Rockism isn’t unrelated to older, more familiar prejudices - that’s part of why it’s so powerful, and so worth arguing about. The pop star, the disco diva, the lip-syncher, the “awesomely bad” hit maker: could it really be a coincidence that rockist complaints often pit straight white men against the rest of the world? Like the anti-disco backlash of 25 years ago, the current rockist consensus seems to reflect not just an idea of how music should be made but also an idea about who should be making it. [Read More]
This is a story about a boy and his headphones, and it opens in the grey days of autumn, two years ago.
When I stepped out of the bleak, wind-whipped Upstate New York fall and into the fluorescent lights of the Syracuse University bookstore, I had only two things on my mind: the long train ride home to Erie, and the new headphones that would keep me sane on the trip. The over-ears around my collar — a cheap pair of sleek blue Skullcandy ones — were terminally afflicted with intermittent crackling and less-than-admirable sound quality. My knowledge of headphones was casual at best. I didn’t care if the low end bottomed out. I didn’t pay enough attention to notice if the headphones lost the bass and highs in the shuffle. As long as they sounded all right and felt good, I was sold.
Twenty minutes later, I plunked a thirty-dollar pair of bulky red headphones on the counter for the cute blonde co-ed, earning her work-study cash the hard way, to ring up. I figured they’d make a suitable replacement for the nearly-busted pair hanging loosely around my neck. I trekked back up to my dorm, adjusted the new pair (the brand, Ear Pollution, proved nearly unresearchable for this writer) comfortably over my ears, and listened to Keasbey Nights in proper, my feet dangling off my bed as I laid on my chest with the liner notes. I didn’t think I’d one day be writing parting remarks for headphones that were less a music delivery vehicle and more a wiry extension of myself. I didn’t think they’d have a story worth telling.
A snapshot of two whirlwind years, in the frame of a still life: those headphones rattling against the window of the Erie-bound Amtrak as I listened to Streetlight Manifesto and fought sleep. Those headphones sinking into the cheap pillow of an early morning flight heading for a weekend jaunt in Philadelphia. Those headphones rekindling my love for The Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee on a day-breaking, rollicking Greyhound bus to Cleveland, and for The Sunset Tree during a red-eye flight to Spain. Those headphones helping me survive sickness in a cramped train to Seville, and again on a bus back from Ronda, where I learned that the aching American sadness that bleeds from On the Impossible Past was just as longing and nostalgia-inducing against the backdrop of the Spanish countryside.
“Critics generally don’t associate Black people with ideas. They see marginal people; they see just another story about Black folks. They regard the whole thing as sociologically interesting perhaps, but very parochial. There’s a notion out in the land that there are human beings one writes about, and then there are Black people or Indians or some other marginal group. If you write about the world from that point of view, somehow it is considered lesser. We are people, not aliens. We live, we love, and we die.”—Toni Morrison (via blackcontemporaryart)
Funny how I appreciate this more, as an adult, than when I was a teenager. This was one of those polarizing albums, because I still never met anyone that thoroughly enjoys it. Lol. I still never got into this album, but I do love the confrontational nature of this specific song. It sells its ugliness in a way I like. I guess that’s what I still appreciate about it. Kim Gordon produced it, and the song is Sonic Youth-like. That’s the other thing it has going for it.