Flamboyant masculinity is not common in Australia; our celebrated “mateship” only really functions when a man is much the same as his neighbour. The great dynamism of You Am I, at least on their early records, came from the ordinariness of suburban life as directed through Rogers’ blowtorch charisma and, at times, his rage. He was sexy, and he was angry – an almost irresistible combination – windmilling and pirouetting across the stage, but his lyrics were wry, tender and generous. In his narrative sympathy, his eye (and ear) for small sadnesses, Rogers closely resembled his idol, The Kinks’ Ray Davies.
Anwyn Crawford, “You Am I and the New Nostalgia,” The Monthly (October 2013)
A touch awkward to write it out, since I work with her, but it’s amazing what a great critic, and a great writer, Anwyn is.
From the same piece:
Sound As Ever wasn’t that great an album, even 20 years ago, but it does contain two genuinely great songs: ‘Berlin Chair’ and ‘Jaimme’s Got a Gal’. The latter remains as moving an examination of male friendship as I have ever heard, rivalled only by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s crushingly sorrowful ‘I See a Darkness’. “Jaimme’s got a girl / Don’t think things gonna be the same,” sings Rogers at half-volume. “He ain’t coming out and drinking tonight / I think he’s gonna change his name.” It’s a love triangle not often broached in popular music, a woman interrupting the poignant, unacknowledged intimacy between two men.
Note, however, that “difficult” is not the same thing as “valuable.” Solving a Rubik’s Cube is difficult, but not particularly valuable to the world.
Nate Silver, “What the Fox Knows,” FiveThirtyEight, March 17, 2014
Oh, man, totally appropriating this completely obvious metaphor for future use. I’ve struggled to find the perfect way to describe how inessential difficult things can be, (usually settling on calling it a “party trick”) and this is ideal. Your guitar solo? Rubik’s cube. Hitting the right note in the studio every single time without Auto-Tune? Rubik’s cube. Speed rapping and beat boxing? Motherfucking Rubik’s cube.
She sang a rousing version of “Politically Uncorrect,” which is, perhaps fittingly, an un-protest song. (“I’m for the Bible/ And I’m for the flag,” she sang, as if she were expecting a fight.)
Kelefa Sanneh, “Gretchen Wilson Sings at Radio City Music Hall,” The New York Times, June 17, 2006
Looking for an old article — not this one — and I was reminded yet again why I love Sanneh so much. This is perfect: he gets out of the way, detailing Wilson’s intent plainly and fairly, yet he still finds room for his own voice. “As if she were expecting a fight” is such a mild rebuke, but those seven words — such marvellous economy! — deflate Wilson’s entire argument, and yet they aren’t rebuttal, they don’t oppose per se, but rather permit her stance to crumple through its own weakness. I wish I could write like this.
Laura Marling: utterly boring, or utterly, terrifyingly bored?
Here’s what I’ll admit: many boys have a really hard time with subjectivity. To grapple with your own subjectivity is to grapple with the subjectivities of others. It’s to see the world not as legible, stable, conquerable but as resistant, shifting, and fundamentally unknowable. It diminishes your certainty and authority. It leaves you vulnerable. This is a human problem, being a person among persons, but one that many boys have trouble admitting even the basic tenets of. And so they call for an objectivity that has no foundation except received opinion, that seeks to diminish individual experience, and that turns out to not even exist.
Objectivity is very convenient for the straight white middle class male gamer. Videogame culture encourages him to see his own subjectivity as the standard, as objective. He’ll invoke science, economics, statistics, and all manner of folk wisdom to defend his little kingdom. He’ll decry any challenge as ‘politics’ or ‘bad business’ or ‘whining’ or ‘here we go again’. He never considers how often objectivity is a cover for a dominant subjectivity, for a subjectivity that stays in power by not being recognized as such. He fears what will happen if the established order breaks down and the Vox take control.
“On Videogame Reviews” (via occupiedterritories)
This whole piece (spinning out of criticism of a game I’ve never played into a discussion of videogame criticism, and criticism in general) is excellent.
Yes: “…objectivity is a cover for a dominant subjectivity, for a subjectivity that stays in power by not being recognized as such.”
This whole piece is indeed fantastic (and I don’t care at all about video games) as a meditation on the value and possibilities of criticism. Highly recommended.