When I saw the promo blurb for rock critic Dave Thompson's new book I Hate New Music (Backbeat) a couple of months ago, I figured I'd found a kindred spirit someone who could explain once and for all why U2 and the Foo Fighters were evil, Radiohead was hopelessly overrated, and the Kings of Leon or whoever were irrelevant. Someone who could articulate why even a bad Humble Pie or Thin Lizzy album you know, like Renegade (Warner Bros., 1981) is likely to be more memorable and entertaining than this week's featured review on Pitchfork. (By the way, I just checked, and right now, it's the new album by the Killers. I'll take my creaky cassette of Humble Pie's Smokin [A&M, 1972] over them any day.)
Well, for all its potential, I Hate New Music reads less like a searing manifesto and more like a batch of shoot-from-the-hip essays on assorted classic-rock topics: the double album, Queen, 8-tracks, the double live album, and so on. Only briefly does he touch on some of the more distressing trends that have taken hold over the last decade or so, like the impact of Pro Tools, which allows home-studio mavens to polish turds as convincingly as major-label artists. Or the simultaneous rise of online music distribution and the sad, slow demise of the local record store. Releasing music is now easier than ever. Getting paid for it or, if you're a listener, wading through it all is harder. Actually, it's impossible. (It doesn't help that I'm currently living in Indiana, where it's still 2002.)
I don't want to hate new music, and though I may be crotchety beyond my years, I really don't hate it. Not all of it. I was genuinely excited by all the albums on my humble year-end list and a handful more that didn't fit. And in an encouraging trend, only two of those entries are reissues. It's just that I don't care if music is actually new or just new to me, and there's always going to be more of the latter. I finally got the American Music Club this year, which happened to have an excellent new disc. But I also finally got, or discovered, Lee Perry's, Omar Khorshid's, and Peter Laughner's solo recordings, a slew of weird CD-Rs on the barely legal (or not) Dolor Del Estamago label, and the deluxe reissue of the Allman Brothers' 1972 double-album Eat a Peach (Mercury). These things excited me as much as anything with "2008" stamped on the back.
Anyway, while I disagree with Thompson that rock died in 1976, I do agree it's getting harder to weed out the survivors.
WILL YORK'S TOP 10
1. Various artists, Always Something There: A Burt Bacharach Collectors' Anthology 1952-1969 (Ace)
2. Joe E., Love Got in My Way (Eabla)
3. Outlaw Order, Dragging down the Enforcer (Season of Mist)
4. American Music Club, The Golden Age (Merge)
5. Bohren and der Club of Gore, Dolores (Play It Again, Sam/Ipecac)
6. GridLink, Amber Grey (Hydra Head)
7. Soilent Green, Inevitable Collapse in the Presence of Conviction (Metal Blade)
8. Nadja, Desire in Uneasiness (Crucial Blast)
9. Esoteric, The Maniacal Vale (Season of Mist)
10. Singer, Unhistories (Drag City)