I Love Me Some Me: The “Worst Village Voice Media Music Writer” Contest Continues

Nov 16th, 2007 // 10 Comments

typewriter2.jpgAs previously reported on Idolator, you might have noticed that the quality of writing in the music section of your local Village Voice-owned alt-weekly has dipped slightly in the last few years. In the first part of this open-ended series, we turned the spotlight on Phoenix New Times blogger Matt Neff (who seems to have dropped off the roster over there, sadly); this time, we look at a piece about how tough growing up can be…oh, and some stuff about the Misfits thrown in for good measure.

Seattle Weekly music editor Brian J. Barr might be best known for his recent piece on how much his wife liked a pirated copy of the most recent Justin Timberlake album. featuring this delightful paragraph:

I was aware of critics using Timberlake as the line in the sand between what is “real” and “false” in pop music. But Timberlake’s legitimacy wasn’t what was troubling me. What nagged me was the critical question: Why the hell do I like this? This was a goddamn dance record, and I hate dancing. Am I gay?

Of course, it’s hard to imagine how someone gets a editor position at a semi-major publication, especially in a city which has an active dance music scene like Seattle, while actively hating an entire genre of music, but let’s not quibble over details. It turns out that Mr. Barr’s overt homophobia might be the result of a tough childhood, which is a total bummer.

I was 16 years old when my older cousin started dating the guy who would turn me on to “punk rock.” This was in a very backward Pennsylvania town during one of my transitional teenage years. By this time (1996-97) most of the cool kids in my school were in the middle of either discarding their baggy grunge flannels, sewing patches onto their corduroys, or tie-dyeing their Izods. In other words, grunge was dead, Jerry Garcia’s memory lingered, and the Dave Matthews Band were fucking huge.
I hated everyone.
I walked around with a scowl on my face, mostly by myself. I thought for a while that maybe I had something in common with the kids from the trailer parks. They also scowled, but they couldn’t tell whether Marilyn Manson now had more to say than Kurt Cobain. They hung out on tailgates in the Mister Donut parking lot, their outfits a mismatch of genres. They wore yellowed Nirvana T-shirts with black JNCO jeans, their wallets fastened by long silver chains. If they were really badass, they wore dog collars and black eye makeup, which got them called “faggot” by the kids who were still into the Dead but somehow missed the whole peace-and-love message.
When my cousin started dating this guy–Tony was his name–we started hanging out a lot more. For one, Tony was 22, and bought me beer because my cousin told him to. But he also played bass guitar, worked for the Rolling Rock factory in Latrobe, and had a massive stack of punk tapes and CDs, the likes of which I had never seen before. A lot of the stuff was Lookout! Records garbage: pop-punk and ska bands like Screeching Weasel and Operation Ivy, as well as the Ramones (whom I loved, but who did nothing to sate my teen angst).

Just for the record, that’s a 308 word lead before getting to the subject of the article. Just wanted to throw that out there.

The real clincher comes with the moving, closing paragraph, one that will have misunderstood youth everywhere holding up their lighters (or cell phones, or whatever) in unity:

Thing is, there will always be a time for the Misfits in our country. All they did was take punk rock out of New York City and place it firmly in Middle America. They sang songs for uncool kids living in places where nothing ever happens. When you listened to the Misfits, you realized you could be pissed off anywhere for any reason, especially if you had nice parents, three hot meals a day, and no reason whatsoever to really despise your classmates. They were the first band to make rebelling against a cushy adolescence both totally necessary and totally laughable.

It’s good to know that the Misfits made it ok to hate your life, even if your life wasn’t really all that bad. That’s quite a gift they gave us, musically. The solitary comment left on the digital version of the article might just say it all “Me, too, bro. Me, too.”

Not that a few personal details or memories aren’t welcome in music journalism (hell, I’ve done it too), but it seems to be running rampant across the chain, between Barr discussing how awesome his Neil Young record collection is and the Phoenix New Times’ Niki D’Andrea sharing stories from the totally bitchin’ Tesla afterparty. Instead of exposing new music or showing us something behind the concert listings and record store ads, it’s a confessional/Myspace bulletin in print for all to see. At least, it appears Matt Neff and his magic thesaurus hit the bricks, but can we do something about the diary entries posing as features?

Brian J Barr [Seattle Weekly]

  1. Anonymous

    Barr sez “Neil Young is full of shit”, but then neglects to explain HOW Neil Young is full of shit. It’s a real bait-and-switch headline. At least when Christgau said “Stevie Wonder is a fool,” it had something to do with the rest of his article. Neil Young may very well be full of shit, but calling your album the sequel to a bootleg doesn’t exactly demonstrate why.

  2. Nicolars

    Rob “Chucklehead” Harvilla remains my sentimental favorite for the worst.

  3. Anonymous

    @Nicolars: I dunno, when Harvilla started I had similar feelings, but I really liked his piece in “Marooned” and his piece on Mims. He’s got a similar sense of humor but he’s funnier and less snarky.

  4. jetblackturd

    Of course it’s pedestrian. Of course it’s self indulgent first and an approximation of music criticism second. Of course ‘Am I gay?’ has entered the western cultural lexicon – thanks to a teen-age spent watching South Park. Yes, it’s a shame writers don’t need to be any better. But some of them are. Tell us about the ones you like. I like Reggie Chamberlain-King, a Northern Irish writer. [www.bbc.co.uk]

  5. Chris N.

    I’m my favorite writer, but then I’m biased.

  6. TheContrarian

    I fuckin’ love this feature.

  7. Dan Gibson

    Re: Mr. Neff, he’s back.

    [blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com]

  8. jt.ramsay

    This notice prompted me to make sure that Mr. Barr didn’t attend my high school.

  9. Anonymous

    “their outfits a mismatch of genres. They wore yellowed Nirvana T-shirts with black JNCO jeans, their wallets fastened by long silver chains”

    … is this Musicwritin’in the spirit of “Mr. Blackwell’s 10 Worst Dressed Celebs”?! – that seems pretty gay to me, along with a love dancemusic of course – man musicjournalism has really become democratic in the worst kind of way!

  10. Shelley_Levene

    Wait. What’s wrong with Operation Ivy?

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