them against Nickleback (and yes, I’ve turned down offers to interview them. Would have nothing good to say.) People are going to love the music that they love regardless of what I think. But hopefully I can help turn some heads.
Neck, A Tuesday Weld, Mean Red Spiders, Grasshopper, Slowgun, Pope Factory, Pecola, Smallmouth. Kittens. Shallow, North Dakota. Jim Bravo. Telejet. The Spy. Weights and Measures. Leetch Drive. Beautifuzz. 122 Greige. Parts Unknown. Do Make Say Think. Champion Sprout. Del Griffith. Tristan Psionic. hHead.
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