Thursday, October 13, 2011

28: The Critics aren't Impressed (Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Well Fuck You)

[Another in my series of posts that are far behind schedule. And like the ones before it, this one is disjointed, barely thought through, and probably doesn't actually say anything...]

One of my favourite pieces of critical writing is found in an issue of Spin from, probably, 2004. I have the issue in a box somewhere around here. It's one of the few issues I kept when I moved out of my parents' house and threw the rest away along with most of my Rolling Stones and Wizards. It's a column by Dave Eggers for that brief period where he wrote a column for the magazine and details a contract between musicians and their fans inspired by the realisation that he (like many of us) are prone to giving up on beloved musicians as they age and become 'less good' (less cool). Basically, the contract is an agreement to just give the new stuff a chance and not instantly write it off because it's different and new and maybe not the best work of their career but could contain some cool ideas and one or two songs that will number amongst your favourites someday. Even in my early twenties, I could see the wisdom of Eggers's contract (though it may have been meant ironically... I can never tell). In my late twenties, it seems essential.

Yesterday, Ryan Adams released a new album, Ashes & Fire. It's his first new studio album since 2008's Cardinology (he released some 'lost' albums in between the two like 2010's fantastic III/IV, which stemmed from the same sessions that produced 2007's Easy Tiger). I've listened to the album a bunch of times via a stream supplied by Adams since I pre-ordered the album off his site and, then, the downloaded copy that will tide me over until my CD arrives in the mail. Right off the bat, I was unimpressed. Later, I was grooving on it. Now, I'm at sea with it... of many minds. And I love that. I absolutely love that I don't just think one thing about his music. It winds up being a comparison to everything he's done before and trying to fit it into its creative context. Like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, or Lou Reed, Adams does what he wants and, if it coincides with what other people like, well, hey, look at that! I love that. For me, those are the people worth following and sticking with -- worth signing a lifetime contract with.

It's no secret that Joe Casey is my comic Ryan Adams. It's part critical repution bullshit, but it's mostly that his work is almost always interesting in some way. There's some little nugget of greatness sitting in his done-for-money work, or he produces something like Automatic Kafka, Wildcats, Mr. Majestic, Gødland, etc. You never know. Literally. YOU NEVER KNOW. Who thought his final year on Adventures of Superman would be what it is? Or that he could do the wonders he did on Cable before jumping to fucking Deathlok? Look at Wildcats! He's fucking earned my signature on that contract that says I'll stick with him and do the work and try my best to stay with him wherever the fuck he goes.

That's not to say that you have to go where an artist goes, just that you should make the effort. I don't agree with David Brothers on Holy Terror, but I admire that he put in the effort. He tried. He read and reread and he thought about what he was reading and looking at before he made up his mind. Basically, he held up his end of the contract he'd developed with Miller over the years. It's not that Miller earned his undying loyalty; he simply earned an honest shot and that's what David gave him.

It's been fun to see people just turn on Miller for that book. It's not new, it's more a completion of the turn that began with The Dark Knight Strikes Again and continued with All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. He's kind of like '80s Neil Young right now, isn't he? Strangely political and doing stuff that even longtime fans are scoffing at... But, I wonder how many people actually gave it serious thought before dismissing it. Hell, how many dismissed it without reading it? (Obviously, not everyone can read everything, especially when it costs $30 or so, but that's a boring pragmatic point...)

And this is the guy who people love. Same with Alan Moore. And look at how quickly everyone turned on them. Not just their work, but them. Part of me can understand it, because I'm not an idiot. But, fuck, part of me just doesn't get it. How are people not even trying? I'm definitely guilty of that myself and I can't explain it besides a lazy excuse like, well, laziness. Is it our desire to tear down everyone that's 'great?' We can't stand someone who stands too far above the pack and eventually turn on them because we love them? Nah, probably not that either.

Yet, people keep buying X-Men comics because they feel loyal to the characters no matter the quality of the comics. So I'm stumped.