Just Punch the Clock: Memoirs of a Pretentious Snob

johnny_cash_flipping_the_bird_middle_finger“They heard me singing and they told me to stop,

Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.”

-Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

I am what some people may call a snob.

My favorite band is one you’ve probably never heard of.

I have a framed vinyl copy of The Beatles’ Revolver on my desk.

beatle-revolv_29

It’s part of my constantly expanding collection of vinyl records.

I vastly prefer listening to full albums instead of individual tracks.

I mainly listen to music that is generally regarded as being among the greatest of all time.

I have a “Music” bookmarks tab on my internet browser so I can easily access the fifteen or so music sites that I check regularly.

I take Pitchfork’s album reviews very seriously, and will defend Rolling Stone to the death, even if they are a bunch of old fogeys.

In fact, I am currently at number twenty-four in my quest to listen to every single album in Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

swonde-innerv_15
It’s Stevie Wonder’s 1973 masterpiece “Innervisions”.

I zoom directly to the “critical reception” heading of any Wikipedia article that I read about an album I’m interested in.

I love Spotify mainly because it gives me access to the entire catalogs of artists like The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones.

I have a deep-seated suspicion (though not hatred) of mainstream pop music.

I have recently begun delving into the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock.

I spent most of my sophomore year of high school eagerly anticipating the release of an album that was supposed to come out almost fifty years ago.

I love progressive rock, except for Rush.

I go to Duke University.

Duke Chapel

Do you see what I mean? It’s like the odds are stacked against me. Numerous people have called me pretentious, or a snob, or a hipster because of these things.

Like the time my dad announced he was going to a Bob Dylan concert, and when I asked him what his favorite Dylan album was, he couldn’t name a single one. This turned into a fight in which I called him a fake music fan, and he called me a snob.

Or the dozens of arguments I have had with classmates who couldn’t believe that I actually took Pitchfork, the supposed epitome of pretentiousness, seriously. They assumed I must be pretentious too.

Or the time when I told my sister that I was planning on watching My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks because I had really gotten into Skins, and I wanted to explore the history of the teen drama television genre. She called me a snob too.

And you know what I replied to all of them?

“Yeah, I am a snob. And I’m proud to be one.”

effy_skins_finger_small
Effy from Skins, for those of you who aren’t fans.

The way I see it, there are two types of people on this planet: those who create art, and those who consume it. Because I don’t think creating art is my forte, I have chosen to be the best art consumer I can be. I am incredibly passionate about great art, with a heavy emphasis on great music. Discovering new albums is my favorite thing to do, and I think every time you listen to new music, you are expanding your mind and becoming a more intelligent person. And yeah, I use resources like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork to help me out, because I want to listen to the absolute highest quality music, and they have steered me in the right direction so many times in the past. I wish everyone did the same thing, because nowadays, with the internet, it’s easier than ever to listen to great music. Why hasn’t everyone listened to Pet SoundsDoolittle, and Funeral? I don’t know, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand why some people shut themselves off to awesome music.

beach-boys-pet-sounds-vinyl-reissue-review
I mean, who could resist this?

“But Noah,” you might be saying, “I just like the music I listen to, and it makes me happy. Why does it matter if I’m listening to the absolute best music ever? Isn’t it more about what I want to listen to? Doesn’t my taste matter?”

That’s like saying you go to the high school art show every year, and you really enjoy it. So what’s the point of going to the Louvre and seeing the Mona Lisa?

Mona_Lisa
Eh, nothing special.

I think we need to abolish the idea of “musical taste”. Everyone should be more open-minded than to just like a certain type of music. Screw banning bossy. Let’s ban “taste”.

However, you can listen to whatever you want. I have no control over you, and I don’t want to force anything on anyone.

But don’t for a second think that I’m a sad sack who only listens to serious, ponderous, capital-I Important albums. In fact, my music listening habits (not “musical taste”) have always skewed more towards the pop side of the spectrum. By that I don’t mean I’m a big Katy Perry or Lady Gaga fan. What I mean is that I’ve always preferred The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys over Led Zeppelin. All are great bands, but some resonate more with me. And I don’t only listen to rock music made by old white dudes. Hip-hop, funk, soul, indie, alternative, pop. I am passionate about the great music that lies within each of those genres. Last week, I spent a good amount of time listening to Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual (album number 487 in the Rolling Stone 500), for an article I never got around to writing. And guess what? Cyndi Lauper is freaking awesome. The whole point of my music-listening expedition is to wrap my head around new and interesting things that I wouldn’t have expected to like.

cindi-lauper

I will never be ashamed to be as passionate about great music as I am. Awesome music (and awesome art in general) is my calling, and it always will be until the day I die.

And if that makes me a pretentious snob? So be it. I will own that epithet.

Yeah, I just used the word “epithet”. Deal with it.

I will never quit these pretentious things. And I will never just punch the clock.

I am snob. Hear me roar.

Please like, share, comment, and follow if you enjoyed this post! Thanks! And if you didn’t, well at least now you know where I’m coming from!

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12 Comments

    1. Thanks! While I don’t agree with everything they do (like the Boston bomber cover), I think their music criticism holds up well. I mean, their album reviews are kind of short and I don’t think they really consider the star ratings too much, but I their list of the 500 Greatest Albums is pretty cool. I think any organization that is brave enough to try to quantify the vast world of music deserves some credit.

  1. I don’t think you are a snob. In my mind a snob judges others and you specifically rejected that in your post. Nothing wrong with enjoying what you enjoy. Encouraging others to expand their horizons is a thankless job, but someone’s got to do it.

    1. Do you HAVE to though? It’s a bit like religion. Always alright to just practise your beliefs, but it gets weird once you preach. Most people will not be swayed anyways. Have you ever actually gotten someone to listen to better music, just because you said so? The effect is miniscule at best. I’ll go about it my way. I try to promote what I love and and TRY to keep schtumm about what I hate (doesn’t always work) and every now and then people come by thanking me for making them aware of say The Rural Alberta Advantage and it makes you smile. This is not to say that I don’t know the sentiment of being absolutely appaled by posers though. People wearing a Morrissey-shirt not knowing the Smiths or anything like that. Weirdly, it’s the people who dress in this “hipster-style” who annoy me the most as they seem to be entirely just about the look. But here’s the thing….getting angry about that helps nothing. I guess what I am trying to say: Just enjoy your music.

      1. I agree. I really don’t push my music beliefs on anyone else. I’m not sure what Bruce was talking about. The article was mostly about how I don’t really care if people see me as pretentious, because the music I listen to makes me happy, just as other people’s music makes them happy. I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t see myself being any other kind of music listener, and I have a hard time seeing why people would rather call me out on being a snob than actually try to listen to the great artists. I think music is much less subjective than people think, and the idea that people’s “taste” should only include music that matches their own disposition is completely ridiculous to me. I think listening to music is about going outside of your comfort zone. For example, even though I’m a big classic rock fan, I tried that Cyndi Lauper album and really liked it.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with your article! Oh, and I was wondering, since I read that you’ve met people like Phil Spector and Scott Walker, and I think Harry Nilsson too, are there any other famous musicians/producers you’ve met?

  2. Great article, but come on…..what’s your beef with Rush? lol

    btw I think picking The Stone Roses is an admirable choice. They did release one of THE greatest debut albums of all time but don’t you think their potential was dreadfully unfulfilled?

    1. In regards to Rush, I have tried to listen to some of their albums, but they don’t grab my attention at all. It’s like they represent instrumental virtuosity without quality melodies or good songwriting.

      And I think The Stone Roses are my favorite band because their music comes close to my ideal vision of what music should sound like. They combined the past (sixties pop rock) with the future (the emerging indie scene) and threw in dance and funk. And the melodies they wrote were simply incredible. Also, while they did only release their debut album and Second Coming (which is an album that I don’t even like that much), they also have a little-known B-sides and non-album singles collection called “Turns Into Stone” which has about another album’s worth of amazing Stone Roses tunes. So, their body of recorded music is bigger than people think. And I do think they reached their potential, they just didn’t stay on top for too long.

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