Tuesday, August 12, 2014


By: Ben Johnson

One of the things in the world I would very much like to avoid doing is to write anything in response to anything that Grantland music critic Steven Hyden has written. I would really, really love to not do that. There is no point to it. There is never any point to the original thing that Steven Hyden wrote, and there is even less point to anything I could write in response to that thing.

I lose. I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Steven Hyden wasted his time, writing about what American bands have been the current best American bands since the 1964 “invasion” of British rock bands. I, along with many many other people, wasted my time reading it. I wasted my time thinking about it. I wasted my time disagreeing with it. I am now wasting my time and energy responding to it. I am blowing it. Large. Big time.

Hyden does a good job, for the most part, with the completely arbitrary self-assigned task of listing the best American bands in each year since 1964. I’m not mad at Steven Hyden for having done this, or for the way he did it, or really for any of the decisions he made. Steven Hyden has a job to do, and it’s to write dumb things about music on the internet for Grantland, that great repository of the collectivist narratives and opinions of the thinking man’s bro, dedicated to cataloging the dumb things they think hard about. This American band championship belt thing is just such a dumb thing. On the internet. For Grantland. I get that. Steven Hyden did his job.


Oh boy. I am really, really not handling this well. I should take a deep breath or something. It’s like take a chill pill, you know? Take a chill pill, me. Oh God. Oh jeez.

There used to not be such a thing as rock music critics. There was for a long time no such thing as rock music, so the lack of critics wasn’t really a problem. Then there became such a thing as rock n’ roll music, and then very soon that music became subsumed as an emblematic nugget within a larger economic and cultural shift which focused on the identification, manipulation, and exploitation of American youth culture. 

Teenagers who listened to rock n’ roll grew up and became adults who listened to rock n’ roll. Different kinds of rock n’ roll emerged. There became such a thing as bullshit fake corporate undangerous rock n’ roll, and confusingly, some of it wasn’t all that bad. There became such a thing as “experimental” rock n’ roll, and nobody really liked it all that much except some people really liked it. Rock n’ roll music, itself a very simple thing, you know, “one two three o’clock, four o’clock, rock,” became ensnarled in a weird and nefarious and crowded and complicated landscape of rock n' roll musiclike entrapments and signifiers. It became kind of helpful, not to mention fun and often funny, to have critics around to sort all of this stuff out and say "YES: Black Sabbath; NO: Jethro Tull." And so there became such a thing as rock music critics. Like within ten to fifteen years after the discovery of rock n’ roll music, which is a pretty fast turnaround if you think about it.

There have been rock music critics ever since, even as rock music itself has remained a mostly very simple thing ensnarled in a complicated landscape which for all its shifts has maintained just about the same level of weirdness. There are less songs about rocking now, but it’s still basically 4/4 blues permutations, and rock acts are still incentivized to abandon the raw wildness of rock n' roll to focus, smartly for them, on making good business decisions. These essential truths have not changed. Do we still need rock music critics now that rock n’ roll has existed for 60 some odd years? Did we ever “need” them in the first place? Who cares? Apparently I do.

Apparently I go running for the nearest word processing software the instant I read Steven Hyden’s assertion, for a very popular website whose readership I am obviously a part of, that LCD Soundsystem was the best band in America from 2004 through 2007. Apparently I’m a moron who has some kind of a deep-seated reaction to that kind of a thing, even though it’s not a thing at all, even though it’s just random untethered information, and giving it even a single backwards glance is giving it the power it should not have, to decide things and destroy things and shape things and mean something. Apparently I’m too damn dumb to relax and get out of the way. Apparently I’m starting to sound like that kid from that video.

I mean, here I am, doing all of this, because I don’t think LCD Soundsystem was the best band in America from 2004 through 2007. That’s what this is really coming down to. That’s my line in the sand. The 85 richest people in the world have as much as the 3.5 BILLION poorest living humans, and my beef is with what I see as undue critical praise for LCD Soundsystem from 2004 to 2007. There are quite a few things wrong with me.

To the extent that it was probably a good idea to have rock music critics within the time and context they emerged in the late 60’s and early 70’s, it’s probably still a good idea. Because there are 85 rich people standing on our necks, profiting somehow from just about everything we do, and because people on our social media feeds are circulating research studies about how public relations people make more money than journalists without questioning the terrible vice-grip reality of the underlying premise that because those 85 people have their boots on our throats, money has to be the reason why people do anything, and because there were other bands in America between 2004 and 2007 which did not suck, and because, crucially, LCD Soundsystem, while endemic of its time, sucks, in a manner also endemic of its time.

LCD Soundsystem sucks.


I’m overreacting, sure, but I have to react to something. I choose to react to the fact that Grantland, a website owned by Disney, which is the 61st largest corporation in the world and is worth over 140 BILLION DOLLARS, which is more dollars than there are MILES BETWEEN HERE AND THE SURFACE OF THE SUN, and which could, with those dollars, end world hunger for four and a half years, is paying Steven Hyden to tell me that while The Stooges were the best band in America in 1973, which is an actual fact, LCD Soundsystem was the best band in America from 2004 to 2007, which depending on your beliefs is either a completely fabricated lie or else another in a long list of obligatory market-driven half-truths which our current corporate media’s critical infrastructure must forever push on the rest of us in order to feed their families.

I am dumb enough to read it, and I am dumb enough to disagree with it, all of it, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about any of it except go write a thing about how LCD Soundsystem actually sucks and everything is actually unfair and I lose. I lose all of it. All the time. Forever.

And so do you.

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