Liking Pavement and Kanye West for the Wrong Reasons



Demographically speaking -- I'm white and I wish I could play electric guitar and I went to a four-year university -- it was inevitable that at some point I would become a fan of Pavement. My friend is white and once probably said he didn't like Kanye West, so it was inevitable that at some point he would become a fan of Kanye West. These both happened in the last few months, and his went much more smoothly -- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy all the way through, and the recent conception of Kanye West as a wild, maximalist pop genius and not a morally conflicted backpack rapper, whatever that was ever supposed to mean.

As for me, I realized I didn't like Pavement for the reasons I was supposed to. The noise and the non-songs put me off, Slanted and Enchanted sounds too much like it's playing through a set of novelty walkie talkies I had when I was a kid, and the slacker ethos, whatever that was ever supposed to mean, is at least a little morally responsible for everybody listening to Candlebox instead of "Gold Soundz," which is what my culture studies professors would call "problematic."

No, I like Terror Twilight, and I like it because it's really pretty. I'm sorry, white-suburban-college-educated-male-guitar-fans. I'm sorry that I love adult contemporary music so much.

When a band is no longer a going concern I guess you're entitled to enjoy it for whatever reasons you care to. My friend, still moving backward through the Kanye West catalogue, is a little more constricted in his movement. He can like Kanye West for his social consciousness, but the pickings are going to get slim after Late Registration. He can like Kanye West for his open-heartedness, but I'm not sure he's prepared to defend 808s and Heartbreak for the rest of his life.

When you like a band for the wrong reason--that is, for a reason that exists outside whatever trendline they were on, and that will not be mentioned in the Associated Press article after they reunite or come to your town or start dating a Kardashian--you're very deliberately pruning their catalogue and altering their expression, in a way that some music fans will probably find post-album and terrible and that my culture studies professors would probably try to call "eliding," because they kind of suck in that way.

Is it wrong to like Pavement because every sixth or seventh song Stephen Malkmus writes is a slow, sincerely melodic ballad? Or Kanye West because in his first few songs about diamonds he at least nodded at diamond mines? Or the Beatles because of the ones with lyrics you could stencil onto a throw pillow?

Speaking as someone who just listened to "Church on White" for the eighth or ninth time this week--well, probably a little.

I would probably have a better understanding of what Pavement was trying to do on "Major Leagues" if I could get through the Spiral Stairs songs, and I should probably take my newfound ability to enjoy "The Hexx" as an invitation to try Wowee Zowee again. People who like the Beatles for providing the intellectual force behind the words "All You Need Is Love" would understand the context behind those words if they listened to the albums.

And people who listen to Kanye West and only hear this--

--well, I'm actually kind of interested to know how they managed that. But that extremely private record is--complicated, my culture studies professors would say (for god's sake), by the exclusively monumental and public angst he's displayed on subsequent albums.

We don't all have to be experts on Kanye West, and there are already enough copies of Perfect Sound Forever in print among people who look like me, and The Beatles 1 is probably enough for some people.

But the internet has made it really easy for all of us to become experts at everything we're even a little interested in, which makes it harder than ever to be badly informed about something; there's less of an excuse than there ever was to like Ill Communication but not Paul's Boutique, or The Bends but not OK Computer, or any of the other great albums their fans argue about every day on a different message board. But the internet doesn't have to listen to "In The Mouth A Desert" when it could be playing "Carrot Rope" again. So ultimately, all of us who like bands and artists for the wrong reasons are kind of stuck with our ears.