Dancing To Architecture Part 3 - Disapointed By Idiocy
Why is it so disappointing when the people we respect and admire turn out to harbour wilfully obtuse and misinformed opinions?
I'm not talking about the soul-destroying moments when it transpires that a beloved children's entertainer liked children a little bit too much; or when your idolised prog rocker is a member of the Countryside Alliance; or when a seemingly-sensitive country singer has sympathies for either Bush. That's a different matter entirely.
I'm not even talking about the head-shaking disbelief felt when a thrilling literate rock band proclaims that Radiohead lost their way after The Bends; or the bemusement felt when your trusted writer of spellbinding spiritual wonder proclaims that there's no magic left in music; or when your favourite psychedelic wizard uncle attacks your favourite indie rock preacher.
No. I'm referring to the moment at which someone you believed to be a sensible, open-minded and forward-thinking purveyor of genuinely interesting music turns out to be just as unimaginative and regressive in their beliefs as your average middle-aged hack.
Earlier this evening, Patrick Wolf appeared on Steve Lamacq's Round Table on 6Music. For those unfamiliar, Patrick Wolf is a singer songwriter who, in 2004, seemed to be a viable alternative to the dominating glut of the sort of landfill indie that romanticised crack, Stellar and squalor. Steve Lamacq's Round Table is a show where they ask musicians to comment on a series of new singles. 6Music is the single greatest radio station that ever has or will exist.
Anyway, they played Steve Mason's latest single. For those unfamiliar, Steve Mason is the erstwhile singer and guitarist of The Beta Band who has also recorded as The Black Affair, King Biscuit Time and under his own name. His music is often heart-stoppingly beautiful, and he's apparently come close to doing something awful so many times that his every single release is undoubtedly a gift to be treasured.
Patrick Wolf didn't like Steve Mason's latest single. Now, had he just said “no, I don't like this,” I'm sure he and I could still be friends. But no. He went further. He suggested that it's completely without any merit, giving it 0/10 and saying something along the lines that “music like that shouldn't exist in 2013.”
Some might say that Steve Mason's latest has something of a 60s vibe about it. I'd disagree. I'd say it sounds timeless, soulful, organic – and it just so happens that a lot of 60s music also happened to sound timeless, soulful and organic. But that's not the point.
The point is, since when has Patrick Wolf been the arbiter of what sort of music “should” and “shouldn't” exist in any given year? If a song's well-written, meticulously structured and of such touching poignancy that it strikes a devastating chord for some, then surely it doesn't matter in the slightest how it sounds? Also, ten years from now, nobody will care what year a song was released. Instead, they'll judge their song on its own merits, beyond any notions of relevancy. You know, like normal people do; Those who listen to music without an agenda but because it gives them a reason to live.
Also, Patrick hinted that the reason such music “shouldn't exist in 2013” is because it sounds a bit like the music of the 1960s. For someone who makes music that sounds like it could have come from the 1760s, such a comment goes way beyond being “a bit rich” and enters the realms of “downright hypocritical”.
My ethos is that there's so much good music out there that it's a waste of time to dwell upon anything you don't like. I therefore apologise for the negative tone. But it's interesting. If some anonymous moron on an internet board said something similar about the music of Steve Mason, I could write them off as a reactionary, misinformed troll. If one of my friends said such a thing, I could at least talk to them and point out the flaws in their argument.
But Patrick Wolf?
I suppose what's irritated me is that I thought he was above such opinions. I thought that somebody who made such imaginative music might be a bit more imaginative in their outlook. You know – a bit more open to the idea that there are alternative ways to look at the world. Yes, I appreciate the irony that I'm attacking someone on exactly the same grounds, but come on – what right has someone who's music could belong to any decade from the 1760s to the 1980s to attack a song on the grounds that it has a 60s vibe to it?
Wind In The Wires and The Magic Position are great albums, but I've not heard any others. It's a shame, though, because I know that this single moment of poor judgement on Patrick's part will forever colour my future enjoyment of his music.
It's immensely and unforgivably hypocritical on my part too, I know this. I suppose that people are just precious and protective about some things – and in some instances it really is the case that it's one rule for some and a different rule for others.
Which just goes to show that you must be really careful when writing about music. Writing about music is not the same as talking about music. When you talk about music, you can at least pass off your statements as being transient. They belonged to the then and now. Writing, though, has a real permanence about it. Because anything you write has the potential to outlive you, it belongs to the ages.
Music is an intangible and intensely personal entity that, at its very best, represents the absolute pinnacle of human endeavour. It speaks to different people on different levels. Everyone has a different relationship with music, and any song that's ever been written has the potential to change someone's life – for better or worse.
How could you possibly put something so powerful into words? How could you ever do something so all-encompassing and transcendent the justice it deserves with something so comparatively banal as words on a page?
Or a screen, for that matter.
So there you go. All Patrick Wolf did was give his ill-thought yet honest reaction to a song, and, having written about it, suddenly I'm questioning the very idea that we should ever attempt to put in words the indescribable power that a good (or bad) song can have on us.
That proves one or all of the following:
1. I think too much (but I already know that to be the case).
2. That you really can get so defensive that, with just a few words, former allies can become enemies.
3. That music creates such complex feeling and ideas that it can, at times, lead to moments of intense confusion.
So, either I now hate Patrick Wolf, or myself.
I still love Steve Mason, though.