Chuck Klosterman irks tUnE-yArDs' fanbase, while likely enlarging it
Some people are mad at hair metal 'n' NBA critic Chuck Klosterman at the moment. This has to do with "The Pitfalls of Indie Fame," published yesterday on ESPN-offshoot commentary site Grantland regarding the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop 2011 album of the year, Tune-Yards' w h o k i l l.
Disclosure: This record was my fifth-favorite of the year at the time when I had to gather my thoughts, and there were moments early in 2011 when it was certainly my number one. However, the Midwest-born Klosterman, who is the author of eight books and has more impressive writing credentials than you do, decided to poke fun at Merrill Garbus' decadent, beats-bursting second album. He dwells on her past as a puppeteer -- the same profession as the moderately successful Jim Henson -- but mostly seems to come back to the point that the album wasn't popular enough for him to care about it sooner.
"It's been on my iTunes since whenever it came out, I know my wife loved it, and I had no problem with it ideologically," he writes. "I just never got around to playing it." Notably, Klosterman's wife is former City Pages music editor, and current Entertainment Weekly staffer Melissa Maerz. Their many ties to the Twin Cities are explored here.
Maerz last contributed to the Pazz & Jop poll in 2009, but the tUnE-yArDs debut Bird-Brains was not one of her favorites of that year. She was not available for comment at press time.
Two bits of response that caught our eye since the Grantland posting include a mean-spirited pen drawing shown at the top of the post featuring the caption "Bring me the head of Chuck Klosterman," and a far-more-reasonable reply courtesy of Village Voice's Maura Johnston ("A Couple Of Supplemental Reading Suggestions For Those Who Might Still Be Confused By tUnE-yArDs' Pazz & Jop Victory"). Within, she opines that "the piece was a bit 'Old Man Yells At Cloud That He Seems To Find Gender-Ambiguous,' to be honest, complete with confused Wikipedia citations, notes about its "superficially indecipherable lyrics," and so on." And she's not alone to feel that way.
Having met Klosterman briefly at (wait for it) a Hold Steady concert a couple of years ago, and receiving some friendly pleasantries from him at the time, it's still not a worthwhile pursuit to call for his head, or even his fingernail clippings at this time. This is not as cool as a rap battle, but it should stay within the confines of commentary and not take the fake word w h o k i l l as a call to arms.
As critics are wont to do, taking a contrary position from a significant group of influential, like-minded folks can be a slightly devilish, but ultimately rewarding tactic. It did get more of us to speak out in support of this album -- 40k sold last year -- and remember, Klosterman does say "I like your record, and I hope you make many more" at the end. Even if a Grantland reader prefaces his remarks with "hey check out this puppet band" to a friend, this is still ultimately a new listener who will likely be impressed by what they encounter.
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