Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Ethan Says

Here on the Tyrannosaurus Mouse blog we have conversations with Ethan. I'm presenting you a pair of emails in essay form of Ethan's response to my post about Good for You.

And this is
Ethan's Notes on The Big Whack:
Interesting point about The Big Whack and, earlier, disco ruining things by their ubiquity.  What I find interesting about it is that there's nothing intrinsically bad about either one.  It was nothing more than their overuse by people not creative enough to have another idea for people who were willing to settle for them over and over again.  Sad, really.

In the past several years, I've been able to revisit disco and appreciate that some of it was quite good and most of it was extraordinarily well-played, but I doubt The Big Whack will age as gracefully for me or anyone else.  Disco was a style of artistic expression whereas TBW is just a noise that people add to things.  An effect.  They both apply to mainstream pop and, specifically to dance music, but there's no context to TBW.  It's just cut and pasted onto everything.  There are several other cheap, easy tricks that "producers" are using to make everything sound the same.  It's working; everything sounds the same.  But none of it has any context within the song and iconoclasts who stand up to that sort of sausage-making are fewer and farther between these days, and I'm speaking both of artists and producers.  

I have always believed that, in any era you pick, 90% of popular music was always crap and the only reason we look back at certain eras with fondness is because we only tend to remember the top 10% that actually was good.  I think that's true today as well, but the difference today is that the good stuff is the stuff that isn't getting radio play.  Somehow, the whole business got turned upside-down and all the good stuff now sinks to the bottom instead of rising to the top.  Or maybe that was always true and I just worked harder to find the good stuff when I was younger and had more time.  I dunno.

Artist management, record labels, booking, concert venues, radio stations and most advertising vehicles all being owned by the same company certainly isn't helping anything.
Chic made great records.  And don't even get me started on how great Parliament was, although they had a little bit more stuff going on than straight-up disco.

The industry would like nothing more than to have complete control over popular taste and homogenize it.  It makes their job easier.  They don't have to put any effort (that means money) into anything. If no one is exposed to anything interesting, they won't be every demanding.  It's always easier to manufacture things if they all use the same parts.

I think it's already been proven out by current listeners who've grown up with all the sameness and don't seem to mind.  Think about it: enough generations have grown up with McDonalds and Burger King that they actually think that's what a hamburger is supposed to taste like.  They fell for it!  Now everybody can make their burgers that bad and still sell them!  Awesome!  All records can now be as bad as (fill in just about any current top 40 artist) because that's all anybody expects of us!  YAY!!!

The thing that I wonder about is whether or not it was always like this, and I just didn't notice because I had bothered to seek out the good stuff and had little interest in the mainstream.  I didn't notice Bryan Adams because I was listening to XTC.  It goes back to my 90/10 theory.  90% will always be crap.  And that means there will always be a 10%, whether the industry likes it or not.  It will just find different ways to distribute itself.  Creative people will continue to find ways to create things.  There will always be a next Brian Eno or Peter Gabriel or David Byrne.  We may just have to dig deeper to find him.  Ironic, since one would think the internet would make that easier, but it doesn't.  Now there's just more to weed through.

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