Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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It’s All About Me / Eugoogly, Pt. 2 (Part II): More of IITS’s Greatest Hits at Stylus

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 3, 2007


Taking a timeout from the Great Stylus Meet-Up of ’07, which for me at least started yesterday morning and hopefully will go until Saturday afternoon, to continue getting all retrospective about my four and a half at Stylus. Here’s five more that I think sum me up pretty nicely.

Top Ten Worst Lines on Interpol’s First Album: My biggest memory about writing this one was that I remember having to leave a Sufjan Stevens concert before the main act actually got on so that I could write it and get it in on time. I was sure I’d regret the decision–not because I was such a huge Sufjan Stevens fan, but because the opening acts were such a waste of time to begin with, and because I was pretty sure this was going to be one of my more forgettable and phoned-in articles for the site.

As fortune would have it, however, the article would go down as one of my primary legacies at Stylus, the article co-writers most often quote as my best or most memorable, and the one I still get hate-mail for today practically once a month, despite having written it nearly three years ago. Here’s some of the most recent feedback I’ve gotten:

  • “You suck buddy, I mean we understand you in a way , you listen to the Wire, so that explains a lot. But try to understand a thing, we dont care what kind of music you like, its not you at the first shoot, and this is maybe the thing that hurts you, being not on the first spot, so you put bullshit on your writtings. Intepol, is a masterpiece for you, and you really should attend them 20 or 30 more years to notice and to make a preview for them. As a colleagues, I think you should see the journalism with an other eye, not the jealousy, that you cant reach something…Fuck you too buddy
  • If every interpol song was as easily interpreted as you intended it to be on you rashly opinionated page, then what’s the point in listening to music in general?
    Your opinions, while entirely valid and appreciated, seemed to be birthed from a lack of actual musical background. I mean really, should every lyric be as literally translated as your interpretation of Interpol‘s? Where’s the room for personal association if your interpretation succumbs to such an immediate conclusion? I am personally thankful for such an originally unoriginal band that rides the envelope like interpol.”
  • “bad lyrics?????dumb methaphors??FORCED RHYMES?? LAUGHABLY??? are you 12?
    grow up! because of his music, billions of people in the world LOVE the way
    he describes himself with music. fuck the lyrics, its his way to express his
    passion with music differently. do you have a life? anything else to blame
    about? really disrespectful!
    i just read your STUFF about interpol and when it comes to BLAME any lyrics
    from any bands, you are losing respect for music. first off, they are from
    new york(where great musicians come from), they HAVE great sense of music,
    they HAVE a such passion for music, they KNOW how to play instruments which
    you may not have any experiences or even make lyrics yourself. you dont have
    any manners to express yourself about this band or what so whatever. hes got
    his own unique way to make lyrics about anything he wants, its not a regular
    band you listen to and hear understandable words… ITS DIFFERENT and not
    alot of bands make such beautiful songs like them. the sounds are
    umcomparable and even his VOICE is unique.
    welcome to their world, its interpol and suck it up cause they are making a
    new album with even more words and sentences you wont understand.
    fuck ur top ten worst lines of interpol, PLEASE thats REALLY

    dont intend to reply me cause im done with this.”

Not bad, right? And all pretty much just because it happens to be one of the first Google search results for “Interpol lyrics.” Still, glad to know I could write something to really bring all the crazy fanboys and girls out of the woodwork.

New Order – Waiting for the Sirens Call: I don’t even know why I volunteered to review this one–New Order are my favorite band of all-time, and I couldn’t have been more positive that I was gonna fucking detest this album. I was right, of course, and I wrote the review to reflect the heartbreak and inconceivable disappointment at the fall from grace these guys were undergoing so unapologetically. Still, if you were to ask me what the best thing I think I had ever written for Stylus was, I’d probably go with this–I don’t think I’ve ever conveyed my feelings about an album quite so honestly and vividly before, and who knows if I ever have since. Give it a shot, seriously.

Couldn’t Say No: The Stagnation at the Top of the Billboard Charts: My first front page article in a long-ass time, maybe since the Primal Scream one I wrote about the other day. This article sort of cemented my transition to Official Stylus US Pop guy, though I would forever be overshadowed by two far flashier and arguably more creative (and definitely more memorable) UK writers, William Swygart and Dom Passantino. I even used to run the Stylus US singles column, in which I would collect reviews and ratings of the five or six latest new hit singles of the week, until Todd decided it wasn’t up to snuff with the stuff the UK writers were doing on the same grounds, and it got folded into their column.

Anyway, this is probably the tightest article I ever wrote for the site–in terms of it being the most academic analysis I ever did where I actually was pretty confident that I knew what I was talking about, and didn’t constantly check the comments box in fear of someone calling me out on my bullshit.

Playing God with Whatever: The 90s Pop & Culture Box: Speaking of getting called out on my bullshit. The last Stylus article that I really gave my heart to was this Playing God on the recently-released Rhino seven-disc 1990s compilation, meant to sum up the pop music of the decade a la their Omigod! 80s box and Have a Nice Day 70s box. The Rhino box itself was a humongous failure, missing tons of the definitive hits of the decade in favor of indie shit like Sleater-Kinney and Velocity Girl, leaving a half-mainstream-as-mainstream-gets, half-indie-nothing-hits box guaranteed to please absolutely no one. So I set to work creating the ideal 90s box, listening to hours upon hours of 90s pop, some to refresh my memory and some to learn about the stuff that was before my time, and I wrote an article to rival that recent New Yorker piece on The Wire in terms of length and sheer exhaustion of the material at hand.

At first, it was one of the most popular things I had ever written for the site, attracting some 30-40 comments in the first day, almost all of them positive. My co-writers had pretty much nothing but nice things to say, and even Pitchfork (and ex-Stylus) writer Scott Plagenhoef, who had been something of a mentor to me in my embryonic writing years (the first man to ever convince me that there was nothing wrong with Travis Morrison of the Dismemberment Plan namechecking trashy pop songs left and right) wrote me to basically say “damn, you beat me to the punch.” I couldn’t have been happier with the way it went.

Then, I signed on to Hipinion. For those of you lucky enough to have avoided the misanthropic black hole of internet music discussion, was a spin-off site from a Pitchfork message board that the site wisely ditched sometime back in 2003. It’s one of the most diverse music discussion boards out there, but almost everyone there has at least one thing in common: they all fucking love to hate. And I knew this, and it had been the reason why I stopped going there so much in the first place–got picked on one time too many by the senior boarders, got in to one too many arguments that just wasn’t worth getting into, whatever. I knew what I was getting into when I went on that board.

So I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to check to see what they had to say about my 90s article the day it was published. What, were they gonna be all “y’know, we were wrong about that guy, he’s a good writer and he REALLY KNOWS HIS STUFF!“? No, they were gonna blanketly lambast me for it, they were gonna say it was a complete waste of time and one of the worst things the site had ever bothered to publish, they were pick apart the article for inaccuracies and stupid comments I might have made that they could use to prove that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

And boy, did they find a big one. I wrote this in my blurb for Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now”:
When it comes to bands that ruled the world for exactly one year, it doesn’t get much more exemplary than Jesus Jones in ’91—perhaps the biggest band in the world at the time, but post-Nirvana, people didn’t want anything to do with ‘em.

A harmless enough aside, I thought at the time. But Hipinioners started to note that hey, maybe there were one or two bands that were more popular than Jesus Jones at the time, and asked what evidence I used that Jesus Jones were the biggest band in the world at the time. I explained that they had two top five hits in 1991, something which no other rock band had accomplished that year. And from that, the flood gates were open–a near-50 page debacle in which I desperately tried to defend this position, and the article on the whole, despite the fact that it was clearly a losing battle, as more and more boarders from the site came in to wail on me for it.

I’d like to think that if this happened today, I’d be able to react more maturely about it. I would just say “fine, fuck you” and have peaced out to go read the AMG bio on The KLF for the millionth time. But at the time, the mixture of anger, frustration and hurt at the way I was getting plastered for an article I had worked so hard on was almost unbearable. Not helping was the fact that this was all happening at my day job, in which I pretty much spent the whole time tied to a computer, and the only alternative to getting even more invested in this internet imbroglio was to actually do more work, so yeah. In any event, the experience taught me at least one thing for sure–Depeche Mode, The Cure, Guns n Roses, even Def Leppard and INXS were probably all bigger rock bands at the time than Jesus Jones.

At the Stylus meet-up last night, fellow writer Cosmo Lee told me that the 90s article was not only one of the best things I had ever written, but one of the best things he had ever read anywhere about anything, and that it was the perfect summation of the pop music of his youth. I have no idea how I had the strength to resist the urge to start making out with him.

The Top 100 Music Videos of All-Time: The last position of any sort of authority I had on Stylus was as executor of our all-time lists, a position begrudginly bestowed upon me by Todd, who I think recognized the usefulness in doing such lists–helping mold a site identity, as well as creating discussion and a whole lot of page hits–but not-so-secretly detested actually doing them. Nonetheless, he conceded to doing about three big, staff-wide compilation lists a year, as long as they were more-or-less contained to subjects that weren’t ones that had already been listed to death (Albums, Songs, Artists, etc.) The first one we ever did was a Music Video list.

I was fairly proud of this one, though once again, I had to deal with the heartbreak of being pre-empted, since a week or so before our list went up, Pitchfork did an extremely similar article–not the Top 100 Music Videos of All-Time, but just 100 decent videos that they’d found on YouTube. There was only something like a 20-video overlap between the two articles, but I still felt that are thunder had effectively been stolen. Regardless, I’m still pretty proud of the end result–our choice for #1 is appropriately idiosyncratic, and the blurbs I wrote on the vids for “Fake Plastic Trees” and “1979” are some of the best I’ve ever written.


4 Responses to “It’s All About Me / Eugoogly, Pt. 2 (Part II): More of IITS’s Greatest Hits at Stylus”

  1. Jason L said

    Andrew, I just read the Interpol article again and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Maybe it helps that I strongly dislike Interpol, but I still think the lyrics you pulled out are hilarious. Great stuff.

  2. Chris said

    Billboard says that “Du Hast” only charted on the Mainstream Rock chart, and it peaked at #20. Just for your peace of mind.

  3. […] Intensities in Ten Suburbs wrote an interesting post today on Itâ??s All About Me / Eugoogly, Pt. 2 (Part II): More of IITSâ??s Greatest Hits at StylusHere’s a quick excerptIt’s All About Me / Eugoogly, Pt. 2 (Part II): More of IITS’s Greatest Hits at Stylus November 3rd, 2007 by Andrew Unterberger LIKE FRANKIE SAID I DID IT MY WAY [IMG] Taking a timeout from the Great Stylus Meet-Up of ‘07, which for me at least started yesterday morning and hopefully will go until Saturday afternoon, to continue getting all retrospective about my four and a half at Stylus. Here’s five more that I think sum me up pretty nicely. Top Ten Worst Lines on Interpol’s First Album: […]

  4. jonathan said

    I’m a big fan of Top Ten Late 90s So-Cal One-Offs, and am a huge fan of Top Ten Musical Moments That Defined 2005. I hoped you would reprise that list last year with an ’06 entry, and I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if IITS had an ’07 version. (Do you took requests?)

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