A Reluctant Critic

Since automagically receiving the National’s new album the instant it was released (thanks to some deal Steve Jobs made with the devil), I’ve been in orbit. No, I don’t live in space, silly. I live on Earth, where iTunes has destroyed the intimacy music lovers once had with record covers, CD wrappers, cover art, liner notes, and all the other things that made us care about the music and people we were listening to.

I’ve been trying to think of what to say about this album. I have formulated and unformulated opinions. Too slow, too Radiohead. Too ambitious. Perfect. Best album in the history of rock. Pretentious. Music powerful enough to cause and cure depression, like all good music.

Hey! We're a very good band but we're getting more polished as we age. Please accept this.
Hey! We’re a very good band but we’re getting more polished as we age. Please accept this.

This pejorative Slate review made me cry. However, I hate U2, so I know exactly what this guy is getting at. But the National is my band, and I’ve made a commitment to appreciate them forever, til death do us part.

Exhibit A: My nuptials, due later this fall. Though our first dance tune has long been decided (by her), I keep passively-aggressively attempting to get a National song on the docket. There is no dancing to the National, just morbid swaying, so I understandably lose that argument every time. We might just have to have a second dance.

I started self-publishing my keen insights on the Internet (ahem, I do not blog) in 2010. A few million other people have also made the modest leap into too-attainable distribution. This freedom to express and create and share has destroyed my will to express and create and share. I’m just adding to the cacophony, the ambient hum of meaningless jabbering enabled by the supposed blessing of networked computing.

Writing used to be special. Now it’s an exercise in mediocrity. Keep it short. Be clever. Wait for the small sample of love in the comment section, and be justified; these unwitting motivators encourage pallid, pandering drivel.

Simply publishing implies that I believe what I’m saying is worth your already fraying time. It is the ultimate act of ego.

As a failing writer, I appreciate my ever-growing options for scattershot dispersion of my genius, but I personally long for the days of rejection. I need that rejection to inspire quality, to make me a better writer. Give me the sticky veneer of the professional editor, the sheen of disagreeable preapproval, the economic incentives I know so well. With free writing there is no reward, too often, for reader or writer.

Anyway, this is a review of the National’s new album, Trouble Will Find Me. I really like it and think you should buy it.

See what I mean?


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