Saturday, October 30, 2004

Given that I hung out with Matthew Perpetua the other week in NYC and had a great time--he's a really lovely guy, as sharp and personable as you'd hope from reading him--finding this is especially amusing, especially given that the piece he decided to lambast in the present tense a piece was already two and a half years old at the point he took it on. And now I’m answering him two years after the fact. The way we’re going, we can argue about this for the next 20 years and still not have enough for a lead review in an average alt-weekly. Ah, internet time.

I’m not sure I’d stand by the piece as written at this point--I’m not sorry I expressed what I did, but I’d word it differently now, snarl a lot less, measure the jokes more carefully. But I’m not about to take it back, either. When he calls it “repulsive,” I know exactly what he means--it was meant to evoke a strong response, a response as strong as I had toward Cat Power’s music and the (very popular at the time) idea that she was/is some kind of daffy drifting genius who, how’d that happen, suddenly became queen of the indie prom without, gosh, particularly trying or, gee, even wanting to be there. What could be more perfect? The credulousness of people (I don’t mean Perpetua here) who make a habit of dismissing mainstream pop icons as phony and prepackaged and then flock to cult-ready Reluctant Geniuses who in their own way are just as contrived as yer Ashlee Simpsons is always worth making fun of; it’s just that in this case, I did it really childishly. Which isn’t the same as disagreeing with the tone of a single review and turning it into a conspiracy (“it’s . . . just yet another piece of hack music ‘criticism’ that’s being pushed on us by crap magazines and weeklies”)--but not unlike it, either.

Just to be absolutely clear, none of this is intended as a broadside against Perpetua, then or now. Lord knows I recognize where he’s coming from; I even (surprise) empathize with it to a great degree, in a specific way, since I tend to be drawn to people, of both sexes, with the kind of personality traits that Cat Power’s musical persona puts across (not necessarily in a sexual or romantic way, either, though that’s been true at times as well). Genuine anger is something you come to expect to result from my line of work, and he wasn’t wrong when he decried the Cat Power review as “designed to elicit angry letters-to-the-editor,” either. The question, then, is: “What exactly is wrong with a piece designed to elicit angry letters?” My answer: nothing, as long as that’s not all it’s designed to do. If you think it’s bad writing or bad criticism, fine. But it was a genuine attempt to say something I didn’t see anyone else saying at the time, whatever its lack of tact.