Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chronicles of Nutboy: 2011 Redux

Nutboy tells me I'm full of shit, but he’s about to buy a round, so I don’t argue. 

He goes on, telling me I'm not as fully engaged in the zeitgeist as I should be. My words. His exact words were more along the line of “Your top 2011 album list sucks. You've got exactly one album from 2011 on it.  What the hell is that? Complete bs.”

Well, that is the title of the blog, I'm thinking. But again, I say nothing. 

“You don’t really tell people about current music.  You go off on your little educational excursions, or you get stuff that’s decades old.  He’s right, of course.  After posting a song on Facebook once, a friend said thanks for the oldies.

“And when you do try to be current, you’re still a year behind, what, with your research.”  He spits out this last word with such vehemence that he starts to cough. And now, reminded of his own thirst, walks off to buy the round.

I want to object, but all I can muster is “I’ll have a Sam.”  First things first. If he’s going to insult me, he may as well pay for it.

But I do take this time to mull over his words, which he has every right to say. After all, his 2011 album list is made up entirely of, get this, albums from 2011.

I see him talking to the bartender, sharing a laugh, and I can’t help thinking it’s at my expense.  When he comes back with the beers I half expect to see a napkin with the bartender’s 2011 list on it.

But, hey, I’m not eighteen anymore. I can’t just sit in my room listening to current music all day. Who has the time, or the money? These days I need a buffer. I look to Metacritic, Pazz and Jop, Robert Christgau, etc. to separate the genuine talent from the hype, and distinguish what sounds good at this moment from what will sound great for years to come.

And it’s not to help me choose one record over another.  It’s to choose one record out of a thousand others. The Village Voice 2011 Pazz and Jop listed over 1,700 records, and that’s just ones that at least one person liked. When you add in what didn’t get mentioned, there’s got to be many times that number. So there isn’t enough time to listen to everything even once

I react to that daunting reality by doing my “research”. Nutboy deals with it by just diving in.

And I’m kind of slow taking in records to begin with, often not knowing whether I like something or not until the tenth listen at least. So, by the time I recommend something to you, dear reader, it’s gone through quite the gauntlet of opinion.

But I have to do this not only because I don’t have the time.  It’s also because I don’t have the time left. I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning of…. you know, life.  So can you fault me if I want to spend it wisely?

Nutboy’s having none of it. His point is that by the time I’ve done all my research, it’s a year later. Part of pop music’s attraction is that you can enjoy it as part of a community. Now.

Nutboy’s a jump-into-the-pool-headfirst kind of guy, maybe even before he knows there’s water there.  I’m the type to check for water. Twice. Even at the beach.

And the other thing is that by focusing on great albums I probably miss a lot of great moments from the not-quite-great albums. So I’m guessing my method is more efficient – you know, more good songs per dollar or hour, depending on what’s more important to you - but Nutboy’s gets more good songs overall.

So who’s to say who’s right?  Which one of us has the better batting average? I don’t know.
But here’s his list, along with my reasons for holding out:

Nutboy’s comment: Flat out great !! Cap G. 
Jaybee: And the world would seem to agree. Nutboy called this one way back in the spring when we first got to know each other. I’m mortified that I still haven’t heard a single one of these songs all the way through. It’s not like I haven’t had the chance.  I’m surrounded by the damned thing. And that’s why I haven’t gotten it.  I assume that I’m going to hear it ad nauseum anyway.  But I haven’t yet.  Something’s got to give. I should get it, but I’m usually underwhelmed by popular records.  Championed by Americana stations, who I’ve found to be pretty tone deaf.

NB: By far the best rock n roll record of the year.  “Little Black Submarines” is fantastic.
JB: It’s showing midway up on a lot of year end lists. I’m holding back for now.

JB: I’m very ambivalent about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and I make a point of distrusting any band that is popular on Americana stations.

JB: I like Mule Variations, but Waits has got so many records out I don’t know what to get - this well regarded record or something more deserving in the back catalog.

JB: I almost went for The Crane Wife, got scared off by The Hazards of Love and just don’t know if I’d like this other Americana favorite.

JB: Mrs. Jaybee and Jaybee Jr (Michael, actually) really like this record, but I’m not warming up to it.  I don’t hear them listening to it now, either.

JB: Another one I don’t trust because I just see it around so much.

JB: Michael loves this record too. It’s got an early seventies feel to it that I have trouble placing.  10cc possibly, but like them I’m not in love.

Nutboy: And finally, two hidden gems:
JB: Hmmmm, interesting. The sheer fact that I never heard of it gets me curious…

Ditto. Another obscure one that’s I’m thinking about.

I’ve no doubt that all these reservations have prevented me from getting some great music. Next time I see Nutboy I’ll be asking him about what he thinks the downside is to his approach. What records didn’t work out for him?

The bottom line, though, is that we’ve both found our “method”. If it wasn’t working for us, we’d be a lot more jaded by now. We’re both still passionate about music. Both having a good time.  Both feeling younger than we have a right to feel.

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