- I have no idea what these songs are supposed to be about. The lyrics are superficially indecipherable. There’s one track (‘Powa’) where Garbus briefly and convincingly sings like Robert Plant. There’s another track (‘You Yes You’) where she repeatedly screeches the phrase “What’s that about?” and it might be the single most grating musical moment of 2011.
Or, you could like, listen closer and think. It’s not that hard. I like Klosterman, but no music writer is ever anywhere near good when s/he tries to parse why others like an artist without doing the actual messy ethnographic work, or (much worse) to be a sportswriter/political wonk and predict an artist’s legacy. (via marathonpacks)
This is not a apologist for Chuck Klosterman’s post, as I think CK gets a lot wrong in the article (in fact the whole premise is a little iffy) but I think this particular observation gets CK’s motivations for writing wrong. This is not an attempt to figure out what her appeal is, or why people like her. He even says near the end:
I am rooting for you, Merrill Garbus. I like your record, and I hope you make many more. I want you to be a genius, and I have no reason to believe that won’t happen.
Which I guess you could take as him just trying to retain some degree of impartiality. He’s musing on the strange place tUnE-YaRdS is in right now, with this huge amount of critical acclaim, but still fairly underground and unknown to the general public. I think he probably does like this record.
My problems with CK’s piece are twofold:
1) His wierd discussion about sexuality/androgeny. Like the blog quoted above mentioned in a later post, the abum is rather forthrightly sexual. It doesn’t come across andrigenous at all. I’m guessing that he heard the few songs she sounds like Ezra Koenig and saw that she had this hippy-face-painting thing going on and created the narrative out of that. Like if she’s not wearing hotpants and stilettos she must be going for androgeny. Ugh.
2) The whole idea that he imagines her in this ‘tough’ position where since she makes ‘difficult’ music that’s been well-reviewed and tries to imagine her potential career trajectory. Like she has to choose (or even give a shit) between making more poppier fare, or never living up to the expectations of this greatly critically received album. From what I can tell, this is not something she probably even cares about. It doesn’t seem like W H O K I L L was meant to do either of those things. It’s getting out what she needs to get out in a wholly original uncompromising way. If W H O K I L L was critically panned, I imagine she’d carry on. That’s the impression I get from her music at least. CK seems to think that artists are either going for one of those two binary options he lists, rather than marching to the beat of their own (looped) drummer.
The CK piece kind of irritated me because it seems like he saw this thing he’d never heard of, gave it a quick listen, and figured what little he got out of it (besides liking it) was enough to prognoticate about the artist’s future. Thanks, Mr. Expert.