“Challenge accepted, thanks to Thumby McForgottenFace, who I haven’t seen since 1987 and can barely remember, for nominating me when they ran out of friends…”
Words to chill you to your very bone in these testing times. Not when you’ve been “challenged”, no, most of these Facebook “challenges” merely involve posting the same fucking boring pictures of you gurning at your phone with your baby/pet/car/guitar/Wuzzle that you always do, just with ‘no explanations and no comments’. If they’re intended to boost your self-esteem and make you feel better then keep them off my timeline as I’ll immediately destroy what little of it you had left.
It’s those ‘share the 10 albums/books/famous artworks/Wuzzles/bogies that have had the biggest effect on your life’ “challenges” that I have a problem with*. While I am all in favour of this sharing of culture, getting to know each other and finding out who likes what, I do have a problem with the no explanations part.**
It’s just fucking lazy. I mean, yeah, it lets those who don’t have the time to carefully explain exactly what it is they love so much about Eleroo compared to that massive dickhead Bumblelion join in, but it’s a bit shit.
I mean it’s so easy to just lie and post books you’ve never read, albums you’ve never really ‘got’ and Wuzzles you never understood (what is it with you and Wuzzles Dave?) in an attempt to appear more sophisticated. The thing about art is that it is subjective, and nothing without context. For example, you could post the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and people would nod approvingly, it’s a classic. Unarguable, go you.
If your favourite tracks are A Little Help With My Friends, When I’m 64 and She’s Leaving Home and you always skip Within You Without You then you don’t enjoy music, you’re an idiot and you’re dead to me.
Both Charles Manson and I love the White Album, but we got very different takeaways from it.
Some people think Wuthering Heights (it was, apparently, a book before Kate Bush wrote a song about a terrible movie adaptation) is a beautiful – if tragic – love story, others just like the bit where Heathcliff murders a dog. (I liked the dog murdering, but I think Manson, had he been a fan, would have been more into the bleak imagery of the Yorkshire moors; see, we get different takeaways).
A lot of art is nothing without context. You’re allowed to give a wistful smile and have a little singalong at the most godawful of songs if they remind you of that amazing one night stand you never saw again. The girl/boy that got away – if only it hadn’t been in the summer of ‘96 at the accidentally-smoking-the-filter end of Britpop eh? But I digress.
Actual great art is absolutely nothing without context. Sure, you listen to Sgt Pepper and it’s a bunch of nice songs (faux-vaudeville fuckery of When I’m 64 excepted) and you quite like them. However, you were born in the late ’90s, and think it sounds like Oasis. Fair dos to you, it does. Once you learn about all the groundbreaking work that was done in the studio to make it (by Brian Wilson, making Pet Sounds a year before) it makes it all the better. Place it where it belongs in history and it’s much better. I mean it’s still no Pet Sounds, but it’s alright.
Not giving a shit about context is how ‘I-speak-as-I-find-and-if-you-dont-like-it…’ types go about not understanding art that isn’t a drawing of a horse. Without context, Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ is very much just an old urinal. With context it’s actually brilliant. If you take the time to dive into the context you get things, you like them more. And if you tell me about why you love the album/book you post, there’s a chance you might turn me on to it, and then you’ve done some good. Not just posted a picture of a record you like so that other people who also like it can rub their chins and scoff at those who have never heard of it.
It means you can be honest, rather than trying to look cool. For example, you can post that Kenny G album you borrowed off your mum that got you into Jazz, rather than Bitches Brew. You’d never have gone near Bitches Brew if it wasn’t for Kenny, so you owe him a tip of your hat. (Not me, I got into Jazz via my old economics teacher, Mr Furness, lending me a Wes Montgomery record, then a bit of Mahavishnu and some John Etheridge. It should come as no surprise that I only just scraped a C for economics as I was too busy talking about jazz with Mr F to remember anything about Friedman’s trickle-down lies). By the way, Duotones kicks Bitches Brew’s arse in every way, don’t @ me.
So don’t cop out and only post your crowd-pleasing covers, take the time (while you’ve still got it) to tell me why you love it, and I just might love it too. It’s not a competition in obscurity, not a ‘look how cool I am’-a-thon. If you were a kid in the 80s/90s and you haven’t posted a Now Album then you were either raised in a bunker or a fucking liar. Show me your books, your records, your movies, your poems, your Wuzzles (enough with the fucking Wuzzles Dave), whatever brings you joy and for God’s sake tell me why.
* Just to confirm, I’ve done this, I wrote this about it the first time. And apologies for the “quotes”, rest assured I am not doing air quotes as I read this aloud. Just using the very sarky voice they are supposed to denote.
** I’ve done it this way as well. The second time round, I stuck to the rules and posted these albums. I bet you’d rather I’d written a little bit about context, or even which album some of them are.***
*** every time I’ve been challenged since I’ve ignored it, but do keep trying, I might get bored again.