Zippidy Doo Da

I'm not stupid, I'm from Texas!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Everything's Broken"

I was truly startled when I read this:

LOS ANGELES - Bob Dylan says modern recordings sound "atrocious," and even the songs on his new album sounded much better in the studio than on disc.

"I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really," the 65-year-old rocker said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Dylan, who released eight studio albums in that time, returns with his first recording in five years, "Modern Times," next Tuesday.

Noting the music industry's complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, "Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway."

"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them," he added. "There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static."

Dylan said he does his best to fight technology, but it's a losing battle.

"Even these songs probably sounded 10 times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it."

Go read that again in your best Dylan voice. I was totally, "Yay Bob"!

I looked in on a couple of music chat sites and the outrage was amazing. "He just did a record with Jack White of the stripes. I guess he doesn't think it is all crap," and so on. Dylan is obviously avoiding the issue of content, and limits comments to production quality, but I would include a condemnation of the entire milleu of music in the modern age for artists and fans. Music just doesn't seem to be reaching people in the same way that it did in the 60' and 70's.

I've written about this before in a number of ways, but for instance, compare the Billboard top 100 now to 30 years ago. Record sales now are terrible, and there aren't any rock stars anymore. The content is banal, tired, unimaginative and unambitious, for the most part, and production is horrible.

Plus, despite what some people who traffic in truthiness say, everybody is broke, and what money they have to spend seems not to go very far. The paradigme of musical vacuousness is SXSW. It is cynical pay for play. Product placement. Marketing. Who's kidding who? And the poor kids that go for the hype are getting totally rolled. Some thoughts from SXSW chat:

My secrets of SXSW:

1. The Austin Chronicle has free ho-hos at their tradeshow booth.
2. And the dozen Luna Bar samplers I grabbed were priceless. You never know when you're going to end up standing in line for a surprise secret, last minute showcase outside of Stubb's at 6 PM.
3. Thanks, Aquafina for the free water bottles at Brush Square Tent. When everybody was in line waiting for their free beer, I grabbed a few water bottles (no line) and ran.
4. Getting cross-trainer shoe inserts from Foot Locker was a really good idea. Arch support is key. Dr. Scholl's wasn't enough.
5. Another great idea was buying a bunch of fresh fruit, juice, and energy drinks at Whole Foods (6th and Lamar).
6. And so was booking a massage at the Hilton Austin the day after (8th floor spa) for those poor aching joints and sore muscles. It's pricey but worth every penny.
7. You know the "Always Be Charging" rule by now; the new one for me is "Always Be Sitting." Your knees will thank you later. Spending spare time in the Platinum Lounge with complimentary coffee works wonders, if you have a Platinum badge.
8. Sleeping in and skipping a 10am Interactive Panel is usually the right choice. (Sorry, 10am panelists.)
9. Breakfast tacos are the food of the gods.
10. And sometimes not having your laptop with you is the best feeling in the world.
BONUS SECRET: Dodgeball, while sometimes irritating, really is the best way to keep in touch during SXSW Music when you don't know who's at their hotel, the convention center, or running about town.

Free ho-ho's? What happened to "don't eat the brown acid"? Music used to set people free; it used to change people's lives; it used to make people cry and laugh and dance naked.

I was dismayed a year ago with the price of the wristbands, and had serious reservations about buying one this year. I'm not sure what is motivating Louis Black (or if he is even aware) that SXSW has not only become cost prohibitive for a lot of us in tough econcomic times, it has also lost the Austin "vibe." For years, SXSW was an annual gathering of our local crew and out-of-town friends—it was a time we all eagerly awaited and talked about for months before hand. The usual gang of 20 has atrophied to just three this year! The common reason, without fail, was the price of wristbands and the increasing difficulty in gaining access to the shows we wanted to attend. It is no longer worth the admission or hassle.

What's worse is that all the badges have made it impossible to get into the worthwhile shows. On Friday night our diehard group of three gave up at 10:30 when, after three hours of wandering around, could not get into to see even our fourth-tier selections. We spent several hours on South Congress that afternoon and caught only one act, because the Yard Dog was running hours behind schedule and the Continental Club threw a party sans music. While the day time freebies are not an official part of the festival, they are still an integral part of the overall party.

Hard as it is to say this, this year's fest has not been fun; I'm so bummed at this point (late Saturday afternoon) that I'm staying home tonight. I really hope Louis Black and the other organizers take a hard look at how SXSW has lost its Austin character—and how they might get some that back.

Kids, listen to Uncle Bob. He knows of what he speaks.


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