Everett True

Why Everett True Is Right / Why Everett True Is Wrong … Everett True responds + 5 extraordinary songs

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I’m not sure I can take in the overwhelming wrongness of some of the assumptions Princess Stomper makes in her articles Why Everett True Is Right and Why Everett True Is Wrong.

I’ll try and focus on a couple of the more obvious points. All the quotes in bold are taken from Princess Stomper’s articles.

So when everyone picks on Kate Bush as being an example of a woman who changed the way that we think about music and music performance, it’s because we’re not overwhelmed with alternatives.

I’m reminded of those anti-Irag war banners that people used to carry during Tony Blair’s stint in office: “Not in our name”. When you use the word ‘we’ here, I do hope you’re not presuming to speak on the behalf of either myself or many, many people I know.

The notion of saying Kate Bush is ‘great’ is often used as an excuse by folk who much prefer the sound of men making music to hide their prejudice against women making music. I’m intrigued why it should be Kate Bush, and not someone way more obvious and contemporary and critically regarded the world over – Bjork, say. I think it might be because Bjork is more challenging to the accepted (male) ways of creating music, whereas Kate Bush is more rooted in traditional (male) forms. Or perhaps it’s because the type of person who prefers the sound of men creating music prefers rock music (a male club when it was created) and hence prefers artists working within that form. (Kate Bush was famously discovered at the age of 16 by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour.)

Let’s just pick on one little teeny-weeny short-lived scene: the No Wave movement of New York at the turn of the 80s. I’ve only heard a couple of Ut tracks, but they were extraordinary. Lydia Lunch is patchy, but I can think of a fair few acts of either gender that simply would not exist without her. As for Kim Gordon, well, you know who she is. So that’s three game-changers from 30 years ago.

I loved Ut above any band from the 80s. Loved them. They were not – by any stretch of the imagination – ‘game-changers’. No one knew who the fuck they were. Making claims like this devalues Princess Stomper’s arguments.

Where are the female Pink Floyds, Led Zeppelins and Iron Maidens?

Who cares? These bands existed and … wait a second. Iron Maiden? Iron fucking Maiden? Game-changers? Well then (shrugs), I guess whether you consider a band ‘great’ or not comes down to your individual perspective. I don’t have a problem with that, but I got the impression Princess Stomper did, otherwise why is she arguing so vociferously against the idea of female musicians being considered ‘great’?. If Iron Maiden were game-changers for Princess Stomper then that’s her call to make. Long as she doesn’t claim it on anyone else’s behalf.

Who will replace them, from either sex? If you tell me Arcade Fucking Fire I’ll bash you with this keyboard!

Sure. Arcade Fire. Why not? The idea of ‘importance’ or ‘greatness’ or ‘legend’ status is entirely down to individual perspective, unless you’re the sort of person who believes those endless Q Magazine cover stories (100 Greatest Bands Since The Last 100 Greatest Bands Ten Months Ago, etc). Also, whether or not you consider a band from a particular era ‘great’ or not mostly comes down to your age anyway. Or your relative unknowingness of the musical form under discussion.

First, let’s define “great”. A little while back, Everett True linked to a band called No Mas Bodas. I’m stretching a bit to call them “great” because I haven’t heard a whole album, but for these purposes I’m assuming that every track is this good. It was very exciting to hear it because I had never heard anything quite like that before.

In that very same article, I lay trails to SEVEN other bands and musicians – all female – who No Mas Bodas remind me of, a little. And this is just the tip of the iceberg …

Twenty years ago, a band like My Bloody Valentine – making music the likes of which has just never been made before – could sell 225,000 copies of their album. If they came out now, they’d sink without trace.

Bands like My Bloody Valentine – I’d hesitate to use the exact next phrase Princess Stomper uses above, so let’s just say that we understand each other – come out all the bloody time. All the time. They do today, they did 20 years ago and they did 20 years before that. Mostly, they sink without trace (if, by ‘sink’, you mean that musicians measure ‘success’ in terms of popularity or sales). The occasional one or two don’t. Nothing has changed there.

The flipside of that coin is that when you only get one innovative act in isolation and no accompanying ‘scene’, it’s difficult to build the momentum so the great bands that exist – like how No Mas Bodas could be if they had more songs like that – just fizzle out after a while and it’s like they were never there. Great bands are defined by their legacy.

No Mas Bodas do have more songs like that. I’ll restate it. In that very same article, I lay trails to SEVEN other bands and musicians – all female – who No Mas Bodas remind me of, a little. I even go on to add, “It reminds me of some of the glorious femme-led sounds coming from Athens, GA” … that’d be a whole scene, happening in just one American city, that I’m aware of (there are probably far more happening elsewhere). So, far from being one innovative act in isolation, they’re actually part of a far, far broader musical spectrum. By her own admission, Princess Stomper says this music “was very exciting to hear it because I had never heard anything quite like that before” … so why not follow the trails and discover a whole new world of music, and realise that No Mas Bodas – as fine as they are – are only part of a much broader picture?

Assumptions like these are what leads folk like Princess Stomper to ask questions like, “Why aren’t there more Kate Bushes out there?” without realising she doesn’t even have access to the information that would help her answer her own query.

The point is, if everyone’s shouting at the tops of their lungs about Arcade Fire then how the hell are they ever going to hear about No Mas Bodas?

Or if everyone is asking Why Aren’t There More Kate Bushes?, forever looking to the past to validate the present. And always forgetting how rock music was originally a MALE form of expression …

Let’s end on the most ridiculous statement of all, taken from Why Everett True Is Wrong

History doesn’t favour the adequate; only the outstanding.

That is so wrong. It’s not even vaguely true. History is dependent upon the prevalent zeitgeist. It’s fluid. It changes from year to year, decade to decade, century to century. History until recently was a male construct. Maybe it favours outstanding males (I doubt this) but it sure as fuck does not favour females, adequate or outstanding or otherwise.

20 Responses to Why Everett True Is Right / Why Everett True Is Wrong … Everett True responds + 5 extraordinary songs

  1. Princess Stomper August 5, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Why is Kate Bush rooted in the male forms and Bjork not? Yes, Kate has the Gilmour connection, but Bjork wrote her best song with Jah Wobble and David Arnold (and by “best”, it’s a song so moving it makes me want to break down in tears each and every time I hear it).

    Bjork is not more “feminine” than Kate Bush – I’d have instead described Bjork as Kate’s natural successor – but while Bjork is (deservedly) well loved, I just don’t think she’s quiiiite on that level. Close, though.

    A band doesn’t have to be particularly well known to be influential. You could say the same about any genre pioneers – someone else has to come along and popularise the sound. I wonder if Sonic Youth would ever have been huge in the 90s if Nirvana hadn’t been so famous.

    Sure, we’re going to disagree on what “great” means, but if the most popular bands aren’t imaginative or progressive in terms of moving sounds forward, then ordinary people won’t be inspired to look further into it and seek out ever more interesting music. That’s what is so wrong with the most popular bands being so bland these days. We get to the point where people just treat music as background noise rather than falling in love with it and delving further and wanting to make it themselves. I know that’s always been the case, but it seems worse lately.

    I’m not “arguing vociferously against the idea of female musicians being considered ‘great'”, I’m just not finding a long list of them that have sold 85 million records and changed a rock genre’s popular sound from being one way to turning into something else – which I find interesting when I can think of a long list of female pop performers in that league. Again, not one person has taken issue with my “women rule pop” stance, which I find intriguing.

    Re the No Mas Bodas thing, you and I are obviously picking up on completely different things, so I was a little mystified by your seven examples. Tunabunny and The New Sound of Numbers just sound very bland to me (sorry!) and I wouldn’t have thought to consider them in any way similar. I couldn’t find any links to Ništa Nije Ništa’s music, so I still don’t know what they sound like. Danielle Dax is awesome but has been around forever, and Effi Briest is pleasant enough but again I wouldn’t have linked her to No Mas Bodas. You got a lot closer with Kyu (who I did actually blog about a while back, based on your tip) but I wouldn’t have put them together with No Mas Bodas, either.

    “History is a male construct” – are you sure? White middle class Europeans tend to see it through a lens formed in the post-industrial-revolution era, specifically European, specifically middle class, mostly white and mostly male, but essentially from a very narrow period in time. One of the ideas I’ve most been fascinated with was a throwaway line in 3rd Rock from the Sun that suggested that culture is cyclical and rotates around the world, and we’re moving from post-European to post-American and soon we’ll be viewing history through an Asian prism. If history is written by the victors, I’m just mildly curious to see what it will say.

    As for your 5 songs, I’d say 3 were “extraordinary” and one was pretty good. I don’t think you’ll ever convert me to Tunabunny, but hey – at least we’ve been entertained.

  2. Everett True August 5, 2011 at 8:25 am

    (from Facebook)

    Lucy Gulland
    Oh yeah! Great stuff.
    Wallace wrote a good thing on the Ut link I posted earlier, not just about the thrill of finding Ut but about how much great music is out there waiting to be discovered and how exciting the prospect of finding it is. And then Tamsin quoted an ex who’d said “I don’t see how this can be any good, I would have heard of it already if it was” about a brilliant old record she’d come home with. There, two opposing views of music, Wallace implicitly acknowledging that the music we get to hear depends upon the socially, culturally, sexually, economically, politically constructed media that filters it (and can imagine the gems that got filtered out by the money-making machine that is the music industry); the ex swallowing the lies the machine spews out about itself and the music it privileges. Women make music too: the inequality in their representation isn’t because Kate Bush was a one-off. It’s not about biology, it’s about power.

    Lucy Gulland

    Everett True
    There’s a line in the Allo Darlin’ song ‘Tallulah’ that mournfully asks, “I’m wondering if/I’ve already heard all the songs that will mean something” and it still strikes me as one of the saddest lines I’ve ever heard.

    Lucy Gulland
    That’s good! It’s this but with records: “La chair est triste, hélas ! Et j’ai lu tous les livres”

    Everett True ‎
    In fairness to Princess Stomper here, she’s proven herself still very open to discovering and loving new sounds

    Lucy Gulland
    Yes, that’s true and her passion for music is evident, it’s only the fact that the filter is a politically-based reality, not a natural “the cream will rise to the top” type thing that I’d take issue over.

  3. Everett True August 5, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I’m not “arguing vociferously against the idea of female musicians being considered ‘great’”, I’m just not finding a long list of them that have sold 85 million records and changed a rock genre’s popular sound from being one way to turning into something else – which I find interesting when I can think of a long list of female pop performers in that league.

    How is this surprising in any shape or form? Rock is a male construct. That’s like asking “Why aren’t there more female music critics?” and then refusing to acknowledge its historical, societal, cultural, sexual, political bias.

  4. Scott Creney August 5, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Stomper, there are so many straw men in your argument that they could form an entire festival of straw bands and bore me silly with their endless straw-based man music.

    Let’s give one of these straw men a little shake and see what falls out.

    ‘I wonder if Sonic Youth would ever have been huge in the 90s if Nirvana hadn’t been so famous’.

    Leaving aside the question of Sonic Youth’s ‘hugeness’, consider the following.

    First off, Sonic Youth’s 1988 album Daydream Nation topped the most prominent US music critics poll and college radio charts. It got the band signed to Geffen Records whereupon they released Goo in 1990, an album that hit the top 100 in the US and the top 40 in the UK (‘Kool Thing’ was insanely popular on the alt-rock station in San Diego where I grew up). In 1991, they were second on the bill at the Reading Festival and had already been featured on a South Bank special.

    Given that Sonic Youth nurtured Nirvana, bringing them along on their tours, featuring the band’s t-shirt in their 1991 video for ‘Dirty Boots’, and encouraging their management as well as record label to work with the band, it makes more sense to wonder if Nirvana would ever have been huge in the 90s if Sonic Youth hadn’t been so famous.

    And a note: ALL the SY things I mention happened before Nevermind came out.

  5. Lucy Cage August 5, 2011 at 9:00 am

    It’s because it’s an industry, Princess. I could (like Scott did, like Everett did) make a list of really wonderful female musicians/singers/bands, I mean people who have made REALLY utterly fantastic, innovative, exciting music, but their genius won’t be reflected in sales figures as a rule. (Bush and Bjork are the remarkable exceptions that totally prove that rule.) Rock sells because that is what is sold. Rock is culturally tailored to suit men (since they are the politically and culturally dominant gender in society) and the spaces it makes allowable to women – both as producers and consumers – are more restricted, harder to fit oneself into. It’s not surprising that a. there are fewer women working within rock music or that b. the women that do tend to work on the edges, subverting the form to their own ends. Not all, but a significant proportion. That’s maybe one of the reasons that many of my (and those of my friends whose opinion about music I most respect) favourite musicians are women, necessity being the mother of invention and all.

    By the way, this site is a brilliant example of what happens when you take into account the cultural privilege afforded to male music critics by virtue of their position in society (their cultural capital) and actually foster a place where women can shine. Collapse Board has tipped the balance back. But it was presumably a conscious decision; privilege can be pretty much invisible to those that wear it until it gets the spotlight turned on it.

  6. polarbearisdying August 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

    prince s. stomper – if you notice all this stuff, don’t you feel that you have a duty to try and redress the balance?

  7. Princess Stomper August 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    @ Scott, then you have my apologies: for some reason I had the chronology wrong in my head about the dates of those Sonic Youth albums.

    @ Lucy – “I would have heard of it already if it was” – it’s VERY easy to think that way and it’s an idea I deliberately have to resist in my own mind. While most of the acts I have been most inspired by in my life have been extremely popular (the “cream rising to the top”), there are plenty that I can literally sit people down and force them to listen to, and they still hate it, even if I think it’s the best thing ever. Those are the acts I have to really make an effort to seek out, and perhaps my frustration is that I’m not being spoonfed those awesome bands any more and have to really hunt around for great music.

    @ polarbearisdying – not sure what you mean by that: what should I be doing?

    @ ET – What I found weird yesterday was flicking through a magazine yesterday that I used to write for and finding that there are far fewer women on the team now than there were 12 years ago. I can’t really draw any conclusions about that because it might be sheer coincidence, but I did find it strange.

    I did think of you this morning: I wish you had been in my car this morning on the way to work. My husband was saying, “Well, of course, NIN got much bigger than Cubanate because Cubanate were “boy’s music” and NIN appealed to girls so obviously they were going to be more popular, because you can’t only appeal to boys.” 😀

  8. polarbearisdying August 5, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    well, as a music critic, by giving coverage to female bands.

  9. Joseph Kyle August 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I remember reading a Diamada Galas interview in the 90s, and this issue was brought up. She stated that she distrusted any critic who was overly praising of women only, or who took a feminist stance in approaching the art made by women. “They give a pass to utter shit just to say, ‘Oh, a woman did this, pat her on the fucking head, and don’t criticize her because she’s a woman,’ and pointing out, quite rightly, that the condescending nature that such a mindset takes is far, far worse for women than criticism. “If a man cannot sing, does one feel uncomfortable saying so? No. Why, then, should it be that way for women?”

  10. Joseph Kyle August 6, 2011 at 1:44 am

    I cannot speak for Diamanda–nor would i deign to want to–but I think she means people who cannot sing in pitch/time/tune, etc. I was just using her quote as a thought for discussion.

  11. Joseph Kyle August 6, 2011 at 2:23 am

    There’s music, and then there’s Beat Happening. They transcend it all….

  12. Princess Stomper August 6, 2011 at 2:46 am

    @ polarbearisdying – I was just interested to note that out of my own blog’s last 20 posts on music, 10 of them featured music clips of female acts or bands with women in them. I should note that many of those were “pop” rather than “rock” acts, but that’s really because I’m not thinking in either gender or genre terms when I’m making those posts. Of that 20, I’d definitely recommend Guai Li as a pretty decent female-fronted rock band, for one.

    @ Erika/Joseph – I never “got” Beat Happening. Should I? If so, what should I start with?

  13. Frances Morgan August 6, 2011 at 3:35 am

    Acknowledging that inequality exists and condescending to women are not the same thing.

  14. Lucy Cage August 6, 2011 at 4:43 am

    “She distrusted any critic who… took a feminist stance in approaching the art made by women”
    I think Diamanda is wrong on this one. You *can* chose to ignore the fact that women have been oppressed for centuries and thus, even now, their participation in culture is going to be loaded with gendered baggage… you *can*, but anyone who doesn’t isn’t necessarily being patronising.
    Women AREN’T treated equally either in wider society or within the music world, so why not be explicit about it instead of sweeping it conveniently under the carpet? Female participants in a male-dominated field don’t get a level playing field: if you acknowledge that in your criticism or your decisions about who to feature, then you are taking a feminist stance. Why would you pretend otherwise? It doesn’t excuse uncritical thinking, of course, which I think is what Galas was being scornful of.
    ” …the condescending nature that such a mindset takes is far, far worse for women than criticism.”
    Yes, condescension isn’t good, and obviously thoughtful (rather than kneejerk) criticism shouldn’t be repressed, but what really damages women musicians (and writers) is the prevailing misogynist culture, not a critic bigging up a female drummer just for being female.
    (Girl drummers are inherently cooler than boy drummers: discuss.)

  15. Joseph Kyle August 6, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Sometimes a cool band is just a cool band, no need to over-think it.

  16. Lucy Cage August 6, 2011 at 6:12 am

    “More and more, I see Collapse Board as genuinely revolutionary.”

    I am so bloody proud to be part of it. It changes the game as it plays it.

  17. Princess Stomper August 6, 2011 at 6:33 am

    @ Erika – Oh, OK. I just remember hearing one or two tracks by them back in the 90s and thinking, “Meh, they’re OK I guess” but not understanding why people were going nuts over them. Maybe I was just listening to the wrong tracks, or maybe they’re just not to my taste.

    I don’t think I’m speaking from an acculturated perspective and masculine-dominated value system like some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I know in my own case that if I see the world from a “masculine” perspective, it’s the opposite of conditioning. Gender is more than reproductive, and it’s something of a sliding scale. While I don’t look at all androgynous, in terms of brain make-up I’m definitely towards the centre. It could explain why I like the music that I like, why I’m more assertive, and why I don’t “get” the gender debate a lot of the time because I’m naturally coming at it from the middle.

    Besides, though I enjoy the debate (because it gets people thinking about things and throwing around links to great music), it ultimately comes down to your core politics. You either basically have the Guardian mentality (you’re being oppressed), or the Harvard Business Review mentality (you fucked up) – the general outcome being a choice between feeling resentful or having a nervous breakdown.

    @ Lucy – I love a certain type of drummer: technically proficient, tribal, stylish. Lori Barbero was always a favourite of mine. 🙂

  18. hannah golightly August 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks for reminding me to buy something by Tunabunny – the more I hear them the more important they become to me. Maybe there’s something in that. Maybe if we were constantly talking about them and exposed to their songs on the radio and music TV channels they’d be big and powerful. Not that it matters to the music. But maybe they would. Maybe it’s just a power thing and a force-fed cultural delusion. I went to a classical concert the other night in France. All but one of the musicians were female. They played harpsichord, viola and cello as well as classical singing that was one of the best voices I’d ever heard in any genre in any format. It was barely human it was so beautiful. I looked around the room and no one seemed to be challenging the idea of all these women playing classical masterpieces without any men (the guy who played the lute was just the warm up act who played one ‘song’.) It seemed to be so natural and acceptable in this setting that no one even gave it a moment’s thought. So what happens when it comes to rock? It’s like how little girls are equally as good at maths in primary school and their maths grades decline on average once puberty gets under full sway. It’s been suggested that it is due to being culturally discouraged. Who knows… but if female classical musicians are considered equals to male classical musicians, who are the rock music industry trying to fool and why?

  19. hannah golightly August 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    p.s. About female drummers. When I was playing drums in a band the biggest insult I received was being compared to Meg from the White stripes. Nothing wrong with Meg… but I’d been playing for about 6 years before anyone had ever heard of her and stylistically we couldn’t have been more different if she was drumming on a table and me on a teacup. Meg’s drumming is exceptionally simple. Mine was tribal/imaginative and used the entire kit throughout as I was bored of the snare and hi-hat combo, I also was bored of the standard rhythms I’d been taught and took ideas from sounds in everyday life and also guitar strumming rhythms instead. Then I was compared to Meg, which I felt was derivative and sexist and a veiled put down. I like the drummer from Warpaint at the moment. She’s very cool.

  20. hannah golightly August 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    The Karen Carpenter effect you just mentioned is one of the main things I don’t have a problem with Meg because I’m sure that in the same way that Punk musicians made guitars more accessible, I think she’s a good role model. But the only people who should be compared to her are people (regardless of gender) who play the same style (or at the very least have a physical resemblance but even then that’s dumb)

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