Evening gents, got a bit I wrote a few days ago here that is probably better posted than deleted:
First up I don't read music reviews or much published writing like that because I tend not to get as much out of it as I do from plain, everyday discourse, mostly online. People who write pretty decent reviews often write much better fighting their corner in a crowded room. Obviously I know there are some fucking incredible reviews and bits of writing out there and it'll always be good to see someone working something out in words, but the balance of power (i.e. 90% of the writing I read about music) is with the informal. That's not necessarily me-narrative, you-narrative, we-narrative or any of the other tools in the box but often containing moments of each, including some analytical they-narrative. I'm thinking here we can have some slightly more intense, detailed discourse, gradually getting to grips with these tools but we'll see.
Twoly, Robert Christgau might think he's come out of himself somehow, but he still writes like a sassy, aging guy with blindspots, favourites, prejudices and limited patience. He's listened to an unbelievable amount of stuff, and has developed his own super language of punning and self-reference but I don't believe he's doing anything extra, anything noble or philosophically exciting. I also don't believe Richard Meltzer is a good writer. Or maybe I don't understand what Christgau means when he says that.
Similarly, and to pick on Christgau further, I think you can turn what he said around and accuse him or never properly getting inside himself, or anyone else. He listens, very professionally to huge stacks of records, eight hours everyday, assessing the lay of the land, noting anything that jumps out at him and reports back to us in his neat writerly code. He can unpack anything he hears and place it in the grand scheme or pop music truth he has laid out all these years, he is THE DEAN after all. But where's the value in any of what he or anyone similar does? Who needs an encyclopedia? Who hears Kate Nash and wants a quasi-objective unpacking of the whole deal and what use is that to anyone who isn't already up to the same thing?
Anyway more importantly: Arthur Russell's tuned in brain. It's very cool you got that record Alun, I've got an intention to get that and see the film that's come out (somehow), which I've heard is decent, even if it skips over his disco period pretty fast. Each Arthur Russell record I hear seems to sound peculiar at first while I get used to whichever styles and techniques he was playing around with at the time. What I consider more interesting than the breadth of his interests and listening though, are the constants that run through all the different styles. I'm thinking of loose, floating structures, and adding to that sense of lightness, his sing-song fragments of melody that drift in and out.
The thing I find most interesting is the way he treats his songs not as static, finished entities, but as processes that can have many possible incarnations and reimaginings. To hear the disco "See My Brother, He's Stepping Out (Let's Go Swimming #1)" after loving the World Of Echo version of "Let's Go Swimming" was uncanny and amazing. On World Of Echo it's like he's singing to you in the womb, everything delicately brought in close, it has that particular, intensely personal quality you get with some indie (I've thought before that the close-miced sound of World Of Echo reminds me of The Microphones). That he could and would choose to rehear the vocals and cello over a disco beat and blocky 80s basslines makes me think his relationship to his pieces was closer than a lot of people. Hearing "See My Brother" as part of a move from introverted, quiet, uneasy to this fun&light party tune makes it really affecting, I end up with this sort of "good for you!" feeling towards the song, like I want to high-five Arthur Russell. In the liner notes to World Of Echo he talks about wanting to "liquefy" (what the fuck is that spelling?) elements to create something new, and that seems like the way he interacts with what he heard, whether it was what was on the radio, at the club, from his childhood, or his own music.