Sasha Frere-Jones, Slow Fade, The Afterlife of an Indie Band, The New Yorker
So many stock moves of rock criticism -- defensive hipsterism, genre-attachment bigotry and fashion displays -- move the writing away from insight, much in the same way that stock poetry maneuvers -- strained analogy and awkward sentimentality -– move poetry away from the life information that the writing is ostensibly engaging.
The poets represented in the New Yorker should study the Frere-Jones column, and see what happens when you use analogy as a technology for approaching insight, rather than for repeating pro-forma sentimental gestures.
"The problem was that Slint did not create a simple, easily imitated beat like Bo Diddley, or an elemental song like the Sex Pistols’ "Anarchy in the U.K.," which anyone could learn to play. Slint—or "Spiderland," because the two had become interchangeable—was like that grilled-cheese sandwich bearing the face of the Virgin Mary: an unlikely and irreproducible marvel."
I’ve never read a simile in a poem in the New Yorker with anywhere near this level of commitment to getting the linguistic construction to unpack social information.
He zigzags through setting up the context of the music, subjective impressions of it, descriptions of song structures and the element and personalities involved in the Slint story. Steve Albini is compared to Clement Greenberg.
To round out the interweaved layers here, he adds this:
For six minutes, the track inched along until—in one of the evening’s few traditional rock moments—it exploded with two enormous, distorted chords, each separated by tiny pauses, as McMahan screamed, "I miss you!" The words seemed, in the context of the show, to be a proxy for all the stuff that boys don’t talk about: that excruciating weekend with your new stepfather; that scary walk in the woods; that rift with your best friend, whom you haven’t seen in years.