Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mo Width...Mo Problems

So now I’m pissed that I gave Jim DeRogatis some online love after he was so unceremoniously ripped apart for a recent diss of Panda Bear’s performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival.

It’s now moved on to some vicious attacks against Jon Spencer, first with barbed tweets and now with another jab of “blackface parody” complete with a full-on repost of a Penthouse article DeRo did on Spencer back in 1997 where he started the whole blackface reference.

In other words, he hasn’t updated his attack thesaurus in over a decade.

To bring up the article-even if it adequately addressed DeRo’s real issues with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion-and to use it as ammunition for his performance during a time that seems like a lifetime away from the band’s heyday is just lazy.

I never viewed the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as a blues band and I never thought of a guy like Jon Spencer and my tour guide to anything blues related.

Unlike DeRo, who apparently loved Pussy Galore-Spencer’s first foray into music notoriety-a band that I actually had issues with. So I think it’s weird that he can find so much to appreciate with them and so much to attack the Blues Explosion.

I remember Pussy Galore sounding like a pretentious group of spoiled brats who happened to fall on enough good fortunes with their limited musicianship, a stereotype that was reinforced when it was discovered that Spencer didn’t actually come from the dirty mean streets, but the clean confines of suburbia.

That and his almost ridiculously simple attempts to rile and shock his underground comrades seemed so disingenuous that I completely ignored much of their output.

What’s weird is that I loved his next project, Boss Hogg. It retained the same limited musicianship, but it sounded like the real deal. Gone were the jokey PMRC baiting tactics and they were replaced by a sense of just finding a groove and rocking the bajeezus out of it.

It didn’t hurt that it featured a naked picture of his old lady on the cover.

JSBX appeared to be an offshoot of that direction, only with more testosterone. Like I said, not one did I take Spencer’s word that the band was part of the blues or a beacon to lead me to that holy genre.

It was raw. Basic. A common element during the grunge era, for sure, but it sure seems like there isn’t much music that resembles that raw nerve in this age of white world music, Brian Wilson worship, and new wave revival. Spencer sounds out of place in today’s environment, and he sounds like a welcomed bit of nostalgia because of that.

Meanwhile, DeRogatis sounds like a tired relic, a man too exhausted from Pitchfork’s heat to muster the energy to compose any new prose to attack Spencer so he dips into the hard drive to pull up a polarizing article from a soft-porn mag that was long on words, but short on content.

How did Spencer respond? With quick retorts of “fucking asshole” and calling him a “square,” this seemed to please DeRo who immediately linked it on his blog and, once again, reminded us on his Facebook page that ties the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to some kind of unfounded racial explotation.

According to those in attendance-the real test of worthiness-JSBX was one of the memorable performers of the Pitchfork festival. And while I may have agreed with DeRo on his assessment of Panda Bear’s set and defended his right to dislike it, if watching the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion only prompted him to dig up an old article, then it speaks less of what he thought about the performance and more about some other issues that DeRogatis still has against Jon Spencer personally.

Maybe it’s because he can’t rock a pair of rubber pants like Spencer can.


Kiko Jones said...

Todd, even though we've never met I feel like I know you. Probably because you come across as a fellow knowledgeable traveler; one whose writing is among the very few worthwhile examples of music criticism out there these days. I am truly grateful I came across your work.

But--and after the above paragraph you had to know pointed criticism was coming your way--your weight-baiting of DeRogatis is the kind of cheap shot I did not expect from you and is, frankly, quite beneath you.

As for DeRo's issues w/JSBX regarding exploitation, if he still has a valid claim--whether we agree w/him or not--who cares if DeRo rehashes his beefs with said issues with old talking points if the song remains the same?

You may have "never viewed the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as a blues band and...never thought of a guy like Jon Spencer [as your] tour guide to anything blues related". Of course not, because you know better. You've done your homework. What about those who haven't? Isn't it the job of the experienced, knowledgeable writer to break it down for the average listener?

Don't you recall, just recently, when U2, XTC, and Wire retreads were being touted as bearing a fresh, new innovative sound by ignorant, neophyte scribes in print and online? I'm pretty sure DeRo didn't say that about Franz Ferdinand, The Dead 60s, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, The Futureheads, etc etc etc like other clueless fools did.

It also worries me that, in an effort to make your point, you categorize the JSBX audience at P4K '10 as "the real test of worthiness". So, millions of Bon Jovi fans can't be wrong, either? Hardly. It seems like you're temporarily abandoning the objective eye of the critic just to take a jab at DeRo. Et tu Totale?

For the record, I am neither a fan nor a detractor of Mr. DeRogatis, but I do find interesting that he's been called fair by artists who he hasn't exactly been cheerleading in the past. And perhaps it wasn't Todd Totale the writer but Totale the JSBX fan who wrote this post. In that case I can understand, but either way I'm disappointed.

Greg R said...

If I'm reading this correctly, I think the point that Todd was trying to make was that DeRogatis opted to use inciderary comments to voice his distaste for JSBX that were mean spirited and unfounded. I'm also guessing that the swipe at DeRo's weight was an eye for an eye swipe right back at him for the blackface remark.

Kiko Jones said...

Greg, if Jon Spencer wants to defend himself from accusations of blackface--which are related to his music and not his appearance--by mocking Jim DeRogatis' weight, he has the right to fire off that kind of irrelevant cheap shot. What's Todd's --or anyone else's--excuse?

Todd Totale said...

Where does it address DeRogatis' weight in the above article? Both of y'all need to loosen your belts a bit because the blood is not making it all the way upstairs. The line about him not rocking rubber pants goes for DeRo, Kiko, Greg, me, and probably everyone else for that matter. I'm being quite sincere when I say that Spence looks good in those rubber pants, and yeah, who wouldn't feel a little jealous that he can rock a pair like that. I think both of you need to apologize to DeRo for assuming that line pokes fun at his weight.
I will confess though, I have used that cheap shot against him in the past-but I have refrained for exactly the reasons that Kiko states and did not intend the rubber pants to be a mean spirited jab at his weight. The line came after seeing a bunch of pictures with him in those pants and thinking, "Damn, he looks good."
The whole reason for the post is because I don't think DeRo has a valid claim. Period. And for him to bring up the "blackface" article again is another attempt to stir up the race card when doing that-particularly after what just happened at the Dept. of Ag-is dangerous and lazy, all for the sake of getting site hits to his blog.
There are better ways to make the point of why DeRo feels the way he does, but he brought up an article that came from a completely different time. JSBX are no longer considered as relevant as they once were and their recent activity is merely an attempt to sell a few copies of the catalog reissues. If he really wanted to break it down for those younger readers, he would have been able to spell out his opinions without resorting to race-bating tactics which are-as Greg points out-just as wrong as those Panda Bear fans who dismissed his negative review of the bros' performance on the basis of DeRo's size.
The line about JSBX's audience at Pitchfork had nothing to do about the size of the crowd, so the Bon Jovi reference doesn't work. It was a reference to reading about people's overall take on the shows, and I was surprised how many of them-including younger audience members-seemed to respond to JSBX's set. So when I hear cross generational praise from a lot of folks who saw the same show-many who weren't familiar with Spencer's work at all-and then read DeRo reviewing the same show with a unnecessary racial remark and a link to an article from 13 years prior, I think that there's more of a personal issue going on than a real review of the actual performance.
I wouldn't call myself a big fan of Spencer. Like I said, Pussy Galore sucks and DeRo is playing the pretentious music crit in his praise for a band that actually deserved a bunch of harsh criticism. I stopped caring about JSBX after they dropped that turd of an e.p. that had a bunch of remixes on it.
The only thing that I can really cheerlead about regarding Spencer is Boss Hogg. The album they did for DGC is great and the e.p. Drinkin', Lechin' and Lyin' needs to be re-issed by Am-Rep or anyone else who wants to hear some great dirty rock while looking at a naked pic of Christina.
There's another thing that DeRo's probably jealous about.

Kiko Jones said...

Oh, c'mon, Todd; don't resort to spin, my brother. Why can't DeRo rock the rubber pants? 'Cause he doesn't know where to buy 'em? 'His wife won't let him? He's allergic? Not about his weight, my ass. Please.

As for the crowd reaction you failed to make your original point clear. What you implied with your remark about JSBX's set was 'The people loved it; fuck the critics. What do they know?' And I quote:

"According to those in attendance--the real test of worthiness..."

The reference I made to Bon Jovi is regarding an artist beloved by audiences and demeaned by critics, which I felt worked given what your take implied.

And who says I can't rock the rubber pants? I'll have you know...oh, fuck it, you're right; I can't anymore. heh heh

Kiko Jones said...

Oh, and my proofreading skills are clearly deteriorating:

"Where does it address DeRogatis' weight in the above article?

Aside from the final sentence, the post is entitled "Mo Width...Mo Problems", for Pete's sake! How could I have missed that?! D'oh!

Anonymous said...

Kiko, Mo' Width is the name of a Blues Explosion album...