Apr 092012

My daughter thought the Hall would get a kick out of this … and we old guys (and gals) would probably get a bit schooled in the process.

Really interesting take on how sharing music knowledge in the internet age is the new coolness.

Populism is the new model of cool; elitists, rather than teeny-boppers or bandwagon-jumpers, are the new squares.



  17 Responses to “Elitists Are the New Squares.”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    In a way, this validates noted ultra-snob e. Pluribus Gergley’s position — honed from decades of collecting and re-selling only the rarest slabs of time-worn vinyl — that, at the end of the day, pretty much the best music is music that was once popular. Of course, he adds the inane stipulation that it must have been made prior to 1982 or whatever, but still.

    My biggest problem with modern pop music is that I force today’s musicians into a no-win situation: if they sound even remotely like shit I’ve heard before, they bore me — but if they go out of their way to sound completely different, they bug me. The former category is made up of people with no creativity, and the latter is made up of artsy-farsty poseurs who are more interested in looking smart than sounding good.

    I freely admit that I am a cantankerous, shallow old turd, by the way.

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m willing to admit that I’m a 1 percenter, certainly not in terms of income but as a music snob. The reason Bon Iver is at the Grammies this year is because his style of music from album 1 to album 2 is different. And I don’t like album 2. Luckily there are sites like this on which we can all be “cantankerous, shallow old turds.”

    Mr. Royale and I are followers of Pitchfork, he much more than me, because we like to learn more about newer music. However, when I find a band/artist I like, I try to learn more and then buy the album(s) or see them live.

    When I first heard of The Blue Man Group, I saw them perform their show, Tubes. One of the themes of the show, which they demonstrated very well, was information/cultural overload. This article reminds me eventually you have to choose to pay attention to something. And as I realize that I’ve name checked The Blue Man Group, my next thought was, “I saw them when they were still cool. The sold out and suck now.”

    Yup, 1 percent. Old fart. Nerd. Square.

  3. It could just be that the playing field has been leveled. Before, you had to either accept whatever was being served up the big record labels and corporate radio, or you had to pay attention to magazines and fanzines, read liner notes and follow up on the leads contained within, etc, in order to find something aside from lowest common denominator rock. Now, the choices are boundless. But that means that it would still be beneficial to have a rock snob friend sift though all of the material out there to weed out some of the crap.

  4. 2000 Man

    You just have to accept that most of your findings will have no social value.

    Kids are funny. Like knowing who produced the worst song on an obscure album and then went on to front an even more obscure band was ever the kind of information with social value! Why else would they call us Music Nerds (or geeks or squares or whatever)? Sitting at a party where the host is playing Eddie Money and people are having fun and wishing they’d play something cool like The Dritbombs has always been a waste of time, and it never made anyone cool. It did give you someone new to talk to at some parties, once in awhile. Not very often, though.

    The Black Keys were good when no one listened, and they’re still good with a lot of people on board. The Kings of Leon were good when no one listened, and the more people that came on board, the worse they got. I think it’s a different approach entirely and has nothing to do with popularity. I disagree entirely with the more people who like something, the more valuable it is being more “sound” reasoning. The more people that want something and the less of the something there is is what dictates value. Maybe not social value, though. But where will this year’s social currency be in two years? Yet the squares will still be talking about the same oddball records they always did.

  5. 2000 Man

    Well, rock snobs think it would be beneificial. I think regular people still think it’s just weird.

  6. cliff sovinsanity

    I call total BS on this article. The author might think that Music Elitists are today’s squares only because there are MORE of them around then before the era of blogs and file sharing. As CDM pointed out there is a lot more avenues to seek out rare and obscure material. This has taken a lot of the fun out being the only fan of some indie noise band from Spokane.
    Further, I’ll you have to do is look at this week’s Billboard top 10 and you’ll find the usual suspects of mainstream pop, your Biebers, FloRidas, Perrys and Minajs. I don’t see a whole lot cool there. Until we see feckless twits like Bon Iver, and limp weirdos like Andrew Bird in the Top 10 on a regular basis,then I will declare that the war is over.
    Also, those who reject wholesale mainstream pop have never been cool to me. For that reason, I’m going to listen Kelly Clarkson for the rest of the day.

  7. misterioso

    machinery, glad you posted this. I just read it this morning and thought it would be good food for thought here in RTH. I admit I more or less lost interest a few paragraphs into it and found the reasoning pretty specious. But I am resigned to being square or irrelevant or what have you when it comes to such discussions. That said, I quite enjoyed the Jack White article in the same Times magazine.

  8. Happiness Stan

    It let me read it once and then when I went back to look again it had disappeared behind a paywall.

    I’ve never considered myself a musical snob or elitist, being all too happy to share gems I’ve heard (generally on John Peel’s wilfully obtuse late night radio show in the seventies and eighties), although in general I’ve found that other people simply don’t like them as much as I do, and would prefer to listen to lowest-common denominator pop or the sort of rock which is being ridiculed on the Rock Radio and Dr Hook threads because that is what most people prefer to listen to.

    If I read it correctly, this article begins from what I consider an entirely backwards point of view, regardless of how many outlets there are to listen to music these days, in that it is preferable to listen to stuff that most people like – Kansas, Styx, Dr Hook, or their modern equivalents, the stuff that floats upon the top. For example, ‘Ive been listening to a lot of Kevin Coyne again lately, whose music I have worked long and hard to share with as many people as possible, but have not made many converts. I’d gladly share this music, but few seem to want to.

    But then I’m not on Twitter, or Facebook, so probably don’t need to care.

  9. machinery

    I agree that some of the reasoning in the article is a bit specious. But what I found interesting was the whole notion that the internet changed the dynamic of “info in the hands of a very few and on a need to know basis.” Now at a click of a mouse, all that info is out into the world so the whole “I’m cool because I know” is “I”m cool because I can turn all these people onto it.” So it’s better and hipper to be the apostle than it is to be the hermit in the cave with your obscure 45s.

    I myself have been turned onto countless bands that I really dig, because some “friend” on facebook posted a song, I listened, was intrigued … and then was able instantly to hear a bunch more tracks/see videos and then download the whole album from Itunes — all in a matter of about 5 minutes. This “try before you buy” is the best part of the internet IMO. No longer do you bring something home from a record store to be totally disappointed.

    And I didn’t need Pitchfork to tell me it was good or bad. I had my own ears to decide for me, not some rock snob.

    Case in point: who likes the Lower Dens from Baltimore. Never heard of em a week ago. Now I can’t stop listening.

  10. tonyola

    Funny – an article about snobbery in the New York Times Magazine, a bastion of snobbery if there ever was one. The only reason I’m ever reluctant to share my treasured obscure prog gems is because I know most people won’t like them, and I’ll be seen as the equivalent of someone pushing deep-fried walrus blubber nuggets on a vegetarian party crowd.

  11. What this article sidesteps is what’s really cool. It’s not being populist. It’s not being an obscuro know-it-all. It IS having a combination of good taste that actually means something to you. Even occasional expressions of what most of us would consider “bad” taste, like pudman13’s appreciation of the early works of REO Speedwagon and Journey, are a lot cooler than heartless obscuro-collector bullshit spilling up from Mom’s basement or hot-off-the-blogs tracks that may be fine and dandy but haven’t been processed beyond their initial surge of excitement for the listener (NOT that there’s anything wrong with that – it may be preferable to obscuro-collector bullshit). I like the sense of “cool” we get out of RTH. As always, those instant thrill mp3s are worth hearing. So are the obscuro tracks. It’s what we do with and actually share about the tracks that interest me more.

  12. 2000 Man

    Hasn’t it always been cooler to be the Apostle, and not the hermit? It’s just easier to share, and with internet “friends,” you actually get just enough feedback to keep trying.

    At leas the author didn’t use the word “Rockist” or “Rockism.” Snob is correct, and it’s a better word anyway.

  13. misterioso

    Exactly: cool is what we do. Not what they do.

  14. tonyola

    It is one thing to appreciate and share a long-lost gem because of the intrinsic qualities of the song. It’s another to value something because of its obscurity, and there are plenty of blogs devoted to this questionable ethic. “Oh, look – this has been lost since 1972. It must be really great!”

  15. Happiness Stan

    I used to have a friend who would trade 28th generation copies of psychedelic “classics” with me for 1st generation tapes of Velvet Underground and Monkees albums. Most were unlistenable, almost all played at the wrong speed, and were lost beneath the sea of hiss.

    Those which I have reinvestigated since have yielded little in the way of treasure, despite being slightly easier on the ear.

    If that’s what the article means then I broadly agree, although I don’t think it was expressed very well.

  16. I’m not buying it. She started with her conclusion and worked backwards to show how it’s true. It’s not. There are far more elitists out there vying for our attention. It’s not about sharing, it’s about proving your taste is better and aren’t you glad I passed this on to you via the internets instead of whatever party I never get invited to anyway.

    All we’ve done is taken all the rock nerds from behind the record store counters and given them access to our homes. They all couldn’t be happier. They don’t need to make uncomfortable eye contact, and we don’t have to feel guilty when we ignore their boring pedantry. Meet the new nerd, same as the old nerd.

  17. trigmogigmo

    I didn’t buy the main point of view of the article, which sounded to me like a justification: “When I was younger and in scene X, X was cool. Now I am older and no longer doing that, and today it is no longer cool.” Maybe, instead, you are just doing something else, and scene X is as valid to those in it now as it was for you. Or maybe scene X back in the day was not actually seen as cool as you thought.

    The last two paragraphs basically admit all this confusion. So it’s an interesting read of one person’s musings about their relationship with music nerdery etc., and we may empathize with some of the sentiments and observations, but that’s about it.

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