I once got into an argument with someone about a certain record — I think it was possibly one of the early Merzbow discs, believe it or not — because he didn’t believe that I would really want to listen to such rubbish, let alone savor it or enjoy it. He seemed to be of the opinion that most of the records people say they like are simply records that they want to impress other people with having known about, and that their own enjoyment comes second. I found that paranoid in the extreme, and I know that in my case I don’t believe that for a second. Sure, there are many records that are important and influential and name-droppable that I could toss around as being among my favorites, but I don’t listen to them. I have better things to do, like listen to things I enjoy and enjoy them.
Maybe it’s a matter of mere taste, and taste can often be impenetrable — which is why I wouldn’t try to explain why I would listen to any Merzbow disc instead of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Sure, the latter album may have been the “original,” and it may have been “influential” and “important”, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth more than a casual survey of a listen because it consists of one idea beaten to death for four sides. One theory was that Reed recorded it to get out of his RCA contract, and only after other people (like Lester Bangs, who [insanely enough] loved the record) started championing it did he go back and claim that he had had importance and artistic integrity in mind all along. Right. As far as Merzbow goes, you could pick any dozen of his records that are as minimally assembled as MMM, and any one of them would be more interesting.Read more
Whenever you put two artists of strong temperament together, you either get genius or dissonance. Most of us probably still remember the supergroups of the Seventies — generally ill-fated attempts to forcibly engineer a rock band by taking the brightest stars from various outfits and sticking them in a studio together. Sometimes the offspring from such a crossbreeding had a decently long life — Blind Faith, for instance, is still a pretty decent record even if nothing truly spectacular — but most of the results didn’t merit more than a paragraph in the All-Music Guide. Who here remembers bands like GTR? (Who wants to?)
This sort of thing hasn’t died out entirely, but evolved a bit and become less a mark of something to avoid at all costs as being a sign of sheer marketing greed. Consider Pigface, drummer Martyn Atkin’s revolving pick-up band that consists of him and whoever else happens to be in the studio that week. This approach has produced a few excellent and listenable tracks and a lot of dross, but even the dross is interesting thanks to the caliber of the people involved: Shonen Knife, Michael Gira, Jello Biafra, the Einstürzende Neubauten gang, and on and on.Read more