Music Writing (Interesting Articles, Etc.) Feb 24, 2021 22:36:52 GMT
Post by Kapitan on Feb 24, 2021 22:36:52 GMT
Every once in a while, somebody at Pitchfork more or less gets it right. The specifics in this case don't matter much, so don't worry if you're not a fan of the Hold Steady, but I think the basic point is a huge one--and one that many, many musicians screw up when they achieve some semblance of fame. (Sometimes even before that, just as they want to organize their output.)
Their review for the new Hold Steady album discusses the importance of departed-then-returned keyboardist Franz Nicolay. It says:
"After building one of the most ardent fanbases in modern rock, the group parted ways with their keyboardist Franz Nicolay in 2010, who claimed he felt like a “fox in a hedgehog band.” While the rest of the Hold Steady come off as rock purists who love double-necked guitars, beer-and-shot specials, and Major League Baseball, Nicolay is a classically-trained polymath who writes essays about Wagner, has an MFA in fiction, and uses an Isaiah Berlin reference to explain how it feels to be in the Hold Steady. The tension between him and the hedgehogs is palpable, the way it was between the gruff genius of Pete Townshend and the pretty face of Roger Daltrey, or the prickly politics of John Lennon and the homespun warmth of Paul McCartney: These mismatches are the secret weapon of great rock‘n’roll bands."
I agree whole-heartedly and have beaten this drum for years. Even the greatest auteurs--Dylan, Prince, Bowie, Zappa--put out a LOT of garbage. Artists tend to do better work when someone else is a foil. It can be two primary voices in a quartet, it can be four people out of seven, whatever. That doesn't matter for the point. The point is, one person, all the time, rejecting input tends to follow both good and bad instincts. Great for his or her creative freedom, but usually bad in the end in terms of the music.
Creative tension, someone to bounce ideas off, someone to question you and tell you no sometimes, even just another voice to add contrast and color: these things are essential.