Essay # 4
NEED WE CONDEMN THE FAN?
I was originally planning on giving this essay a bright start, something very shocking and controversial like 'IMHO, fans suck' or 'It's only natural that I hate fans'. But then I caught myself on the thought that such a start would make the entire essay look like just an ordinary rant caused by a couple recent flames that managed to particularly enanger me or something, not to mention that the very statement would not be true at all. Repudiating that first intention, I now see that before actually condemning 'fans' (or 'diehard' fans, whatever), one really needs to understand what a true fan is. And anyway, am I not a fan too? Am I or am I not? Am I, for instance, giving the Beatles a five-star rating and claiming to like 99% of the stuff they ever released because of what - to me - seems like objective musical reasons, or maybe it's just my personal fanatic nature? Or both? Geez...
Initial disclaimer - I am, in fact, as of now, currently, sur-le-champ writing this essay in absolutely cold blood and driven forth only by the eternal curiosity factor, not because some ravenous Kansas fan accused me of criminy a couple hours ago (which he didn't, in fact, most of last week's letters were rather amical). I just want this essay to acknowledge several facts and definitions and, perhaps, to develop certain ideas that I'd already expressed long ago in the guidelines and introduction pages, which nobody reads anyway. Perhaps they'll try reading this instead?
By far the largest percentage of comments on this site are, quite naturally, written by fans; fans of a certain band and artist, or fans of a certain genre. A "rock music fan" - let's start by saying this - is a very vague notion. If a person listens to rock music and nothing else, this alone cannot guarantee fanatism; true, unhindered devotion, which is element number one in a fan's attitude, can't go to such a huge thing as rock music in general. I seriously doubt that there are people in this world who are ready to swallow, digest, and worship any piece of music as long as they qualify it as 'rock'. This is also why I have been often offended when somebody, even without any bad intent, branded me as a 'classic rock fan'; again, even if we define 'classic rock' as, say, rock music of the Sixties and Seventies, I could never admit that I like all rock music as long as it dates from that period.
I suppose that a person can only have limited 'fan abilities' - you can be a fan of ten, twelve, maybe twenty bands, but not any more. What exactly is fanaticism? The American Heritage denotes it as 'excessive, irrational zeal', and irrational is the key word here - meaning that a fan's devotion has no logical, understandable explanation. Actually, this is not quite correct. It has no explanation from a general, objective point of view. But people do not become fans for nothing. Fanaticism arises out of a very strong and productive relationship that the object of devotion (in our case, music) has with the potential fanatic's mind and psychology. This is exactly what I have been earlier denoting as 'ultra-subjective factor'. How does one become a fanatic of a certain rock band? Certainly, one does not go around choosing a bunch of bands and logically determining which of their songs has more 'value' to you. Fanaticism arrives in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way - a minute ago, you were a normal human being, now you're an ardent devotee whose only aim in life is to collect that rare Mozambique-only released version of your favourite band's single with the name accidentally spelled backwards. Not to sell it, no.
I have never been a radical fan of any band - I did hang up the Beatles' portraits in my bedroom, but as far as I can remember, that was the only case of adoration I've ever truly displayed. That said, my feelings towards the Beatles are still extremely close to fanaticism, and there's a good reason to it: this was my first band. The 'artist that got me into music' case is perhaps one of the strongest factors that overall leads to fanaticism. But, of course, it's not the only one. Possibilities of 'fan transformation' are so numerous I won't even be giving any true examples. Suffice it to say that most of them are tightly connected to your own subjective experiences. A romantic evening, a lost love, tensions at school, boredom at work, radio overkill, whatever - and under these circumstances even what would seem to us the eclecticists as the dullest band on Earth will eventually find a radical, devoted supporter.
So is fanaticism a good or a bad thing? Basically, this is just as useless a question as the question 'do we need any kind of religion?' Fanaticism is definitely good as long as it serves a particular person - if hot, unlimited, devoted love for your favourite band actually helps you get along in life and solve your personal problems, that's wonderful. Fanaticism only becomes a real problem when it starts interfering with other people's interests and when you get the insistent, burning urge to spread your own fanatical beliefs onto your neighbours. That's not to say one can't try and convince one's best friend to try out some Jethro Tull or some Talking Heads or whatever; trying to expand other people's tastes is always a worthy subject. But if such a propaganda campaign is initiated with phrases like 'Hey man, the Beatles suck, dump these stinkin' records into the trashbin and pick up A Passion Play instead', this is not an effort to open up somebody's mind, this is nothing but a subconscious expansion of your fanatic tastes onto another person.
And I know what I'm talking about here. I have received many a letter which started out very promisingly and refreshingly and then turned to my personal disgust and desperation. I won't give any exact quotes, but here's an imaginative process of my personal thoughts over reading something like that:
IMAGINARY CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on a well done job.GEORGE STAROSTIN [thinking]: Oh, another nice gentleman. What a good day today. I. C.: However, reading certain of your reviews, I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of disappointment. G. S.: Uh-oh. Trouble ahead. I. C.: I know you really listen hard to most of your records, and I understand that trying to make you change you mind over them would be a near impossible job... G. S.: Sigh. Another deranged Rod Stewart fan. I. C.: ...but I would still wish to try. I think that sometimes you fall too hard on artists that really don't deserve such a hard bashing. After all, they didn't write their music trying to predict your personal tastes, now did they? G. S.: True enough. Say, that dude does have a way with words. I. C.: I think that giving an overall rating of 3 to Led Zeppelin was a big mistake, for instance - while some of your complaints can be deemed perfectly valid, these guys had such a vast artistic vision that one must really be seriously biased against them so as not to fully recognize their talent. G. S.: Generic formulation, but hey, he's right, did I miss out on Zep's vast artistic vision? Was I too harsh on them in the introduction? Me and my silly ramblings. I. C.: Likewise, I suggest you finally upgrade Jimi Hendrix to a five, simply because a four is hardly doing justice to his unlimited guitar playing abilities. Believe me, I can understand how certain elements in Hendrix's and Zep's style might not fit in with you, but they have deeply touched many an other person's heart, and for quite a few intelligent, well-educated, thoughtful people these artists are at the very top of the rock'n'roll stairway. G. S.: Well... I guess... I. C.: Even judging by your own criteria, I don't see any problems with rating them higher than you do. True, Hendrix's melodies might not be as memorable as you'd like to be, but his free-flowing jazzy style simply takes some time to absorb, and you can hardly approach it in the same way as you approach a formulaic pop song. And Led Zep, while certainly having borrowed a lot of stuff from their elders, have reinvented it in such a radical way that it would be no easier to accuse them of plagiarism than it would be to accuse the Beatles of stealing from their 'pop elders'. G. S.: Aye, he hit upon a bad nerve here. I. C.: I think your main problem is that you seem to be slightly stuck in the world of your own biases and limitations. I understand them and even understand what could have lead to their apparition, but I still strongly urge you to reconsider some of your assumptions. It always helps to try and be more open and friendly towards artists who really do not deserve unjust criticism simply because their artistic conception did not exactly match your understanding of a valid artistic conception. Think about it. Take care! Yours, Mr X. G. S.: Dammit, I hate to say it, but the guy's right. I really should reconsider. Heck, I'm a nasty biased person, what can I do? I have to shake that nasty thing off me. Say, I believe I'll take another listen to Physical Graffiti right now... Wait! What's that postscriptum? I. C.: P. S. Almost forgot to express my indignance at the fact that Led Zeppelin only got a rating of three while the laughable Rolling Stones got a five. A FIVE? Man, you really need to reconsider - Keith Richards, cool-looking as he is, hasn't got a tenth part of Jimmy Page's talent! Derivative, boring and stupid. I simply can't understand how such an obviously intelligent and deep-thinking person as you are can have that much respect for the most overrated band of all time. I hope very much that next time I get around to visiting this page, you'll have the Zep and Stones ratings swapped. All the luck. G. S.: DAAAAAAAAAAAAMN! [Absolutely Curtains.]
No, I don't wish to say I have ever received anything of the sort. But I did receive many letters that came close - first, the person accuses the reviewer of being way too limited and subjective, and then he discloses himself as just another obsessed fan of the band he speaks about. I have received letters urging me to reconsider my position on Led Zeppelin from people who could never understand Bob Dylan. I have received letters urging me to open up my mind as to what regards Yes from people who dismissed all roots-rock with a wave of their hand. The list can be endless. Needless to say, I never listened to these people much - trying to pass fanaticism for objectivism is a very cheap and unconvincing trick.
A natural opposition to fanaticism is eclecticism, i. e. when a person's tastes branch out in many directions and he is able to tune up to the various sides and aspects of the emotional palette represented by different bands in different musical genres. Being eclectic has its downsides as well - naturally, people branching out in all directions simply can't have such a deep emotional understanding of any kind of music as a special band-obsessed fan can. In other words, unless you've listened to a certain record for five hundred times, you really can't tell everything about it - and will a patented eclecticist spend such an endless amount of time listening to one record when he'd sooner run around to others, yearning for a different experience?
On the other hand, let us not get carried away in the other direction. Two myths that seem to circulate a lot in the minds of fanatics are: "If you're not a fan, you can't understand this music" and "If you're not a fan, you can't judge this music". This is prime biased bullshit. The correct statement is: "non-fans will understand this music differently from fans" and "non-fans will judge this music differently from fans". The prohibition and protest elements come from a) a person's limitation ("heck, this guy doesn't like the stuff I like, he must be stoopid") and b) a person's egocentrism ("how can this guy be cleverer than me?").
Reviews Of Classic Rock And Pop Albums, as opposed to, say, Mark Prindle's Record Reviews, is a site that is primarily destined for non-fans. That's not to say that Mark Prindle only tackles the bands that he's a fan of, and I tackle many bands that I don't like. That's to say that Mark usually writes from a fan/anti-fan (i. e. "hater") position, while I try to write from a non-fan position. In this respect, the long-lamented fact that "three listens aren't enough" actually can work in favour of the non-fan reviewer: three listens are enough to get a general idea of any record, but three listens aren't enough to turn you into an active (AKA "rabid") lover or hater of the album. And if they are, this can only mean that you've encountered either a virtually perfect album or an utter load of crap.
Picture it this way: not being a devoted fan of Brian Eno or Rod Stewart, I have felt on the very first listen that the former's Before And After Science is a masterpiece and the latter's Camouflage is one of the most obvious wastes of money in the world (for details, check out these records' reviews). Does this mean I've instantly turned into a 'fan' of the former and an 'anti-fan' of the latter? Never. On the other hand, three listens to Badfinger's No Dice were enough to convince me that the record is 'good', but haven't convinced me of its being a masterpiece; and three listens to the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa were enough to convince me that the record is very, very mediocre, but at least I didn't vomit on the spot. What next? Should I stop right here and write a review or should I go on listening? Obviously, if I go on listening, I'll grow more and more used to No Dice, and in the end this addictiveness will result in a subjectivisation of the review - if a record is good, it will grow on you with every repeated listen. Likewise, I'll probably hate Aoxomoxoa more and more - and the hatred will sooner or later overcome my objective position and result in an extra-low rating. These are the first seeds of fanaticism. I know that because it's been extremely hard for me to 'keep down' the record ratings for artists like Paul McCartney and George Harrison - I have grown up with their solo albums, each of which I had let through my brain at least a couple hundred times, and my subjective approach loudly cries out that I have mercilessly underrated many of these albums. I mean, heck, subjectively I may like Wings At The Speed Of Sound about as much as Sergeant Pepper, yeah, I'm a rabid closet McCartney fan, so sue me. We're all human. The problem is, this kind of thing should be kept away from objective reviews.
Which brings us to the most actual point. Does a site like this one actually need interactive reviews? It's one thing to be a classic 'subjectivist' like Prindle who is at the same time being generous and telling other people to mail their subjective opinions as well. But what's an objectivist bound to do? I can count the number of truly 'eclectic' readers of my site on the fingers of one hand; most of even the 'reasonable' part of my correspondents have their personal biases which they never try to overcome. (Leave me alone, people, I know I got my biases too, but apart from my anti-rap and anti-Motown bias, I believe I have managed to overcome them all. I was initially biased against 80% of the bands and artists I have already reviewed, including some 4-star and 3-star ones. Yeah, I hate being modest, so what's the big deal?). Most of the comments come from fans, and these are usually disjointed, non-systematic comments that are almost always identified as 'fan' comments and so will hardly be of use to a reader who knows nothing about the band/artist in question - except that the reader will probably be able to tell about a certain band's popularity by the sheer number of these comments. But does this really matter?
On the other hand, I frankly don't have a solid criterion or a valid deductive method a la Sherlock Holmes to distinguish "official fan comments" from "official non-fan comments", plus, the 'excesses of democracy' require that I put up everything that people mail me, including stuff like 'Gilmour sold out, Waters rules' from somebody who doesn't give any other type of data. Heck, I mean, if this particular gentleman had at least stated his age - whether he's fifty-five or seventeen - this would be of some use, because I could make a hypothesis that this is a standard type of complaint from old fans of the band or, more interesting, that it's the young 'uns that feel they're being sold crappy, pseudo-Pink Floyd music instead of what really counts. But no, there's no info, and so the comment just falls into the absolute 'chaff' category - to be frank, I feel that at least half of the comments on this site are 'chaff' and nothing more. That's not to denigrate the actual senders: they're asked to mail their ideas and that's exactly what they do. I can't blame them for not trying to be objective - after all, they never took on these kinds of obligations. Of course, this can sometimes lead to ridiculous curiosities: 'Whoever said opinions need be argumented?' objected one of the more energetic flamers when I begged him to be more explanatory in his comments. I leave that up to his own conscience, but for me, a person who never even looks for the base on which his opinions are constructed is an Amadan, if I can be allowed to make a reference to a notorious Mike Oldfield record.
What all this actually means is that interactive reviewing is not such a flawless piece of business as it might seem to one. When the conception first appeared, it was like a revelation: at last, now both the offended fan and the intelligent eclecticist can add these additional dimensions to a formerly rigid and limited review! It's, like, a 3D accelerator, man! But if we look at it from the practical side, what do these comments actually add? When they're systematic, they certainly mean a lot - usually presenting an alternate view from an alternate paradigm. When they're not, they simply don't mean anything. It's like the basic problem on the Prindle and Nick Karn review sites: on one hand, due to the abundance of writing talent amidst the reviewers, they are incredibly comprehensive, on the other hand, so many writers contradict each other that the basic reader is bound to come out confused. Would Mark Prindle ever review Marilyn Manson? Hardly. But the guy is reviewed on the Prindle site, according to all the standard Prindle-rating rules, with his presumably best album getting the obligatory ten stars. That's good. But me, I'd like to know what Prindle thinks about Marilyn Manson, or at least, in this case I'd like to know what the guy who reviewed Marilyn Manson thinks about all the other bands reviewed by Prindle. Then I can fit this Marilyn Manson conception into this guy's system of values and compare it with mine.
Put it this way: I don't know shit about Marilyn Manson (granted, I saw a few videos of his on MTV, and they never impressed me at all, but I presume there might be more to the guy than is obvious to the naked eye). I don't know shit about the guy who reviewed him, either - he's probably a MM fan, that's all I know. Now if I knew what's his attitude towards, say, the Beatles, or King Crimson, or Lynyrd Skynyrd, or any of the bands I know fairly well myself, that would be a nice departing point. If he said, 'The Beatles suck', he'd be no authority for me. If he said, 'The Beatles rule', he could be an authority (very roughly speaking, of course - you know what I really mean). But he just sits there and reviews Marilyn Manson. What the...? I mean, hell, tomorrow we'll have somebody putting up a Britney Spears reviews page, with a 10 given out to Oops! I Did It Again. Eh? What use is that?
So what's the deal with the situation? The deal is - one definitely need not condemn the average fan as long as the average fan hasn't butchered his mother or the milkman. But average fans in interactive reviewing are a big problem, simply because most of the things they have to say - unless they happen to be extremely eloquent, but that's another story altogether - are completely predictable and therefore excessive. This is why I put up all the disclaimers on my pages (the ones that say 'this page is not written from the point of view of a [band name] fanatic', etc.) - to try and limit the number of meaningless flames and equally meaningless 'These guys rule!' exclamations. Even so, I realize this is just a half-measure. On the other hand, I don't want to be a censor: censure is a subjective business by definition, and if I start censoring incoming comments, I might find out one day that I just leave out stuff I don't like and leave in stuff I agree with. Power corrupts, you know. Even if you don't get paid for that.
So here is another solution for you. As of now, I'm setting up a special, both fan and non-fan dedicated page on this site. Every reader who has already submitted at least half a dozen comments, and every reader who intends to do likewise (innocent bystanders or those who just have one or two remarks please don't bother), are invited to visit it and leave certain Personal Information about themselves. For the most part, this Personal Information is music-related: your favourite and most hated bands/artists, your level of musical knowledge, your CD collection, the music of your early days, your criteria for good music, etc. However, I would also ask to leave a little bit of the most basic real personal information - name, age, social status and interests. It goes without saying that this information is also often valid for understanding a certain person's opinions on music better.
Note: of course, this invitation is perfectly voluntary and I'll be posting anybody's comments regardless of whether they'd actually responded to it or not. But keep in mind that submitting this kind of information is able to transform your average comment on any of my reviews from a passable remark to a serious statement - as long as me and the other site readers know about the musical perspective this particular comment stems from. In other words, a response to this invitation means that the site's overall value will be increasing drastically. Let us do this and see if I was right or wrong.
In the meantime, you can also mail your separate ideas on this particular essay. If you still wish to, that is.
<email@example.com> comments: (06.12.2000)
Sorry for the length of this comment George, but your essay on fans got me going.
I am by no means a die-hard fan of any band. There is something I am indeed a rabid die-hard fan of(more on that in a while, and I can justify it objectively), but it is no music artists. The closest I come to would be Genesis...not only because of the dreaded 'first-band' factor, but because I am so intrigued by the whole sordid history behind the band. There are other bands that degrade into self-parody with line-up changes, but with Genesis, the gap between art and self-bastardization is a wide one indeed. (Ultra-subjective-factor alert:) I first got into the band through such a self-parody: Invisible Touch.
But now, I'm a budding Beatles listener(all I own now on CD are Abbey Road and White Album), and this band taught me a valuable lesson about overcoming my own subjective biases, and becoming more discriminate. I used to be a fan of that tuneless 80's synth-pop; my infancy was spent listening to what was played on the radio in the car. Can you say, 'We Built This City'? Of course you don't want to. Had a long way to go, that I did. But now, I've come to realize that many songs I've been listening to on the radio I didn't even really like: I just lumped it in with the stuff I actually did like and tolerated it because I assoicated them all with the same feeling. Now I realize that any worthwhile band is not going to have just a greatest hits collection as their only worthwhile album(that's why I get mad when I see a compilation get rated over an actual album on Prindle's site-I'm the guy who reviews Prince on there, and you may be interested to see the treatment I give 'The Hits' when I send in the review for it). I had to overcome something to actually review Prince; I'm not a die-hard fan of him, but I'm too generous and when I listen to an artist, I will want to like everything by him, even if I actually don't. That led to some backlash and I may have actually needlessly condemned some good songs of his(I like 'U Got The Look' more than I admitted, but I stand by my review of '1999'-can't wait for your review of it, heh heh). By the way, I would give Prince a rating of three, because I think 'Sign O'The Times' deserves a 13, but somehow I think he'll just end up in the locusts section(bucket-loads of filler, right?).
I have noticed that many casual music fans(the kind that only listen to the accessible stuff and don't even try to find out about the more obscure stuff - like my dad, who claims to be a Beatles-completist, but doesn't own any of their solo albums, and was prepared to buy a stupid compilation with their number one hits until I talked him out of it) lump the Beatles and Britney in the same category, and that's gruesome. Some people can not recognize a tightly-crafted melody from toneless-dance-music. They may have the same atmosphere and the same attitude, and that must be what lures people in, but there's a wide gap in their quality. I would know this, because I used to be that way. I used to see no difference in listening to 80's and listening to 60's, which I ignored. I find the 80's boring now and the 60's exciting and enchanting(well, certain aspects of both decades have their good and bad points, but the 60's...well, you don't need me to tell you that).
The funny thing is, I find myself listening to AC/DC for the same purpose as I listened to that 80's synth-drivel: music to have fun to and let my mind wander, but not to listen with much interest. It's as if something about those 80's songs would stroke the pleasure-fibers of my brain, and would also cause me to fall into a day-dreaming stupor at the same time. But as I listened to a particular song more and more, I found my own enjoyment and day-dreaming forced. Not with AC/DC. I only have two of their albums(Dirty Deeds American and Back In Black), and I checked them out from the library(let's see, there's that election thing AND American libraries carry AC/DC albums...we aren't looking too good to you Ruskies right now, are we?), but already I can tell simple enjoyment, and yes, even sometimes meditation can come from a good AC/DC song, and they never wear thin on me, mainly because they are so hillarious. Bon Scott sings about ball-room dancing, but we know what he's really singing about! I guess that inspired that really stupid comment I made last month about what I thought Bohemian Rhapsody really meant...yeah, I know nobody knew anything about STD's back in 1975, but I figured that those lyrics really could be about that...if they were written today, anyway. I always look for the filth behind the metaphors, like the Stones as well as AC/DC.
Speaking of Queen, I'm really glad you wrote what you did about them, because it hit the nail on the head. People do indeed take their songs for more than they really are(I certainly did), just like with all those teenybopper songs with "meaningful" lyrics. But this leads me to the Beatles...I never bothered to take them in at all. They were TOO big for me. No, Queen wasn't TOO big for me, but the Beatles were. Even after your site got me into the Stones, Dylan, Zappa, Crimson, Floyd, etc., I was still ignoring the Beatles because their popularity was too ungodly for me. I think back my reasoning on ignoring them and am embarassed of it: why should I listen to them when so many others already have? Simple as that. That was the big put off right there. Glad I overcame it but in order to do so, I had to overcome EVERYTHING: the TV specials, the hype surrounding the anthologies, the idea that this was a cultural phenomenon I was born too late for, all that ultra-subjective b.s.
I also am into comics, and there were quite a few essentials like Watchmen that I didn't get into for years because I kept hearing about how awesome it is, etc., that I got sick of the hype and just couldn't bring myself to enjoy something that so many people already have anyway. Of course, this could make me what is called an 'elitist'(someone else also called this 'lifestyle supremacy'). I will only like obscure stuff because it's mine so that I can feel like I'm special and knowledgeable and I don't want to share it with anyone else, and screw anyone else who doesn't like it, they can either discover it on their own or go away. In all honesty, how would that attitude make you any different from the stuck-up blonde ditz who thinks her dress makes her better than anyone else? Being into obscure comics made me quite the pretentious arsehole for a good long while. But I've stopped whipping them out in the middle of class just so people can think I'm a weirdo, and instead have had mixed success actually sharing them with others.
Sometimes it's hard to share what you like with others, it really is. Someone could read every word on your site and it still wouldn't do them any good, because they don't want their mind changed. You think you've got the perfect perception of a situation or reality itself, you're so convinced. Then you try to share your perception and you fail to spread your wisdom anywhere and suddenly you feel like maybe your perception was more retarded than you first realized? Yep, been there, and you sound like you have too. Good thing it failed, though. I was all set to force Styx on people. Uh-oh, that wouldn't have been good. Not that I'll have anymore luck with Cream, but at least now I know what's best for me.
So anyway, here's what I am a rabid die-hard fan of: it is a single eleven-minute cartoon. It is called, "Stimpy's Invention". It is an episode of "The Ren and Stimpy Show". I don't know how popular that was in Russia, but it was big in the States. No, not "The Ren and Stimpy" show in general, just "Stimpy's Invention" in particular is what I am a die-hard fan of. I have owned that cartoon on VHS for seven years, and that is exactly how long it took to become an object of worship for me. It became so after a series of random events. Not random events in my personal life, rather, random events in the world of cartoons that I became privy to. I'll try to keep this as short as possible: once, cartoons were produced for movie theatres, lots of time and money was spent on them, and the cartoonists had creative control. In the 50's and 60's, studio cutbacks resulted in lower-quality cartoons with less imagination, and worse, when television came along, cartoons produced for television were made cheaply, and the creative control was put in the hands of writers, who told the cartoonists what to draw-and if the cartoonists changed anything, they were surely in big trouble. Artistic integrity compromised for quick production and a mass audience exposure...sound familiar? In the late 80's, John Kricfalusi got his creation, Ren and Stimpy, natch, off the ground. Nickelodeon would finance the production of his cartoons, but he had to relinquish control of the characters to Nick. Nickelodeon claimed they wanted creator-driven cartoons, but the other shows that joined Ren and Stimpy in their line-up: Doug and Rugrats, are just as banal, unimaginitive, and politically correct as the cartoons produced in the bleak 80's-only now they were produced by cartoonists and not writers. Production-For-A-Mass-Audience-Consumption still has its icy grip on art.
Ren and Stimpy on the other hand, was an unprecedented critical achievement in the history of cartoons. Not just in subject matter, but in craft as well: facial poses were varied, animation expressively carried these poses, voice-acting was actual acting and not obnoxious noise-making, and the storylines involved deep explorations of human nature(though even the classic episodes can still come across as banal grossout humor to the mind who only perceives subject-matter). "Stimpy's Invention"(and a few other episodes, to a lesser extent) is the ultimate expression of this statement. But even John Kricfalusi knew this was a television show, and he also produced a few blow-off episodes which story-wise were very expendable just to make the deadlines. However, he also angered Nickelodeon by spending too much time and money on his real art like "Stimpy's Invention" and the few other classics he created. Nick fired him half-way through the second-season and gave the show to one of his main artists, Bob Camp. Camp is one of the most unique line-artists in cartoon history. In fact he even drew up most of those facial poses in "Stimpy's Invention" that helped cause me to treat the cartoon with such drooling fanaticism. Under his helm, the show all went to hell. Artwise, facial poses went from being awe-inspiring to bland; crainium-poses would sometimes get frigged-up, but they couldn't draw a good face at all. Under Kricfalusi's leadership, there were all these subtle curves and teeth arrangements that made each face an awe to view. Animation-wise, the mouths would move up and down, and that would be it; under Kricfalusi, the faces would move in all kinds of crazy directions to convey actual acting. Story-wise, well, the stories under Bob Camp just became what you would call inadequate: retarded jokes trying to pass themselves off as sophisticated commentary, a half-hour of stupid non-sequitur gross jokes trying to pass themselves off as poignant psychodrama(TWO of those, in fact). To be fair, Camp was under pressure to get as many episodes done in as little time possible, exerting less effort and money in the process.
This is why I hold "Stimpy's Invention" with such high-regard: it is the epitome of artistic-integrity triumphing over corporate-hacks, and it really does show, even in the watching of the cartoon. Bob Camp himself once said Kricfalusi fell in love with the cartoon's story, and kept going over everything, rerefining everything to the point of ridiculousness. Cartoons cost much money to make and this surely angered Nickelodeon, but John did not care. Several times in the making it looked as if the cartoon would perish and remain unfinished, but it luckily survived. If this had been a musical album, this whole sordid event may not be appreciated as much. But cartoons are an artform of a different production climate. While the Police kept rock and roll alive without saving it, as you say, John K. literally brought his respective artform back from the dead. That can not be overstated. "Stimpy's Invention" is his greatest creation, and all he had to sacrifice was his job(but not his career, of course). Today, you can view his latest creation, "Weekend Pussy Hunt", on http://www.icebox.com/shows/show_131/show_frameset.asp Be warned that the first few segments may not seem special, but they are build-up. And if you still don't like it, well, my efforts end right there. As for Bob Camp(who is really the Phil Collins of the cartoon world, come to think of it), he's doing "Pain and Envy" and "Abject Puberty" for Thrave.com. I think it will be better than his Ren and Stimpy episodes. At the very least, he'll be able to unleash his awesome drawing style again(he didn't really draw much of the Ren and Stimpy cartoons when he was the supervising director). But it definately won't be better than anything John K. ever does, because Bob simply isn't an imaginitive writer-his cartoons will be worth it for the drawings alone, but there will not be any deep storylines to put them over-the-top. And from what I've seen, it will still be basic movements(John K. can still provide amazingly expressive movements even with the limited animation the web provides).
Here's the ironic thing: I was distanced objectively from Stimpy's Invention, even when it was right under my nose, for most of my life. It was always a good cartoon that I enjoyed watching, but I pretty much lumped it in with every other cartoon I enjoyed watching, even when When I learned about all that crap I wrote up there, and when I payed closer attention to the animation and the artwork and not just the subject-matter, I realized how this was animated cartoon epitomized. Also, it's far easier to single-out a single-cartoon as the all-time best as opposed to rock songs because subject-wise, cartoons are far more limited than rock music. And by cartoon, I don't mean all forms of animation. Animation is not synonomous with cartoon; something can be animated and not be a cartoon. And cartoons don't have to be animated; they can appear in comic-form, just as not all comics are cartoons. Going by John K's definition, a cartoon is a visual artform that takes the most prominent feature of its subject and exaggerates it. The Simpsons, therefore, is not a cartoon because the visuals do not correspond to the emotional attitude of the subjects. They may have happy or sad faces, but compared to John K-era Ren and Stimpy, these facial expressions are far too limited in range to be called "cartoony".
One more thing: I am well-aware many people hate Ren and Stimpy. The way Ren and Stimpy was marketed during both the John K. and Bob Camp eras is truly despicable: a flash-in-the-pan over-hyped cultural phenomenon created only for mass consumption, with emphasis placed on its gross subject-matter. I am not naive enough to believe those who hate Ren and Stimpy would change their tune if they saw the classic episodes. I am willing to admit those who like cartoons yet hate Ren and Stimpy may still hate "Stimpy's Invention", especially if it is shoved in-front-of their faces. It is gratingly painful for me to realize this, you can bet, but at least this will spare me much useless effort. Many people claim to like cartoons, but many people also judge an artform by its subject matter. This is what I call "the zero-discrimination-factor". Sad thing is, it spreads like a virus: Disney executives supress their classic Walt-directed shorts while pushing their drecky feature-length-films where the real money is(they don't even play "Steamboat Willie" on the Disney Channel!). The Nickelodeon-execs appearently see no difference between "Invention" and the fourth-season drivel Bob Camp churned out. The only loser is me and anyone else who is painfully aware of what they are missing out on. This is a hardship cartoon fans suffer that music lovers do not: at least you can get "Boulders" on LP; I would love to have some classic Warner and Disney and Fleischer cartoons that never made it out of the theatres on film-reel for a gosh-darn film-projector, let alone on VHS.
Of course, subject matter is an important part of the craft and should not exist as a separate entity, because all the technical craft in the world won't matter if it doesn't represent something interesting. But it's annoying that people embrace a badly-done craft because of its subject: any standard primetime sitcom or drama is an example: sloppy writing that goes nowhere involving the lives of people that don't interconnect, but that writing is about s-e-x, so people still watch it anyway. Southpark is another example. I'm glad you don't watch TV. I don't either. I watch the VCR. Of course, some good cartoons are only available off the TV. That's another way cartoons and music are different: all music on the radio is also available on album, but not all broadcast TV is available on tape(there are classic theatrical cartoons on TV from time-to-time that are rare or not at all on video). So while I wouldn't go so far as to state anyone who gets their inventory of cartoons off the TV is a half-arsed jerk, true fans buy the cartoons on video whenever possible, especially since cartoons on video are rarely censored(although Nickelodeon was not willing to provide its censored R&S footage on video). Of course, any amount of radio listening can cause someone to turn into a half-arsed jerk if their not careful. I thank your writings for having staved off the radio: three weeks and counting, and once I stave off something, I never go back. I can't justify listening to the radio anymore, knowing that you don't.
Thanks for reading this. I hope this provided some insight into my tastes, my fandom, my feelings about your sight, some knowledge on another artform and how it compares with rock music, etc. etc. Of course, it might be that I just rambled on without telling you anything useful, but I'm very self-critical and I hope that's not the case. I know full-well the dangers of unquestionable idol worship. John K. said something in an old interview I found that quite literally condemned my chosen career. He has this thing against people who can not draw telling people who can what to draw...in cartoons AND comics as well, you see. Still, he brought cartoons back from the dead and as a cartoonist, it's hard not to hail him as the very creator of the deity I worship. At least John K. cares about his fans. I actually got an e-mail from him! And I know it was really him, because I know how he talks. I'd like to see Mr. Page e-mail at least one of his many rabid die-hard worshippers!
One last thing: the very Stimpy's Invention cartoon that I worship is copyrighted to MTV Networks. Says so at the end of the tape I've got it on. Vomit vomit vomit. The End.
P. S. Just remembered to mention that my dad also likes the Carpenters...and he seems to put them on more than the Beatles! And all he owns of the Carpenters is a stupid 2cd compilation to boot! He could at least buy their individual albums! Zero-discrimination-factor, my friend, zero-discrimination-factor.
Lyolya Svidrigajlova comments: (06.12.2000)
Let me comment (a bit? hard to tell how long will become my comment in ten minutes...) about fanatic commentators (since I am a commentator, too...) Well, at first, let me mention that I can only speak for myself and that I don't pretend to invent anything new... here it goes, my statement, which can be argued.REVIEWS MAKE FANATICS. Or, more precisely, reviews make rabid fanatics from quiet amateurs. Or, even more precisely, SOMETIMES infavorable and ironic reviews make diehard fanatics from amateurs or former amateurs. Let me give just an example. I deeply loved J.Fogerty when I was 10 or 12. I seemed to myself to completely forget about this devotion and I was sometimes even shy of this "childish love". Until I got to the reviews site, thanks my daughter. What happened? Introduction: ............ [L.S.'s thoughts: Yeah, that's right, how could I ever love this guy? Such a shame...] BRR review: ......... ["Here comes Johnny singin' oldies goldies..." Gee, I seem to be Mark Knopfler's fanatic...] Next 2 reviews: ............................. [What a funny system this guy has! That's interesting... And this is what I've always thought...] EOZ: ............................. [Daaaaaaaaamn!!!!! That's what I liked the most, and the reviewer (who the hell is he?) says it is horrible?!] BMS: .................................. [Yupi-yupi, I seem to like even THIS, the one which turned me off?! I will say it it timeless!] PRM: ...................................... [Well, exactly, this is not a great concert, to be honest, but anyway I'll say it is great!!!!!!! Hell, how anyone dare criticize?] Not to mention the factor that all of this time, a wonderful blue-eyed creature who followed my example was jumping around screaming: "What does he write? What does he write? Does he write he's great?".... And I even had to come back and write some additional comments... Was I just the fanatic of my childhood or of my child? No. At that time, I really was JC's fan. Fanatic, maybe. Really, a little bit ashamed by what I did, but... everyone has to be responsible for their actions. Anyway, how can anyone get to the other person's mind or heart when reading an e-mail and decide what sort of so-called fanatic the commentator is in reality? Even a very good psychologist can be sometimes mistaken... Not to be misunderstood, have to add that NO factors (would it be offence, experiment on people or anything else) justify insultations, rudeness, boorishness, invective words, etc, etc. Do I always avoid all this shit? No. Unfortunately. I don't mean that I represent the point of view of all "fanatic commentators". Maybe some. Hardly possible I'm the only person on this Earth who thinks so and acts so.
George Starostin replies:
A very good point here, indeed. I can easily identify with this idea because I used to behave in the same way while perusing my "predecessors"' reviewing sites and peppering them with... well, not exactly 'flames', but sometimes close (readers of Mark Prindle and Brian Burks certainly know what I mean). However, I think we should distinguish between what is 'momentary passion' and a 'chronic disorder' (put another word in here if 'disorder' seems too offensive).
'Momentary passion' is just that - somebody gets angry at a particular review/reviewer, sends him an irate letter and repents of it the next day. This 'temporary' fanaticism can be very annoying - and can also be perfectly understandable, caused by some particularly clumsy twist of the reviewer's style, but it's not a big problem in general. I have often replied to flames with intentionally friendly letters, and in quite a few cases got perfectly friendly responses back (sometimes even apologetic ones). Many, however, never took the suggestion of friendship - which denotes the True Fan.
I certainly agree that just one angry letter is never enough to make a good analysis of the sender's psychology. But the True Fan usually sends more than one letter - he's persistent, and he always makes sure to drive his point home effectively, whatever the cost of the effort. Is Lyolya a True Fan of John Fogerty? Yes and no. Yes, because it was the beloved music of her childhood and she (at least initially) took it so deeply to heart when she read something about him that didn't suit her psychologically. No, because she later decided to 'correct' some of the earlier comments which she deemed rushed. This means she can psychologically overcome her initial bias. That's wonderful. That's something a True Fan will never be able to perform.
Adam Harrington comments: (19.01.2001)
Here is my two cents on the whole fan issue.
Generally speaking, fans of bands can be divided into two categories -- those who are fans because they like the music and get something out of its power, and those who are fans because they believe it is fashionable to be a fan of a certain band.
I will be a tad self-righteous and place myself mostly in the first category (I tend to believe most of the commentators on this kind of site would fall into that category as well, but obviously, there are some who don't). There are certain criteria that make me decide whether music is good or not, and I become a fan of bands that fit those criteria.
The first kind of fan, like any fan, will have biases against one style or another, but those biases tend to be based on whether they think the music is good or not. For my part, I like Pink Floyd and I don't like Meat Loaf. This is not because I have any particular bias for or against the members of Pink Floyd or Meat Loaf as a person, nor the eras in which they were/are active. I like Pink Floyd because I am emotionally affected by their music (as I mentioned in the personal essays page, this is my main criterion for music being good), and I don't like Meat Loaf because his music has no emotional effect on me; I find it boring and uninspired. A fan of this category may just as easily see things from the reverse perspective (liking Meat Loaf and not Pink Floyd) -- it all depends on their criteria for deciding what music is good.
Naturally, a fan of this kind will come to respect the individual members of a band and learn more about them -- mainly to find out about their creative process and their style on a more personal level. But they won't be building any shrines.
And such a fan may try to turn people on to their music, but their motive behind it is to try and spread the pleasure they find in listening to it to their friends, not convert their friends to liking the right bands as opposed to the wrong ones.
The second kind of fan doesn't have a lot of interest in the quality of the music. If the band is 'in', they will like it, no matter what its style. And once the band is 'out', they will quit liking it. But for the time the band is 'in', they become those annoying people you mention -- the ones who try to force their favorite band on you. Really, how many Britney Spears fans -- who say that you're out of your mind if you don't like Britney Spears -- will still be playing her albums 20 years from now? I say not many.
This kind of fan has weird criteria as to what to rate music on. One time, the drummer from my old band -- who thought Barenaked Ladies were the best band ever to grace the earth -- said to me, "You have to like a band with members close to your age that is active now, or else you're not cool," and pointed to the Beatles (whom he liked) as the only viable exception to this rule. Later in the conversation, it became clear that what he meant by his statement was that not any relatively new band would do, but only a certain specific group of bands that his beloved Barenaked Ladies fell into. I told him I liked some bands from the present day -- Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead -- and he said he'd never heard their stuff and didn't care. He did not vindicate me for liking these bands that have members closer to my own age than my parents', but continued to condemn me for NOT liking Barenaked Ladies. This kind of argument basically translates into, "You have to like this certain band to be in my group (in this person's case, geek rock fans), and unless you are in that group, you are no friend of mine."
It is this kind of fan who will diss your favorite bands, using whatever argument they can -- they're too old, they're dated, etc., etc., to promote their favorite ones. And it is this kind of fan that we all find the most annoying.
So being a fan is not necessarily a sin in and of itself. It is your attitude towards music in general that causes you to be a discriminating fan of music or a pain-in-the-ass fan of a certain "in" band.
Another brilliant essay here, George. I would like to share a little theory about the music appreciation of fans contra eclectists. I think every person has exactly the same needs, but that the fulfillments of these are unique for every individual. We don't even HAVE to fulfill them, these needs are like a vacuum, they suck in anything if we don't stuff them (I don't know anything about science, so forgive me if a vacuum doesn't work like this, but you know what I mean anyway). Thus the needs of every reasonably happy person is automatically fulfilled at all times, but there's a huge difference between the needs that are consciously fulfilled and the ones where this have happened automatically. Some people are connoisseurs in areas where I have little preference, such as food or clothes. I could accuse these of being sad geeks, but some of surely think the same about a music eclectist like me. Nevertheless are all my food and clothing needs fulfilled, albeit without me making an effort. Similarly, their musical needs are fulfilled without them making an effort; they listen to what is available at the moment. This little theory explains why some people find it so hard to tell whether they're in love or not; the need is there, and they can't work out who fulfilled it, themselves or someone else ? This theory also explains why so many people are content with consuming our - in my opinion - appalling contemporary culture, rather than searching out 'real' or 'edifying' (I don't want to sound arrogant, but I can't find any other words, I have to blame my poor language skills and my subjectivism, my fanship of the good old days) culture for themselves. If they don't bother, their needs are fulfilled automatically by this culture. You can regard the personality as the octagons of a beehive and the fulfillments as the honey if you want. The problem of the fan emerges when the fulfillment of a person's needs becomes part of her/his personality, it becomes the actual octagons and can henceforth only be fulfilled with something that responds to that personality. This is the kind of fans that 'flame' your YES reviews. Since their personality has been reduced to 'a person who likes YES' they are perfectly fine if someone don't like the same music as they do. Indeed, that is actually a fulfillment of their need to be different. What they can't take, however, is an objective and cool discussion on YES that is occasionally unfavourable. It hurts them more to say 'YES is a tolerable band' than to say 'YES is an atrocious band', because the former statement cannot fulfill their personality in any way. I think you said something like "...if you try to embrace all kinds of music, you can't have such a deep, emotional understanding of one kind of music as a fan can." There I disagree. I could argue - extremely stupid, immeasurable and irrelevant as it would be - that I am the person on this planet that loves YES the most....(yes, more than all the fanatic YES fans) but I also consider myself an aspiring eclectist, ready to give any music many, many chances over long periods of time, before admitting that it doesn't do it for me. I don't believe that pure, emotional and uncritical (I hope we all agree on love and friendship being uncritical by definition) preference for 1,2 or 25 bands undermine my aspirations as an eclectist. Perhaps I'm a fan after all..........................
Well, to start this comment, I would like to ask the question: What is a fan? If a fan is somebody who likes an artist more than any other artist, I definitely don't see a problem with that. However, the "fans" you seem to be talking about are closed minded, judgmental and arrogant. From personal experience of both being a fan and knowing fans, I can say that we NEED to condemn the fan. Unfortunately, you can't. Why? Because what ever you say or do to a KISS fan, they will always hate The Rolling Stones. You can't change a fan's mind and you can only condemn them to the point of your own satisfaction.
For example, you can tell a KISS fan a lengthy, detailed, scientific explanation on why they suck. Odds are, he won't listen. However, you will feel that you have made your point, and therefore, have condemned the fan. This reminds me of when I used to post on VH1's message boards. Somebody mentioned that Pet Sounds is so great because it is so influential. Now, I made a comment (which I wish I had a copy of) basically saying that influence has nothing to do with how good an album is, and that Pet Sounds had influences too. The guy probably thought to himself that I'm a moron or thick headed, but after writing it, I felt that I had done my part as the Devil's Advocate (BTW, I like Pet Sounds a lot, but it is overrated).
What all of this basically means is that you can't condemn the fan, because fans will not care what you say and what you do. They will always feel the same way. When I was a fan of Led Zeppelin (I still like them, but I don't worship them anymore), I noticed that people tried to point out flaws to me. Now, as a fan, I knew only one thing, that I liked Led Zeppelin. I didn't know why, so when I was put in a position to protect them, I had two options (which all fans have): Say Fuck you and your opinions, I'm sure whoever you like sucks more than The Backstreet Boys, or Try to fight my way out of the hole I was in.
Like I said above, I know a lot of fans, so I can pretty much explain both scenarios. The first, ignoring the comment, seems to be common of metal heads. If I were to say that Angus Young knew shit about playing the guitar, an AC/DC fan would say "What the fuck are you saying, I'd like to hear George Harrison play what Young plays. And that Townshend guy you brag about, he's just a fucking maniac on stage. Get out of my face and listen to what ever the fuck you want. I'm outta here, and Back In Black kicks major ass".
The second reaction, taking the scientific way out. This is common to progressive fans. For example, I'll use John McFerrin's comment on your Close To the Edge page when it was an 8/15. He goes on for pages (the comment is probably longer than the review) explaining all of the faults with your views. John was protecting Yes with opinions disguised as facts. Now, this is the way that I would take, and probably you yourself would take when in the situation (When the comment was made about John Anderson's lyrics and 'I Am the Walrus' on your Close To the Edge page, you were very analytical and scientific when backing up your statement).
This takes us to the fact that bands need fans. Fans are there to protect the band's music. The fan can either put up a guard, or attempt to bring the attacker on to the side of the band (In the example I gave above, John McFerrin attempted to change your views of Close To the Edge.).
When we try to condemn the fan, a situation may arise when facts are used to change my mind. Facts about music cannot change one's mind, only opinions can do it (for the intelligent listener at least). Here are a few examples:
1.) The Wall has sold 23 million copies in the United States, you should love it because 23 million others do.2.) Nevermind changed the course of music for the 1990's, you should love it because it is the most influential piece of music ever written. 3.) Magical Mystery Tour is a complete rip off of Sgt. Pepper's. You should hate it because it is formatted the same way and the songs are of a similar style. 4.) Aerosmith is similar in style to The Rolling Stones. If you love The Stones, you should love Aerosmith.
1.) That is ridiculous. I used to use those excuses all of the time. I like this because it sold 7 trillion copies. Well, maybe there are 7 trillion suckers who saw a commercial for the album on T.V., bought it and hated it. An album's popularity has nothing to do with the quality. Fans of big artists such as Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Michael Jackson jump at the opportunity to use this little tidbit of information.
2.) Like I said above, influence and originality are two different things. Originality is coming up with a new idea. Influence is and idea that a band uses and it is then used by another artist. Nevermind is extremely influential, but I can't hear anything very original about it. Also, music of the 1990's, for the most part, is a major turnoff. So if Nevermind led to The Backstreet Boys, do you think I would be interested in purchasing Nevermind? Hell no!
3.) To who ever said that and actually meant it: Fuck you! You wanna know something, I like MMT more than I like Pepper. Yes, the styles and format are similar, but similar is the key word. I prefer 'All You Need Is Love', 'Fool On the Hill', and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' to 'With A Little Help From My Friends', 'Sgt. Pepper', and 'Within You Without You'. No two albums are exactly the same, and no matter how similar two albums are, there will be slight differences, and those differences will be evident to people who take the time to listen to the music.
4.) This is kind of the opposite of #3, but fans of bands who have a similar band who is more popular love this one. I chose Aerosmith and The Stones because it is the most popular of the similar band combinations. Once again, the key word is similar. Sure, they both did a ton of riff rock, but am I gonna prefer 'Walk This Way' to 'Gimme Shelter'! Ha! Don't make me laugh. I could name 10, 000 reasons why I like The Rolling Stones and hate Aerosmith. All rock music is similar, but the differences are what make The Beatles the greatest and Aerosmith the worst.
Fans cannot be condemned because they ignore abuse, especially when one deals with a band that takes a lot of abuse, like KISS or Yes. However, we should condemn the fan because they don't seem to realize that people have their own opinions, and if a fan took the time to listen to the person's opinion and the person's music, maybe his mind will change, or at least he can give a reason that isn't factual.
That takes care of your definition of fan. Now, when we get a little more conservative, we get to my definition of fan: someone who like the music of an artist a great deal. This may make me a fan of dozens of artists, but I feel I have an intimate relationship with each of the unique styles of music those artists have. That's all I have to say about this issue, but I will leave you with the fact that everybody is a fan of something, and no matter how much we try, we will always be subjective, even if it is a tiny amount. But that's what makes The Web Reviewing Community so great. Hundreds of people coming together with different opinions on ever artist, album, and song. And it is this that forces us to search ourselves to find out why we feel the way we feel about The Beatles, or Yes, or Mick Jagger, or Brian Eno.
I'd just like to take a horridly sleep-deprived, insomniac-yet-unable-to-write-a-review moment to defend myself. Jeepers cripes, where in the HELL did I try to bring in "scientific fact" in my opinion comment on CTTE? One could easily make that accusation on the actual _review_ on my page, but where in the hell was I trying to attack George's views? I was merely answering a single question, the question of what sort of images could pass through somebody's mind while listening to the album. I have NO idea how anybody could take what I wrote in that paragraph as an attempt to make any guise at "scientific fact."
Sorry, I'm just bugged at being namechecked in this instance.
John:(BTW, I like Close To the Edge just as much as you, and I picked your comment as an example because I thought it was good)
Scientific proof in music isn't the same as it is in the real world. You can't actually prove that an album is great, but you can go about it in a scientific and critical fashion. Now, I will admit that I was too harsh when I said that you wrote that in order to change George's mind (good luck, he won't even fix a typo on request), but you answered George's request to hear what a Yes fan had to say about the album, and you did it. Why would he want that detail if he wasn't looking for a second opinion? To get another opinion of course. You did attempt, and did a good job at it, to analyze your feelings towards this album, and your emotions when listening to it (correct me if I am wrong). Other people are a major influence, and believe me, ever since I have started reading George's ramblings, I started listening to music more critically and more seriously. That seems to be similar to the purpose of your comment. Now, if I wrote a degrading review of an album, and someone wrote 1000 words on their feelings towards the album and why they love the album, I may just feel like listening to the album again. It worked when I read Nick Karn's review of Close To the Edge (yeah, it's a controversial album, and it is perfect for this type of argument on fans and analyzing musing). I just listened to the album again, and I got some of it, particularly side two which I thought sucked when I first heard it.
Anyways, back to the scientific analysis stuff. I must apologize again, as your opinion isn't as scientific as it is psychological. Psychology is, in case anyone reading this comment isn't aware, the study of the mind and the study of thought. In that sense, your comment was very psychological in that it contained your thoughts when listening to the album. So, in that sense, it is scientific.
"The thing is, believe it or not, this is an album which must not only be taken _musically_ as a whole, but as one big chunk..." John McFerrin
This is an opinion disguised as a fact. Now, I am not a professional writer and I don't want to go into technical extremes with this, but isn't the word "must" harsh, and somewhat out of place? I agree with that comment, but if you wanted this comment to sound like it is less scientific, you could change it to "If you, George, would like to appreciate this album the way Yes fans do, you should treat this album not only as a whole, but as one big chunk." This comment sounds much more opinionated and not so cold and harsh. Is it scientific? Not to the extreme, but If I were to say that in order to create ice using water, you must lower the temperature, one not knowing about the properties of matter would ask for proof. So, in a nutshell, I see your use of the word "must" as an indication that there is proof ahead, and I will read your comment biased towards that prediction.
That's it, I'm, done, I hate logic, if you want to keep this up then you win. I don't care that much. Close To the Edge ules whether there is a geometric proof behind it or not. Don't take this criticism personally John, because I really like your site, your comments, and your help with my calculus homework ;-)
Brendan S. McCalmont Comments: (21.07.2004)
[on the subject of the archetypical letter above:]No, I don't wish to say I have ever received anything of the sort. But I did receive many letters that came close - first, the person accuses the reviewer of being way too limited and subjective, and then he discloses himself as just another obsessed fan of the band he speaks about. I have received letters urging me to reconsider my position on Led Zeppelin from people who could never understand Bob Dylan. I have received letters urging me to open up my mind as to what regards Yes from people who dismissed all roots-rock with a wave of their hand. The list can be endless. Needless to say, I never listened to these people much - trying to pass fanaticism for objectivism is a very cheap and unconvincing trick. """
Need we condemn the fan? Well, I' d say no.I think to understand fans being 'hurt' wouldn't be a disadvantage to anyone. I don't think that it is something that people need be ashamed of. I am not an Elton John fan or a Ringo Starr fan because I think they are the most innovative, creative songwriters ever and that they can play their instrument better than Bach could. More to the point, they 'Rock my soul'. I was on the Elton John fan Website the other day and asked them all how would they rate the album out of ten. One of them replied 'I gave this album ten out of ten 'cause it rocks my soul' and it just made me think about this page. So what does 'Rock my soul' mean? I don't know how to say it exactly but I can give examples. It's a spiritual thing. One fan said of Eliminator "It picks me up when I'm down". For me, it's the same thing. I listen to music not because I can think about how wonderful a piece of art it is. That actually just gives me a headache! I just sit back and let the music reach ! into my soul. I suppose another fantastic example is 'Randy'. Randy is my favourite Cat Stevens song. It is very much Adult Contemporary. The thing about Randy it is about a sensitive man who is full of feelings of love. It really gets me because that's sought of me. A sensitive man full of feelings. My second favourite Cat Stevens song is 'Last Love Song', a song that exactly describes the way I felt when I was sixteen and a girl broke my heart. I could have written that song, only I didn't have the ability to write such a song. So for me that music has a personal, spiritual and emotional connection. I think that is why most fans behave the way they do. When I listen to, fro example, 21 at 33 by Elton John, it soothes my soul. In many ways a fan like myself sees their music as a personal friend. I think it is very wrong to attack fans. They just respond to music that touches them in a special way. I see attacking fans as a form of cruelty. In many ways it is like attacki! ng them. They see themselves reflected in the music. So perhaps this is where honesty is crucial. However, for a fan like me, I somehow came to try and understand the critic. I wouldn't make every fan do that if they didn't want to, nor would I expect them to do so. Basically I come at music with my heart, you come at music with your head. You have ideals and ways of looking at things and that is why you take on such an opinion. When I first came to this site, I wouldn't read your reviews because I didn't want to hear 'songs that bring me so much happiness' dipped into dirt and kicked on. Then I starting reading your reviews and they made me angry. Now I am becomming less and less angry and more accepting of your ideas and way of looking at things. I have had a few goes at you now and then I would some of it back. Some of it. You look for quite commendable things in music, like originality. I can see how someone could be pissed off with an album if it sounds like pop music that we've all heard before. I don't really understand adequacy or Resonance, but I think it's to do with sincerity, am I right? Respectabel stuff But for me, if it's vibrant and bouncy and uplifting, hey! It's really worth something. You think about music with your head and analyse the good and bad of each song and album. My big problem with critics is their deliberate intentions to try and 'hurt' peoples feelings. I for one don't care two hoots about if you like my favourite album or not, perhaps I wont be happy at comming to terms with your summation if you really don't like it. Now don't take that the wrong way, try to look at it like this, I don't want to read something that will make me dislike an album that I used to have a great time listening to, because then I have lost the big 'kick' I used to get out of it. Well, not just a kick, I mean some music moves me so much that I cry everytime I hear it. But if someone tells me it's a boring generic ballad and even though I hit back and say it's not, there's always that lingering doubt in my mind that what they said is true, and usually the song doesn't touch me to the same extent after that. And that is what really sucks. But even then, you are allowed to your opinions, George, and you deserve very right to say you think a song is boring. However, when you begin a review with :This is a piece of SH**" I can not help but feel this a deliberate attempt to hurt peoples feelings. It is inappropriate and uncalled for. You are always digging at people who get 'offended', now who doesn't get offended at swear words? Most people do. Even if I hear someone describing something I hate, like a really bad smell for instance, if someone says it's a 'shi**y' smell then I get offended [though I almost never let that otehr person know[. Same goes for 'fuc*ing' and 'Sucks' [oops I've used that!] but crappy doesn't seem to bother me. Well not much, weird that! For me I just detest such language and behaviour. Then even worse are sick jokes that are an obvious attempt to hurt peoples feelings. Cosmic Ben is the king of this, he said of one of my favourite albums 'it is suitable for a funeral procession but since it's so long should only be played in short spurts'. I woke up the next morning crying my head off for about an hour. Now that really sucks. I don't, however, feel as though I'm the one in the wrong. Well why would I? Why should people have to read that and how does it help in understanding the album. I mean is it necessary? It turns off people if you ask me. Cosmic does that all the time. What hurts is not the comments so much as the mal-intent behind such writing. That someone could be so cruel and nasty cuts deep. Anyways, I've lost my thoughts. Oh yes, I think I'm concluded.