If you happen to know anything about Steve Albini, it’s almost certainly one or both of the following two things: (1) His reputation as a producer (Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey) and musician (Big Black, Shellac) is unassailable, and (2) He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, and he’s not at all shy about it. Albini’s most recent outburst came at the expense of Sonic Youth, whom he more or less blamed earlier this year for corrupting independent music. Well, “most recent outburst” until this weekend, actually, when Albini went at Odd Future.
See, it just so happened that Albini had the displeasure of sharing a shuttle bus with the OF crew in Barcelona at the end of May, and the experience was quite scarring. Basically, they acted like jerks the whole time, verbally attacking the driver and random passengers, demanding McDonald’s, and smoking marijuana. “I am quite happy none of them engaged me directly,” he writes, “because at least one of us would have regretted it.” Weirdly, though, smuggled into all this is a near-defense of Odd Future in general. Here goes:
I am well aware, thanks, that good people can make ugly art and that ugly people can make good art. Ultimately the function of art is to express something and move an idea from one person to another, and the tools of that can include revulsion and discomfort. Having been in a few bands myself, thanks, I know that the uninitiated can mistake these devices as windows into the soul of the creator. Ultimately they are, of course, but not necessarily in the crude autobiographical way they are often interpreted.
I know all that, so I am never quick to judge a person based on a superficial reading of creative output. Peter Sotos is a lovely fellow whom I trust implicitly, despite his writing evoking a truly primal disgust in me, to use another rapey example. Michael Gerald from Killdozer said it best in an interview, when the journalist remarked that he seemed like a nice fellow, which was unexpected given that the characters in his songs are often repellent. “Oh, that’s not us,” he said, “that’s the crazy people we sing about.” In that light, I am one hundred percent behind Odd Future’s right to rap about what they wanna rap about, and if she don’t like it fuck her.
And also fuck me. It’s none of my business what they wanna. I’m not part of the audience for hip hop, and as a non-dilettante I don’t generally respond to it when I hear it, so I can’t make any critical assessment of Odd Future’s music on its own terms, but they go out of their way to make it clear that this is not a case of regular people making music about assholes, but assholes making music about being assholes. I have no time for that. I don’t respond kindly to it when Ted Nugent does it either.
If the whole thing is a put-on, a bit of Vincent Gallo life-as-theater for the benefit of whoever happens to be sitting next to them, that’s no excuse. It’s being an asshole about being an asshole.
We could have cut it off at “I am well aware, thanks, that good people can make ugly art and that ugly people can make good art. Ultimately the function of art is to express something and move an idea from one person to another, and the tools of that can include revulsion and discomfort.” It might not work as an “excuse” for Albini, but, yep, that’s basically the shtick here. Sorry you had a crappy bus ride, Steve.
Re: Collective: Odd Future [Electrical Audio]